By Joseph Patchen
The first part of the mission went like clockwork. Clear day, flawless launch and pinpoint landing. And in between there was nary a communication glitch or dulled sensor.
It was perfect.
It had to be. The window on this mission was thin. Landing, investigation, technical set-up and re-launch had to be accomplished in a scant 48 hours; all before the planet, a rogue wanderer floating through space, an orphan star without a solar system, moved just out of reach of our moon as it travels out of our solar system for another 5,000 years.
PSO J318.5-22 is a planetary body floating free throughout space. Scientists theorize it to be a ‘baby’ planet, using the spectrums of color to date the birth to some 12,000,000 years ago. First discovered by an observatory in Hawaii in 2012 using a Pan-STARRS I telescope, the rock appeared to be some 80 light years away. That is until it appeared over the shoulder of our own moon this Spring.
With no explanation and little theory NASA felt compelled to act.
The mission was to visit, study and tag the planet, like an animal in the wild tracking its journey across the heavens, making this rock an interplanetary space lab for the ages.
The crew was carefully chosen; a disciplined and driven crack military squad of four with stellar IQs and advanced scientific degrees.
The entire mission was calculated and destined to succeed, hence its name ‘Operation Destiny’ but fate had something else in store shortly after landing.
What began as a small ‘dirt devil’ mere meters to the right of the landing quickly became what Mission Control charted as an F-5 tornado confined in that small area where the spacecraft stood. The twister lasted almost five minutes.
The ship weathered the storm as it should, yet post disturbance things just didn’t seem right.
While the crew went about their business, their personalities seemed altered. They worked hard but without any discussion; without any of the camaraderie they had prior. Even their responses to Mission Control seemed sterile and robotic.
Fear? They tested out from that concept.
The treasure trove of data transmitted back to Houston was rich and curious. The flight home to Andrews Air Force Base was uneventful, that is until after the landing itself.
Commander Rader stated they were disembarking but never did. Repeated calls were made to the command module and all went unanswered.
After ten minutes the order was given to the ground crew to carefully approach the craft and force open the hatch. When they did they heard screams, but not of the crew; the screams were that of a woman in deep and dire pain. The screams lasted about as long as the storm.
The crew was dead; nothing but skeletal husks in space suits; fresh, clean, un-punctured space suits.
Retreating quickly out of fear of a potential interstellar contagion, the ground crew, confused and unarmed found themselves on the tarmac face to face again with the crew.
The four astronauts appeared as themselves, in flesh and bone, dressed in their overalls but holding strange looking weapons pointed at the frightened men.
It was here that man’s destiny was forged. It was here, at this very moment that Man learned he was not the king of the dark and vast jungle.
Soon the entire base would learn of its impotence. Soon man would learn that its haste, arrogance and curiosity opened the door to an invasion from a chameleon like race from a lonely planet seeking refuge from a cold and barren orb for the warmth and vitality of a sun.
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Thursday, January 15, 2015
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