Sunday, 17 January 2010


Arkady shuts down the lights leaving the tiny cabin space absolutely black. The thin curve of glass, reflectionless, leaves only the vacuum and his own thoughts. His eyes slowly become accustomed to the pinpoint rainbow of stars. Up ahead he sees the distorted crescent of Saturn, the arc of the rings just visible. There is no sign, using only his own eyes, of the anomaly. He sits back in the contour of the chair, letting the dark purity of the vision soak into him, drawing up memories of his uncle’s farm, lying on his back watching the stars in the slow spin of Earth.
He hears the grind of the door behind him as someone spins the lock. Arkady remains still, trying to lose himself in the last moments of silence, to disappear, before whoever it is comes through and disturbs him.
“Arkady? You in here?” A woman’s voice calls out; Klein. The chief of the science crew. Arkady sighs and grunts a response. He gets up and switches the lights back on as the heavy, white door slides open. “I need to talk to you.”
Arkady turns to face the scientist. She is young for her responsibilities, made her name in studying the anomaly and eventually a Nobel prize. She has a European prettiness, stretched by Martian childhood, that does not carry into photographs. Her blonde hair is cropped short, framing a strong jaw-line. Arkady will occasionally admit to himself that he has a crush on her.
“What is it chief?” He asks. “I was trying to catch some relaxation. It has been a long shift for me.”
Arkady has been overseeing the work crew repairing the starboard array after it suffered a micro-meteor strike a few days before. The physical damage was not so great, the structure being reinforced by carbon nanotubes to the best spec available, but some of the electronics were hit leading to a long stretch of fiddly work replacing parts and testing them. Arkady, in years of accumulated time in space, has learned to despise electronics.
“I’m sorry, Captain. I think this is important, you should come see it.”
Klein deigned to call him by his title, Arkady notes. Not a good sign. He follows behind her as she navigates her way along the corridor to climb down the ladder to the low centripetal gravity of the ring where the labs and living quarters are arranged. Within a couple of minutes he is looking at a screen painted against the lab window. The three junior scientists are studiously watching their own monitors and ignoring them. It is easy to see what Klein wants to show him; he can see the large cluster of bright red icons flashing and mutating around the location of the anomaly as it slowly spins around the window.
“What am I looking at? Has something changed?”
Klein raises a fist and pulls it towards her, causing the screen to magnify on the anomaly.
“It hasn’t just changed. It’s moved. Not far. But it is accelerating.”
“Towards us?”
Klein shrugs.
“Of course.”

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