Heavenly Potato


This is one of my earlier starts. I wrote this about the time that I first got excited about the idea of writing a {story|book|novel}. I had an idea that I wanted to work with, and I took a stab at getting started. Unfortunately, I submitted it to my wife and (eldest) daughter right after I wrote it. They were both kind enough to give me the feedback it deserved. That didn’t do a lot to getting me to move forward with my writing. This was at least 2 years ago. I still haven’t written anything very lengthy.

Susie Davidson sat up with a startled grunt.  The slight buzz of the phone vibrating was unexpected at this hour.  It is only 4:45 in the morning.

“Hello?” 

“Hey, Susie!  Sorry to wake you, but I need you in the office in 30 minutes.”

“What is going on?”

“I can’t tell you anything at the moment, I am still calling everyone else.  Hurry please.” Click.

Well, nothing like have a 30 minute warning that you needed to be somewhere.  Susie jumped up and took a quick rinse to wake herself up, grabbed a quick cup of coffee in her NASA mug and quickly went to grab a cart to take over to the office.

She wasn’t the first one there.  Looks like everyone on campus was called in.

Director Hall was at the front of the assembly hall.  The room got quite as he stood up to speak.

“Good morning.  Thank you all for coming in.  I know it is early, but we have a very unusual situation.

“Jianyu Xu, from the China National Space Administration, alerted us a few hours ago, that they have found a large object headed toward Earth.  As soon as they alerted us, we re-tasked all our assets to get a good look at the object.  They were already doing the same. 

“Once the imagery and data started coming in, it became apparent that the object is indeed headed for Earth.  The more concerning detail, is…  this object doesn’t appear to be naturally occurring. “

At that, the room erupted with concerned, excited, and confused expressions.  The mission of this facility is to find objects that are headed toward Earth, but no one expected to find anything other than naturally occurring objects, if even that. 

“Sir, how big is this object?”  That was Steve Thompson, Research.

“It appears the object is about the size of Eros.  Its current trajectory shows it approaching Earth in the next 90 days.”

“How did we not see this before?”  Joe Webber, Imaging Systems

“Santos, can you put the image up on the screen?”  The image on the screen appeared to be a poorly illuminated, flying potato.  It was not quite cylindrical, and had rounded ends.  It did look remarkably like Eros.  Just without the saddle shape in the middle.  “As you can see, the size and shape are similar to Eros, but the composition doesn’t seem to match.  The surface isn’t nearly as cratered as Eros, and has less irregularities.  This could be explained by the fact that it is coming from an orbit just off the ecliptic.  We are still trying to understand the full characteristics of the trajectory.

“Director Xu has offered to share resources and observations.  Actually, these images are from their orbiting telescope, the ‘Tiān Yǎn'(‘Heavenly Eye’).

“I need someone to work with them to coordinate our efforts.  I also need a team working on coordinating our Earth based assets to track and monitor the anomaly.  Also, I would like someone to consider a better name than they came up with ‘Tiān Táng Tǔ Dòu’ or ‘Heavenly Potato’ just doesn’t sound right to me.

“Susie, will you work with the Director Xu’s representative and establish a data store for this?  I expect we will include the European Space Agency as well as other agencies so keep that in mind.

“Steve, get the imaging teams off of what ever else they are doing and get them studying that rock.  I want to know as much as we can as fast as we can.”

“Any other questions?”

Susie decided she must have missed the obvious..  “Director Hall, why do we think this isn’t a naturally occurring object?  I get that it is not on a typical orbit, but does that mean it isn’t natural?”

“Great question.  I was wondering if anyone was going to actually ask.

“To answer, the object ‘appears’ to be changing speed.  That is what prompted Director Xu to contact us, and why you all received an early morning wakeup.  The President and Joint Chiefs have been informed and are waiting on us for an analysis.”

“Alright, let’s get to work.”


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