Monday Flash Fiction – Part I, The Future of Mankind

by disperser

The Future of Mankind

By E. J. D’Alise (Disperser)
Copyright February 2013

Soren checked his calculations one more time.

“I’m pretty sure I’m going to hit it!”  His voice carried a smugness Terog found irritating, best friend or not.

“Yeah, it’s easier with a pebble.  My rock has a chance as well, and it’s more difficult to throw!”  Terog sounded confident, but his latest calculations showed a margin of error as wide as the target.  It could be a miss, or it could be a hit.

“Ha!  You’re just jealous.  Even with as small as my “pebble” is, it will still make quite a splash.”  Soren knew he had taken shortcuts, but the assignment did not specify the size of the splash.  

“Will all students please take their stations.”  The Teacher’s voice carried over the murmur of the various pair of students engrossed in their experiment in Practical Astrophysics.

The various pairs broke up, and took their stations.  

“First up, we have Soren and Terog.  They chose a particularly difficult target; it should be an interesting show.”

The Teacher motioned to them, and turned on the remote imaging stations.  Soren was first up.

“I chose a relatively small rock, and nudged it into a collision trajectory.  My calculations indicate it will impact the larger of the bodies of water, and given the angle of entry, composition, and speed, it should make a splash visible by the remote sensors.”  Soren turned to the screen, and hit the button that would load the feed on every monitor in the class.  

The class watched as the object approached the target.  Soren blanched . . . it was obvious the rock was going to miss the water, and not by a small margin.  As he watched in horror, the rock broke apart, in mid-air.  

“That was a good effort Soren.  I think you might have miscalculated both the rotation and air resistance of the target.  However, given the difficulty, not a bad attempt.  You pass.”

Somewhat mollified, Soren looked over at Terog’s screen.  He was up next.  

“Uh . . . I chose a more massive object, and sent it on a collision path designed to avoid glancing blows.” Terog linked his feed to the class, and turned to watch the final approach.  He knew right away it was way off.  He quickly double-checked the calculations.  Mass, speed, target . . . damn!  The target had a wobble he had not noticed before.  He was going to miss it.  Terog and the class watched as the rock missed the target.  It was close, but it was not a hit.

“Not a bad try.  I see you already figured out where you made a mistake.  It would be easy to do, as the data is sketchy.  You pass, but if you want a better grade, you need to show you can hit it.  Care to go again, or will you accept your current grade?”

There was no hesitation.  “I will try it again.  This time with a much bigger rock.”  

The Teacher nodded.  “Fine.  We’ll review your second effort in  . . . “  she checked her screen, “. . . twelve of the target’s orbits about its sun.  Class dismissed.”

Terog turned to the picture of the target.  “I won’t miss next time.”  He turned off the monitor, and hurried to catch up to Soren.

~
“A strange day indeed.  A meteorite exploded today over a remote part of Russia.  Injuries were reported, but not too bad considering what could have happened if the asteroid DA14 had hit us.  It missed us by 17,000 miles, but another way to look at it is that had we been 15 minutes earlier in our orbit, it would have collided.  Really, not all that much of a miss when considering the scale of the cosmos.”

Joe turned off the TV, and grabbed himself a beer.  His son asked if they are going to get hit someday.  

“Maybe someday . . . but not anytime soon.  You know what the odds are of something being at exactly the right place and time to hit us?  Pretty dang small!”  Joe ruffled his son’s hair, and watched him go out and play.  

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