“It’s the strangest thing I’ve ever seen,” Brandon said , leaning his tall, lanky frame against the plush couch in the den of the cabin. “But then again, strange is becoming normal these days.”
“Thanks a lot,” Kalea said, sitting in the matching beige recliner next to the couch with a cup of steaming apple cider in her hands.
Brandon laughed. “I meant no offence, big cousin.”
“None taken, I’m sure,” Annaliese said, sitting between him and Kieran on the couch. “So, what kind of weird so we have now?”
Brandon leaned forward, pulling the images of Earth from space from his tablet on the coffee table in front of them. “The simplest explanation is that the nanotech was blown by a computer virus.”
“What kind of virus?” Senator Vickers said from the video feed on Kieran’s tablet, which was sitting next to Brandon’s.
Brandon shrugged. “One like nobody has ever seen. Obviously, it slipped through a loophole in the satellite system, but we can’t find what. It was on a rotating frequency. But here’s where it gets weird. The signal didn’t come from outside of our system. It came from orbit.” He zoomed the image to show the area of space where Earth’s satellite systems orbited the planet. “If you look carefully, you can see fragments of metal debris just above the satellite orbits.”
Everybody leaned forward and squinted to study the image. Sure enough, jagged fragments of metal glittered in the light from the sun. “What kind of metal is that?” Kieran asked.
“We don’t know. It doesn’t match any element on the periodic table,” Brandon said, running his hands through his short, brown hair. “We pulled up images of space to see if we could find something to tell us what it was or where it came from, and we got lucky.” He swept his hands to bring up another image of Earth from space and swung it around to show the space under Antartica. “This image is from ten days ago, just before the congressional hearing and the nanotech attack.” He zoomed in the image on a small dark sphere. “Of course, we have no way of knowing if this is what blew up in orbit. All we know is that it was there ten days ago, and now it’s gone and these fragments are floating around. And we’re lucky we even spotted it at all. If it hasn’t been for Bruce’s good eye, we would have missed it.”
“It stood out like a beacon to me,” Bruce said from the recliner on the opposite side of the couch, next to Kieran. “It was radiating their energy.”
“Their energy?” Senator Vickers. “What do you mean?”
Brandon zoomed the image back out and started a time-lapse image. “We were able to reconstruct the reverse trajectory of the object based on time lapse images going back in time. Not surprisingly, it came from Alpha Centauri. But here’s what is surprising,” he said, zooming in on the time stamp. “Look at the date of origin from Alpha Centauri.”
“Two weeks ago,” Annaliese said. “That probe traveled from Alpha Centauri to Earth in five days.”
The room was silent. Finally, Kieran asked the question that was on every mind. “How did that probe travel nearly five light years in five days?”
“They’ve mastered light speed travel,” Kalea said softly.
Everybody turned to stare at her. “How?” Senator Vickers asked.
“Because that’s what they do,” Bruce said. “They adapt. They evolve. They do it quickly. And that’s how they will defeat us.”