Jun. 12th, 2011

At least it missed us. That was the good news. We spotted it just as it was crossing Saturn’s orbit – a giant asteroid, a dwarf planet really, originating from outside Pluto’s orbit. Nobody knows what perturbed its track, but when we first spotted it, it was on what looked like a direct intercept course for Earth. Astronomers bestowed upon it some obscure Greek name that nobody remembers, but it was given a nickname by the popular media that stuck: Toro, the charging bull.

As it dove towards us, we scrambled to try to find a way to save our planet. We looked at using atomics; diverting other bodies into its path; even strapping engines to it. None of these ideas were practical; Toro was just too big for things we could do in the time we had available. All we could do was pray.

And our prayers, it seemed, were answered. Close observations revealed that Toro was a hair off target. Every day of its approach, the astronomers downgraded the chances of a direct hit. It would pass close to us for certain, but it seemed that it wouldn't actually kill us. Humanity breathed a sigh of relief. But our relief turned to consternation when we realized that Toro would miss us only to hit another target: the Moon.

It was a direct bullseye. The vectors for Toro and the Moon were almost exactly opposite each other when they collided. Toro punched through the Moon’s crust and mantle, dove through its liquid core and slammed into its solid iron center. Like a cue ball sinking the eight in a game of pool, it knocked the Moon’s heart out the back side. The rest of the Moon cracked into three irregular large pieces and many smaller ones, and the pieces began to drift apart.

Those first few weeks were interesting, with plenty of material from the Moon and Toro raining down on Earth. But it wasn’t until later that we realized the real damage that had been caused. The change in the Moon’s mass and momentum had destabilized its orbit. Tidal disruption caused havoc to Earth’s seas and aquatic ecosystems. Worst, there was a chance that the remnants of the Moon might scatter, some of them decaying enough in orbit to swing down and intersect the Earth.

That’s where I come in. My company, Hatfield and Schmidt, is the largest engineering firm in the solar system. We built the Ares artificial moon that orbits Mars, and we won the contract to clear the Jovian Trojans to make outer-system shipping safer. When the United Nations approached us for the Moon job, at first I didn’t know what to say. It was too big a task; nothing like it had ever been done. But I came around. I gathered my troops.

Boys and girls, I told them, Humpty Dumpty has fallen off the wall. We’re all the King’s horses, and all the King’s men. And we’re going to put Humpty Dumpty back together again.

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The guy in the corner house, 344 Bravo – he’s going to be a hard sell. McKinley already told me so. McKinley’s a letter carrier, but he’s with us. He’s been scouting the neighborhood for us, identifying good candidates, spotting strategic locations. 344 Bravo is as strategic as it comes. We need to make a sale.

The homeowner’s name is Turley, Oswald Turley. Goes by Ossie. Fifty-seven years old, retired, wife, one grown kid in the army, another in jail. Sour old bastard. Cheap too. McKinley says he’s a piece of shit. I’m inclined to believe him just on general principle. Early retiree? Kid in jail? AND lives on a corner lot at a busy intersection? I’d be a shit too.

I go up the walk. The house’s paint is flaking off; the shutters are hanging all cock-eyed, and the screens are torn up. The shrubs in the front haven’t been trimmed forever. The house looks terrible. Nobody who lets their house go to seed like that is going to want to spring for a home improvement project. But we have ways. We need a sale. A sale will be made.

The Masters demand it. The Masters are anxious to come through. They’ve been waiting for a very, very long time, and they’re out of patience. They miss it here; they see this as their home, or a second home I suppose. They didn’t want to leave the first time around, but they were forced to go, booted away and locked out. Now they’re ready to come back. All they need is a little help. All they need are doorways.

We’re here to give them the help they need. We’ve already built them a lot of access points. They just need a few more, a few more in just the right places, and this will all be over. Then the Masters will come back. They’ll take this planet back, and they’ll kill anybody who stands in their way. And then they’ll turn to us, the ones who helped them, and they’ll…

I can’t think about it. It hurts to think about it. All that’s important is to finish the job. I adjust my cap, straighten my glasses and ring the doorbell. Turley comes to the door, surly, suspicious.

“Hello, sir,” I say, nice as pie. “I’d like to talk to you about buying a new pool for your backyard.”

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September 2012

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