I am so glad to announce that Annie and I have read and judged every entry for this challenge and have chosen our top three winners! Our 3rd place winner set the bar with 17.5 Points - Rouge World by Stanley Morris. Congrats Stanly!
Read Stanley's unedited entry and enjoy!
By Stanley Morris
"Time to impact, Astrogation?"
"One twelfth rotation."
"Estimate less than one twentieth planet radii, Captain. Sorry, that's the closest our sensors can give at this time.
The grim face of the captain did not change. The rogue world would not hit the atmosphere of the planet they were watching, but the death and destruction would still be enormous.
"Can you tell, yet? Is this an extinction event?"
"Possibly, but my best guess is that some people will survive. The habitats they've carved into the bases of their continental shelves will withstand the shockwave and the oceans will protect them to some extent."
"The colonies on the other globes might survive," the captain mused aloud.
"Possibly. It will be a close thing if they do. Unless we intervene. I doubt their space capabilities will survive, except for those on the colonies."
The captain emitted a frustrated growl. "If they discover we knew this would happen and did not inform them, they might not accept our help."
"They may have no choice. Not if they want their species to survive."
"Damn the politicians."
"Begging your pardon, Captain, but it wasn't just the politicians. A lot of regular people thought we shouldn't let them know of us, either. The violent nature of this species is scary."
"They were never a threat. The first colony has been in existence for less than fifty planet revolutions. At least we were allowed to encourage space flight. They're lucky so many of them enjoy that kind of fiction. They're primitives, Stro. They have barely achieved space flight. They'll be lucky to survive a revolution."
"I'm not so sure about that, Captain. They're innovative, that's for sure. And now that they're manufacturing their Chang-Diaz plasma engines on their colonies, they'll be capable of exploring their solar system. They've already built automated harvesters."
There was silence for a time, and then the Captain said, "Still, this was a moral failing on our part."
There was no reply for a bit and then hesitantly, trying for tact, the question was asked.
"Captain, will the crew be allowed to witness the event?"
"Yes, Stro, that is permissible, even desirable, I think. There should be witnesses to the deaths of so many people. When the moment of close contact approaches, let everyone not absolutely essential watch their monitors."
"I'll pass the word, Captain." With those words, the Captain was left alone. Crew were close by, but none dared to intrude on the Captain's thoughts.
When the time came, when the rogue world finally caught the larger planet, the Captain was in the Crisis Room watching with the other line officers.
"It's close now, Captain."
The Captain did not answer. That the rogue world was close, was obvious from the physical changes they could see."
"Pass-by beginning!" The Captain did not begrudge the excitement in the voice. How could anyone not be affected?
"What's that?" The exclamation was loud even over the hubbub of many conversations.
There was a buzz of voices in the room as brilliant orange spikes appeared in the monitor, seeming to emanate from the point of closest contact. They flashed incredibly far out into space, well beyond the diameter of the rogue world. They lit the rogue world, and the officers could see vague features on the dead globe, and they watched as the spikes lit the blue planet with such bright white light that its color was lost in the area nearest to the rogue world's passing. All conversations ceased and the silence lasted until the spikes retreated, dimmed, and then disappeared.
"Are we receiving any status reports?"
"Yes, Captain, I'm monitoring reports. There are survivors!"
To the Captain's surprise, a spontaneous cheer erupted in the Crisis Room, and the music of that cheer, and the meaning of that cheer—the celebration of the close escape from extinction of a species, by another species whose existence was not even known to those who had just escaped oblivion—lifted the Captain's heart. Over the eons, many species had disappeared from the roster of life in the galaxy, but for now at least, this species remained.
"Flash a report to Command. Ask for permission to make our existence known and to offer aid. Beg under my name, if you have to. Point out that they are no longer a threat, and they won't be for hundreds of years."
The Captain stared at the blue planet feeling sorrow and hope. In another monitor, not being watched, the dead rogue world was already far away, traveling harmlessly through this solar system. Its departure would occur a long time from now, and in time it might make its way to another inhabited system, but until then it would be lost in the deep.
Comment below to congragulate Stanly for his third place standing! The second and first place winners will also be coming up soon. :)
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