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3. The Stargazer Project

     Eric stood there and soaked in what he was being shown. As he carefully listened, he understood why the data he was being given was highly classified. If the public knew about the incoming asteroid, there'd be panic in the streets. Every end of the world nut ball would be digging out new shelters in their back yards, getting ready to survive the end of the world. Any effort they made would be futile. Eric could tell by the size and density of the rock, it would wipe out all life on Earth. It was clearly a planet killer, something Eric had no doubt about. That guy with the sign downtown was right; the end was nigh. Billions of people were going to die and odds are there was nothing any of them in the room could do about it. Eric took a deep breath because he knew that the everyone in the room wasn't ready to give up without trying to save the world first. They had brought him in to help them, because they had an idea they thought Eric could help them out with.

     "So, what's the plan?" Eric suddenly asked.

     "Direct," Drummond said, respecting his approach. "I like that."

     "Just answer the question," Eric insisted, "Please."

     "Does he have clearance?" Samantha asked.

     "He does," Sergeant Drummond answered, "Located at this facility is one of several international think tanks. This is a joint operation with over a dozen countries that are working together to deal with the problem presented by the asteroid known as PX-256, which is expected to impact with our plant up to two years from now based on its current projections, but if could be sooner if estimates are off by even just a single percent. We are on the clock, and we need your help to make your engines fully operational."

     "And there it is," Eric said, smiling. "You're trying to build something with my engines. Try being the key words here."

     "That is correct," Samantha confirmed, "We are stuck and need your help."

     "I get it," Eric said, "Might as well call on the inventor when you need something modified and up-sized, right?"

     "Precisely," Drummond concurred, "We need engines big enough to move large space vessels carrying extremely heavy payloads great distances."

     "You're going to carry some nukes up there and split that rock right in half like they did on Armageddon, right?" Eric asked.

     "No," Samantha replied, "I don't even think that plan is even possible."

     "We're not going to carry nukes to the asteroid," Drummond informed him, "That plan of planetary defense was given to different think tank."

     "How many think tanks are there?" Eric asked.

     "Several," Drummond answered, "Each one has assembled some of the brightest minds in specific fields to deal with the extinction level event, each having their own directive, a different plan to try."

     "So instead of pooling all their resources into one idea," Eric said, trying to see where this was going, "There are several tanks made to take multiple kicks at the bucket in case the others fail?

     "Pretty much," Drummond said as he paced the room, "We've been given a specific assignment, the most important one in my opinion."

     "Which plan are you guys in charge of here?" Eric asked.

     "Evacuation," Drummond answered, "Our job is to get as many humans off world and relocate them to a new planet before the asteroid arrives."

     "I see," Eric said, looking back at the board where he could see his blueprints for his engines. "You need my engines to make them useful for interplanetary travel, to move mankind to a new rock?"

     "Yes," Samantha confirmed, "This is our last resort in the event that all the other plans to stop the asteroid fail."

     "What planet were you thinking of?" Eric asked.

     "Mars." Drummond replied, "It's the closest and it has water."

     "But no air." Eric reminded him.

     "We have people working on that," Drummond informed him, "And they're making great progress. The water is the key, as long as we have that we can generate our own supply of oxygen. But the key is getting all the equipment and construction crews over there to build it."

     "This is insane!" Eric said as he waved his arms about like a mad man. "The project you're proposing could cost hundreds of billions of dollars!"

     "We've been given a budget of two and a half trillion." Drummond said, "Will that cover it, sport?"

     "Two... trillion?" Eric repeated, having trouble repeating the last one.

     "Two and a half," Samantha corrected.

     "Various governments around the world have overdrawn their budgets," the Sergeant explained, "When these numbers are made public, it will out the truth about PX-256."

PJ Lowry

Edited: 18.09.2019

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