I’m starting a second novel called ‘Exodus’, which is unconnected to Proteus. It’s science fiction as well, but a bit different in tone. I’ll be writing these simultaneously.
The Omega Object was coming. It was the size of the Moon, and it was on course to collide with the Earth in three years.
Humanity had united in the face of this universal threat, setting aside their differences to work together for the survival of the species. The brightest minds were brought together and given the combined resources of every government on the planet. Project Achilles was the culmination of human endeavor, the pinnacle of civilization, the very best and most significant undertaking in recorded history. There were mishaps, accidents and setbacks, but after eight months the project was completed, a month ahead of schedule. The spacecraft was a miracle of science, the crew was the best of the best, and they set out to save the world.
Everyone waited with baited breath as the Achilles Mission hurtled closer to its moment of destiny near Saturn. Every day for ten months there were reports on the status of the mission, the health of the crew, the readiness of the equipment. Humans had traveled farther than ever before as Achilles passed the orbit of Mars, navigated through the Asteroid Belt, and then sailed out past the orbit of Jupiter. Saturn was in their sights, and behind it, the glowing form of the Omega Object, blazing green like a ghostly comet, with an enormous fiery plume trailing out behind it.
It defied all attempts to analyze its composition. Its trajectory was erratic, inexplicably reacting to gravitational fields of nearby objects. When Achilles was finally within range of their sensor probes, the moment of truth had arrived. They began a live broadcast, the signal taking 75 minutes to reach the Earth. The whole world watched the rockets being prepped and launched. The first trickles of data started to come in, instantly recalculated into graphs and charts. The commander of the mission was describing a reaction from the Omega Object, some sort of flare. The image went white, and then there was nothing more from Achilles.
There was desperate hope as the seconds dragged on into minutes. Mission Control sent out repeated signals to Achilles, each time waiting 150 minutes to receive a reply. For three days, the world waited for some sign, some message, any sort of clue as to the fate of the mission.
After three days, the Achilles Project Ground Control made a final statement. Debris had been spotted in the vicinity of Saturn, consistent with a cataclysmic failure of the Achilles’ main reactor. The ship was officially declared destroyed. The Omega Object was observed to have accelerated, and its trajectory had compensated, keeping it on course to intercept with the Earth in six months. The mission was a failure.
It was officially the end of the world.