New Year, Last Year

#flashfiction #newyearseve

“Marty shut down the system, we’re going to be late,” Terry said.
“Yeah, in a minute. I’ve got an anomaly. It might be an N.E.O. we haven’t cataloged.”
“Oh for God’s sake Marty, it can wait. It’s New Year’s Eve and if we don’t get down to the party soon I’m never gonna get a chance to chat up Evelyn for the midnight kiss and maybe something more afterward.”
Terry waggled his eyebrows like a bad comedy movie rake, which in reality was not far from his reality. Marty didn’t know why he put up with the man, he was rude, sexist and a loud drunk but he was Marty’s only friend in the world.
“Go ahead Terry, I just need twenty minutes or so to get a fix and measure angles and speed.”
“Twenty minutes makes it almost midnight dude. You play Professor Dedicated, I’m gonna work on getting laid.”
Terry waved and practically ran from the room.
Marty sighed and activated NEODA, the Near Earth Object Detection Array. It was a boring job tracking all the space objects like asteroids and comets that would make a close approach to the Earth but he believed it to be a necessary job. He gave the Human race time to react should another space rock like the one that wiped out the dinosaurs ever begin an approach on the planet.
The only sounds in the room for the next ten minutes were clicking keys and humming machines. Marty hunched in front of a monitor flipping between visual and radio spectrums, thoroughly engrossed in his examination of the anomaly.
“Two degrees above ecliptic,” he muttered.
“Velocity 25 kps. Magnitude, wow that’s really weird. Azimuth, holy shit.”
Marty spun away from the computer screen and rolled across the floor to a telephone. He consulted a list taped over the phone and punched in a number.
“Yerkes Observatory sky watch?” He asked when the voice responded.
“Hey, this is Marty Andrews over at the Allegheney Observatory. I got a weird anomaly. Yeah, I’ll send the data for you, hang on.”
Marty rolled back to his desk with the phone cradled on his shoulder and typed in the command to send his data to the other observatory.
“The magnitude on this thing is really low,” he said. “But everything else indicates a huge mass, at least 15 kilometers in size.
“Yeah, exactly,” he responded to a comment on the phone.
“The azimuth looks like it’s heading right at us.”
“No I don’t know how come nobody has noticed this before. Can you- hey, can you just double check me. I need to know if this is some sort of glitch. Yeah I’ll wait.”
The man returned to the line several minutes later, he sounded like someone had kicked him in the stomach and then told him that his dog had died.
“Verified,” was all he said before Marty heard the handset clatter to the floor folowed by the sound of running footsteps.
Marty stared numbly at the equipment surrounding him. He needed to do something but the numbers said there was nothing to do. He had to at least tell everyone, they deserved to know.
He leaped to his feet, toppling his chair and raced from the room.
Marty pounded down the stairs to the lobby where he could hear voices shouting.
“10, 9, 8…”
Marty burst through the door. The entire staff of the observatory was gathered for New Years and most of them appeared rather inebriated. He spotted Terry across the room and pushed his way through to his friend. Terry was already groping Evelyn ahead of schedule.
“5, 4…” the crowd continued.
“Terry, the anomaly,” he said.
Terry looked at him, his eyes wide and lipstick smeared across his mouth.
“What? Who cares,” he said.
“It’s on a collision course.”
“2, 1, Happy New Year!” Everyone cheered and began to kiss their neighbor.
Marty heard a roar and the sky outside lit brighter than noon. It was too late.

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