First Distant Messenger

Comets have long been a sign of troubles so it was to no surprise that troubles were upon the citizens of Earth when Oumuamua first speed through the solar system in 2017. Shootings were frequent from within the borders of this ‘most prosperous’ nation while the government continued to cast suspicion upon people thrust in regional conflicts halfway around the world and the resultant convoys of desperate refugees.

Elsewhere, governments closed ranks and nationalism and xenophobia spread like a virus. As the mysterious object gained speed and raced away, speculation dwindled to the occasional over-the-shoulder wonder.

Perhaps it wasn’t just a rock.

ESO/M. Kornmesser

Meanwhile the oceans continued to warm and rise, fossil fuels dwindled, food supplies concentrated to enclaves of influence and power. Business, in other words, carried on as usual.

Everything was carrying on so much as it was, or at least the trajectory that it was heading, that few noticed the anomalies in the mapping satellites. Features on the ground exhibited nearly undetected traces of manipulation. A feature once there, now gone. A stretch of road subtly rerouted. Image details months older than other details miles away.