Weak starlight strobed over the surface of the rock as it rapidly tumbled through the vast wastes half a light-year from the last planet in the system. The probe hovered inches above the surface of the asteroid, its spinning eye mapping the landscape around it in multi-pixel detail. A steady stream of images raced across the void to the anxious scientists, teams of them huddled in the dark around glowing screens, hoping for an answer.
They had sent the probe when the regular orbit of the asteroid had suddenly made a drastic and unexpected shift, putting it on a collision course with the moon around their home planet. The sheer scale of the predicted collision had been enough to cause widespread terror, galvanizing the population and driving the world together to figure out a way to survive.
The results of the scan were packaged up and transmitted back home. Billions waited to hear the news about the rock, what it was made of, whether it could be destroyed or at least knocked off course.
After months of silent analysis the lead scientist spoke to the world: the rock was speaking to them. Weeks of fruitless analysis had come to an end when one young scientist stumbled upon the answer as she flipped through images late one night. She noticed the dust on the surface shifting slightly in each photo. Measuring the changes between many photos revealed a pattern that became an ongoing message in morse code.
What did it say? Why had this rock turned towards them? Why was it on a collision course?
The first line was horrifically simple, and all too familiar: “Now I am become death….”