“It appears to be organic, Captain,” the technician said. The huge viewing screen in mission control confirmed that there was indeed something new in the skies overhead. The ISS had spotted it first, some thirty minutes earlier—a darker patch in space almost dead ahead in their plane of orbit. It covered over a thousand cubic miles of space, and seemed to be getting bigger at an exponential rate.
“I can see that,” Captain Rogers said. “But what is it?”
“Spectrographic analysis coming in five, sir,” the technician replied, then, under his breath. “But I know what it looks like.”
Rogers had been thinking the same thing.
It looks like a wet cowpat. A bloody enormous wet cowpat.
The ISS comms link crackled into life.
“Houston, we have a problem.” Colonel Franks, the British head of the team, had lost some of his normal reserve. “It’s starting to smell like crap up here. We need to get to a higher orbit, and fast.”
That was the last broadcast of note from the vessel. Two minutes later they heard strangled retching. Franks shouted.
The line went dead.
By the time Rogers got called into a command meeting five minutes later the phenomenon—nobody wanted to give it a name yet—occupied two thousand cubic miles of space. The ISS was lost, somewhere inside.
“Is it still showing up on radar?” someone asked.
“No,” Rogers replied. “All we can see is…decaying organic material.”
“What do you mean by that?” the General asked.
“Crap, General, to put it bluntly. As far as we can tell it’s a waste product emanating from a sub-space anomaly at its center.”
“A waste product? From where?”
“That’s what we’re trying to determine right now, sir.”
“And the station is somewhere inside this stuff?”
“We believe so,” Rogers said. “If it maintains orbit, it should come out the other side in ten minutes or so.”
“And if it doesn’t?”
If it doesn’t, we’re all in the shit.
The ISS was declared lost an hour later. The decaying organic matter—spaceshit as it had become known everywhere except the command room—now covered a huge expanse of space, currently in an almost geostationary orbit over North America.
“We should nuke it,” the General said. “Nuke it now, before it gets any bigger.”
“We risk turning one pile of crap into a million small piles of crap,” Rogers replied. “We’d all be up to our necks in it.”
“I’m there already,” the General replied. “The President wants answers, and he wants them yesterday.”
“Well here’s an answer for him,” Rogers said grimly. “Given its current rate of expansion, the whole planet will be engulfed in less than a day. It’ll blot out the sun completely.”
And when that happens, we really will be up shit creek.
Dawn brought with it a chocolate brown sky and an odor that drove everyone inside—but even there the stench pervaded everything and everywhere.
“It could be worse,” Rogers said, with a macabre sense of humor. “It could be raining.”
Thick brown droplets began to spatter out of the lowering clouds.
“Nuke it,” the General snarled. “Let’s nuke the bastards.”
The Russians and the Chinese had the same idea. Five separate nukes were sent up. The spaceshit swallowed them all without so much as a burp; the only outcome was an even faster rate of growth.
Rogers’ estimate was proved right. Within a day the planet was completely engulfed. The brown rain fell over everything, too thick to run off to sewers and rivers. It just lay there, stinking and putrid.
The President demanded results, and Rogers’ team was expected to deliver. Rogers held a command meeting, but the outcome was less than edifying. Beyond sending up more nukes the best minds at NASA came up blank.
“We can’t exactly hose it all down,” someone said, but nobody laughed.
“We should try communicating with it,” one of the scientists said, his voice little more than a whisper.
The General barked a laugh.
“If you think I’m going to try to talk to shit…”
Rogers put up a hand.
“Maybe he has a point. This stuff is coming out of a sub-space anomaly. Whatever’s on the other side might be capable of listening.”
The General sighed.
“Nothing else has worked. Do what you can. But best make it fast. We’re two feet deep outside the door already, and rising fast.”
“Just to get this straight. We’re using the most sophisticated, most powerful piece of broadcast technology on the planet to talk to a pile of shit?” the General said as they prepared the message.
Rogers nodded, unwilling to reply, as that meant opening his mouth and tasting the air—it had become noticeably more foul in the past hour or so, almost palpably so.
“Make it so,” he said.
The message got delivered.
The world held its breath, for several reasons.
The response came as a string of beeps, whistles and static—a message, of sorts, but one that was going to take a while to decode. All Rogers knew was that they had been right.
“It’s slowing down, sir.”
The cleanup operation took several years, and the smell lingered for a long time afterwards. At the same time, teams of interpreters and code-breakers from all over the world attempted to decipher the message that had come out of the anomaly.
When Rogers finally saw the translation, he didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.
“We’re terribly sorry. It was a genuine mistake. We saw what you were doing to the planet and thought we’d come to the right place.”