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The killer was an intelligence-made machine, a construction of metals, plastics and other materials not normally found in nature. It had a rest mass of 878,938 kilograms (968 tons) and was moving at nearly the speed of light. Even so, it took over nine months to pass through the Oort Comet Cloud surrounding the Solar System, and another three and a half hours to pass through the Kuiper Belt before entering the realm of planets. In neither of them did it strike any objects for, although the Oort Comet Cloud contains around two trillion icy bodies of frozen methane and carbon monoxide, the average distance between them was tens of millions of kilometers. Likewise for the Kuiper Belt where these objects tend to be larger but are still widely spaced apart.

This object, made by creatures that did not resemble men at all, sped past the orbit of Neptune, inward bound. In just short of three hours it had crossed to the orbit of Saturn. Another thirty-six minutes later it had reached the orbit of the planet Mars. From there to the earth took only three minutes.

Faster than any eye could follow, this killer machine missed the Earth by just over eighty thousand kilometers. But it did not miss totally. A half second after its near-miss of the Earth, the object impacted with the edge of Earth’s moon.

The explosion was the largest ever seen by man, dwarfing man’s puny atomic and hydrogen bombs. It shattered the moon, leaving one major ragged chunk and thousands of smaller pieces flying off in all directions. The off-center hit caused what was left of the moon to spin wildly, throwing out fragments and dust as it did.

It was the largest disaster to ever hit mankind. And it was not natural.

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Chapter II

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