February 2059, Holbæk, Denmark.
“There are lots of cultures that do this right,” Sebastian insisted.
Thirty minutes into the barbeque, Essi had to give him credit for consistency and persistence. “Subjective. They're clearly missing out,” Essi responded in humour, her exhale visible. “You eat cool things in summer and hot things in winter, that's the right order of things.”
“Hot? It's cold by the time it hits your plate,” Sebastian uttered, gesturing incomprehension with one arm and holding his plate with the other. Given he was busy queueing for a second helping, he was subtly undermining his own objection.
Essi chuckled softly, rubbing at her nose with equally cold fingers. It wasn't quite a tradition of the Brorfelde observatory to barbeque in February, but half of Essi's colleagues had picked up the habit from elsewhere (that is to say, three of them, if one included her), and so it had been the obvious choice when someone suggested a get-together as a kind of halfway party for their joint project. Strictly speaking, they were probably even violating some kind of fire regulations, but aside from perhaps Sebastian, none of them were particularly likely to as much as pause to consider it. Sebastian came from Frankfurt, though, and Germans were strange. As he was undeniably proving.
She was tugging on the plastic wrapping of a set of sausages for the barbeque when a sense of something struck her like a physical sensation - the kind of haunting, whispered touch of someone staring at you from behind, but somehow more intense, so that she almost believed the moment that it happened that it might be a physical sensation. She glanced back uneasily at the collection of plastic chairs and short tables they'd dragged out onto the lawn, narrowing her eyes as though suspecting someone to be up to something. In an instant's follow-up motion, before she was consciously aware of what had caught her attention, she was looking up into the sky instead.
In the dimming sky was a second, larger moon that hadn't been there a moment ago, looming behind the familiar first.
A strangled little shriek escaped her. Her posture had abruptly righted itself into something exaggeratedly straight. Staring, she managed to utter one word: “What.”
David hadn't been quite sure what to expect when his colleagues had proposed a barbeque in the middle of February, but from what he could gather this was another one of those weird Danish traditions. It even almost made sense, in its own way, though for some reason the drinks were still cold. The food was still good, though, and over the past half hour Essi had slowly managed to win him over. And at least the weather was fairly nice, aside from the cold.
He was about halfway into his second sausage when Essi shrieked in surprise, his gaze jerking up to see what was wrong. Confused, he twisted around in his chair, following her gaze… and then a moment later, he saw it. “What the–” he mumbled through a half-eaten bite, nearly falling out of his chair as he scrambled to stand up and turn to get a better view. He took a couple steps away from the sight, as if getting a few feet farther away from a looming second moon would make any difference to anything at all.
Sebastian had adopted an air of confused incredulity as he watched Essi's antics unfold. When her gaze snapped up into the sky, he too turned to look at what had caught her attention. “Was zur Hölle,” he exclaimed, though it was a soft, almost mumbled reaction. “…is that real or some kind of visual illusion?” he asked, stumped, his tone betraying that his emotions were suspended halfway between harrowed and confused. “Some kind of… I don't know, lensing?”
Per glanced skywards. “'Lensing', seriously?” he echoed. “Fuck, of what?! Using what atmosphere that's behind the moon?”
“Can someone… take over the barbeque,” Essi said, nearly absent-mindedly dropping the sausages a few centimetres shy of the edge of the box that contained their food for the evening. Fleetingly, her gaze fell down and she set them down in a more orderly fashion. “I've got to-” Her words faltered and she gestured mutely to the observatory, in body language expressing what many of them no doubt felt. A moment later, hands now free, she fingered at David's shoulder, awkwardly gesturing for his attention, trying to get him to tag along.
The plate in David's hand was shaking, seemingly of its own accord. He could feel his heart pounding in his chest, his gut tightening like a clenched fist. Try to stay calm. Maybe it's an illusion of some sort like Sebastian said, something he's not thinking of right now because he can't quite think straight. Maybe there's nothing to panic about. It doesn't look like it's getting bigger, so they might not be immediately doomed. But how could something with that apparent size just show up?
Essi's tug at his shoulder drags him back to Earth, encouraging him to follow her inside. Right. They won't figure anything out just standing around here; they should at least get enough information to figure out how panicked they should be right now. Setting the plate absentmindedly on the table (half-eaten sausage and all), he hurriedly follows her into the observatory.
Somewhat helplessly, it's Sebastian that ends up trying to tend to the barbeque, looking lost and confused, following some instinctual diligence to clean-up, put out the fire, and generally not leave behind a mess, regardless what apocalypse was currently looming.
Andy dithers before helping Sebastian, although with significant swearing. Essi can't make it out by the time it spills from him, but some of it sounds as though he's sure that they don't need a telescope to diagnose something that size.
Per is one of those that hurry after Essi - although considerably more quickly than everyone else. “What do you think happened?” he asks David and Essi, cautiously casting a gaze back up into the sky at regular intervals as he walks beside them.
Essi pushes open the doors, exhaling. “You know that thing that you're not supposed to assume when something strange happens?”
For a brief moment, Per stopped walking, taken aback by the question, evidently unable to juggle the associated thoughts. “Huh?”
Essi, holding open the door, cast a venomous glare at Per - an accusation that he's playing dumb. Regardless, she volunteers her thoughts as he's about to pass her: “Aliens.”
“Yeah?” Per says, stepping into the observatory, then shifting to the side to let others that might want to enter pass, glancing back outside uneasily. “You think we're seeing some kind of Death Star, or something?” he sounds sceptical - and finally a little bit scared, beginning to realise just how little of the situation he understands.
David gritted his teeth at the conversation, picking up on Essi's implication before she said it out loud. It was hard not to entertain the thought, if he was honest; but they had bigger things to worry about at the moment than whether this was an alien invasion or a galactic superweapon or whatever. Different questions were burning in his mind: 'Where did it come from?' 'How did it get here so quickly?' 'If it just appeared out of nowhere, where did all its momentum go? And, more importantly, how much did it have left?'
“Can we save the speculation for later?” he asked, tension evident in his tone. “Maybe until after we make sure it's not going to –” His gut tightened, the next words not quite wanting to form. “… Let's just try to figure out what it's going to do.”
“Actually,” Essi said. “I'd like some speculation. Per, David - both of you. Effects of a second moon on Earth? David, you first.” She's not looking at either of them, hurrying over to the central telescope - though she doesn't pause there. Instead, she skips past it and reaches for a considerably more mobile telescope that's on a nearby desk. It looks almost steampunk, but it'll be quicker to use than the central monstrosity. She turns, holding it out to David as though using it to pass the conversational baton.