I responded to a prompt on Reddit yesterday, here’s the link: https://www.reddit.com/r/WritingPrompts/comments/5gemjj/wp_in_2006_nasa_quietly_removed_to_understand_and/?st=IWBF30ES&sh=a7dc9779
Here’s my response:
My shoes clicked upon the tile, emanating slight squeaks as they lifted again. The pit of nerves in my stomach continued to grow and I adjusted my tie, hoping it would make me feel more confident. The lights in this sub-basement were dim, and as I approached the door at the end of the hall, my shadow was strongly cast over the handle. I stopped for a moment, assuring myself this is what I wanted. Shoulders back in faux confidence I opened the door to hopefully find out what I had been looking for.
The room was a mess of monitors, cables and the smell of too many men going without showers. A large screen at the far end bore a visual of earth, superimposed with data that I had no understanding of. One man stood up, wiping his palms on his lab coat as he approached me, a nervous smile flitting across his face.
“Terrance? Hi I’m Noah, good to have you on board. They didn’t give you any information on this project before they sent you down here did they?” In a reflexive manner, he anxiously glanced over his shoulder at the large screen, turning back to me with a momentarily more relaxed face.
“No, but I’ve heard that this division is the reason NASA removed the ’to understand and protect our home planet’ clause from the mission statement. It’s been something that bothered me all the way through my geological doctorate. What caused us to stop wanting to explore that?” Noah glanced over his shoulder again.
“Heh, well… semantics really. I guess they didn’t want anyone to think there was any other course of action when it happens.” He motioned to a chair near me, “you should really sit down. Most people want to sit down when they first hear the truth.” Waiting with something resembling more a grimace than a smile he motioned again. I settled in, fighting to keep my confident pose I had entered with.
“I’m just going to come out and say it.” Noah seemed to be speaking more to himself than me as he grabbed a wireless keyboard, carefully aiming at the screen as he entered a few rapid keystrokes. The image of the earth became cross sectioned, and what I saw didn’t register until Noah spoke again.
“The earth is… pregnant.” I looked at his serious and dour face, then back to the image of something curled up in the inner core of the earth.
“Are you fucking with me Noah?” I stood up, annoyed that they would try to pull such a ridiculous prank on someone who was new to the team.
“I, heh, really wish that I was. We don’t know what it is, no probe has been able to get close enough to get any accurate readings on it. But we can use the earth as a sort of abdomen and get a basic ultrasound. It is alive, and… it has been growing.” I sank back into the chair, all confidence leaving my body.
“So what? They took out the clause so people wouldn’t get upset when we attacked it without understanding what it is? You think they would understand survival on that level.” Noah shrugged his shoulders nonchalantly as he brought up more data on the screen. I read it without comment, understanding some, not grasping a majority.
“People can get… petty and divisive over inconsequential things. I mean, just look at the last election. Heh.” A light, accompanied by a buzzer, went off in one corner, cutting Noah’s bad attempt at a joke off.
“You getting this Noah?” Another person in the room popped their head up from their cubicle, calling to our direction.
“Yeah, yeah.” He responded quickly, moving to a desk, summoning data to the screen. “I guess this is scenario delta then!”
“I’m sorry, what?” I followed him over, feeling completely out of my league. He shrugged in a defeated way and didn’t look at me as he delivered a single word that shook me to my core.