The rewritten, 5-page short story version of

"New Star"

Copyright © 1982 by Roger M. Wilcox. All rights reserved.
(This story is dated 28-March-1982, but that's the same date as the original draft and can't possibly be right.)

This story was originally written on an electric typewriter. All spellings, punctuation, capitalizations, astrophysical impossibilities, etc. are as in the original.

You have been warned.

Well, at least project Starmaker was well named. The crew aboard the big monitoring station in Houston had worked on this for years, calculating where to put the atomic charges, when to set them off, and all those other innumerable things that had to be done exactly. Now, the final moments had come, and within a few short minutes they would know whether or not their efforts had been in vain. Some of the people in the room were watching their own video displays to catch the countdown at its precise seconds, while others were simply staring at the night sky.

But John Allenson, a true ham-radio freak, was doing neither of these. He was monitoring his gigantic long-range receiver set, listening to the messages sent in their direction from throughout the solar system. Messages to the effect of "It's less than ten minuts now!" were heard all too frequently. Occasionally, a message would fly in from one of the outgoing carriers from Jupiter, letting anyone who was interested know that everyone had been safely carted off from each of Jupiter's moons.

Ah, how glorious the moment would be when it came! At last the Earth, Mars, and the rest of the solar system would be illuminated by two stars: the brilliant yellow star Sol, and the small, dim red star, Jupiter. It would truly be a moment to behold.

Suddenly, John's receiver picked up a rather weak distress signal. After all these years of innovations, the familiar SOS message of dididit dahdahdah dididit was still as useful. John quickly homed in on the frequency and turned up the volume so that anyone who was interested could hear. As he suspected, hardly anyone was interested. After all, the birth of a star certainly took precedence over a long distance distress signal.

Soon, the morse code beeps subsided and were replaced by a human voice that spoke in the now-accepted common tonuge of English. It said: "Oh my. Why me? Well, if it wasn't me, then it probably would have been somebody else. How could I have missed that shuttle?!? They gave me the warning, I packed up quickly, and I went to the shuttle terminal just like everyone else did. And then I got lost. I got lost! How could I manage to lose myself on the day when I and everyone else remaining was to leave Ganymede?!?"

The voice stopped there for no apparent reason. By now one of the higher-ranking men in the Houston station had come up to the receiver, and had begun listening in on the transmission. From what he heard, the story sounded like some sort of well-thought-out prank played by someone who had a ham radio transmitter. "Get a distance reading on that signal," he said to John.

John punched a single button on the console. Inside the receiver, millions of microcircuits would process everything they knew about the signal - strength, relative spreading, type of transmission, etc. - and would come up with a number that wes correct to three digits of accuracy which represented the distance from the transmission in kilometres.

"Seven hundred and thirty-five million kilos, sir," John read. "It looks like a transmission from a rather large and powerful walkie-talkie."

The man slunched back onto his rear foot. So it was coming from Jupiter! This was no prank, then - somebody had been left behind by the shuttles!

As a couple more people began to investigate the scene of the receiver, the voice spoke again: "If anyone is listening to me, you probably think I'm crazy by now. Well, I just might be, at that. After all, getting lost would have surely meant death, so maybe I have a subconscious case of suicidal mania.

"Wow! The view up here certainly is nice! I can see the whole front side of jupiter lit up by the sun, as far away as it is. Since there's only about ten feet of atmosphere and and eighth inch of glass between me and the star-to-be, I can see practically everything.

"Oh, by the way - in case you're wondering - my name is Irwin Matthews, I am twenty-six years of age, and I live in the Ganymedian city of Trengaal VI; at least right now I'm living in it."

The voice pasude again. By now, about half of the staff had gathered around the big dark gray box which was the receiver. Everyone in the room knew that the signals were reaching them at the speed of light, coming in the form of ordinary radio waves. And since Jupiter was almost fifty light-minutes away, the had already become a star, and the lone inhabitant of the moon Ganymede had been fried down to the form of a gas.

The voice picked up again: "It'll only be a few minutes now, according to what the spacing commission has told everyone. But for now, I'll just have to live out the rest of my life the way I wanted to - dying on the planet I was born on. Damn! Why will I have to die a virgin?!?"

Although everyone in the room knew that this was the absolutely true story of one man, there was always room for a tiny flicker of hope. Maybe this was a prank, transmitted to Earth from, say, one of the shuttles that was still relatively close to Jupiter and at about the same range. Maybe their calculations had been slightly off, and Jupiter would not go up as a star.

But their calculations had been accurate with no rume for error, and all the shuttles were several millions of miles away from Jupiter by now. And yet, the hopes prevailed.

"Hoo-boy! I've got less than a minute left! The first of the atomic charges was supposed to be ignited by now - there it is! It doesn't look very big compared to the size of the whole planet, but it's supposed to be half the size of my own home of Ganymede. And there goes another one! I don't know why they're set off so far apart."

'Because the energy distribution over the surface has to be equal!' several of them thought in unison. 'Otherwise, the star would just explode outward on one side!'

"There are a whole lot of them going off now. The whole planet looks like a big fireworks displaye. I know it normally looks like that because of its internal energy discharges which make it up to the surface, but this is at least a hundred times as brilliant. By now the internal charges should start going off, but I won't really be able to tell. The whole surface looks totally alien right now.

There isn't any more red spot - it dispersed amongst the whole surface. The bands of low and high pressure are beginning to get warped, and are mixing in with each other. Wow! This is sure one hell of a thing to watch before I die! It's absolutely beautiful!"

The voice began to hum some totally unrecognizeable tune for anyone who liked to listen to that kind of stuff. It sounded mellow and classical.

Then the voice resumed for the last time: "Oh, my god! Or whatever! It's going - the whole planet is going up in flames! Well, this is it. Goodbye, good - yaaaaah!!!"

And then, the voice was silent, replaced by the crackling of distant static. The whole crowd slowly turned their heads toward the night sky near the constellation of Orion. There, rising in strength and light output, was a shining, tiny sphere of red light. The sky began to take on an eerie red glow, which now seemed ghostly and unnatural.

The feeling of glory which should have been mutual to everyone was no more, as they gazed up to the star that had killed a man in its birth.

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