Once the world was aware of the barrage of asteroids that were pulling Mars away from us, toward a terrifying neighbor just two hundred light years away, we began to plot and scheme.
The asteroids were flying through the Field of Attack, nick-named the Arena, and this is where we concentrated our efforts. There was a long train of ships that set off from Florida launch-pads and crossed the void of space toward Mars. These rockets were packed with computer hardware, sensors, propellant, solar cells at first, power cells later on, powerful radios. A few of the early ones failed until we patched them enough to just be able to power on. Early adoption and all.
The asteroids traced out predictable paths through the night skies, and we watched for any slight deviation, a sign that there was an intelligent force acting on these, diverting them for complicated reasons possibly determined so far in the past that our ancestors were still climbing through trees.
We found patterns burned into some of the asteroids. They were huge metal buildings, floating by and spinning slowly, the robots tiny mechanical mice that crawled along their surfaces and stopped often to take pictures. We saw right angles and straight lines, boxes that contained evenly-spaced characters, all cleanly sliced into the rock.
We did not find any thrusters. That was practically inconsequential. Some pointed out that we absolutely found a thruster, and pointed of into the sky in the direction of the Arena, a direction more popular than that of Mecca. We all knew where it was, instantly.
They were right, of course, we did just discover a thruster, a galactic engine that was powerful enough to move a planet across two hundred light years of distance at the unimaginably quick pace of only eighty million years.
The hardware we were sending up started become more and more complex. Eventually we got thrusters onto a church-sized rock and navigated it into orbit around Earth. It was out past Mars and wouldn’t come around for another decade – the thruster was empty after a second – but we had proven it was possible. The first delivery was scheduled, and if everything went according to plan, the society that saw it again would be one that lived among the stars.
More thrusters went up, more Spider crawlers adapted to the low-gravity environment, Moles crawled through thin tunnels they patiently blasted away. Arena analogy extended, and the asteroids that entered it were known as Beasts, the man-made technological creations were named Gladiators.
“My gladiator’s power supply fried!”
“Enrique’s found uranium traces with his gladiator yesterday, already talking to Brazil about the reward. Lucky bastard.”
The International Space Station was fitted with a re-routed hunk of metal, it now sat on its front, gave the whole thing stability and raw materials.
“What if,” somebody asked, practically nightly, in bars across the world, “Marvin the Alien built a beach house on Mars and wants to get it out of the way of the Sun’s expansion, so it doesn’t it burn up?”
“Yeah, and what if they just lost the cue ball and are getting Mars as replacement…”
“… while the other guy gets another pitcher of beer, sure.”
The first humans to jump on a Beast rode the asteroid for a few hours. Their ship latched onto the asteroid with robotic arms and they collected core samples during the expedition. We had found the Solar System’s escalator.