The Calculating Stars (Lady Astronaut, #1)(2)

Nathaniel had spun away to get clear of the window, but he was still holding the log.

He turned it over in his hands and glanced outside.

“There hasn’t been any sound yet.

How long has it been?”

The radio continued to play and it was still “Sixty Minute Man.”

What had that light been?

“I wasn’t counting.

A little over a minute?”

I shivered as I did the speed-of-sound calculations and the seconds ticked by.

“Zero point two miles per second.

So the center is at least twenty miles away?”

Nathaniel paused in the process of grabbing a sweater and the seconds continued to tick by.

Thirty miles.



“That’s … that’s a big explosion to have been that bright.”

Taking a slow breath, I shook my head, more out of desire for it not to be true than out of conviction.

“It wasn’t an A-bomb.”

“I’m open to other theories.”

He hauled his sweater on, the wool turning his hair into a haystack of static.

The music changed to “Some Enchanted Evening.”

I got out of bed and grabbed a bra and the trousers I’d taken off the day before.

Outside, snow swirled past the window.

“Well … they haven’t interrupted the broadcast, so it has to be something fairly benign, or at least localized.

It could be one of the munitions plants.”

“Maybe a meteor.”


That idea had some merit and would explain why the broadcast hadn’t been interrupted.

It was a localized thing.

I let out a breath in relief.

“And we could have been directly under the flight path.

That would explain why there hasn’t been an explosion, if what we were seeing was just it burning up.

All light and fury, signifying nothing.”

Nathaniel’s fingers brushed mine and he took the ends of the bra out of my hand.

He hooked the strap and then he ran his hands up my shoulder blades to rest on my upper arms.

His hands were hot against my skin.

I leaned back into his touch, but I couldn’t quite stop thinking about that light.

It had been

so bright.

He squeezed me a little, before releasing me.


“Yes, it was a meteor?”

“Yes, we should go back.”

I wanted to believe that it was just a fluke, but I had been able to see the light through my closed eyes.

While we got dressed, the radio kept playing one cheerful tune after another.

Maybe that was why I pulled on my hiking boots instead of loafers, because some part of my brain kept waiting for things to get worse.

Neither of us commented on it, but every time a song ended, I looked at the radio, certain that this time someone would tell us what had happened.

The floor of the cabin shuddered.

At first I thought a heavy truck was rolling past, but we were in the middle of nowhere.

The porcelain robin that sat on the bedside table danced along its surface and fell.

You would think that, as a physicist, I would recognize an earthquake faster.

But we were in the Poconos, which was geologically stable.

Nathaniel didn’t worry about that as much and grabbed my hand, pulling me into the doorway.

The floor bucked

and rolled under us.

We clung to each other like in some sort of drunken foxtrot.

The walls twisted and then … then the whole place came down.

I’m pretty sure that I hollered.

When the earth stopped moving, the radio was still playing.

It buzzed as if a speaker were damaged, but somehow the battery kept it going.

Nathaniel and I were lying, pressed together, in the remnants of the doorframe.

Cold air swirled around us.

I brushed the dust from his face.

My hands were shaking.



His blue eyes were wide, but both pupils were the same size, so … that was good.


I paused before answering with the social “fine,” took a breath, and did an inventory of my body.

I was filled with adrenaline, but I hadn’t wet myself.

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