The asteroid was approaching the planet’s atmosphere. Its course suggested that it was likely a rogue from the small belt between the orbit of the fifth and sixth planets of the system. Most of the debris that ended up pulled towards the inner planets came from this rocky region of space.
The rock had no name, it was too small to be individually named and identified. No doubt it had taken a slow journey inwards over millions of years, it may have even been trapped as a satellite for millennia before its ever decreasing orbits intersected that of the planet.
As soon as it came within range of tracking sensors, designed to protect close proximity of objects to the planet, it was identified and scanned. It was less than eighteen metres across and three high on its largest point. It looked like a badly fried egg. The structure of its materials was determined with a more precise tracking using a full set of sensors.
A silicate based rock with some traces of carbon and iron, some other traces of metals, mostly heavy metals. There were indications of fused glasses, likely the product of some cataclysmic history. It had a nominal value that was not worth the effort of a ship launching and trapping the rock.
The tracking computers detected large masses within the main rock, closer to the core of the asteroid. A modest artificial intelligence determined it was likely the product of several smaller asteroids that had collided. They must have all been pearls, heavier rocks that collected dust and particles over their long life and then collided with each other to form the wandering visitor.
A quick study determined that it would break up in the upper atmosphere to briefly exist as a series of small shooting stars that would lance across the skies and disintegrate completely. With the current course and composition it would last a few seconds in the upper atmosphere. It was determined as a low threat and the sensor arrays were set to mostly ignore the rock. A small subset was left tracking and recording as was the standard procedure.
The lonely wanderer entered the upper atmosphere in a fiery blaze less than six hours after it had been analysed and catalogued. A few vessels were re-routed away from any potential debris, but the risk would have been very slight, even without the automatic zone of concern collisions would have been unlikely. As predicted it broke up into eight pieces that spun lazily away from each other as they shrank in an incandescent rage against the blackness of the night sky.
Had anyone been looking with their eyes they may have seen the brief streak of the asteroid and its death shatter into pieces. The event was less than two seconds in length and dim against the glow of the moons in the lower part of the sky, but still visible if you were far away from a city.
No trace of the asteroid was left after the brief spark. It had been despatched to the world. The small particles of dust would have bounced into the upper atmosphere or would slowly descend as dust or particles trapped in rain over the next hours. The energy trapped in the rock had been released in a bright flame during its final breath.
The eight stealth vessels that were hidden inside the core of the asteroid each followed the trajectory of the final breakup of the rock. They had full adaptive shells that reflected virtually all transmissions. They had the most recent gravity adjustment technology which had allowed them to achieve almost zero weight and zero inertia. They had come to an almost complete stop in the final moment of the asteroids death and then started their slow descent towards their target.
The suits would take almost a day to descend to the correct height. Their motion was slower than a leaf gently drifting on a breeze. The sensor array of the location they headed towards was amazingly accurate and so a high degree of patience was needed to approach without detection.
The occupants of the suits were all ignorant of their surroundings. The stealth canopies blocked all transmissions both in and out, they had to hope that the passive guidance and automated trajectories were accurate and would take them to the correct location. They would find out in less than a day if the first stage of the infiltration was successful.