The NULL Solution = Episode 129

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The NULL Solution = Episode 129

…Who says a watched pot doesn’t boil…

“You look like you’re having fun.”

“While you were out scoping out the Olympus Mons, I noticed something going on with the seismic sensor. I think it one of its peaks may be ready to pop.”

“That may explain the ambient temperature rise I recorded, Gus. Gravitational increases may be causing the core to heat up again.”

“The last volcanic activity here petered out while the dinosaurs were still kicking on Earth. I think we should keep a closer eye on that sector.”

“Why risk being too close to the Tharsis area? The ash will surely be red and probably bust through the stratosphere… which is at a lower altitude than Earth’s.”

“Precisely. When she blows, you will drive the drone out of the newly created hole in that pesky force-field.”

“You are hoping it will cause a rift, no guarantee when that will happen.”

“I’m betting it will. I’m also betting that the power-that-is, did not anticipate this event – shoot, the mountain is nearly scraping sub-space as it stands now. We can ride right out with the rest of the debris. It will be perfect cover!”

“It is sheer craziness, but it’s worth a try.”

“My daughter is growing up without me and you have that peanut farm to go home to.”

A Gus can hope, can’t he?Image result for pot boiling gif

“Pistachios.” Rick has not lost hope either, “What if we use the laser drill to stir up the magma?”

Who says a watched pot doesn’t boil!”

It will be so written in the bylaws of Cryptomaniacs Anonymous {Milky Way Chapter}:

No member shall be bound to a riddle, if there is a logical way around said riddle; which may result in temporary loss of membership. Reinstatement is not guaranteed.

… It is so recorded on Stardate 2056.64 from the planet Mars of the Terran system in the Milky Way Galaxy.


The NULL Solution =

Episode 129


page 127 (end Ch. 11)

The NULL Solution = Episode 124

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The NULL Solution = Episode 124

…Once again, a member of the Space Family McKinney is stranded somewhere where he/she/they do not necessarily want to be…

“Let’s blow this juke joint!”

Rick understands the unusual Texan dialect used by his cohort. He also supports the sentiment by plying his skill to raising them up and out, “We will be taking leave of Mars’ gravitation in 2.5 minutes.”

“I think I’m going to tap into that NY Times Bestseller collection I brought along,” Gus proclaims. “Two books a week. I bet I can knock off 20 books before we get back.”

2 minutes later, it turns out Gus will be able to read a library’s worth of fiction. The Martian Mule comes to full stop, stranded on the threshold of space, like an ornament on a Christmas tree, sans a string or explainable cause.

Once again, a member of the Space Family McKinney is stranded somewhere where he/she/they do not necessarily want to be.

“Step on it Rick, what’s the deal?”

“If I were to hazard a guess, I’d say the Harmonia shield has now extended planet-wide.”

Roy Crippen and Fletcher Fitch, who have been on pins & needles, are currently faced with the ultimate conundrum.  Every single monitor at Galveston Launch reads the same bothersome image:

“I regret to inform you that the “Harmonia Query” is hereby & now a swinging door, boys.”

“We were afraid of that Crip. Shit and two equals eight!”

“No, 2 plus 1 equals 6. I know it’s a pain, but until we can solve the riddle, you have no choice but continue cataloguing the Mars environment.”

Fitch has estimated that they have enough food for a year. It appears that H2O will not be an issue, “The good news is that you can shut down the urine re-processor.”

“I suggest you work on that ^%@#&*g quiz as well. Maybe you can see some mathematical association we haven’t. It seems Watson III cannot get past the arithmetic.”

“I can’t get past the fact that we fell into some sort of trap!”

“We’re all in this together. We all made the same mistake.”

“But y’all aren’t castaways.”

“Tom Hanks made it back, so will you.”


The NULL Solution =

Episode 124


page 123

The NULL Solution = Episode 123

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The NULL Solution = Episode 123

…There are forces beyond human control at work on Mars, and when confronted by the unknown, you are compelled to get back to what you do best, fly… home…

The front entrance is appropriately ostentatious. The “Intergalactic Unity” sub-head runs like a scroll around the entire 4 sides of Harmonia, in languages heretofore unseen by human beings including Gus McKinney and Rick Stanley. They have made it past the riddle/key, but what exactly have they gotten themselves into?

After quite a thorough peek of the ground floor, the two explorers from Earth find the building as vacuous inside as it is large outside.

“Just who or what would erect such a thing, with no obvious substance other than a pie-in-the-sky title?”

Copyright © Sharna Fulton 2014

“This is what happens when you get inside without the key. There is no satisfaction for us here, Gus. We’ve got ourselves an eyeful of the tower and nothing else.”

— Out of luck and empty handed, Solution retreats from whence it came, having simply grazed true clarity, not unraveling it. Into the pure water {that flows in-but-not-out of Harmonia}, piloting against a current that is disproportionately strong for 1.75 mph, Gus requires thrusters to make any headway.

Rick Stanley looks to the rear, “We should have kicked up heavenly mud.”

“3/4 thrusters will do that.”

“See for yourself… still clear as a Rocky Mountain brook.”

“This is getting creepy Rick. I’m in favor of packing up our {horticulture/geological} samples and heading back to Earth!”

Upon hearing Gus’ unlikely Martian chronicle, NASA and his stepfather agree. There are forces beyond human control at work on Mars. And when confronted by the unknown, you are compelled to get back to what you do best, fly… home.

The faithful drone that brought them here to Mars is waiting for them after Stanley & Gus retrace their path back to the other side of the planet. Another 2 month sojourn is in their future. Veni, vidi, vici; they came, they saw, they conquered.

Securely nestled in the drone, they are prepared to achieve Mars’ increasingly increasing escape velocity.

“Let’s blow this juke joint!”


The NULL Solution =

JBs Jukejoint by James St. Claire

Episode 123


page 122

The NULL Solution = Episode 122

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The NULL Solution = Episode 122

…”Alley Oop – Betty Boop – puppy poop, it’s all the same to me,” Stanley & Gus have agreed to sneak inside the Harmonia

 

A new plan of attack was hatched…

Not only is Solution hermetically sealed from the vacuum of space, it makes a dandy submarine, except it will use its wheels for propulsion. The thrusters would kick up too much red mud.

“I guess we don’t have anything to lose? I can use some excitement. This botany duty is for the birds!”

“Now there are birds?” That would be show stopping news, would it not? They will need to settle for a pristine source of water flowing into Harmonia. “Have you noticed that the creek goes in, but it doesn’t come out?”

“By golly, you are correct Stanley. Not only do you have 2 first names, you don’t miss a trick! That gives us an even a better reason to swim on in.”

“Here’s another riddle for ya, ‘What goes in, but doesn’t come out?’”

“Good question. I believe I want to find the answer to that.”

Gus guides Solution into moving water, several hundred yards upstream for good measure. As they approach what is expected to be a thwarting thud, they slow the manned rover to a crawl. No need inflicting another blemish, like the boo-boo on the bumper when they unsuccessfully drove in the first time. The one constant about invisibility, is that it’ is hard to see.

“Well here we go. What the hell!” he screams while holding his breath. “Are we in? We’re in… we’re in Roy!”

Galveston Launch is awash in high-fives. It turns out that hunches still have their place.

“Rather than swim with the fishes, I’m choosing popping out before we can’t get out.”

“Trout or Topeka Shiner?”

“Me and Ricko are the only fish in these waters. Here we go… alley-oop!”

“Did you know that Alley Oop was a comic strip in the 20th Century; a time-traveling caveman.”

“That describes our Gus for sure!” Rick lets slip.

“Oh yeah! Crip is old enough to remember when newspapers were made of paper.”

“I was merely providing historical context to your live-action metaphor.”

Alley Oop – Betty Boop – puppy poop, it’s all the same to me. I’m taking us to the front door.”

Water has barely stopped dripping from Solution, when they pull up to what is referred to as Harmonia. An ant at the foot of NYC’s Freedom Tower would be ratio-based comparison. Neither man has ever not been able to see the top of any object – that is until now. It is a daunting edifice, no matter whatever its purpose is.


The NULL Solution =

Photo by @cpplunkett

Episode 122


page 121

The NULL Solution = Episode 121

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The NULL Solution = Episode 121

…#48 isn’t about to let a 2-bit/Dr. Seuss inspired/practical joke get in the way perfectly good mission…

Some people never know when to give up… Example 1-1A {with a bullet} is Roy Crippen.

As President of the United States {circa 2032-40} he was faced with the re-emergence of a terror group, the 5-man group storming a vulnerable embassy and the taking of ten hostages {one being First Lady Francine who was attending the funeral of a Middle East Leader}. After 15 tense days, which included video of hostage #3 being executed and a list of impossible demands, he refused to cave in.

It is not until Day 20 that he negotiated an end to the crisis, by personally helicoptering on to embassy grounds, with 3 aging terror leaders in tow and a trunk full of cash; $100,000,000, 2 Yemini’s and 1 Palestinian were exchanged for the 9 remaining hostages.

You can trust the leader of the free world, right?

Nope. A gross of counterfeit bills, an explosive package… and suddenly there are 8 {5+3} less terrorists in the world tonight. —

— Now, #48 isn’t about to let a 2-bit/Dr. Seuss inspired/practical joke get in the way perfectly good mission. He has been sifting through the geographical features in and around Harmonia and feels a hunch coming on.

“Hey Ricko, how deep is that river to the northeast?”

“The one that runs into the no-fly zone?”

 “Yes, that one. It appears to be one of the more established flows on the planet.”

“It is Roy. Its headwaters are up in the Xanthe Mountain Range. I tested it out yesterday. It is as pure as anything we have on Earth.”

“That is the very definition of pollution, right? But potability is not what I am after… how many feet at its deepest as it passes under the Harmonia shield… I have a theory.”

“15.7 feet.”

“How wide at that depth?”

“20 or so. It only moves at about 1.75 mph so it’s not a silt-producer either.”

“What is Gus doing?”

“He’s picking daisiesI am serious,” in the name of science of course.

“So am I. Get him back inside. I want to try something.”

“Are you thinking…?”

“Yep.”


The NULL Solution =

Episode 121


page 120

The NULL Solution = Episode 118

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The NULL Solution = Episode 118

…We have sunk too much into this operation to merely turn back with our tail between our legs…

“What did we hit?”

“Nothing that I can see.”

They traveled past and through mountains, valleys, sea and plain, no problem. Now with a clear path to their objective, it is no dice.

With no other choice, Gus makes a 360° loop around the massive structure, determined to find a way in. Fuzzy math still stands in their way. Unfortunately, there was no way of knowing this outcome in advance.

Whether by land or by space, it’s solve the damned riddle or else.

“Instead of driving all the way back to the landing sight, let’s call the drone over to this side and drop it down closer to the surface. We need to think a bit, talk to Crip, and plan our next move.” What else is there to do? “I’m getting hungry and all the good food is on the drone.”

Reconstituted ham will have to do for dinner. The King Ranch Easter egg hunt 2055 will go on without Marscie’s daddy. That he misses this April 18th Sunday was planned. What Roy Crippen has in mind may jeopardize Thanksgiving.

“We cannot afford to scrub another mission to Mars, Gus. You’re not flying a SEx sortie all by yourself at SOL+++. We have sunk too much into this operation to merely turn back with our tail between our legs. We need water samples, surface and ground, a complete atmospheric profile and one of every plant species you and Rick can lay your hands on.” This is not what this McKinney was built for. “Put your education to work, son. This is the meat & potatoes of space exploration.”

“I prefer champagne and caviar.”

“You can’t afford it… you forfeited your mission hazard pay, remember?”

“So it’s vacuum beakers and freeze-dried horticulture?”

“Yes…, but you can also scan the hell out of that building! It has to have some other purpose that we’re not aware of.”

“I’ll send Rick over to Harmonia with his résumé. Maybe he can get a part-time job in the Trust Dept., Retirement Division.”

“Not without solving that damned riddle first.”

The riddle; it all comes down to bad math and its unsubstantiated quizmaster.

A year that once held promise for positive change: for the Null of Eridanus, for the pilgrims aboard Collapsar Axis or for amateur cryptographers everywhere, time has slowed to pace of a snail.


The NULL Solution =

Episode 118


page 117 (end ch. 10)

The NULL Solution = Episode 113

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The NULL Solution = Episode 113

…Gus McKinney would relish the chance for a new challenge, seeing that NASA is getting nowhere fast and SEx is being monitored closely…

The devil is in the details. While Skaldic seems to think he is closing in on a solution, the Gus-Roy-Fitch team is focusing on finding the back door to the blossoming Red Planet. They are striving to circumvent the vexing brainteaser, in favor of picking the lock.

 

Manned Rover

“What if we land on the other side from Harmonia, drop our hotrod/buggy prototype, the manned-rover people are working on, and get a closer look that way,” Gus McKinney would relish the chance for a new challenge, seeing that NASA is getting nowhere fast and SEx is being monitored by the doves in Washington. “We will sneak up on Harmonia, quiet like.”

Fletcher Fitch is usually the voice of reason, “We have not resolved the payload issue, Gus.”

Rick Stanley

“Don’t we have the drone that hauled Space Colony 1 in mothballs? Outfit it with a crew cabin, big enough for me and Rick Stanley and let’s go!”

Roy Crippen speaks for the ever-postponed AARP generation, “Rick Stanley is retiring this year. I’m not sure he wants to spend an entire year on one last rodeo.”

“Why don’t we leave that decision to him? He’s divorced, one of his kids is an aspiring astronaut and beside that, he is our lone remaining expert on the tow-drone… oh and the sub-light assist vehicle (SLAV) to boot.”

Manned Tow Drone

After giving some thought, Roy begins to change his tune. “The SLAV could get the drone to sub-space and we could re-fit the drone engines for speed.”

“2 months out, a month to explore and 2 months back. 6 months max, including the mission prep.”

“This whole idea is a stretch; it stretches both our manpower and our budget. You realize that, don’t you?”

“What do we have to lose? You can skip my mission bonus. Let’s set up shop on Mars and give Rick a sendoff to remember!” Sellers sell, fliers fly.  Gus M. does both. “Just remember, the riddle doesn’t apply to the opposite hemisphere… I don’t think.”


The NULL Solution =

Episode 113


page 112