The NULL Solution = Episode 145

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The NULL Solution = Episode 145

…Rick Stanley digs deep for a way to frame his description about really happened on Mars…

Good Morning Mission Control’s current purpose is to direct attention to the recent homecoming of two heroes of space and their incredible story of riding the plume of a volcano to break free from Martian gravity.

“We didn’t have enough fuel achieve escape velocity,” is Rick Stanley’s explanation.

“Not if we wanted to get back home,” adds Gus to this already flawed storyline. “We came back with 2 tons worth of samples; vegetation, soil, water, you know, for our boys in the Lab. They wouldn’t let us land if we came back empty handed.”

“That’s right Commander McKinney! We needed the heat thermals to get our butts out of the atmosphere.”

“And yet you didn’t bring any pictures back to share?” RG II goes off-script to ask the question most viewers would ask if they had the chance.

“We were so busy doing the calculations required for liftoff that I guess we forgot.” Stanley is the most convincing of the pair.

“Then could you describe the Martian landscape to our viewers?  We are receiving that very question from a million people across the world.”

Rick Stanley digs deep for a way to frame his description.

“In one of my favorite author Robert Heinlein’s book Farnham’s Freehold, a family already in their bomb shelter, is bombed into the future. Not to a different spot, but one where there are no roads or buildings near where their house once stood. Only the hills and trees and rivers are there, barely recognizable to the keenest observer. The rest of the book is about pretty graphic social interaction, so I won’t bother you with that.

“In our case, Commander McKinney had us land on the other side of Mars… from that structure… not sure it is manmade or not. We managed to traverse the full ½ of the planet circumference…

“…and back.”

“Good thing, right Gus? We weaved and climbed and dodged our way on some of the same ground covered by Spirit and Opportunity, except back then the rivers were dry and we’re not sure anything was ever green and growing. So are maps were mostly Image result for tap dance gifuseless.”

“And not a single hydrogen station to stop and ask directions from.”

“We could only travel by day, even though Solution was equipped with a virtual star map.”

“Just like the ancient mariners we were!” Gus tries to keep things light. The public has seen nothing but press releases and publicity photos ever since the 1st SOL test flights. All that served to do was enhance his legendary family’s space lore. “If I can interrupt, my favorite moment was when we drove Solution into a river. What a kick to see how she handles underwater!”

The NULL Solution =

Episode 145

page 143

The NULL Solution = Episode 134

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The NULL Solution = Episode 134

…”Come on home Gus,” Roy breaks in, “a tired and broken planet needs you more than ever!”…

Solution is secured, ready for lift-off!” Rick is placing the drone as near to the active plume as is safe.

“Take us right into the firestorm Ricko. That’s what heat shielding is for!”

Up and up they travel, propelled by Mother Nature – Mars style. Before you can count to {6 – 2 = 9}, all of NASA property, other than Tycho, has exited Martian gravitational influence. Covered in soot and free as a bird, the captives follow the plotted path back to Earth.

“Riddle my ass!” Gus looks at the rear-facing monitor. As Mars gets smaller, he catches the glimpse of an image off to the side. In the roundness of the reflection they see Harmonia, not the empty and lonely space scraper, but one dotted with moving figures and previously nonexistent shuttles, looking more like a village than an edifice.



Come on home Gus,” Roy breaks in, “a tired and broken planet needs you more than ever!

Roy Crippen fires off video and files pertaining to the current state of affairs, which he had withheld, until now.

“How is my family?”

Grandpa Roy responds, “Marscie is a real champ, slept through it all.”

“How about you?”

“I am going to sleep for the entire two months it takes for you to get back… right after I tell the world that Stanley & Gus are coming home from Mars.”

“How did the world know we were gone?”

“Alf Quigby.”


“He’s the president of the Space Family McKinney Fan Club.”

“Oh that Alf, I sent him an autographed SEx toy last year.” That didn’t come out right. “You know what I meant…”

“Hi-larious!” The tension needed some easing. “Ignore stories about that planetary distress signal, for now.”

“Roger Roy!” Not Roy Rogers. —

The NULL Solution =

Episode 134

page 132

The NULL Solution = Episode 132

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The NULL Solution = Episode 132

…”Everywhere and nowhere at the same time, yeah, that is the refrain I keep hearing.”

“The question and the answer…”

Everywhere and Nowhere by Chris Brandell

Believe it or not, the state of affairs on Mars holds more promise than that of Earth.

Entrapped, yet empowered by planetary laws of volcanism, Roy is completely aware of the latest Hail Mary being tossed by Gus McKinney, Champion of Mars. Being able to announce the tiniest of space successes may be able quell the chaos at home.

He just won’t spill the beans about the two astronauts being held without their will.

“If we get out, tell the world that we will do everything in our power to save the day!”

“You may have to Gus. The upheaval is showing no signs of slowing down.”

“Is it as big as I’ve heard?”

“Bigger.” Crip is not prone to superlatives. “But we have to get you into space first. When is Olympus going to erupt, Rick?”

“Any time Roy. The magma is tracking up a fissure, big enough to drive your wife’s car through. We have used laser blasters for a primer.”

“Do you have enough power left to counteract the downward G’s at liftoff?”

“Barely… but heat does rise and the thermals created by the eruption should be heavenly.”

“Have you seen our friend Lorgan lately?” Roy doesn’t want to be the last to know.

“Once in a while we think we see something shimmering up there, but that bugger looks like a mirage to me. I’m not sure what I seeing any more,” admits Gus.

Everywhere and nowhere at the same time, yeah, that is the refrain I keep hearing.”

“The question and the answer…”

Gus may be closer to the truth than he knows.

The NULL Solution =

Episode 132

page 130

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 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…?”


The NULL Solution =

Episode 121

page 120