The NULL Solution = Episode 157

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The NULL Solution = Episode 157

…Gus McKinney’s sole luxury comes in the form of a vehicle license tag: SOLx3…

CHAPTER FIFTEEN

Key to the City

Houston Texas has always been a NASA town. Back in its heyday, the Johnson Space Center was the centerpiece of space aeronautics. Even after critical operations shifted east to Oskaloosa and Lovell S C, and south to Galveston and GLF, never once have they surrendered the nickname of “Space City”.

Thanks to the inland seaport and nearby wide-open spaces, Houston has overtaken Chicago as the 3rd most populated city, as well as metropolitan area in the United States. They are big on bragging rights, particularly when it comes to space heroes.

If he had a case of the druthers, Gus McKinney could have easily given up his pressure-suit for politics. He believes he is too young for that old man’s occupation. But that does not mean he has bought a single meal or beverage while out & about in Texas for THE LAST 20 YEARS.

His appearance on Good Morning Mission Control blew up the Internet for 2 hours. Gus McKinney EVA Action Figure is the most popular Christmas gift for the years 2050 – 52. To his credit, he has repeatedly turned down reality television producers, who would kill for the opportunity to spend quality camera time out at King Ranch. His sole luxury comes in the form of a vehicle license tag: SOLx3. Anonymity goes out the window {at the speed-of-light} when he goes to 7 Eleven for a Slurpee. He does not pay for those either.

He will need all that plus a sawbuck if he wants to be in the mix concerning the coming of Collapsar Axis. Roy Crippen compares confronting it to “shooting spit wads @ the moon”. The decision has been set in stone. The only volleys being lobbed at the Ÿ€Ð menace are “friendlies”, reinforcing the image of a peaceful people who would never consider taking an offensive posture… except the one time when our hero squeezed-off a warning disruptor blast at a single Ÿ€Ð cruiser, back when Terran folks were a bit jumpy about the Lorgan issue.

Hopefully the “invaders” have a short memory.

At least the United States has backed away from the literal ledge, that the rest of the world is about to jump off of. At various times in history, the fact that the Americas are an island unto themselves is quite convenient. The European Union head is connected to Eastern Bloc neck bone, the neck bone is connected to the Russian backbone and the backbone is connected to the Asian tailbone and the Tailbone is connected to the kangaroo bone.

Editorial comment: No bone is connected to the African bone… where disease still spreads faster than the news.


The NULL Solution =

Episode 157


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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


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The NULL Solution = Episode 130

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The NULL Solution = Episode 130

…Alf Quigby produces t-shirts, collectible buttons and a monthly newsletter, all out his parent’s basement…

CHAPTER TWELVE

Facts and Other Fibs

 

Accounting for the best of intentions, the avoidance of truth is going to catch up to you. One thing leads to another, etc. and there you are, wishing that you would have found a way to clarify instead of classify.

Keeping the wool pulled over the world’s eye is tougher every year.

At NASA, it started with Lie #1.

Deke McKinney did not come back with his brother, like everybody who’s anybody claimed back in 2050. Granted, at the time the space agency was searching for an answer that was not available to them. The inept solution to that dilemma was to allow speculation to run wild. The wildest such rumor: he was considering a presidential bid. In the ensuing six years they still cannot produce a living, breathing Deke. Some nosy kid in Texas {below in Lie #2} called them out on it.

And the world knows {but then again they don’t} because beloved Prez Roy cannot tell the world that he is alive & living on a world 10 light years away; Too Much Information.

Lie #2 is a one of omission.

Joe/Josephine

Current events are nearly impossible to keep from prying eyes. Every “Joe/Josephine Human” on Earth has a video/still device at the ready. Competition to be the 1ST with news is fierce, to the point of neutering traditional reporting outlets. 9 times out of 10, a story goes viral before the next lungful is exhaled.

Previously obscure individuals are the superstars of news making/reportage.

A Houston-area teen named Alf {Alfred} Quigby has been obsessed with NASA operations for a longtime, which in his case are 3.5 of those perplexing adolescent years. He is president & founder of the Space Family McKinney Fan Club. He produces t-shirts, collectible buttons and a monthly newsletter, all out his parent’s basement. He has going-on 152 million followers of his fan club website, ranking him second only to the Taylor Swift tribute site, where millions mourn the passing of the music icon.

Alf Quigby

When no one else bothers to look, Alf notices that Gus McKinney has not been seen for months. If Gus McKinney, so much as, sneezes, he makes sure that the world hears about it. He has suspected that his hero was aboard that drone, which was towed by a SLAV that headed for space earlier in the year. Neither the man nor machine has yet to return to GLF.

Alf is the same kid who tried to expose the Deke McKinney ruse.

Since his last sensationalizing claim, in attempt to control the message, young Alf is hired as an intern in the office of Francine Bouchette-Crippen. His younger sister, Alfina, serves as interim webmaster & editor of Space Family McKinney Fan Club. Alfred still takes all the credit.

Coincidences and questions persist. Explanations are shallow.


The NULL Solution =

Episode 130


page 128

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 115

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The NULL Solution = Episode 115

…Make no bones about it, it is truly like an expedition of old; Da Gama, Hilary, Joliet or Glenn…. or one of these oldies:

The two month trip out to Mars is a breeze. Each man has his own way to pass the time. 60 or days may not seem like a long time, but when 2 men from different generations are left to their own devices; those devices are bound to be dissimilar.

Retiring Rick Stanley has much to catch up on, seeing that his career path has recently resembled the Chinese fortunes in the world money markets – down. It is enough to frighten a super G downhill racer, so quick was his trip to the bottom of the astronaut chart. He has been resigned to cashing NASA credits, training future astronauts, all the while sleepwalking; not a gratified way to go out.

So here he is, crunching file after file of technical manuals with the hope of catching up with his up-to-date cabin mate. ‘How do I do this or that?’ is not the burden he wants project on Gus McKinney, who has been described by most observers as the premier space pioneer… ever.

Astronaut Stanley is not without his own fine resume, but his reads like a high school diploma compared to Gus’ doctoral thesis. He may be piloting the drone, but he will not be at the controls of Solution as it circumnavigates the surface of the new Mars.

SOLUTION

At 40 years old, Gus could be Rick’s son, nearly a grandson. The veteran always wanted a son, but due to his job at NASA, his two ex-wives were in no mood to be widows with a child. Astronaut spouses are a special breed. His were not. His were merely social-climbing-window-dressing.

It is an odd feeling when you virtually idolize someone so his junior. He has a way to go to pull even, but he will.

Gus McKinney spends his time honing his fast-twitch motor skills and pouring over the “Harmonia Query”. When he grows tired of blasting alien invaders from a game screen, he punishes himself by running countless scenarios past the NASA data-cloud; nothing can be left to chance.

His no-fear attitude prevents him from regretting any of his choices, on Earth or in space. Never mind that he takes a lucky horseshoe with him on every mission. Technology cannot completely replace the U-shaped iron equine wear-guard fashioned by a person called a farrier. His prized appaloosa mare threw this particular shoe, causing them to stop… one minute and one mile from the path of a southeast Texas twister that suddenly dropped out of the sky, right when and where he would be returning from a back-forty fence check. He will forever take that charm, wherever the winds of space blow him.

Not to be outdone, daughter Marscie gave him a lime-green bow from her hair as he left King Ranch for this expedition. Either charm comes in second to his wife. McKinney wives need to be special and Mindy is.

Make no bones about it, it is truly like an expedition of old; Da Gama, Hilary, Joliet or Glenn.


The NULL Solution =

Episode 115


page 114

The NULL Solution = Episode 114

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The NULL Solution = Episode 114

…As is the case when a mobilization mentality takes hold, heaven and earth are moved to make it happen…

“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!” Gus id pumped.

What is there to lose, indeed? Under the pretense of surface exploration, incoming President of the United States Chasin Hedley has no problem convincing congress to pump up the funding for such an ambitious Mars mission. It can only cement his country’s place as solar system frontrunner. Gone is Harper Lea Bassett administration’s stifling oversight and lagging foresight. Though far from ya-ha time, the climate for space exploration is undergoing a renaissance.

{Null Solution Fun Fact about the obscure ironic loose-link between two characters close to this episode: Chasonn of Seljuk and Chasin Hedley, #52 of the U.S. Kismet or coincidence?}

The Martian transformation is front page news around the world. Speculation runs the gamut, from the 2nd coming of Jesus, to a government hoax. The dominant conspiracy theory concerns an imminent alien invasion. Serious science is silent, seeing that all the king’s satellites and all the king’s rovers are on the fritz.

NASA is the only legitimate game in town these days. They control both the mission and the resulting message. The fact that Gus McKinney is spearheading the project enhances support {“poor brother Deke” is still in an induced coma stemming from radiation poisoning – is the story that the Crippens give credence to}, a true rallying point for a nation and the world to focus on.

As is the case when a mobilization mentality takes hold, heaven and earth are moved to make it happen. America’s allies fall all over each other to pitch in; donations roll in by the armload for the Martian payload.

Rick Stanley is one of only three known humans to set foot on Mars back in the day, and his expertise is highly valued. Any captain of a ship named New Mayflower is a sure bet to attain folk hero standing, if not just a plain regular ordinary everyday hero. He should be able to find his own footprints encircling the lander Tycho, that’s if Harmonia’s incursion hasn’t erased them. He is the one who discovered that landing craft from Space Colony 1 was empty, when the elder McKinneys were supposedly desperate and awaiting rescue. Or so NASA thought.

The new incarnation of Rick Stanley cannot wait to return to space. The yearning to be relevant again certainly beats being categorized as a has-been by at least a million miles. He is honored for the opportunity to work alongside Sam & Celeste’s youngest {assumed}. —

— When it comes to the “Harmonia Query”, all possible t’s are dotted and i’s are crossed. How else can one describe the art of guessing the outcome of such a crapshoot, however calculated it may be?

  • Drone is outfitted with improved engines
  • SLAV is resurrected to carry the drone to outer-Earth orbit
  • Rover Solution has been tested in every conceivable mock Martian terrain
  • The 2-man crew is prepared for possible contingencies

The NULL Solution =

Episode 114


page 113

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


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