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 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,” Stanley answers Gus.

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 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 is 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 112

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THE NULL SOLUTION = Episode 112

…Celeste is convinced that her husband is not the master of malapropisms; he just doesn’t give a hoot…

After an adjustment period, Cerella readapts to and her son is introduced to a world without livestock, barbeques and droughts.

In the short time it takes to make a TSF roundtrip, Eridanus’ security status has changed. The bigger news arrives from the Triangulum Galaxy via Chasonn; Collapsar Axis has passed by and it is headed to Epsilon Eridani’s system, in the middle of Orion’s Belt.

Letter writer to the Earthlings, Celeste McKinney and former Null, Skaldic have been holding down the fort, the latter becoming fixated not by his Giftedness or the looming gargantuan, but rather the riddle that continues to stump everyone and everything.

“Chasonn seems to think we are in danger, Sam. Take a look at the images of that Ÿ€Ð dreadnought…, inside and out it looks like trouble.”

“It’s also moving like a slug, Cel, for crying out loud! Don’t we have our hands full with little Joyner or even O?”

“I believe I am close to solving the riddle,” Skaldic interjects.

“See? Even Skaldy isn’t concerned about that planet on wheels.”

“What is it about the unattainable that is so attractive to you men?”

“Cerella has told Deke that NASA has given O a name – Lorgan – is what they call it. That means they know it may be connected to that riddle. Don’t you think Gussy and Roy are hard at work on solving it? Maybe it’s not the Selljunk’s business.

“I give up.” He cannot keep alien names straight.

“Don’t worry, we’ll keep an eye out for that Collapsed Axle.

Collapsar Axis and those friends of ours are not the Sell Junk!” Celeste is convinced that her husband is not the master of malapropisms; he just doesn’t give a hoot. “I thought you liked Chasonn?”

“He’s okay… a little jumpy, but okay.” Sam yields.

“Then you better respect his judgement. When he says jump, you better.” Celeste is solemn in projecting her resolve. “And you will leave Deke alone for a cycle? He needs time with his family.”

“I hear you Cel. I’ll keep an eye on that intrusive slug and Skaldy will work on the “Harmonica Query.  Harmonica-Harmonia, what’s the big diff? “And yes, if you can keep him tethered in Cerella’s tower, Deker can get to know that little firecracker of his… Joyner sure seems to have the McKinney smarts.”


THE NULL SOLUTION

Episode 112


page 111

THE NULL SOLUTION = Episode 109

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THE NULL SOLUTION = Episode 109

…A modicum of equality will have to do for now…

CHAPTER TEN

Snail’s Pace

 

Promises are meant to be kept.

Some are deferred.

Skaldic the Null willingly added his Null-ness to the Gifted, with the promise of parity for his people. Ekcello had done his level best to bridge the gap between the Gifted and the Null. However he has not the final word in the matter.

For cycles immemorial, never the tween did meet. The Null had their tower and that was that. Their needs were met more than adequately. And life was good – just happens to be better for the Gifted majority. As in most societies, the majority rules and the majority of Eridanian Gifted believe elevating Skaldic to Gifted status is quite enough. An extra portion of special grog is appropriated for everyone else. Certainly that will do.

Skaldic does not partake in grog, just as he has resisted the temptation of hookah. His judgement is sound and his commitment to his people is as clear as his new robes are white. You can lavish the emperor with new clothes, but you cannot water down what is underneath.

As a small concession, the Null are allowed to roam the planet at certain times in a cycle, not that there is anything fantastic to do outside their tower, but they are allowed to mingle and observe the Gifted way; an unwritten code of conduct unenforced at Null Tower. Little things, like bowing out of common courtesy, not worship and not speaking in the Olde Language, especially not out of tune, are expected behaviors.

In exchange, the Gifted have been instructed to respect the Null and aid them in the indoctrination. Most family units actually have ancestors among the Null population. The difference between the two cultures is esoteric.

A modicum of equality will have to do for now. The Towers were not built in a day.

Just as some riddles are meant to be solved. Some are not.

 


THE NULL SOLUTION

Episode 109


page 108

THE NULL SOLUTION = Episode 103

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THE NULL SOLUTION = Episode 103

Xat has made himself a shadow-world, just on the other side of the next dimension…

Portal To Another Dimension by techngame

#What are you doing in my world# It seems that Xat has made himself a shadow-world, just on the other side of the next dimension. He waves his arms and suddenly there is his family… and those of his associates… frolicking in an Eridanus with crystal clear skies, no towers; without Gifted or Null.

#I require the knowledge of time-space-fold. My daughter is trapped at a distant star. We need her firstborn to bond with us#

#You and the other Gifted left us here, like a diseased colony. I have used my skills to create a parallel world. We prefer our dimension to yours#

#All we ask is the knowledge to restore Defender’s TSF technology#

#Such a fine ship she would have been#

#As it was until recently#

#To think we were vanquished to a hole in this planet because we knew too much#

#I could bring you back with us, me and The Keeper#

#Why would we give up all this# He is proud of his world, but he produces a thick pile of equations and schematics regardless. #Be aware that there is also an unquantified essence. You must summon that ancient discipline, # yet another art left behind. #We have no use for the Gifted. We live in a dimension without pain, rank or negativity. I will restore the grotto scene to you now. DO NOT RETURN#

Ekcello is unaccustomed to being told what to do.

#It would take a cosmic force to disable TSF# Xat would know.

#We suspect O is responsible#

#We know both O#

The dank cavern surrounds them once again. Xat returns to the world he created for himself.

Ekcello and the Keeper return to the surface. One problem solved, while others go unanswered.

#I wonder if Xat could solve the riddle#

#What riddle Supreme Elder? There are two O#

There are things even The Keeper has no knowledge of.


THE NULL SOLUTION

Episode 103


page 104

THE NULL SOLUTION = Episode 99

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THE NULL SOLUTION = Episode 99

…“Roger Roy.”

“Not Roy Rogers.”…

Fresh as a daisy in May and as restless as puppy on a string, Gus rushes past the full moon like it is standing still. He will never tire of that moment when he passes the SOL threshold and gravity kicks back in. {They have not solved sub-light gravity {in space} yet, but it is only halfway through the 21st Century}

“No traffic lights, no traffic and no need to stop for fuel; what more can a dark-matter-master ask for?”

“What’d you say?” asks the ground crew of two.

“Nothing guys, nothing, I am a half-million miles out and I swear I can almost see that tower. It appears to be a quiet weather day on this side of Mars, 45 degrees and sunny.”

“Let us know when you drop out of SOL,” Roy orders.

“Done. I do not want to startle the neighbors. I am strapped in and waiting for the riddle to pop onto my screen. It was right about here… and there she is!”

I am the how & why that blocks your way

2 + 1 = 6

6 – 2 = 9

0 – 1 = 0

Solve the what where & who and you can pass through

 “I am typing harmonia as my response. Send… nothing… sending again.”

“Try capitalizing the H.”

“Roger Roy.”

“Not Roy Rogers!”

This time his screen lights up like a Christmas tree. A mass of flashing colors and geometric shapes in a blinding sequenceSomething Wrong GIFs | Tenor comes and it goes. The words WRONG TRY AGAIN conclude the transmission.

“Did you guys catch that? Harmonia with a capital H did something.”

“Eureka, concrete proof of grammar in outer space, just why we sent you out there!”

“Hey, don’t shoot me, I’m just the piano player,” Gus insists. “I think I can land in the opposite hemisphere?”

“Lota good that will do us; Too long of a walk and that is 87 keys too many McKinney, come on home.”


THE NULL SOLUTION

Episode 99


page 100

THE NULL SOLUTION = Episode 95

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THE NULL SOLUTION = Episode 95

…The other player with just as many chips on the table is Ekcello and he is experiencing disappointment déjà vu

Michael Godard (poker/gambling artwork)

— Deke McKinney is a concerned onlooker, having significant skin in the game and he has had a front row seat for the entire forth and back. He is afraid to ask a question that he already knows the answer to, but does so, “Do you have my family Dad?”

“No Deker. We, I should say me, decided to stop by Mars on the way. Just like a stray steer back on the ranch, we ran into an electric fence. The planet is regenerating or reinventing or something and I just planned to take a peek… and BOOM-SNAP here we are.”

“Shouldn’t we give it another try? You aren’t paid by the hour.”

“TSF has been knocked offline. I guess going in reverse jammed the throttle.”

The other player with just as many chips on the table is Ekcello and he is experiencing disappointment déjà vu ; Cerella’s “kidnapping” and now a botched reunion. Only his flat-line demeanor keeps him from overreacting, “How long will it take to reinstate the Time-Space-Fold technology?”

“I’m not sure exactly. It may depend on whether the designers are still around to make the repairs.”

“We abandoned physical space travel long ago. The elders in charge of physically collapsing the fabric of space exist only in our memories.”

“Didn’t they leave any schematics behind, like diagrams, mechanics, formulas or theorems?”

“I will need to attempt something that has never have been done…”

“… Like getting your hands dirty?”

“I speak of contacting the spirit of the builders. We on Eridanus believe that a Gifted spirit lives on. I will convene the keepers of the Olde Language and customs.”

“And maybe between the 4 of us, we can figure it out.” Impossible is not a word in the McKinney dictionary.

Make that 5. “Don’t you dare forget about me?” Celeste may be a Bergestrom by birth, but that McKinney doggedness has rubbed off, along with heaping helping of spatial dynamics. After all, it was her expertise that helped get them to Eridanus, lo those many years ago.

Question:

What has five heads & no clue?

Answer:

One smart ass, one chip off the old block, one Null, one transmigrating matriarch & one worried daddy

 

 It all falls into the category of Fuzzy mathematics.

THE NULL SOLUTION

Episode 95

page 96 (end ch. 8)

THE NULL SOLUTION = Episode 94

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THE NULL SOLUTION = Episode 94

…There was supposed to be a small colony on Mars, not a freaking skyscraper…

‘I want to see what Tycho looks like after all these years,” Sam suggests. 

As soon as they can sync the viewer with the geographical location of the Plain of Xanthe, it is clear that the neighborhood has changed. Not only are there clouds and oceans and vegetation, there is a towering structure dwarfing the tiny lander that once called Space Colony 1 its home base.

Sampson McKinney, formerly of Earth, Mars and now Eridanus, is as confused as his the Null next to him, “I thought you told me this planet was barren.”

“It was when I left,” he claims. He has to wonder why Celeste did not leave a clue about her hyperphysical trip back. Surely Crip would have mentioned a little thing like a colony on Mars. A friendly heads-up would have been nice.

Sure as Mars soil is red, a mile-high colossus rises up on the spot where humans once tread.

“Something like that would take centuries for Earth to build. There was supposed to be a small colony on Mars, not a freaking skyscraper. I wonder if the Chinese are responsible, they have always had money to burn?” He contemplates possible explanations.

Just as they get close enough to magnify their view, something strange, yet familiar pops into the scene.

“0” Skaldic has seen it before and so has Sampson, if only for seconds at a time.

Reliably so, it gives off a reflection.

“Harmonia,” reads Sampson.

#Harmonia# reads Skaldic in the Olde Language.

Twice read, once gone.

“Why doesn’t that surprise me? I saw that thing over Selljunk way.”

“I saw it out by our olde home world,” to each his own.

The recent visitors to the vicinity have stopped watching where they were going. The planned descent to the surface is met with a blinding rebuke.

The next thing you know, they are found back in Eridanus orbit; SNAP!

“Holy crap!” After recovering from unconsciousness, Sampson has his say.

Skaldic points to the same viewscreen that recently held pixels of the New Mars. It reads instead:

The Null runs the riddle past a comprehensive Eridanian database. It does not compute.

The Earthling utilizes an Earthly version, with the same results.

Nothing about the last few moments seems to add up.

“Fuzzy math or bad Dr. Seuss,” Sam summarizes, “We are a full 180° off course, emptyhanded and confused.”

“That is not all Sampson McKinney.”

“Please Skaldy, I can’t take anymore.”

“The TSF drive is unavailable.”

“Swell. You can add going nowhere fast to the list.”

All in a ½ day’s work.


THE NULL SOLUTION

Work Painting by MICHELE Z FARRIER

Episode 94


page 95