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Science fiction, actual science, history, and personal ranting about life, the universe, and everything

22 Free Ebooks for 2022!

December 14, 2021
MThomas

The award-winning science fiction novellette Adam’s Stepsons is now available as a free ebook for 22 lucky readers of this blog!

Simply visit Smashwords, click on “Buy,” and then into the Coupon Code box type QJ89T.

There are only 22 coupons (for 2022)! The promotion expires on January 3rd. Don’t forget you can give ebooks as gifts for Xmas!

(Available in .epub, .mobi, .pdf, and .txt formats.)

Bringer of Light, Chapter 32: United Mars Colonies

January 22, 2022
MThomas

Unaware of events on Ceres or Lunar Base, Martin Velasquez is finding out that the “united” Mars colonies aren’t so united at the moment…

Things on Mars had gone from bad to worse. Riots had broken out all over the Colonies. The water supply was dangerously low. The hydroponic farms were about to give out at any moment. The UA forces were still on their way from Earth, and Martin still hadn’t figured out how to hack into the UA ice factory’s electronic lock systems.

And now the settler factions wanted a conference.

With the sounds of fighting in the background of nearly every speaker, Martin found it nearly impossible to hear what the leaders were saying.

“—can’t control your own people, let alone—”

“—five dead already, our children starving and running around half-mad. What are—”

“—anything at all. The situation is insane!”

YES!” Martin shouted at them. “It is insane! I completely agree!”

“Then do something, Overseer!” the speaker from the Central African Alliance bellowed.

He looked at her. “I’m sorry, who are you? Where is Mr. Mbutu?”

“He is…otherwise occupied. As are most of my staff!”

“Mine, too!” the speaker from the Greater Indian Empire interrupted.

“Yes, here, as well.” The European Consortium.

They began to squabble again. The noise rose to a deafening pitch.

A button glowed under Martin’s left hand. He muted the conference and answered.

“Martin.”

“Overseer, an incoming message has been attempted. It has been blocked as ordered.”

“Incoming? From where?”

“Three ships on a trajectory to intercept Mars Colonies orbit. ETA three months.”

“Thre—Where are they from?”

“The message claims they come from the United Americas.”

He calculated. No, it couldn’t be troops. The UA forces would reach them much sooner, which is why he had taken the precaution of guarding the ice factories in the first place.

Then who?

“I’ll take it in just a minute. Remove the communications block temporarily and tell them to hold until I finish the conference call.”

“Yes, Overseer.”

He hesitated, covered an ear, and depressed the mute button. The deafening noise burst back into the speakers.

“Gentlemen,” he tried. They continued unabated. Some gesticulated at his direction, but he couldn’t make out what they were saying.

“Gentlemen,” he tried again. No change. Louder, if that were possible.

Oh, hell.


WILL YOU ALL SHUT UP!” he screamed at the top of his lungs.

That seemed to have got their attention. For a moment.

“Overseer! How dare—”

“The UA is coming.” Martin said slowly, loudly, enunciating as clearly as possible.

He let the words hang there for a minute, letting the implication set in.

“I do not know what they want, but there are three ships,” he said in a more normal tone of voice, trying desperately not to let a note of panic in.

“What,” the Brazilian leader began. “What does the UA want with us?”

The Islamic Nations representative laughed nervously. “Perhaps they come with water we can actually drink without losing our minds.”

Martin glowered. “I don’t know why they are here. I don’t know how to stop the riots. I suggest you increase your own security, obey the water restrictions and food rationing. We are at a critical juncture. The UN appears to have failed. I will contact you again after I have found out what the UA ships want.”

He closed the session to somber, blank faces.

Martin rubbed knuckles into strained eyes. No water for washing. No water for tea. He dare not drink the contaminated water supply. Even using it for electricity seemed to have nearly drained what was left.

What chance had they got? Weng and Gen had not contacted him yet, so he had no idea when they might arrive with the supplies from Luna.

He sighed. Nothing else to lose, at any rate.

He clicked on the comm. “Patch through the UA ships. Visual if possible.”

A haggard white, bearded face topped with unruly dirty blond hair appeared on the aging console. The man appeared to be wearing the uniform of the UA from about two decades prior. An old Earthside airline pilot, Martin guessed.

“This is Dirk Prosser,” the man said in an exhausted, strained tone. He seemed on the verge of a breakdown. “Former Captain in the United Americas Airforce, now representing four hundred refugee families, requesting permission to dock at United Nations Mars Colonies orbiting station.”

“Refugees?” Martin asked quizzically. Not military?

“Yes, sir. Fleeing war zones in northeast UA, New York, Boston, Montreal, Halifax. Everything’s on fire.”

“I see.”

On the one hand, Martin felt he could relax. But on the other, this was the last thing they needed. More people. At least they weren’t invading marines.

But he had no choice.

“Go back,” Martin said curtly. “Or go to Luna. Our water and food supplies are critically depleted, and there is a medical quarantine in place throughout most of the settlements here.”

“Sir,” Prosser said, his voice quivering. “We have taken several months already. Several families are experiencing space sickness and we have virtually no medical supplies to treat them. Lunar Base is in chaos. We have nowhere else to go.”

“Go back,” Martin repeated in a calmer voice. He tried to remain emotionless, but an ugly thought entered his memories. Something from his family’s past. Something passed down to him.

“You don’t know what it’s like back there!” the representative pleaded. Martin could see the terror written on the man’s face. “Are you so heartless? We have children, infants, even. Starving! Being beaten, murdered!”

“Go back,” Martin repeated, his voice raising. “They will starve here, too. Didn’t you hear? Even if by some miracle we get new supplies, we do not have the electricity to operate enough gravity generators. The low gravity of Mars will deform the children. What kind of parents would make their children suffer so?”

“Don’t you think we thought about that?” The man seemed on the verge of hysteria. “Do you think we had any alternative?”

Something in Martin snapped.

“You should have thought of that when you denied entry to my country’s people,” Martin suddenly spat out. 

“I, I don’t—”

“When the UA denied entry to refugees fleeing war and hunger. Arresting parents and returning them, separating them from their children and selling them off to the highest bidder. Leaving infants to die of thirst and hunger on the desert border. How dare you come to Mars now and ask for the same!”

“Sir! I was only a child myself at the time. How can you—?”

“How can I!” Martin shouted, slamming his hands on the console. “How can I?!”

Another beep on the console. He abruptly cut the connection to the UA ship and swore. “Dammit! What now?”

“Overseer, a message from the shuttle.”

“What shuttle?”

“Gen and Mr. Weng, sir. They say they will arrive in two days.”

“What?” Martin cycled through the incoming records and known trajectories. “I don’t see any sign of incoming ships aside from the UA refugee ships.”

“They say they will arrive in two days, sir,” the Martin Colony Council receptionist robot repeated tonelessly. “They say to let all in. Everything is under control.”

Martin sat down, stunned.

He couldn’t handle this any more. With a barely suppressed giggle, he toggled the comm. The inside of the refugee ship appeared. Children crying in the background. The captain’s hand first appeared, then his bedraggled face as the man dragged himself back into view. “Yes? Yes?!”

“Mr. Prosser,” Martin said, shaking his head. “Continue on your course to Mars. I’ll see the docking station is open to you.”

“Thank you! Oh, thank you, sir!”

“Don’t thank me, Mr. Prosser,” Martin replied. He cracked his knuckles and shoved his chair away from the console and spun himself around slowly. “Enjoy your final few days in space. We may all very well die together!”


Next: Bringer of Light, Chapter 33: Ceres – Weng. Star-crossed lovers begin their final journey on February 5th

The Death Star has an inner ocean

January 22, 2022
MThomas

New analysis of one of Saturn’s moons suggests that it may harbor a liquid ocean. No, not the usual suspects – the new culprit is Mimas, the little moon with a big crater, which gives it more than a passing resemblance to the ‘Death Star’ from Star Wars.

https://www.sciencealert.com/evidence-for-a-liquid-ocean-has-been-uncovered-in-saturn-s-death-star-moon

Add Mimas to Europa and Enceladus as possible moons harboring ET.

Like, IWOW —-

Quantum Leap pilot episode confirmed (but Bakula is only a “maybe”)

January 14, 2022
MThomas

“Considering how many different possibilities there are for a series like Quantum Leap in today’s world, it’s more than a little surprising that it’s taken this long for the series to attempt a return. Bakula had previously stated how relevant a series reboot would be, and the idea of creating a sequel series in which a new team searches for him is perhaps the perfect way to reignite the intrigue that the original program offered.”

https://screenrant.com/quantum-leap-sequel-pilot-scott-bakula-return-update

My family used to watch this each week in the late ’80s and early ’90s. Near the end it did get a little weird (the main character Sam Beckett jumped into the body of a space race NASA chimpanzee, and animal rights activists went totally ballastic).

Still, it ended on a very unsatisfying note (basically, “He never returned home. The End.”) and almost any kind of sequel would be great. Since Sam is a “missing person,” there is likely more to this than meets the eye (see https://www.thewrap.com/quantum-leap-reboot-nbc-plot-details/).

China investigating how to build a mega spaceship

January 9, 2022
MThomas

China is investigating how to build ultra-large spacecraft that are up to 0.6 mile (1 kilometer) long. But how feasible is the idea, and what would be the use of such a massive spacecraft?

https://www.livescience.com/mega-spaceship-china-proposal.html

The original title of the Live Science post linked above is “China wants to build…” but this is incorrect. The National Natural Science Foundation of China is proposing a feasibility study. This is not the same thing as “China wants to build a kilometer-long ship.”

Likely the study will find out that it’s just too expensive and not worth it in terms of effort, resources, and maintenance costs. But it may show the benefits of setting up a base on the Moon and then sending materials there to be 3D-printed for future exploration or human colonies elsewhere.

Sending up a ginormous ship from Earth is foolhardy. Figuring out how to build stuff in space is much smarter.

Bringer of Light, Chapter 31: Ceres – The mining station (Part 2)

January 8, 2022
MThomas

The Seventh Sister finally shows her hand, and no one is particularly pleased…

Gennaji strolled forward, keeping one eye on the traitor, Andrej. But the miner was no longer paying attention to him. Riss and her crew were the star attraction now. And they seemed to have infuriated Ildico.

He was curious, yet the fate of Sergey gnawed at him. Better to glean whatever information he could here and run to Luna. The old man was stubborn and still had allies. Surely he’d hold out, regroup and bide his time until help could arrive.

“Gennaji!” Riss called. “We’ve been waiting for you. This,” she gestured, “is what we are prepared to offer you.”

Andrej gave a mild yelp and threw his weapon to the floor. “It’s burning!”

“No,” Riss said calmly. “It’s changing.”

Before their eyes, the pistol seemed to melt, then condensate. The grey metal dissipated into the air and the shimmering form emitted a vapor and slight hiss as the color changed.

It was a dull yellow and black.

Gennaji pushed through Ildico and Taygete, knelt at the former weapon. He touched it with a tentative finger, then picking it up. Heavy. Much too heavy.

Gold.

“How?” he raised his head.

Continue Reading

Should Pluto and Ceres be “planets”?

January 3, 2022
MThomas

Demoted by the IAU in 2006, the Once and Future “9th planet”

…a study announced in December from a team of researchers in the journal Icarus now claims the IAU’s definition was based on astrology — a type of folklore, not science — and that it’s harming both scientific research and the popular understanding of the solar system.

I’m not sure I agree that moons of Jupiter and Saturn should be classified as “planets,” but frankly I see little difference between “dwarf planets” and “planets.”

Plus it wrecks the song I learned to remember the order…

https://www.nbcnews.com/science/space/pluto-planet-debate-rages-rcna8848

Happy New Year 2022!

January 1, 2022
MThomas

Happy New Year, everybody!

My New Year’s resolution: to finally finish the first draft of Bringer of Light and get the editing done by summer.

Thanks for reading this blog. Best wishes to all of you for a safe and prosperous 2022!

Ho, ho, ho, Merry Akira!

December 27, 2021
MThomas

In case you didn’t know, the entire film of Akira has been available on YouTube since 12/23…in Japanese.

Kanedaaaaaaaaaaa!

Still, it’s free. I first watched it (in badly translated dubbed English) on the big screen in a cheap arts cinema in 1991.

Glorious.

Bought the original Japanese comics (MUCH better than the movie, which barely covers the first volume) and then the English translated comics. Then got the collector’s edition movie with a new English translation (both subtitles and dubbed).

Tetsuooooooo!

It’s online for free until 12/28, so if you’re sick of Santa movies go check it out!

Kanedaaaaaaaaa! Help me…..!

(It’s meant to advertise the upcoming Katsuhiro Otomo Complete Works manga collection, available at the end of January.)

Tetsuooooooooooooo!

https://soranews24.com/2021/12/24/anime-classic-akira-suddenly-becomes-free-to-watch-in-its-entirety-on-youtube/

World’s largest space telescope has liftoff

December 26, 2021
MThomas

The James Webb Space Telescope – Hubble’s successor – has successfully lifted off.

Now starts the “two weeks of terror” as it gets into position and unfolds. Fingers crossed! 🤞

https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-59782057

Bringer of Light, Chapter 31: Ceres – The mining station (Part 1)

December 25, 2021
MThomas

Captains Clarissa Kragen, Gennaji, and Ildico square off. But something’s not quite right…

When she jumped out of the Artemis cargo hold, waving goodbye to the Hopper and her crew aboard her, Riss had experienced a familiar dread. Even the quantum entanglement cabling tether, which she knew would guide her, could not eliminate the fear that, somehow, she would veer off into the endless vacuum of space.

The blackness rushed up to meet her, envelop her.

And she embraced it. Eyes and arms wide open.

Unlike her dreams, this time a wave of acceptance seemed to pass through her.

She had walked where none had gone. She had become part of a greater whole. The darkness was within her as well as without.

She laughed, the noise sounding only inside her helmet.

Now, finally, she understood the exhilaration her navigator must feel in his vidgames. Relaxed, she toggled her suit rear thrusters. The entry port to the mining station rapidly approached, and Riss realized she had never seen the port from outside a ship. It looked so huge, and yet so tiny and fragile.

Was that all that kept the forces of chaos at bay? The only barrier preventing the internal atmosphere of Ceres from escaping, suffocating and freezing everyone inside? Surely, they could create something of more substance.

Suddenly she could sense the gravitational field of the dwarf planet. Faint, but present. Like ribbons extending, overlapping. All she had to do was tug on them a little…

Continue Reading
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Teacher, Writer, Musician, Father

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