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Bringer of Light, Chapter 36: Transit, Luna to Ceres

September 23, 2022
MThomas

What has gone on before: The Artemis asteroid mining ship crew and Weng, architect turned water reclamation plant engineer and part-time politician, have arrived to train the afflicted United Mars Colonies residents how to cope with their condition. Meanwhile, retired Captain Sergey Bardish suffered a stroke as he and Elodie Gagnon fled the fighting on Luna Base. But someone has now caught up to them…

They couldn’t possibly outrun the hunter ship. Sergey couldn’t identify the vessel, not from his prone position, certainly not in his physical condition. But he knew from experience that any hunter ship could run faster than them, even if the lunar skiff had more maneuverability. And he had a strong suspicion who it was, anyway. Someone he probably should have dealt with in the past.

Music was playing now. He caught just a few refrains. Piano. Ah. Moonlight Sonata. A bit melodramatic, he thought, but appropriate.

He returned his thoughts to this Elodie person who had chosen his adopted daughter’s favorite composer. He still had no idea why she had rescued him from Lunar Base. Or even why he needed rescuing in the first place.

Somebody wanted him. Badly. But why?

In the end, it mattered not to him. All that he wanted was what he had always wanted.

To remain free and independent. Owned by and beholden to no one.

Not even his rescuer, no matter her taste in music.

“El-Elo-die,” he croaked. “W-what now?”

There was no sound from the front of the little ship. He tried again, a bit louder. Still nothing. The music swelled.

He closed his eyes, making a fist with his good hand. No, he wouldn’t die like this. Lying down and useless.

With every ounce of willpower he could muster, Sergey struggled to his feet. Foot, he corrected himself, grabbing onto anything he could to get upright. It took considerably longer than he thought. After a few excruciatingly long moments he found an arm looped round him, assisting him the length of the ship. He was helped into the navigator’s chair, next to the pilot’s chair.

No captain needed on a two-person ship. He would’ve smiled with chagrin, if he could still smile.

“I guess you just aren’t the kind of person who is willing to stay still,” Elodie said. She had sat next to him, almost as if by magic, without his noticing.

He flickered his eyes at the console.

“Where is the approaching ship?” she guessed. He tried to nod his head, but it hurt too much. But at least he could still grunt.

She called up the flight and intercept trajectories and overlaid them so that he could clearly see them. 

“No ship registered ID. Most likely hunters. Perhaps pirate.”

He examined the readout, then tried to shake his head, slowly. It came out looking more like a twitch to the right.

“No? Do you know who it is?”

He grunted.

“Captain, before you tell me what you’re thinking, I want to tell you something.”

He continued to gaze at the trajectories in front of them. The dot representing the hunter ship slowly closing in.

“I received a transmission from Ceres. The mining council was briefly taken over by a hunter captain named Ildico. I think you know her.”

He blinked his eyes to show that he did. And waited.

“Ultimately she was unsuccessful. The Artemis showed up. Helped depose her. Now it’s on its way to Mars. The Sundering has begun. We will no longer bow to the whims of the old order, no longer be their mining slaves. No longer be powerless, controlled by—”

He sighed, waved his hand. Enough with the speeches and politics, he thought. It had nothing to do with him. At least he knew that Riss was safely away from whatever coup, whatever powerplay had occurred. She had chosen independence, as did he. He was satisfied.

Only one thing left to do now.

“Captain,” Elodie said forcefully. “You must come with me to Ceres. The remaining hunter ships will listen to you. They respect you.”

He tilted his head to the side, waving his hand again. Then gestured at the screen in front of them.

“Yes, I am not sure how to evade this ship, if it proves hostile. The message I received did not talk about any kind of rescue ship coming. I think the mining council still believes I am on Luna, safe and soundly hidden. But somehow, somehow—”

He gestured with his right hand. “Pen. Pen.”

She complied, setting down a pad and stylus for him. Sergey tried in vain to write a few letters, managing only to scrawl indecipherable scribbles. He seemed on the verge of tossing the pen when Elodie said, “Captain. Don’t write. Draw.”

He stopped, then began to draw images. Two ships. One small, one large. Lines between them. An even smaller, tubelike ship. An asterisk, covering the tubelike ship.

He pointed to the asterisk, then to himself. Then from the small ship to Elodie. Then drew a circle and added stick figures around it. He made one hold what looked like a pad or some similar device. He then drew a line from the small ship to the circle again pointed to Elodie.

“You want me to go to the circle? Is this Ceres?”

He blinked.

“You want to stay in the small ship. This one we are in?”

He tilted his head to the side.

“No? Then, you want to go to the big ship?”

He tilted his head again and closed his eyes.

She suddenly grasped his design.

“Captain, I can’t let you do that. My duty is to prevent your capture and escort you safely to—”

He grabbed her arm with his good hand and held it firmly. Looked her in the eyes. Then said as clearly as possible, “Elo. Dee. Give. Mess. Age. All. Hear.”

He kicked his right foot on the floor and pointed at it. She looked down at it, then up again at him. He gestured again and grunted. Carefully, she removed his boot.

Bardish couldn’t see her remove the chip from an inner pocket in the back of the boot, but he was sure she would find it with little trouble. An old hunter tradition. A final, farewell message. He had always carried it with him, occasionally re-recording it before he thought he might meet his fate. He couldn’t remember when he had last done so. Probably well before the attempted coup. Possibly before Riss had left to track down her rock.

It was just as well. His mind hadn’t changed about many things. Especially since the trial.

The trial that had never should have happened.

Elodie showed him the transponder capsule, with the chip inside.

“Captain, do you want me to broadcast this?”

He blinked, grunted, and pointed at the image of the tubelike ship.

“I understand,” she replied. She held his good hand with both of hers. “You are a legend, Sergey. To all of us. I will make sure that everyone will hear.”

He smiled. Only half his mouth moved, making it appear more like a grimace.

“Well, at least those who care to hear, at any rate.”

He grunted, then looked at the console. Their pursuer had gained considerable ground on them. Most likely would demand to board them. For what purpose, he did not know. But at least this way he would stay free.

If only he knew where Riss was. And that good-for-nothing fiancé of hers.

As the clone pilot assisted his entry into the pod, he prayed for their success. For Riss and Weng. Not for himself. He cared not whether the stratagem worked. This clone, Elodie, she was capable enough of defending herself. 

He lay in the tiny pod, hands clasped together in prayer. He only wanted to sleep. Sleep, and to face the darkness on his own terms.

Elodie paused.

“Farewell.”

He nodded in response.

The door above his head closed. The music stopped. The pod launched.

Sergey closed his eyes.

Green grass, flowing light blue banners and red rising spires floated before them.

The dirge began.

Beside his old horse a soldier is lying

Beside the soldier his mother is crying…

Above them in circles the bird is flying…

My body pale white, like seeds of poppy–

wounded sore in desperate flight.

O mother mine, do not sorrow so

To see your son in such plight…

Search for a doctor, a carpenter, as well.

The doctor cannot help but

The carpenter a small house will make…

When all is lost and all is finished,

My builder and my war, farewell and good-bye.

O mother mine, cease all your weeping,

Because your poor son is going…


Next: Bringer of Light, Chapter 37: Transit, Ceres to Luna. Gennaji and Karel finally come to an agreement, and things do not go well.

Will NASA call it all off? PSYCHE!

August 18, 2022
MThomas

First of all, stop calling it “the golden asteroid.” That’s confusing people (the headline of the article linked below even uses the phrase “gold mine.” Come on, lazy journalists.)

If 16 Psyche is worth mining, when could such operations proceed? Citigroup thinks that space mining, including from the moon and asteroids, will be a $100 billion-per-year business by 2040. Launch costs will continue to decrease and experience in operating in space will continue to expand until such a business makes economic sense.

https://thehill.com/opinion/technology/3597381-nasa-might-cancel-mission-to-massive-gold-mine-asteroid-heres-why-it-shouldnt/

So is asteroid worth it?

Sure.

Is it horribly expensive right now?

Sure.

So why do it?

Well, how heavy do you think the materials to make buildings and ships in outer space are?

If we’re serious about putting people on the Moon and Mars, then it makes much more sense to set up robotic mining factories and assemble everything in space.

All this needs is a little incentive…like a new space race…

Bringer of Light, Chapter 35: United Mars Colonies (pt 3)

August 13, 2022
MThomas

Previously, in Bringer of Light

The crew of the Artemis have admitted that the water brought from Ceres was contaminated. And yet they deny it was dangerous. Only different. And requiring training…that may stretch the rationality and scientific understanding of the current “United” Mars colonists…


“Delegates,” Martin began. 

No response.

“Delegates, we must accept the help of the Artemis crew. We have little alternative. We must face the facts. The UN, our home countries, our home planet has abandoned us.”

“How can we survive?” another delegate asked, voice quivering. “Captain, how can we feed ourselves? Maintain heat, power?”

“These are legitimate questions,” she replied. “Coop, a small demonstration?”

He nodded and looked back and forth. Spotting a cup on a small table to the side of the console desk, he raised it above his head.

“Empty now. See?”

He stooped and scooped up a handful of regolith from the chamber floor. Dropped it to the cup. In an instant, water appeared.

“Sorcery,” a delegate whispered.

Continue Reading

Another month, another missed Bringer of Light post…

July 18, 2022
MThomas

Yeah. So I missed another installment in my series.

Shoot.

Things are just ridiculously spiraling out of control at work. I hope to start posting more regularly again in a week or so.

In the meantime, check out more images from the Webb space telescope compared to Hubble. They’re pretty awe-inspiring.

International asteroid day!

June 30, 2022
MThomas

Today is “International Asteroid Day”!

Who knew?

Asteroids hold large amounts of valuable minerals and metals. That is what International Asteroid Day is raising awareness about on 30 June.

https://www.bbc.com/news/av/science-environment-61985813

Amino acids found in material brought back by Hayabusa-2

June 6, 2022
MThomas

More than 20 types of amino acids have been detected in samples Japan’s Hayabusa2 space probe brought to Earth from an asteroid in late 2020, a government official said Monday, showing for the first time the organic compounds exist on asteroids in space.

https://english.kyodonews.net/news/2022/06/9a7dbced6c3a-amino-acids-found-in-asteroid-samples-collected-by-hayabusa2-probe.html

This lends support to the hypothesis that life on Earth was brought to it during the Late Heavy Bombardment period – in which meteors brought not just water but the building blocks of life…

Now imagine if someone were to find an asteroid with addition proteins NOT found on Earth… (i.e., my novel’s scientific premise…)

Psyche! It might not be as heavy as we thought

March 4, 2022
MThomas

A new study suggests that 16 Psyche, one of the most intriguing and most valuable asteroids we know of, could be covered in iron-spewing volcanoes.

https://www.forbes.com/sites/jamiecartereurope/2022/02/24/the-iron-giant-asteroid-worth-more-than-our-global-economy-may-have-an-explosive-secret-say-scientists

Psyche is an asteroid that was probably once the heart of a planet in the early system, one that didn’t survive the violent process of planet formation.

Yep — that “worth more than the global economy” rock in space.

But we’ll have to wait a few years to find out if it’s “less metal and more hard rock” — the Psyche Mission rockets off in August 2022 and the probe won’t arrive for four more years.

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 DART has lift-off

November 24, 2021
MThomas

twitter.com/nasa/status/1463315612042678279

Technically, the two asteroids the DART is aiming at are a “binary” (they orbit each other).

The BBC’s explanation is pretty good.

They don’t even mention Bruce Willis until the final sentence.

https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-59327293

Procrastinate, work, repeat

November 12, 2021
MThomas

Where’s the Artemis?? What’s up with Mars? And Ceres seriously…?

Sorry I haven’t kept up the story posts, everyone.

I know it’s been almost a month since the last Bringer of Light episode. Work just got dumped on me, and I can barely find time to give my writing students feedback. We switched back to face to face classes…with live streaming on Zoom for students who couldn’t or wouldn’t go back to campus…which is definitely NOT a teaching style I would recommend to anybody, anywhere, ever.

It’s been like laying down tracks in front of an oncoming train. Every day.

There is lots more good stuff for Riss and her crew, I swear. I’ve got drafts up to Chapter 42, and plots to the end after that. Let me see if I can get the next one up for you all in a day or two…

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