The transmission ended. Gennaji felt liquid on his cheek.
Not tears. A blood bubble had alighted. He brushed it off angrily.
“Ory, what’s the source of this message?”
He grabbed the navigator’s seat and strapped in. Another splotch on the panel. He wiped it off with his forearm and turned on the aft video feed.
The lifepod had slipped behind and below them. Who was in it? Surely not Sergey. The old man had always said he’d rather die than—
Gennaji snapped his head up.
He unstrapped and bounced to another console. Fingers dancing, trying to remember. He slapped the console in frustration. Lena had always been better than him at controlling the drones and the arm for rock retrieval. He had relied on Andrej too much. Relied too much on others. If only there were an easier way to learn how to do this. He shouldn’t have to do menial work. He was the captain! He should give the orders and the others should follow! He…
The arm extended at last. He sighed. Was it too late?
Concerned that the UA forces on Luna Base may use the quantum teleporter to send an unwelcome gift to the newly-declared independent United Mars Colonies, former Mars security chief Sergeant Major Hamels and former Artemis crew members Enoch Ryan and Brady Cooper attempted to disable the teleporter ahead of time.
Cooper could sense the radioactive isotopes within the canister. The explosive materials could kill them and most of this part of the colony due to sudden decompression of the building’s atmosphere. Fine radioactive dust spread everywhere. If it reacted with the cobalt in the boxes around them, the resulting dirty bomb could poison half or most of the planet for years. Decades, even. Who knows how long it would last.
If anyone were around to care.
“Fly-boy, you sense that?”
“Let me try something.”
“You want the rifle?”
“The energy discharge will just set it off. That’s probably what they were counting on. Or hoping we’d try to disable it.”
“Or send it back,” Hamels said. “No doubt their end has a rigged signal to reject contact, which also would set the thing off.”
“Then there’s only one option.”
With a sigh, Enoch set the rifle down next to the console. “Coop, something tells me you need me to help.”
“You read my mind.”
Now it was Hamels’ turn to back away. “What are you both doing?”
“Sergeant Major, we need you to focus on maintaining the force shield.”
The geist sat down crosslegged on one side of the platform. Enoch sat down likewise across from him on the opposite site. They stared into the force shield, concentrating on the cylindrical container.
I’ve been testing ChatGPT over the last couple of days. (If you don’t know what this chatbot is, here’s a good NYT article about ChatGPT and others currently in development.)
The avowed purpose of ChatGPT is to create an AI that can create believable dialogues. It does this by scouring the web for data it uses to respond to simple prompts.
By “simple,” I mean sometimes “horribly complicated,” of course. And sometimes a little ridiculous.
As has been pointed out, chatbots only generate texts based on what they have been fed, i.e., “garbage in / garbage out.” So if you push the programs hard enough, they will generate racist, sexist, homophobic etc awful stuff — because unfortunately that kind of sick and twisted garbage is still out there, somewhere online in a troll’s paradise.
So far, I have asked the program to:
Write a haiku about winter without using the word “winter”
Write a limerick about an Irish baseball player
Write a dialogue between God and Nietzsche (I just had to…)
Imagine what Jean-Paul Sartre and Immanuel Kant would say to each other (see above) but using US ’50 slang
Have Thomas Aquinas and John Locke argue about the existence of God (that one was fun)
Write a 300 word cause-effect essay about climate change
Write a 300 word compare and contrast essay about the US and Japan
Write a 1000 word short science fiction story based on Mars
Write a 1500 word short science fiction about robots in the style of Philip K Dick
Sorry that it’s been almost three months since posting more fiction. The colonists on Mars are still undergoing training by Riss and Sanvi so that they can understand and control their new abilities. Meanwhile, Bardish has headed out into space, where he met his destiny.
And Gennaji, who had been headed to discover Bardish’s fate on Luna, is now approaching his own.
“Prepare to board that Loonie ship,” Gennaji said tersely, unstrapping his flight harness.
Karel’s voice sounded void of emotion. As if the big man had gone numb.
Gennaji glanced over at his new navigator. It looked as if the man hadn’t slept at all since they left Ceres. Since their failure. Since Andrej betrayed him.
He couldn’t help himself.
“Pining for that backstabbing vybliadok?”
Karel shot him a glare that Gennaji could not back down from. He planted his magboots firmly down on the control room deck and returned the glare. Neither spoke for a moment.
“He made his choice,” Karel finally said. He kept his eyes firmly on his captain.
“Yes,” Gennaji said, crossing his arms. “He did. And you?”
“You agreed to join this crew. Standard sixteen-month contract.”
“For two more weeks.”
“Yes, two more weeks! A man makes a promise, a man keeps it. You have a problem with being a man?”
Karel turned red, clenched his fists.
“Captain,” said the pilot. “The Lunar skiff is changing course. Heading…directly at us!”
“What?” Gennaji took a step towards Orynko. He felt a big hand grab the back of his right upper arm, twisted him around to face behind him. The punch came in slightly off target, a glancing blow on the chin that sent him backward a step or two. He staggered, recovered, anticipated the left body blow and blocked with the inner part of his right arm. Karel fell forward, his momentum carrying him into his captain.
Gennaji immediately sidestepped, tripping the bigger man and forcing him into a headlock from behind. Left forearm under the man’s left shoulder and neck, right arm behind and locked with the left bicep. Twisted hips, pushed down to the floor, pinning his opponent down with his body weight.
Karel gasped, grabbed at the forearm, kicking futilely.
(And it would be VERY helpful if WordPress didn’t “refresh” while I was adding tags and categories to posts, and then hiding those tags and categories afterward so that I couldn’t update them…Sigh…what was wrong with the older version that worked just fine?)
Red lights flashed around him. The floor shook once, twice.
Pounding of footsteps.
A face appeared.
Who? A woman.
Her mouth opened, then closed.
Again. And again. She must be talking to him.
His eyes fluttered, closed.
He was being shaken.
The floor? No, the woman.
His ears filled with the sound of rushing water. The Baltic Sea. He was home, he could smell the salt water, feel the mist. He could hear the lament, chanted on the steppe winds…
O what have you heard in Ukraine?
Nothing have I heard
Nothing have I seen
But horsemen on all four sides…
Then tazerfire. Pulses. An acrid smell.
Burning. Something was burning.
He was shaken again, then a woman’s voice. “Captain! Captain! Stay with me!”
Opened his eyes again, nodded his head, down, down. His chest hurt. Why? Did she shoot him?
No. He had fallen down. Or something.
He tried to stand. One foot kicking against the other. The left knee refused to bend. His hands. They were. Where were they?
Here. He found them. The right hand clenched, unclenched. He grunted, felt the wall behind his back. It shook again. The wall, not the woman.
Ah. Elo-something. Elodie. He tried to shake his head, open his mouth. “Ahhh” came out. He blinked his eyes.
There seemed to be something else pounding beneath him. No, inside of him. His heart? He tried to move his left arm. It flopped uselessly on the floor. Hand. Right hand. Under his body. It moved. Someone grabbed it, then under the elbow.
“El,” he managed to say. Scattered red-tinted shadows seemed to rotate throughout the corridor.
“Yes,” he heard next to him. “We must go. Now.”
He felt himself partially stand, right leg pushing against the floor. Something made an ugly scraping sound, like metal on tile. His left foot. Eyes rolled. Jaw. His jaw wouldn’t listen. Clamped shut.
He felt himself falling again. Stopped partway, caught. Picked up and carried. Both legs dangling in the thin air. Like a doll.
Riss’s doll, he thought.
Ah, little one. The doll is you. You are the doll. Your parents, I could not find. I did my best, little one. But you were always like a doll to me, so pretty, seeming so soft and yet tough, persistent. Precious, delicate, but determined. Nothing could harm you. Nothing will change you, unless you change yourself.
His daughter? No, he didn’t. Couldn’t think that. She was so young. No.
Should have got you a set of wooden dolls, little one. One inside the other. Ever so smaller. Until the solid core is found. But those are Russian, not Ukranian. And I could never make you choose.
He was flying. A sound like a door opening, closing. More footsteps. Smell of burning again. An engine turning on. Another door.
He tried to open his eyes. One opened halfway. The other slightly more. His throat was raw, head pounding. His hand. Left one, useless. Right one. Lifted it, banged it against some kind of wall. Metal. Smell of pressurized oxygen—ship. He was on a ship.
That woman. Elodie? Where was she?
Sergey tried to move his left foot. Nothing. Right foot. Knee flexed. He could see it. Hazy, like surrounded by dense fog coming off the Danube on a late summer morning. It hurt.
Good. He focused on the pain.
The right foot fell off whatever he was lying on. Didn’t quite reach a floor. He reached with his good hand, found a vertical metal support pole. Holding up whatever kind of bed type surface he lay on. More effort. He grimaced. The foot touched down.
He pulled hard on the pole. Seven hells. His left side must be entirely paralyzed. It wouldn’t budge a millimeter. He briefly wondered if it would be worth it to fall on the floor, or to try to pull himself to at least a seated position.
“Elo. DEE. EloDEE.”
Motion from outside his vision. That must have got somebody’s attention finally.
A firm hand held his right leg, pushed it back up to its prone position.
“Captain, you need to stay here for now. Rest.”
What happened, dammit?
Elodie sighed. “You had a stroke. Fortunately not too severe. But your body needs time. Then we’ll see how bad it was. All I had was a small med kit with some pain killers and muscle relaxant tranqs.”
He swallowed and nodded.
“I borrowed a Lunar Base skiff. Agile, but not terribly fast. Our pursuers are bound to catch us sooner or later.”
Sergey closed his eyes. Pursuers. What did that mean again? Somebody chasing them?
He opened his eyes as best he could again and asked, “Who?”
Elodie leaned closer. “Who is chasing us?”
He could see more of her features now through the haze. She looked a little less clean than he last remembered. A little blacker and redder, as well. But otherwise completely unharmed.
She nodded. “Yes. Sent from Ceres to Lunar Base several months ago.”
He tried to get up again. She held him down easily.
“Captain, I am not your enemy. I had orders to watch you. And protect you.”
He tried to grunt, but it came out as a soft cough. He waved his hand.
“Alright,” she conceded. “To prevent the UA from getting you. I didn’t think that the Lunar police would also try something. I should have guessed as much.”
Sergey said nothing. That Lieutenant Sanchez, he thought. Everyone has an agenda. Turn him over to the UA? For what purpose? He had never been a soldier. Not broken any laws.
He looked at Elodie.
“Sorry, I can’t read your mind, if that’s what you’re wondering,” she said. “That’s someone else’s specialty. I’ll just say that it was my job to get you back to Ceres as soon as possible in an emergency.”
He tried raising his eyebrows in question. Only the right one moved.
She almost laughed.
“Yes, I was able to fight through a few of them. Not all fled like I thought they would. And at least one ship is on the way from Ceres.”
She paused and stood.
“Friend or foe, however, I do not know. It will be close to us soon. If it’s a hunter ship…”
She trailed off. Sergey tried to imagine which hunter ship captain would want to attack him. Was anyone still holding a grudge?
Yes. Someone obviously was. His memory of that day was still clear.
She left his field of vision, moving back to what he assumed was the control section of the ship. He couldn’t even tell how high the ceiling was, nor how far the opposite wall was. It couldn’t be a big ship, though. No cargo area. No gun turret ports. Even from his prone position, he could tell they were not going to win any races or shooting battles.
Ceres. The Mining Council. Something must have happened, he decided. Something drastic. Something related to the UA attacking Lunar Base.
He wondered who had won. And which side Riss was on.
Next: Bringer of Light, Chapter 35: United Mars Colonies (Part 1) – Martin is taken by surprise…
“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.”
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).
I started writing stories when I was in 5th grade. Our teacher gave us a list of vocabulary each week — about 10 to 12 words, I think — and said we had two choices: 1) write down all their definitions along with a sample sentence, or 2) work them into a short story to show that we understood the meaning of the words.
I chose the 2nd option. In fact, I was the only one who did out of a class of about 25.
The thing is, the teacher wanted us to read them at the front of the room.
Man, that was not something I was looking forward to. But somehow I managed.
I wrote nothing but detective stories, all in the first person. At some point, I borrowed my mother’s old manual typewriter (originally my grandfather’s, from the 1950s) and typed them all out. I still have most of them.
But my peak as an elementary school age creative writer came part-way 6th grade, when I attempted to write my first horror story.
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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