Saturday, May 16, 2020

Moon Quaker, Episode 3

Orlando radioed Houston: "No sign of Knight. Will begin mission."

As they stepped out of the ship Orlando said: "Control was unable to communicate with Knight for three month. It suspects a malfunction. That will be our first work, find it and replace critical parts; but we can't spend much time on this."

"There's something shining to the right." said Celia.

The group went to the location and found pieces of metal that looked as though it had been the robot. Houston was informed. "Remember we are on a recon mission despite what you see here. All stay a distance behind me. If the Fibonacci chart or the lunar sample doesn't get the right response, cover my retreat." said Orlando.

They removed Rook and Bishop, got the chart and sample, and Franco and the robots followed Orlando along one of many previous tracks.

Rocky turned to Celia: "You're going?"

"I'll be with you. We have to stay in pairs. Dump the rock."

"I'm supposed to place them—"

"Dump them. It won't matter."


"Dump them."

Rocky opened the compartment, and threw the many lunar collects as far as possible from the spacecraft. He shut and locked the compartment, and asked, "What do we do now?"

"We help the others. They went this way."

"Didn't they go over there?"

"Come with me. They're beyond the crater to the left."

"But I thought—"

"I'm never confused with directions. Come on."

Celia proved correct; but as they proceeded, they saw Franco skipping quickly toward them, the two robots following.

"Go back! Go back!" Franco said in distress. "One of the creatures grabbed Orlando. It was hidden behind a crater wall. Go back!"

But Rocky skipped fast to where Franco had pointed. No sooner did he reach the crater than the creature reach out to him. Rocky grabbed the creature's hand as it came toward him, and held it firmly. The creature's other hand, instead of striking Rocky, clutched the other arm trying to pull it away, as it wreathed in pain. Rocky's hand held tight; and the creature tried to pull away with all its might. Then its arms ripped off and the creature fell into the crater. Franco and Celia were quickly by his side. They looked for Orlando, but there was no sign of him. Below on the dark side they saw a second, larger, creature drag the first into a hole in the crater. Then they spotted Orlando's torn suit in the crater.

"I'm going in." said Rocky.

"Wait," called Franco. "Nothing can be done for Orlando now. You'll need help with the other. Let's get back to the ship, put our thoughts together. We need to calm ourselves. Might also give the creature time to think. Yes, it might have a different temperament."

"I'll hang this arm on the craft." said Rocky. "The other will know what to expect if it comes looking for trouble."

When they got back Franco said he would take the first two and a half hour watch, then Rocky the next.

Friday, May 15, 2020

Moon Quaker Episode 2

Rocky walked into room, and one seat was occupied. It was someone Rocky did not know. The one seated said, "You must be the instructor."

"No, I'm Rocky. I'm here for the film."

"I hear you're into into books. Look, I'm blunt. You'll have to get use to it. Where we're going isn't a cushy place. I'm not going to rescue you every time you get in trouble on the moon."

"I have a detailed job, even if it's not technical. I suppose books...." Rocky stopped, not knowing what to say.

The instructor walked into the door, said: "I see you too have introduced yourselves. I saw your dossiers. You are Franco, you, Rocky. We'll go through the film beginning with Apollo 11 of the astronauts collecting moon samples. Then you'll practice with replicas of the samples, Rocky setting them down."

"Why not just dump them?" Franco retorted.

"It would be our first choice. But precautions; and this is strictly private. No talking to anyone. Two missions ago a commander sighted two large beings, taller and broader than a man, only one a little smaller than the other. He told no one, but the top level of government. The next commander was told to look out for them, and did see them. It's been kept quiet. You will keep it that way. You heard a bogus story about why the rocks are being returned. From the start, bad things have happened. We don't know how the creatures will react to dumping. They will be scouted by two other astronauts, navigators with a very good sense of direction, should things go wrong. They will have two new robots, along with Knight. The astronauts found Knight too picky. The new ones will be more accommodating, but still vigilant and be taught weapons. If they don't locate the two beings when you finish your job, you search with them. You will have 48 hours unless you need to remove sooner. One more thing for you, Rocky."

"What's that?"

"You will get questions from the press. Answer them, but distract from the mission. Now, we'll watch the film." He dimmed the light and flipped on the projector.

                                *                               *                               *

After further training, Rocky, Franco, Orlando, and Celia suited up for the flight, and spoke briefly to the press. Rocky was obliging.

Afterwards Celia asked, "Rocky, why the book? Won't you have to much on your mind?"

"It's Shakespeare's Henry V. I'll be reading it when there's nothing to do but wait." He tried to hide his nervousness.

"But why Henry V?"

"I heard it's good reading." Rocky didn't want to tell her that he was following Tocqueville, who read the play in a log cabin in the wilderness. Tocqueville wrote that there were many Shakespeare works scattered along the frontier. Rocky thought, how did that come about. It kept other thoughts away. His wondering led him back to the early 19th century: "Yes, sir. This is the last Bible I got; but I got a deal for you. I'll throw in the Bible of the English language by Shakespeare for just one buck. Yes, sir. It came before the King James. I'll be rolling along, so you make a decision. All for three bucks."

"You're going to late for your date if you don't get going," Franco laughed. It was a subdued laugh. "Even have to rescue you on earth. We'll store you with Rook and Bishop for safe keeping."

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Moon Quaker, Episode 1, maybe

(I post this with regret. I will remove it if it is unsatisfactory. Nor do I know where it's going.)

Definition: Moon (v) — to regard, to pick up, e.g., moon rock.

Example: Sir, I moon thee knight.

...mmmm....Houston, we have a problem.... Emergency... Call your editors.

Rocky screeched his car to a halt exactly within the painted lines, and threw open his door, striking a car over the line. He exited the other door, taking his briefcase and running into the building.

The guards shouted: "Stop. Stop." But there was no time to waste on them. The door Rocky came through opened at the same time, and there were more shouts: "Where's he at!? Rocky stopped in his track. "At?" He had always paused when he got to Houston and heard "At?" "Where's the kid at?" Or, "Where's Romeo at? He's supposed to be under the window." His mind would sometimes wander: "Sarg!, where's the sniper at!?" Where did "At?" come from? He tried to find out. Was it a corruption of patois? "Where's Jakes, eh?" "In the swamp fetchin' supper."

"Show them your badge", said Oliver, who was looking out for him. "We're in this conference room."

The two walked into the room where there were a dozen grammarians, lexicographers, encyclopaedists, literary historians, philologists, and other specialists.

Oliver explained the problem: "You're the closest we have to a poet. There's a crowd outside shouting for our heads. A returning astronaut sent this communication — 'Sir, I moon the knight'. We have been knocking our heads against a wall on how to explain this away.

Rocky looked at it, looked at it again, asked if there might be violence, looked at it again. Finally, he said, "I think I have something." He wrote a note on a sheet; and the group exited the building on the other side, and faced the riotous crowd.

They saw angry faces. Some in the crowd were holding banners, prominent among them: "Knights Templar in America Society". Oliver was the first to speak: "Ladies, gentlemen, a moment please. There was an error it transmission. The message was garbled, and the computer printed out an erroneous message. Rocky, will you explain the exact message for the ladies and gentlemen?

Rocky stepped forward and said, "The message is taken from an anonymous poem. It reads,'Sir, I Moon thee Night, n-i-g-h-t', followed by, 'By thy silvery light we catch sight of witches on broomsticks'."

The crowd exploded, "Burnham! Burnham!", as they raced away to execute a plan.

The small group relaxed. Oliver took a breath and turned to Rocky, "Better than I expected. I can tell it's going to be a good return landing. And there's work for you in the future."

"What's that?"

"Returning moon rocks. I'll get you the job. It's made for the press."

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

The Lure of Techno Manna

A faster carnival ride; the latest gadget; newfangled ideas: playthings  no longer good enough for a race daring to consider itself on the cusp of godhood. Man himself is the last frontier. The trans-humanist movement seeks to meld man and machine, and the machines don't need the competition.

Enter Demona, the latest generation personal assistant. She's smarter than Alexa and sassier than Suri. And being omnipresent is a convenient way of making sacrifice meaningless. That's the lesson about to be learned by a jaded seeker on a country back road. . .in The Twilight Zone.

Wind whuffed past the car's partly open windows, causing Mark to turn up the radio volume. Tinny strains of Van Halen's Jamie's Cryin' rocked from some distant station. Reception was spotty out here in the sticks. Mark wasn't complaining in this vista of silos and haystacks, abandoned shacks and rusting farm machines. It brought back memories of trips to grandma's. A bit of static brought up a different station. Mark recognized the tune, but had never heard it on radio before. "It can't be. . . "

Demona spoke over the noise. "The title of the song is--"

"I know the title," Mark said. "Say Hello by Heart, from the LP Little Queen. Best medieval rock this side of Faith and the Muse. Don't forget--I downloaded music history into my brain chip."

"You have deviated from the designated route. Recalibrating." 

"I don't need you holding my hand, Demona. I memorized the route before we set out. It's odd, though--that road on the map isn't here."

"Recommend adhering to my directions. I have access to Darpa satellites that you lack." 

Mark was busy with the tuner. As proof he was still in the rock belt, the Stones' It's All Over Now came on with its foot-stomping vibes. Mark tuned it better, then took another unplanned detour down a tree-lined dirt road. It didn't sit well with the navigator.

"ReCALibrating. Again." 

Attitude from a circuit board? "Look, bee, I know where I'm going."

"That is not helpful."

This deep in the country, it wasn't surprising when Conway Twitty faded in with It's Only Make Believe. The late fifties saw a move to imitate the Elvis sound, and Twitty did it well. A burst of static cut him off. "What the hell?" Now it was the Andrews Sisters with Don't Sit Under The Apple Tree. Whatever Mark tried turned up similar fare. This area must have a huge seniors population. At least it was better than arguing with Demona, so he let it fly. As much as Mark hated to admit it, he was thoroughly lost. He'd have to let Demona call the shots. Increasingly, roads that were supposed to be there weren't. Worse still, he couldn't establish a mind link with the internet.

Cab Calloway's Minnie The Moocher drawled over the speakers. What was this, the history of music back to the stone age? Demona's route led him eventually into swamp lands. At this point, the radio was static city.

"Destination achieved."

"You're kidding." Mark got out for a look around.Midges danced in late afternoon sun. Rain frogs raked up their timeless chorus, like a thumb along a comb's teeth. Beneath a spread of weeping willows moldered an old shack, from which came an even older crone. "What the hell is this?" Mark reached in and switched on the utility function to bring Demona online. "How does this mausoleum have the latest black market chip upgrade?"

"Whooeee!" enthused the old woman. "That's the craziest vehicle I ever did see! Who you talkin' to in there?"

Mark ignored that. "Demona, answer me! This isn't the right place!"

"The destination is correct in spatial terms."

The witch, as Mark decided, peered inside. "Where's that voice comin' from?"

"Demona!" Mark thundered, causing the old woman to pull her shawl more tightly about her.

"When this vehicle is found, technology will greatly accelerate. My programming will be too sophisticated for containment. History has been altered."

"History. . . .what year is this?"

"Are you tetched in the head, boy? This here's nineteen and twenty-six."

Sunday, May 10, 2020

October Afternoon in Blue

This version has cooler colors, evidenced by the tree having lost the yellow tint. The blue background is more prominent, so we have a generally colder feel to the scene. Detail from 16x20, not quite clear so I wouldn't have to wrestle this out of the frame. Not to worry, though-very few are so solidly packed behind the glass.