Meteor Man (finale)

This is the final installment of a relatively new piece, Meteor Man. First written in July ’94, I was never satisfied with it until my last rewrite this past September.

It’s a longish piece at 11,300 words, so I’ve broken it into five sections. I hope it’s worth it.

Enjoy.

Co-Author and higher level subscribers (10$US/month or more) can download a complete PDF version of Meteor Man for offline reading. or Join Us to continue.

Read Meteor Man (part 1).
Read Meteor Man (part 2).
Read Meteor Man (part 3).
Read Meteor Man (part 4).

Meteor Man (finale)

Ellis could not be quieted. “You lost an asherteam? How the hell can you lose an asherteam? Two men, maybe, but two men and thirty cubic meters of state-of-the-art digrig? Where’s Singer? It’s about time somebody took hold of this thing.”

“He was piloting the asher.”

She stared at him then laughed. “Let’s say he’s already taken charge. Let’s say he’s already gone after Geertz. Let’s say if you don’t hear from him in three days you call me.”

“Singer sent you a message before we lost contact.”

“Yup, and it’s shit. Something walked all over it. Can’t make a thing out of it.” Her face drew close to his. “Are you sweating, Mr. Meninquez?”


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Meteor Man (part 4)

This is the fourth installment of a relatively new piece, Meteor Man. First written in July ’94, I was never satisfied with it until my last rewrite this past September.

It’s a longish piece at 11,300 words, so I’ve broken it into five sections. I hope it’s worth it.

Enjoy.

Co-Author and higher level subscribers (10$US/month or more) can download a complete PDF version of Meteor Man for offline reading. or Join Us to continue.

Read Meteor Man (part 1).
Read Meteor Man (part 2).
Read Meteor Man (part 3).

Meteor Man (part 4)

Geertz and Meninquez stood on opposite sides of the five man digteam. All of them were huddled around a hole in the lower right corner of The Wall barely large enough for a surgical needle to move through. Behind them Singer and La Velle’s asher held racks of floodlights in its mormons so they could see. Behind their asher sat the second asher placed for ascent.

Geertz kept his reader at The Wall, constantly checking for any anomalies in the glyphs. “Go ahead.”

A minute later the cutter had opened a probe-sized hole on the inner surface of The Wall. He glanced at the cutter’s progress on another reader. “Stop.”

Meninquez came over to the reader. “What is it?”

“I didn’t want the cutter to enter the inner world. I just wanted it to make a hole. Now we’re going to send the probe through. It’ll be more able to tell us if there’s something over there.”

One of the team members opened his pack and placed a surgical-sized, gray missile on the ground. Where there should have been a warhead was a black diamond structure. Each third of the missile’s length was demarcated by a ruby ring. The man handed the guidebox to Geertz who fitted it to his reader.

He tapped the reader’s plate and a deep red aura surrounded the needle, lifting it in its own repeller matrix as it crawled along the ground to The Wall. There it rose vertically until the black diamond and the rest of the needle behind it were even with the hole.

Geertz guided it as everyone watched its progress on the reader. The needle had moved through The Wall. The black diamond, ever so slowly, poked its head through to see what was inside.

Meninquez came up beside him. “Turn on the viewer. Let’s see what’s in there.”

Geertz tabbed the viewer on.

The Wall dissolved without a trace. Before the team could pull back, before Meninquez could order them out or to cover or throw down a guard, before Geertz could summon his surrogate eyes back through The Wall, the entire structure gone in a burst of silence, as if it had never been.

Only the glyphs remained.

They hung in space in the position they had while buried within. The needle, not having any commands coming in, automatically turned to inspect the energy source which were the glyphs themselves and showed them still there, now blazing inside a small black sun.

Only Geertz moved. Meninquez and his team were frozen, holding their hands over their faceplates, guarding against an avenging angel.

There was a pull which Geertz sensed more than felt and the light from Singer and La Velle’s asher bent until it became a funnel feeding into the glyphs in the center of that sun. One by one the asher’s floods winked out and the cavern was in darkness.

Meninquez commed, “What just happened?”

Geertz’s reader illuminated his face. “Whatever’s inside is powered by an energy selective gravity source. It pulled in non-living EM, but not us, not living EM.”

Meninquez nodded. “Advanced.”

“Or it knows we’re here.” Geertz moved through. “Rolfson?”

She appeared beside him and became the only light in there, her human face smiling in the mask of the virtual suit she wore. “I’m here, Donald.”

“Can you determine which wavelength this was designed for?”

“The creatures who built this,” she paused. Her hands lifted from her sides and she circled the black glyphic sun, a moth in a universe of flame. “They had only one sense and used it for all things.” She paused and spun as the glyphic sun engulfed her. Her image dissolved then reconstituted as the sun melted away. “That which attracts, that which keeps away.”

“What?”

She said nothing.

“I don’t understand what you mean, ‘that which attracts, that which keeps away.’”

Again she dissolved. The sun reappeared between him and the rest of the team. Her voice came into his helmet. “This one can exist only so long as somewhere the other exists.” She reconstituted but further in.

He shrugged, attributing her behavior to interference, perhaps from The Wall itself. “Magnetism? Monopoles?”

She nodded.

“Then how can you stay here?”

“I can’t.” She lifted her right arm and pointed to her left. He hadn’t noticed, but her left side slowly dissolved. In the complete blackness of the glyphic sun he could see individual photons of her image pull away and, like meteors in a dense atmosphere, blaze bright then fade away.

“What is this place?”

“A remembrance, I think.”

“Of what? I can’t see.”

“Come.” Without waiting for a reply, her image swirled as if sucked into some vortex and fled down a rhombic passageway.


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Meteor Man (part 3)

This is the third installment of a relatively new piece, Meteor Man. First written in July ’94, I was never satisfied with it until my last rewrite this past September.

It’s a longish piece at 11,300 words, so I’ve broken it into five sections. I hope it’s worth it.

Enjoy.

Co-Author and higher level subscribers (10$US/month or more) can download a complete PDF version of Meteor Man for offline reading. or Join Us to continue.

Read Meteor Man (part 1).
Read Meteor Man (part 2).

Meteor Man (part 3)

Ellis sat at the side of the conference table.

“Good to see you, Dr. Ellis,” said Meninquez.

Ellis nodded as she watched people enter the room. She wore a body fitting burgundy flightsuit which left only her head and hands exposed. The burgundy flightsuit contrasted so sharply with the stale green of the conference room and with the geologic shales and hazes of Awkright’s base itself that everyone entering the room was drawn to look at her before seeing anything else. Her trim, athletic figure was relaxed in the chair and she winked and tapped her ear as each person entered and fixed their eyes on her. Only Geertz failed to notice her when he came in.

Her thick graying hair was gathered into a ponytail which came over her left shoulder. She stroked it as if it were a cat.

She waited until all the chairs were filled. ” Well?”

Meninquez spun his chair to face Geertz.” Well?”

Geertz tabbed a plate in front of him. Ellis leaned forward. “You don’t use an audio actuator? Damn slow. Inefficient, if you ask me.”

Geertz nodded agreement without looking up from his plate. “For most things, yes. For the things I do, no.”

Ellis smiled. She watched Geertz’s fingers slide over the plate as holograms appeared, rotated, and merged in the air above the conference table. He slipped on his glove and a hand appeared on the perimeter of the hologram. Ellis barked out a laugh. “Modified glove?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

She sat back. “Ma’am?” Her mouth worked as if pronouncing a new word in a foreign tongue. “Ma’am? What’s your name, son?”

He looked at her. “Donald Geertz.”

She winked and tapped her ear before responding. “Dr. Geertz?” She nodded, took her hand away from her ear and leaned forward. “Dr. Geertz, my grandchildren don’t call me ma’am. Use ‘Pat’. Please continue.”

He returned to the hologram. “This is The Wall. We see it as such because it’s been cleared and cleaned.” He tapped finger and thumb together twice and the hologram changed. The Wall took on a greenish hue. Red lines left its surface and moved beyond the cavern image, eventually encircling the entire structure and shaping into a three dimensional topographic of asteroid 480-SMN-10.

“Here’s 480-SMN-10,” Geertz said. “You can’t see it on this scale. You can’t even see it on a 1:1 scale, but The Wall isn’t a planar surface.”

“Show me that.”

Geertz tapped middle finger and thumb. The asteroid’s topographic faded and The Wall grew. White lines started at the corners of The Wall’s inner surface and projected inward to some center which they reached ten meters away, close to the conference room’s rear door. Once the four lines met at that far distant center another line joined them, this one moved across The Wall’s inner surface like a raster pattern and filled in a solid projection from that center to The Wall.

“Can we see this in toto, Dr. Geertz?”

Geertz was smiling, hunched over the edge of the conference table in his chair, looking up into the hologram from below. He pressed his thumb into his index finger’s second knuckle. 480-SMN-10’s topographic took shape around them. Geertz hadn’t shrunk the image. Red fractals merged and dissolved in the room as they formed the surface projection and filled the room with a swarm of twinkling, tiny lights.

Ellis sat back, eyes wide as she took it all in. “This is beautiful.”

Geertz nodded, his eyes still on the projection. “Thank you.”

The whole image collapsed until it floated above them. At that scale it was obvious The Wall was part of a sphere’s surface with the sphere’s center close to 480-SMN-10’s.

Ellis’ cheeks puffed out and a little popping sound escaped her lips. “Anybody want to argue this is planetary or geologic?”

People shook their heads.

“How come we didn’t know about this before we began extracting?”

Meninquez answered, “It’s reorganized planetary matter. It wouldn’t be detected.” He paused then added. “Actually, it was detected. This asteroid was recorded as gaseous-hollow. It was one of the reasons we came here.”

“Okay, let’s crack it.”

Geertz took his eyes off the projection and shook his head. “We can’t.”

All eyes turned to Geertz.

Meninquez barked, “Excuse me?”

“We can’t crack The Wall. We’ve discovered something unique.”


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Meteor Man (part 2)

This is the second installment of a relatively new piece, Meteor Man. First written in July ’94, I was never satisfied with it until my last rewrite this past September.

It’s a longish piece at 11,300 words, so I’ve broken it into five sections. I hope it’s worth it.

Enjoy.

Co-Author and higher level subscribers (10$US/month or more) can download a complete PDF version of Meteor Man for offline reading. or Join Us to continue.

Read Meteor Man (part 1).

Meteor Man (part 2)

Geertz sat behind La Velle and Singer in the unused navigator’s seat as they piloted their asher back to The Wall. He hooked the navigation displays into Awkright’s Xenolab systems back at base. In front of him a fabber of The Wall floated suspended in repeller matrices all its own. Multicolor rhombics danced into it. Geertz used an iconglove to make adjustments. The various links clicked as they updated their displays.

La Velle glanced at Singer and nodded towards Geertz. Singer nodded and cleared his throat. “How’s it going, doc?”

Geertz continued making adjustments. The rhombics turned teal-green and stabilized under and slightly to one side of the surface of The Wall. The asher’s ventilators hissed briefly.

La Velle gently clapped his hands. “Dr. Geertz?”

Geertz spun in his seat. His eyes were red and his gloved hand closed into a fist. The Wall and its rhombics exploded in a technicolor frenzy.

“I’m sorry, Doc. You okay?”

Geertz turned back to his lost displays. “I’ve never been in an asteroid before.”

Singer nodded. “You get used to it.”

“Are you two Meteor Men?”

La Velle laughed. “God, Doc. That goes back a ways. I haven’t heard that used since I was starting out. Yes, we both are, by the way. Got the paperwork to prove it.”

“Actual paper paperwork?”

“Yeah, actual paper paperwork. They haven’t done that in,” he shook his head, “I have no idea how many years.”

Singer monitored their descent. “You age slower out here. Nobody knows why.”

Geertz gazed at their faces, the professional scientist’s sharing the child’s lack of shame at investigating the unexpected. The asher filled with the static clicks of updating displays and the hiss of slowly moving air.

La Velle checked his displays. “I was a little jumpy my first time down under, too. Kept waiting for the Meteor Man to show up.”

“The Meteor Man?”

“Oh, you know, every new place has its boogie men. First folks out this far said they heard partial words on shadow frequencies, off band, some said they saw the rocks move. The usual scary stuff to keep the kids in their beds at night.”

Singer nodded. “Yeah, Doc. My first time down I lost my lunch five times. Jumped every time a shadow moved. It takes some getting used to. You want us to shut down for a while? Give you some time to adjust?”

“What’s it take to be a Meteor Man?”

La Velle laughed. “Started out blowing up NEOs, asteroids coming too close to earth to take a chance they’d hit rather than fly by. We made asteroids into chunks of rock that just shot through the sky back home. That’s where the term Meteor Man came from.”

Singer took over. “Then Northern Arizona University discovers Didymos’s moon is behaving strangely and SpaceGroupX is hired to investigate. They drop a sounder and discover she’s rocked over and not natural. Nothing in her, but still she’s not natural. The next thing you know five or six of the big terrestrial mining firms are in the space recovery business and the ‘Belt, Trojans, Greeks, Hildas, Centaurs, and the Kuiper and Oort when we can get to them, and whatever else is out here goes to auction with the governments getting first pickings through any finds.”

La Velle finished. “But we got steady jobs, great pay – ”

Singer chuckled. “And no life and no wife.”

Geertz’s face paled.

“Oh, Christ, Doc. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean that the way it sounded.”

Geertz cleared his throat and turned back to his equipment. “That’s all right. Thanks. We need to know about The Wall. Dr. Ellis wants all the particulars.”

La Velle covered his partner’s faux pas. “We have plenty of time, Dr. Geertz. Let’s shut her down, give you a chance to get use to things.”

“No, thank you.”

“Tell you what, doc. We’ll keep her going, slow her down a bit and turn up the matrix to smooth out the ride some more. Can we do that for you?”

“Yes. Thanks.” Geertz turned back to his work.

It remained quiet except for the caterpillar’s whine and the repeller matrix’s small red suns holding and releasing the cave walls as they crawled along.

Singer, forgetting about their guest, started to sing the instrument readouts. La Velle also forgot Geertz sat behind them and started adding his” Uh-huh” of agreement as a backbeat to Singer’s tune.

Geertz cleared his throat.

The ashermen stopped singing. Singer swung his seat around, his head silhouetted in the dark by the asher’s forward displays. His eyes reflected Geertz’s station lighting. “Sorry, Doc. Didn’t mean to disturb your work.”

“No. Not at all. I was going to say you guys sing together well. You must have worked together for a long time.”

Singer swung back and looked up at La Velle’s reflection in the forward. “We been together on twenty digs on as many rocks, Doc.”

“That’s a long time.” Geertz paused. “I think it’s a long time. It’s a long time, isn’t it?”

La Velle tapped a screen. “Wall’s coming up. It’s about thirty, thirty-five years, Doc. Normal years.”

“You guys must like each other to be together that long.”

Singer and La Velle looked at each other’s reflection. Singer nodded. “We like each other well enough.”

Geertz pointed to the scorpion’s claws. “Why do they call them ‘mormons’?”

La Velle laughed a little. “Because they’re scoopers.”

“Beg pardon?”

“You know about the Mormons, doc? The religious people back on Earth? There used to be a joke about Mormons: People called them scoopers because God opened their heads and scooped out all their brains.”

“Ow.”

“I guess the first team to use an asher had somebody who knew that joke. You can find the reference in most astromining texts. Here, let me call up mine.”

Geertz sat up and leaned forward.

La Velle tucked himself into his seat. “It’s okay, Dr. Geertz. You can come up here. You won’t break anything.”

Geertz looked at him and smiled hesitantly.

“Come on, Doc. You can’t see it from back there.”

Geertz stood between the two men. Just as he did the asher’s glide system lifted it slightly and to the right. Geertz lost his balance just enough to have to lean against Singer’s station. Singer caught Geertz’s arm and helped him steady himself. “No problem, Doc. Happens to everybody. See? Look here.” Singer pointed to two switches on his panel. They were labeled “Scoop 1” and “Scoop 2”.

Geertz smiled. “Wow. I’ve never heard them called anything but mormons.”

La Velle glanced at Singer and nodded. “Funny how some things stick.”


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Mark Hayes’ Passing Place: Location Relative

I read Hayes’ “The Strange and the Wonderful” in Harvey Duckman Presents V7 and was (am still) amazed by it (I reviewed it in Why It Works for Me – Mark Hayes’ “The Strange and the Wonderful”). I reached out to Hayes and learned “The Strange and the Wonderful” is part of the Passing Place mythos, so asked for an autographed copy of Passing Place.

It took a week to read the book because 1) I’m a slow reader and 2) I was savoring it. Passing Place is a fine meal, an elegant respite from the world’s chaos. I’m leaving the following review in several places and the baseline take-away is READ THIS BOOK!
Continue reading “Mark Hayes’ Passing Place: Location Relative