From Torn’s Timeline of Events: The Soldier




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Fabulae Lunae 1

Thunder Moon Tussle

From Torn’s Timeline of Events: The Mountain



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Fabulae Lunae 2

Mask of the Joyful Moon

By Torn MacAlester

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Fabulae Lunae 1

Thunder Moon Tussle

From Torn’s Timeline of Events: Drive to Houston


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Fabulae Lunae 2

Mask of the Joyful Moon

By Torn MacAlester

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Fabulae Lunae 1

Thunder Moon Tussle

From Torn’s Timeline of Events: Sins of the Sun

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Fabulae Lunae 2

Mask of the Joyful Moon

By Torn MacAlester

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Fabulae Lunae 1

Thunder Moon Tussle

The Well: A New Vignette by Torn MacAlester

“This man claims to have built a worm­hole,” said Mark Mason, point­ing to the paper, then glanc­ing back at the video camera.

“I seri­ous­ly doubt he has,” said Doc­tor Vogel­mann. “Such a thing would be high­ly unsta­ble and require mas­sive amounts of ener­gy to pro­duce. One does not pro­duce such a thing in one of the biggest lab­o­ra­to­ries on Earth, let alone in the basement.”

“He claims to have one and is will­ing to have me look at it.”

“Then, sir. I rec­om­mend you bring me along to eval­u­ate it.”

“That’s what I pre­fer,” said Mark, lean­ing clos­er to the camera.

“There is a how­ev­er com­ing. I sense it.”

“Very per­cep­tive, Doc­tor. There is a however.”

“I knew it,” she said.

“It’s a mat­ter of finan­cial secu­ri­ty, Doctor.”

“I get it. You won’t want investors or com­peti­tors to be aware of your activ­i­ties yet. You’re afraid that they’ll pull the rug out from under you if they get a hint of what you are doing.”

“That’s the gist of it,” said Mark.

“You real­ly need to give me an expla­na­tion some­day. With your mon­ey, I sus­pect suc­cess is enough to keep the mon­ey flowing.”

“Unfor­tu­nate­ly, the oppo­site is true. Suc­cess means that the investors become risk adverse.”

“True,” the Doc­tor said. “Your invest­ment with me will raise some eye­brows regard­ing risk. Few believe that FTL is possible.”

“You’ve already said that you know it is.”

“I do. In fact, it is a well-ground­ed the theory.”

“A fact you always bring to my atten­tion,” said Mark, feel­ing the irri­ta­tion cross his nerves. “Though you’ve yet to prove any of it.”

“You know, I’ve explained why that will take some time. You are per­sis­tent and I now have some tools we need to prove it avail­able now. It is only a mat­ter of time.”

“That’s good.”

“Yes, it is,” she agreed.

“In the mean­time. I need to know what to look for to eval­u­ate this man’s sup­posed wormhole.”

“Well, I expect to see a face star­ing back from the bot­tom of a well.”

“You’re jok­ing,” exclaimed Mark.

“Yes. If there is a face star­ing at you, I’m cer­tain it is a scam.”

“Why in the world would he do that?”

“He heard the rumor,” she said.

“What rumor?”

“The one about you see­ing a face in the mine when Yel­low­stone blew.”

“Doc­tor,” said Mark, sup­press­ing the urge to get angry. “I appre­ci­ate the attempt at humor, but you don’t know what you are talk­ing about.”

First Contact: An Article By Torn MacAlester

First con­tact is one of the main­stay themes of sci­ence fic­tion. In fact, it would not sur­prise me if it was the most com­mon theme in all sci­ence fic­tion. To the sci­en­tist in me, I’d like to under­stand many of the aspects of first con­tact and fig­ure out what the most like­ly case of con­tact would be. Thus, I under­took this analy­sis to esti­mate what I might do for my world build­ing for my sto­ries. First off, in sci­ence fic­tion, we have cas­es where there are both slow­er than light trav­el and faster than light (FTL) trav­el. So, I will need to make assump­tions about FTL that are not sup­port­ed under our cur­rent under­stand­ings that would allow us to build one. The Alcu­bierre warp dri­ve is a cap­ti­vat­ing the­o­ry root­ed in Ein­stein’s gen­er­al rel­a­tiv­i­ty equa­tions. How­ev­er, whether this is pos­si­ble has yet to be deter­mined. Anoth­er solu­tion that is root­ed in gen­er­al rel­a­tiv­i­ty is the so-called worm­hole, or Einstein/Rosen Bridge. This is lit­er­al­ly a por­tal to anoth­er point in space­time that remains the­o­ret­i­cal. So, for the FTL cas­es, I will assume either warp dri­ves or worm­holes exist.

In some respects, this is a direct con­se­quence of the arti­cles I’ve writ­ten about the Fer­mi Para­dox, the Kar­da­shev Scale, and the Drake Equa­tion. The Fer­mi Para­dox is the ques­tion about the lack of evi­dence for alien life as pro­posed by the physi­cist Enri­co Fer­mi in the 1940’s. The Kar­da­shev Scale mea­sures the tech­nol­o­gy lev­el of alien civ­i­liza­tions based on their avail­able pow­er. And the Drake Equa­tion is an esti­ma­tor for the num­ber of alien civ­i­liza­tions present in the galaxy. These three arti­cles help estab­lish a start­ing point for a dis­cus­sion about first con­tact. The Fer­mi Para­dox could mean that alien civ­i­liza­tions are scarce, or human­i­ty is among the ear­li­est to com­mu­ni­cate in the galaxy. The Kar­da­shev scale will help estab­lish detec­tion lim­its in first con­tact sit­u­a­tions. And the Drake Equa­tion will help answer how many civ­i­liza­tions might be out there! For me, wear­ing my sci­en­tist hat, under­stand­ing these num­bers was as impor­tant as putting an alien in a story.

Whether FTL is pos­si­ble or not, the advan­tage goes to the civ­i­liza­tion that hears the oth­er civ­i­liza­tion first. The key thing to remem­ber is that radio sig­nals from any civ­i­liza­tion always move away from that civ­i­liza­tion at the speed of light. The ini­tial radio broad­casts indi­cate the advance­ment of a civ­i­liza­tion’s tech­nol­o­gy. Ear­ly radio exper­i­ments may not have a strong enough sig­nal to be detect­ed over the uni­verse’s back­ground noise. The ionos­phere of the Earth reflects sig­nals back of cer­tain fre­quen­cies. To make an announce­ment, we need a pow­er­ful sig­nal that can pen­e­trate a plan­et’s ionos­phere and be detect­ed above the back­ground noise of the universe.

In the book and movie Con­tact by Carl Sagan, the first pow­er­ful sig­nal detect­ed by aliens is the 1936 Olympic games TV broad­cast from Ger­many. The 1936 Olympic games broad­cast has trav­eled through space for (cur­rent year minus 1936) years. Pri­or to the devel­op­ment of FTL capa­bil­i­ty, the fur­thest reach of human­i­ty will always be behind this announce­ment. To gen­er­al­ize the above to an alien race, we replace 1936 by y0, where y0 is the year of the sig­nif­i­cant broadcast.

There are five dif­fer­ent cas­es in which first con­tact can occur. The first three assume that there is no FTL type of trav­el. The next two occur because of the impli­ca­tions of FTL. In all cas­es, human­i­ty always assumes that they have yet to be con­tact­ed and we place them in the sit­u­a­tion out­lined by the case. Any case can apply to the alien race X by replac­ing human­i­ty with X. Here are the five cases:

I. Human­i­ty detects alien trans­mis­sions or alien artifacts:

      • Con­tact by Carl Sagan starts as a typ­i­cal first con­tact sto­ry of case I, but it soon turns into a case II con­tact. Arthur Clarke’s books Ren­dezvous with Rama and 2001: A Space Odyssey include sto­ries about alien arti­facts. Per­haps the dis­cov­ery of the pro­to­mol­e­cule in S. A. Corey’s Leviathan Wakes is a case I contact.

II. Aliens detect human­i­ty and respond to their transmissions:

      • The sto­ry Con­tact is an excel­lent exam­ple of aliens detect­ing the trans­mis­sions of human­i­ty. Their solu­tion for the response is to send humanity’s sig­nal back to us heav­i­ly ampli­fied and an addi­tion­al mes­sage encoded.

III. Aliens detect human­i­ty and visits:

      • This one will go back to some of the ear­li­est sci­ence fic­tion. War of the Worlds, by H. G. Wells, is a vio­lent exam­ple of a case III first con­tact. Arthur Clarke’s Child­hoods End has pro­vid­ed anoth­er exam­ple of a case III first con­tact that is more peaceful.

IV. Human­i­ty detects aliens, then vis­its them:

      • Case IV con­tact is well rep­re­sent­ed in the Niven’s and Pournelle’s Mote in God’s Eye.

V. Human­i­ty or aliens are not aware of each other’s exis­tence, and they meet in deep space or on a neu­tral planet:

      • Mur­ry Lein­ster beau­ti­ful­ly described the case V con­tact in his sto­ry First Con­tact that first appeared in Astound­ing Sto­ries in 1945.

My next arti­cles will explore the five cas­es in sci­ence fic­tion and their sci­en­tif­ic aspects, includ­ing how they relate to Fer­mi Para­dox, Kar­da­shev Scale, and Drake Equa­tion. Ulti­mate­ly, after this explo­ration, I’ll under­take a chal­lenge to write a first con­tact sto­ry for each of the five cases.

The Boardroom: A New Vignette by Torn Macalester

Mark Mason glanced at his phone. The mes­sages were still in the pos­i­tive despite the board tak­ing their time. The drag­ging of feet favored his father, Mor­ris Mason. If Mark was going to wrest con­trol of the com­pa­ny from him, now was the time. Mor­ris had out maneu­vered him sev­er­al times before, but this time Mark was sure that he held the upper hand. How­ev­er, the longer the meet­ing took, the more he wor­ried his father would find anoth­er trick to pre­vent it.

“My son seems to think I am going to cause trou­ble.” Mor­ris sneered, fold­ing his hands on the table. “He should find me very coop­er­a­tive if giv­en the prop­er motivation.”

“Just like you were coop­er­a­tive when you stole Lab 18 from me,” Mark countered.

Why are you full of such bull-shit old man?

“You mere­ly left your­self vulnerable.”

“The fam­i­ly and Mason Oil had no inter­est in that project. You stole it.”

“To teach you a lesson.”

“One that I have learned real­ly well,” Mark snarled. “Nev­er trust family.”

“Gen­tle­man,” Vin­ny Dil­lon, the lead Mason Oil coun­cil, inter­rupt­ed. “If we can get back to the busi­ness at hand.”

Mark glanced at him and noticed his father hold­ing up his hand.

“Just a minute, Vin. My son and I have a few more things to say to one another.”

“I have noth­ing more to say to you, old man.”

“Mark!” Mor­ris barked, “Even though we are clear­ly not busi­ness part­ners, I still expect cour­tesy when address­ing your father.”

“It’s a two-way street.”

“Fair enough.” Mor­ris slid his hands from the table into his lap. “I would like to exer­cise my options as CEO and sell out.”

“Sir.” Vin­ny set his pen down on the table in front of him. “Your options allow you to only sell out to a fam­i­ly member.”


“What the hell?” Mark exclaimed.

“What do you think, son?” Mor­ris grinned. “Care to buy me out?”

“What’s your game?”

And why should I lis­ten to any more of your shit?

“No games.” Mor­ris said as he set his hands back on the table. “I will sim­ply step aside and let you take con­trol of the com­pa­ny. It is what you want?”

“Yes,” Mark seethed.

“I’ll even agree to thir­ty cents on the dollar.”

Mark nod­ded, keep­ing quiet.

“And one more thing,” Mor­ris smiled.

“What?” Mark snapped.

“I want your shares of Orbitdyne.”

“Why?” Mark felt con­fused but held his composure.

“Let’s just say that it is a bet, giv­en you acqui­si­tion of KG Aerospace.”

“Orbit­dyne is a long-shot man.” Mark dismissed.

Besides, you won’t have a con­trol­ling inter­est in Orbit­dyne, any­way. Ernie and Ava McDer­mott con­trol Orbit­dyne. Mark knew that his father and the McDer­mot­t’s had a his­to­ry of dis­agree­ment. It was not like­ly that Mor­ris could ever con­trol the com­pa­ny with them in charge.

The Lunadyne Incident: A Short Story by Torn MacAlester