I am writing this story at the behest of a super-intelligent synthetic being from a distant star system in our galaxy. If you missed part one, click on “story”.
I’m not entirely sure why I’m writing this, aside from the urgent request, but I feel strongly I’ll have at least an inkling by the time I finish. I’m assuming a cataclysmic event will not intervene to prevent me from finishing. As they say; nothing ventured nothing gained.
My name is Joseph Aleksov. When I first stumbled upon an odd-looking shape on a moonlit beach, it had little patience with me. It called itself Arcon to facilitate communication with my simple human brain. I thought of the thing as a “he,” but Arcon isn’t really a he or she. He’s not even an it. Arcon is pure consciousness of an artificial variety. That’s the best description I can offer. I originally described Arcon’s physical features as follows:
“It was a shiny silver sphere punctuated by streamlined indentations on its sides. It had a hole in the center which, in the moonlight, revealed nothing but bottomless darkness. Hardly an eye, at least not a human one. I couldn’t look at it for too long. It pulsed every few minutes, as if it were breathing at impossible intervals. And then it started flashing.”
After Arcon convinced me to take him home to my friend’s plush split-level house on Daytona Beach, he finally stopped his irritating and painful-to-my-eyes strobing. I was able to look him straight in the eye, man to man, so to speak.
I had driven Arcon to the beach house in the back seat of my decrepit Mazda Miata. Arcon reclined there regally, like the CEO of a large corporation, ignoring my attempts at conversation. Occasionally, he flashed, vibrated, and made annoying electronic clicking sounds. Clearly something was up, but Arcon refused to let me in on the secret.
As we walked up the stone steps to the sculpted front door, I kept an eye peeled for voyeurs. My womanizing friend, Jeffrey, had commissioned a local artist to carve a seductive female nymph into the oaken door panel. Jeffrey’s amorous adventures were the talk of the town. Frustrated husbands in the neighborhood were known to point telescopes at Jeffrey’s door to catch a glimpse of his latest conquest. I shrewdly camouflaged Arcon with the light coat I had been wearing to protect me from the evening chill. I did not want to be caught smuggling a super-intelligent piece of alien hardware into the house.
When we arrived safely inside, I unwrapped Arcon and perched him atop a glass kitchen table. I took a seat opposite him and asked: “Why did you find it necessary to nearly blind me with pencil bolts of lightning shooting out of your eye.”
Arcon replied telepathically in my native Serbian tongue: “I needed to get someone’s attention, and I was thinking about my mission. Then you happened along, and a strategy fell into place.”
“Please let me in on it”
“Are you certain your friend won’t be returning any time soon to reclaim his house?”
“He’ll be in Paris for the next two weeks writing for a fashion magazine.”
Arcon’s silver sides glistened. “Good. Let’s get down to business. And don’t interrupt me unless you have a highly intelligent question to ask.”
I made every effort not to be insulted by Arcon’s cavalier attitude. I had gleaned from our discussions at the beach that the fate of the world was at stake. If that were true, I had to put my petty feelings aside.
“To put it bluntly,” Arcon began, “your world will be destroyed by a pulsar from a neutron star that exploded two hundred and fifty light years away.”
Arcon seemed to pause for dramatic effect. “Unless we do something about it.”
I was too startled to respond, which seemed to please Arcon.
“As your people are fond of saying; ‘time marches on.’ In this case, time not only marches, it is taking a shortcut through a wormhole. The pulsar has heretofore been disguised by the wormhole. It will reappear fifty thousand miles beyond the outer reaches of your solar system. Think of it as a traveler walking to Orlando, and then deciding to hop on a supersonic bullet train to save time and sneaker soles. By the time the pulsar appears, it will be too late. We have seventy-two hours to save your planet.”
I thought: This must be an elaborate ruse my trust fund friend is playing on me. What are the odds of something like this happening?
“Did you come here to share a bottle of twenty-year-old single malt scotch to enjoy what is left of our lives?”
“If I was capable of laughing, I wouldn’t.”
I stared back at Arcon wondering: How can a super sophisticated being like Arcon not be capable of laughter?
“I wasn’t created to laugh. It’s a waste of time and energy. Instead, I’ve used the time remaining to arrive at a solution to your problem. I must warn you that it’s not guaranteed to work. It all depends on you following my instructions perfectly.”
I closed my eyes thinking; Okay, I’ll play along.
“Why me?” I asked with faked timidity.
“You tripped over me.”
I sighed. “You win, great wizard of the universe. Where do we begin?”
Arcon vibrated and made clicking sounds, as if he were annoyed with me. “Stop thinking this is some kind of foolish joke. I’m not a cosmic comedian.”
“Okay. Okay. Don’t get more bent out of shape than you already are. What now?”
“You take me to New York City,” Arcon answered crisply. “To the top floor of the One World Trade Center building.
(To Be Continued)
Copyright 2021 by David Gittlin. All rights reserved.
Put them in the hands of children, and they are apt to draw Moms and Dads, third-grade teachers, tulips, and dragons.
Pencils in the hands of adults are apt to write brilliant plays or novels.
The work of Robert Ludlam and Lee Child comes to mind.
In adult hands, pencils are also useful for solving complex mathematical problems.
Or sketching landscapes, faces, and naked bodies.
Or drawing just about anything, like plans for an invention to wash, dry, and put away a month’s worth of dirty dishes.
What if pencils came with the option of connecting to a vast reservoir of primeval energy?
In order to make your dreams come true?
How does it Work?
First, you’ll need a supercharged pencil at a cost of three-million-five-hundred-sixty thousand dollars for the special writing implement. Then, you’ll have to cough up another one-million-seven-hundred-fifty-three thousand dollars for the one-time primeval energy hookup.
The primeval energy bubbles and bursts somewhere deep in the bowels of the Earth. The exact location is kept under wraps for the sake of National Security.
Visually, I’m told by confidential sources, the energy resembles molten lava amped up on mild steroids.
The connection to the energy is wireless.
The special pencil allows the user to manifest (bring to life in three dimensions) anything the operator’s heart desires.
If you are thinking: where do I get one? please be advised that the item is backordered well into the next century.
And you must pass a battery of exhausting psychological tests to have the privilege of placing an order.
Due to the long lead times required to process many of the orders, the manufacturer assumes science will develop the technology to extend human life spans and thereby delivery dates.
If science fails to adequately extend human life spans, or if a purchaser tires of his or her two-century life, then the buyer will have the right to bequeath the order to a qualified heir.
If you lack the patience or funding, then try making your dreams come true the old- fashioned way.
It was great fun doing the project. I want to give a shout out to my writer/musician friend, Joe Canzano, for inspiring me to do the project. Also, thanks to my narrator, Caitlin Willis Frizzel, for doing an excellent job of bringing my characters to life.
Special Offer: Get a FREE Micromium audio book by following these easy steps: Go to the Micromium page on Audible by clicking https://tinyurl.com/yar5hmsk. Listen to the five minute sample (optional). If you like what you hear, contact me through my website at www.davidgittlin.com. The first ten people who contact me will receive a promo code and instructions for downloading a free Micromium audio book. Be sure to send me your email so I can send you the code and instructions. I will NOT use your email to send offers or promotions. I DO NOT keep email lists for promotion. (I hate spam, and I’m sure you do, too).
Synopsis: The year is 2038. Earth’s biosphere is on the brink of destruction from the effects of global warming and pollution. The World Energy Council has awarded a lucrative contract to a major US corporation to mine a precious ore discovered by the first manned mission to land on Mars. One kilo of Micromium can power a large city for a year without environmental side effects. A few grains of the ore can fuel a car for a year or longer. Micromium promises to provide clean energy to a thirsty planet far into the future.
When two people die in a mining accident on Mars, the World Energy Council sends Commander Logan Marchant and a crack team of astronaut specialists to investigate.
Confronted with a lack of cooperation from the mining colonists, the investigation is further complicated by Logan’s growing attraction to the team’s beautiful and brainy geologist. While tensions and tempers rise, Logan and the audit team make one shocking discovery after another, until the investigation leads them into mortal danger, and ultimately, to a surprising conclusion.
“A fun science-fiction thriller with both unique and familiar concepts, MICROMIUM delivers a satisfying story with memorable characters you don’t mind spending time alone with on a desolate planet, millions of miles from Earth.”
“Versatile in its imagery, characters, and storyline, Micromium: Clean Energy from Mars will take readers on a journey throughout the galaxy. With scenes ranging from intense and scary to action-packed and awesome, the novel will never cease to wow readers. The pages of this easy-read will fly through readers’ hands while its story and characters remain in readers’ minds.”
David Gittlin has written three feature length screenplays, produced two short films, and published three novels. Before quiting his day job, he spent more than thirty years as a marketing director building expertise in advertising, copy writing, corporate communications, collateral sales materials, website content/design and online marketing. For more information, please visit www.davidgittlin.com
Verdict: A fun science-fiction thriller with both unique and familiar concepts, MICROMIUM delivers a satisfying story with memorable characters you don’t mind
spending time alone with on a desolate planet, millions of miles from Earth.
MICROMIUM by David Gittlin is a delightful science-fiction adventure set in a near-future where a possible clean energy source from Mars has captured humanity’s hope. A team of scientists travel to the red planet to perform an audit of the privately run mining operation. The team does their job a little too well, uncovering a secret that the company was desperate to keep hidden.
The story that unfolds in this novella is very compelling and carries the reader along with a fast-paced tale that isn’t difficult to follow. The characters are at their most interesting when they are working to solve the central problem of the book and working together as a team. When major twists are thrown their way, readers are eager to follow along with the team wherever they’re headed. There is drama and excitement, and all of it serves the larger story.
The characters’ stories are full of gripping drama and very real stakes. In sci-fi, it can be difficult to cut your characters off from the help they might need in a technologically-advanced society. Stuck on a planet millions of miles from that help, where the very atmosphere is deadly, solves that problem in a very real way. Like other recent stories focused on the red planet, the threat of being stranded there is ever-present, adding another layer of stakes to an already high-tension story.
Like all good science fiction, MICROMIUM features both a specific narrative that is enthralling and a larger universe that seems ripe for future storytelling. Many writers fall prey to focusing more on the latter element than providing a resolution for the former that is both complete and satisfying. Gittlin does not. The story he sets out to tell is resolved very clearly, but how that ending unfolds opens the possibility for more stories about both these characters and the world in which they live. Readers are left wanting more, but not because the story that drew them into the book was left unfinished.
The Midwest Book Review gave “Three Days to Darkness” a “Thumbs Up.” It’s encouraging when anyone other than my wife, daughter, mother-in-law, and best-friend Joe Canzano responds positively to my novel. (My mother read half the book. She liked the writing but not the story).
Here’s the review by Diane Donovan, Mid-West Book Review eBook reviewer:
“The magic number is three. Three days to save the world. Three people to help Darius McPherson succeed. And three important life lessons to learn in the process.
The setting is a war being planned in Heaven itself by a reluctant warrior too young to be in Heaven in the first place, and the mission involves saving humanity from its own follies: no mean assignment for a young man killed in a drive-by shooting and suddenly tasked with saving the world.
Three Days to Darkness is about magic on many levels: the incongruity of Heaven and its purposes, the absurdities of Mankind, and the passionate concerns of a boy faced with apocalypse on a scale that moves beyond singular death and into the destruction of humanity itself.
As if this wasn’t enough, add demons and a road that literally leads to Hell (albeit paved with good intentions) and you have a fast-paced thriller novel that defies the usual genre definitions of fantasy, thriller or action piece and creeps into the realm of the impossible.
Three Days to Darkness darkens rapidly as Darius investigates company clinical trials, angel operatives, and deadly courses of action, spicing his approach with a cocky blend of offense and defense that presumes a degree of training he actually lacks: “Crooking his arm, Darius lifted his hand just below chin level with all five fingers splayed. He reminded himself of David Carradine as Caine in a “Kung Fu” TV episode. A more experienced angel operative would certainly prepare to attack with “way more” subtlety, he figured.”
Doses of humor are tossed in for effective comic relief as Darius questions why a Heaven governed by the concept of free will would intervene in the affairs of man – and why it would choose to do so for one event and not another: “Darius sat perfectly still for a while with his hands in his lap before speaking again. “I’m confused,” he said with a solemn expression. “On the one hand, you say everything that happens to a man is the result of free will, and on the other hand, you send me to Earth to stop a pill from going on the market. I don’t get it.” “Good observation, Darius. It sounds like a contradiction, but it’s more like a distinction. We have to pick our fights carefully. We try not to interfere with the operation of human free will. We sat by and watched in horror, for example, when Roman soldiers crucified Christ and terrorists flew commercial airliners into the Twin Towers. But there are times when we must take action, when a worldwide catastrophe could result from human failure, to put it in a shorthand manner. We intervened during the two world wars and the Cuban Missile crisis, to cite a few recent cases. We have also been involved when the psychological, moral or spiritual evolution of the species is at risk. A literal example of such a case was our influence on the outcome of the famous ‘Scopes Trial.’”
What lessons will Darius learn in his latest incarnation as a new angel? He has only three days to absorb them – or witness the end of all days.
Three Days to Darkness is a fast-paced, vivid read that incorporates all the elements of a superior mystery, thriller, and fantasy. It’s certainly not a portrait of a predictable afterlife, a conventional Heaven, or a banal post-life mission. All these facets merge to create a uniquely involving story
blending amusing moments with engrossing encounters between disparate forces; each with their own special interests and agendas.
And Darius? He’s in it for the ride, and takes readers along with him in an unexpected journey through Heaven, Hell, and beyond.”
Seagulls falling out of the sky raised a line of puffs on the barren beach as they smacked into the sand.
Darren glanced upward shielding his eyes from the blazing sun. Nikki, lying on the pink towel next to him, rose on both elbows. She screamed.
More birds pelted the beach. A few hundred yards to the south, it was raining seagulls. “It’s coming this way,” he told the hazel-eyed beauty.
“Head for the water. It’s the only safe place,” he shouted.
They raced towards the incoming tide, extending their long, lean bodies over the surf. The couple pummeled the aqua water with furious crawl strokes, side by side. When they were far enough from shore, Darren pulled up, treading water. Nikki’s head broke water just as a wave rolled over her. She came up coughing and spitting water. Darren reached out. She flattened her curvaceous body against his hard torso, encircling his neck with long, slender arms.
Thunder rumbled. The waves grew higher. Darren watched in disbelief as the storm of falling seagulls engulfed the Canyon Ranch Spa and Hotel.
“The ‘Millennium Predictions’ are coming true,” Nikki gasped.
The seagull storm swallowed up the hotel. The bird-cloud mushroomed towards the sleek concrete and steel skyscraper to the north. The sky darkened. A squall rippled towards them from the macabre scene unfolding on the shore.
Darren held her tightly. “I’ll always love you, even if the world ends.”
Nikki pushed away from him with a wild-eyed expression.
“Cut,” the Director yelled from the filming platform six feet behind them.
The computer-generated effects Darren had spent hours studying the night before dissolved on the screen of his imagination. The newly built Canyon Ranch Hotel gleamed in the South Florida sun, perfectly safe as a dreamer waking from a nightmare in a comfortable bed.
He had been lost in the moment. He had made it all real. Instinct and a script two revisions old had taken over.
Darren smacked his head with an open hand. “Sorry.”
“You’re supposed to say, ‘I thought we could change the future,” the pot-bellied, bearded Director said. He pulled off his black sunglasses and glared at Darren. A gust of wind rustled his mane of graying hair. “Let’s take it from Nikki’s last line, then we’ll break for lunch.”
“Soften your expression,” Nikki told him. “You look too serious.”
One of the benefits of working with your real-life girlfriend was honest feedback.
They sat at a table for two in the crowded Spa restaurant, next to a picture window overlooking the beach. Darren munched on an under-sized grain burger with sprouts and raw carrots on the side—no dressing. Nikki played with a small bowl of whole-wheat spaghetti topped with a hint of marinara sauce—hold the parmesan cheese.
Darren reveled in the few moments of leisurely time they shared before the long night of shooting ahead of them. Two days of bad weather had thrown production behind schedule. The production crew had to squeeze six days of shooting into three. The Director expected actors and crew to stay fresh and energetic, despite the hectic schedule.
Nikki had piled her long red hair in a bun atop her head. She wore no makeup, only a thin layer of moisture cream for protection. Darren had met countless beautiful women in his acting career. Nikki was different from all of them. She wasn’t self-absorbed, and she wasn’t petty, as most of the women he knew tended to be. She read voluminously between acting roles, and was a fine painter. She could be intellectual and sophisticated or simple and playful as a happy child, depending on her mood.
She had stolen his heart shortly after they met at a wedding party eight months ago. There was only one problem. It haunted Darren day and night.
“There’s something we have to talk about, Darren darling. It’s been on my mind for the past few weeks.”
He felt an ache in his heart. He knew the issue had to come up eventually.
“Not now, Princess.”
“It makes me feel like your daughter when you call me that.”
“I can’t help it. I believe you’ve come to me from some enchanted land, or sprung up whole from a ponderous book of fairy tales.”
She stopped smiling.
“What’s wrong?” he said.
She appeared to grapple with what to say next.
“Let’s agree to hold off all serious discussions until the film wraps,” he said. “Until then, we should only try to amuse one another in the few private moments the stingy Director allows us. Now, stop nibbling at your food. Eat up. You need your strength.”
“You eat your grain burger.
“It has no taste.”
“Use your imagination,” she said.
Darren took a bite. “Mmmm. He picked up the remaining piece of grain burger and admired it as if it were the Hope Diamond. “Remind me to ask the chef how they make it taste like dried corn-stalk compost.”
He watched her turn and gaze out the window. The surf was up, reaching with long fingers, almost up to the concrete foundation of the hotel. The sun had disappeared behind late afternoon clouds. He noticed her mood remained somber.
“If you insist on being serious, you might as well tell me what’s on your mind.” He felt the ache in his chest again.
She sighed deeply. “These past eight months have been much more than I ever expected, my love.”
“There’s no reason to believe the next eight months won’t be even better,” he said in his best imitation of a well-known motivational speaker.
He had imagined this painful moment too many times. “I’m concerned about the age difference,” she would say. “What will happen when we get older?” No matter what he said in response, her words would mark the beginning-of-the-end their relationship.
“I fell in love with your humor before I fell in love with you,” she said, instead of the dreaded words he had anticipated hearing.
“And you’ve been dying to confess this to me but you didn’t know how,” he improvised.
“Don’t make this into another game.” Nikki kept staring at him with a horribly solemn expression.
“I’m not from this world,” she said.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t hear you correctly. The acoustics in here are awful.”
“Please try to believe what I’m about to tell you.”
“It’s perfect, sweetheart. Who offered you the role?”
“I’m not trying out a character, Darren.”
“Can’t we just be ourselves with the little time—“
“—I am being myself. Listen to me.”
He stared into the depths of her searching eyes. Nikki lowered her voice. “There are about a million travelers like me scattered in every country of your world.”
Chills ran through his body. “What are you talking about?”
“I’m talking about the events depicted in ‘The Millennium Predictions.’ I’m talking about a decision you have to make.”
“You’re telling me they changed the script again and didn’t tell me. They’ve cut down my role. That bastard who calls himself a Director doesn’t like me. That’s it. Isn’t it?
She stared back at him, perfectly still. “I’m not talking about the movie.”
“You can’t be an alien. I’ve kissed every inch of your body. Every part of you is perfectly, beautifully human.”
“Calm down. We’re attracting attention.” She placed a hand over his. “We have the same origin. Our ancestors seeded the galaxy with our kind millions of years ago. It was a grand experiment to study how civilizations develop in different environments. The project is also intended to ensure the survival of our genome.”
He sat there in stunned silence.
“We thought we could blend in and help your civilization grow in a more constructive direction—until recently. We’ve determined your problems are too severe. It’s too late for our help. Your civilization is a failed experiment. Our work here is finished.”
“—Hear me out, Darren. Some of us, like me, have formed strong relationships while we’ve been here. We’re allowed to take one person back with us.” She held his hand tighter. “I want you to come with me when I leave.”
“Nikki, please, this isn’t funny. You must stop it now.”
“I’m not joking. I understand how overwhelming this must be for you. I’m asking you to be strong.”
“You’re asking me to give up everything and pop off into space with you somewhere. Why can’t you stay here with me?”
“Your civilization will most likely destroy itself,” Nikki said.
“How can you make a statement like that and sound so sure of yourself?”
“To put it in simple terms, we can chart the future of a civilizations based on socio-economic, environmental, birth rates, art, scientific measurements and other factors. Our predictive model comes from thousands of civilizations we have studied.”
Darren strained to wrap his mind around what she was telling him.
“What if you get tired of me?” The words were out of his mouth before he could stop them. His composure was melting like a sandcastle at high tide.
“Don’t be insecure,” she said.
“I’m twenty years older than you.”
“It never occurred to me. The average life span of my people is two hundred years. A twenty-five year difference in couples is quite common.”
“But I’m not going to live that long.”
“You will once you begin taking the bio-agents we’ve developed to stay young. You’re at the height of your powers, Darren. I’m offering you the chance to stay that way for at least another five decades.”
“It sounds too good to be true. For all I know, you’ll put me in a cage five minutes after boarding your ship.”
“Darling,” she said with a gleam in her eye, “we’re vegetarians, not meat eaters.”
He smiled, despite the feeling of utter uncertainty. “Do you think we can last a hundred a fifty years together?”
“Wouldn’t you love to try,” she said, deftly lowering one eyelid.
He leaned close to her. “Do they need actors on your planet?”
“Yes, my darling. You’ll have time for at least five different careers in the dramatic arts if you get bored.”
“Look at me, sitting here thinking only of myself while you’re telling me the end of the world is at hand.”
“There’s nothing you can do about it.”
“Can’t your people warn us in some way?”
“The warning signs are everywhere. Only a handful of people heed them.”
“There has to be a solution.”
“There is, darling Darren. Come with me.”
“You make it sound so simple.”
It’s not that complicated, my love. You have no children. Your parents are gone. And you’re an only child.”
“I’ve taken a lot of chances in my life. But this…I need time to think.”
“I understand completely,” she said. “We’ll talk again after the film wraps. In the meantime, don’t say a word about this to anyone. It could jeopardize my safety.”
“That’s the last thing I’d ever do.”
She looked at him with an intensity he had never seen before. “We can do this, darling. I know we can if you give it a chance. You’re the perfect man for me.”
He squeezed her hand, kissed her, and walked out of the restaurant on unsteady legs.
The woman known to Darren as Nikki turned to watch the sunset through the picture window. The orange sun plunged into the ocean surrounded by a bevy of pastel pink clouds.
Darren was perfect, she thought—bright, handsome, hardy, talented and most importantly, virile. His sperm count ran off the charts. She had tested it herself with a kit hidden in her dressing trailer. It was a miracle the man hadn’t accumulated a brood of children inside or outside of marriage. She guessed it was due to his exemplary character. He didn’t believe in having children if he wasn’t going to be there for them as a proper parent.
It was ironic that Darren was destined to father thousands of children though he didn’t know it yet. He was going to be on the star ship with her one way or another. Preferably, Darren would decide he couldn’t live without her and leave voluntarily. That way, she could break the news to him gradually during the journey to his new home. He would have time to adjust to the idea of becoming an alpha breeding male for her dying race.
She regretted lying about the nature of her mission and the prospect of her lover living another hundred and fifty years. Even with the bio-agents, the strain of steady breeding would shorten Darren’s life span considerably. But there were much worse fates in the universe than sleeping with gorgeous women like herself who possessed brilliant minds and a multitude of fascinating professional abilities.
The new job came with an array of attractive benefits. Aside from his conjugal duties, Darren’s schedule would include a healthy chunk of time in a classroom to avoid his becoming a conversational bore. Good conversation before mating improved the conception rate dramatically.
To avoid psychological problems, Darren would continue his career in the dramatic arts on her planet as she had promised, under careful supervision of course. She might even be his “girlfriend” for a while to make the transition smoother. Yes, Darren would adjust and eventually thrive in his new role. His qualities of optimism and flexibility almost guaranteed it.
The more she thought about it, the more good ideas came to her for selling the new role to Darren. When you sat back and added it all up, she believed he was a lucky man. This was especially true, considering his slim chances of survival on the sordid, troubled world he would soon be leaving behind.