Last Girl Standing (short story clip)

Read this story and more in the limitless Visions VII: Universe anthology:

The first symptom of the virus isn’t the sore throat or the vomiting — it’s denial.

Thirteen-year old Amelie was working at her mom’s video rental store in Avalon, an Outer Banks town with a great view of Earth’s rings. A strange customer arrived, telling tales of an alternate Earth where America won the Cold War and the Soviets never nuked the moon. Despite that, life in his alt-Earth wasn’t so great. He said, if she wanted life on her Earth to be good, she must respect the Octopus and listen to its song.

Yeah, he was a nut, but he was more entertaining than the usual tourist.

Then the pandemic came, a ‘Mommuck’ virus that combined the worst of the Spanish flu and rabies. Most of the people who got it died fast, but others turned into raging monsters who had a talent for eating faces.

Eighteen year-old Amelie, armed with a fast bike, her father’s guns and her mother’s determination, is the sole human survivor in Avalon. Everything is hers, from Dirty Dick’s Crab Shop to Miz Daisy’s mushroom patch.

But something is smashing her octopus traps. It’s fast, smart and it’s coming for her. She figures there’s only one former person it could be — the nutty tourist from the alt-Earth.

Concept art for my ‘Murmuration’ series

murmuration

A murmuration of starlings is a system that’s ready to be almost instantly and completely transformed, like metals becoming magnetized or liquid turning to gas. Each starling is connected to every other. When they turns in unison, it’s a phase transition (def. – when a substance changes from a solid, liquid, or gas state to a different state. Every element and substance can transition from one phase to another at a specific combination of temperature and pressure.)

At the individual level, the rules guiding this are relatively simple. When your neighbor moves, so do you. Depending on the flock’s size, speed and individual flight physiologies, the large-scale pattern changes. But we don’t know yet what physiological mechanisms allow this to happen almost simultaneously with two birds separated by hundreds of feet and hundreds of other birds.

The implications extend beyond birds. Starlings may be the most visible and beautiful example of a biological transition that operates in proteins and neurons, hinting at universal principles yet to be understood.

More about Murmuration (via Wired)

Red Planet Plans

mars_base
NASA’s Mars Base concept

Mars : Plans in the Works

NASA is taking a multistep approach to its ultimate goal of putting boots on Mars.
The journey begins in low Earth orbit aboard the International Space Station (ISS), which has hosted rotating crews continuously since November 2000. During this time, NASA and its ISS partners have been learning more and more about how to support astronauts on space missions.

This effort took a big step forward this past March, when NASA astronaut Scott Kelly and cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko wrapped up an unprecedented 11-month mission aboard the orbiting lab that gave researchers new data about the physiological and psychological effects of long-duration spaceflight. (A Mars mission will be long-duration; it takes six to nine months to get to the Red Planet using currently available propulsion technology.)

In the next 10 years, NASA plans to extend the reach of human spaceflight out near the moon, to test spaceflight gear — such as the Space Launch System (SLS) megarocket and Orion crew capsule, both of which are in development — in a “proving ground” in deep space. For example, in the mid-2020s, the agency plans to send astronauts out to lunar orbit, to visit an asteroid boulder dragged there by a robotic spacecraft. (The boulder-snagging first part of this Asteroid Redirect Mission is scheduled to launch in the early 2020s.)

After the proving ground comes the journey to Mars itself. Current plans call for sending astronauts to Mars orbit in the early 2030s, with trips to the surface coming sometime after that. NASA officials have said they hope to eventually set up a small outpost on the Red Planet, where astronauts would search for signs of Mars life and perform other research.

What will we live in?

6 Private Deep Space Habitats to Pave Way to Mars

NASA sets $2.25m prize for 3D printed Mars habitats