Friday, February 25, 2022

Emerald of Earth – CHAPTER 8: Blight On The Beanstalk

Almost-thirteen Emerald Marcillon lives with her parents, who have dug up evidence of aliens in Chicxilub Crater in Yucatan, they have found artifacts that point to a long-ago alien war. An alien artificial intelligence called Inamma has survived that war. It tries to steal the artifacts that when assembled, can destroy all of Humanity. But it can’t find them and kills Emerald’s parents. Emerald escapes and is taken into Earth orbit to the SOLAR EXPLORER. Inamma follows Emerald into space, and the ship’s captain, who is also her great-aunt, tries to hide her from Inamma. Emerald holds the key to the artifacts. Emerald is not the best at making friends, but manages to make a few on SOLAR EXPLORER. When her friends and crew members find what Inamma is, they fight together to protect the artifacts.

(I’m posting Fridays, because if you like what you see and you’re a parent/aunt/uncle/friend of the family, you can forward, text, Instagram, or tiktok the story to your child/niece-nephew/friend-of-the-family – and your significant young adult would have Friday night, Saturday, and Sunday to read it, so it won’t interfere with the Homework Schedule.)

The hatch split into ten slices that pulled back into the rim. Emerald took the last three rungs of the ladder slowly so she wouldn’t bang her head. There were four maintenance tubes at 45 degree angles from each other. Lined with screens and keyboards, they could access and monitor every system on the car and on the Beanstalk. They extended from the central shaft to the exterior, and some were capped with transparent ports.

There were three levels above her. She climbed to the top and into one of the four tubes, crawling along the soft material on the floor until her feet hung over the edge. Then she started backing up, her feet going into the tube across the shaft. Her hands touched the edge of the shaft and she stopped. This was the dangerous part. The hatch below was still open. She hoped it being open didn’t turn on any noticeable alarms in the control cabin. The operating manual she’d skimmed hadn’t been clear about the hatch. Would it close on its own after a short time or did she need the key she’d picked from Rachida’s pocket to activate it. She’d planned on leaving it open. Now she searched for the key slot. Below her, the white cloud of ricin gas was rising. Soft thuds on the floor far below told her that the gas was indeed killing rats and other pests who’d lived in the tube that ran from the top to the bottom of the space elevator car.

It would also kill her once it reached her level.

There didn’t seem to be any key slot here. Her pulse roared in her ears and she gulped air squirming across the shaft and all the way into the maintenance tube. She rolled over on her back and saw the outlined rectangle with a key slot in the center. She didn’t care now if it set off an alarm on the control level. She didn’t want to die. She slipped the key in and the pie-slice door closed instantly.

She started breathing again. Eventually she moved again, scooting herself across the shaft and into the tube across from her again. Tiny lights and readouts lined the walls of the tube she was in until she came to the end. She was rewarded by the view through a bubble of ten-centimeter thick quartz glass. She could look above the car, alongside the 100,000-kilometer ribbon joining Earth to the Space Station orbiting at the end of it.

The Beanstalk slid fast and silently past. The sky was a deep, midnight blue and sharp, white pinpoints of stars no longer twinkled. She took a long, slow breath. It was easier to breathe now that she was here. This was a night sky like none she’d ever seen from the Yucatan Peninsula.

That triggered the memory of laying on the beach after the knife-footed robot had destroyed her house. She’d never forget the sound of its knife into sand, but she was leaving that sound behind on Earth, forever, and heading for the infinite silence of space. She’d stayed on the beach for three days, waiting for something to happen. If she hadn’t lived on the Yucatan for the past four years, she’d have been burned to a crisp like the tourists who came to the area to sunbathe. Trees had shaded her at the hottest part of the day, so she was protected from the worst of the sun until Rashida and her team had found her and carried her away.

Into space.

She frowned, squinting. “What’s that?” Something on the Beanstalk; a faint brownish smear ahead in that looked wrong. The passenger car, moving to geostationary orbit was going nearly seven hundred kilometers per hour. It would take almost no time to reach the smear. It looked like an infection, mottled grayish brown, organic. She lifted her ipik level with her face, snapped a picture and turned her head. She could access the internet from it – it just drained the battery faster. She ran through a few queries, mostly getting useless information. The cable was made of extremely long, bundled carbon nanotubules and for a moment, it seemed like it might be possible for them to interact with water and create carbohydrates. But so what? What harm could that cause?

It wouldn’t be long until they reached the blight on the Beanstalk and the car wasn’t slowing down. Emerald took a deep breath, bit her upper lip then plugged into the a computer access portal on the wall.

An instant later, a woman’s voice said from a speaker nearby, “Identify yourself!”

Startled, Emerald tried to sit up and slammed her forehead against the ceiling of the tube. “Ouch! What?”

There was a pause and the voice sounded distant when it said, “It sounds like a little girl!”

“I’m not a little girl!” Emerald snapped. “I’m twelve-and-a-half.”

Another pause, then the woman said, “And what are you doing in a restricted access maintenance tube?”

Emerald said, “That’s not important...”

“Actually, I think it’s very important that I find out how a little girl got into a restricted passage maintenance tube. Would you like to tell me now or should I fill the tube with sleeping gas and send someone up there to drag you out?”

“No! Don’t! There’s something wrong with the Beanstalk! I can see it from the porthole on the top here. There’s something brown on it. It looks organic, like fungus or mold!”

“Right, kid,” replied the voice. They covered the speaker’s microphone, but Emerald thought she heard, “...forward elevator cameras...” Another pause and the voice came back on clearly, “So, who exactly are you, little girl in a restricted access space?”

Emerald bit her upper lip then said, “Emerald.”

“Does Emerald have a last name?”

“Not right now.”

“Smart...” The microphone was muffled again. The speaker clicked and went silent. Scooting back to the porthole, Emerald rubbed her forehead. She knew from reading about the Beanstalk that there was no way to halt the passenger car. It wasn’t exactly like the trains in the Yucatan that could stop if the tracks flooded or a herd of cattle was crossing. She also wasn’t eager to tell the voice that she was the great-niece of one of SOLAR EXPLORER’s vice-captains. In fact, she was pretty sure based on what Dad had said about great aunt Ruby, that she wouldn’t want anyone talking about this little incident and pushing the family name into a bad light.

The passenger car shivered suddenly. A bright light strip over the hatch changed from steady green to flashing red. The voice came back on, louder now to be heard over the pulsing hoot of an emergency klaxon, “This is an emergency. A detached Artificial Intelligence has been dispatched ahead of the passenger car to clear the Beanstalk of an unidentified organic deposit. It will be necessary to close all observation ports during this time, as high intensity ultraviolet lasers will be employed. Please return to your assigned seats and completely strap in. This is an emergency.”

The blaring voice cut off and the softer voice came back on. “Emerald, are you Vice-Captain Marcillon’s great niece?”

Crap. Caught red-handed. She took a deep breath and said, “My name is Emerald Anastasia Nhia Okon Marcillon.”

“Your great aunt’s middle name?”

Emerald scowled then snapped, “Private information.”

“My finger is hovering over the sleep gas release. It should make you sleep for a few hours or days. Did I mention that most people come out of being sleep-gassed throwing up?”

Emerald rolled her eyes. “That’s blackmail!” Saying Ruby’s middle name out loud was going to get her in bigger trouble than getting caught.

“My finger’s getting itchy,” said the voice.

She bit her upper lip, considered getting sleep gassed, then said, “Great aunt Ruby’s middle name is Stellaluna. ”

A loud guffaw was abruptly cut off as the voice said, “Oh, yeah! I will get so much mileage out of this!”

Emerald shook her head. Twin puffs of vapor burst ahead of them as a pair of robots launched from the car and sped ahead. She was gonna be in so much trouble when she saw her great aunt. It was a good thing she hadn’t told the woman great aunt Ruby’s other middle names: Maria Ixazaluoh – the mother of God and the inner divine mother, weaver of our life and symbol of spirit within. She would have definitely died for that revelation.


Guy Stewart is a retired teacher and counselor, with science fiction for young people and adults published in ANALOG Science Fiction and Fact; podcast at CAST OF WONDERS; and in CRICKET the Magazine for Children. For links to his other works, go to For an interview about EMERALD OF EARTH, try this: