Friday, August 26, 2022

Emerald of Earth – EPISODE 32: BLACKSUN

THE STORY SO FAR: Emerald Marcillon’s parents excavated artifacts in the Chicxilub Crater that point to a long-ago alien war that spilled over to Earth. Inamma, an alien AI survived the war and will kill to retrieve the artifacts. When assembled, the AI intends to create a weapon that will destroy all of Humanity – thinking we are descendants of its ancient enemies. Emerald’s parents are dead, and she has escaped Earth to the SOLAR EXPLORER but finds that Inamma has followed her. The crew, aware of the origin of the artifacts, plan to protect her and hides her among the rest of the young people in the crew. Emerald lives with autism and making friends is difficult. She has a few good friends now, and while she holds the key to the artifacts, she has discovered the sport of pryzhok, and the odd hiding places the young players have hidden their clandestine pryzhok sphere. It appears that Inamma is on to them all…

(If you like what you see, share this link with a friend! This is where the story starts -- Season 1, Episode 1 is at the bottom:

“What?” said Daniel.

Colonel Berg flipped up his sun goggles and glared at them, “We saw you enter the desert and hide behind the sand dune. Before we could fly an eye here, the whole system crashed and we have no idea what was going on. Then suddenly it came back on and you five are standing right here.” One of the other security guards coughed into her hand and Colonel Berg amended himself, “I scrambled a crew. My squad second figures ‘cause I’ve dealt with Team Twelve before in,” he shot Daniel a dark look, “...certain other incidents, I should lead. Then we get here and find you all happy as clams – and there’s a stolen Zepp hovering nearby.” He planted his fists on his hips. He lowered his voice an spoke slowly, “What is going on here?”

They exchanged looks. Finally, Daniel said, “Bridge granted us a week of vacation, so I thought I’d show Emerald Marcillon,” he stressed Emerald’s last name, “The Core Trail.” He frowned then asked, “How do you think the Zepp got here?”

Berg snorted, “You stole it.”

Daniel looked at Emerald, Søren, Izegbe, and Ayaka, shrugged, held out his hands, and said, “None of us have ever flown a Zepp before...”

“Easy as pie. Shove the joystick in the direction you want to go and push the thrust pedal. It about drives itself with no winds to push it around.”

Emerald said, “There’s no one who was doing some kind of research here today? Like maybe light level or heat studies? Animal population counts?”

Berg gave her an odd look then said, “The only thing in this part of the Core to count is grains of sand. And there’s no one scheduled to count them – or fly the Zepp here today.”

“No one?” Ayaka and Izegbe said in unison.

“Why?” Berg asked, gesturing. The other security people’s antigrav disks rose into the air and they started flying in an expanding spiral around the Zepp.

Daniel looked at Søren, Izegbe, and Ayaka then down at Emerald. She said, “We thought we saw a person – a woman – jump from the Zepp.”

He turned and pinned her with the intensity of his eyes. “Do you think someone tried to kill themselves?”

“No!” Søren exclaimed, pointing at the Zepp, “She jumped from the door to the spike on a zipline.”

“A what?” said Emerald.

“A pair of wheels with a handle that rides on a cable. They have them at the playground in the Core. She used it to get from the Zepp to the ground. She had two boxes. We saw her check one. Then...”

Daniel cut in, “Then we went behind the dune to talk. When we came back out, she was gone and the Zepp was still there.”

Ayaka said, “If you don’t believe us, check the security sensors.”

Berg glared at them and said slowly, “The sensors in this area all went out at the same time.” He shook his head, “I don’t know how you kids could manage that.” He studied them thoughtfully then said, “But if there’s a way for you to do it, then there’s a way for me to find out. There’s something going on here that you’re hiding from me – from Security and from your parents,” he glanced at Emerald, “or guardians. I’m going to get to the bottom of it. Mark my words.” He lifted his chin, “I want you as far from here as possible. Take the bolus in the base of the Hot spike.” No one moved. He snarled, “I said, ‘go!’”

They got.

Berg had programmed the Hot spike bolus to travel non-stop to the Cold spike station. They couldn’t get any farther from the Hot spike than Cold spike.

The door squelched open and a gust of frigid wind drove a rush of snow into the car.

Izegbe screamed and shouted, “Shut the door! Shut the door!”

Daniel slapped the panel a half dozen times before it closed and he keyed in the address of the nearest lift station to Congo Eighth teen hangout. Until they got there, by unspoken agreement, they only talked about the coming Jump playoffs and the outlawed-but-ignored pryzhok tournament going on under cover of the real games. When they got there, they ordered and headed for a corner table where they could watch both the main door and the kitchen.

They put their heads together after eating nachos drizzled with cheese sauce and hot peppers as if it were lentil stew and cardboard triangles.

Izegbe said, “Why didn’t you tell Berg the truth about the lady?”

“If he didn’t know Rashida had disappeared, then I wasn’t about to tell him! Especially since he thinks I’m just being a kid and imagining stuff.”

Daniel shook his head as if he had ringing in his ears and muttered, waving their words away and said, “Nobody else can know.”

They stared at him then Ayaka said, “Why not? They have guns! They could kill Inamma!”

“Bridge didn’t see anything,” Søren said. “They don’t know what’s going on.”

“What are we gonna do?” Emerald said. Everyone shushed her. “It’s me Inamma wants!”

“I think it’s safe to say it wants all of us now,” Daniel said.

“What makes you think that?” Izegbe said.

“If this robot can bugger security sensors, I think it knows we’re on the same IT Track.”

“Maybe it didn’t know we were gonna be in the desert?” Søren said.

Daniel rolled his eyes, “How do you figure that? You read its mind?”

“What if it wanted what was in those two boxes we saw? It could have planned to ambush Rashida,” he glanced at Emerald and added, “Maybe it still doesn’t know that we all saw it. Just because it’s a robot doesn’t mean that it’s omnipotent. Besides, I don’t see how a Lemur IIa can have a brain of its own. I mean, the originals had a brain the size of your hand.”

Daniel and Emerald shook their heads. Emerald said, “It’s more than just an old NASA robot. The mind that’s been uploaded is ancient. I think it’s an artifact – something Mom and Dad dug up in Chicxulub. Maybe even alien. Maybe it’s a memory chip or a...a...micro personality computer or something.”

Daniel stared at her for a long moment before Ayaka said, “If it had known we were watching, there’s nothing we can do to stop it from digging under us and dragging us down just like it did to her.”

“There were five of us,” said Emerald. “But I don’t know where I’d be now if I was alone.”

Søren said, “You’d be in less trouble, that’s for sure.” They managed a weak laugh. He scooped the last of the cheese sauce from the bottom of the nacho bowl and said, “I’m gonna get some more. I’m still hungry.” He stood up.

Ayaka said, “Hang on. I got a better idea. I know a place where we can get better food than this today.” She looked left and right, like she was in a spy movie. “Plus, we can get out of here. You never know who might be watching us. There’s a place we could go that there isn’t any surveillance. You all know, ‘The hills have eyes’,” she added, obviously quoting something.

“We don’t have any hills,” Emerald said.

Søren put down the bowl, “I’m all for the food part!”

Daniel added, “I get the ‘eyes’ part, and I’m hungry, too.”

Ayaka had a sly look then lowered her voice, “You have to trust me completely.” They all nodded slowly. Ayaka stood and without another word, left the hangout.

Twenty minutes later, Emerald said, “Where are you taking us?”

“Shhh!” Ayaka hissed. Following Ayaka’s lead, all of them pressed against a long wall across from the lift doors, which had squelched shut and cut off the light a moment ago. “We’re on Level Eleven,” she whispered. “Now keep it down or we’ll never get there.”

Izegbe whispered, “You’re crazy! There’s no ‘there’ to get to! It’s bare – I don’t even think it has an atmosphere yet,”

“We know Level 12 has an atmosphere. This level does, too. But you people can stay here if you want.” She slipped around the corner. Søren was right behind her and Emerald behind him.

Daniel and Izegbe waited and finally Daniel sighed and followed. He whispered, “See you later.”

“Oh, shut up,” Izegbe said and padded after him.

They caught up to the other three as Ayaka said to Emerald, “Gimme your ipik.”


“Your ipik has a tracer in it.”

“How do you know?”

“If you were confined to quarters for two weeks except for IT – no music, computer or social time – how do you think Bridge could monitor you?”

“Hallway monitors like they have down on Earth?”

Ayaka snorted. “SOLAREX is a technophile’s dream come true, sister.”

“I’m not your sister,” Emerald said, irritated. She reached back and undid the tektite necklace clasp, rubbing the welt.

Slipping the necklace into her pocket, she tuned back in as Ayaka was saying, “...everything on SOLAREX is integrated. That means they can spy on whoever they want to.”

Emerald said, “What can you do about that?”

Ayaka smirked. “SOLAREX is crewed by geniuses and their parents.” She took out her own ipik and pulled what looked like an antenna from it. She fiddled with the ipik’s controls and touched the antenna to Emerald’s ipik. It made a double blip, hummed then went silent.

“What did you do?” Emerald exclaimed, grabbing her ipik from Ayaka.

“I neutralized the tracker. Now you can go wherever you want again. Everybody else did it before the ship got crowded. Here’s your initiation into freedom.” Daniel, Søren and Izegbe nodded.

“Where are we going?” Emerald asked.

“I heard from my brother that there’s a carnival up here.”

Izegbe exclaimed, “You believed him? I thought he wouldn’t tell the truth about the color of the clothes he was wearing while you were looking at them. You believe him about a rumor of a carnival?” She stomped on the words “rumor” and “carnival”.

“Hey! I thought it’d be fun! Besides, Jun doesn’t lie.”

“But you said...” Izegbe began.

“I changed my mind! He’s my brother! Besides, he could have been mistaken about that bootleg Miyazaki total immersion version of SPIRITED AWAY. Or someone lied to him.”

Emerald said, “What if my great aunt hears I came here? I could be...I could be...”

“You could be calming down, stupid! If you don’t want to go to BlackSun, just go back.”

Emerald could almost hear, “You big baby!”, but she scowled instead and said, “What’s BlackSun?”

“That’s what Jun called the carnival.” She gestured over her

In the distance, they could see that lampposts made a line arrowing directly away from the elevator across a smooth, black floor, each one shedding a narrow pool of light at the base of the post. They could also see that there was a group of eight young men, women and teens squatting under the closest lamp, playing a dice game. They looked up when Daniel, Søren, Izegbe, Ayaka, and Emerald appeared.

As one, they stood. “What are you doing here?” the broadest one called, striding toward them. His shoulders were almost twice as wide as Daniel’s were and his biceps were larger around than Izegbe’s thigh.

Ayaka stammered, “My brother told me about BlackSun.”

They laughed. Biceps-Like-Thighs said, “What’s your brother’s name?”


A tall, slender girl said, “I don’t know anyone named Jun.”

Another piped in, “I don’t either. Chuck, you ever hear of a kid named Jun?”

The older boy shook his head. “Looks like what we have here, boys, is intruders.”

“Wha’dyawant?” he said, strutting up to them. Ayaka glared, but she wasn’t big enough to intimidate a cornstalk let alone a bullyboy.

Emerald, however, was. She held up her hands to Daniel, Søren and Izegbe and stepped from behind Ayaka. She drew herself up to her full height – one point seven meters – and strode to him, pushing up her sleeves. She said, “We want to go see the carnival. Now, if you wanna play rough, I’m game.” She stepped back, falling into a taekwondo stance. She said softly, “Are you?”

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 online works, go to For an interview with me about EMERALD OF EARTH, try this: