The Right Stuff

“I am very pleased to have made the cut because this is an important flight for all of us: Not just for myself, or even for Ellison Enterprises but for the entire future of manned spaceflight.” Dr. Kumar Singh

Dr. Kumar Singh talks about his upcoming flight on the Ellison Enterprises’ Destiny

by Jan Simmons

I got a chance to talk with Doctor Kumar Singh, who has been selected to join the flight crew of the first commercial spaceliner, The E.E. Destiny, on it’s maiden voyage to the stars. Of course, his reputation preceded him but I was taken aback when I actually met him. Unlike the stereotypical scientist, Dr. Singh was a tall handsome man of obvious Indian ancestry with large brown eyes, rugged good looks and thick black hair.

“So, Dr. Singh, is it true that you are the first Indian—”

“Ms. Simmons, I am not here to promote more division of our planet – I am an American citizen of Indian descent and, yes, I am also a citizen of India but my ethnicity has NOTHING to do with this venture. Pardon my bluntness, but I wish to have irrelevant questions stopped now.”

“Of course. What are your thoughts on the upcoming flight?”

“I am very pleased to have made the cut because this is an important flight for all of us: Not just for myself, or even for Ellison Enterprises but for the entire future of manned spaceflight.”

“Dr. Singh, you are an accomplished academic with doctorates in several fields. What are your areas of specialization?”

“My fields of expertise are astrophysics, engineering, and theoretical physics.”

“I also understand that you have served in the United States Air Force.”

“Yes, for 15 years and I have been certified on a number of commercial and military aircraft though, on this mission, I’ll be responsible for navigation and communications.”

“I’ve heard that the number of qualified applicants vying for a spot on the crew of the Destiny was huge. How exactly were you chosen for this prestigious mission? Do you know what criteria was used to make the selections?”

He chuckled. “You would have to ask the selection committee.”

SpaceX
Doctor Singh was pivotal in getting SpaceX’s Falcon9 rocket off the drawing board

“Now, Dr. Singh, could you tell me how you met Niles Ellison and Elon Musk?”

“Oh, I met Elon years ago during a test flight. As for Niles, I’d done some engineering for his firm in the past but he actually came to me, personally, to suggest that I throw my hat into the ring for a seat in the cockpit.”

“We understand one of the passengers is an associate of yours, Dr. Piotr Apostolov?”

He nodded, a smile on his faces. “Yes, Piotr and I are colleagues. We bump heads once in a while, but he’s a good man and an outstanding scientist. Although he’s one of the passengers, we might get a chance to discuss a few things – perhaps even agree to collaborate on one or two projects of interest.”

“The passenger list of Destiny’s maiden voyage is a real ‘who’s who’, isn’t it?”

“It is, indeed. Besides Doctor Apostolov, there will be plenty of luminaries from around the world.”

“Why do you think Ellison Enterprises made the inaugural flight an ‘invitation-only’ affair?”

He chuckles. “You’d have to ask Niles but, to be honest, I think he wants to associate Ellison Enterprises with commercial spaceflight among the world’s ‘movers and shakers’. It’s good business. And, by broadcasting and streaming the event, he guarantees people think of Ellison Enterprises first when they think of a space.”

It was unfortunate that our interview was cut short at this point as Dr. Singh was called away. I wish him as well as the passengers and the rest of the crew the best of luck.

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Horizons: The Art and Music of the City

In Focus: Grace

The young artist who simply goes by Grace has been causing quite a stir in the local culture.  This up-and-coming twenty-five year old has made quite the splash with her love of multiple media’s, and seeming lack of concern about what the critics think of her works.  Her talents range from photography, to paints, charcoal and even tattoos.  

Recollections_by_Grace
One of her first works in mixed media, Grace completed “Recollections” when she was barely thirteen yet showed outstanding promise

The daughter of Henry and Barbara Collins, Grace attended the prestigious Yale University’s School of Art for two years before striking out on her own.  She broke into the scene last year when she was one of the finalists on the popular tattoo contest show Ink’d.  She can often be found watching the events and colorful denizens of such bustling urban centers as Manhattan and Los Angeles from a distance, preparing her next piece.

We had the chance to speak to her during the opening of her display at the Brextal Gallery in Millennium City. The softly spoken artist shared few words with us, instead letting her landscapes, sketches, and painting of the city and it’s rather unique inhabitants speak for her.
“I am just a lens, a camera to capture a moment and pass it on to others.  If someone can capture a look into the truth of this city through my art, that is all I could ever ask for.” she said as she showed us Helter Skelter, a piece showcasing a band of heroes fighting off one of the mechanical monstrosities that was unleashed on our fair city, framed by the iconic skyline of our city.
Helter_Skelter_by_Grace
“Helter Skelter” is a terse, unflinching character study

Of particular interest to those of us who have lived in the city for a while was the fact that the painting didn’t really detail the valiant defenders of the city, or even the terror they were facing.  All those elements were indistinct, undefined in subtle ways.  The true focus of the piece were the many citizens of the city portrayed in exacting detail, showing the impact of the events that happen here on the most often overlooked of those involved.  The common folk, such as you and I.

We look forward to seeing where this young lady chooses to make an impact next.

Pennie: Liquid Sky EP

Smokin’ hot just got an upgrade

Pennie’s six-track EP redefines Indie rock

One of this year’s true finds, Pennie carries the torch of true Indie rock with her finely-etched songs, smokey vocals and electrifying guitar riffs. Raised in Calgary, Alberta, a stone’s throw away from the Saddledome, her refusal to put up with bullying from school staff once saw her dad, a long haul trucker, hauled off to jail and then-thirteen-year-old Penelope Lane expelled for a week for spitting at a teacher.

Pennie
Pennie rivets the audience at last year’s Lollapalooza Music Festival

“If you attract attention, you also attract people who want to take you down,” Pennie says.

Her debut album Liquid Sky released by indie label Mad Dog Records is a must-have. Period. The tracks feature slick golden rhythms, precisely honed melodies, occasional freewheeling and Pennie’s characteristic dirtied, sun-baked vocals that are reminiscent of Bella Donna-era Stevie Nicks.

The eighteen year old could be the face Indie rock desperately needs. She easily holds her ground in the banal sea of unwashed dudes singing about pain, puberty and p***y”. Her jubilant, take-no-shit untamable voice soars with swagger. Songs like “Narcisist” and “Looking for Work” feature Pennie’s bold temperamental octaves, arching over rambling acoustic strums, thumping percussion and harmonized choruses.

It’s been years since a performer has burst onto the music scene with such force and feeling. If Liquid Sky is any indication, Pennie is here to stay.

To Boldly Go… for a Price

Ellison Enterprises is set to make commercial spaceflight a reality

by Paul Kirk | Millennium City Gazette

Next year will mark the 50th anniversary of the first manned lunar mission, during which three Apollo 8 astronauts orbited the moon and gave the U.S. a decisive lead in its space race against the Soviet Union. These days, with NASA’s milestones receding in the national memory, Russian spaceships are the ones ferrying astronauts to and from the International Space Station (ISS). If all goes well, that will soon change.

NASA is counting on commercial efforts to succeed. Even unmanned tests of spaceships “would be a major milestone in getting the U.S. back into launching its own astronauts into space,” says Douglas Messier, managing editor of Parabolic Arc, a commercial-space blog. NASA hasn’t had that capability since it retired the Space Shuttle in 2011.

At the moment, a handful of companies including The Boeing Company and Elon Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies Corporation have spent billions of dollars and countless man hours working toward commercial spaceflight. Yet it is upstart Ellison Enterprises, owned by Millennium City whiz kid Niles Ellison, that is about to boldly go where NASA used to go.

The_Destiny
Artist’s interpretation of The Destiny in orbit

The maiden voyage of The E.E. Destiny will depart Earth from Vandenberg Air Force Base on December 24. Ellison’s spaceship is the latest in a long line of innovations in space technology the sixteen-year-old prodigy has made over an astonishing career which already spans a decade. It has been rumored that Ellison Enterprises also expect to begin construction of a lunar station in the new year though Ellison has declined to comment.

The Destiny will have a crew compliment of twelve and carry eighty-nine passengers, who were all personally invited by sixteen-year-old Ellison. The passenger manifest reads like an eclectic shopping list of the world’s most talented, most influential and most beautiful people including Hollywood heartthrob George Roundy, acclaimed Russian astrophysicist Piotr Apostolov, best-selling British novelist Cassandra Hastings and Canadian singer-songwriter Pennie.

The entire flight will be broadcast around the world and promises to be the hottest party in history. After the Destiny’s inaugural flight, Ellison says The Destiny will make monthly moon-orbiting flybys beginning in January. Sources in Ellison Enterprises have confirmed that tickets for the first cruise are already sold out. The company won’t say how much the tickets cost but the price is likely to be far more than the $40 million the last private astronaut, Canadian billionaire Guy Laliberté, paid the Russians to reach the ISS almost a decade ago.

Themis

AKA Abigail Morgenstern, Andromeda Nomothetou; UNTIL Superhuman Registry No.: 140555

Themis
Themis presiding over the induction of a new member of The Squadron Supreme

Base of Operations: Mobile

Group Affiliation: Squadron Supreme

Alignment: Good

Motivation: Upholding the good

Abilities: The subject has displayed a vast array of metahuman abilities of indeterminate power and scope though she usually employs them in a defensive capacity

Skills: The subject has displayed a mastery of all human languages and it is theorized that she can communicate with any sentient creature. The subject is an expert in world history, international law, political science, divinatory systems and comparative religion. The subject is also well-versed in the use of bladed weapons but prefers to avoid combat whenever possible.

Paraphernalia: The subject can alter her appearance at will, alternating between her traditional form to that of an elderly woman in her eighties to one in her late twenties, and will manifest whatever accoutrements are required

Vulnerabilities: Although her power levels were reduced when she was banished from Olympus, no vulnerabilities have been evidenced

Threat Level: Alpha

The blindfolded heroine known as Themis (Greek: Θέμις) is in fact the ancient Greek goddess of the same name. What little is known of her is based primarily on mythological sources.

Themis is the goddess of divine order, law, and justice. A member of the race of primordial gods called Titans, the precursors of the Olympian deities, Themis was also a goddess of prophecy who presided over the most ancient oracles, including the Oracle of Delphi. In this role, she served as the intermediary between humanity and the gods, instructing the former in the primal laws of justice and morality.

Themis and her counterpart Nemesis (Greek: Νέμεσις) have a complex relationship. The two are in some ways polar opposites: while Themis is benevolent and merciful, Nemesis is wrathful and merciless. What is clear is that, when the laws expounded by Themis are disregarded, Nemesis exacts swift and often terrible retribution. As such, the two act as divine gatekeepers.

Themis was a paramour of Zeus and also his first counselor, often represented seated beside his throne advising him on the precepts of divine law and the rules of fate. Their tryst produced the three goddesses known collectively as the Moirai (Ancient Greek: Μοῖραι), or Fates: Clotho, the Weaver; Lachesis, the Lot-caster; and Atropos, the Inevitable. Furious with Zeus over his affair with Themis but unable to seek vengeance upon him, Hera, Wife of Zeus and Queen of Olympus, instead banished her from Olympus for all eternity. Despite her liaison with her husband, Themis was held in such high regard that even Hera addressed her as “Lady Themis.”

The immortal goddess spent the next several millennia amongst humanity, striving to foster the ideals that would herald the next step in mankind’s evolution as a species yet she abstained from taking an active part in the shaping of history on the grounds that humanity had to reach the heavens while standing on its own feet. However, the threats facing her mortal charges have forced Themis to take a more active role in the affairs of humanity.

Cloak

AKA Sharla, Cloak; UNTIL Superhuman Registry No.: 259254

Cloak
Cloak fighting alongside members of The Squadron Supreme against her father Takofanes

Base of Operations: Mobile

Group Affiliation: Squadron Academy

Alignment: Good

Motivation: Unwanted power

Abilities: The subject has evidenced a wide range of potent mystical abilities of indeterminate magnitude including the healing of injuries, the raising of the dead, the projection of eldritch bolts and the creation of force fields

Skills: Occultist specializing in ritual enchantment and ceremonial conjuration; polyglot with a mastery of the languages spoken in ancient Ambrethel as well as contemporary English, Ancient Greek, Scottish and Irish Gaelic, Biblical Hebrew, Ancient Egyptian, Latin, and several Arabic dialects

Paraphernalia: N/A

Vulnerabilities: N/A

Threat Level: Beta

Tens of thousands of years before Atlantis sank beneath the waves, there existed on Earth a land out of legend called Ambrethel. Composed of numerous kingdoms, duchies and city-states which often vied against each other for power, Ambrethel was rife with magic and men coexisted with such legendary creatures as dwarves, elves and orcs. Technology as we know it had not advanced beyond the level prevalent in the Middle Ages because magic was both more ubiquitous and more powerful than it is today.

Ambrethel
Ambrethel in the year 5000 SE

In the year 3333 of the Second Epoch, approximately 69,000 years ago, an unprecedented solar eclipse that darkened all of Ambrethel heralded the birth of Kal-Turak, the Ravager of Men. It is believed that Kal-Turak was the offspring of a sorcerer-warlord known only as The Lord of the Graven Spear and the sister of the demon-lord Krim called enigmatically The Dark Mother. Regardless of his ancestry, the then-mortal Kal-Turak began amassing enough dark power to subjugate the peoples of Ambrethel. By 4915 SE, he had become powerful enough to claim the northern part of Arduna for himself.

Erecting a protective barrier around his territory, Kal-Turak built his stronghold, Darkspire, from which he embarked on a systematic campaign to conquer Ambrethel. By 5278 SE, he had become undisputed ruler of the world yet, despite his vast power, he was still mortal and it was this flaw that would one day lead to his downfall. To achieve true immortality, it was foretold that he would have to sacrifice his only child before allowing himself to be slain with a blade forged during the conjunction of four stars.

Abducting Valona, the daughter of Dravin XI, Emperor of the Sirrenic Empire, Kal-Turak impregnated her. Valona suffered such horrific violation that she slipped into a coma never to awaken. Nine months later, the comatose young woman gave birth to a girl-child that had inherited her mother’s great beauty and her father’s great power. Naming the child Sharla (Sirrenic: Destiny), Kal-Turak permitted her free reign of Darkspire while her grandmother tutored her in the ways of the arcane arts. When The Army of the Four People’s led by the paladin Venghrest marched on Darkspire in 5511 SE, Kal-Turak sacrificed his eighteen-year-old daughter without hesitation.

Kal-Turak fell in battle only to rise nearly two thousand years later in fulfillment of the prophecy as the immortal Takofanes. Now more powerful than ever, the Archlich conquered Ambrethel once again and held sway over its people for two centuries. Refusing to bow to the will of the Archlich, the free peoples of Ambrethel banded together for one last desperate assault. So great were the magical forces unleashed in the final battle between Takofanes and the assembled mages of Ambrethel that the world was rent asunder. However, before their world ended, the victors buried Takofanes in a crypt deep underground, the mummified corpse of his daughter serving as a talisman to bind his power.

The Archlich rose from his death-like slumber in 1987 but so did his daughter. Since then, Sharla, now calling herself Cloak (Serrenic: Cursed) scoured the world for mystical artifacts powerful enough to recreate the spell that had rendered her father powerless. Takofanes had regained so much of his former power that he would have subjugated the world when he resurfaced recently had Cloak not stood against her father with Earth’s heroes.

Progenitors, The

Progenitor_Worldship
Image taken by a Malvan scout ship over 143,000 years ago of the Progenitor’s Worldship, a spherical vessel with a surface diameter of 3,450 kilometers

Little is known about the race of godlike beings known as the Progenitors. Even such ancient space-faring races as the Malvans are in the dark as to the origins and goals of these enigmatic beings of extraordinary power. All that is known is that the Progenitors travel the stars in search of planetary systems containing nascent life in a spherical vessel approximately the size of Earth’s moon.

Once a planet with suitable life forms has been discovered, the Progenitors conduct wide-scale genetic experimentation on one or more promising species, often returning millions of years later for further experimentation as they did on Earth when the Progenitors created a genetic offshoot of mainstream humanity called the Empyreans. The Progenitors leave their guinea pigs to their own devices but invariably return to record their progress at some unknown time.

It is unclear why the Progenitors conduct these experiments and what their ultimate goal is. However, it is believed that the Progenitors visit the subjects of their genetic tinkering a fourth time to judge their worthiness. In the only recorded instance in galactic history where the Progenitors visited a planet a fourth time, they wiped it clean of all life, leaving behind a biosphere capable of supporting only the most rudimentary forms of life.

The Progenitors have visited the Earth twice: the last time being over 500,000 years ago.