April 18, 2024

Verba ex Machina

words from the machine

The Land of the Rising Sun

3 min read

Photo by WikiImages on Pixabay

This is a bit different than the other content I’ve posted. Rather than being all or nearly all machine generated, this story is machine assisted. The original prompt was generated by the model, and then the story was written a line or two at a time with the model providing suggestions as to how to continue the story.

“Remember citizens that the sun has never set, it is still rising, but the day has never been the same since the Great War.” The sign off for the daily news broadcast had been the same for as long as Gregor could remember, and it was true. It’s not like he needed a reminder during his excursion out onto the surface though.

As the inner airlock door opened, clouds of steam billowed out into the interior of the base. Massive ventilation fans spun to life, clearing the air in seconds as Gregor stepped through into the room. A pair of technicians who resembled medieval blacksmiths more than anything else rushed forward and began attacking his suit with hammers and pry bars.

Removing the armored suits was always a race. The scale-like overlapping plates had to be tightened frequently until the suit reached equilibrium on the surface. Too slow and the cooling plates would contract, trapping the wearer inside until they were cut free. Gregor shrugged off the remnants of the outer layer of the suit and quickly moved to the far side of the room away from the technicians who were stripping down the armor into its component parts so they could be cooled, inspected, and prepared for another use.

“Well, that didn’t take long,” Gregor muttered, pulling his inner helmet off, and then removing his gloves. He grabbed his maintenance checklist from his locker and recorded the work he had done during his trip, noting what work would need to be completed by the next engineer scheduled to head to the surface. He glanced through the list. There were no items on the list that would require more than a couple of hours of hard labor. Barely a quarter of the sun was above the horizon and the equipment failures were already coming fast than they had just last year. None of the equipment was meant for this environment, he knew he and everyone in the colony was damned lucky to have survived this long.

He felt a pang of regret as his thoughts turned to those that had been lost. The Great War, at least that’s what they called it, had been between other much larger factions twenty years ago. Gregor and his then crewmates were conducting a mining survey of a dwarf planet close to the primary in this system. The shot that forced them down onto the planet hadn’t even been fired at them, just a stray projectile that had missed someone else. It would have continued on to infinity had their ship not gotten in the way.

They crashed near the terminator, no communications, and no engines. They did the only thing they knew how to do. They dug. It took months, but they dug a shelter from the approaching heat, and they hadn’t stopped digging in the twelve years since the crash. They salvaged everything they could from the ship itself, repurposing the systems to build their underground shelter. If they had more time, they could have made repairs and gotten off the planet, but as the daily broadcast reminded him and everyone else, the sun was still rising.

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