Space Truckin’ plus AI DJ Carl Sagan spinning Snoop Dogg’s ‘Gin and Juice’ on Mars

Here’s another full chapter excerpt from Jack Chaucer’s upcoming sci-fi novel, MARS COLONY AGATHA: NIKKI RED …

CHAPTER 29
SPACE TRUCKIN’
July 7, 2023 — Sol 18
Planum Australe, Mars

Unloading the upright cargo ship proved to be a breeze compared to Starship. The freight elevator was intact and had a purpose, for one, and the door at the base of the vessel gave birth to a ramp, both of which were just wide enough to roll the fully assembled truck right onto the Martian surface. It was the same Tesla model pickup but with neon-purple paint this time, drawing cheers from Nikki.

After a few hours hooked up to a portable charging station — time Pluto and Nikki spent conducting an inventory of the ship’s reserves, and loading water tanks and other supplies into the bays of the two vehicles — Nikki’s head-turning, electric space truck was ready to rumble.

“Elon paints everything else black and white, but the reserve truck is purple?” Pluto wondered aloud with arms up in the air.

“You’re just jealous. I love it,” Nikki said as they both opened their driver doors.

“Hey, black suits me just fine … obviously,” Pluto countered, first pointing at himself and then at her. “Remember, no distracted driving and keep it under 25 at all times.”

“Yes, dad,” Nikki replied.

“I ain’t that old,” he grimaced.

“You sound old.”

Nikki climbed into the truck’s beige interior and wished she could get a whiff through her helmet of whatever “new car smell” might be left after a space voyage and a year on Mars. Then she fastened her safety belt, grabbed the smaller-than-average steering wheel, pushed the green ignition button and said, “Drive.”

Slowly she bounced westward, the cargo ship retreating in her rearview mirror and Pluto’s truck an overly safe 30 feet in front of her. The digital dashboard featured neon green lights, showing her she was driving just 21 mph through the Martian polar dust kicked up by Pluto’s tires. Her truck had 184 miles on it, obviously all from testing runs on Earth. Now it was finally doing the job it was designed for, millions of miles away.

“Doesn’t this thing play any music?” Nikki wondered out loud.

“Yes it does,” a voice answered her, causing her to scream and jump in her seat at the same time. She didn’t breathe as she quickly figured out that the voice had sounded an awful lot like Elon Musk.

“Elon?”

“My name is Nole, the palindrome of Elon,” the voice replied from the surround-sound speakers.

“O … K,” Nikki marveled.

“What is your name?” Nole asked.

“Nikki.”

“Nice to meet you, Nikki.”

“Strange to meet you, Nole … only on Mars, of course. So this is a talking vehicle?”

“AI.”

“Artificial intelligence?”

“Correct.”

“Pluto’s truck didn’t talk.”

“A human question is needed to initiate the AI function on this class of vehicles,” Nole said. “Also, Pluto is not human. Pluto is a space object in our solar system formerly classified as a planet.”

Nikki shook her head in disbelief as she conversed with a computer-voice clone of Elon Musk.

“True, but in this case, it’s a tongue-in-cheek nickname for a large human whose real name is Ulysses ‘Pluto’ Parker. He’s our trusty engineer and one of four astronauts currently on Mars.”

“Congratulations on reaching your destination, Nikki, and finding me in the cargo ship,” the voice said.

“Thank you … I feel like I just let a genie out of the bottle.”

Elon’s voice laughed, startling Nikki even more.

“You understand jokes?” she asked. “If you can call that one.”

“I understand voice inflections that typically articulate humor.”

“Oh. You really are … futuristic.”

“The year is 2023. Correct?”

“Yes,” Nikki confirmed. “Now Nole, can you play me some music because this is a slow and mostly boring ride, except for you.”

“Yes I can. Which song would you like to hear?”

“What are my options?”

“Every song ever recorded on Earth,” Nole replied.

“Wow. Impressive.”

“No songs have been recorded on Mars yet.”

“True, though we should really record Pluto’s version of ‘See You There.’ That was … special,” Nikki said, struggling to say that last word.

“Why are you sad?”

“How … oh … voice inflection. Got it. … Two of our crew members died because we crash-landed … Commander Xander Vermilyea and Specialist Eddy Etergino. Eddy died on impact and Xander died just hours after we got him to stand up on Mars. He’d suffered brain damage in the crash and we think he died of an aneurysm.”

“Thank you for updating me on the status of your crew,” Nole said. “My condolences to you and the remaining astronauts.”

Nikki nodded quickly, wanting to change the subject.

“Thank you. Music please.”

“Which song?”

“I don’t know. You choose, Nole. Something upbeat. Something for this very special occasion — my first drive in a space truck on Mars.”

“Searching,” Nole said. “I found the perfect song.”

“You’re wicked fast, Nole.”

The vehicle’s speakers soon erupted with the thick, crunchy guitars of the 1972 classic “Space Truckin’” by the rock band Deep Purple:

 

“We had a lot of luck on Venus

We always had a ball on Mars

We’re meeting all the groovy people

We’ve rocked the Milky Way so far

We danced around with Borealice

We’re space truckin’ round the stars

Come on Come on Come on

let’s go Space Truckin’

Come on Come on Come on

Space Truckin’

 

Remember when we did the moonshot

And Pony Trekker led the way

We’d move to the Canaveral moon stop

And every naut would dance and sway

We got music in our solar system

We’re space truckin’ round the stars

 

Come on Come on Come on

Let’s go Space Truckin’

Come on Come on Come on

Space Truckin’

 

The fireball that we rode was moving

But now we’ve got a new machine

Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah the freaks said

Man those cats can really swing

They got music in their solar system

They’ve rocked around the Milky Way

They dance around the Borealice

They’re Space Truckin’ every day

 

Come on Come on Come on

Let’s go Space Truckin’

Come on Come on Come on

Space Truckin’

 

Nikki approached base with her truck rocking more from the music than the uneven terrain and parked next to Pluto’s vehicle. The bug-eyed, drop-jaw looks from Jo and Sunny, and then Pluto, as they surrounded her truck would be something she’d treasure for the rest of her life.

“Park,” Nikki told the truck, and then she opened the door.

Just as the guitars were fading, Nikki shouted, “Play that one again, Nole!”

When the song revved up for another go, Nikki laughed and banged her helmet head like she was at a live concert. Her comrades laughed and stared at her in wonder.

“How did you get it to play music? Mine doesn’t!” Pluto whined.

Nikki stopped head-banging for a moment and said, “I just asked the truck if it played music and it started talking back to me … in Elon’s voice!”

“What?!!” they all screamed as the music blared.

“It’s an AI vehicle named Nole — that’s Elon spelled backward!” the giddy junior crew member explained.

“Holy shit!” Sunny shook her. “So cool! Take me for a ride in that thing!”

“Let’s go!” Nikki shouted as Sunny dashed over to ride shotgun.

“Don’t go screwing around like a couple of teenagers and crash it!” Jo warned.

“Yes mom,” a grinning Nikki had to say before closing the door, backing up and heading east again.

“She’s such a smart ass,” Jo said.

“Yeah, she called me ‘dad’ when I told her to keep it under 25,” Pluto scoffed.

“Milennials,” Jo snarled before cracking up.

After watching Nikki and Sunny drive off and take the loud music with them, Pluto was relieved to hear the hum of the heating system.

“Still working. Good.”

“Yup,” Jo confirmed.

“Do you want to see if this one has a Nole in it, too?” Pluto asked, nodding toward the black truck.

“Yup,” she echoed with a smile.

“Get in,” he said as they both did. “So much for getting any work done.”

“All work and no play makes Pluto a dull boy,” Jo pointed out.

“Well then Miss ‘Shining’ … ask it a question,” the engineer told Jo after ordering the truck to drive again.

“Can you play us a song?” the pilot asked, full of hope.

“Yes I can,” the voice replied to claps from an eager Jo.

Pluto realized it wasn’t Elon’s voice, however.

“You’re not Elon … er … Nole,” he said.

“No. My name is Lrac, the palindrome for Carl,” the sort-of-familiar voice said.

“Hey, I think I know that voice,” Jo nodded with a grin. “Can you say ‘billions and billions of stars’ for me?”

Pluto laughed. “No shit?”

“Billions and billions of stars,” announced the voice of the late astronomer Carl Sagan, who gained fame with his TV show, “Cosmos,” back in 1980.

Jo screamed with joy and Pluto applauded, risking no hands on the wheel, even as they bounced over some rocks.

“How bad-ass is that? I’m so glad we got this truck,” Jo said. “Those younger girls probably don’t even know who Carl Sagan is!”

“Stop making me feel old,” Pluto chided her with a big grin. “Let’s get Carl … er the mighty Lrac … to play us a tune already! … I’ve got just the request.”

A moment later, they were bopping along on Mars while cosmic-master DJ Carl Sagan — back from the dead and working in space where he always belonged — spun the 1994 gangster-funk classic, “Gin and Juice,” by Snoop Doggy Dogg.

It only took a few hooky beats for Pluto to feel young again.

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