The Extinction Protocol

This short piece has been written for the November 2018 Blog Battle.  To find out more click the link:

The word for the month is EDUCATE.

SOL670 Olympus Colony:

“Colony Log Commander James O’Neill: NASA are sending me a priority message on the secure comms channel in about five minutes. I’m not sure what to expect from this, one thing I learned in the air force was to be worried when something unusual and out of character happened, this it right up there with out of character. All I can do is see what they have to say.”

Sat back in his chair in his habitation module waiting, O’Neill’s mind churned. Then the notification lamp lit up on his computer. The lines of the text only message came through line by line.

Message from NASA: 04-10-2056                                                                                Authorization code:20350524185245
From Senior administrator RE: Extinction Protocol.

  • Asteroid KE567342 on direct collision with Earth, estimated impact 19 days from now somewhere in the vicinity of the African continent.
  • Projection of loss of life on Earth: Total.
  • Projection of Earth status after impact: uninhabitable by human or any known Earth lifeforms.
  • While able Earth will be sending all available resource to Mars to keep human habitation possible. We expect the Martian colonies to be able to be sustainable for three more years when this has been delivered. Some additional personnel will be sent to support Martian colony activities and ensure as much as possible the safe delivery of two population bombs.

Summary of actions to be carried out by NASA controlled Martian colonies:

  1. Ensure temporary sterilisation of all colonists.
  2. Educate all colonists on the situation and how Mars could still be sustainable after supplies have expired.
  3. Recommend restricted and controlled release of this information in order to maintain discipline and morale.
  4. Further information will be coming soon.

End of message.

Not quite able to take it all in, O’Neill stared in stunned silence at the message. Emotions ran through him for a moment like a fire, he had family, friends places he had seen and wanted to see all of which would be no more. In anger he threw to the computer and everything on the desk across the room. It felt like a million regrets passed though his mind. Finally after what seemed to him like an age reason came back to him.  Everyone on Mars was going to outlive the rest of the Human race back home. Did that mean they were in a better place? He wasn’t so sure.

Thinking for a moment he had to deliver this in a way that was going to distract everyone. Pressing a console button cleared his throat. “Initiate emergency colony survival protocol, I repeat initiate the emergency survival protocol.” A voice at the end acknowledged the order, the lights dimmed and a claxon sounded. He knew in moments all personnel would be up and attending stations.

He pressed another button “Dr Cheung, all station inhabitants are to be administered a NRS capsule effective immediately.”

“Understood” a voice replied.

O’Neill listened to the commotion and waited for all to be present in the hub, finally he stood up. Now he had to tell them.

It went well O’Neill thought. About as well as can be expected, while they all waited the good doctor administered the twenty seven colonists at the station their NRS capsules. Embedded in the body these slowly released chemicals that ensured reproduction was impossible and helped to control chemical imbalances leading to hunger and anxieties. They were a bit like the pill, a weight loss tablet and a sedative all rolled into one. They lasted up to twelve weeks. In that time the situation would be better known.

“Do we know exactly what they’re sending?” Emily asked.

“Not yet” 
O’Neill shook his head. “I hope to learn more in the next few days.” But what I do know is that we are now almost solely responsible for our own survival. We have an estimated three years before all supplies are exhausted, in that time we need have educated ourselves to create food, water and prolong the life of resources and materials. If we do this in time the the solar panels will need to be replaced or equipment maintained.”

O’Neill’s look was grim “We have to be able to create Earth technologies here, somehow. In three days I need to have a list to give to control of any and all information we might need. I don’t know but if we get in early enough we might even be able to ask for materials to be sent. This is possible but considering the time frame doubtful”

“Break into your teams and get thinking. Three days people, we need a short and a long term plan.” With that he turned and walked out of the control hub, a door slid open and inside was humming and droning of machinery.

“James!” a voice shouted from behind him.

O’Neill spun round “Melissa! Dammit don’t do that – you scared the sh-“

“What’s happening with the other stations?” She shouted.

“What do you mean?”

“Have they been told?!?”

“I haven’t but I imagine each base’s commander will have been told. Why?”

Melissa pulled him into a quieter area and shut the door. “Each of the other stations have a lot of resource that everyone is going to need. Utopia station even has a launcher that can get back to Endeavour when is passes by in three months.”

“Getting to Endeavour is no good, the only place it can go to is Earth. What’s your point?”

“My point is that what if the other colonies decide that the others are expendable in light of the fact that Earth will be gone? If they start raiding other bases they could prolong their survival time.”

O’Neill thought for a moment “I see where you’re at. But these are all educated and rational people, we should be able to trust everyone here to work together… Right?”

Melissa looked at him “So why do you suddenly look doubtful?”

O’Neill didn’t answer, thoughts of the colonies turning against each other had been the last thing on his mind, yet now the seed was planted was a real possibility. That’s what worried him most, if this was brought to common attention, could it sow the seed or if others were already thinking about it. 

Finally he spoke up “Because now I have them and how we deal with this will decide on whether we all survive or  just as much as everything else we have to deal with.”

“What do we do?”

“Tread very, very carefully. Find Ben and bring him to my hab module. But without being weird or suspicious.” Just then his wrist com beeped through a notification. 

“What’s that?”

“More from Earth. Hopefully something more solid about what’s coming this way. Go and get Ben.”

Melissa nodded, just before she opened the door O’Neill stopped her.

“I mean it when I say don’t arouse suspicion, if we start something with this we won’t need any asteroid to kill us. We’ll do it all by ourselves.”

Melissa nodded and disappeared, O’Neill suddenly felt cold, following after Melissa he wasn’t sure if was the fuel cells or where this all might end chilled his bones.

To be continued?

©Simon Farnell 2018

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Planet Simon’s Weekly Orbit -Blog Date 48-2018

Hi there bloggies – happy Monday! Ok – let me get this out of the way now… sorry. I said I had a few things to post and all I can do is apologise becasue I ran out of week. The way things are going I’m likely to run out of week this week too! BUT… I have a few things I really should be posting about, so hopefully you never know I might get something out this week. Especially look out for my blog battle story.

Onto other things – who has tried out the the Gutenberg editor? I have to say i’t s tricky little watname and it doesn’t have a few things which I would really like. But it makes some sense, so added to my list for you will be a geeky guide to the Gutenberg post editor. Anyone who has any questions on it let me know and I’ll try and address them.

There’s not much more to say really except I hope that you’re all keeping calm and looking forward to the impending doom festive season as much as I am. I can’t believe that there’s only 35 days left until the end of the year and I have things to think about which I can’t… 

I’ve also in the last week had a clash of views with a blogger, nothing bad but as they’re a friend it did take me back a bit especially as it was over something which is kind of core to what inspires me. I’m not going to give details but they’ve made it clear they’re not following here and it’s fine. We’re still friends just disagreeing on some views.

Has this been something that’s happened to you? What did you do?

Have a great week all – keep smiling and writing!

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Planet Simon’s Weekly Orbit -Blog Date 47-2018

Hello and welcome to you my fellow bloggies, 

Hi there bloggies! Here we and the Planet Simon blog orbit completes another trip around the blogoshpere.What’s new this week – well it’s mixed. In terms of what went up on my blog – not a lot, I posted some space stuff on Friday just because but apart from that not much.

But I am trying to get used to the new post editor from WordPress. In a word – weird. It’s different from the last one as it seems to focus on using blocks. I’m still getting used to it but I get it, basically the way it works is each part of a post is a block you add to it, either text a picture or whatever. 

The clever thing is that when you set up reusable blocks you can edit them and when they do anywhere you’ve used them automatically updates. That’s what I know so far but I am annoyed a bit as there’s no copy post option and wheres the word counter?!?. Anyone else using it? What do you think?

In terms of what’s going on this week well I’m making no promises but I’m hoping to get a couple of new posts out this week at least. If you’re lucky you might get my thoughts on the new Star Trek Discovery after i’ve finally finished watching season 1.

Star Trek Discovery

I’m also in the middle of more work on my examination of concepts in science fiction – dissecting some of the simple concepts I’ve noticed and putting in my thoughts on the alternatives.

Then there’s a bit more to say on digital art and some more fun ways to use Gimp. 

Also to note for the future my Solar System Exploration series has only paused for now, I’m working on something pretty cool which I’m hoping I can share with you all soon and add more to this and get to the core of what we’ve been doing out there.

Along with all this I’ve been thinking about the Planet Simon blog and branding thing, I’ve had some good ideas from some people and I have to go away and research all of this, create designs and all that good stuff. So watch this space.

I’m also wondering about putting more of the more random aspects of the blog that some have come to love and have been lost, more of the personal things that I’ve been trying to field into the other blog. It’s a strange thing to be coming round full circle. As I said earlier in the year I have no idea what to do – I still don’t. Can someone help me I think I’m ill!

Anyways, keep well bloggies and see you about – keep smiling and writing!

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NASA Learns More About Interstellar Visitor ‘Oumuamua

This artist’s impression shows the first interstellar asteroid: `Oumuamua. This unique object was discovered on 19 October 2017 by the Pan-STARRS 1 telescope in Hawai`i. Subsequent observations from ESO’s Very Large Telescope in Chile and other observatories around the world show that it was travelling through space for millions of years before its chance encounter with our star system. `Oumuamua seems to be a dark red highly-elongated metallic or rocky object, about 400 metres long, and is unlike anything normally found in the Solar System.

NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope has helped scientists get a better idea of the size of ‘Oumuamua — the first known interstellar object to visit our solar system.

Source: NASA Learns More About Interstellar Visitor ‘Oumuamua

No ownership claimed on images or materials: Credit NASA

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International Team, NASA Make Unexpected Discovery Under Greenland Ice

An international team of researchers, including a NASA glaciologist, has discovered a large meteorite impact crater hiding beneath more than a half-mile of ice in northwest Greenland. The crater — the first of any size found under the Greenland ice sheet — is one of the 25 largest impact craters on Earth, measuring roughly 1,000 feet deep and more than 19 miles in diameter, an area slightly larger than that inside Washington’s Capital Beltway.

The group, led by researchers from the University of Copenhagen’s Centre for GeoGenetics at the Natural History Museum of Denmark worked for the past three years to verify their discovery, which they initially made in 2015 using NASA data. Their finding is published in the Nov. 14 issue of the journal Science Advances.

Click on the link for more info:

No ownership claimed on images of materia – Credit NASA

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How to make a fantasy map with GIMP

A great post from Rebecca on using Gimp to create fantasy maps.

Rebecca Alasdair


At the end of September, I put up online a map (see below) I had created for my WIP fantasy series Graceborn. I was touched by everyone’s enthusiasm for my map, and I received a LOAD of questions about how I made it! So here it is—the post I promised on how to make a map like mine.

First off, a preliminary note: the program I used is called GIMP (more details below). This post is not a step-by-step guide on how to use GIMP, because there are WAY better sources of information out there on that. I have included one such video tutorial in this post, which I relied upon heavily while creating my map, and you might find useful. Anyway, I hope you enjoy this, and I’d love to hear from you if you make your own fantasy maps!!


Step 1 – Sketch your map…

View original post 937 more words

Planet Simon’s Weekly Orbit -Blog Date 46-2018

Hi there bloggies!

Here we and the Planet Simon blog orbit completes another trip around the blogoshpere. I don’t know about you guys but the impending sight of the end of 2018 is bringing all kind of business and stuff that’s making spare time hard to find. I’m trying to ignore Christmas but this is getting harder and harder as the day looms closer. I’m sorry to have to mumble the C word… forgive me.


One thing that I’ve noticed is that my guest post with Ari has been rather popular, so I’m putting it up again to make sure you guys all get the chance to see it:



As well as this there were a couple of arty posts that I put up which I hope you enjoyed. Firstly was my post Digital Art with GIMP – Creating a Starship this was the result of working on a drawing on and off for months… have a look!




The other arty post was how I’ve started sketching again and I’m not holding back I’m jumping in with both feet, learning how to draw the human face and challenging myself with this: Simon’s Sketch Work – Drawing the Human Face


My post covers my progress, I’m pretty pleased about where I’ve got to I just have a fair way to go still.


Also there was a little space news as the long serving Dawn spacecraft ran out of fuel and stopped operating, now a man made moon of Ceres it will stay there for many, many years. Who knows maybe one day man will visit Cere’s before Dawn crashes into its surface?

Dawn around Ceres



As you know I’ve throwing the idea of doing something with the Planet Simon brand and the idea of t-shirts, I’ve had a think about what else I could do and I have a few ideas. There’s nothing in this that going to make me a fortune, it’s really some fun but if any of you actually read this let me know about what sticks in your mind about Planet Simon and soon I’ll give you an idea of what I’m thinking.

Stick around and keep popping in. I’ll be about as much as I can. Still trying to work things out. See you about.

Keep writing and blogging…


Planet Simon



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Simon’s Sketch Work – Drawing the Human Face

As my regular bloggies know I’ve been messing about with art work for over a year now and with this I’ve been sketching out ideas and transferring them to digital and doing fun things.

But I’ve also wanted to improve my sketching. So I’ve looked on Youtube on how to draw the human face and I’ve been working on this.



To give you an idea of how I’ve gone about it, you do the following:

  1. Draw a circle.
  2. Draw a line straight down through the circle extending out about two thirds depending on the face shape.
  3. Draw lines across roughly as shown to mark positions for the eyes, nose and mouth. These can vary depending on the face shape, size and proportions.
  4. Draw in oval eyes, then the nose and mouth.
  5. Ears will typically go between the eye and nose lines.
  6. Add eye detail.
  7. Add eyebrows, shading etc…

My first attempt came up with this sad looking face:


So I did another one and came up with this after looking at more Youtube and adding hair etc.


I was a bit worried that this woman looked a bit cross eyed. So I worked some more and got this:


I was thinking I was kind of getting the hang of this, what I found was interesting is the difference between men’s and women’s faces, how can you tell and decide? It’s a bit hard and of course they’re very much the same. Anyway… I digress.



I thought I would move on from this and try drawing a face from a picture, in short it went a bit like this:


Using the method described I drew the shape of the face and the facial features.



Added further detail such as hair, eyes and ears.




Finally finishing with some shading.


It’s not perfect by any means but I think I’m getting better, it seems that to get it right it’s all about getting the shading right.

What do you guys think?

NOTE: Photo screenshot from Instagram of Melissa Riso – no ownership claimed on this photo.

Planet Simon



Also find Planet Simon on Twitter

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Digital Art with GIMP – Creating a Starship

Gimp – Gnu Image Manipulation Program, an open source program that like Photoshop is able to do amazing things with graphics and photo’s. Unlike Photoshop it costs nothing and it’s feature set is still comparable. This is a series of posts I’ve created on how Gimp can be used to help create worlds and give life to your imagination.


This is a project that I have been workin on off and on for ages. It’s a piece inspired by my story The Titan Mystery – one spacecraft that featured in this story with the Tycho, taking Commander MckINley and his crew to the Titan and their eventual fate.

Starting off in Inkscape and creating the wireframe drawing from my pencil sketch, I exported this into a PNG and then imported this in Gimp.


Added base colour using the fill tool.

Gimp filling in


Gimp filling in 1


Adding difference clouds on a different layer to mottle the hull, making this transparent makes this more subtle.

Gimp fill clouds


Adding gradients to give depth, again on a different layer.

Gimp matt and gradient & details

Adding a subtle 3D effect to give further depth and then more gradients to give the hull shape and shadow.

Gimp matt and gradient & details&3D

Once exported I could bring it into some other scenes.


Or even just add it to a starscape with a Red Giant in the background.


Thi is just a summary of what I went through to bring this to life, it should give you an idea of the steps and even now I would like to go further and give more detail to this. But the result is fairly effective.

What do you guys think?


I hope this has given you a little more insight into how Gimp works, each set of features can be used to draw other object , not just what I’ve done here. If there are any suggestions let me know – I’m always learning too and I’m keen to try out new stuff!


Planet Simon



Also find Planet Simon on Twitter

Come and visit find me on my Planet Simon Facebook Page

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The Cabin


Join us for a progressive writing experiment! Laura from  and Simon from Planet Simon came up with the idea that we work together on a story ‘seed’ and let it out into the blogoshpere she has begun the story with only a few paragraphs and a title, I’ve added a little too! Let’s see where this goes! 




She put her face upwards and let the warm water of the shower run over, into her hair, down her body, and around her feet. She stood in there for quite some time, without washing or moving anything except her hands over her face and hair. Perhaps this was more of an emotional and mental cleanse, for certain she wanted all of the past 72 hours erased from her, like the water that now so easily disappeared into the drain.

She had arrived at his apartment that evening when the sun was just sinking below the horizon. Her body went limp as she got out of the car and collapsed into his waiting embrace. Little was said between the two, for all that needed speaking in that moment was said in silence as their arms found each other. He gently pulled her sleeping children from the car as she retreated to the bathroom.

The children. She rubbed her face gently with the warm water as she thought of them now, sharing two large beds and snuggled together. They knew very little, and she had to keep it that way for the foreseeable future. Little was said to them on the day of their abrupt departure, but her calm, quiet voice and pleading eyes told them what they needed to know.

Only one person could she tell. Barbara. The kind of friend a person lives a lifetime praying to have. The friend you can tell everything and then nothing, and she would understand always.


She let out another sigh when she thought of her dear friend, whom she would likely not see again. And she worried for her as well. She had put her at risk by confiding in her and asking for help. But then she remembered how strong Barbara was and they had both helped each other out of many difficult situations. Barbara had lost a child to leukemia several years ago, and while the pain was unbearable, she bore it with all the grace, love and acceptance that could only be seen as admirable.

Her thoughts continued to drift as the water came down… to her husband who walked out after their third and last child was born. She had been grocery shopping after a long day at work and came home to find him gone, his side of the closet empty and drawers void of his personal effects. She never received answers to the gnawing questions, yet within a few weeks of his disappearance, she did receive a petition for divorce. Within a few months, it was settled through attorneys without her ever seeing him. Child support had been established, but as his employer was unknown, or he was not working, she never received one cent. No goodbye. No answers. No money. Just a hollowness in her heart and stomach that woke up with her every morning.

Barbara had been there for that, too. She was kind and gentle with the kids, who are also left with their own pain and questions pertaining to their sudden abandonment. How ironic was it now that she was far from her home without telling anyone. No warning, no explanation, just another emptiness in her life that left her asking why.


All this was now in the past though, the event so of the last few days had seemed a whirlwind and she wasn’t sure yet how safe she was. There was no way the mob could fine here here? Could they? She had done exactly as Robert had told her, she had not driven directly, there was no record of this place and she had destroyed her phone and thrown it away.

Yet there was this feeling she couldn’t shake.

The sun was setting, with the children asleep she allowed herself a moment of quiet out on the porch. Sat there in the rocking chair she allowed the sun to warm her and for a little time she forgot about what had happened and why she was here in this beautiful hideaway. As the sun started to touch the edge of the lake she walked around to the side, looking up into to the hills there suddenly as she looked up her heart froze.

A simple flash up in the hills stunned her into total fear.

Was there someone up there watching them? Was there something up there that the sun had glinted on, the thoughts ran through her like a raging river, uncontrollable at first. The she calmed and realised that if someone was watching she mustn’t do anything to arouse their suspicion.

But the next questions in her head were – should she go up and look or should she run?


I’m going to tag this to lolsyslibrary to carry on this story, if at any time someone can not carry this on, please tag it back to either Simon or Laura (see links at the top. Copy an paste the story as you receive it, mark where you stop and tag it on to the next person. Please keep the links as this will mean we can keep track of the story as it grows.

Thanks Bloggies!

Have fun with this.

Simon & Laura