The Canals of Talentar

“How are we doing? All on schedule?”

The largest monitor showed the reddish, ragged rock of a cliff face, roughly torn, a notch in its top revealing the ribbed end of a silvered balloon wedged into it, held down by a curved framework of steel plates. Above, a zeppelin hung in the yellow sky, lowering a large crate down towards it.

“Physics package is on its way now. Supervisor on-site says, give him half an hour for hook-up and check-out, no more. Gas mix is nominal; pressure in the balloon is nominal and stable. Fill compressors are unhooked and clear.”

“Good, good. Topology?”

“Final check is done. Satellite altimetry says we’ve got good slope in the channel all the way from here to the Basin. We cut this, it’ll pour.”

“Safety?”

“Boreal traffic control confirms there are no ships within two hundred miles of the intake. Project security reports the existing cut and the Basin are clear of people.”

“Very well. Sound the warning sirens now; let’s make sure people have lots of time to get out of our way.”

* * *

Thirty-six minutes later, the crate had been landed and ripped open to reveal a gleaming silver bullet, now mounted to the end of the balloon. The zeppelin, its job done, had left the scene under maximum power. All within the camera’s view of the cliffside site was quiet and still.

“Final safety checks?”

“The Boreal is still clear; the channel and the Basin too. ATC shows the skies are clear. Our work crews have all reached safety range. We’re clear for firing.”

The geotect pulled a molecular key from his pocket, and inserted it into his firing console.

“Enable.”

“Empire Nucleonics 3.75m Directional Primer Charge, Series V. Permissive action link recognized. Authenticate serial code DPC11479322-V.”

“Authentication: SHATTER, APEX, MONARCH, ACE, FIREBALL, COMET.”

“Authentication confirmed.”

“Set tamper for 29 miles, full diameter. Activate detonation sequence, minimum count.”

“Detonation sequence running. 72 seconds and counting.”

* * *

The monitors whited out, intolerably bright; distant thunder swept over the bunker. To the observers in orbit, a bright line drew itself across the surface of the planet, and faded slowly away.

* * *

“Okay, let’s reset the monitors, and give me a view of the Boreal opening.”

“Already done, estrev.”

“…then give me an infrared view.”

The darkness of the monitor cleared, to show a mound of rubble at the end of a new, ragged gash cut in the planet’s surface, faintly glowing with heat. A few trickles of water trickled down its surface, then more spurted out from gaps in its face, until in slow motion the wall toppled – house-sized boulders bounding past the camera borne by a wall of water, clawing and tearing at the walls of the widening fresh-cut channel.

“Nicely done, gentlesophs. How much initial flow do we expect – thirty, forty miles an hour? Someone tell Chairman Lanqin that he’ll have his riverfront property by tomorrow afternoon.”

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