Bright Spot

Luminé, the city once located at Eurymir’s noon pole, never had much opportunity to blossom. Originally built as a center for the exploitation of Eurymir’s resources, the largely underground complex served as a control center for solar power generation (in the continuous sunlight both groundside and in orbit) and dip-mining of liquid metals from the day side. Auxiliary facilities took advantage of the abundant energy to perform contraterragenesis (now moved to planetary orbit), as well as experiments in alchemics, power metal engeneration, high energy chemistry, and pure particle physics.

Unfortunately for the investors in Luminé, planetary conditions on Eurymir proved too harsh for the technology of the era. While Luminé could be sustained, it never proved economically viable due to the rapid degradation of equipment deployed on the surface, and the difficulty of performing maintenance and repairs in the sun’s full light. In a matter of decades, operations on Eurymir were closed down, the majority being transferred to the more hospitable Toramir.

When life returned to Luminé, it did so in the form of the Effulgent Order of Lumenna. Much of the old city remains in mothballs, although various of the original laboratory operators have returned and new facilities house the Institute for Solar Studies, as well as the creators of the experiment in artificial life whose glass, copper, and steel fractal forests now sprawl across the planetary surface, giving birth to fascinating new materials evolved for the high-energy environment.

The prosaic laboratories of old Luminé, however, are almost forgotten along with its name. The Effulgent Order, having moved the starport outside the shallow crater beneath which the city was built, filled that crater with the Zenith Temple, by which name they are now both known.

Indeed, the dome of the Zenith Temple now spans nearly two miles of surface, graceful curves of amber-tinted, gold-anodized glass sweeping up from its white marble-clad ringwall to the central dome-piercing spire, whose peak offers spectacular views of day-side Eurymir.

Yet such is not its purpose. From the balcony just below the peak of the dome, you can gaze directly upward into the face of Lumenna, larger than seen from any other world, her light made bearable by the dome’s tint, or down, into the grand sand mandala filling the dome entire. Here, the acquiescents of the Order have carefully sifted the endless sands of Eurymir for those specks bearing the most vivid color in the light of the sun, and bound each one to a motile microbot. Driven by the endless light from which they take both energy and the key to their pattern, glittering under a shadowless, eternal noon, these shifting sands spin out an ever-changing series of reflections on the sun’s power, light, and grace.

There are those who hold out Ellenith’s Dome of the Crystal Seers, the Maze of Aelalaér beneath Ambriel, or the virtual Pool of Infinite Reflection as the greatest site for meditation and spiritual contemplation that the Empire has to offer – but in this author’s opinion, gentle reader, the Zenith Temple outshines them all.

– Leyness’s Worlds: Guide to the Core Worlds

Practical Filth

Shortly after that incident, the cross-directorate Technical Services PWG presented us with a new range of disposable, concealed monitoring devices intended to be used in a variety of scenarios. Unfortunately, while a technological miracle of the age – packing all the multispectral monitoring functionality needed for various espionage scenarios into tiny, shielded, disguised packages, while duplicating the functionality of their guise – they proved to be less than useful in practice due to a cultural delta.

While perfectly suited for work at home, it had escaped the boffins in TS-PWG that on the many worlds of the galaxy less particular about maintenance than the Empire’s, the appearance of shiny, new devices or attachments (nuts, lights, push buttons, and the like) would in itself stand out remarkably clearly against the background.

It was my unfortunate responsibility, in my new role as Second Directorate liaison and as an old field agent, to break this news to TS-PWG and propose an appropriate solution. While we considered the notion of making, shall we say, “pre-unmaintained” monitors, the difficulties of devising patterns of wear and corrosion which would blend smoothly into the environment and, indeed, the difficulties of discreetly modifying unmaintained infrastructure proved insuperable.

The answer we came to was inspired by a training course still on offer at the College of Masks – “Filthy Barbarism for the Clean-Living Agent” – intended to demonstrate how to avoid standing out among the less civilized, and in particular the habit of “littering”, the lazy and careless abandonment of minor waste without consideration for the property of others or the surrounding environment. In short, many worlds simply have an endemic problem with discarded waste, providing the perfect material guises for monitoring devices.

Of course, little is as simple as it seems. The distribution of specific items of waste is culturally and economically determined, and as such, the specifics of these material guises vary greatly from world to world, place to place. It was never my intention that the routine sampling of “litter” from various worlds for the benefit of the Technical Services PWG, operation GARLAND WASTREL, should be my legacy. But if “Mishaka’s Scav Runs” it is to be, it’s a better legacy than many in our profession receive.

– Three-Centuries In Intelligence: A Memoir,
Mishaka Kodonaga,
declassified +1648