Larger Hammer

Listel (Principalities) was always a marginal world. An atmosphere too thick, clouds too hazy with hydrocarbons and too prevalent, an ecology containing some worrying chaotic irregularities, and the whole, moreover, orbiting a primary which – while not technically qualifying as a flare star – nonetheless possessed a rough and turbulent cycle that flayed the upper atmospheres of its planets with wave after wave of energetic particles.

So it did not come as a complete surprise to the local branch of the Office of the Atmohydrosphere when an inconveniently timed flare, at the peak of the cycle, coincided with a downturn in the tropical ocean ecology and thickening upper-atmospheric haze to nudge the planet’s course away from its current metastability.

It came as a slight surprise that the temperature spike was as large as it turned out to be, and as rapid in its ascent.

That it should reach the point at which destabilization of the clathrates layering Listel’s polar seabeds was threatened, raising the spectre of a further trillion tons of methane – in the best case – being abruptly belched into the planetary atmosphere no longer qualified as a surprise, and was notably described by the then Principal Administrator of the Office, Ialla Jessaris-ith-Janaris, as “something of an inconvenience”.

The solution they chose was unique.

Ordinarily, minor atmospheric imbalances are dealt with using the normal, subtle ecopoetic techniques: ocean seeding, release of tailored microbiota into the upper airs, albedo adjustment, importation of suitable plants, and so forth. But with the threat of the clathrate release hanging over their world, Principal Administrator Jessaris concluded that a larger and faster correction was needed than would be available through such techniques.

If you drive out into the Serantor Desert, you can see the Listel Carbon Depository for yourself. Make sure you choose a day on which they’re not operating, because of the cyclonic storm the plant generates, and when you pass the signs warning you to put on sunglasses, they are not joking, it is that bright, and yes, you really can see it from that far back.

That’s because the solution she came up with was the simplest, most brute-force solution imaginable: carbon-organizers, built to feed on atmospheric carbon dioxide and methane. The storms are caused by the venturi that sucks in inconceivable volumes of the upper atmosphere, feeds it through the organizer beds, and blows it out again at ground level – while spitting out flitter-sized diamond bricks as a by-product.

And those bricks are responsible for the brightness, because they pile them up into pyramids for storage – eight, huge, mile-high pyramids of shining diamond, and they’re working on a ninth. So far, they’re keeping ahead of the gas releases. It’s a magnificent sight.

It would be one of the wonders of the Worlds if they weren’t so damn embarrassed about it.

– Octavia Dalastel, “Around the Fringe in 48 Bottles”

A Diamond Is… Really A Very Simple Molecular Structure

“The models you can see in this room,” said the guide, “represent some of the first models of carbon organizer.  Carbon organizers were the earliest and simplest form of dry nanotechnology, capable of building simple molecular structures from carbon and hydrogen atoms only.  While this may seem trivial, they formed the basis of the synthetic oil manufacturing industry that we’ll talk about later in our tour, and, of course, were responsible for the Diamond Crash.”

“Here, for scale,” he continued, crossing to one particular stand, “you can see the largest gem-quality diamond ever found in nature; the Heart of the Moon, which in its rough state weighed in at just under nineteen ounces.  In its cut state, as you see here, it still weighs twelve ounces, and in the pre-Crash days, was valued at over 124 million esteyn.  After the Diamond Crash, House Selequelios donated it to one of the Museum’s predecessors.”

“And now, gentlesophs, if you’d care to turn around…”

The curtain slid back.  Light blazed from the sixty-foot obelisk, and the tour group gasped as one.

This is our very own Monument to the Crash, or looked at another way, to the start of the Prosperity.  What you are looking at is a single internally perfect diamond crystal, weighing a little over 5,800,000 pounds.  It is, a few cases of diamond plating on structures aside, the single largest pure diamond crystal ever grown, a record that is unlikely to be broken, since few of its industrial and commercial – mostly low-end ornamentation – applications call for crystals quite this large, and since pure diamond is both brittle and quite flammable, its potential structural niches are for the most part filled by various adamant-type diamondoids, sapphireglass, and more advanced nanocomposites.”

“Of course, it’s rather less valuable than the Heart of the Moon was pre-crash; the value of raw diamond on today’s market is a little under one taltis per pound, which makes the whole Monument worth approximately 45,000 esteyn in total.”

“If you’ll follow me into the next room, you can see a carbon organizer in action, a simple model that extrudes bar diamond from ambient atmospheric gases.  This particular model is still on the market, because while there’s little demand for the product per se, many worlds find it useful on a larger scale for pulling excess carbon out of their atmospheres in an easy-to-store and readily releasable – by simple incineration – form.”

“We slice up the bars into half-foot sections for souvenirs, which you’ll see on the table to your left.  Please, help yourself to one, or two, or as many as you like to take home.  No charge.”  He coughed.  “Although I should perhaps mention that most jewelers, even the ones who don’t insist on an authenticated provenance, will check to ensure that there are at least some natural-looking flaws in the stones they buy, these days.”