Meteorology

“Good morning, Talentar, and welcome to the second day of Severe Weather Disposal Week! The ecopoesis operations team tell us they’ve got a lot of moist air to dump, so the theme for the day is wet, wet, wet!

“Up in the northern highlands, expect torrential rainfall in the vicinity of the Antíval Basin. Flood defenses around the basin rim will be operating and the flood barrier at the northern end of the Antíva Canal will be closed until flash runoff from the storms has been dealt with. In related news, three spillways have been opened in readiness at the Ontaron Cut Dam, and both dwellers along and users of the southern Antíva Canal should be prepared for high water levels and flow rates from the Dam as far south as the Isifer Bay Wetland Dispersal Structure.

“Residents in the Five Valles and in particular in the vicinity of Quinjano should be prepared for severe fog and high water levels in the Fivefold River as cold spillover descends into the valles. Visibility is expected to be negligible in the region, and highway/skyway oversight has issued a safety advisory recommending curtailment of all non-automatic flight in the region, as well as manual driving on the TI-1, TI-3, and all TV routes. Also, put on your cold suits outside even if you’re not going up on the Altiplanum; the chilling effect will be harsh.

“An unscheduled hailstorm and associated mudslide have forced temporary closure of two lanes of the TV-5, 870 miles south of the polar ice mines. Repairs are already in progress, but traffic should avoid the area until a further announcement is made.

“Finally, in unplanned weather, a localized dust storm blowing down into Kirinal Planum has closed the westbound carriageway of the TI-2 with a sanddrift. Normal service should be resumed within an hour, but for the moment westbound traffic is at a standstill, and eastbound traffic delayed as people slow to see this piece of classic weather. Folks, keep driving, please! You can replay it later at your leisure. Also due to this storm, travelers in the region between Suléyn Dome and Marusí Vallis as far south as Meltwater should check their vehicles or breather masks are rated for level three dust and fines.

“That’s all today from us. Thank you for listening to Talentar Imminence, and here are a few words from our sponsors…”

Moments in History (3)

Red Planet, Blue Sky?

The news on everyone’s lips today here in Orbitfall, as well as back home, is the televised deployment of the new soletta array here in Talentar orbit. While not the first step taken, the soletta is the first tangible result of the comprehensive ecopoesis program announced last year by the Spaceflight Initiative, Project Redblossom, which will allow eldrae to walk on the blue-green surface of lowland Talentar without respirators within three centuries. Present with the project lead and the colonial legate at the unfolding ceremony today were representatives from several of the Empire’s constituent nations most represented in the Spaceflight Initiative, and from the newly formed Orbital-Seléne Alliance.

The soletta array is the first and principal orbital mirror in an array which will be deployed in synchronous orbit, reflecting the suns’ light as part of the ongoing effort to warm the planet. Smaller mirrors will also be deployed for use in melting the planet’s surface rock and liberating some of Talentar’s hidden water, presently locked in frozen aquifers.

But not everyone is happy with the ecopoesis program. Diplomatic protests have been lodged by the Cerenaith Alliance, both here and back home, citing lack of consultation and concerns with the potential use of the mirrors as orbital battle platforms. I spoke to one of Project Redblossom’s senior engineers:

“Seriously? If they’re going to complain about the mirrors, what are they going to do when the ice asteroids get here? Lyricen Lacus isn’t going to carve itself, much less fill — this is off the record, yes?”

– from the Imperial Infoclast, summer 2273

Literary Conceit

(Author’s note: for those not remembering the galactography, much as Sialhaith is the Venus-like planet orbiting the primary star of the eldrae home system, Elémíre is another example of the same class orbiting its binary companion…)

Unlike its cousin, Sialhaith, the ecopoesis of Elémíre proceeded to schedule. No longer a lifeless hothouse, Elémíre is a lifeful hothouse; life flourishes throughout the green-blue jungles that flow around its jagged mountain ranges and highland plateaus, and in its seething, briny, red-orange seas, and even in its clouded, misty skies. Hothouse, however, it most certainly remains: temperatures vary from a (relatively) cool 298 K at midnight rising quickly to a steamy 315 K at midday, and humidity hovers in the 90%-plus range at all times, giving the air the consistency of warmed soup. Mist and fog are perpetual (and cloud cover is near-continuous in the lowlands); rain almost so, as the rising mist forms droplets in the lower atmosphere which splash back to the surface, to the point that local meteorologists find it simpler to forecast the absence of rain.

Would it be possible to continue the ecopoesis to render Elémíre cooler and more Eliéran? Almost certainly, but such proposals have never attracted much interest. Elémíre’s colonists were drawn to their world by the promise that it could be made to reify the imaginings of authors inspired by the mysterious cloud-veiled planet seen in their telescopes, and mere convenience is insufficient to shake their love for their sweltering jewel.

– Leyness’s Worlds: Guide to the Core Worlds

 

Trope-a-Day: Bizarre Alien Reproduction

Bizarre Alien Reproduction: …are you sure you really want to know?

Well, first, if it’s done on Earth, by anyone, it’s probably used somewhere. Mere external fertilization, et. al., is relatively mundane. The temísi, say, are quite straightforwardly parthenogenic. For exotic – well, then we’re getting into how the vlcefc reproduce by having their motiles spin a new brain-web, something that any number from one up can do together. Or the esseli literally building the next generation in their gene-labs. Or the codramaju simply coming together as X individuals and coming apart as X+n individuals, any of whom may contain various different bits of the minds of the original X. Or…

And that’s before people come up with clever ideas like bigenetic organisms, in which – say, a plant and insect are mutually engineered so that the plant can grow insect eggs and the insect lay plant seeds, thus enabling them to mutually spread each other in early-stage ecopoesis, and contribute to a more stable ecological web overall.

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”

Trope-a-Day: Terraform

Terraform: Played mostly straight, but note that the general term is “ecopoesis” – after all, different species have different ideas as to how the ideal planet looks, most of which are not at all “terra”-like.

Also, only mostly, because both the constraints of physical reality (you only have so much sunlight, even with solettas, and gravity does not change easily) and those of economics, not to mention aesthetics, often mean meeting the planet somewhere in the middle with pantropic adaptations of the permanent residents.  (And if the process starts with a life-bearing world – well, in that case, responsible ecopoesis means the even more complex variation of an already complex and incredibly expensive task, namely, building a functional hybrid ecosystem.  Ecocide is unethical entropism, and thus very much illegal under almost every circumstance.)

And let’s not forget that depending on the magnitude of the changes involved, we’re generally talking high decades (for trivial changes) to low millennia (both extreme cases; middling centuries is more usual) to make them comfortably self-sustaining.  Even with very high technology indeed, a planetary ecology has a lot of momentum.

(A “cool Arean” archetype is actually the most common result, at least within the Associated Worlds.)

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.”