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

 

Once, For a Bet

There is, technically, a less expensive way to reach orbit than an elevator ride, and it has the additional advantage of being the fastest way to reach orbit. However, I cannot recommend it to you for one simple reason: I’ve “ridden freight“, and it’s an experience best saved for when you have no alternative.

It’s inexpensive, in a nutshell, because you’re being squeezed into a gap in the freight schedule. And as you’re riding freight, the accommodations are very much suited for freight: you get a comfortable acceleration seat, certainly, but one fixed inside what remains unmistakably an intermodal freight container fitted with an aeroshell.

Most providers do, as a courtesy to keep their passengers entertained, equip the nose of such capsules with a sapphireglass window. This is less helpful than it might be.

After boarding, it provides you with a fine bullet’s-eye view – for the seconds of your loading slot – of what it’s like to be shoved into the breech of the Worlds’ largest gun. Then the gravomagnetics catch you up and hurl you forward. The featureless sides of the tube rush by, but you won’t be paying attention to them: being on the freight schedule means fitting in the fewest freight slots possible. Eyeballs in, folks, feel the elephant on your chest and watch your vision blue-shade out – it’s six standard gravities from here all the way up the gunspire.

(Unless you’re riding freight on Paltraeth. Then they fire you at the full twelve local gravities and take bets on whether you’ll be conscious at the top. There’s a barrel of the local booze in it for anyone who can climb out of the capsule on their own, starport legend says, just in case the trip upwell didn’t impair you enough.)

Then comes the fun part. In the old days, the brief glimpse you’d get out of the window would have been of the exceptionally solid iris holding out the attenuated atmosphere at the gunspire’s tip, opening for you with such fine calibration that it’s impossible to see. Now, there’s just a brief flash of blue as you pass the kinetic barrier, the sickening lurch – and eyeballs snapping back out – as you pass beyond the magnetics, and the end of the world coming to call.

You see, everything up until this point has been quiet as a moth’s whisper. A mass driver in an evacuated tube makes no noise – the switchgear and the pumps might, but they’re on the outside.

Once you hit the end, though – the air might be attenuated, but there’s still enough of it to hit like a granite cliff. One moment, silence. The next moment, the storm gods of every pantheon you’ve heard of and a few more besides have come to call, with a real urgent need to come in there.

And they brought some friends, it looks like, ’cause that convenient window is making it very clear that everything outside is on fire.

This, you might think, would be a good time to panic.

Well, you’ve got something under of a second before they start hitting you with the lasers, and it’s back to elephants, blue-outs, and now an angry giant whaling on the back of the capsule with a to-scale warhammer to add to the rest of the noise – with your eyeballs vibrating in time.

That’s the worst of it. It only gets quieter from there to orbit, and after the hammering you’ve taken on the way up, the eyeballs-out dangling-in-your-straps deceleration to match velocity with the highport comes as something of a relief.

But I trust you understand, gentle reader, why it is that I cannot recommend this mode of transport.

– Around the Worlds on ¤1,000 per Sol

 

Potayto, Potahto

“While the Imperial University of Calmiríë does have an academically excellent and thorough program in political science (or, as its introductory course is listed in the 7930 catalog, EX0487: Introduction to the Exosophontology of Mass Coercion), prospective students should be aware that it is taught very much from the perspective of ‘the history, sophontology, and praxis of rationalizing ethical exemptionalism’. Those students from abroad who do not already have that particular smirk will assuredly either acquire it or grow very tired of it over their course of study, and as such, we cannot recommend it to those preferring a more conventional approach, especially since those considering their qualifications in the future are likely to be aware of the nature of the course.”

– Student’s Helper: Considering Studying Abroad?,
pub. 7932, League of Meridian

 

Lose the Loosers

“There was a pond below the window! We’re not monsters, after all.”

– First Quill Seïn Ejava, Scrupulous Company of Learned Scriveners,
at the Defenestration of the Descriptivists

“If we’re being scrupulous, it was a settling pond. For night soil.”

– Sorel Haranye, former Learned Scrivener, two hours later,
at the “Deodorizing of the Descriptivists”

Necessity Drives Invention

Belríä Naratyr: A minor fashion designer of the Seléne school (fl. 2300), best known for the creation of algorithms for the swarm-intelligence kinetic microbots used for clothing management in microgravity to adapt them, instead, to ensure that one’s cloak would swirl in an appropriately dramatic, personalized, and environmentally-tailored manner for entrances, exits, turning on one’s heel, posing against the skyline, and so forth, regardless of whatever the local air currents might be doing at the time.

– Who Invented What: A History of Creativity

Weighed in the Balance Sheet

“There is one thing that comes before the Fundamental Contract. That thing is the Fundamental Ledger. Before your first breath, before your first thought – even as your mind coalesces out of chaos, long before you can know your own nature as a sophont, its bindings are sewn and its pages cut, their pages empty, snow-white and pristine.

“As it must be, for without choice, there can be no obligation, and without existence, there can be no choice. New-made and yet unchoosing, free of all ties that bind, you owe the world nothing, as it owes nothing to you.

“But all through your life, your every action fills it. Black, and red. Credit, and debit. Profit, and loss. Every deed is recorded in full measure: no trick of manipulation, nor guised externality, nor immaterial value, escapes the view of the Hidden Cog or His Market’s Eyes.

“And at the end of infinite time, when all books are tallied and the accounts finally closed out, this is how you will be judged:

“Have you created value, or merely consumed it?

“In the universal accounting, were you an asset… or a liability?”

the Book of Covalan, Commentaries & Sermons