Fri, 22 Aug, 2008

The House that Enlil Built, part 3

By Noranda Miresmi

Estiva 21 - Racolta 1, AC 228

There has been a gap of more than four months in the postings to this series. Anthimia Kaltagiron, who had been writing it, was not able to continue due to time constraints. Shortly after writing part two of the series, she was put in charge of editing a major historical archive which had been passed along to the Nouergic Instititute. This took up so much of her time that it was impossible for her to continue writing on this side project. So she has asked me, her colleague at the Nouetikon at Gela, to finish the series. The story is quite familiar to me, as I am also a Trinacria correspondent for the Lord of Memory publication "Middle Sea Sun" and reported on this affair just after it occurred.

When the narrative was interrupted, it had just been discovered that the "retained effects" that Enlil had left in and around the property were becoming harmful to anyone present at the site. Retained effects….we are familiar with them as everyday objects. They protect us against nouetic intrusions, keep our own perceptions under control, enhance the mood of built environments, and alleviate our own mental disorders. We take it for granted that retained effects are going to work as promised when we buy them from our licensed practitioners or nouetech stores. Sometimes we feel more naked without our R.E.'s than without our clothes! So when things go wrong with these devices, it is as if we have been betrayed by trusted friends.

Enlil's retained effects, though, were not simple practical devices, but technologies at high energy, which were sometimes experimental and never intended for casual use. Enlil used the Acragas estate as a testing ground for these things, and would sometimes discard them into unoccupied areas after use, not thinking that in the next few decades that land might well be explored and settled. Even when he set up systems in his house, he didn't think of what would happen to the building once he had left it and moved somewhere else. When he was still commuting there from Surakosai, he was able to manage his creations, but in the later years of his life, he was so occupied with other matters (such as the building of the new Institute at Surakosai) that he didn't have time to care for the Acragas house. And he may not have foreseen how his experiments would deteriorate, or how they would persist even after he thought they had been deactivated.

So, as with many other of Enlil's chaotic legacies, it was up to his successors to clean up the mess at Acragas. It was only at the beginning of this year that the current director of the Institute, Tanheu, personally took on the mission. Enlil had trained Tanheu, and had picked him for the next Directorship; in fact, Tanheu had been directing the Institute for many years after Enlil's retirement from public life. As a master Nouergist, it was now up to him to fix the problem. He visited the site and inspected the "contaminated" areas in late Ersta month. He decided then that a major job was needed, that would take the talents of a whole committee of master Nouergists.

To my disappointment, I was not able to get interviews with any of the Nouergists involved in this project. My sources are indirect. What I was told was that the nouergic programs that were used are classified and not available to the public. Yet the entire event ended up being highly publicized, if only to maintain the safety of the residents around the site. The only "official" interview granted to the media was that of Durvan Karaman, a near-master level Nouergist and the second-in-command at the Surakosai Institute. You might remember Durvan from his career in Tisaram before he came to our area. He did special effects for many theophore movies, was the producer of the series "Action Theophorica" and "Nouergic Detective Reality," and he also hosted the nouetic-themed talk show "Tonight in PsiWorld." Even in his new career in Surakosai, he had taken on the media contact role.

"We're going to have to radically alter the site," he explained to Datawell 47 in his interview of Ersta 24, 228. "We've had to condemn the house, all the outbuildings, and its grounds, and we'll be doing a demolition that includes not only the structure but a lot of the underlying foundation and stone underneath.…it ought to be quite a lot of fun. Nouergists blowing stuff up." There would be a team of four, recruited from Tanheu's contacts in various places. Each would bring their specialty to the work, which was set for 15 Lupercal.

The leader of the group would be Tanheu himself, world-renowned scientist and still an active master Nouergist. Durvan would also participate. For the structural work, Tanheu chose his earlier second-in-command, the Aurian Noshir Atarban, now a mining engineer in Akai. Last but definitely not least was the Khemaru nouergist and architect, Mereth Kahn, another of Enlil's famous disciples. As the plans proceeded, though, Noshir found that he was unable to spare the time to work on the project, and had to drop out. In his place, Tanheu was able to negotiate for the services of an engineering Nouergist from a construction company in Tisaram. A rare Tisari female nouergist, she had never done any work outside the territory of her company-state. She was named Barandigi, and would be accompanied by a whole expedition of engineers with their heavy equipment, which would arrive through a Gateway.

The price for the operation, as negotiated by Tanheu, Durvan, and their staff, would be shared between Barandigi's company as research and development (with some useful proprietary nouergic programs thrown in to enhance the deal) and the Nouergic Institute at Surakosai, who hoped to make the money back selling the property to luxury resort developers.

Barandigi had never been to the northern lands of the Middle Sea. She had done all her training and work at Tisaram. Though she hadn't passed the strict appearance and sex-appeal tests which determine a woman's fate in upper Tisaram, she was saved from a lifetime of uneducated drudgery because of her nouergic gift. Even so, she was essentially the property of her company, and was at all times accompanied by "minders" who kept her under surveillance lest she talk to the wrong people or get ideas about running away.

Mereth Kahn, the Khemaru designer of the new Institute at Surakosai, swept in with his usual flair, this time minus his entourage of architectural associates and Kahn family members (who are often the same people). He would be using some of the same earth-shaping and heavy transport programs that Enlil and he had used ten years ago when they prepared the site for the Institute. These would be meshed with the demolition work that Barandigi and her owners would perform, and would also be used to re-do the site after the primary work was done.

This would be a rare collaboration between four working high-level Nouergists, and would be documented for the community's archives and technical journals. As the preparations went on, observers came from a number of different countries, including Tisaram, Khemi, Ionia, and the Levant. I was able to interview some of these observers, who provided a valuable source for technical details of each Nouergist's role.

Tanheu, the physicist, would be stationed closest to the site, and would handle the high-energy aspects of clearing the retained effects. It was analogous to clearing a minefield by concussion, since there was no practical way to find and "defuse" each one of the hundreds of nouergic "mines" that Enlil had left behind. If it was done right, a single general energy pulse would discharge all of them at once, leaving behind nothing but silica and carbon crystals. This would also be the most dangerous of the operations, and Tanheu would need to be protected against hard radiation, which would be an inevitable side-effect of the work. He would wear a special self-contained "space suit," designed to protect him against radiation and heat blasts.

Durvan, Tanheu's second-in-command, an experienced nouetic systems analyst, would be coordinating the work of the four by telepathic commonality, while also backing up Tanheu's energy working. If Tanheu were to be blown up during the operation, Durvan would take over and finish the job so that the place would not be left as a radioactive wasteland. Durvan would be the next closest, physically, to the site, and would also wear a protective suit. Both this one and Tanheu's were provided by Barandigi's Tisari professionals.

Mereth, the architect, would not be in the way of the physical work, but would be stationed a couple of kilometers from the event. During the act of demolition, his job would be to stabilize the ground and the underlying rock formations, as this level of nouergic force could cause landslides or even a small earthquake. He was equipped with three-dimensional topographic and geological maps of the area, which had been prepared some time ago by the University of Surakosai's geology and mining department (as well as the Keilian navy).

The last of the four, Barandigi, would work with her assistants from inside a portable, radiation-proof bunker, which looked rather like a submarine on dry land. This unusual vehicle was airlifted to the site and anchored to the rocks about five stadia away from the site. This team would provide the power for the actual demolition.

As the moment approached and the working group rehearsed, the media continued to cover the event. As usual, the amount of publicity was in inverse proportion to the amount of accurate information. Some local property owners tried to stop the demolition, claiming that they would be using not nouergic power, but a nuclear explosive device which would make everything on the Acragas coast radioactive. Other publicity, disseminated among the pseudo-scientific, speculated that the famous "energy vortexes" of Acragas would be involved, and that a passageway to another dimension might open. In the weeks before the event, numbers of nouetic enthusiasts and followers flocked to Acragas, booking all the hotel rooms and creating a welcome upturn in tourist income for the locals. Though there was a five kilometer "no-man's land" perimeter established around the site, some enthusiasts managed to slip through and camp in the hills above. Other, more sensible viewers took to the sea in yachts and fishing boats. The local Keilian seafarers and fishermen were only too happy to take boatloads of paying tourists out past the coastline, where they could turn their telescopes or binoculars landward, hoping for historic fireworks.

Just a few days before the operation, Liminum, a Surakosai advertising and publicity agency, was able to secure (by a major pledge of financial support) a video and audio "feed" to the non-classified areas of the event. Those with the appropriate electronics who were willing to pay the fee would have at least something to watch.

I was privileged to join the flotilla as a guest on "Coriolis," the private yacht of Midar Kantalli, a developer who had put in a bid for the site even before the demolition program had been conceived. Along with Midar's current wife, their servants, and their yacht crew, were some representatives from the Surakosai Institute and my own at Gela. We also had our own theophore guest, a Keilian named Durna Owana, who had not achieved the skill grade to study at either of the Institutes and who made his pittance by practical jobs and theophoric piecework.

The big event was scheduled late at night, which was a disappointment for the spectator crowds, although there was always the possibility of "vortexes of light" or at least a lightning bolt or two. Lupercal month is damp and chilly, even on the so-called "Coast of Warmth," and as night fell, fog gathered on the ocean, making it even less likely that our event would be spectacular. Our wallscreen was turned to the Liminum imagestream. Meanwhile we feasted on Midar's plentiful food and consumed quite a lot of Keilian wine. Durna the theophore led the way in this regard. The more wine he consumed, the more we heard about what it was like to be a theophore who had failed to be a Nouergist. The gift is rare, but even so, not every recipient is able to achieve the status of the four who were wielding the energies that night. Durna said that he would at least be able to link in to the event by remote viewing and telepathy, and give us an "eyewitness" description.

I've seen historical videos from civilizations in their early modern periods, when their first humans were being launched into space. The imagestream, with its blurry motion, glaring spotlights, and bustling equipment reminded me of those ancient visual relics. We were shown images of nouergists Tanheu and Durvan putting on their suits, as if they were indeed going into space. Tanheu, a small man, seemed swamped in armor that was much too big for him. Once everyone was in place, the cameramen were evacuated and the camera was left running on a stationary platform near the Tisari bunker.

We counted down the hours, and then the minutes, and then the seconds, as we waited on the dark deck, looking toward the shore. At zero hour, we waited. Just as we were beginning to think that the Big Event would be a Big Disappointment, we saw a series of fitful, purplish flashes of light through the fog, looking much like a thunderstorm on the horizon. Within a few seconds, we heard muffled thunder, a natural sound for a transnatural event. At that point, two things happened on our yacht. The imagefeed went blank and failed to return, and Durna the theophore, who was going to give us his personal witness, passed out on the lounge floor. Midar, who didn't want any deaths on board his yacht, quickly had one of his staff examine him. Durna was not dead, and would be fine, once he had slept it off; it was either a surfeit of theophoric energies, or wine, or most probably both.

The next day dawned cold and grey, and the Coriolis sailed back into port at Gela to drop off our institute's delegation. The media almost universally reported the great demolition to be a greatly boring anticlimax. This disdain freed those working at the site from any more media attention. Now it was time for the engineers to move the remains of the structures to a safe place and prepare the grounds for new buildings. The plans were for the rubble to be transported, both by nouergy and by ramps, to barges where it would be dumped into a deep area offshore. There, on the bottom of the Middle Sea, would lie the stone and concrete memories of Enlil the nouergist, and any possible remaining echoes would scare away only wandering creatures of the deeper sea.

Theophore House after the Demolition

Tanheu and Durvan, despite being almost at ground zero, survived unscathed, as did everyone else. Mereth Kahn remained to continue sculpting the land for the new site, and Barandigi also stayed a few extra days. Interestingly, they were spotted together having a quiet dinner at Corbacho's, a fancy Khemaru restaurant on the rocky coast near Acragas. Somehow, Barandigi had escaped her handlers. But anyone who knows Mereth Kahn knows that he is quite openly not attracted to women of any sort, so what passed between them is as secret as the programs they used to obliterate the mad devices of their predecessor.

Noranda Miresmi, for "Middle Sea Sun" and "GelaRama," Racolta 1, 228 AC

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