Thu, 29 Apr, 2010

Barandigi unprotected

Anthimia 11, 230 AC

Continuing the nouetic and audio feed from the Surakosan rescue and relief mission in earthquake-struck Eridu…

Just seconds after the lifter crash, Barandigi the nouergist awakes making an awful squalling noise, bursting into tears. "MASTER LIATRIS!" she cries. Everyone in the operations tent turns to look, everyone except Tanheu who is still unconscious. She is making incoherent noises, until two of our medics come to move her away from Tanheu, whose status might be made worse by a nouetic outburst near him.

We had no idea that they were emotionally connected, whether as kin or sex partners or master and student, or any combination of those and more. Most of us did not know Liatris, not that the crash hasn't disturbed and saddened us. But we can't have a hysterical and not-well-controlled nouergist in our midst. Ariadne applies calming programs and the wailing turns to whimpering. Barandigi grabs hold of Ariadne.

"They'll come for me now and take me away! Liatris was my protector! I can't stay here!" she says, hardly able to catch her breath. Is Barandigi here illegally? No one knows, not even Mereth Kahn, who worked with her on the Enlil house demolition. She is cited in the database as an employee of the Beka corporation, a construction firm based in Marut, in the northern Mid-River area.

Ariadne has quickly gathered some information from Barandigi via nouetic transfer. Liatris is (was) her teacher and her controller for many construction operations. They are not kin and were not sex partners. When the earthquake happened, Liatris decided quickly to take her along as a resource. He handed her over to Tanheu when they needed another heavy-duty nouergist at the nuclear plant. They should never have been separated! She should have been with Liatris all along!

What is Barandigi's status at Beka? Was she kidnapped by Liatris? Did she willingly go with him? Tell us the truth, Barandigi! The young nouergist goes silent, then points at herself. "I am third class," she says. "I am property of Beka Corporation. I can't leave. I am third class. Bad. Ugly," she says, gesturing toward her round, snub-nosed face.

We don't understand. Is this some Tisari cultural thing? What does she mean by third class? Why is she saying she is ugly? What does that have to do with anything? Can she explain? (And is she radioactive?) "I didn't pass the test. I didn't even make second class. I have to serve." Serve what? She's getting frustrated, after such a terrible night, losing her ability to talk coherently. "Three classes of fems," she says, trying to find a way to make it clear to us. "First class, they are hot. They are pretty. They are tall. They wear the good stuff, they do the good things, they have the fun lives, you see them on TV, they hang out with the beautiful people, they have money. Yes?"

Go on, we say. "Second class," says Barandigi, "they are all right, they aren't as pretty as the first class but they can still pass. They work. They can read and write. They can have improvements. They can even go out by themselves." What is the test? "Test for beauty and pretty at age 6. Again at age 13. All fems must have the test. Males are tested differently."

And third class? "Short. Ugly. Fat. Defective. All in third class. Third class is service worker. Cleaning, loading, animal care, toilets, game rooms, hotel rooms, cheap sex parks, heavy factory work, fields, mines. You get it now? Third class must answer to controllers. Liatris my controller. If I did not have gift, I would be cleaning toilets and sweeping mall floor. Liatris my protector nouergist now gone and he cannot explain, I am now fugitive from Beka. They will track me and take me back. Maybe punish me if they don't believe he took me.…" She couldn't go on, sobbing bitterly at the mention of Liatris.

We had no idea that women in her part of Tisaram were sorted by their appearance. We had always known that Tisari women were gorgeous. Never thought about the ones that might not be. Now we had an unexpected situation, and we didn't think the Tisari would respond to diplomacy. Was Barandigi requesting political asylum? Did she want to defect? She couldn't answer those questions because she didn't know what that meant. But, she said, Director Professor Tanheu said that she could study at Surakosai, become a real nouergist like Liatris.

Unfortunately, Tanheu was not available to make that decision, or any decision. He showed no sign of waking up. If he didn't improve, we would have to call on one of our Gateholders to evacuate him, and some of the other seriously injured folk, back to Surakosai. And they would have to regenerate their nouergic energies before any such operation could work.

As the sun rose over the devastated city, Durvan Karaman stumbled into our camp. He was carrying a large bottle of wine. He had saved most of it for us. We shared wine at dawn, in the land of the dead and the half-dead.


Posted at 3:05 am | link

Wed, 28 Apr, 2010

Eridu: The night of destruction

Anthimia 10, 230 AC

We still have the nouetic and electronic feed from the Surakosan team on the Plaza at Eridu. Deep into the night, the aftershocks continue. People will not re-enter buildings because they are afraid that another aftershock will cause the broken walls to collapse. They are sitting around on what were streets and parts of the plaza under the starless sky, huddled in blankets or whatever they could find, waiting for something: rescuers, nouergists, relief teams, Aurians.

Tanheu the director has not awakened. It has been about four hours since he was brought in. He is lying on a mat over a pallet, and a makeshift canopy is draped over some wires above him. Barandigi is curled up in a blanket at his feet, asleep. I can't help being reminded of a faithful dog waiting for the master to revive. It sounds peaceful, but it is not.

Ariadne and some of the medics check in on him every hour. This hour the medic is a good friend of Tanheu's, an expert in nouetic physiology named T. I. Nuitnabar. T.I (Ta'Von Ioasaf) is a Surakosai-based Khemaru from the same upper-level caste as Tanheu. While he is checking the pulse at Tanheu's' neck, he notices he is wearing a gold chain and a pendant. This is the semiotikon, or symbolic emblem, which is part of every upper-class Khemaru's daily attire. But this isn't just an ornament. It's an octahedron with a lattice-work inside it, all of gold, and inside the lattice-work is a clear chip of purple amethyst.

Ariadne spots it and asks what it is. She knows about semiotika but this one is different, she has never seen him wearing it before. Dr. Nuitnabar answers softly and cautiously. "It's a.…religious symbol. I always suspected him. That is the sign for a society of scientists, mathematicians, and philosophers called the Uranian Order. They worship mathematics."

"But that's banned in Surakosai," says Ariadne. "Any openly displayed religious worship or symbol is forbidden. He could be blacklisted for this back home."

"Well then, Commander," says Dr. Nuitnabar, "we won't tell anyone, will we." Dr. Nuitnabar tucks the golden octahedron back into Tanheu's dusty black uniform shirt.

We are still missing contact with two of the nouergists who are out on missions. It is getting towards dawn when one of them finally restores his voice network. The voice of Durvan Karaman comes through the static. Where is he? Doesn't know. GPS is broken. Lost his map. Even nouetic remote viewing doesn't get him any useful information. Best guess is that he's about two or three kilometers out toward the edge of the city. Does he want to be guided in? What about a levitation bubble? Sorry, he's out of gas, not enough energy to do tricks.

How did he get there? The Aurians were flying them in a lifter. There was a critically injured woman. Liatris took care of her and they loaded her aboard, but there wasn't room for Karaman so they left him in this relatively clear square. This was just a few minutes ago. There should be a lifter coming your way soon with a casualty.

Karaman is in what was a market square. He hears an odd sound. It is not moaning, it is singing. People are gathered around a campfire in the pre-dawn chill, and they are singing. They have salvaged food and drink from the crushed market stalls and are having a picnic, there in the ruins. Karaman turns his headset so that the others on line can hear what he's hearing. The people in the ruined market wave to him and invite him to join them. There are unbroken bottles of wine to share, and many of the people have been drinking all night.

Then, another sound. A boom in the haze of destruction, more like a bomb than an aftershock. There is no cover to dive for. The sky is now turning deep blue, as dawn approaches. A column of smoke and sparks, lit from below by burning fuel, rises in the distance toward the Library plaza. Durvan knows what it is before anyone else. "LIFTER IS DOWN! LIFTER IS DOWN!" he shouts into his communicator. "Who was in it? Is this the one …" But Durvan can't reply, he is stunned. They are all gone. The two Aurians, and the injured woman, and Ennio Liatris. When a lifter fails, it doesn't glide. It falls like a brick. If he is out of energy, not even a master Nouergist can stop it. They are all gone.


Posted at 2:16 am | link

Tue, 27 Apr, 2010

At the nuclear plant: Barandigi story part 2

Anthimia 8, 230 AC

Continuing the debriefing of the nouergist Barandigi, who was witness and co-worker to Tanheu during the operation at the earthquake-damaged Eridu North nuclear plant. The questioner, "A," is Ariadne the nouergist and leader of the Surakosan rescue and relief effort at Eridu.

A: What happened next?

B: I'm still linked in with him, and I see the interior of the chamber filled with steam and radiation, I mean I see in a nouetic way, you know. And he sends the energy through the shape he built, and things kind of get all wavy like looking through hot air. And then the crack disappears, like it melted together. New water comes in and I hear shouts from the Algon working at the controls.

A: Was that the end of the operation?

B: No, because they were saying it was still too hot and couldn't shut down completely. Professor could hear this, and I relayed it to him nouetically too, since he was sort of still inside the reactor, like his body was here and his power was there. It got all dark in there, and then the Professor changed his shape. Instead of a robot, he was now a metal tower as tall as the reactor. It was really cool how he changed. And he started building something around the reactor. It looked like a grid rolled into a tube, going round it all the way, but it was made out of light. Just like movie special effects. He says to me then, at my mark send me as much energy as you can. When he has it all built, then he calls me, and I send it. I try and try, and the place gets all wavy and I get dizzy, and it isn't working. I feel so bad, but I've been working on slabs and rubble all day and I don't have much juice left. I feel like I could faint, and he stops.

A: Did you unlink at that point and put out a call for nouergic help?

B: I didn't think about that. He must have, though. He said to me that the first operation to seal it didn't work, and he was going to try something more risky to get it done. He says, tell everyone to stand back and not get anywhere near me at the wall. We all back off but he's still linked to me and I'm seeing what's going on. Except in my mind it's all black and glowing purple and I see his body against the wall almost disappear, like it's made of smoke or something, and even the floor underneath him gets kind of unsolid, and I feel as though I'm being dropped from a roof, I feel like I'm falling fast even though I'm standing on concrete, and there he is inside the reactor room again but it's all dark and no special effects. I never had this happen even when I'm high. I was kinda scared.

A: Did the Professor try to explain to you what was happening?

B: No, I don't think he was paying attention to me any more. I felt him gathering energy for one last try. And then something else happened. Something I don't think he expected. Suddenly there was a big nouergic power surge, really big, like someone out there was feeding it in to him. The ID color was this bright bright blue. Then there was another one, different from the first, and this ID was pale green, like nothing I've ever seen. And he took the new amount of energy he had, poured it into his grid, and made it strong, and he hit the switch, and there it was. And I hear the men at the controls yelling and shouting, that it was stabilizing and the temp was going down.

A: I don't recognize those ID colors. No one from our team has that ID. He must have called in help from outside. We'll have to check our database.

B: And then after that was done, everything got solid again. And when he was solid, the Professor fell over and sprawled on his face on the floor. We tried to get him to get up, but he was out. I thought he was dead, but nouetically he was still there. Things were getting really messed up, with the Aurians and the Algon and the plant director, and the Aurians were starting to shove the Algon around, and then Antolak says, we gotta get out of here, and he tries to pick up the Professor. The Algon director is yelling at the Aurians that he's finally contacted EnergiAlgon corporation and they're sending a crew on two rotocrafts, and that they should get out of there because it's EnergiAlgon's property. I thought the Aurians were gonna start shooting, but suddenly one of the officers, the only one who knew any Common, says, You son of pollution, keep your polluted fire, we will be back to send you to hell. And they all cleared out, packed into their rotocraft and took off. Commander, I don't know what that means, I'm just saying what they said, but they all were glad to leave. Then in a few minutes, the EnergiAlgon guys arrive, and they have guns, and they're wearing protective suits. They pick up the Professor and his equipment bag and stuff, and they get him on board, and they pull me on board too. But they leave Antolak behind. He says he has a woman and three kids out there in the suburbs, and he has to get to them, their house was destroyed, their comlinks don't work, he is searching nouetically, he has to find them. The last thing I see is Antolak walking down the access road in the dark, and no one's there to guard, and he goes through a gap where the big wall was broken in the quake, and out into the village.

A: Barandigi, you've been more than helpful. We're going to keep you right here for now, and our medics will give you some anti-radiation drugs. We don't know how much radiation you and the other people in the control room took, but we'll hope for the best.

B: I wanna see the Professor.

A: He's still out, you won't be able to communicate with him.

B: He saved the power plant from exploding. He saved us all. He is a superhero. I will sit by him till he wakes up. I will protect him from bad people and Aurians.


Posted at 12:39 am | link

Sun, 25 Apr, 2010

At the nuclear power plant: Barandigi story

Anthimia 7, 2230 A.C.

For now, Barandigi, a young female Nouergist, is our source for what went on at the Eridu North plant. Ariadne and two other people from our team were the debriefers. I got the nouetic and audio feed, along with other media specialists. The questioner is Ariadne, and Barandigi answers.

A: Please tell us everything you remember about the situation at the plant when you arrived.

B: I don't know anything about nuclear power plants. I don't know what was wrong, only that something was broken and needed fixing and that it was radioactive. I'm only a construction worker, ma'am. I don't even know how to read and write. I can lift big things and I can knock stuff down. That's it.

A: Can you remember what Professor Tanheu did and said when you arrived at the plant? Who else was there?

B: The Aurians were there, because they had occupied the place. Bunch of soldiers with guns and some officers. And there was another nouergist there. His name was Antolak and he was from the local area and had been working to free people all day, just like me. And the Algon were there, and the director of the plant. They talked to the Professor, not to me.

A: What did they say?

B: They tried to tell him everything was all right and that we should go away and leave the Algon managers to take care of it. But Tanheu had already seen something by remote viewing and demanded to see the plans for the power plant.

A: The plans? You mean the designs?

B: Professor insisted on seeing the design for the plant. He went right up to the Algon manager. Professor may be a little guy, but he can sure stare someone down, even if he isn't using juice. So finally the Algon got one of the plaks that was lying around and handed it over to the Professor. Professor pokes around it and takes one look and then says, "This isn't a fusion plant any more. It's a fission plant. When did the fusion plant fail?" (Even I've heard of fusion and fission, huh!) So the Algon guy says, "They're all fission plants. We converted them ten, fifteen years ago."

A: Why? Did he say why? Did they all fail?

B: Yeah. They said every one of the fusion plants in the Eridu area failed. So the Professor asks why. The Algon didn't want to answer. But he finally had to. He said that there were these things which came from the Old Worlds that the Algon had brought over. They were cores for fusion reactors that were a super heavy element and that they were kept from falling apart by a big powerful R.E. (Editor's note: "R.E." is a nouergic "retained effect," kind of like a battery charge.) All the fusion plants had one of these in them. They worked real well as long as they were re-charged by a nouergist. But they started to conk out anyway, and after the Revolution the nouergic line that kept them going was thrown out of Eridu and the last guy who knew the program died about 15 years ago. So no one knew how to re-charge them any more. Everything they brought over from the Old Worlds was now gone.

The Professor got really interested and kind of wide-eyed. This was like some major secret which just got spilled. Maybe not at such a great time but then the Professor hit his comlink and asked to be put through to his son back in Surakosai.

A: Yes, he asked for a top-priority call on the satellite network. His son Tarell is a plasma engineer working on developing fusion power. He needed to tell Tarell about this just in case… he didn't make it out of there.

B: So he talks with his son for a few minutes. I didn't understand a word they said. Then he turns to the wall and speaks real softly for a minute or so. After that he closed the connection and looked real sad. But not for long. He pulls off his headset and says, All right, this is what we're going to do. He needed Antolak and me to link up and work with him and send energy. But Antolak says, I can't do that. I'll just mess your work up. I'm a piss-poor theophore. I'm 56 and I never got much training. All I can do is a few tricks. So Professor says, if we all get out of here alive, you both can come to Surakosai and train with us. Anyway, Professor said to me, you remember when we took down Enlil's old house? I'm going to link with you and you send me energy when I tell you. Antolak, just keep me protected. Don't let anyone touch me or even get close to me. And if you all hear the radiation detectors sounding the warning, just get out, all of you, and leave me here." Every so often we got this crackle from the radiation detectors, but the Algon kept saying we were safe in here, it was shielded. The Aurians had two rotocraft out there ready to evacuate us just in case.

A: That was mindful of them.

B: And after he said that, he sat down with his back against the wall, then put his knees up and his head down and rolled into a ball. Then he put me into the link, which made me dizzy for a second and I had to sit down across from him. Commander, this was amazing. It was like my brain turned into a big balloon. I was floating above the reactor, and then I was in the reactor, even though I was just sitting there in the room, and then everything turned this cosmic purple, and I saw Professor inside the reactor dome, except it wasn't Professor, it was like this big purple robot standing on four legs, but I knew it was really him, and he was like pouring this net of glowing light over a crack in the container. And then it REALLY started to get weird.…


Posted at 1:33 am | link

Sat, 24 Apr, 2010

Eridu Earthquake: Nuclear power plants

Anthimia 6, 230 AC

Greetings, I'm Kersen Bakor, taking over from Temuera with the next update.

We've edited down the material from the debriefing of Barandigi, one of the nouergists who accompanied Tanheu to the Eridu North nuclear power plant. As the long night ground on, Tanheu remained unconscious, watched by people from the medical team. They said that "his vital signs were stable," but he showed no signs of waking up or even moving.

Eridu has (or had) five main nuclear power plants, which were all managed by Algon collectives. They ran on fusion power, which from the beginning of the Noantri settlement had been a monopoly of the Algon. The plants were surrounded by densely populated villages of Algon, living in their characteristic cylindrical (actually, nine-sided) apartment blocks. Ever since the beginning of Noantri New Earth's technology, energy experts had tried to develop fusion power outside the Algon monopoly, and they had failed every time. There was something that the Algon had, that enabled them to maintain fusion energy. Some people, especially in the nouergic community, speculated that there was a nouergic component to it that only the corporations knew about.

There was one thing that was not well-known except among energy professionals: somehow, these plants were failing, one by one. This first came out more than thirty years ago, during the major eruption of Mount Aitna in 196 AC. The eruption destroyed an experimental geothermal power station, and threatened what later turned out to be an illicit nuclear fission power plant. Fission was more dangerous and more vulnerable to disasters than fusion … but it was something that could be reproduced and built without a village of Algon workers to sustain it. But why were the fusion power plants failing? The energy world looked toward Eridu, a heavily Algon region, whose fusion still burned brightly. At least, until the earthquake.

I'm going on about this because the Eridu North power plant was the last fusion plant to be built, in the late 190s, after the Revolution. It made international news because the revolutionary Eridanian government tried to prevent it from being built. There were protests and demonstrations and demands to shut down all nuclear power. For once, strangely, the revolutionaries and their Aurian neighbors were in agreement. The Aurian religion prohibits the use of nuclear power because it "pollutes Fire." I think they mean radioactivity. But the Algon corporation was too strong, and it owned the contracts for all the power plants in the region. So it was built, started up, and ran without incident, until the earthquake.

There were five plants, as I've said. Right after the earthquake, four of them — the older ones — shut down normally. This fifth one didn't, and was still hot. Before the video monitoring systems quit, the cameras revealed a water leak in the inner containment vessel. Radioactive coolant water was spilling out of a crack that was broken open by the earthquake. It was contained by the outer concrete dome, but if the coolant failed, the overheated system would release plasma and steam, break through the outer container, and cause a radioactive disaster that would contaminate all of Eridu. Not a good situation, and this is what Tanheu and Barandigi dropped into, while the earth was still shaking.

TO BE CONTINUED: Barandigi tells her story.

Posted at 3:18 am | link

Fri, 23 Apr, 2010

The Ruins of Eridu

Anthimia 4, 230 AC

Images are now coming out of earthquake-stricken Eridu. This photo shows an Aurian soldier standing on the ruins of a parking garage near the Great Library.

Posted at 4:13 am | link

Thu, 22 Apr, 2010

Earthquake report: Running out of fuel

Anthimia 3, 230 AC

Temuera here again, with another report from the Surakosan nouergic rescue and relief team in earthquake-stricken Eridu.

As I have said before, nouergists are not super-heroes, no matter how the media and cinema depict them. They may be able to do amazing high-energy feats, but their endurance is limited and they will tire and fail just as any living being will. They can only do so much before they have to stop.

All the nouergists and nouetists were well aware of this as they worked to rescue as many earthquake victims as they could. By nightfall, the nouergists were unable to use high-energy telekinesis to lift fallen walls and floors and beams, no matter how urgent the rescue. To restore their powers, they would need to spend many hours resting, preferably in a deep sleep.

But there was no sleep to be had in the destroyed city, only a world of distant fires and shuddering aftershocks, sputtering engines, shouts and whimpers, and a mindworld filled with unceasing distress and pain. Ariadne sat on a folding chair under a tent at operations, her dark face lit by the blue light of a few screens. The gateway back to Surakosai was supposed to serve as a source for supplies as well as an evacuation outlet for badly injured people who had a chance to survive with intensive help. But the two novice Gateholders could not maintain it. Palamidis had lost a Gateway in a scary collapse and now refused to go anywhere near a high-energy working. Narseh Ardan, meanwhile, could not maintain it on his own, and lacked the energy to go on. That Gate was supposed to run for a specified time every few hours, but as night went on, there was no gate. The medical staff had set up small isolation tents for the nouergists to regenerate in; Mereth had assembled his own geodesic escape pod, shining with tiny protective lights, where he rested in relative luxury.

The Aurians were also experiencing supply problems. They had expected to be able to refuel their lifters and rotocraft either from flying tankers or from trucks which they had prepared for the relief effort. But neither of these re-supply efforts had gotten through the chaos of the city and the blocked streets. The plaza was now full of parked and inactive aircraft, though some of them were still airborne with enough fuel to fly. Ariadne snatched some time away from ops to talk onscreen with her husband Buc and her young children Aziareh and Asafa back in Surakosai. She was more than glad to see them, but there was something else on her mind. Tanheu was missing, both from electronic and nouetic communications. Tanheu was the director of the Surakosai Institute and a top-level nouergic master. They could not afford to lose him. Something was going on at the nuclear power plant. She could receive only fragmentary impressions from Barandigi, his operations partner. Something dangerous. Something that threatened the whole region. Midnight passed, in this blackest of nights, as Ariadne kept her weary vigil.

Three hours after midnight, and Ariadne is woken from a fitful sleep taken on a pad under the ops table by the clatter and bright spotlight of a rotocraft coming close. People scatter from under its landing gear and it clunks down ungracefully. The side opens up and two men emerge carrying a bundle wrapped in a dark blanket, along with some equipment. Barandigi leaps out after them, wild-eyed and disheveled, and runs to Operations, shouting for medical aid.

The bundle is Tanheu. Horrifying stab of fear: is he dead? Is he dying? What happened? Barandigi can hardly catch her breath. The medical team arrives; they've left others in need to attend to the Director. He's not dead …but he's unconscious and unresponsive. There is a scuffle and a rush to set up a pallet for him. Where are the others who were with them at the nuclear plant? All evacuated. The rotocraft is already in the air and on its way back to the northern suburbs. Barandigi must be debriefed, but she needs to be calmed down. She accepts a bucket of water, drinks deeply from it, and then pours the rest over her head, splashing water into the dust and the broken pavement…


Posted at 3:55 am | link

Wed, 21 Apr, 2010

Earthquake report: At the Great Library

Anthimia 1, 230

This is Temuera Vaska, taking over for Nastasia Sutakon in the nouetic-to-media network. When we last had contact, the adepts and operatives of our rescue and response team had departed in pairs, to their various tasks. Each one of them is also wearing a video and audio recorder which will help them when it is time to compile their reports.

Among the nouergic team: Ariadne and Noshirwan the Aurian are at the base camp, working with the doctors in the field hospital. Durvan Karaman and the Tisari master Ennio Liatris are with an Aurian rescue detachment somewhere in the city. Tanheu, nouergist physicist and director of the Surakosai Institute, has gone with Tisari nouergist Barandigi to a damaged nuclear power plant outside the city. And Mereth Kahn the architect, paired with Isur Kuklian, director of the Rhakoteh Nouergic Institute, has gone into the Great Library through a still-functioning side entryway.

I have signal from Mereth. My mind fills with warm Khemaru gold mind-light and the smell of orange blossoms, here in this madness of a broken city. Kuklian is at the front where the Wall of Nine Gates and part of the roof collapsed onto a crowd of people. Why were they there? Seems that the morning of the earthquake, the Lords of Memory who ran the Library had decided to invite the Aurian leadership into Eridu, and had given them the codes to unlock the perimeter security systems. Something delayed the Aurians and prevented them from coming into the city, probably a couple of demonstrations on major avenues. The Library people had set up tables and a modest banquet to welcome their Aurian overlords, right in the front of the Library at the Wall of Nine Gates. They waited for hours, attempting to communicate with the Aurian command with no results. They were still there, eating from their own guest-offerings, when the earthquake struck. The wall fell on the delegation, killing the Director and most of her staff, crushing the rest of them under an avalanche of Khemaru limestone and the remains of the old Gateway framework.

Kuklian is there with one of the few Eridanian relief teams we've seen, under portable lights, telekinetically heaving up stones and girders and fallen slabs to free trapped people, some of whom are still alive. I see a plate of spinach pies spilled in the dust. I see a bunch of bright flowers, still fresh but covered with dust, lying in the drying water from their smashed vase. There is Andeldona, the public relations officer, dead on the famous lapis-blue floor tiles of the Library, half-covered with a tablecloth.

While they attend to the collapsed front, Mereth runs off into the depths of the Library, some of which is still lit by emergency lights. He calls out a name as he runs, while Kuklian shouts at him not to leave the scene. "INHATAN!" calls Mereth. "I'm coming!" Who's Inhatan? Media search: Inhatan was the Khemaru architect of the Great Library of Eridu, the most famous of the early Khemaru builders just after the Crossing. Further note: Inhatan's last name was Kahn. Mereth is his direct descendant.

More signal from Mereth. He's standing at one of the giant support piers, info-plaque in hand with the plans of the Library. Evaluating the remaining portion of the Library for structural soundness. He doesn't want to be there if the rest of the building collapses in an aftershock. His hand is on the massive concrete, his eyes closed, nouergically connecting with the building, an architect's powers. The whole Library was built to withstand earthquakes, the supporting structures were reinforced with materials brought over from the Old Worlds and unreproduceable until just recently. The front collapsed because Inhatan's plans had been compromised by the Eridanian founders. The Wall of Nine Gates was weaker than the other walls, and the portico was only lightly supported. Inhatan had protested bitterly against this adulteration of his design. But that was two hundred years ago.

Mereth looks up. The library is sound, at least for now. There is something important on the upper floors. The elevators are, of course, off, all power is coming from batteries for now. He looks back at the scene at the collapsed front. Here in the main hall of the Library, desks and chairs and study nooks and offices are strewn about madly, though it seems that most of the researchers working here managed to escape. Broken glass from the high clerestory windows is everywhere, crunching underfoot. And that's not all that's on the floor. Everywhere, littered like fallen leaves in autumn, are datawafers and datachips, thousands upon thousands, shaken loose from the towering stacks by the shock. They don't break, but they are scattered into randomness. It will take years and years to put them back into readable order. Mereth tries not to crush them under his feet as he walks toward the stairway.

Up the grand stairway, hoping for stability. He needs to go to the second floor, sensing living people. In the old days of Eridu the government used to be there. Now the government center is empty. Or it was empty. Mereth sees to his astonishment that the old government headquarters has been transformed into improvised living space. Squatters peer at him from the remains of offices, meeting rooms, data centers. There must be hundreds of people here. They never left, even after the earthquake. There are dim lights in the darkness: battery lights and even some candles. Mereth scans for weapons, and finds none. He lights a mind-light at his right hand to illuminate the scene. Faces peer back at him, mostly women and children, dressed in dusty, grey, worn clothes. They whisper: "Theophore! Theophore!"

Mereth is at a loss. Do these need rescuing? How many are there? What if the rest of the Library collapses? Would it make any difference, would they be safer, if they left the Library? They try to talk to him, but he doesn't understand the Algon language. He tries Common Language and they manage a few words of coherence. "We have food. We have water. We don't need to be rescued." How long had they been living here? How did the Lords of Memory allow them to stay there? No answer. Anyone on the top floor? Can you get there? Are they going to attack him? Mereth backs away, readying a defense. But they make no move. "Go away. Help someone else," says the one who knows Common.

He is not a superhero. He makes his decision. He has another idea. Takes a polite leave of these strange creatures and goes to the stairway that leads up to the third floor. On the way he disables his audio and video equipment. He rams open any locked door he finds; brute force nouergy has its place. The third floor is hardly damaged, but filled with decades of discarded things. Mostly trash, probably some treasures, all tossed about. Mind-light in the hall of dust and forgotten possessions .Mereth coughs, covered with dust himself. There's one of the metal stairways leading to the roof, as he consults his schematics of the Library again. The air is unbreathable, and the door has been closed for years. One more blast, cinematic in the darkness, and he stumbles up onto the platform of the top of the third floor, gulping air that smells of burning and concrete and crushed vegetation. Spotlights in the distance, but here on the top of the Library it is dark as the ancient Khemaru underworld. The ruined city below him is shrouded in smoke.

He follows the walkway over the solar power cells to the northeast corner of the roof. There is a commemorative metal plaque at the corner, on the parapet. Mereth reaches into his brown equipment vest and pulls out a small, heavy metallic object in the shape of a pyramid. Some nouergy is done (no information transmission here). He places the thing on the parapet floor under the plaque, and then runs into the darkness on the walkway toward the north corner. How to get down? Back through that chamber of dead things? A moment of stillness as he checks his nouergic energy level. Plenty of interdimensional juice left. He forms a levitation bubble, this one lightless and stealthy, and wafts from the roof down to the remains of the parking lot, laughing softly. Enlil would be proud of me! But now there's more work to be done at the front. And he must tell them about the squatters on the second floor, though the nouetists would surely know they were there already. Nouetic communication resumes, while Kuklian curses Mereth for running off and abandoning the main disaster zone.

It is the first night after the cataclysm. Eridu has changed from the City Foursquare of heroic memory to the devastated cities of the Old Worlds, where the Noantri fled from war after war, fled from one world to the next, until the grand scheme ingathered them and sent them through the Great Gate, the work of Nouergists of awesome power. One of the holders of the Great Gate was Redon the Fourth, the founder of Eridu, its first ruler. In his days, he would stand at the northeast corner on top of the Library and watch the dawn come up over his city. His nouergic aura was cobalt blue, the color of pure pre-dawn sky. It is said that in times of need, he manifests from whatever other world his consciousness resides in, a blue light glowing at the Library's apex, showing his people the way.

The people of Eridu can see the Library from any part of the city. Those who survived spend the night outside, huddled in the chill air, unable to go back into their cracked and broken houses. And there in the darkness, sometimes barely visible through the smoke, is a blue light at Redon's corner. Look, he is there! He's come to save us!

Thank you, Temuera, says Mereth. You won't tell the Eridanians this, will you. They need their hope. Eridu will rise again! Inhatan, rebuild your Library! And with the waft of orange blossoms, the contact breaks off.


Posted at 3:09 am | link

Mon, 19 Apr, 2010

Earthquake information stream, part 2

Ersta 30, 230 AC

This is Nastasia continuing my nouetic-to-media stream fed to me by the Surakosan earthquake relief team in Eridu.

We are at the perimeter of the wide plaza which fronts the Great Library, and we're stopped by a line of Aurian soldiers pointing their machine guns at us. It's getting on toward twilight, and the sky is dark with dust anyway. We're all covered with dust. Videocameras and communicators need to be cleaned out as best we can. Recording goes on at all times. Shouting in Aurian, but thankfully no shots.

I see two men at the front, coming up to confront the Aurians. One small, one taller. Both nouergists, the small one is Tanheu the director, the other is Noshir, his associate and a Western-based Aurian nouergist. We were told to cooperate with the Aurians. I see two glowing auras at the front, one from each Nouergist, one deep purple and one fiery red. Amplified voice, sounds like Tanheu, who speaks perfect Aurian.

"I am Tiridat, grandson of Ardeshir, bearer of the Amethyst fire, a Jewel-class nouergist, I greet thee, Aurian rescuers and warriors." Then Noshir:
"I am Noshirwan, grandson of Mehran, son of Bahram. I bear the Cinnabar Fire, a Flame Bearer-class nouergist, I greet thee, my fellow Aurian rescuers and warriors."

The Aurians lower their guns as their commanding officer comes through the line to the front. The Aurian culture respects displays like this. Poetic language and colored light, and an underlying display of nouergic power. Nouergists are like supernatural beings to them. There is talk among the men at the front. Ariadne arrives to negotiate. She doesn't know Aurian, and the others translate for her. She shows an emerald green aura: she is a Gohar, a Jewel-class nouergist in Aurian terms. The talk goes on for a while, masked by the constant background noise of engines and shouting and people hacking at rubble.

An aftershock hits, rumbling through the already crushed cityscape, and some more stuff hits the ground. The soldiers are nervous. We are stranded. We need to make camp before night falls. Our leaders are explaining to the Aurians that we do not oppose them and do not need to use any of their supplies. There's a fire burning off to the west, looks like a fuel fire where a gas station went up, black smoke rising twisting into the sky. Hurry up with those Aurians. I hear they are barbarians. Watch out for them. You have to negotiate on their terms. They have the guns.

Finally they reach an agreement. Ariadne through the voice network, let's move, we have a site. Up onto the plaza, we're escorted by the Aurian force to an area of the plaza which is relatively clear. Is this enough space for our field hospital and campsite? It has to be. We don't have the fighting force to gain us a larger safe perimeter, though some of us are armed. Ariadne holds up a green torch to show where to unload. A great relief to put down our packs and take a few minutes' rest.

Suddenly we have visitors. Some of us see the flicker of a Gateway, others are ready with their automatic pistols. Every nouergist and nouetist, everyone with gifts looks that way. Two people come out of the Gateway: a small stocky woman and an older man. Nouergists, by their glowing tags, but bearing no country or city ID. Who are they? They're from Tisaram to the north. Tisari up the river. That's a big population center with a rich network of nouetic talent, but so far these are the only ones from there to show up as helpers at Eridu. The woman is Barandigi, who some of us know from the demolition of Enlil's house at Acragas. The man is Ennio Liatris, one of the highest ranked master Nouergists in the world.

Someone explains this to me. They're here against the will of their governments, which have not authorized any relief missions to Eridu. Liatris has decided to defy it and come on his own, picking up Barandigi on his way. The call is going out. Eridu needs nouergists, needs anyone with talent. Where, where are the Eridanians' own relief services? We wonder where they are. No one identifying as Eridanian has had any organized response that we've seen. What kind of life did these Eridanians live? Why are they so passive? Don't they have any rescuers of their own? They are standing around our perimeter as we set up, some of them injured, waiting quietly and hopelessly for help, for some way out.

Another Gateway, and two more nouergists show up, drawn by the call. These are Surakosan graduates, Durvan Karaman the psychengineer and Isur Kuklian, who is now the head of the Nouergic Institute at Rhakoteh. They are coming in. They want to help. But no one, no one else from Tisaram. And also, no one else from Khemi, the land of the Khemaru, except Mereth the architect, who has the reputation of doing whatever he pleases, despite custom, government, or prejudice. The Khemaru are Tanheu's people. But Tanheu is part Aurian, something that the Khemaru despise as "mixed blood."

Ariadne greets them all, more nouergists in one place than we've seen for a long time. No time to waste. Do they have their gear in order? Are they linked in securely, both voice and nouetic telepathy? They are to pair up. No nouetist no matter how skilled or powerful must be alone. That means you, Mereth, you get a partner too. The architect doesn't look so slick right now, with dust all over his fancy outfit. Karaman and Liatris. Mereth and Kuklian. Noshir and Ariadne, who worked together at the Surakosai Institute. And Tanheu is with Barandigi, who collaborated with him on the demolition.

There are immediate needs. There are people alive crushed under debris. Nouergists can rescue them. You won't get them all. You won't even get all the ones you try to save. Just do what you can, until your energy level is too low to pull it off. The Aurians are going to help us with transport. Nouetists, finders, accompany our engineers.

How to get to the places we need to get to? There isn't a single street clear enough for a wheeled vehicle. The Aurians have lifters and rotocraft on the plaza. There's room for two nouergists on one of them. Durvan Karaman and Liatris, go. Another bright nouergic light, suddenly on the plaza: the Khemaru gold of Mereth. He has formed a levitation bubble and pulls Kuklian into it. It rises like a swift airship, dims its light and arcs over the teeming plaza towards the ruined front of the Great Library. Damn, you never see that except in movies!

Voices over the voice system, and a nouetic call from another nouergist, this time in the suburbs to the north. Requesting nouergist now. There is a situation at the power plant of Eridu North. That would be a nuclear fusion power plant. It is work for Tanheu the physicist, who had already been assigned this in anticipation. There is an undamaged rotocraft belonging to the police department of Energy Park, where the power plant is located. They're on their way to pick us up. The nouergist there is Antolak, the only locally based working nouergist left in the Eridanian suburbs. The nouergic institute of Eridu evacuated the area weeks ago.

There's the rotocraft now, landing on the plaza as its rotors stir up a billowing cloud of dust. Tanheu and Barandigi board, loaded with equipment. The rotocraft rises into the twilight sky and angles off to the north, towards Energy Park. There is a situation at Eridu North's power plant. It probably involves radiation.


Posted at 3:41 am | link

Sun, 18 Apr, 2010

Earthquake in Eridu, the nouergic response team

Ersta 29, 230 AC

This is Nastasia Sutakon reporting, from Surakosai. I am a nouetic-to-media liaison, which means that I integrate perceptions, witness feeds, and remote viewing into a readable text sequence. I have been given connections with the nouergists and nouetics of Surakosai and their allies and what you are reading is dictated or styled in as it comes to me.

This is the unedited record of what I received from the nouetic responders during the initial events of the Great Earthquake at Eridu on 28 Ersta 230.…begin stream…

Nouergic Institute at Surakosai, late afternoon: Pre-empt received on all screens: major earthquake in progress at Eridu. Initiate responder program all nouergists and nouetists THIS IS NOT A SIMULATION. REPEAT THIS IS NOT A SIMULATION. They've been working on this for more than a year, now is the time to put it into action. Communications already missing from Eridu. Aurians? Invasion? Remote viewers tasked, verify earthquake conditions in Eridu.

In the gardens at the Institute, pink spring petals are floating in the wind. Tanheu the director looks out through the wide window, and turns to get his gear, which he has had accessible at all times.…dressed in his all-black soldier kit with helmet and heavy pack he heads downstairs and out into the courtyard where others are already gathered. Greets Ariadne who is now acting Director and leader of the disaster response effort. Information diffuses fast: the students and faculty and administration and helpers are in the yard within minutes. Sound of approaching aircraft, big carrier rotocraft landing on the plaza, pouring out Surakosan military men and equipment. In through the main building and out into the increasingly crowded courtyard.

"ALL UNAUTHORIZED PERSONNEL OUT OF THE GATEWAY AREA," amplified voice. Two newly trained Gateholders from the nouergic staff take their places at the sides of the Gateway stone pylons. Narseh the Aurian and Palamidis from Ion, their first important Gateway assignment. The target area is near the Great Library, no knowledge of what condition it's in. The information is triangulated before being sent to Narseh and Palamidis. Initiate Gateway.

In the studio at Taris, a hanging lantern oscillates in windless air. Mereth the nouergist architect looks up from his desk screen. Echoes anticipated before they happen, the shudder here of a cataclysm elsewhere. Hand on the screen, traced by green light. Mereth, this is your last chance to refuse. You don't have to go. Mereth gets up and goes to get the equipment that the Surakosans listed for him.

Mereth the architect steps through a low-emission Gateway into the Institute grounds and arrives at the staging area, dressed like a chic explorer with high boots and an expensive excursion backpack. Everyone turns to look at him.… a typical theatrical Mereth appearance. Meanwhile the two-man Gate is ramping up. They're doing well for novices. The strategy is to have the novices run the Gate from Surakosai and let the masters go through to use their energy on rescue operations.

The Gate is set but not opened yet. The first one through will be Tanheu who will check for radiation from Gateway breakers. These systems are in every city, usually paired with cell phone networks, to stop unauthorized entry by gateway. The earthquake will have damaged these systems. Tanheu is equipped with radiation detectors and protective gear. The Gate opens and dust and smoke billow through it into the clear Surakosan air. Tanheu steps through and disappears in the smoke for a moment.

No radiation, he says through the voice transmission network. But we are off target by about a half kilometer. Any way to move the Gateway? Too difficult with the newbies running it. Tanheu looks at his military GPS mounted on his arm plate. Thank you, Surakosan army! The ground continues to shake, an hour into the event. Ariadne, your decision. GO, she says, and the team pours into the gate, an opening the size of a garage. Speed is essential, but barely possible. Activate GPS systems and find location. The dust is stifling and there are local residents milling about newly terrified by the appearance of a paramilitary force. We're all wearing Surakosan ID clearly marked, but they don't recognize it. How do you communicate that you're here to help? What language do they speak?

Fortunately no one in Eridu has firearms; they have been banned for decades. We're in what's left of a small square, blocked by rubble on two sides. GPS tells us that we're close to the Library plaza, which is already crowded. Remote viewers are in operation, linking in now. The Aurians have secured the Library, that was their first objective. Are there Aurians in the plaza? Someone comes through the Gate and it snaps shut. The last of our Master team just made it in, our Aurian Master Noshir the mining engineer. We'll need him to talk to the Aurians and do some cultural-appropriate nouergic convincing. Noshir rushes to the front and joins Ariadne and Tanheu.

Desperate Eridanians are screaming at us. Telekinetics fire up their energies, Ariadne flips a fallen wall off some poor creature trapped underneath. We need to move toward the plaza or some other open space or we won't have space to work. The streets are unrecognizable, signs are down. The GPS isn't helping when the landmarks are gone. I'm looking at the map. Tarsi subsquare. Ministry of Appropriate Technology, there's the sign for it but the building has collapsed. Solar Energy Ministry, this must be Technology Square adjacent to the southern corner of the Plaza.

Horrible noise, screams and crashes and exploding rumbles, and above us, the roar and clatter of Aurian lifters and rotocraft. They have a lot of them and they are using the Plaza as a base, just the way we want to. Tanheu and Noshir are in the front, Ariadne and crew on the flank doing telekinetics and whatever medical aid can be done in this environment. We have the makings of a field hospital if we can get to a stable place to set it up.

The GPS says we are on "Natural Philosophy Avenue." This is just one block from the Plaza. It has taken us more than an hour to move three blocks from our starting point. I see the monument to Ensi Eryan IV, which amazingly has not toppled. That's at the edge of the plaza. We'll have open space and not have to crawl over rubble and ruins if we can get to the plaza. More telekinetics, and we have the last few meters open. Up the steps and onto the plaza, which is filled with clumps of huddling wailing refugees. And in front of us is a line of Aurian soldiers with their machine guns pointed right at us.


Posted at 1:33 am | link

Sat, 17 Apr, 2010

Breaking news: major earthquake strikes Eridu

Ersta 28, 230 AC

A devastating earthquake has hit the city of Eridu. The epicenter is only a short distance from the main urban area, just near the Aurian border. Its intensity is not yet measured but is probably around the Ogdoadic level (8.0 on the Richter scale). What reports we have describe massive destruction, many deaths and injuries, and fires burning out of control. The Aurian forces which were massed at the border have now crossed over it, mostly undamaged, and are now in the city offering aid, rescuing people from crushed buildings, and setting up temporary hospitals and shelters.

The Great Library is reported to be severely damaged. The front wall, the "Wall of Nine Gates," has collapsed, along with the portico and part of the roof. The plaza in front of the library has become a gathering place for the homeless, the injured, and inevitably, a resting place for the dead. Aurian forces are on the scene and are preventing looting, while other humanitarian detachments are setting up shelters, even as the city is repeatedly shaken by aftershocks.

Rescue groups are converging on the city, with the first responders being nouergic and nouetic teams arriving within hours via Gateway. One of the first on the scene was our own disaster response and relief group from the Nouergic Institute of Surakosai, led by nouergist Ariadne Moranna. Among them are five master-level nouergists, each one able to act directly on collapsed buildings to free those trapped inside. A larger team of trained nouetists, along with their canine helpers, are also on hand to find trapped and lost people. They will all maintain a base of operations in the ruins.

For further information on Eridu and where to donate for Eridanian relief services, please refer to Surakosai-Eridu Datawell 90, and continue to attend to our postings from our Surakosai media collective.

Posted at 2:58 am | link

Wed, 14 Apr, 2010

Our man in Eridu

Ersta 25, 230 AC

We now have a correspondent in Eridu who has arrived there on the eve of what is expected to be an Aurian invasion and occupation. While other people are leaving, "Mars," or "Mangal" as he is known in the Aurian language, is there to record what he can, using miniaturized vidikon equipment and a satellite uplink. He expects that the Aurians will disable the Eridanian communications and media system very quickly, so he is not dependent on it to transmit. He sent this image to us today, of official buildings and a square very near the Great Library. Mars estimates that a third of the population of Eridu has left, but since the central city has at least 100,000 inhabitants, with many more in the suburbs, there are quite a few still staying. The streets are almost empty; many businesses and schools are closed, but there are still people walking about. During the day the sun is already scorching; by this time of year the weather is already hot.

Mars also says that at night, when the social monitors are less active, there are areas where people are partying wildly, especially the university students. They've managed to get plenty of beer and liquor, and the revelry goes on all night. Each night might be the last night of peace. They dance in the streets of the doomed city.

Posted at 3:19 am | link

Mon, 12 Apr, 2010

Mereth Kahn at Nabasiris House

Ersta 23, AC 230

By Dashor Anquany, Architectural Media Collective

I met up with Mereth Kahn, the master nouergist architect, at the villa he designed for the Nabasiris family, in Delta North. I hadn't seen Mereth since last year when he lectured at our Architectural Media Collective. If you want to see Mereth, and he feels like seeing you, he will let you know where he is. He designed the Nabasiris villa just a couple of years ago. It is a collection of low geometries arranged along the banks of a Delta rill, shaded by palms and sycamore figs, and quiet as only Delta North's remoter areas can be. Even in early spring, it's hot during the days here in northern Khemi. Mereth was wearing a white galabiya robe as he walked with me near the pool.

"I know you're recording," he said with a slight smile. "You always have it on, just in case something interesting happens." I knew he could deactivate my device with a single gesture. "Don't turn it off," he said. "I have no secrets to reveal." The sun shone off the white domes of the main building, accented by the golden octahedron of the finial at the main dome's apex. "Shedaku vernacular melded with Lanka modernism," said Mereth, referring to his architectural style. "When I build a villa, I like to include a guest residence that I would want to stay in. I've been staying at this pool pavilion the last few days, but I'll be leaving tomorrow to go back to Taris." Taris is his residence and the main headquarters of Familie Kahn, his family's architectural collaborative firm. "Meno's daughter is coming from Eridu and needs the guest space. The Eridu office staff moved here last week and took up most of the main building."

"Have you gotten much work since the Museum thing?" I asked. Last year, Mereth and his architect mother Zaha lost the Khemaru government's contract to build the "Museum of the First Lifewave," after a release from a theophoric committee judged the artifacts to be too full of dangerous nouergic residue to exhibit. The Museum was canceled, after millions of piasters had already been spent.

"I get work, all private residences. The Beauty and Order folks seem to be well-off these days. And they managed to turn the Museum contract around so that they'll build a "Museum of Khemaru Culture" instead. Mother's got plenty of work with that. The Path likes her."

"How about you?" I asked. " Are you joining up?" Mereth looked directly at me for the first time. "Taris has lots of hiding places," he said. "I love being quiet. They don't need to pay attention to me." I visualized Mereth in his stone paradise, carved out of the rock of an old quarry up-river. He had everything he needed there, a fully stocked studio and stronghold. Images and feelings shone in the nouetic clarity of shared imagination.

"I'll enjoy it while I can. I don't think I have much time before I will be required."

"Required for what?" I asked.

"Mennitha is coming back from Eridu. She said she had to get out before it was too late. I'll hear more from her tonight."

They are calling them "pre-fugees." Thousands of people are leaving Eridu, even though there is no warfare, no disaster. Not yet, at any rate. The Aurians continue to bring materiel to the border. All the information suggests a major invasion is coming. Something not too many people know is that last week, the government of Eridu abandoned the city and have slipped away to exile in Larsa, though they're not really welcome there. The situation in Eridu is so untended that hardly anyone notices that the government isn't there any more.

"The prognoses point to a natural disaster, not an invasion," said Mereth. They think that the Aurians are there to provide rescue and relief. And once they're doing that, they'll occupy the city. A double strategy, very clever if you know what's coming."

"And where do you fit in?" I asked.

"I know how buildings fall down," he said. "And I have high-energy capability to lift heavy loads. The nouergic response will be the quickest. The Surakosans have asked me to work with them when the time comes."

"Surakosans?" I said, astonished. "You'll work with Tanheu and his crew?"

"Ariadne is their nouergic disaster relief expert. It will be under her command. They've been preparing for years for something like this. And …the Surakosans asked me. No one in the Khemaru community has asked me to help. Of course, our government would be only too happy to see Eridu neutralized."

"You're sure about all of this? Why risk it in an occupied city?"

Mereth deliberated a while before answering. "Something is going to change. I don't know what it is. But I will be part of it. I see the convergence, and it is aiming me toward Eridu. Where I see so strong a convergence, I must follow. And besides …it will be an adventure. It will be something new.

Posted at 4:11 am | link

Mon, 05 Apr, 2010

Eridu, city of foreboding

Ersta 15, 230 A.C.

A report from Sutero Karakidis, recently returned from Eridu

Eridu, on the Eridanus River, was the first great city of Noantri New Earth. It was founded in the first decades after the Crossing by a community of technocrats and scholars from the last Noantri groups in the Old Worlds. It was the site of one of the Gateway termini, and in fact the Gate's terminal dome was located where the Great Library now stands. This is where all the records and libraries preserved from the Old Worlds were united, and the Library is still the central building of the city, its ultimate reason for existence.

I've just returned from a visit to Eridu, which dates back to the time of the Crossing. That was more than two hundred years ago. It would be a minor span of time for our ancestors in the Old Worlds, with our hundred thousand years of civilization and memory. Here in the New World, two hundred years seems like an eon. The Library was collected and built by people who had been born on the other side of the Galaxy. The memories of the people who keep it now are longer than our time on New Earth.

Redon the Fourth, the legendary Theophore (nouergist) who founded the Library and the City, is still haunting this place. You see his portrait everywhere, and you can buy Redon the Fourth memorabilia such as medallions, text collections, semiotika, and even little replicas of the black stone statue of him that stands in the center of the Great Library's courtyard. The vendors are active, but they also made me feel as though the best of Eridu was already in the past. And I suppose it is.

I'm used to cities with high-rise buildings and shiny commercial centers, such as our own Surakosai. Eridu, due to its government's ideology, never got around to building things like these. Eridu, on a flat river plain, is a sprawling city of low, brown or white concrete and block buildings, most of them no more than three stories high. The rule is that you can't build anything higher than the Library, which is on the only higher ground in the city. It's not that much higher, and yet you can see the vast white square setback of the Library from most vantage points in the city. There's a bit more color in the residential districts; at one point the city planners encouraged the residents to paint their shutters and doors blue, and you can still see some of these weathered features.

The Great Library and its plaza

Eridu used to be a first-rate city, before the revolutions of the 180s brought hard-line ideologues into power. These ideologues were a loose coalition of womens' groups, communalists, environmentalists, and university professors. They were true to the Eridanian ideal of having philosophers in charge of public life. After all, had not the Great Redon been both philosopher and king? From the late 180s onward, commercial investment drained out of Eridu, and the city changed into a home for cottage industries, craft centers, greenhouse and roof agriculture, and deliberately simplified technologies. The Library, isolated in its temple-like enclosure, remained as a resource for researchers, even after its duplicate, with the yet-undeciphered historical records, opened in Chrysopolis.

The war of 191 was devastating to Eridu, even if the invasion from the coast was repelled. For years you could drive for miles to the south and not see a single inhabited house or store or factory. In the last twenty years, they had finally been re-building and re-populating these places, usually under the protection of Aurian forces who quietly crossed the undefended border from the southeast. For years there's been talk that the Aurians would simply march through and occupy the outskirts of Eridu, or even the city itself. Eridu has no military, since it was dissolved by the philosopher rulers after its service in the war. Instead, a corps of psychologists and conflict resolution experts stands ready to face any invaders.

As a Surakosan, I wanted to see what had become of what was originally our "mother city." As a sociotexter, I had read countless texts out of Eridu describing Surakosai as corrupt and enslaved to commercialism. What was the alternative like? At the hostel where I stayed, instead of texts on entertainment or restaurant lists, I received directions to the Library and an application to do research there. There were texts everywhere; in Eridu, they assume that you can read. Instead of graffiti, the walls had inspirational texts such as EVOLUTION REQUIRES YOUR CONSENT and REALIZE YOUR POTENTIAL BY DEDICATED WORK. It sounds oppressive, but the people I met - even unchaperoned - didn't seem dissatisfied. In the week that I was there, I was invited to eat dinner at many private homes, where affinity groups served tasty and plentiful meals, usually Algon style with lots of grains and chunks of chicken or lamb in spicy sauce. No one offered me anything alcoholic, unfortunately. They told me it was difficult to get beer in the city.

What do they talk about in the city of philosophy? Right now, the Eridanians are nervous. There are rumors of a large Aurian military buildup to the East, just across the river and the border. Remote viewers have confirmed that there are large numbers of covered trucks parked at the border, lightly concealed in tall rushes and marsh platforms, as well as covered lifters and rotocraft. What are the Aurians doing? It seems too small to be a full-scale invasion force, but something is definitely going on. Why are they doing this now?

The licensed forecognitives and intuitionists agree that something bad is coming, but they can't decide what it is. Maybe it will be a flood or some other natural disaster. Their information is too vague to sound an alarm, but my hosts tell me that some people are leaving Eridu because they are afraid of what is coming. They themselves won't leave, they say, because they will be able to handle anything. They are more highly evolved in the way of resourcefulness and peaceful compromise. But one of my hostesses told me that her household is quietly stocking up on dry provisions and bottled water.

As I walked toward the Library on a misty evening, I felt a sense of foreboding, both in the atmosphere of the City and the shared mental substrate. There were very few people in the plaza, and the lights were subdued. Some of the older buildings were all dark; I had already experienced a number of power outages during my stay. I passed the monuments of previous rulers, including that of Apsou-Ari, the controversial nouergist architect who had ruled just before the revolutions. Her monument had been destroyed in the first revolution, and this modest tribute to her had been built decades later. It was much smaller than the original, and lacked decorative lighting. The souvenir and food vendors had packed up and gone home.

The Library, though, was still brilliantly lit. I was met by my assigned guide as I arrived at the central doorway of the Wall of Nine Gates. She made sure to point out to me the venerable framework of the Eridu Gateway, mounted on the interior wall over the central three gates. It was through nine Gateway locations on this planet that our people came to New Earth, and the Library commemorates this. The old framework was cleared of its radioactivity and placed in the temple of memory, so that we can all remember what brought us here and where we came from.

Interior of the Great Library of Eridu

The Library is no longer run by the government. It has been in the hands of a private corporation of Lords of Memory since the Revolutions. I met with a representative of that corporation, dressed in her snow-white Lord of Memory uniform. Her name was Andeldona of Clan Dona, and had been designated to speak to journalists this year. I doubted that I would get much of a true picture from a professional designate. Indeed, I didn't get to ask many questions. She was intent on telling me (and, by representation, the Surakosan readers) how independent and self-sufficient the Library had become. "The entire roof, except for a network of elevated walkways, is paved with photovoltaic cells so that our power is all solar-generated," she said proudly. "We never have power outages." They had thought of everything, as if the Library was already under siege. "We use rainwater purification and keep our own water supply in the crypts, down where scholars used to get lost." And she added, "And we have all taken lessons in conversational Aurian."

"So," said I, "you are taking the rumors of an Aurian invasion seriously?" She smiled in the knowing and, to me, somewhat condescending way of Lords of Memory. "Our Library has withstood lightning, earthquake, floods, and wars. We are still here. Anyone who can read and who remembers history is welcome here."

People are leaving Eridu. I saw them in buses, heading for the suburbs and points north, clutching what baggage they could carry. At first they wouldn't answer my questions. I saw mostly poorer people and craftsmen, not the ruling philosophers or people from the University. Despite their militant egalitarianism, the philosopher rulers have not been able to eliminate social and economic differences. Finally someone told me that he had heard that the Aurians would invade and enslave them. Another told me, furtively, that she had seen outbreaks of religion and wanted to escape before it spread throughout the city. By the time my week was up, I was glad to leave the once-great city, the city of foreboding.

They say that in times of danger, the "sending" of Redon the Fourth appears at the northeast corner of the upper rampart of the Great Library. A "sending" is a lifelike projection of a master Nouergist. Redon has been dead for almost two hundred years, but every so often someone claims to have seen his figure, glowing a bright cobalt blue, in the place where he used to watch dawn come up over his city. Before I left, after the lights were out for the night, I looked at that corner, hoping to catch a glimpse of blue light. But there was nothing on that cloudy night, not even stars.

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