Sat, 22 May, 2010

From the Earthquake Zone

Anthimia 31, 230 A.C.

Continuing nouetic and electronic image and word stream from the Surakosan relief team in earthquake-stricken Eridu. This text has been edited for delayed release at this time, just about a month after the actual earthquake event.

There is good news in the late afternoon. Tanheu has woken up. Dr. Nuitnabar is immediately called, and Ariadne rushes to his side. The first thing that Tanheu asks, groggily, is whether his cats have been cared for. His cats? The city of Eridu is destroyed, and he's thinking first of his cats? Ariadne assures him that the telepathic communications with Surakosai are good, and that his young nouergist assistant Joris has been feeding the cats.

The second question is more dangerous. Tanheu needs his equipment pack. We had put it far away from the camp because we were afraid it was radioactive. It was with the other gear that our people brought back from the power plant. Someone brave goes to find it, and she comes back quickly with the right one, nouetically guided by Ariadne. We take these mental information exchanges for granted, even in a disaster area. She places the heavy military-style pack near Tanheu's pallet and then backs off. Meanwhile the Surakosai director is struggling to get up and not doing so well as yet. He has been under intravenous fluids but the doctor now gives him something to drink. Finally Tanheu manages to sit up, and someone brings the pack to him. Dosimeters. He needs to see the dosimeters. They are in an outside pocket and he fumbles through the pockets until he finds them. Pulls out the dosimeters, looks at them, and falls back onto his pallet with a sigh of relief. He explains, showing us the color bars. The dosimeters show that the radiation levels were low. Neither he nor Barandigi nor the other people at the power plant's control room received enough radiation to have serious consequences.

The report from the plant, though, says that two men were working inside the enclosure when the earthquake struck. They were suffocated, as well as irradiated, and died immediately. The Algon are now in control of the plant, but no one will be able to recover their bodies for a long time. There is other news from the southern quadrants of Eridu, especially around the power plants. There is fighting between the Algon and the Aurians, and the Algon have re-occupied all the power plant sites as well as some of the Algon sector of the city. Meanwhile, the rumor is that the Aurians will be setting up refugee camps for homeless Eridanians on flat open surfaces, and that they are working on clearing the airport so that relief flights can land. The Aurians sound like helpful saviors, but other reports tell of Aurian squads looting anything technological they can find. And they have occupied the Great Library with a very strong force and they shoot anyone who goes near it without permission.

Dr. Nuitnabar gives Tanheu a nutrition drink from the camp supplies. Tanheu is not in good shape. The basic reading is that the Director's nouergic powers are deactivated. This is not the first time this has happened to him, and so far in all known similar cases, the powers have returned. But it may take weeks, even months before he is back to his Master-level normal. At this point, his telepathic abilities remain but there won't be any purple glow for a long time. Given this de-powerment, what is his status here at the earthquake relief station? Frankly, he is of no use, nouergically, and he is too weak at the moment to do conventional relief work. Ariadne makes the decision to send him home to Surakosai, through Noshir's gateway, as soon as Noshir wakes up with his power replenished.

Noshir will stay in Surakosai and open the Gate from that end. He's requested to leave the Aurian-occupied area. His display of last night alerted the Aurian commanders, and some Aurian officers have already come to our camp looking for him. He was conveniently out on patrol when they showed up. Noshir is an exile from Auranvei; he left deliberately due to political and religious differences, which is the same thing in the land of the Aurians. He's a mining engineer/nouergist who works in a remote mountain place where no one from his old country will ever want to find him.

In the middle of the night just passed, an Aurian man dressed all in white with a tall cap came to our camp, looking for "Noshir the Flame Bearer." We didn't know what he was, but he turned out to be a priest of their fire-worshipping religion. Evidently when they want to light a new fire they have a nouergist do it. Noshir refused and walked away, but then the priest came back just before dawn. I didn't see what came of that, but Noshir has been quiet ever since.

Meanwhile, the Aurians in our area are trying to remedy their major logistic/strategic mistake by sheer manpower. Their aircraft are all grounded, either because they have run out of fuel or because they have stopped working due to the engines being clogged with dust. This is probably what happened to the lifter in which Ennio Liatris and the others were riding. Throughout the day, Aurian soldiers and workers have been hand-carrying containers of fuel in from their fuel depot over a kilometer away. They set down their tankers in a football stadium which is now crowded with homeless people. The Aurians, in a long (and guarded) line, are unloading fuel from the tankers and carrying it back to the working aircraft in our area at the Library plaza. They will fuel their heaviest lifter, which will have enough fuel then to go to the tank depot and bring back more. It isn't safe, and there has already been more than one crash among the Aurian aircraft, outside of the one which lost us Liatris.

There is still the matter of Barandigi, the female nouergist who was brought to the disaster area by her mentor Liatris. Tanheu, despite feeling barely functional, is in (private telepathic) conference with Ariadne about what to do with her. The basics of this conversation were reported to me, with permission, from an official information source at the Surakosai Institute. Sometimes we meta-journalists have to use official sources.

The question of Barandigi's status: is she a fugitive? how is she to be treated? Can she be given asylum at Surakosai?

Tanheu: She must be considered a fugitive. She is a reservee (special property) of Beka construction corporation in Tisaram. Beka is a major corporation, typical of those big holdings there. They maintain a private army and intelligence service, including skilled nouergists and nouetic trackers. They will find her here soon.

Ariadne: She has just about asked to stay with us. I think it's pretty clear she doesn't want to work for the Tisari any more. She mentioned that you said she could come train at Surakosai.

Tanheu: (another big sigh) Under normal and legal circumstances, yes. Perhaps I shouldn't have said that. It was a confused, emergency situation.

Ariadne: Then what are the options?

Tanheu: Best option, keep her here by any means necessary, until the Beka people show up (and don't think they won't) to find her. They will then assume she didn't leave voluntarily, and take her back.

Lesser option: let her escape. They will find her, even in the ruins. If she doesn't surrender, they will not hesitate to gun her down.

Worst option: keep her and bring her home with us. She may get our sympathy, we may want to save her, but Beka will associate us with her and they will attack us. If we Gate her to Surakosai, Beka will take revenge on our institute with all sorts of nasty tactics, whether she stays or not. That is just the way it is in Tisaram. Yes, it is somewhat reminiscent of how I came to Surakosai under Enlil's protection, but I don't have that power right now. Even at full power, you don't challenge Beka Corporation.

If we think she could be an asset to us, and she remains alive, we (or I) can negotiate later, when (and if!) my nouergic powers return.

More than that, we can't do. I will fall over now. I need to go home.

Ariadne: I've already alerted them. The apartment is ready for you at the infirmary. You'll see your cats.

At twilight, Noshir the Aurian, exiled nouergist, woke up and packed his belongings. The Gateway site was already clear and prepared. A master-level nouergist can hold a stable Gateway by him/herself. It seemed effortless for him to reach mentally to Surakosai, gather the energies, open the Gateway, and send the column of stretchers and bearers through. Last came Tanheu, looking like a war-weary soldier, wearing his loaded pack. They walked through into a cool spring evening, into the unreal world of the Institute gardens, where swifts filled the air with their calls and everything was intact.

Back on the cluttered Library Plaza in Eridu, in the dark blue evening, a group of white-clad priests chant ritual words. They tell us that they are talking to their deity, saying good things about the people who have died in this earthquake and asking the deity to be hospitable in the afterlife to their somehow surviving consciousness after death. Anyway, they've put a pile of blocks together in the center of their enclosure, and on top of that stack burns a bright flame.

Posted at 3:22 am | link

Sat, 15 May, 2010

From the Earthquake Zone

Anthimia 20, 230 A.C.

Continuing nouetic and electronic image and word stream from the Surakosan relief team in earthquake-stricken Eridu. This text has been edited for delayed release at this time, more than three weeks after the actual earthquake event.

After this first long night, the nouergists who are still available are resting. They cannot resume their activities until they have spent hours asleep. Ennio Liatris is dead in a lifter crash, and Barandigi is under sedation. She is considered an escape risk and is under surveillance at all times. Tanheu is still unconscious, with no sign of awakening as the day begins.

Around noontime, Mereth Kahn emerges from his geodesic dome retreat, clean and dressed in fresh clothing, as if he had never struggled through the ruins of a city. He's holding a cup of hot tea. What is this, a luxury expedition? Ariadne says nothing, she's tired from a morning of rescue and recovery among the fallen walls and roofs. She is bent over a GPS unit on the table, coordinating reports of people who are trapped and nouergically tracking them.

Mereth is reporting for duty. He has an idea as to how he can reach those people more quickly than a ground-based force, even when there is no place for a lifter to land. He can provide a levitation bubble that can ferry a powerful nouergist directly to the area of need, and then remove the victim to the nearest help station, whether Aurian or Eridanian. He uses levitation bubbles on the job, to impress a client with a ride over his or her building. Superheroics, of course, excessive nouergic dazzle most of the time. But now it can save lives. The bubble flies quite low, much lower than lifters or rotocraft, so it won't be in their airspace. Mereth can prolong the use of bubbles with a set of nouergic "batteries," retained effects he can borrow power from. They're in his messenger bag, he shows Ariadne. Small heavy iron cylinders, with a carbon core. They get hot when used, as hot as an iron pot in the oven, so they have to be handled and stored carefully.

Who among the nouergists is ready to work? The first day has taken a deep toll. Liatris is dead, Tanheu unconscious. Noshir has been designated as the Gateholder to open a gate back to Surakosai to evacuate the most serious injuries. Durvan is hung over, and Barandigi is under sedation. That leaves Kuklian, who was not so pleased when Mereth left him at the collapsed front wall of the Library. But Kuklian is rested, so Ariadne requests that he continue the mission with Mereth. Kuklian complains that the movement of the levitation bubble makes him queasy, but people's lives are at stake. Ariadne hands Kuklian a GPS plak with the coordinates of those most in need of rescuing.

Mereth crafts the bubble, a shining semi-transparent sphere of golden pseudomatter. Kuklian climbs in cautiously, passing through the side without a door, sitting beside Mereth on a seat crafted of the same stuff. Mereth places one of his "batteries" in a specially insulated sleeve pouch, and off they go, moving as fast as they can without Kuklian losing his lunch. The bubble disappears into the sunlight; some of the airborne dust is starting to settle and the sky is blue again.


Posted at 2:01 am | link


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