Week 15, Finding a Planet
We left our heroes still looking for a good parking spot for a world. Pfusand suggests bringing in the partial diadem we now have and plugging in the Turtle World segment (which we have taken to calling "the Juju," in honor of its nefarious witch-doctor discoverer). We should then be able to get the coordinates for the NEXT segment, then leave the Juju here to sustain the world until we finish our collection. Then maybe we can use the complete diadem to fix things.
The others object to this plan on two grounds -- first, that we might not be able to pry the Juju out again; second, that all this diadem activity out in the open, especially with such an energetic segment as this, might attract the attention of the worldbenders.
Then Daewen has an idea: suppose we hand the world off to another segment? The other segment could sustain it through the transition. Tom explores the segment and feels that this could work. There remain formidable technical problems.
First, how do we get the world-disc off the turtle and out of this pocket space-time? Tom has a suggestion, which he called "Freeze It, Shrink It, Ship It." He uses the Juju to throw the world-disc into stasis, then shrink it down to coffee-table size. Now we can move it around without jostling or upsetting the passengers, and we can open a gate to somewhere else without tearing the pocket space-time to flinders.
Second, open a gate to where? Tom recommends a planet without native life, but Earth-like enough that we could terraform it and park the world-disc on it. Daewen offers to go shopping for a planet to suit Tom's specifications. His major specification is that the curvature of the planet should match that of the world-disc. So what is the radius of curvature of the world-disc?...
All this consulting has taken place either out on the cliffside, in low voices or telepathically, or in the pantope while Pfusand waits on the cliff with the Juju. Evans and his folk have been waiting and watching with patient curiosity. Now, while Tom and Daewen bustle about, getting ready to do cosmologically upsetting things, Sophie approaches Evans and tells him thanks but we are now back on track and about to do dangerous things, so perhaps he and his crew should leave. "How dangerous?" Dangerous enough so that the last time we tried something like this, we evacuated all of our crew but Tom and Sophie. "Well, I guess we'll be going now..."
Tom determines the radius of curvature using the aircar, its altimeter, and a sextant. Daewen consults the data base in the pantope's Map Room and comes up with some likely planets that, on the CoDominion timeline, won't be explored for centuries. We can give our refugees even more time by parking the world-disc during the late BCs. It turns out that the world-disc has a Mars-sized curvature, so we pick a Mars-sized planet, a little warmer than Earth's neighbor, with a convenient layer of subsurface ice.
Now, how do we terraform this Martian planet? Obviously, with another segment. We select the Instrumentality, since Tom can use his Knack of Tools on it -- it was previously used by an expert, i.e. the blue crystals. Tom takes the Instrumentality out of the diadem and out to the cliffside, where Pfusand is still holding the Juju. He then pokes around until the Instrumentality warms up and "matches" the Juju in available power, though it is not yet turned on.
Now, back into the pantope to don a spacesuit, then to step out onto the surface of the Martian world. What we mostly need is ocean and air. Comets can supply that, if you know how many you want. We do. Using the segment, Tom calls down a rain of comets from the Oûrt cloud at the edges of this star system.
...And vanishes. Seems he left a small momentum leak and got squirted out into interplanetary space at a considerable velocity. Fortunately, he was in telepathic rapport and carrying a communicator, too. Daewen flies the pantope door after him and Chris suits up to go out and retrieve him. While waiting for them, Tom notes that his suit feels warmer on one side and deduces that this is because of friction with the interstellar hydrogen or with the solar wind. Both are so thin, this argues a prodigious velocity. He was trying to spot a Doppler shift in the starlight when they picked him up.
Now, the rain of the comets has started, but they are a long way out. We move the pantope door ahead ten years, then fifty, then a few centuries. Chaos reigns on the surface of the Martian planet. The subsurface ice has melted to join with the cometary ice and form seas and atmosphere. The Martian has too slight a gravity to hold the air and water permanently (i.e. for billions of years) but it ought to last for a few millions, which should be enough time for the refugees to get discovered and/or to develop spaceflight themselves.
However, our new-made atmosphere is low in nitrogen. Chris suggests getting it by introducing soil bacteria and ammonia. Done. Chris and Lorelei go to fetch some buckets of dirt from the pocket universe while Sophie and Alag go to fetch some from 15th century Africa. (You don't need much dirt; the soil bacteria will grow exponentially when they hit the competition-free environment on the Martian.)
Sophie and Alag are surprised by a few African tribesmen. Sophie starts a really great impromptu story of how they are doing this so the soil can be blessed by the chief of the next village as part of a diplomatic deal. The African's are actually starting to nod their heads when Alag finishes his glamour spell and makes them vanish, leaving confused natives behind.
Elsewhile, Tom is wielding the Instrumentality on the Martian world. The system conveniently includes a small warmish sub-jovian planet with extensive seas of ammonia. Tom opens a gate from the bottom of one such ocean to the upper air of the Martian and liberally mixes the seas and clouds with a calculated amount of anhydrous ammonia. The others show up and toss in their dirt. We fast-forward a decade and find atmospheric nitrogen building up nicely.
It'll take a while to "bake." We decide to use the time to fix the planet's rotation, which didn't happen to be close to 24 hours. To do this, we will lob a moon at it. We get the moon from the nearby sub-jovian. Tom calculates his force-vector, steps out with the Instrumentality, and gives the moon a kick. The moon shudders out of its orbit, headed for rendezvous with the Martian, and Tom flies off into deep space again. We were ready this time, though, and he is blazing with signal beacons of faster-than-light glamour; Alag is standing by in the pantope shuttle.
We fast-forward a few centuries and find the moon has settled down in orbit and fixed the rotation. Everything is coming along nicely, but we're a little behind on atmospheric oxygen. The solution: pond scum. Daewen suggests using the algae from the Kishaer homeworld. We get this without incident.
A quick millennium later, things are looking pretty good, but we are running out of time. And the air would still trouble the feebler members of a human population. Tom does not want to kill off all the old and infirm of the Turtle World, so he begs Chris to use the Instrumentality an his Alchemy talent to adjust the atmosphere "by hand." Chris is reluctant to use a segment and thus become "a ringbearer," as he puts it, but agrees.
He suits up, takes it, steps out on the Martian's surface, and flubs it; all the seas begin to fizz like carbonated water. We retreat, pop forward a year, and try again. This time, he adjusts the air nicely and fixes the pH level of the seas, to boot.
As an exercise in terraforming, Daewen would give it a B-. Chris thinks we deserve a solid B.
Now we've got to set up the Instrumentality to sustain the world-disc. Daewen suggests Tom now use his Tools skill on the Instrumentality. Okay, but the really expert user (the crystals) used it by INCORPORATING it into their structure; Tom doesn't want to do this. He manages not to and gets the thing fired up and ready to receive a world-disc. He hands it to the reluctant Chris.
We position ourselves. Chris is on the Martian planet, ready to receive. Tom and Lorelei are in the pantope shuttle, off the "coast" of the turtle. Everyone else is in the pantope, connected to the Martian world. (As a bit of a surprise, Tom and Lorelei discover a flared edge to the turtle shell; it contains the mist at the edge of the world.)
Tom opens a misty gateway to the Martian world, just large enough for the shuttle to fly through comfortably. Then he casts the world-disc into stasis. It becomes a vast silvery expanse. He shrinks it down to coffee-table size, leaving a bare-backed and anatomically incorrect turtle the size of India.
On the pantope, Daewen is having trouble maintaining the pantope-Martian connection. Sophie asks if it's worldbenders. Nope. Chris opines that it's our own doing and tells Daewen to drop the contact and come back in a few minutes. She does.
Tom, spacesuited, steps out of the shuttle and hovers on personal levitation with the Juju. Lorelei takes the shuttle through the gate to tell Chris we're coming. He's delighted, because the stars have been rippling and changing brightness overhead. Hurry.
Lorelei returns. Tom boards the shuttle and, using the Juju, sends the world- disc through the misty gateway, the shuttle coming close behind. Chris sees a silvery disc come through the misty gate and "catches" it with the Instrumentality. Immediately, everything starts to become dim and misty. Chris seems alone in a void with a silver shield.
The shuttle is plowing through a similar misty void. Perhaps it is just the mist of the gate, but it is deeper than ever and we suspect it is the result of a universe shattering behind us. The turtle must have gone to the big Woolworth's in the sky. The pocket-universe is, in fact, folding back into the Juju. It feels weird and there is outrageously open psi all around.
The Instrumentality, on the other hand, is trying to "do what the Juju does," which was sustain a pocket universe, so Chris is in danger of creating a new pocket. He figures this out and adjusts. The shuttle shows up, and so does the CoDominion universe. Everyone breaths again. Tom remarks that the feel of the whole experience reminds him of the first time he was dead.
Chris and Tom now trade segments so Tom can use Tools on the Instrumentality. We land the world-disc in the center of a pre-selected continent and enlarge it to life-size. We do NOT take it out of stasis yet. We wait, and Daewen shows up with the pantope after a few days. The planet is just a wee bit too large for the disc's curvature, so on Lorelei's recommendation we squish it into the crust a bit. The flare at the edge of the disc will form a circular mountain range. Massive volcanic eruptions and earthquakes result, but the disc is still in stasis. We reluctantly leave the Instrumentality on the moon for a year while we fast-forward, to keep up the stasis while the earthquakes die down. No one comes to steal it.
Finally, we release the stasis, using the Instrumentality to cushion the last inevitable set of earthquakes, especially around the ocean, the central valley, and New Detroit.
Sophie sends out a telepathic call for Evans. "It's done," she tells him. "WHAT'S DONE?!?!" he frantically wonders. After all, for him, in a split second the sun has changed position, a moon has appeared in the sky, and the air pressure and gravity have changed. Sophie explains a little -- they are now on a planet several light-years from Earth. She does not tell him he used to be on the back of a turtle. "Shall we come back later, or are you just plain sick of us?" She catches Evans wondering to himself how he could prevent us doing whatever we like, but he says that it would be okay to come back later.
With a great sigh of relief, we take the Juju AND the Instrumentality into the pantope and disconnect.
Copyright © 1998, Jim Burrows. All Rights Reserved.