Cythera Chronicles: Cause and effect, Part 1



  • By Bryce
    **This chronicle is only partly ‘serious’, it is mostly designed to get people upset by portraying elves as militant Luddites.:) **

    James Averest hated traffic. How did he end up working ten-hour days for the Cytheran energy commission in a Catamarcan skyscraper, then? The second largest city on a highly urbanized little island floating in the southern hemisphere of the world that was the industrial capital of this system - it was not exactly what James saw as an ideal place. It was deforested from years of logging, strip mined for what little metals it had, and global warming seemed to make the overcrowded beach that was the only interesting spot around get smaller every day.

    He looked out of the windshield of his hover car. The other vehicles ahead of him gave no indication of movement. They simply floated lazily on their cushioning repulser fields, waiting as did he for the flow of traffic to resume. Maybe a wolflizard was on the road again, and the endangered species people had come out to go convince it to return to the nearby nature preserve.

    Flipping on the audio player, James listened to a news report to pass the time.

    "... And the colonists on Danabus-Theta nine are expected to fully recover from the effects of the disease epidemic thanks to the relief supplies contributed by the good people of Cythera.

    In other news, Elven Luddites today destroyed a elemental converter in Darsh, knocking out heat and electricity for a quarter of the Dwarven League. According to the Dwarven government, the Elves’ leader, in a communiqué of undisclosed type, claimed that her rebel group would not stop until what she called ‘the evils of mechanization and technology’ were abolished."

    Luddites, Luddites, Luddites. It’s all the news ever talks about these days...

    "The Dwarven premier Jorgal denounced the attack and labeled the elves ‘terrorists bent on stamping out civilization’, and was also quoted as saying that ‘they won’t stop until we are living in caves and painting on rocks with berry juice and clay’.

    President Akaris issued a statement in support of the Dwarven position, and urged the defense assembly to allow him to take stronger action against supposed Luddite cells operating in Cythera.

    In interstellar news, the strange vortex phenomenon we reported on yesterday after it was discovered by an Evarian scoutship in the Elba system is said to have doubled in size in the last twelve hours. Elban scientists are at a loss to explain it, but do not think that the anomaly represents a threat to their world.

    Also today, a spacecraft from a race calling themselves the YarKal landed in the Odemia Spaceport, marking a first contact between that species and a world of the Stellar Confederation.
    Our diplomats report that they are a amiable people, and that trade betw..."

    James switched the audio system to a different sound stream. Restful music filled the interior of the hover car. He pressed a button on the console, activating the car’s autopilot, and reclined his chair.

    --------

    "You have arrived at your destination." James groaned slightly, and opened his eyes. The clock showed only about forty minutes had passed. That was better than normal. With some effort he straightened the angle of his chair and opened the door. As he walked up to the door of his house, his hover car turned and parked itself in his garage.

    He paused at the entry way, waiting for the house computer to scan him and open the doors. Seconds passed. James gave a confused look to the inch-wide lens of the camera above the door. What was wrong?

    He reached over to the manual keypad, and pressed the sequence of keys to open the door. He was greeted by the click of the door’s latch, but the door remained steadfastly unopened.

    "What..." This was not a good day for the house computer to suddenly up and crash.

    He pulled the tiny, atrophied doorknob, and let himself into his house. It was dark, something to which he was unaccustomed... The motion sensors should have detected him...

    "DO NOT MOVE, HUMAN!"

    James turned his head with a start towards the source of the ominous threat. Standing in the dark was a figure clothed in black, holding an old-fashioned pistol. He knew those made nasty and often lethal wounds.

    "Wh..What do you want?" James stuttered, his heart racing.

    "You."

    "Where’s my family?"

    "We arranged for them to be conveniently out of the house for our visit. They’ll be fine. If you cooperate with us."

    "Who is ‘us’?"

    "Nevermind. Come along..." The figure gestured from the shadows towards himself.

    "To where?" James said, stepping tentatively forward.

    "Just come. Hurry up. We don’t have all evening. And put your hands on head, don’t try anything funny."

    James nervously did as instructed, putting his hands over his balding head and stepping further towards his abductor. In the dim and fleeting evening light coming through the kitchen windows, he made out the pointed ears of the man holding the weapon.

    "You’re one of those Luddites?"

    "Good guess. Move along." The Luddite pointed in the direction of the kitchen door. James obediently headed for the door as the elf took up position behind him.

    "Be quiet when we get outside."

    "Where are you going to take me?"

    "That does not concern you."

    They passed through the broken kitchen door, and onto James’ house’s lawn. An unusual vehicle sat waiting, parked on the grass. It had wheels.

    "What’s with the wheels?"

    "Budget Cuts," said the elf, sarcastically. "Get in."

    The Luddite opened the back door of the car, and half pushed James inside. A heavy metal screen prevented access by the passengers to the front of the vehicle, and the rear windows were blacked out. Since the screen was almost opaque on account of its thickness and night was approaching, the chances of him learning where they were going was nil.

    "Buckle up." The elf slammed the door shut. James heard the doors lock at the command of the key wand.

    ---

    It was a long and bumpy journey. James could make no rough estimate of how far they traveled, as he had no idea how fast a vehicle like this one could travel.

    He had once asked his elven captor how much farther they had to travel, but had gotten no intelligible response. He hadn’t tried again, and it didn’t seem like it really mattered.

    James seemed to remember reading about these vehicles in grade school - it was powered by the combustion of a hydrocarbon, rather than by direct elemental drive. They’d been used during the Empire War when elemental materials could no longer be imported from the Coastal Empire, and the resources of the Cytheran mainland where exhausted.

    Of course, once the Cytheran navy had routed the Empire Armada with the help of the Dwarven resistance, the coastal lands fell and sources of elemental materials opened up again.

    He winked off to sleep a few times in the course of the journey, but he never managed to sleep for more than a few minutes before a bump on the road wakened him.

    When the elf finally parked the vehicle and removed him from it, he could see it was in the early morning hours. He didn’t bother to ask where he had been taken as the elf ushered him into an old and dilapidated building in a rural area. The structure was faintly illuminated, and it looked to James like an antiquated barn.

    The inside of the barn was about as unassuming as the outside. An old machine for milking some mammalian creature was against the wall, and there were stalls around. He surmised that this was once a dairy barn of some sort. The idea that this was simply going to be the spot where he was to be found dead by some poor old retired farmer flashed disturbingly through his mind.

    Then, suddenly, the elf bent down to the hay-covered floor and began foraging for something, while still retaining the aim of his weapon on James. It looked to him as if his Luddite captor had lost all sense... "What are you looking for?" James managed.

    "Be quiet."

    James shrugged as the elf seemed to find the object of his search. He stood up, pulling a handle that had been concealed by the hay. The trap door opened up, showing a dim and copiously dusty room beneath it.

    "Get down there, human," the elf ordered.

    James complied, descending the rickety ladder that touched the top of the trapdoor, heading into the dark unknowns of the hidden room below. While he contemplated the possibility of a violent and fatal future for himself in the dark hidden room, the elf joined him.

    "Why are we here?" James asked, again.

    "Do you think I’ll never tell you?"

    "That possibility was occurring to me."

    "Well, you are wrong. Now is the time to enlighten you..."

    James sat down on an old wooden chest, which in fact seemed to be more dust than wood, as the elf positioned himself opposite the minor Cytheran bureaucrat.

    As the Luddite struck a match and put the flame to an old lantern in the room, James choked on the dusty atmosphere. The match’s phosphoric flame ignited the smelly oil on the lamp’s wick, casting an irregular orange light on the pair and their surroundings.

    "It’s a long story..." the elf began.

    "I don’t have much of a choice, do I? Take all night if you have to."

    "Do you remember your history?"

    "Fairly well."

    "Then you’ll no doubt recall how Cythera’s history is divided into four parts - from the beginning of Cythera to the coming of humans, from that to the rise of Alaric, and from that to the coming of the Visitors, and then our present post-visitor time period."

    James nodded, vaguely recalling the truth of the narrative from the forgotten back alleys of his brain.

    "You also certainly know, as a employee of the Energy Commission, how we fuel the vast, technical mess that has been constructed since the Age of the Visitors?"

    The man gave another nod. Certainly every schoolchild knew that Cytheran technology was based on the use of ‘Elemental Lens’, objects to focus elemental power into a certain point. Heat lenses powered most of the world’s endeavors, but to a lesser extent all four of the material elements were used by humankind’s technology.

    "Well, back in old times, before the Visitors came, manipulation of the elements was very limited. There were no lenses..."

    James interrupted. "Since there were no lenses, how would the elements be manipulated at all? Already the story makes no sense..."

    "People were able to manipulate the elements psionically."

    "Oh, that’s rich. I suppose you’ll tell me that the fairy tale about King Alaric and Bellerophon is a true story, too..."

    "Yes, actually."

    James forgot he was a hostage just long enough to laugh.

    "Just shut up and listen, Human."

    He did so, leaning back against the dirty wall of the room. The elf certainly had no taste in settings...

    "Anyway, the elements were able to recover from that small manipulation, because each person was very limited in the amount of manipulation they could perform. But when the Visitors came, they brought with them the knowledge of the Elemental lens - an untiring device that could perform a consistent drain on a tightly monochrome band of elemental energy. You recall the aviator Talm - and his balloon?"

    "Yes, I do. According to legend he powered his balloon with a fire crystal, but since that was several years before we know the Visitors came..."

    "It was a Visitor lens. You know the wrecked spaceship they are digging up on Kalmos? That’s probably where it came from..."

    Mentally, James gave a chuckle. He had never seen such a deluded individual before.

    "So, to get back to the point, the Visitor Lens technology has since permeated society at large and is now considered indispensable by the common Human."

    "I’d say so," agreed James.

    "But that lens technology is damaging the multiverse. The elements can’t recover fast enough to reverse the effects of all but the smallest lenses - and what do you think those twenty-Megapsion units that we just capped near Darsh were doing? Those things were shredding the fabric of space."

    Before the elven Luddite could continue, James spoke. "Elemental technology has been in use for many centuries. I’d think that we’d have detected that by now."

    The elf sighed. "The damage is not being done to our universe."

    "Now there are parallel universes coming into this, too? What’s next, a tie-in with some ancient legend?"

    "If I didn’t have orders to the contrary, I’d blow your sorry head off. Shut up, listen."

    The irate elf continued. "The phrase - ‘you can’t get something for nothing’ - remember it? It applies to lenses, too. Your scientists have never been able to figure out what makes them tick, or even formulate a theory which can be supported experimentally. Last I heard, the leading hypothesis is that they draw energy from all over the universe and convert it, and thus there is no measurable energy drop detectable around the lens. Well, that is dead wrong. No matter how sensitive elemental energy detectors get, they’ll never be able to detect the drop - there is none. Rather, the lenses are - for lack of a better term - feeding - on other dimensions. They convert matter in those dimensions to energy, which they transport here and manifest as an elemental destabilization, or effect. That effect soon dissipates, merging with the native force of its type after it does whatever work you put it too."

    "I don’t quite fallow. You said that the lenses damage other dimensions by feeding on them, but you also say that out own dimension is being damaged by the lenses by creating some kind of unbalance. It does not make sense."

    "Do forgive, I am not a scientist. But yes, it is a two-fold problem. Here, we are receiving more than out fair share of elemental energy in general, but most particularly the ever-popular fire element. That unbalance is the danger to us. The lens' source of energy - other dimensions - is the danger to the Multiverse at large."

    "How is this so-called unbalance of the Fire element a problem?"

    "For years, centuries, technology-users have been ‘importing’ more fire element than any other elemental force."

    James assented. "That’s true, the last statistics indicated that ninety trillion megapsion-hours of fire element were generated last year alone, whereas there were less than a trillion megapsion-hours of each of the others."

    "It doesn't take a genius to see that a ninety-to-one overload of one force isn’t good news. It isn’t large enough for you to have noticed it yet, but all over the universe, ambient temperature is beginning to rise slowly..."

    "So, you’re saying that in the distant future we are going to have a warm universe. Big deal, it will be billions of years before we have even a minor problem, and by that time we’ll have other sources of power besides lenses anyway."

    "I confess, you’re right. It will be at least a hundred million years before universal ambient temperatures rise 10 degrees Celsius. But the threat from our universe is much greater than that to it."

    Here we go with the alternate-universe thing... James thought. Then, he realized something.

    "If the lenses in convert matter to energy in other universes, the effect can’t be all that great. After all, a universe as very vast, and the amount of energy in matter is tremendous, to say the least..."

    "Oh, that would be true, were it not for the incredible inefficiency of the lens. It takes about a kilogram of matter to make a single psion-hour of elemental energy."

    "That’s still not much, on a universal, or even planetary, scale."

    "It is if it is an inhabited planet."

    "Planets move. Surely a planet would not be in the target area for long."

    "I said this once and I say it again, I am not a scientist nor do I want to be. But from the effects - which I have seen first hand..."

    "First hand? In another dimension? This is just absurd."

    The Elf threw up his hands in frustration. "I am not going to sit here and argue with you all night, human. You can go and see for yourself!"

    The Luddite, keeping his gun trained on James, moved over to one of the walls of the tiny store room and pushed a crate to the side of the it. This exposed a wooden door, beyond which an eerie green glow emanated.

    "Get over here!" The pointy-eared man ordered James.

    In no position to contest it, he got up and stood at the elf’s side as his captor opened the door. The rotted wood gave way to a shimmering, sparkling, cyan aperture. The portal radiated with vibrant pulses of luminous energy, and thin, serpentine bands of power snaked up and down the edges of the gateway. In the center, James could just barely make out an image of a faraway place through the clouds of energy.

    "See you in a little while." With a surprisingly powerful shove, the elf came up from behind and pushed the surprised office worker through the portal, and into another world...

    (To be continued)

    (This message has been edited by moderator (edited 01-14-2003).)



  • This is an interesting take on Cythera's elements. It's certainly different to see a technologically advanced Cythera, though quite enjoyable. I can hardly wait for the next chapter.

    Slayer's guide to classical physics

    The distinction between power and energy is one that many lay-people are a little unclear on. Power refers to a continuous application of energy. Thus, for example, a 100-Watt(power) light bulb uses 100 joules(energy) every second. As another example, one kilogram produces one psion-hour of energy, so in other words, a twenty megapsion generator would consume twenty million kilograms of interdimensional matter every hour. I'm tired now, so if I'm unclear, let me know.

    ------------------
    Slayer's guide to Cythera:
    (url="http://"http://www.macclassics.com/cythera/cythera.htm")http://www.macclassi...era/cythera.htm(/url)

    (This message has been edited by Slayer (edited 01-14-2003).)



  • Quote

    Originally posted by Slayer:
    **a twenty megapsion generator would consume twenty million kilograms of interdimensional matter every hour.
    **

    Makes perfect sense, but it raises the issue of: What is a psion? How much energy is it? :)
    I have no idea myself, I created the unit so I did not have to express the power in known units that are defined in the real world. (Perhaps for the same reason that probobly drove the creatives behind Back to the Future to measure the power required by the time machine in the fictional 'Jiggawatt' unit.)

    You should start a "Slayer's Guide" series, like the "For Dummies" books... I can't wait for "Slayer's Guide to Programing an RPG Engine - with royalty free source code samples!"

    ------------------
    "...All persons are free to think of any concept and hold to any idea or position." - The Second of the Five Fundimental Truths of 2081.

    Where do you want to (url="http://"http://www.macclassics.com/cythera/tricks/rJade.htm")teleport(/url) today?



  • Quote

    Originally posted by Bryce:
    ... measure the power required by the time machine in the fictional 'Jiggawatt' unit.

    Actually, that was 'Gigawatt', which is the next range up from Megawatt (i.e. 1 GW = 1000 MW). I have no idea, however, if lightning bolts really reach magnitudes in the vicinity of 1.21 GW.

    Good story, Bryce, with a very interesting premise. I look forward to the next chapter. :)

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    "The e-mail of the specious is more dangerous than their mail" - Tom Holt, 'Snow White and the Seven Samurai'



  • Quote

    Originally posted by Bryce:
    What is a psion? How much energy is it?

    In the context you used it, it isn't energy, it's power!

    Quote

    the fictional 'Jiggawatt' unit.

    Err... That's just a different way to pronounce "gigawatt," which means one billion watts.

    ------------------
    Slayer's guide to Cythera:
    (url="http://"http://www.macclassics.com/cythera/cythera.htm")http://www.macclassi...era/cythera.htm(/url)

    (This message has been edited by Slayer (edited 01-14-2003).)



  • I knew about gigawatts, I just thought that 'gig-ah-watt' was the correct and only pronuciation, like 'gig-ah-byte'. I've never heard 'jiggabyte'...

    The appropreate question would have been "How much energy applied over what time' constitutes a 'psion'." if a psion is like a watt and a watt is one jule applied over one second continuously... However I would like to leave what unit of energy that the psion applies over one second undefined.

    That's the problem with physics, it is always defining common words so percisely and making them uninterchangible. Tempiture (sp?) and heat, Power and energy... :D

    According to Google, a lightning bolt contains 'billions of watts', so I guess 1.21 gigawatts could be in that neighborhood.

    ------------------
    "...All persons are free to think of any concept and hold to any idea or position." - The Second of the Five Fundimental Truths of 2081.

    Where do you want to (url="http://"http://www.macclassics.com/cythera/tricks/rJade.htm")teleport(/url) today?



  • Quote

    Originally posted by Bryce:
    I just thought that 'gig-ah-watt' was the correct and only pronuciation

    It is. The actor just didn't know that.

    ------------------
    "The e-mail of the specious is more dangerous than their mail" - Tom Holt, 'Snow White and the Seven Samurai'



  • Quote

    Originally posted by cache22:
    **It is. The actor just didn't know that.
    **

    Interesting... you learn something every day...

    ------------------
    "...All persons are free to think of any concept and hold to any idea or position." - The Second of the Five Fundimental Truths of 2081.

    Where do you want to (url="http://"http://www.macclassics.com/cythera/tricks/rJade.htm")teleport(/url) today?



  • Quote

    Originally posted by Bryce:
    **I just thought that 'gig-ah-watt' was the correct and only pronuciation
    **

    According to the American Heritage dictionary sitting on my floor and dictionary.com, both 'gi-ga' and 'ji-ga' are correct pronuciations of the prefix 'giga'. Perhaps it's the updated post-Back to the Future edition ;). (url="http://"http://dictionary.reference.com/search?q=giga")http://dictionary.re...m/search?q=giga(/url)

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    Slayer's guide to Cythera:
    (url="http://"http://www.macclassics.com/cythera/cythera.htm")http://www.macclassi...era/cythera.htm(/url)

    (This message has been edited by Slayer (edited 01-18-2003).)


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