38 - The Aftermaths

“ I knew”, the Observer said as they traveled through the salt wastes of the expanse, “as soon as I saw the probablities. Someone didn’t do a probability index of the project. An after-math, if you will. The idea is, when you build a superstructure, you factor the chance of something bad happening into calculations for its longevity. The general accepted number is one medium sized problem every thousand years, and one disaster every five thousand.

When you have areas, even small areas, which haven’t seen any problems for hundreds of thousands of years, well it begins to attract the attention of said same disasters, attraction in a non-thinking sort of sense. One of these machines, two machines no problem, even a hundred maybe, but a network of thousands, well that would certainly cause unpredictable consequences. I wanted no part of this, and I hoped by rejection of the tech would cause a second look. But it just got me shipped off to monitor the great expanse. It is an irony really; I have to sit there and observe the consequences of that which I just wanted to prevent. And I still can’t quite shake the feeling that some of the technology could be put to better use than solar farming…

The cloud that approaches Old Jardinian, is a storm, but not in a traditional sense. It is a storm of things that the universe thinks should have happened to the time-dilated areas, but seemingly hasn’t. It’s meteorites, it’s earthquakes, fires, and strange beasts in the dusts so concentrated as to blot out the light. It advances toward Old Jardinian. Maybe, I should have just accepted the gift.“

Though Impecca was disappointed by her people’s apparent ignorance to anomalous consequence, she did know first hand what it was like to be abandoned by them. And, she had a suspicion that she would be, as an accidental exile of nearly a thousand years, certainly different from the current iteration of her people. Of course she still wanted to know more about her people, but her burning desire had been tempered, replaced by an urge to help her new friends who had seemingly been at the basest of levels, inconvenienced and wronged by the Alovians, like her.

“Well”, said Au,” we must help Old Jardinian. Can we stop the, uh, smudge?”

The Observer took a moment from guzzling water. “I’m not sure. If we have any hope, we certainly must halt all activity at the temporal fields. Frankly, I’m not even sure if the effects can be reversed.” He dumped the rest of Archie's last bottle on his face. Archie didn’t mind, he still had whiskey. “We must move fast. The smudge encroaches.”

They strapped the computer down to the sled, now attached to Archie and Au’s lev bike. Au felt a little strange about LM Noder’s choice of avatar, but admittedly it was better than the real version. It had the effect of a flatteringly optimistic live obituary. LM was still delighted with the anomalies it had been able to detect, but was now just wondering with the impending disaster - what was an anomaly with no-one left to share it with? It felt a new emotion, something like sadness, on an existential level. It would spend some cycles thinking about this.

Au and Archie drove back towards civilization in the same configuration as before. Impecca sat on one side of the sled, ogling everything as activity became more apparent, and the dregs of the Great Expanse fell away. The Observer sat on the other side, brooding, on par with the smudge in terms of darkness.

There were many hours of dreary scrub, not worth mentioning, again unless you were in the business of sickly bushes and underwhelming rock formations. Then they began to hear the great waves of the Surrounding Seas - they came upon the great beaches of Sodden. Impecca had never seen so many people before. True to form as a former tourism professional, she felt a great sense of satisfaction at seeing so many enjoying themselves in a relaxing manner. Admittedly, their enjoyment was only facilitated by the obliviousness to the danger approaching behind.

The beach committees, and the owners of seaside villas and resorts around Sodden had campaigned for access to the ever-elusive departure station from outside Sodden, so that their sun-worshipping denizens would have the opportunity to leave with some savings in check, in hopes they may be able to come back some day. Nobody makes it through Sodden twice with their fortunes even somewhat in check.

Tangents to the main C-rail line brought the blue-collar boxhomeers out to the grid-parks by the sea, and Jardinian elites to the great resorts by shuttle. Some of the more exotic and wilde locales were road and lev-vehicle access only; out of the way, do-it-yourself vacationing for the status hounds who wanted to pay expediently for the privilege of “roughing it”. It was usually the house staff who paid dearly for this kind of excess, sent foraging through the beachward arm of the jungle towards Sodden by a sudden craving of one of their employers growing tired of dried food. Invariably, it was some variation on “come back with Acropolis chips or don’t come back at all.”

It was one of these routes that they happened upon, racing up the stretch on their lev-bikes to the excitement of rowdy lev-bus groups of revellers on tour, likely the children and hangers-on of the industrialist caste. The dusty stretch was wide enough for many such busses, and had a median of tasteful palms, even with authentic and healthy monkeys chattering at the bohemian traffic. Their excitement about the bikes soon passed, to be replaced a little later on by feelings of unnamed dread as the smudge poked above the horizon, across the sea that turned into the salt flats of the Expanse.

Au was taking no chances with bringing Archie back through Sodden. The Adjournicator would not be pleased to see them again. Thankfully, the beach roads took them straight to the departures station. Seeking to avoid another interaction with the Adjournicator, she took them around the outside of the city. Impecca was disappointed, she had wanted to see the city up close, but had been placated with tales of the great spires, domes, statues and lush, lush greenery of Old Jardinia, which they would be imminently visiting, and ideally saving.

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