The ice wars of dominia, p.1
The Ice Wars of Dominia, p.1Hylton Smith
The Ice Wars of Dominia
Hylton H Smith
Copyright 2011 by Hylton H Smith
No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, graphic, electronic, or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, taping or by any information storage or retrieval system, without the permission in writing from the publisher,
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters and incidents are products of the author's imagination. Any resemblance to persons living or dead is entirely coincidental.
The views expressed in this work are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the publisher, and the publisher hereby disclaims any responsibility for them.
It was just over one hundred years and approximately four generations since Comet 2005 NB5C was deflected by the larger moon of Mars, into a collision course with Earth in 2045. Phobos played a critical part in all respects. During the comet’s previous altercation with the planet in 1908, witnessed as an air-burst, a large fragment caused devastation over Tunguska.
Unknown to mankind at that time, an intelligent alien species travelling through the solar system predicted this impact, and had engineered a dual strategy to protect the Earth, and as much of its flora and fauna as possible. The first part of the plan was to steer the comet to a safe trajectory in 1908. It was only partially successful because the incident energy which the alien species released splintered off a fragment, which was responsible for the hell unleashed on Russia. They knew the comet would return in 2045, and devised the second ingenious solution. They had correctly identified Phobos as having a decaying orbit around Mars, which was destined to eventually impact the planet. They embedded a colossal propulsion device into Phobos to gradually nudge the little moon out of the comet’s trajectory, and the consequent deflected head-on encounter with Earth. They had in 1908, also sent an object to the Tunguska region to be discovered by investigators of the affected area. They knew that Earth science at that time was not advanced enough to visit Mars, but estimated that this would occur before 2045. What they couldn’t know was that the soft landing of their object would be in very boggy terrain, which would allow the device to be swallowed quickly. In fact it wasn’t discovered until some eighteen years prior to the return of the comet. When the object was recovered and analysed, it outlined the need for a landing on Phobos to activate the propulsion device at a precise point in time. This critical point was when the comet was nearing the Kuiper belt. Everything went well and the first gentle stage of shifting the orbit of Phobos was achieved smoothly. The additional benefit of this elegant plan was that Phobos would no longer be lost to Mars; it would inherit a stable dance around the red planet. The second stage propulsion burst failed, and as human experts had decided to stand down nuclear strike capability, due to the danger it posed in fragmentation of the comet, the monster reclaimed its pinball route to Earth’s atmosphere. It then split, resulting in two extinction impacts over Southern Africana and the Chino-Indian area.
The resulting cataclysm dispensed instant death, radiation sickness, incredible climatic change, viral explosion and famine. This sequenced march to extinction affected the vast majority of species, including most of humanity. In the immediate aftermath, the slender grip on life held by the surviving humanoids virtually wiped the prior alien intervention from their minds. It was just as well they had forgotten that automatic messages had been triggered to inform these entities of the failure of their plan. Although the messages were apparently sent to the 61 Virginis system, in the constellation of Virgo, the humans weren’t to know that this was not their home. In fact they didn’t have a ‘home’ as such; they considered themselves to be ‘Travellers’. Another false judgement by those extracting data from the Tunguska object was that these aliens were benevolent beings. The simple, but disappointing truth they would eventually discover would reveal that they were merely engaged in cosmic horticulture. They had wanted to preserve the garden of the solar system and the fauna which thrived with Earth’s flora. They had no particular allegiance to Homo-Sapiens or any other individual species. As they were busy tidying up other marvels of the Milky Way galaxy, they had despatched a small contingent to assess what, if anything, could be restored on one of their favourite herbaceous outposts.
At the time of the 2045 impacts, certain hopeful preparations had been made to assist survival of humans. These plans hadn’t delivered the results expected. Some underground bunkers and synthetic food supply had been orchestrated, but this was woefully flawed and only delayed the inevitable. Other individuals who were used to living alongside nature at altitude found caves, most of which were known to only a few, and their ingenuity in sequestering uncontaminated food and water gifted them a chance. The cities suffered worst in trying to negotiate virtually every hurdle which had to be overcome. If they were lucky enough to escape the searing fallout, then radiation sickness, they were facing infection. Having the more robust genetic code to sidestep these viruses only presented them with the challenge of obtaining and then decontaminating adequate sustenance. City life hadn’t prepared them for such hardship. When lawlessness was introduced into the equation their world became a battleground in which only the fittest would survive.
The already advancing ice age which had been predicted in 2045 had received a boost from the disaster, thus forcing all life closer to a tropical climate. As the years passed, this trend accelerated and the habitable zone was condensed into a band of latitude, 15-30 degrees north of the equator, which was in places, less than two hundred miles wide. This progressive herding of humans into an ever-decreasing domain would ultimately have far-reaching consequences. Failure to survive accounted for billions. Those who did, and managed to procreate, did not avail of the luxury to plan the revival of basic technology and communication facilities. In fact the demographic makeup of these chosen ones didn’t have a significant proportion of such specialists to galvanise the required resurrection. The lack of appetite of the majority, for anything other than simply clinging on to life, ensured that the rapidly advancing ice sheets imprisoned these derelict centres of opportunity under several metres of impenetrable whiteness. Even if they could have been restored to function they would have fallen victim to this encroaching death. These people had to continually relocate ahead of the glaciers, and that was the major factor which differentiated those survivors from the ones who had prevailed by already being within the band of the temperate zone. Temperate had to be viewed as a relative term; however, with the band continually thinning, it became clear that these individuals had a head start on the ‘nomadic variety’ in both technology and structural society recovery. As time moved on through generations this life-supporting strip narrowed to under eighty miles. The indigenous population of this zone had descended into a pseudo-mediaeval regime, and the rulers were determined to cleanse their newly named habitat Dominia, of all incoming savages. These intruders, or Loci, as they had been named by the Dominians, had no alternative to surfing the front of the approaching glaciers, yet they recognised the distinct probability of ultimately being exterminated. What neither of them could possibly realise was that the Travellers’ delegation had settled between the Sun and Earth to observe. They had concluded swiftly that the difference between this ‘mediaeval’ society and the original one, from over five hundred years ago, was that the technology records already existed. The previous period had to develop toward such efficiency. The Travellers knew that as they wanted to avoid a repeat of human pollution of their ‘garden’, and they had to harvest energy for their own needs, it would be beneficial to filter solar energy bound for Earth. This they though
The narrow, habitable band had stimulated cartography. Charting this in detail would be strategically advantageous to Dominia. The only available land that they thought was left, running from west to east, almost produced panic within their ranks. Mexico and part of Nicaragua, Algeria and Western Sahara, Libya and Egypt, Saudi Arabia, India, Thailand and Southern China were the only territories they assumed were not yet gripped by the white death. Dominians therefore had good cause for concern. They did not realise that Mexico, Nicaragua, India, Thailand and China had already succumbed.
Bertil Nordsen was one of the original 2045 cave-dwellers, and he was still remembered for his leadership, which had not only helped others survive the early post-impact years, but produced the vision he later conferred to the scattered groups in the mountains of Swedish-Iberia as it was known at the time. He had declared that the Iberian and Oriental eras were over, and the survivors had to be prepared for a nomadic life, although that was the last thing they wanted to hear. Many who ignored his warnings perished for their intransigence. The rest progressively helped him to forge a mini-nation. One of the first things he instilled was a new identity. They conferred the name of Aurorans upon themselves.
His great-grandson, Grenthe, had recently assumed leadership of the fledgling, mobile nation by birth right, dispelling any further acceptance of democracy. As he assessed the chances of resisting the Dominians, he stressed the need for seeking alliances with other Loci. It wouldn’t be easy because they would have to skirt the borders of Dominia, and slip through the lookout network. In addition to this they had only rumours to work with; they had heard of some from the East and West, but none from the South. They didn’t even know if these disparate nations would welcome their entreaties, or whether they had already capitulated to Dominia. He wouldn’t have to wait long to find out.
The Mamani family in Peru had achieved similar cohesion to these Aurorans from the Northern lands, albeit by a highly contrasting route. Their enforced descent from the Andean reserve near Machu Picchu, had given them a little more time to consider heading East or West. They chose the Atlantic over the Pacific without much internal dissent, but the decision to wait for the ice to close in on their coastal stopover almost cost their demise. As the polar push from Antarctica was considerably quicker it resulted in a steeper drop in ocean levels between the sub-continents of what used to be Southern Iberiana and Southern Africana. It also created the conditions for the temperate zone to be skewed toward the northern hemisphere, and eventually created a land bridge between the two sub-continents at precariously cold latitudes. They assessed this to be slightly less risky than an ocean crossing in constant and violent storms. It proved to be correct, but only by relentlessly emulating Eskimo habits, and moving on every day, for over two decades. The descendants of the original Machu Picchu tribes, over time dropped the second part of their name and sufficed to refer to themselves as the Machu. This helped them to accrete support as they travelled. The leader was now bestowed with the title of Altocotl, a new word for an old position of being next in the hierarchy to a God.
From the East, it took a little longer for the acceptance of nomadic necessity to take root. It eventually fertilised sufficiently in Japanese Orient to begin the exodus. Knowing of the total devastation throughout the northern extremes of China and the Indian sub-continent, the overland route would be dangerous, but necessary. They brokered deals with many isolated communities by arriving with some preserved technology. Not all surviving humans immediately grasped the significance of the almost vertical rate of disappearance of industrial and consumer society. Apart from loss of the obvious necessities such as fuel, power and agriculture, there were no longer any domesticated animals. Survival progressed without transport, and therefore communication. Metal extraction and refining of oil disappeared, with the knock-on effect of loss of medicines, and chemicals in general. Although plastics had historically in some respects become a planetary curse, society had become somewhat dependent on them, for example, in insulating against heat loss, sterilisation and extending the shelf-life of hard-won perishable nutrients. The support these people garnered was also assisted in a similar way to the Machu, by their choice of identity. The hybrid nomenclature of Tor-Azen was symbolically marketed as being ‘for the common good’.
Hiroi Komatsu was amongst the first to exploit the doctrine of a technology-lifespan coefficient. He postulated that in post-cataclysm periods it was even more relevant to survival than ever. Despite having the detailed knowledge of how to reconstruct a technology tree, as opposed to having to discover it, it could consume a significant part of the life expectancy of an individual to make even modest inroads in a practical way. He likened it to the construction and demolition of a pyramid. A century was but a fleeting moment in this context. His philosophy was built upon by his offspring and was now in the safekeeping of Sendzai – Chief Sage of the Tor-Azen.
As these ordered Loci nations were being constantly ‘extruded’ by the ice advance into Dominia, there were pockets of resistance to sharing land, from isolationist tribes. These disparate bands were tolerated by the Dominians, and were now seen by them as a buffer to the emerging problem of the Loci. They were referred to as Korellians, people with no interest in alliances, cooperation or social structure. They took what they wanted or cowered and backed off from unwinnable disputes. They wanted technology, but not by barter or negotiated acquisition. They were an irritant to progress and a threat to survival in a shrinking world.
A further element of influence was watching from the gigantic sun-filter. The Travellers were themselves not immune to danger while gleaning and storing up solar radiation. Any intense solar flares had the potential to convert these entities to a shape they did not want to shift toward – that of non-sentient energy. It could be described as the equivalent to slow human death. They had decided that they had sufficient fuel to make their descent. It fitted with the developments in Dominia, and they temporarily dismantled the filter. This had a slight reversal effect on Earth climate. The ice march would slow; this unexpected breathing space would have its own significance.
In many ways this mediaeval world was even more primitive than its authentic counterpart. In such ordered historical progression monarchs had availed of armourers, livery stables, tax collectors and crude but effective communication. In this new mediaeval throwback, the context was akin to that of hunter-gatherers. Every activity drew on the entire Loci kibbutz-style sharing of the load, at least for now. Darwinian law had kicked in again with a vengeance, and the Dominians had already negotiated many pitfalls which stood in the path of the Loci.
The delegation of Travellers numbered only nine, but this had been considered sufficient for a project team. Their brief did not extend to overt intervention. The guiding principle was to remain anonymous, and rank the ecosystem as a whole, above the needs of any particular flora or fauna. That was a perfectly understandable view from the distance of 61 Virginis, but it could look different once on the surface of Dominia. Five of the nine set off for this habitable band, one to check out each ‘nation’ and study their objectives. The other four were to assess the regions under the ice and prepare a report for reverse engineering it to a more ‘acceptable’ domain for all species – similar to the one around the time of the dawn of mankind. This would then be the subject of a review, which would definitely engage in serious intervention where necessary. When in their natural or resting state, the Travellers recognised one another by designations of multiple ‘wavelengths of personality’. They now needed to take on references and shapes which would be sympathetically viewed by the respective nation
The first Traveller made landfall in the main barricaded settlement of Dominia. The use of cement had been recovered and deployed to build a ‘fortress city’. Although there were other minor settlements throughout the region he decided this was the best place to begin – close to the fountain-head. It was located some distance from the western bank of the barely liquid river Nile. Taking on the guise of an agricultural labourer, he began to observe. The ruling structure was loosely based on the feudal system of Landowners and Serfs, but without the Serfs being sold with the land. As yet there had been no restoration of currency. The Serfs had been systematically weeded out since 2045 as the weaklings, and they either accepted employment or starved.
He chose the designation Karim. He quickly picked up on the pecking order of the landowners, which once more reflected the uneven balance between the weak and the strong. Khaled, leader of Dominia, was continually accompanied by henchmen and advisors. All others bowed in his presence. Karim told all who were interested that he had come from a settlement toward the west. He related tales of the increasing probability of conflict and stated that was his reason for seeking safety. He had the ear of many Serfs because they rarely heard of battles with the Korellians or other incomers; they were kept in the dark. He made friends with one Serf who agreed to speak on his behalf with the landowner about work. Amir kept referring to the city as Carthos, and indicated that his master had access to the ear of Khaled. When he was summoned to meet the landowner he was expected to deliver knowledge of the situation in the settlement from which he had come. Karim’s knowledge was based on orbital observation and he was able to sketch in rough detail of the Loci to the west.
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