When the army truck driven by Erel Raziel topped a pass high on a terminal moraine hy saw a sheer wall of slowly retreating ice across a wide zone of freshly uncovered land still being carved by melt.
Thirty ji tall, the blue-white ice barrier stretched left and right to sink over the horizon. This was the edge of the awesome Northern Ice that covered almost half their world. Behind Raziel’s truck lay a mere twenty-five hundred ji of unfrozen land and then the wall of the Southern Ice. It was slowly melting over the centuries, but there still remained three vast bridges of ice, dividing Gorpai into three separate lands.
The four-lane concrete ribbon wound down the other side of the pass and straightened out, a low elevated highway that disregarded the shifting waters under as it made beeline for the base of the wall.
Raziel’s passenger, Beleth, was hyz older sister and only surviving wife. Once hy had four wives, two of them hyz sisters, befitting hyz rank in the middle eschelon of the Army of Belial. But as was so often the case in a harem situation, jealousies erupted, one wife was murdered by another, and Raziel hymself strangled the guilty wife to death, more out of wrath that sha had brought hyz career to an abrupt halt than to avenge hyz dead younger sister. A third wife died after an extended illness. Sha had been the sister of hyz opponent in the second ritual killing of the Cupel system mandated by the Law of Belial. Now, with only one yin to wager, advancement to flag rank was out of the question. Raziel was damaged goods and even hyz promotion to hashmal was long overdue.
Raziel had been diverted from combat to a more sedate role in logistics, and in the supply world, after the self-reinforcing bravado of battle command fell away, a healthy fear of death returned to him. Raziel drove closer to the blue and white wall until it grew to half their world. They could see the cliff was literally vertical, and even a little more than vertical. If one of those overhangs decide to sheer off right now, hy pointed out needlessly, we’re dead. A high ridge of ice and snow on both sides of the road attested to the constant clearing that was needed.
Experimentalism, Beleth said, without any sign of worry about the ice, contrary to popular belief, can, if implemented properly, allow one of the freest possible societies.
The dangerous period was short. Soon the highway entered a tunnel melted into the very base of the ice. The pale blue translucent walls grew darker until they were black. They were safe, but to Beleth the tunnel was a kind of death anyway. The shrinking glow behind har could well be har last sight of Gorpai. From now until they departed the planet sha would know only caverns.
Raziel sighed. Push for Experimentalism and you rank up there with King Haniel, who rallied hyz city under the banner of Talishi and killed thousands of hyz own people.
I rather think it was your own Army of Belial did the killing.
Suicide by Belial. You have to be pretty stupid and gullible and naive to think Experimentalism can work.
Why can’t everyone determine what is good for the public in Experimentalism? Beleth suggested. You can have Democratic Experimentalism. What do we have now? Traditionalism. One person can determine what is good for many, but the many cannot determine what is good for themselves?
Beleth, there is a fatal flaw at the heart of democracy. People are naturally lazy. They want free stuff. In a pure democracy, everyone will simply vote themselves sustenance from the Commons and no one will contribute. The whole structure will come crashing down. This has happened many times before, which is why only Traditionalism has survived.
Construction in ice was simple; it needed only a source of heat and a flexible conduit to whisk the melted water away. Deep within the ice the road twisted this way and that, finally dumping out in a multilevel city of burrows, bristling with security.
Look up tunnel 610 on the map, this isn’t familiar to me.
It’s coming up on the left. Ugh, I’m carsick now. I never could read and ride.
I was thrown off by that sign for 910.
This map has a blurb at the bottom that says, ‘with apologies to Zelebsel.’ Who’s Zelebsel?
Probably some poor yang who trusted an earlier edition of the map.
Tunnel 610 was interrupted by a series of several checkpoints and it was only Raziel’s credentials as a supply officer that got him through the gates with a long skinny gray box of ordnance strapped down on hyz flatbed trailer. Hyz manifest was not in order. It would not do to allow even a quick glance inside the box.
The road dead-ended in a large illuminated cave that was the lay-down area for supplies coming in and going out of the facility. Hy was expected. The box was quickly forked off the truck and disappeared inside the bowels of the facility.
Raziel and Beleth themselves were taken to a well-lit conference room deep within a maze of passageways carved into the ice. They were given warmer clothes to wear, because the chill was eternal and omnipresent. Space heaters would only melt the walls.
Presently they were joined by three yang and a yin, and Raziel was mildly surprised when the yin began speaking rather than one of the males. Sha said, My name is Tabaet. These yeng are members of my team. They are Malkiel, Senciner, and Xaphon.
Your team? Raziel gasped. They answer to you? And Belial permits this?
Sha smiled. Belial permits much, because we do many things for Belial that hy could not have otherwise. The…equipment…you have delivered for us was designed and assembled right here.
Raziel took har awkward speech as a signal that someone might be listening to what was said in the room. And that presented a problem. It would be difficult conveying what had to be said while dancing around the actual words. Hy nodded hyz head to indicate hy understood the situation.
Tabaet said, I would extend a full welcome to you, but this is a classified project, and the yin is uncleared.
I will not send my wife away, Raziel insisted. Where I go, sha goes. You will have to get har a clearance. sha must be…fully involved…in the project.
That is impossible, Malkiel said. You must be content to train one of us to operate the …equipment. The project is of such a nature that only four people can be…fully involved.
It was a condition of bringing the…equipment…that I remain the sole operator. If you do not accept that condition, then you’ll have to content yourself with an inert mass.
Time grows short, Senciner objected. With any delay the risk grows.
Raziel smiled. It is the unique nature of this…equipment…that any reasonable delay is irrelevant.
Tabaet sighed and came to a decision. Very well. We have a simulator. Xaphon will instruct you in hyz role, and Malkiel will instruct your wife. I will retain Senciner on the team. When you are both fully involved in the project, there will be opportunity to discuss this further.
The yeng exploded simultaneously with loud objections but a glance from Tabaet quickly silenced them, and to Raziel that was an impressive thing to witness. Beleth concealed a smile behind har hand.