Chapter 66

The world war on Barbelo unites the Middle Land under House Gerash and brings House Bellon under their direct rule. House Antero becomes tributary to the Empire of Thaumiel while House Sala, at the recommendation of Lady Haziel, radically decentralizes themselves over their entire land to become a uniquely undesirable target. Only the Black Beards of House Larund remain defiant and vulnerable to air assault from the avatar of Thaumiel.

But Thaumiel learns to hyz great consternation that the more hy assails House Larund, the greater their impetus to resist. He realizes his attacks are only stoking the fires of a relentless technological advance as the Black Beards focus on solving the problem of stopping the air attacks. Chokhmah encourages Thaumiel to keep going. So Thaumiel relents and takes his avatar out of the equation. The pace of innovation among House Larund cools to smouldering embers, but never truly goes out.

In time the pre-space faring inhabitants of Barbelo develop an elaborate Techno Age culture which begins under House Larund and spreads gradually to the other lands along the equatorial belt of the planet. The so-called Techno War breaks out some forty years later, abruptly ending centuries of peace. Houses Sala and Larund fight Houses Gerash and Bellon head-to-head, with House Antero caught in the middle as the objective and the Red Beard lands as the primary battle ground.

The Techno War begins as a brutal “railroad war” accompanied by hostile action between self-propelled wooden and iron steam ships on the various rivers and seas of Barbelo. Mass production using standardized parts rapidly equips both sides with arms and war matériel.

In terms of weaponry Family Larund and their Gold Beard allies have a clear qualitative edge, but a temporary superiority of defensive weapons technology over offensive weaponry soon brings movement to a complete standstill. As the conflict drags on, the introduction of chemical warfare and rapid-fire weapons makes the battle fronts intolerable. A generation of young yeng on both sides are chewed up like so much paper in a shredder.

Analog electronic computers are developed to aid in the direction of cannon fire and Barbelo runs into a rut where the digital electronics paradigm never occurs to them. Telephone and wireless radio are developed for more effective command and control of the battlefield. Submarines preying on supply ships ultimately decides the war in favor of the Empire of Thaumiel.

Since civilization on Barbelo is and always has been a highly militarized society, there is little in the way of civilian applications driving the advance of technology. Barbelo never experiences a golden age of radio and television, nor do they ever construct a global computer network comparable to the Swarm on Earth. The film industry of 20th Century Earth would be considered a decadent waste of time by the nephilim. Creativity on Barbelo tends to be expressed solely through printed literature and live performances. Science progresses solely as a spin-off of military research.

New weapons are developed to keep a second and far worse industrialized civil war from breaking out between the families. This process reaches a pinnacle when nuclear technology is developed, as well as rockets capable of delivering them to any point on the planet. After that, there is no possibility of the Gerash patriarch (the human extension of the Eloah named Thaumiel) being unseated from the throne by a direct assault.

Too bright to look at, yet giving almost no heat, the shrunken welding-arc white sun hangs in the purple northern sky as the warmer bloated orange sun sinks in the west. When the army truck driven by the Erel named Raziel tops a pass high on a terminal moraine he sees 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 stretches left and right to sink over the horizon. This is the edge of the awesome Northern Ice that covers almost half the world. Behind Raziel’s truck lies a mere twenty-five hundred ji of unfrozen land reaching to the Southern Ice. The Ice is slowly melting over the centuries. Only in one place, near the capital city, do the two ice packs come close together across the narrow equatorial belt of Barbelo and kiss, but in the distant past, in the time of Haziel and the World War, there were three such bridges, dividing Barbelo into three lands.

The four-lane concrete ribbon winds down the other side of the pass and straightens out, a low elevated highway that disregards the shifting waters under it as it makes a beeline for the base of the wall.

Raziel’s passenger Beleth is 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 Mastema. But as was so often the case in a harem situation, jealousies erupted, one wife was murdered by another, and Raziel himself 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 Thaumiel from the time of the World War. Now, with only one yin to wager, advancement to flag rank was out of the question. Raziel is damaged goods and even hyz promotion to Hashmal is long overdue.

Raziel has 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, hy felt a healthy fear of death return to hym. 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 points out needlessly, “we’re dead.” A high ridge of ice and snow that lay on both sides of the road attested to the constant clearing that was needed.

“Experimentalism,” Beleth says, 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 is short. Soon the highway enters a tunnel melted into the very base of the ice. The pale blue translucent walls grow darker until they are black. They are now safe, but to Beleth the tunnel is a kind of death anyway. The shrinking glow behind har could well be har last sight of Barbelo. From now until they departed the planet sha would know only caverns.

Raziel sighs. “Push for Experimentalism and you rank up there with King Melchizedek, who rallied hyz city under the banner of Haziel and killed thousands of hyz own people.”

“I rather think it was your own Army of Thaumiel did the killing.”

“Suicide by Thaumiel. 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 suggests. “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 is simple; it needs only a source of heat and a flexible conduit to whisk the melted water away. Deep within the ice the road twists 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 fellow who trusted an earlier edition of the map.”

Tunnel 610 is interrupted by a series of several checkpoints and it was only Raziel’s credentials as a supply officer that gets hym through the gates with a long skinny gray box of ordnance strapped down on hyz flatbed trailer. Hyz manifest is not in order. It would not do to allow even a quick glance inside the box.

The road dead-ends in a large illuminated cave that is the lay-down area for supplies coming in and going out of the facility. Raziel is expected. The box is quickly forked off the truck and disappears inside the bowels of the facility.

Raziel and Beleth themselves are taken to a well-lit conference room deep within a maze of passageways carved into the ice. They are given warmer clothes to wear, because the chill is eternal and omnipresent. Space heaters would only melt the walls.

Presently they are joined by three yeng and a yin, and Raziel is mildly surprised when the yin begins speaking rather than one of the males. Sha says, “My name is Tabaet. These yeng are members of my team. They are Malkiel, Senciner, and Xaphon.”

“Your team?” Raziel gasps. “They answer to you? And Thaumiel permits this?

Sha smiles. “Thaumiel permits much, because we do many things for him that he could not have otherwise. The…equipment… you have delivered for us was designed and assembled right here.”

Raziel takes har awkward speech as a signal that someone might be listening to what was said in the room. And that presents a problem. It would be difficult conveying what had to be said while dancing around the actual words. Hy nods hyz head to indicate hy understood the situation.

Tabaet says, “I would extend a full welcome to you, but this is a classified project, and your yin is uncleared.”

“I will not send my wife away away,” Raziel insists. “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 says. “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 is 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 objects. “With any delay the risk grows.”

Raziel smiles. “It is the unique nature of this…equipment…that any reasonable delay is irrelevant.”

Tabaet sighs and comes 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 explode simultaneously with loud objections but a glance from Tabaet quickly silences them, and to Raziel, coming from a tradition that held yin to be little more than personal property, that is an impressive thing to witness. Beleth conceals a smile behind har hand.

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About Linuxgal

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