Excerpt from Setting The Board

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Our first destination was Bolthole Base, high up in the most inaccessible area of the Collision Range on Wimarglr Continent. A lot of work went into keeping natives from realizing it was there, from holographic projectors to avoidance fields and forbiddings with auros. In the long run, they'd find it, but the general thinking was the long-awaited rematch between the fractal demons and the Empire would be underway before then, rendering it a moot point.

There's a moment on approach when you make a mental shift from thinking you're in space getting closer to the planet to thinking you're on the planet even though you're not on the ground yet. For me, it's when I start being able to make out individual features in the video feed. The nameless mountain in which Bolthole Base was embedded was usually it, followed by the small alpine meadow below the base. The mountain itself - second highest peak on the planet - was perpetually ice crowned, even though it was no higher than Mount Whitney in California and within a couple degrees of the planetary equator. There wasn't time in Calmena's short year of 145 Earth days (136 Imperial or local) for the snow that fell to melt. The lake below waxed and waned with the weather.

The pilot picked up the approach path, and slowing still further apparently headed straight towards the side of the mountain. At the last moment, the illusion of solidity melted and the viewscreen showed a massive cavern holding fifty or sixty Starbirds and cutters. The base and the cavern holding it had expanded in the time I'd been here, but it was still too small for anything bigger than cutters to land.

The base commander, Sephia, was waiting to greet us. Sephia looked like a blonde college coed of my youth, her white-blonde pageboy cut barely ruffling in the sheltered cavern. "Welcome back, my young friends!" she greeted the two of us. As soon as she opened her mouth, her attitude and manner of speaking betrayed the fact that she was old for a natural state human - perhaps a full square by now. I didn't know exactly - what I did know was she'd held a higher rank than she did now at the end of the Reunification, three thousand Imperial years ago. Except for occasional leave, she'd been base commander for over an Earth century now, and she had no intention of applying for promotion. "This is where the next war with the demons will start," she'd told me when I first arrived. Taking a promotion would mean leaving Calmena for her.

"Good to see you, grandmother!" I teased her in return. I was aware the base was busier than it had been in times past. There were more troops visible in the main cavern. I wasn't sure why; it wasn't any of my business. I could ask if I wanted, but I was certain Sephia wouldn't give me a straight answer. The Empire has a habit of keeping operational information to those with a need to know, Asina concurred. I wasn't aware that the combat soldiers were doing any more work but there had to be a reason the Empire had done it. Likely it had to do with the heightened sense that open war with the fractal demons was close. I'd heard rumors of more troops being assigned to Earth as well.

"Staying the night, or just heading on through?" she asked.

"The plan is to take the portal to Tabbraz immediately," Asina responded, "But there's no rush. If you'd like us to stay for some reason, there are ships heading to Yalskarr from there all the time." Tabbraz was on the south coast of Hashiboor, from which passage on a steamship to Yalskarr, at the base of the Karnel Peninsula, would take a few days. We had to be a little more circumspect these days. Rather than just walking out of a portal or setting up a compound in the middle of nowhere, we had to leave something of an arrival trail and something of a departure trail. Calmena was getting civilized. Somebody might ask where we came from - it was important for them to be able to find something of a trail.

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This page contains a single entry by Dan Melson published on June 17, 2024 7:00 AM.

Excerpt from Building The People was the previous entry in this blog.

Excerpt from Moving The Pieces is the next entry in this blog.

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