The Hydrogen Era

 

In the beginning, Dmara was not even a name; Dmara was a bubbling prebiotic lake or sivvan , in an icy crater on a shaggy brittlegrass plain.

Evolution surged in the lake, driven by emanations from the close convection of mascon matter in the planet's crust, which had caused the bubble whose collapse had formed the crater long before.

Or you can put it another way: 

"The force of destiny, breathing out from Ooranye and hanging over it like an atmosphere, had, like an atmosphere, its storms and twisters; one of these concentrations condensed into a 'cause', and around 'cause' clustered 'effect'; Excuse was born, an excuse called evolution."

Whichever way you put it, the Liquid Men ("Dmarnenn" ) were the first to emerge.  In outline they were human, and their minds were powerful and more mature than those of the subsequent first true men.  However, their "skin" was a form-field which needed frequent immersion to maintain its integrity, and their food was the radiation which dimmed with increasing distance from its source.  So these beings could never exist for long outside the lake.  Eventually, as the sivvan began to dry up, the Liquid Men were doomed.

What they wanted to see before they became extinct was the evolution of a human creature which could live permanently outside the lake.  Their wish was granted when, one day, several Liquid Men succeeded in cheating time by borrowing an energy-pattern from the future, using transcendent powers latent in the sivvan to turn a swimming glow of form-fields into a fully material human being.  This individual was Lrar, the Verzaknenn or first true man, and the date of the solidification of his skin-tissue was Day One of the Hydrogen Era.

Note that when we say that Lrar Verzak appeared on Day One of the Hydrogen Era, we're not just labelling the date for our own convenience; we mean Lrar himself knew, right then, that it was that day.   

He knew it because knowledge  of the periodic table of the elements is innate in Uranian Man, and because, due to the teleological slant of the Uranian soul, it was known from the start that there would be 92 eras.  With that number, and that knowledge, how else should the eras be named?  Thus chemistry clasps history on Ooranye.  Compared with us of Earth, the Nenns feel a closer kinship with inorganic things, a hylozoic sense that everything is in some sense alive.  The mystery does have its logical side, in that one can see how such a sense might stem from greater closeness to, or more direct descent from, the primal mixture. And so the blaze of primitive legend which haunts the origins of things on Earth has the added dimension, on Ooranye, of being recorded; in other words, on that world the magic of prehistory has been transferred to early history.

Perhaps at this point we should also mention, that Man was not the only species to emerge from the sivvan on that Day One.

From that moment on, a host of aerial bacteria, their faint glow pulsating in a thirty-hour rhythm, swarmed out over the planet and gave it its cycle of night and day.  Throughout the eras that followed, there has been a relationship between this aerial biomass and the human spirit.  The biomass rhythms are sensitive to mass emotion; that is why great events trigger irregularities (called eomasps ) in the diurnal cycle - irregularities which, in turn, signal the start of new eras.

Now for a quick overview of the immense Hydrogen Era.

As well as being the first, it was one of the great eras.  It lasted 19,636,085 Uranian days (each of their days, remember, is 30 hours long), which means it lasted about 800 Uranian years, or the equivalent of 67,200 Earth years.  Rather than attempt a continuous narrative we will merely sketch three verbal pictures centred around the early, the middle and the later days.

The early days:

The scenes that met the eyes of the first Nenn as he walked away from the lake were very different from those that the pilgrim to that site sees today.  Instead of the old city ringed by the bare, multicoloured plain of granular gralm , he saw grass and forest, although it was slowly dying grass and brittle, pallid forest near the end of its species lifetime.  Huge soon-to-be-extinct animals roamed the grassland and crashed through the splintering trees.  Long lists of their names have come down to us - names which popped into the minds of Lrar and his later companions and successors, after one authoritative glance.

Two species in particular, the Wonarr and the Revestru, deserve mention.  They were intelligent as well as destructive.  They did not go out of their way to attack Man; they were too intent on attacking each other, vying for supremacy to the very last, while the sands of time ran out for both of them.  The Wonarr were a species of laser-tipped weed, whose less intelligent relatives the narps still exist upon Ooranye; the Revestru were a variety of insectoid, somewhat resembling giant wasps, and related to the later Nemaeans.  Humans caught in the crossfire of the conflict could do nothing but try to keep their heads down and dodge the laser bolts and the diving swarms.

For a few days after the emergence of Lrar Verzak, more humans, male and female, followed him out of the lake, and they and their descendants ranged gradually further and further from Dmara (a name which in this age referred only to the lake; the city was not yet built).  The invention of writing occurred after a few generations; early enough to preserve accurate and detailed accounts of the beginning. 

Meanwhile the Liquid Men, kindly demigods whom the Nenns consulted at will, declined gradually in numbers. 

The middle days:

Knowing that they faced eventual extinction as their lake shrank in size and decreased in power, the Liquid Men never ceased to plan.  They were not yet in any great hurry; the evening of their days was long, and so their view likewise was long.  They regarded the Nenns as their legitimate successors, even in some sense their children, especially if they could help them like parents help their children to survive.  So the Liquid Men began in leisurely fashion to employ their greater intelligence to show the true men how to scavenge metals and tools from relics left behind by extinct races of previous Great Cycles, and meanwhile they set an example by using such materials themselves to build Dmara, the First City, round the shores of the dying sivvan.

Relying mostly on a limited supply of the treasures of the past, the "industry" of the Hydrogen Era was a low-energy affair.  There is little coal on Ooranye; no petroleum; no rivers for waterwheels or, later, hydroelectric power.  Technological development on Ooranye must leap past such things, and in this era the leap was not generally made, though eventually some ores were obtained from the Mountains of Flame, and smelted under the guidance of the Dmarans.

However, in rare cases, humans succeeded in tapping resources which the Liquid Men could not or would not touch.  A few adepts in this period already knew, psychically, how to draw power from  Chelth , the dimension which was later plundered more effectively in the Sodium Era.  This was the start of a theme which was to cause much more trouble and heart-searching later on, as Uranians risked the guilt of depleting a foreign cosmos for the sake of augmenting their world.  But for the time being, the adepts were highly regarded.  These power-suckers helped to lift certain small patches of their civilization securely above Earth's medieval level.  Typical of the middle period of the Hydrogen Era was the balloon-tyred dray, hauling goods across the plains, fuelled by a power-cell bought at great expense from a dynasty of petty psychics. 

The cities of this period were vaguely conical mounds, growing around the rare green groves of young plant species which could be found amidst the older, dying ecologies.  In the vegetable kingdom, the ebb of the old Great Cycle was overlapping with the rise of the new.

The cities were mostly independent of one another, but some of the more powerful ones - including five that stood on the sites, and bore the names, of later disc-on-stem cities of the Phosphorus Era - formed leagues or even empires, though these were mostly peaceful at this stage.  The five cities of today that can thus trace their names (though not their physical identities) back to the Hydrogen Era are: Innb, Ao, Hoog, Nuvium and Pjourth.

The latter days:

In the later part of the era it became apparent that some fear was gripping the Liquid Men.  They refrained from discussing it for a long time; it was a thing they feared to mention, namely, a debt, for which the date of payment began to loom in their dreams.

The records are unclear as to how far they thought of it as a personal debt, and how far "debt" was here a metaphor for the way Nature must "balance her books" as we might say when talking of the law of the conservation of energy.  Be that as it may, the fact was that they had, in some sense which we do not understand, "borrowed energy from the future" in order to trigger the emergence on Ooranye of true Man.  Now the terrible term Payback began to haunt them.

We know this because, during the course of millions of days, a few of these great beings uncharacteristically let slip their anxieties.  Ordinary humans, puzzled and appalled by the vague nightmarish sayings of their mentors, reacted by loosening their own sentimental ties to Dmara.  This was the age of the so-called "long march to Contahl", really a fissiparous, spontaneous spreading of the human species over a wide area of what was to become Syoom.  Contahl was at first merely one of many new cities founded as the area under human occupation (or at least seen by human eyes) increased from maybe ten million to close on four hundred million square miles. 

Obviously, this mass movement - called the Great Dispersion - was of supreme importance for the future of humanity on Ooranye.  It eventually meant that as much of a fifth of the globe was colonized, albeit thinly.  But two results were of greater immediate significance.

Firstly, the scattering of mankind called forth a political reaction among the more long-established states.  For a mixture of motives, they deplored the ramshackle sprawl of pioneering cultures, and sought to limit their expansion and their freedom by bringing them under centralized control.  There was quite a good excuse for this restrictive policy at the time.  In many cases whole communities of pioneers, trying to cope with the strangeness of much of Ooranye, had "gone native" and lost their own species identity as their mentalities adapted by evolving away from the human; in some cases they even modified their human form or surrendered it to merge with other minds, with the result that subsequent visitors to the area might hear voices in their own language coming from mounds or bulbous groves where no human forms could be seen.  So the horrified city governments may be excused some of their extreme reactions; nevertheless, their tyrannous attempts at enforcing their will, which gave rise to many sagas which we have no space to consider here, gave political unity a bad name, from which it has never recovered in all the long eras of Uranian history.

The second immediate result of the Great Dispersion was that it called forth a last great altruistic effort on the part of the Dmarans.

The Liquid Men were now ageing rapidly as a species.  Their days, they knew, were now numbered in five figures or less.  This fact concentrated their minds.  Previously they had always assumed that they could never travel far from Dmara; now they began to search for a way of doing just that.  They felt that they must must acquire the ability to roam over a larger geographical range, if they were to use their final span of life to bring peace to mankind and set men on the path to greatness.  And they succeeded: the design of a flexi-suit adapted to the Dmaran form, and energized with a concentration from the sivvan, enabled the remaining Liquid Men at last to journey thousands of miles from their lake. 

It seems, according to the best evidence we have, that their ambition of giving decisive help to mankind was achieved.  For one of these benevolent Dmarans, wandering far from home in the region of Contahl, is believed, by certain sources, to have given a crucially helpful hint to Tisswa Ardea, the discoverer of the power-source that came to be known as the Idun-Sjalsk, or "Sun-Egg".  Ardea herself apparently supports this idea, saying that in a dream, if it was a dream, she heard the Dmaran whisper in her ear, as he pointed to a peculiar rounded mountain in the distance, "Yonder seek your power."  And she understood what to do. Next day she took a pickaxe and a box for samples, and set out alone towards the gently sloping mountain.

When she got to the top she set to work with the pickaxe.  Chips of rock, ordinary rock, flew this way and that until a glowing orange substance was revealed, much softer than the rock.  Her chemical intuition - a faculty we Earth humans do not possess and find hard to imagine - told her what this stuff was: a lattice of atomic particles embedded in a continuous non-atomic medium, like raisins in butter.  From this she gathered samples and returned to Contahl, carrying the fate of her species in her hands.  For what she had found was the greatest boon ever to fall to Uranian Man: a mascon of semi-kolv or gvo, several hundred yards in diameter, that had drifted through crustal convection right up to the planet's surface.  That is to say a source of solid power which would supply civilization's needs for over 200 Uranian years (over 19,000 Earth years).

 

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