The Zinc Era

 

Continued from
The Quonians

The calm which fell upon Syoom with the end of the Quonian crisis, brought with it a sense of relief combined with a sudden awareness of how great a privilege and a delight it was to be alive at this time.  Vistas of glorious well-being suddenly stretched ahead, for, uniquely, the men and women of the Zinc Era knew the length that their era would last.  It is a strange fact, but true: Era 30 is the only one of the great eras, the long ones, of which the inhabitants knew at the time what the duration would be.  Here is not the place to list all the theories which have been thought up as to why this should be so.  Let the fact suffice for now: right from the start, people were aware that era 30 would total 30,853,745 Uranian days, or 1,257 Uranian years.  (A period equivalent to 105,591 Earth years.)  No era so far, other than the Vanadium, has surpassed this length.

The Zinc can be compared with the Vanadium in that both were to some extent interludes in history, rather than periods of widespread spiritual quest and striving.  But the Zinc was a much more mature interlude.  You couldn't say of the Zinc, like you could of the Vanadium, that it was primarily a haven for swashbucklers - though of course adventures and adventurers abounded in era 30 as in all eras of Uranian history.  What made the Zinc an interlude was not a decline to a more childish level of consciousness, but a postponement of the search for greater understanding of the destiny of Man on Ooranye.  This relaxedness, this postponement, gives the Zinc Era its special charm, of contentment without complacency.  You cannot accuse its people of shirking any ultimate quest, for they knew they were in for a long long era before the next shaking discovery, and there was nothing they could do about it.

Another consequence of the awareness its people had of the length of their era, is that the Zinc is the period when most of the great monorails of Syoom were built.  The stupendous building project was undertaken with confidence, in the knowledge that the time and the resources would be available with which to complete it.

Everyone has nen's own favourite Golden Age of Syoom.  Many would pick the Zinc Era.  It lacks the crudity of the Vanadium, the tension of the Phosphorus; it possesses some of the serenity and mystery of the Argon and Cobalt Eras.  And it has the special poignancy of the awareness of coming doom, at first far off, over a thousand lifetimes away, then creeping gradually closer as the millions of days wore on.  Many were glad that they would never live to see the end; others were impatient and envied their successors.

>> The Age of Spies

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