The Age of Spies

 

Continued from The Zinc Era

The Sight Projector

The long-foreseen end of the Zinc Era was brought about by a great discovery.  This is not surprising: as the expected time drew near, researchers naturally stepped up their efforts, knowing it was quite likely that one of them would prove to be the agency that triggered the  eomasp.  And one of these teams turned out to be right.  One of them made the breakthrough at the precise time decreed for the end of the Zinc and the start of the Gallium Era.

The momentous achievement consisted of a technique for projecting one's vision, so that an explorer could sit in a chair in a safe place in Syoom and rove with nen's sight thousands of miles into Fyaym without having to go there.

Peculiarly, the eomasp occurred, and the new era was seen to begin, even though for a while the inventors refrained from publicising what they had done.  This is because everyone knew that the Zinc Era would end on the day it did; expectations created the excitement; this alone was enough to cause the eomasp.  Everyone knew that something big had happened, and that it was being kept secret. 

Meanwhile a select company of "mind-nauts" were chosen to undergo the initial test-voyages of their sight with the sight projector.  Some of those who projected their vision into Fyaym never came back; their bodies languished in Syoom, their minds lost who knows where.  On a few occasions a worse thing happened: a Fyayman power effected a mind-swap, keeping the Syoomean rover imprisoned and sending another mind to occupy nen's body in Syoom. 

Finally it was discovered that mental projections were being deflected in a systematic pattern from a certain area.  A ring was drawn on a map to determine the forbidden area, a huge realm deep in Fyaym, thousands of miles from sfy-50, the border with Syoom.  Something there, the Sunnoad and his advisers theorized, did not want to be seen.  That might well be because an attack of some kind was being prepared against Syoom.

The time had come to cease reliance on sight-projection and to organize a physical expedition to penetrate the area of mystery.

The Other Syoom

A fleet of airships was gathered by Sunnoad Restiprak Zentonan 33337, and set forth.  Journeying deep into Fyaym, it approached the forbidden area and found that the Sunnoad's previous assumptions had been wrong: the inhabitants were not trying to hide from him; in fact they were overjoyed to learn of his coming.  The area was being besieged, and it was the besiegers who had been deflecting the sight-probes, so as to prevent a rescue attempt.

The besiegers were a pirate culture of near-humans, to whom the Sunnoad now gave battle and partly defeated, opening a way into what became known as the "Other Syoom": the allied empires of Yalar and Nii.  These beleaguered lands, it turned out, had been transmitting telepathic appeals for help which had been instrumental in causing the discovery of sight-projection in the main area of Syoom.  And they had another technological surprise in store.

Ipemenir

Because Yalar and Nii had been isolated so long, their siege mentality had forced them to intensify certain areas of research.  This had an effect on their racial unconscious, in that they were half-knowingly accumulating a "bank" of mind-energy rather like the Bank of Light in the Phosphorus Era.  Only this "bank" was not under conscious control at all.  And it chose this moment in history to expend all its force in energizing an individual.

As soon as the Sunnoad's fleet had cleared a way through to the Other Syoom, a flash of raw power surged out and across the distance between it and the main Syoom, to the city of Jador where lived a certain Ipemenir Honnd.  No one knows how the "bank" knew - if it did know and was not just acting blindly - which person to energize.  The effect on Ipemenir, who already possessed a certain renown as a powerful fighter, was awesome.  The change in him caused an eomasp straightaway.  The 63 days and 4 hours that followed were the Germanium Era, also known as the Era of Ipemenir.

The Sunnoad had not been able to prevail further against the enemy, nor had he succeeded in keeping open the way to the Other Syoom.  The enemy once more surrounded that land and resumed the siege.  But now Ipemenir took a hand in the war.  During the era that is frequently nicknamed after him, his legendary exploits saved the Other Syoom from disaster.  And then came the time of the "Burnout". 

During the next four very short eras, 33 (Arsenic), 34 (Selenium), 35 (Bromine), and 36 (Krypton), Ipemenir succeeded in creating a salient of Syoom reaching out through Fyaym towards the Other Syoom, though not reaching all the way there.  His final achievement was to capture a great fortress which became known, in era 37 and after, simply as the Rubidium Fort.  Then he crumbled into ashes.

The Rubidium Era

Era 37 lasted 5,955,630 Uranian days; 242.6 Uranian years; the equivalent of 20,382 Earth years.  It has acquired the sobriquet, the Age of Spies.  A great alliance was forged between the main body of Syoom - the 400,000,000 square miles around the Sunward Pole of Ooranye - and the Other or Lesser Syoom - the empires of Yalar and Nii.  It was an era of great conflict, of active hostility from Fyaym, where powers had arisen which subjected civilization to severe, concerted pressure.  Altogether it was a fighting era.  During all this time the salient, at the end of which stood the Rubidium Fort, was successfully defended and preserved; mind-nauts projected their sight from the greater to the lesser Syoom to transmit vital intelligence to Yalar and Nii; and sometimes these same mind-nauts would change to real explorers and bring help from the Fort across the stretch of Fyaym to the Other Syoom. 

Eventually, however, the enemy forces in Fyaym evolved a defence against Syoomean sight-projection.  This defence took the form of vegetable mind-traps, analogous to our "Venus fly-traps", but which caused the minds of mind-nauts to "stick" and be unable to return to their bodies.  Such evil flowers were soon planted in many places, luring so many visual explorers to destruction, that the corps of mind-nauts was disbanded, the efforts to help the Other Syoom failed for lack of intelligence, and finally the Rubidium Fort itself fell to the enemy.  The woe of this last event triggered the next eomasp and the next era.

Finale

After these catastrophes one might have expected the onset of a new dark age, like the Nitrogen Era.  However, Sunnoads and their advisers had long perfected plans for what to do when the Rubidium Fort finally fell.  Now under the present Sunnoad, the great warrior Jad Darkal 35480, those plans went into operation.  They depended upon extreme secrecy and loyalty on the part of the entire Syoomean population.  Remarkably, the plan succeeded. 

For forty-two days - era 38, the Strontium Era - Fyayman forces, fresh from their victory over the Rubidium Fort, advanced into Syoom.  The Sunnoad waited, while the enemy airships sailed steadily into the trap he had laid.  Details of this epic must be left for fuller treatment elsewhere; here suffice it to say that the trap was successfully sprung.  Era 39, the Yttrium Era - 163 Uranian days, 28 hours, 2 minutes - was occupied by the colossal battle in which the Fyayman coalition forces, which included some Quonians, tried vainly to escape encirclement by the Syoomeans.  Hundreds of airships were destroyed or captured; hundreds of thousands of Fyaymans surrendered.  News of the victory caused another eomasp, and the Zirconium Era began under good auspices, appropriate for a great new age.

>> The Institutes of Fate

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