The Prospectors

 

Continued from The Praesodymium Spotlight

This is not the place to recount the well-known story of Restiprak Zentonan the mountaineer and of how he and his expedition tackled Mount Gnemek.  We may simply draw the reader's attention to the fact that it was not simply exploration for exploration's sake, but an attempt to settle what might be a political question or a question of Syoomean defence, since the rumour existed that the final spire of Mt Gnemek - the part that reached into space - was artificial.  That was why the mountain's nature became linked with a recurrent theme in Ooranye's long history, namely the near-achievement of space-flight. 

It is not surprising that the Uranians were nowhere near as swift as the Terrestrials to develop astronautics. Yet even with such a huge world to explore, and a relatively sparse population, whose resources had to be devoted largely to survival, occasionally the idea of travel off-world came to haunt Syoomean civilization.  In particular, there was the fear that if one power achieved orbital flight, it might use artificial satellite stations to dominate the world.

Zentonan used this argument to obtain support for his expedition.

The extraordinary events associated with that journey punctuated history with a series of eomasps, leading to a quick succession of no less than 9 small eras, each with its epic contribution to the adventure: the Neodymium (1 hour 20 minutes), containing the momentous conversation which determined the aim of the voyage; the Promethium (4 days 29 minutes), an inner struggle of decision; the Samarium (1 day 3 hours 47 minutes), an investigation of the way forward; the Europium (2 hours 57 minutes), the capture of Zentonan by the forces of tyranny; the Gadolinium (13 minutes), his escape; the Terbium (25 days 19 hours), his underground country; the Dysprosium (1 day 21 hours 51 minutes), the battle in the caves; the Holmium (56 days), his ascent of the mountain; and the Erbium (2 days 1 hour), his long glide down.

After all this it was not surprising that Zentonan was asked to fill the vacancy in the sunnoadex, which had arisen just before the end of era 59.

The success of his expedition gave a huge impetus to other voyages among the mountain ranges of both Syoom and Fyaym.  This is what led the Thulium Era (era 69: 14,025,686 days, 571 Uranian years; equivalent to 48,000 Earth years) to become the golden age of prospecting.

Ell-light deposits in concentrated, crystalline form - much more valuable per unit weight than the stuff extracted agriculturally - fed wealth back into Syoom, which in a few lifetimes recovered to the economic conditions that its people had enjoyed before the Foam.

And so the long Uranian years - each a good lifetime - rolled on in their hundreds, accumulating into another of the great eras of Ooranye.  We tend immediately to think "prospectors" when we think of the Thulium Era, but of course this period contained an enormous wealth of other distinctive features, none of which we have space here to describe.  However it is the theme of prospecting which connects this age to the next wrenching event in Uranian humanity's story.

>> The 'Dassan Call

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