The 'Dassan Call

 

Continued from The Prospectors

The Brown Smoke

Hovering like a Terrestrial eagle or a Uranian eopc over the landscape of Syoom, in what turned out to be the last days of the Thulium Era, we might have discerned murky caterpillar-like shapes, fuzzy in outline, squirming across the plains, and in doing so we would have witnessed one of the many phenomena grouped by historians under the generic title, "The Brown Smoke". 

Sooner or later it was bound to happen that the various non-human powers in Fyaym, in one of their periodic awakenings, should resent the incursions of the prospectors who had become ever bolder throughout the Thulium Era.  The first serious attack of the "Smoke" was aimed at Vyanth itself, the largest city of Syoom.  It was beaten off, but the shock of that day caused an eomasp which ushered in the 144 days, 13 hours of the Ytterbium Era - a time of disaster and of rescue. 

The Lutetium Era

When a defence was invented against the Smoke - a device which reduced it to a shrinking bubbly patch of slime - the relief which this brought triggered another eomasp , which brought on the Lutetium Era.

Era 71 lasted 34,964 of the 30-hour Uranian days, plus 24 hours.  This is equivalent to 119.66 Earth years - hardly longer than a single lifetime.  It is thus one of the minor eras in length, like the Nitrogen Era.  Also like the Nitrogen Era, it has a historical importance out of proportion to its length.

It is the era in which the colloquial phrase "I am laying my life on the line" - in the Nouuan tongue - became compressed into a single long and famous word, kommassandassan

It is a word that must be spoken aloud only in very special situations, by someone so keen to change a plan that he is willing to risk his life to interrupt proceedings.  This is because custom - dating from era 71 - has decreed that it is a word of such power, that not only must it not be spoken in vain, but also it cannot be ignored, on pain of death in either case. 

If you feel that something must be stopped, you can cry 'dassan, and you will be heard; but if you are proved wrong in your reasons, or if you cannot convince, then you die.  On the other hand if you are ignored but then turn out to have been right, those who ignored you will die, no matter who they are.

The first time the 'dassan call was used, was at a muster of airships preparing to invade Fyaym on an expedition in retaliation for the Black Smoke.  A young officer, Gyan Ennye of Jaax, burst into the flagship control room and interrupted a meeting of the captains.  Threatening them and the ship's mechanisms with his laser, he at the same time pleaded so impressively for the mission to be called off, that they hesitated, and when he uttered the phrase, "I lay my life on the line", they were sufficiently convinced that they postponed the fleet's departure while they investigated his arguments further. 

As we all know, Gyan Ennye turned out to be right - the fleet would have been annihilated had it proceeded.  The incident was never forgotten.  It set the precedent for other occasions on which desperate individuals felt they had to halt some mighty process which they felt would lead to disaster.  The 'dassan call did for large movements in general what the institution of Corrector did for Sunnoads in particular.

However, on that first occasion near the beginning of era 71, custom had not yet established the prodecure of the Call in the form it has taken since.  Gyan Ennye had to wait longer for complete vindication, even though his immediate warning was soon proved to be justified.  For he had used violence, in order to get into the control room and to force the captains there to listen to him.

He was court-martialled, and the verdict was a strange one.  Hundreds of predecents were cited, dating from various naval trials throughout the planet's age-long history.  In the end he offered his prosecutors an unexpected deal which they decided to accept. 

 

Simulation

Gyan Ennye was a member of the Dfangexcarj - the Simulator Project.  This was a corporation recently formed to cultivate a machine (we would call it a giant computer) that might aid in decision-making.  Now it was agreed as part of the deal that the Simulator should be brought to bear on the question, "Should Syoom seek to punish the powers of Fyaym for the attack by the Brown Smoke?"

Wayfarers were sent out and data were gathered as never before.  The help of many Ghepions was sought and obtained, partly because they saw the Dfangescarj as potentially one of themselves.  Much opposition was roused against the Project, during the race against time to justify Gyan Ennye's 'dassan call.  A number of cliff-hanging coups by Project supporters ensured that enough intermediate predictions and simulations, some involving a certain amount of deceit, kept political support alive.  In the end, just as the agreed deadline was approaching, a successful simulation was run, which completely vindicated Gyan Ennye's advice.  Syoom should have a defence policy that really was defensive only, and should not allow itself to get tempted into large-scale attacks on Fyaym. 

To the surprise of many, Gyan Ennye himself seemed rather to turn against the idea of the Simulator, after it had done its work.  He wondered aloud whether it should be dismantled, lest people come to rely too much on its power, though he did not press the point.  Anyhow it was allowed to fall into disuse, largely because of the difficulty and expense of keeping its expert-system updated. 

As if on cue, more trouble, more incursions from Fyaym, darkened the horizons.  The last third of Era 71 saw a renewed interest in the idea of Simulations, for purposes of disaster prediction as well as for aid in decision-making.  Gyan Ennye was no longer alive by this time, but his example was remembered, and some 'dassan calls were successfully made, forcing authorities to rekindle successors to the first Simulator Project.

Finally the two disparate ideas - Simulation and kommassandassan - came together when a Skyyonian Simulator, in the presence of the Sunnoad, actually proved, by running two scenarios, one with and one without the institution of the 'dassan call, that the latter should be kept and codified as part of Syoomean culture.

On the same day, the same Simulator was used to recommend that all large-scale prospecting for ell-light crystals in Fyaym must stop.

If that were to happen, Syoom would be weaker in physical power, and must make up for it by increased intelligence.  The Simulators predicted that they would supply this.

The decision was left to the Sunnoad, Dynnt Gilvar 48559.  He was at a forking point in history; a push either way would establish which path mankind would follow for hundreds of lifetimes to come.

He chose to follow the Simulator's advice.  The news spread, and awareness multiplied of the implications of the decision.  A wave of emotion caused an eomasp, and a new era.

>> The Age of the Wise

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