people of Syoom desperately needed now was a cheerful, extrovert era, a
healthy time of exploration and zestful life. And this is what
they got, with the added, unexpected good fortune of a
new frontier to
the Bismuth Era, lasted 13,324,486 Uranian days, or 542 Uranian
years, equivalent to 45,600 Earth years. From the word go it was
widely agreed that Syoom ought to look in some new direction, to recover
its mental poise after the stresses of psi.
Of course Fyaym
provided an endless challenge, an infinitely varied challenge, as
always. But - partly because of the forces
roused by the psi crisis itself - Fyaym just then
was too dismally dark and spiritually perilous to attract a people still reeling from
the loss of a powerful talent. During the early part of this
period, therefore, adventurers into Fyaym were unusually few.
The people who
now were most
looked up to as potential saviours were the inventors, scientists and researchers
who might be able to provide the romance and the solace of discovery,
now that the glow of psi-communion was gone. The lone
genius inventor type, in particular, became one of the key heroes of this age.
And one of them did succeed in perfecting what came to be the symbol
of the Bismuth Era - the vehicle known as
a mechanical mole, shaped somewhat like the one used to
discover Pellucidar in E.R.Burroughs' tales, but properly steerable, and no mere digger:
rather, like the probe Lambda One
in the Colin Kapp story of that name, it phased into a vibrational
mode which allowed it to interpenetrate the molecules of normal matter, and
move like a ghost through solid rock and ice.
The tetrak was used during the Bismuth Era to
explore the mascon worlds in the crust of Ooranye. The number of
expeditions was limited - the authorities
did not wish to disturb the planetary equilibrium - but these amazing adventures
acted as an inspiration for others on the surface of
Ooranye. All in all, the Bismuth was one of the most splendid eras.
And it did not decline, it ended abruptly with a piece of
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