The Assault on Arclour

 

Continued from The Actinium Fulfilment

Arclour, the fabled Starward Polar region of Ooranye, antipodeal to the Sunward City, Skyyon, has traditionally stood for everything that is utterly remote, mysterious and unattainable.  Sunnoad Fiarr Fosn 723 had intended to reach it but although he had commanded fifteen hundred airships his fleet had been destroyed many thousands of miles short of his goal, and, for hundreds of millions of days since then, the legendary disaster had seemed to confirm that mankind was not destined to penetrate to Arclour.  Recently, however, Uranians - like Terrestrials after the first moon landings - have had to get used to thinking of what used to be unattainable, as having now been reached.

If we were to take it upon ourselves here to describe the events which ushered in the present era, this history would become more of a current affairs news-sheet, and, because it is far too soon to assess the full significance of these tremendous happenings, the account we might give would lack the perspective which can only come from a more considered verdict.  Besides, everyone knows the bare outline at least: how the Second Great Fleet did succeed in reaching Arclour and its ultimate sivvan, and how that discovery triggered the Fostering of Ooranye, that is to say, the final retrospective grafting of Ooranye's true history onto the history of our solar system. 

It also broke the ontological barrier which had separated Terrestrials and Uranians.  Henceforth in full co-dimensionality a number of adventurers from each planet have been able to visit the other, and Earthmen and Nenns have met face to face. 

A few remaining details will round off our sketch of Uranian history.

The actual eomasp which ended era 89 was caused by the wave of emotion that accompanied the departure of the Second Great Fleet.  But the short era that followed - the 8 days, 9 hours, 20 minutes of the Protactinium Era, which was the duration of the voyage to Arclour - counts as era 91, not 90.  Why is this so, and what happened to era 90, the Thorium Era? 

The peculiar whisper in the mind, experienced by so many as the fleet set out, might have been ignored, but the interpretation of some unusual dreams, which came to innumerable Nenns all over Syoom that night, powerfully suggested the following conclusion:

The Thorium Era never happened, but it could have, and, on another time-track, it did. 

Sunnoad Iyen Noom has since admitted to chroniclers that it was only at the very point of departure that he made up his mind on a vital point of tactics.  He decided that the ships under his command would, if they were forced, do the thing which Fiarr Fosn's fleet had not been able to do - namely, use the vibrational mode of inter-molecular transport which had been invented in the Bismuth Era.  Due to its enormous expense it could only be used once by a fleet of this size, and if that use were to prove inadequate, the airships would be trapped and doomed.  But the gamble - in this universe - was taken. 

Apparently, according to the Thorium Whisper, in another universe it was not taken, and Arclour was never reached, and the Terrestrials never landed, and the continuing era was the Thorium, with a history very different from the one we are now launched upon.

In our universe, as we write, we are now in era 92, the Uranium Era, the last era, which, say the people of Ooranye, shall last six times as long as all the others put together, constituting the rest of this Great Cycle of 100,000 Uranian years, or 8,400,000 Earth years - of which about 1,200,000 have now passed.

Our friends on Ooranye tell us, good-naturedly, that the days of Earth's pre-eminence will soon be over and that leadership in solar system affairs is about to pass to their own giant world.

However, we wonder just how soon is "soon" to a Uranian.  Besides, although Arclour has at last been reached, Fyaym has not been conquered, and perhaps never will be.  Can the Nenns dominate the solar system if they cannot even subdue their own planet?  And yet this may be the wrong way of looking at it; perhaps Fyaym will always be needed to keep them fit for adventure; perhaps the great wisdom of the Nenns lies in not crowding their horizon.

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