The World Before Foundation
A Supplement to Roots of Rookeri
The Daab: a gently undulating, gradually descending grassland.
Descending to what?
To an ancient sea, now dried to a desert of salt. Even the Badwen will not go there. Tall and rangy, these hunters that roam the Daab have a secret they’ll not share with any outsider. It concerns a certain plant that grows on the Daab. That plant, when processed, yields an antidote to the poisonous death-charms of the amphibs, highest of the indigenous life-forms.
Cutting a NW-SE diagonal across the Daab is a row of widely separated pudding-shaped mounds – all that remains of an ancient range of mountains. The rock is iron-rich, a vital source for those living north of the Daab. But, though expeditions are regularly sent to mine these small eroded mountains, none yet have ventured far enough south to reach that desert of salt.
Were they able, and they stood upon the most southerly mound, they would see, mid-way towards the horizon, eleven rings, black with edges sharp against the salt. If any should venture across that salt – a two day journey requiring shelter and an adequate supply of water – they would find what at first they’d mistake as another such mound. This one, much smaller, they’d take as more thoroughly eroded: there is not much of it left. But this mound differs from the others in not being red. It is white. Further investigation would show it to be an artificial structure, surviving from the Day of Foundation.
The mother-ship itself, The Avatar, had not landed. On approach to the planet the sleepers were awakened. 12 x 12 Founders (Patriarchs, Nobles) filled their allocated ‘landers’ – twelve pudding-shaped craft – with their allocated stocks of seeds and plants and domesticates, and with their friends and their families.
The Avatar was programmed to explode after it was unloaded and the shuttles had landed, though Diaspora Commander Royan had override of the system should anything go wrong. The 12 x 12 Founders and their families watched from the inhospitable salt desert where the pudding-shaped craft had landed. The explosion seemed small from such a distance.
As overseer of this last stage of the diaspora, Commander Royan had waited for all to be across the desert and safely beyond the first of the pudding-mounds before he completed Operation Annihilation. His own group, led by the Founders Bendel, Villas, Parla, Luethi, Sharma, Eire, Ulrich, Tiszka, Rementh, Deluca and Rasel, had instructions to reach the same mound, there to corral the livestock and, in safety, to wait for him. Should anything go wrong with this part of the Operation, he alone would be killed. For he now would set the charges that would utterly destroy the twelve landers.
Reason? Because with no evidence of their arrival the colonists would not hanker for a return. Now, at all costs they must make it work.
Were it realised that the pudding-mound in the salt desert was something other than salt, and an expedition was equipped to reach it, it might be discovered that the door, though salt-encrusted was hardly corroded. A lever might pry it open. Investigating the craft within, it might be discovered that the power-system still functioned. There might then be discovered a digital record. That record ought not to be there. It contains the illicit writings of Commander Royan.
Nothing but the agreed tools and stock were to be brought from Old Earth. The exception was The Book. Knowledge of their former world was to be forgotten. When Commander Royan made that record – while he waited for his group to cross the desert, to reach a safe from the explosions – he did not expect it to survive. He expected it to be destroyed in the blast. Indeed, when the explosions came – just as he reached the edge of the salt-desert – he didn’t even realise that one had failed. To his knowledge there was no lander out in that desert.
Here’s what he recorded in his idle hours of waiting.
We Have Been Caught
Did we think to escape it? We, who had benefited most from the Curse, netted by the heretics, ‘persuaded’ into their beliefs. I see it now, how they used us. They used our Accursed Coin to bring them to these 10 new-found planets. Yet I believed their cant; I believe it now.
Mercury’s Curse had many expressions back on Earth (Old Earth) – though at root the Curse was of profit and money. Mercury, the astrologers’ god of Arts, Skills, Commerce and Travel. Aptly named, that Curse, for those were the aspects most affected.
Arts and Crafts and Skills and Services that were no longer performed for the sheer love of the craft, for the satisfaction of a job well done. No, done now only for the financial reward. And that reward must always be ‘more’. Oliver, maltreated, was hungry; these . . . . addicts, yes, addicts, were greedy. So do not blame us if we looked for new ways to satisfy that demand. And it was not my generation, I was merely carried along. Everything . . . everything for sale but for the air that we breathed. Nothing for free anymore.
The excess of addiction:
- People paid to have babies produced for them – no sex required.
- Yet sex was sold, with every perversion.
- Brides and grooms, displayed like the latest refridgerator, were bought and sold.
- Health and Healing, Beauty and Pleasure, bought and sold.
- Training and Education and Knowledge – Knowledge! – were bought and sold.
- Fetid stories and entertaining tales, written and packaged and bought and sold.
Lives . . . lives too were bought and sold.
- The inventions of scientists were bought and sold.
- War itself was bought and sold.
- Allegiance was bought and sold.
- Weapons of mass destruction . . . were bought and sold.
Death . . . death, too, was bought and sold.
It was a Curse, and it wasn’t the likes of we Founders who suffered.
- Goods can’t be sold without, first, people make them.
- Services can’t be sold without people provide them.
- Making and providing, the people earned money.
- That money enrolled them in Mercury’s Game.
- Buying and selling, everyone caught in the Web.
But what of the obverse?
- What of the less abled?
- What of those who couldn’t take part in the Game?
- What of the old and the young?
- What of those without a full head of wits?
- What of those with an illness that prohibits their joining?
- What of those who couldn’t work for the money to buy them a cure?
- What of those who didn’t want to participate in Mercury’s Curse? What of the heretics?
They were not permitted to exist.
- Governments tutted, but they paid out, the same.
- Can’t have the unfortunates unable to play.
- Charities dispensed cash like quacks with their snake-oil.
- Everyone must play the Mercury Game.
- Drugs were dispensed to turn the heretics into believers.
It wasn’t my generation; I wasn’t to blame.
And still there were those who refused to partake. Those who saw the error and the horror of Mercury’s Curse. Across the world they found each other. Across the world they formed their own Net. Their numbers small yet their voices loud, they were heard by others. Heard by a thousand or so who had already prospered.
They were heard by me.
We were caught; conned into taking them to these 10 new-found worlds. “Make wise use of your money,” they said. “Take us to where we can begin anew.”
And I sit here and I ironically nod. For there was another part to Mercury’s Curse. The Trans-Trap: to be richer, bigger, better, fitter, smarter, smaller, neater. It was the drive to extend the reach. To go beyond; beyond reason, across the line and into insanity. We called it ‘The Ultra’: Ultra-marine, Ultra-montane and Ultra-mundane. And how much more Ultra than to travel 11 light years into Space while asleep, only enabled by the latest, smartest technological discoveries. Alas for those who awoke with frozen wits.
My thoughts – which will never be heard. They will be destroyed with this craft tomorrow. My thoughts – between me and my maker. Mercury. For isn’t he also God of the Con Men and Trickers. Caught, me and we others, caught in their Net.