Day 51. 175 pages, 81,837 words.
The following is an excerpt from Bonshoon. To read the rest, go ahead and buy the book. You should have already! Anyway, I’m allowed to give out free samples of my own books.
The purpose of this excerpt is twofold: 1) To provide a lazy Saturday blog post while I devote my time to writing Blaran; 2) To show that hey, look, I’m not just making up this whole First Feast storyline as I go along.
After five weeks crossing Chalcedony territory from New Chalcedon, they arrived in the vicinity of Big Thundering Bjørn. Big Thundering Bjørn was a rather innocuous gas giant, and Fat Tuesday was the huge semi-sentient mining machine that ate the planet’s multitude of moons. It ate one approximately every thirty-five years, and the moon it was eating right now was named Gnaxos.
Fat Tuesday was about a hundred miles across, small only in comparison to the Fleet Worldships, and possessed of a synth that didn’t really have much to do with the day-to-day running of the machine. Its job was mostly administration, for the two million permanent residents of Tuesday; logistics, for the automated craft and sorting and deliveries of raw materials; and security, for the mining device itself. It didn’t, to their knowledge and according to what Bruce told them, sync with other synths.
Most of Big Thundering Bjørn’s moons were between three and five times Tuesday’s size, but Fat Tuesday was capable of eating honest-to-goodness planetoids up to a thousand miles in diameter – the previous moon, Ubu, had been one such. It didn’t have a noticeable effect on the thirty-five year turnover.
Tuesday used a devastating piece of integrated equipment called a Godfire Maw, one of the few non-weapon uses to which the mini-whorl technology had ever been put. Although one could very well argue, Decay reflected, that a mobile mining habitat capable of eating a modest-sized planet was a weapon, albeit one aimed safely away from the metaphorical face of civilisation.
Now, Fat Tuesday just floated in synchronous orbit with Gnaxos, its vast hull plates reversed open like the petals of a giant battered iron rose, and sucked the planet’s material into itself in a searing thirty-five-year sandstorm. Fleets of collectors and networks of sifters gathered between the moon and its consumer, and plucked away anything and everything of any value, particularly the dense exotics near the moon’s core.
The problem was, Fat Tuesday was technically unstoppable. Oh, the hab would eventually self-consume once Big Thundering Bjørn ran out of moons, but this would leave an agglomeration of whorls behind that would pose a significant environmental hazard.
But it wasn’t a huge problem. There were eleven thousand, six hundred and eighty-four known moons left in orbit around Big Thundering Bjørn. Or, more accurately, eleven thousand, six hundred and eighty-three-point-six, including Gnaxos. Fat Tuesday had consumed slightly under three-and-a-half moons in the one hundred and nineteen years since its embarrassing inauguration day, when its switching-off problem became apparent. So this was a problem for the mining consortium to worry about in approximately four hundred thousand years’ time.
This is a slightly problematic passage for me now, because I’ve outright stated that Worldships are about ninety miles long. So Fat Tuesday isn’t small in comparison to Worldships, it’s actually a fair bit bigger than them. But maybe I can get away with it on a technicality – this is a mining habitat, practically a moon, not a ship – it doesn’t have an engine or anything. The Worldships make it look like a small docking station, when there’s a couple of them parked on each side.
Yeah. Something like that.