Day 119. 155 pages, 69,591 words.
The Speed’s Virtues (Survival) was just clearing the inner extremity of the system’s asteroid belt when the humans broke out the nuclear weapons.
The belt was very diffuse, requiring no emergency corrective actions in their course. The artificial stellar vault they had apparently been dropped into was just as vast as a natural one, so it was actually very difficult to run into anything – to the extent, in fact, that they were going to fail to run into Earth unless they really paid attention. They did encounter maybe a half-dozen tiny micrometeorites, but the flecks were nothing their big ungainly shield couldn’t handle. After the belt, they would be passing through the orbit of the frozen carcass of the ballworld they’d estimated contained elements of both Earth and Cursèd, although they would not be passing the planet itself as it was elsewhere in the solar system at the time.
The humans had been testing nuclear fission for only a short while, as their technology and research had not yet regained the appropriate level. Nevertheless, they were dedicated dabblers, and with the advent of planetary-scale war between the fractured Earth nations the feverish scientific creativity of the humans had shifted gear. The nuclear tests had registered on a couple of the Speed’s sensors, and within a blindingly short period of time the humans were deploying the fission devices as weapons. On a scale as small as a ballworld’s landmass, they were … devastating.
The war had been more or less over in any case, by the sounds of the planet’s transmissions, but the fission bombs brought about the abrupt conclusion of hostilities and the radio signals from Earth began to grow steadily more positive. Predericon had felt, for a brief moment, as though the humans had been shocked into civility by the cataclysm they had just unleashed … but it didn’t seem to last. Fission bombs were now a part of the human arsenal of war, and it would take them a little while to adjust to that new reality. But after that, they would start looking for something more powerful.
“Only livable planet in the solar system that’s adequately protected from radiation,” Lelhmak marvelled, “and they’re busily baking the shit out of it with a different kind of radiation.”
“If they start firing nuclear transpersion weapons at each other, we’re turning this tub around,” Gyden declared.
“No, wait, let’s think about that,” Lelhmak replied. “We’d never make it back on our current momentum and supplies. If they break out the transpersion weaponry, we’d need to get closer, not turn around. Use the pulse to ride home on, double-time. We’d just have to alter course so we could do a tight orbit of the planet as it comes apart.”
“I’m not sure what worries me more,” Predericon remarked. “That we’re discussing riding an extinction-level transpersion shockwave back out to Lelhmak’s Moon, or that you just referred to Lelhmak’s Moon as ‘home’.”
“I know what worries me more,” Gyden said. “That we’re heading for a planet that’s been overrun by feral monkeys who now have nuclear weapons and don’t seem to care that the other two planets they might have been able to evacuate to are already uninhabitable.”
Things on Earth seemed to settle down a little after that, however, and the Molren’s tedious journey went slowly on. The humans did not make any further devastating technological advancements, although if Predericon knew humans – and although she did so only by reputation, it was a fearsome reputation – they were almost certainly working on it.
Finally, the bright blob of Earth came into view as it rounded the star, and the Speed hurtled towards it on an intercept course.
– Posted from my Huawei mobile phone while sitting in the carpark.