Day 120. 162 pages, 74,076 words. Finished.
(for a total word count, in the paperback template for Greyblade, of 706 pages, 199,366 words, at a deadline ten days shorter than Bad Cow. More metrics to come later)
They were still quite a long way out when it became obvious that they were going to crash.
“I’ve checked the numbers eight times,” Lelhmak said in frustration. “We’re going to hit the atmosphere too fast and before completing our turning and braking. We can dump speed, brake harder and complete our manoeuvres, but the planet isn’t going to wait for us to do that. The optimal result I can arrive at still leaves us coming apart to some degree or other on the way down. I think it’s survivable, but ‘survivable’ is going to take luck, not piloting.”
“Could we radio the humans for assistance?” Predericon asked without much hope.
“Are you out of your mind?” Lelhmak snapped. “They’re almost completely landbound. I guess we could ask them to go and spread pillows for us at the impact site-”
“Can we call it a landing site?” Gyden asked.
“Not with these numbers,” Lelhmak replied grimly. “And besides, if we contact them they’re just as likely to shoot us out of the sky as come to our aid.”
“‘Just as likely’?” Gyden echoed.
“I’m trying to think positive,” Lelhmak said. “Apparently that’s going to be the deciding factor in this debacle.”
“Why didn’t we spot this in time to make corrective actions?” Predericon asked as even-handedly as she could.
“To be fair to all of us, it looks like we would have had to’ve spotted this as we rounded Jupiter,” Gyden replied. They’d taken to using the human names for the planets of the solar system that they’d managed to piece together – although they still preferred ‘Lelhmak’s Moon’ to ‘Europa’. Nevertheless, the familiar Roman names for the assortment of Gods in the human pantheon was reassuring. At least some things hadn’t been lost over the centuries, even if humanity seemed to have forgotten the origins of many of the names. “And we didn’t know much about the atmospheric composition or orbital speeds then, so it still would have been guesswork and luck that got us down in one piece. Added to that, the computer is still trying to apply base assumptions to the physics – flatworld base assumptions.”
“Alright,” Predericon said. “I guess we’re crashing. What can we do to optimise our chances of survival?”
“I’m already making the attitude and velocity adjustments I can without leaving us suffocating while the planet dwindles in our rear viewscreens,” Lelhmak said. “The rest is a matter of bracing for impact, maybe working on a fallback to ditch just before we make the final descent. We could parachute down, dump as much velocity as possible, and hope to bounce a few times and come out of it with minor injuries.”
“We don’t really have anything to make parachutes out of,” Predericon said.
“True,” Lelhmak conceded. “We might be able to prepare by removing some of the interior hull shielding and making braking boards from the panels. Wait until we’re through the first few layers of atmosphere and have slowed as much as possible, then jump out and-”
“And air-surf to the ground?” Predericon finished in disbelief.
“We’re not going to shed all our speed but at least maximising our surface area and hitting the dirt by ourselves might be slightly safer than hitting it while wrapped in a metal coffin,” Lelhmak pointed out.
“Who are you?” Gyden exclaimed.
“Look, I’m just thinking of ways to minimise our chances of being killed,” Lelhmak said, “not eliminate them entirely. Air-surfing is still fantastically dangerous without parachutes or…” he paused.
“Or?” Predericon prompted with a sinking feeling that had nothing to do with the planet slowly growing in their viewscreens.
“Or jets,” Lelhmak said. “We take the air processors and dismantle the attitude jets after final manoeuvres, and we use them as velocity control-”
“You want to air-surf to the ground using cobbled-together jetpacks now,” Predericon said.
“Or we can pack ourselves together in the last compartment projected to hit the surface,” Lelhmak said, “with as much of the food, water and compressed air as we have left and can fit around ourselves to distribute the impact, and hope we don’t wind up mashed to a collective pulp.”
“That’s what you’re worried about, isn’t it?” Gyden said in amusement. “You can’t bear the idea that we might end up being crushed and having all our juices and things mixed together.”
“Frankly I’m a little worried that you can bear the idea,” Lelhmak huffed.
“Oh, I don’t like the idea of dying,” Gyden said, “especially since the Destarion won’t be able to put me back together this time … but if we have to die, it doesn’t matter if we do it together or separately, does it? As long as it happens fast and with a minimum of pain. To me, dying is the worst that can happen. Dying grossly isn’t really a concern.”
“More proof, if any was needed, that you’re no true phobe,” Lelhmak said in tones of injured dignity.
“I don’t see why we can’t combine these approaches to optimise our chances, like you were saying,” Predericon suggested. “We’re already basically using the Speed to air-surf through the majority of the atmosphere. Can we ditch at a certain point and try to decelerate further? Or distance ourselves from the wreck at least?”
“Whatever we intend to do, we’ve got about a week to prepare for it,” Lelhmak remarked.
The Earth-planet grew steadily larger ahead.
– Posted from my Huawei mobile phone while on the bus.
This is really cool, I love all the troubleshooting/theorizing/scheming, and the fun banter amidst it all.
This also got me thinking, speaking of dying quickly and with the minimum amount of pain, maybe that’s a bit of a downside of being as tough as Molren are? I mean, humans die relatively quickly and easily compared to Molren, who can survive a lot more damage/trauma and still live, and still RECOVER. Do they feel less pain than we do? Is this a topic you’ve given a lot of consideration?
Poor bat heads….
And I’m assuming by humanity forgetting the origins of a lot of these names, you mean that they’re all from a much more ancient urverse and pantheon than we can remember, and instead we think the origins are from the history we can remember and study, that being the past 3,000 years or so (you know, back to the Roman Empire etc. and a bit beyond. Number not quite right.)
Consequently, another question: how do you jive all the BC Earth history from the ball-world perspective with the truth of the urverse as it was in the flatworld times before the Flutter? Or is it still going to be called the Flutter? ;P
Did all the stuff we (meaning us here, which are similar to the Earthlings in this time in your writing) know about pre-Christ still actually happen? Or happen in some form? Or is it all a fake history we now remember, kind of like God putting the fossils of dinosaurs in the ground to confuse us?
Sorry, I know this is huge. Answer however you will, of course!
Great questions! To be continued when I get a run-up to it all, but for an immediate answer to one part, I’ll just say that 20th/21st Century humans remember myths like Jupiter/Zeus, without remembering that He is the Pinian God.
It’s complicated, because before the Flutter the Pinians were fairly open, and God let a lot of His pals come around. So human experience, and therefore human mythology, was full of Satyrs and Aphrodites and Poseidons and Bacchuses, some of whom were just God roleplaying for shits and giggles.
After the veil came down, humans panicked and went predictably totalitarian. Monotheistic religions flourished, but at the same time the concept of the Pinians and Pinian God were sort of taboo, and thus forgotten. Only He That Is Called I Am remained.
Understood. As you might suspect given my involvement and interest, I grokked most of this. But I know the answers to the rest are really complicated…and dare I hope there might be tiny bits you hadn’t fully fleshed out yet? *readies back pat on self* Ow. Can’t hold this for long, LOL.
Also, man, can you find a way to get the FSM and his noodly appendages into your literature? XD
Absolutely, figured you did. It’s super helpful to spell it out though, as I’ve mentioned before. There are certainly bits I’ve left un-spelled, so any questions are welcome.
I think Pastafarianism can find its way into the Earth of the late 24th Century, to surprise everyone when the veil comes up when I finally get around to telling the full Book of Pinian story. I mean, Wicca is there so why not?
Now, proper reply:
I enjoyed the spitballing too, mainly because I have no idea how any of that would really work. I mean, I’ve heard about humans falling from incredible distances, and obviously those flying-squirrel gliding suits and sky-surfing are ways to slow your fall. If humans survive that shit, it should be easier for Molren.
And you’re right, of course, about their toughness. But it really just moves along the scale (at least in my mind). Stuff that would hurt a human doesn’t hurt Molren. Stuff that would injure a human hurts a Molran. Stuff that would seriously injure a human injures a Molran. Stuff that would basically pulverise a human seriously injures a Molran. And stuff that would obliterate a human basically pulverises a Molran. To put it very simply.
This is further helped by the autonomic control Molran physiology has. Stopping bleeding, bracing fractures (and their bones are fibrous and less prone to damage), sending dampening signals to stop unnecessary pain. So even when they’re mangled by those higher-level damage events, they’re better equipped to both handle the pain and recover from the damage.
Next up, Earth prehistory!
So, what do 20th/21st Century humans remember of prehistory, and what really happened?
Short answer, basically everything we think happened. Leaving aside the mythical stuff that we’ve convinced ourselves is fairy stories and legends, ancient history pretty much happened in the broad strokes. I’ll take it from the top, with the major points we’ve glossed over in our cultural psyche.
Sometime, [unspecified] years ago (but likely one or two billion, maybe even enough to give us full geological layers and timescales), God came to the Void and started building the flatworlds. Heaven first, then Hell, then Earth between them, then starting on Cursèd but not quite ever getting it finished.
I believe, through all this, life was occurring on Earth and the other realms. Evolving, as well as just being plonked there by God. There were also Elder Races like the Molren, and Second, Third, Fourth Generation Races, and so on. Dinosaurs, fossils, the whole thing. There is enough time in the history of the urverse for it to happen, but maybe not enough time in the history of the Four Realms. I have a bit of a handy Time Destroyer ex machina for any major continuity problems. But to be honest I haven’t thought much about dinosaurs. God imported them to hunt for all I know.
Earth did have primitive hominids, but when humans appeared in The Centre and Ith’s subordinates were obligated to harbour populations of them, God let some live on Earth and they promptly overran the native fauna and bred out the local primates. This was a couple of million years ago and humans were pretty much apes. So basically there’s room for all the levels of human culture to develop, including “primitive” cultures like Australian Aboriginals, Native Americans, all sorts.
History basically happened in the same way up to 0 BC. Egypt, Babylon, Constantinople, Byzantium, the ancient Chinese dynasties, the Aztecs and the Mayans. There were differences that we have forgotten, mostly to do with the existence of other species, immortals, and technology. We can interpret some of the more wacky old texts, artworks, and anachronisms to be hints about these things existing. But as of the veil dropping and Earth going ballworld, all that went away and we had to make do with a very heavily-truncated version of Earth, and nothing else.
So we did. We explained it all as best we could, based on what we could see and infer. Science started over, with the existing conditions. The stuff that didn’t fit into our understanding of history and prehistory, we labelled as myth. The stuff that didn’t fit but we wanted to believe anyway, we labelled as religion. But yeah, it basically all happened. We just rather forcibly forgot the Pinians. Partially because of what they did, partially because it was a condition of the Flutter. Probably. Some of this is covered in Bad Cow.
Oh, and it’s still “jibe”, not “jive”!
Anyway, thanks again for opening this up for me to ramble about, you know it’s one of my favourite things.