Author: Julian Miles, Staff Writer
There’s a half-kilometre tourist cruiser flying between Adma and Therna. It looks tiny from this distance. Compared to them, it would be at any distance.
Douglas Thenix translated the Decoran Stone, an artefact found during the excavation of a site near Lothal in India. It described the origins of the Vimana, the magnificent flying palaces of the Sanskrit epics. At the time, his work was ridiculed.
A century later, we arrived here and proved him right. This planet is named in his honour, as his translation found no names for homeworld or inhabitants. Nor did it provide warning of the awe-inspiring structures left by a civilisation so obviously advanced it scares me. I’m not meant to be scared: I’m the Imperial Earth Administrator for this sector.
Named for beings from his translations, these towering pieces of architecture baffle us. Each is less than a kilometre in diameter, yet they soar at least sixteen kilometres into the sky, protected by a forcefield that defies everything we’ve tried. Even the ruins of a spire toppled by a massive tectonic event long ago remain as impregnable and undetectable as its counterparts.
All are a rich bronze-gold in colour, a shade that turns blood red in the sunset and shines like pure gold in the light of dawn. We can see apertures and balconies, elevator tracks and landing pads. Each spire has a different number of sides. Nechninor has three. Maduku, ninety-four. Adma and Therna have five and seven respectively. Being sited barely two kilometres apart, they are the most popular tourist attractions.
Nadine hands me my morning coffee. I spend an hour each day out here, thinking. My favourite contemplation is why the builders left. My least favourite is dealing with the problems caused by those who wish to seek a point where the underground structure of the tower is no longer protected. The subterranean sections seem to mirror ground level size and extend downwards for at least two kilometres. I’m not worried about affecting the spires, but the excavations are claiming lives and the mining camps are unsanitary eyesores.
I also oversee something so secret I will die before I am allowed to retire: the spires are growing by about a centimetre each Earth year. The smallest is over fifteen kilometres from peak to buried base. Have they grown at a steady rate? Are their makers still here, somewhere, hidden behind impervious forcefields?
My main duty is related to that secret: to decide if the spires are a goal or a side product, and, if they are not an intended result, what are they are a symptom of?
Alongside descriptions of Vimana, the Mahābhārata describes events that are shockingly akin to the effects and aftermath of an atomic blast. For all that I seek out and read alternative interpretations, I find myself unable to shift a core of belief.
Every day I wake hoping one of the exploration teams will find something to help me. By lunch time, I’m hoping one of the archaeological teams on Earth has found another fragment from the wall that the Decoran Stone was chipped out of.
As night draws in, I grow wary.
I served two decades in many grim places before I came here. This innate feeling is a warning that’s never been wrong. There is a secret bound to this planet, and I alone am convinced it is malevolent in some way.
I drink my coffee and turn to smile at my staff. We have a whole sector to run. Maybe today I can lose myself in it.
Oh I really want to know more! This reminds me of some of the world’s that Iain M Banks built in his Culture series. Really enjoyed this one Jae, thanks.
Don’t you hate it when you notice a typo AFTER clicking submit?
It’s a Pavlovian learning method, to be sure. 🙂
Fascinating, and logical???, extrapolation of the Mahābhārata 🙂
as impregnable and undetectable as its counterparts.
Then how do we know they exist if they are “undetectable”?
That would be this month’s editing failure. Thank you. One less for my editor to beat me with while vetting next year’s anthology.