In the Beginning

In the beginning, and this is something they don’t ever talk about, is that there are bubbles.

Like, so. The water is rumbling over the face of the deep or whatever, and what do you have to have beneath the water? The dirt. That’s right.

Because if you’re planet building, as you are, well, you have to have all the dirt you’ll need, right there. You don’t want to haul it in later or even stop to manifest it, it’s easier and the process is much smoother if you make sure to have all you’ll need with you. At round one. You can rearrange, of course, and if you have extra that’s no problem, you can always sell it to some younger builder who’s in a rush, they always are, these younger set. But you want plenty of your own to start with. Enough for the thing itself, the sphere, you know, the two or three or twenty-five outer layers, depending on how complex you want to be. All the material for the sphere except for the core itself is, of course, mainly dirt. You know. The core you pretty much always have as magma or whatnot, you want it molten, I say, it works better. Lots of these in the younger set, these days, they’re playing around with materials for the core, in’t they. Trying things out, experimenting with supersolids, even diamond. Things like that. For the core.

But what are you going to end up with if you go the supersolid route? That’s right. A real long ice age. Endless, in fact. You’ve got to have that heat from the magma, you know, to get things moving sooner rather than later, and you know I’m talking in terms of millennia here, but several millennia is still a heck of a lot sooner than never-millennia. Which is what you’ll have with a supersolid core. Looks great, sure. Fun to talk about, tell them all in the status meetings, you can even tunnel it through and fill it with little surprises that some enterprising core-seeker group will find many eons later, but all that takes time and, more than anything, requires something other than an ice age to be happening. Of course, you’ve got some of these set who are smart enough to figure that out, so they fill the tunnels with magma (that’s a nice surprise for the core seekers, in’t it) or they do some thin layers of magma above the core, and figure that’ll do for the heat, the kickstart.

But there’s more to it, in’t there. That’s right. You’ve got to have the right kind of energy coming from the core, more than anything. More than the heat, even. The energy. And that’s where these younger set, they don’t know. They’re all talk about molecular structure and basic natures and whatnot, about working with the shape of the atoms. They get real technical. Fancy. They think I don’t understand what they’re talking about. Don’t they. But I get it, I know this stuff in four dimensions, don’t I, but they don’t go in for the energy talk. When I bring it up. And I do, because despite the critiques and the looks they give me, I’m for helping a fellow builder out. And these younger ones, you know, they’ve got no imagination yet, have they? That’s right. None a’tall. They’re in that literal phase, deep in it, as everyone is early on. So they don’t understand me, but I try anyway. You know. Trying to help, in’t it. That’s right. They’ll see I know what I’m talking about later on, at some point, and that’s good enough for me. Good enough satisfaction. So I’ll throw in a mention, casual, trying not to be pushy. You know. Not to horn in on their territory, or sound disapproving. Of the new techniques. But I must not say it right, because one for one or ten for ten, they’ll none of them hear it. Will they. You mention energy that way, the basic energy the magma emits, or the diamond, or whatever you’re talking about, structure-wise, and they do the eyebrows and the head rolls and, you know. They’re not even listening anymore. Are they.

But the energy’s what you got to have right, the core energy, in’t it. That’s right. That’s what gives the whole thing the oomph to kickstart itself, to get things moving, and that’s what none of these younger set can figure, with the supersolid cores or whatnot. So they’ve got to wait around for an eon or two, during which it’s too much trouble to take a sample all the way down and see what’s happening. Due to the ice. You know. Several miles thick, as it does. And that’s good, that’s all right, you need it to, but you can’t exactly check and see that it’s all cooking as you hope underneath. Not without disturbing the process. And then you’ve got that nag in your mind that you messed with it, the process, and it’s never as good that way. Plus it’s in poor taste, I think, to go checking in the first eon or three. Shows impatience, a real lack of maturity. To be expected, I guess, with these younger set. They’ve only been at it a bit. And that young, well, you’re still in that silly phase when one planet’s success or failure really eats at you, your identity’s all tied up in it, like one sphere and what it does can speak to whether or not you’ve got it. The building. You know. The ability. True ability. Because assigned or not, approved or not, all respect to the official process, but it doesn’t really matter. It’s in you, the ability, or in’t, no matter what your assignment is.

But, so. You’ve got the dirt, don’t you, with the water in its place, holding, and what have you got if you put water on top of dirt. That’s right. Mud. Lots of mud, which is great stuff for building, my opinion, much easier to work with than dirt, dry dirt, which flies all over, no matter how much you adjust the gravity. Which you don’t really want to do, when you’re building. Adjust the gravity. You want to keep it in place, don’t you, because otherwise you’ll be out there gathering up your landmasses that have floated off, halfway to another galaxy. Don’t even get me started on the islands. Those little buggers can shoot off so fast, and truth is, who’s got the time to go track them down, so you end up redoing those little bits. Which is okay, as far as the material needs go, it’s not much dirt, or mud, but still. It’s poor taste, in’t it. That’s right. Wasteful, and at some point it’ll come crashing down on some other sphere, maybe yours, probably not, and now you’ve interfered in a system, really. You know. Nobody calls it direct interference, of course. It’s not purposeful. But what’s the real difference between purposeful by intent, by design, so one speaks, and by sheer stupid laziness and poor crafting? Not much of one, my opinion, and if you’re interfering in systems because you let your islands fly off, that’s on you, in’t it. That’s right.

But, so. The mud, right? The amount you’ve got, that volume, it in’t going to sit still for you, is it. And you know the kind of volume I’m talking about here: the sphere, the landmasses, islands, plus all your creatures and living things, you know, particularly the mammals. They really take a lot, don’t they. You’ve got to really pack it in, with those mammals, they’re dense little creatures, got to have maybe twice the dirt density of any, say, fish creature. You know. So it’s only really the plants and, you know, anything made of rock that doesn’t need dirt. I guess if you’re going to do the mammal-free route, which is also more popular these days with these younger set, you lose some volume. But all in all, the amount is sheer. Huge. You know. And in that volume, with the water, it’s all mud, and that much mud together, it’s going to do things. It’s got pressure from the water, bearing down, because no matter how aerated your water is, it’s heavy. It’s a lot, and it’s real heavy. So it’s bearing down from above, on your mud, see, and you’ve got the up-pressure bearing from below. (Reminds me of when I watched a first-time builder going at it, and the kid was so nervous, you know, how it is your first few hundred ones or so, well, this was his first decalogue so he was shaky. As shaky as they come, in’t it. Anyway. He forgot to put on the up-pressure for his waters hovering, with, you know, the dirt, so when he initiated the gravity, what happened. You know. It all came down, didn’t it. That’s right. That poor kid. I felt so bad but, it was one of the true mud in your face moments, wasn’t it, you know, I couldn’t help but laugh at him too. Because it all fell, all of it, one go, boom, and he was – his face. Oh. Priceless, in’t it. Right. I still laugh thinking of it. I’m sure he never forgot after, but that sphere was a pancake. He had to redo the whole thing. Wasteful, really.)

But, so. All the pressure, coming in both ways, and your mud’s got to give a little, doesn’t it, one way or another, so. It bubbles. Giant bubbles, none of these little comet-sized jobs, no. Big pressure and each bubble maybe starts out little, down in the middle of the mud, but by the time it breaks surface it’s grown, gathering all those gases along the way. So these bubbles break free and they’re enormous, nearly planet-sized themself, in’t it. That’s right. Seems that way, anyhow. But of course they can’t get out, trapped as they are, you know, in between the water and mud. They float around in there, and soon enough there’s a bunch of them, bumping in to each other and creating friction, which can be problematic itself. Can’t it. That’s right. So what you’ve got to do, I’ve learned, is just slow on down, take a break, and ease open a little corner. A little corner, on one end of the hovering waters, ease it open and let the bubbles out. If you do it right, you set ‘em so they’re pointing kind of planet-wise, you know, so they float out and then gravity does the trick, and they start spinning toward your sphere and somewhere along the way, they’ll pop. No problem. Every single time, and then you’ll have a mud shower, maybe some gases, and none of that’s a problem. Mud gets in your ocean, great, more ocean floor. Mud gets on your land masses, great, more land mass. Really not enough to change the topography that much, and, you know, the topography’s going to get all screwed up anyway when the ice melts.

Like, so. Every mud bubble pops. Every one. I’ve been doing this a long time, haven’t I, and every single time, you let ‘em out, nice and easy, you make sure they’re spinning to the sphere, and one by one they’ll pop and drop. It’s nice, kind of, a real Jackson Pollack effect until it all gets sucked in and merged with whatever it lands on. That one, he knew what he was about, didn’t he. That’s right. A fair long time, like I said, I’ve been doing this, though you know that. Don’t you. Uh. I forget the exact number but I guess it to be somewhere in the upper thousandth eon. Judging purely from the number of spheres I’ve produced, I think that’s fair. A fair estimate. Fair enough. So after several millennia, then, of seeing every single bubble pop, it gets boring, in’t it. That’s right. So I generally don’t sit around and watch them all pop, not anymore. I know how to angle the opening, I know about how long it will take all of them to ease out, so I just make sure to pop back over to the corner and shut it down at the right time. Sometimes, on the bigger spheres, you’ll have to do a couple of bubble clearings. But this particular one was average-sized, nothing fancy. A very classic sphere, in fact, a true nod to tradition, standard layers with the magma core, and done right well, too, my opinion. The only thing I’d done different with it, you know, was the phosphor layer which seemed like a fun, interesting thing to try. Not that it would do much in terms of long-term development. Of course, that’s tough to predict, in’t it, even without little extras like the phosphor. It was really just a combination of things I’d have never thought to plan, any of us, I expect, wouldn’t have thought to look for it happening, the way it did. That one gaping hole, you know, was going to be the main mountain range for that particular land mass, and I was waiting, still, on the granite to come in. I’d held it off, because, you know, I like to keep my work area clean. Like to work through the one material, in this case, the dirt, mud, first, all the way, then pull in the next. And so on. But that did me in, this time, in’t it. That’s right. Because that hole there, for the mountain, it opened up all the way to the phosphor layer. And what are the odds of one bubble in several eons not popping, as all the rest always have. That’s the question, in’t it. The odds. Of that one unpopped bubble making it all the way to the sphere, unpopped, and then finding the one gaping void left to fill. What are the odds. I do wonder. I should have the Reckonings Department figure that for me, I should, because I’d like to know. It’s slim, that’s all I know.

But there it is. It happened, as singularities will, and maybe if I’d taken a little less time on the other side of the sphere I’d have caught it. But I like to pay extra attention to the edges, you know, the coastlines, like to pack ‘em with some extras, and I was working on a whole series of islands. A really beautiful little set, you know, I think they’d have won some awards. Given the opportunity. Which they didn’t have. You know. A shame, that. But I do have the basic template saved, for those, so I guess I can redo on another go.

But, so. You understand, then, why I wasn’t watching the hovering water so closely, being that it was simply doing as it always did, and as I was engaged in some truly fine detail work on the other side of the sphere, and, well. Time slipped away, as it does, particularly before you begin it, and there went the bubble into the gaping void, in’t it. That’s right. And, truly, the resulting explosion was something that I’d not have predicted even if I’d seen it happening. Of course, explosions aren’t my specialty, are they, that’s more of an opposite area from what I do, which, you know, is the building part. Leave the explosions to the End-of-Times Department, that’s what I say. They know how to wrap things up, don’t they, with a bang. A real bang. Which, you know, is what happened with the bubble. And the phosphor layer, I guess, which must have had a bit of sulfur in it, which explains the smell. I’m hopeful that’ll burn off in several millennia, four, maybe, or six, maximum. Sulfur doesn’t have the staying power it used to, does it. But phosphor, well. That seems to be true to quality. Quality stuff. The burning doesn’t look like it’ll abate for some time, they’re saying, and I believe ‘em. The crew from the Hazardous Containment Team. They do say it’s all quite contained, though, nothing to worry about, is there, as far as any inadvertent, you know, interferences in other spheres. You know. Like I was mentioning earlier. As happens sometimes with letting things float off, you know, when you decide to ease up on the gravity too much. No, the gravity was full on, which explains the pull of the gaping void, and how that bubble went straight on to it, now that I think about it. Deeper void means more gravity, so I should have covered it or something. But, sincerely, having an unpopped bubble touch down is the one thing I never thought could happen. Ever. But there we have it, don’t we. It did. One singularity after another, that’s the universe, in’t it. That’s what I always say. Just one singularity after another. In short, I’d like to say, I feel quite embarrassed, having to be here after all my experience, to explain such a dumb mistake. How it happened. All a bit of chance, in’t it. That’s right. But in this case, of course, the result being a bit beyond what anyone might have predicted, what with the seemingly eternal fire and the smell, you know. That is pretty rank. I’ll admit it. Pretty rank.

But, so. Like I said, a few millennia, ten, tops, and I think the smell should go. It seems likely, based on what they’ve told me. As far as the fire itself, I’ll be taking the council’s advice to, sort of, hem it in, a bit. Just to avoid any nasty accidents or, council forbid, more explosions. So, you know, I’ve got a simple set of spheres planned, you can see there. On the prints I’ve provided for you. A simple line of ‘em, to kind of point ‘em away, other builders and explorers or whatnot, off in another direction. I think ten or so should do it, no problem. And, yes, per the council’s request, of course. I’ll be happy to report back when the warning spheres are completed. What’s that? Well, I don’t know. I hadn’t though of that scenario, honestly. I guess it is a good idea, of course, to avoid that, in’t it. That’s right. So I’ll use the supersolid core, then, like I was mentioning, to eliminate that possibility. That’s why I always love to have the council’s input, you know. Don’t I. That’s right. I do have the one sphere already started, you can see it, the bluish one on the print. Already started with the magma core, but, so. That shouldn’t be an issue. Whatever life does develop there, I imagine, will be short-lived. You know. Due to the proximity of the smell, and all.