Deal 1198: Mars?

Mars was more than met the eye. On the surface the cold, bleak, rusty, and windy landscape was a challenge for any living thing. But find the way underground, and a different picture emerges.

The air is, of course, still thin. But the temperature is usually well above freezing, and several varieties of luminescent lichens keep the tunnels lit just brightly enough to permit exploration in relative safety.

The real surprise is the vast underground sea, filled with wonderfully weird creatures.

The lighting under water is always shifting as flocks of lightbirds drift in giant schools. These are large creatures, flat triangles with brightly glowing undersides and long trailing tails. We still aren’t precisely sure what they eat, but they don’t seem to threaten anything large enough to be visible.

The water is cold by Earth’s standards, but sufficiently above freezing to permit inhabitation. And most importantly, it has enough dissolved oxygen to breathe with only a simple gill structure to extract it. The first colonies were established with unmodified stock. And since then modifications both legal and illegal have been tried that give the colonists greater freedom of movement underwater.


Deal 1197: Frogger

Hindsight, they say, sees all.

Which is just a way of taunting those of us without the talent for seeing events from a future point of view. That is, most of us.

The Fates, those weird sisters, they have that talent. Not many others do, or at least not many admit they do.

So if I knew then what I know now, would then me have done anything different? Would present me even exist if then me could have his way?

Deep questions, or just shallow thought masquerading as deep?

Sort of a reflecting pool of thought?

Water always figures somehow. More now than then.

Because I did not know then a key fact I know now.

Then I was just a Prince. A mortal man, who by luck of birth would someday inherit the right to be near the top (but not actually at the top) of the list of people who could inherit control of my kingdom. The top slot belonged to my older brother, as tradition required. And he was that special combination of unreasonably healthy and unreasonably well liked that made the weight of the rule highly unlikely to become my problem.

In other words, I was just a Prince, with no likelihood of duties beyond my own leisure. Not a care in the world. And no reason I could see for developing the need to care.

How foolish I sounded then, from where I stand now. I say “stand”, but of course other positions are far more common now. But then, “stand” it was. I knew nothing about the shape of the world, or the passions that affect great changes in that shape for little more than a whim of a powerful person. I may have benefited from the presence of power, but I was not myself powerful.

That last fact did eat at me a bit. I can admit that now, but then I would have denied any interest in power.

And that denial would provide the crack through which my downfall began.

For I am no longer that Prince.

I met a temptation. I was tempted. I was tempted badly, and then ill used, and discarded since I in fact had almost no power.

Now, I have exactly as much power as then, without the title to go with it.

Not even the title of mortal man.

I was tempted. I acted when offered a chance at a taste of the power and glory.

The lesson I failed to learn is that temptation rarely leads to real glory, only real humiliation and real defeat.

And a taste of flies on one’s tongue that I will never get used to.

I was a Prince, and now I am cursed to be a Frog for the rest of my days. Or until a highly unlikely event occurs. And without a concrete promise that should the unlikely happen, that it will actually help my plight.

Born a Prince, die a Frog.