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Deal 1012: Jupiter Bound

Spiral on my Mind 20:
Fish, Eye, Strength, axe, Transformation, fork, War, dog, and Unity

I’m having trouble imagining a harsher place to set up home than right here, right now. When we left, everyone was so sure about what we’d find. Too sure as it turned out. But exploration is like that. Sometimes you head to the top of the world, and all you find is a nice view and thin air. Sometimes you find storms larger than your homeworld that no one knew would be there.

Heh. “There”. As in “here”, exactly where we planned to settle.

Or in this case, exactly where we expected to pass over frequently in our final, stable orbit.

No one expected to be able to fish off the veranda. At least not from here. There was talk of a mission plan that involved a zeppelin that sought buoyancy at the one bar level. They were crazy enough to imagine that fishing might be possible. At least until they found themselves at the mercy of the wind at the one bar level, and got sucked into the eye of a storm.

There isn’t much you can make the shell of a zeppelin out of that would survive the eyewall of a Jovian storm.

That just seemed like a tragedy waiting to happen.

So our mission avoid the atmosphere as much as it can. Except apparently, it can’t. We’re in a polar orbit, inside what we assumed was the bounds of the magnetosphere. Observations and models of the mission were pretty clearly drawn up on the assumption that we could avoid the top of atmosphere, while still taking advantage of the magnetosphere to keep us safe from the worst of the solar wind.

That is critical to our long term survival. Too much exposure, and we’ll die. Slowly.

Touch the atmosphere with anything more than the gentlest of kisses and we’ll die. Quickly.

We’re equipped to spend years in orbit, decades according to the planners. Longer, even. We are a tool in storage here in the most unlikely of places. If things go well, we become a colony. We provide a valuable pool of self-sustaining humanity, far away from that single, fragile basket where all the rest of us live.

Why?

Well, several reasons leap to mind. First, there is always that threat of the mythical World War Three. Mythical, I say, because it is all too real, but simmering slow enough that no one has had the nerve to admit it. The field of glass west of Japan ought to have been a clue that something was up. I don’t know, really, we were already under way when that happened. How it happened, we might never know. No one will tell us. In any case, I suspect this is the fork of the trousers of time we find ourselves on. The war is real but unstated. We have arrived, and nothing is as we were led to expect.

Second, is the threat of a dinosaur killer. That basket that everyone else lives in is fragile, and there’s only the one basket. It wouldn’t take a very large rock to cause it irreparable harm. A rock that is rather small compared to many that are wandering around without leashes out here. But given what we are observing, that pathway seems less important right now. Or, perhaps, more important to humanity as a whole than to us as individuals.

We arrived expecting that there would be room for us between the magnetosphere and the atmosphere, and that the atmosphere was a dangerous place. We were part right. The atmosphere is a more dangerous place than we understood. I guess there had been little interest in the polar regions before our mission plan was finalized. The whole place just looked like a banded Easter egg of winds of various depths. We knew that the top of the clouds would be a smorgasbord of interesting chemicals, and that the atmosphere itself was mostly hydrogen and helium. We count on those traces to remain viable here in the long run.

But in the short run, we have a very narrow band we can sit in.

Or the dog barks.

And then its all for naught.

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Deal 1008: Standard Story

Once upon a time, the standard collection of three brothers were assigned the usual set of pointless tasks.

The oldest brother, being at all times the biggest and knowing himself to be the smartest, took no care at all. His task was completed swiftly, but without any wisdom was not completed well. Worse, his actions had offended the richest man in the kingdom, and he was soon served with a suit for his troubles. As the case progressed, it became clear to all that he had failed miserably.

The middle brother, often ignored, took up his lute and spent his time at music, letting his assigned task languish as he pursued his art. He spent many hours of many days in many inns and clubs. He chased elusive sounds. He chased a true love. He found many things to be happy about, and in time found himself married with a enough children to fill out his band. In due time, he died as he lived, a happy man surrounded by the joy he brought to all around him. And yet, as these stories go, he too must be judged a failure for he had ignored the arbitrary task that fate (or the Author) had assigned him.

The youngest brother, going by all that is expected in this sort of story, set out diligently to accomplish his task. From time to time, stories of his one brother or the other’s fate would reach him as he sought first the tallest tree in the forest, then the sharpest herring, then some knights with weird and rude habits of accosting people and setting tasks, and finally a decent shrubbery. Along the way he was plagued by rabbits, coconuts, and swallows. Eventually, stories came to be told of his exploits, and even the Author had to admit that by the arbitrary rules in play, he had succeeded.

Except for one thing.

Where was the bat?

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Deal 995: Eye Knows All

It always begins with a fount of knowledge. The all-seeing eye that watches and records, and the leak from it back into the mortal world.

Leaks always seem like a good idea at the time.

Some over-confident blowhard is brought down by a well-timed leak. The gods are keeping useful things like “fire” to themselves, but a gutsy mortal, acting on a leak, can steal it.

But all too often, the result of a leak is more scandal, and punishment of the source.

That is partially why Sisyphus is still pushing that boulder, after all.

And even though he has since learned to apply tools to his problem and shave years off his sentence, math tells us that his sentence is still forever. He’s also learned that magic such as levitation is considered cheating, and didn’t earn him any goodwill. Cheating was the larger part of why he was condemned to that boulder in the first place.

In fact, his only way out is to simply endure it, serve his time, and hope that he is laboring in a side timeline that will be looped back into the normal frame of things so that after his infinite service, he returns humbled and can redeem his good name.

They won’t believe the tale he’ll tell, of course.

But the eye will see and they will know.

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Deal 994: Mirrored in Mire

From humble beginnings and all that rot. Roses growing from manure. Right.

Those are all nice ideas for a story. But in my world. Heh.

The mirror has been on that wall for a long time. No one now living can quite explain why it’s there at the back of a stable. But there it stays. It has resisted most attempts to remove it, some from people who sunk low enough to try to steal it in the night. Most who attempted to steal it were found wandering around in a daze, with no explanation of what happened.

I did see it hit square on by a thrown shoe once. It didn’t break. I felt more than saw the shoe go past, then flinched as I realized I was about to get an eye full of shards of glass. But it didn’t break. Strangely, the shoe was nowhere to be found.

The farrier was rather upset about that missing shoe, and tried to stick it on me. As the one on the receiving end of it, that didn’t sit well at all. But I’m no one important. I’ve just been around the place, done my time.

I’ve tried wandering afield, but it never lasts. Stable boys find reasons to push me along. Innkeepers don’t want me where the guests might see. Farmers seem to worry that their milk might curdle or their cheeses get ideas. I guess they fear that some cheese with ambition will succeed, and then they will find themselves on the wrong side of the law. I don’t really know, they run me off before it gets that far.

So after I while, I find myself drawn back here.

Back to the manure pile.

And the mirror behind it.

Clear that my humble beginning will be my humble end.