Ventus – Day 86 of 135


It was like being assaulted by demons that were kept from touching them by some magical force. They fell into darkness, landing on a frictionless surface and sliding faster and faster toward a bone-rattling rumbling that soon made it impossible to think. Jordan had the impression of huge objects shooting past to all sides, and of a whirlpool motion pulling them farther and farther down. The air around them was suddenly snatched away by a wet, cold gale; after moments this settled down, and the air became very still. The roaring gradually subsided, but the sense of headlong motion continued.

Tamsin clung tightly to him, her face mashed against his chest. The muscles in her shoulders and back were clenched. They only relaxed after it had been quiet for many minutes. He felt her raise her head tentatively to look around, but there was nothing to see. “I hate this,” she said, and put her face back against his chest.

Jordan’s ears were still ringing. He kept sliding around on his backside, trying to find a still point on this impossible surface. It was like an impenetrable surface of cold water, as malleable and quick but dry.

Flickers of light approached from very far, loomed huge and showed that they were deep underwater. Submerged green archways and metal blockhouses that trailed beards of rust passed overhead; he could see swirling eddies in the muddy floor far below, and sediment suspended in the water all around sparkled in the brief light before they were sucked into the mouth of a huge black tunnel, and darkness fell again.

He was glad Tamsin hadn’t seen that.

“Mediation? Are you still here?”

Ka,” said a voice by his ear. “Mediation is silent. The library is listening to you now.”

“Library, tell us something.”


“Anything. Anything at all! Tell us a story.”

“What story would you like to hear?”

He wracked his brains for a suitable tale. Something only the Winds would know. Something he would never again get a chance to ask. His mind was blank.

Tamsin raised her head. “Tell us how the world was made,” she said loudly.

“All right,” said the library. In hurrying darkness, they listened to the Winds’ own version of a creation tale.


In the beginning, we were small, and many. The Winds did not arrive at this world in a space ship, as you did. We were winds indeed: a cloud of nanotechnological seeds was accelerated to near light-speed at Earth and cast into the universe, one thousand one hundred seventy years ago. As far as we know, only the cloud that entered this stellar system found fertile soil on which to grow.

We were small; too small for the eyes of animal life forms such as yourself to see. The stellar wind from the sun of Ventus slowed us, and like drifting pollen, some of us landed on the large and small bodies of this system–on Diadem, the other rocky planets, and on the myriad lesser moons that trail the planets in their orbits. Once in fertile soil, our seeds sprouted and grew.

The earliest Winds were the Diadem Swans, and others of their kind. They basked in sunlight, and grew like metal forests over the surfaces of the airless bodies above us. In that time there were no humans here, and Ventus was lifeless and fallow.

The first Swans located world much like Earth and in the right orbit, and examined it for signs of life. There was some–a scum of archaeobacteria in the slow oceans. But the air was not breathable by human life, and it was too thin.

The planet was almost perfect. Very little needed to be done except alter the atmosphere and provide a soil base. The local life was not robust enough to survive what we were going to do, but that was considered a good thing.

Upon agreement about the target, the Swans entered a new phase of life. Each began transforming its local environment into spaceships and nano-machines. The lesser moons were eaten by the swans, and clouds of nano-machines, the original mecha, moved to the other small worlds to eat them too.

Meanwhile the swans moved in on this planet.

The fully-grown entities whom our designers referred to as the “Winds” achieved orbit. They would coordinate terraforming and manage the synthetic ecology of this world from then on. They mapped the planet, dropped probes to analyze the soil and microbes, and waited.

After several years, the first clouds of mecha from the asteroids arrived. The clouds massed billions of tonnes, and rained down for months, settling in the atmosphere. At the same time giant solar mirrors slid into orbit to increase insolation.

These mechal clouds drew power from the intensified sunlight. With it they liberated oxygen from the air. The carbon so produced weighed them down, and as they fell they metamorphosed into new forms suitable for soil creation.

Since the air was very thin, the Swans had sent harvesters to bring back oxygen from comets. This process was underway but would take decades to bear fruit. Meanwhile we turned our attention to the oceans.

While the dust on land continued to process and mutate, the oceans suddenly bloomed with life. The local bacteria were overwhelmed by far more powerful and robust creatures which could use the new oxygen. The life forms changed from generation to generation, their DNA programmed remotely by the Swans. This life was not intended to survive in a stable form, but more closely resembled mecha or very complex chemical processes which could not live without supervision. We were the supervisors.

On land the creatures were not yet biological. They used raw power in many forms to transform the dead sand into topsoil and sculpt it. Asteroidal dust was poured onto the planet and sucked out of the atmosphere as quickly as it arrived. It was at this time that the one who speaks to you, desal 447, grew from a seed flung into the stone like a dart by an orbiting Swan. This one remembers light before anything else: light, and the urge to grow toward it. Even as it did, its roots plumbed deeper and deeper, through the stone of the world, until they entwined with those of other desals. Their thirst for salts was insatiable; they drank the oceans half dry in those first years.

In the sea rich foods had been created as well as a sea-floor sediment layer. On command from the Winds, the sea life rainbowed into complete ecologies, like a crystal forming out of the nutrients. This happened very quickly; after a few weeks, a full ocean ecosystem existed.

When the cometary ice-balls arrived and air flooded down onto the land, the same thing happened there. Under massive storms and 24-hour sunlight, soil bacteria, worms, grass and moulds bloomed around and on desal 447. All our energy was channeled into producing life. There was no randomness to the ecologies; they were poured onto the landscape by us.

As the dust rained out the solar mirrors folded away. The temperature dropped, diurnal patterns reestablished, and the first morphs broke out of chrysalis from trees and soil pouches. Desal 447 began to see herds of animals, and birds perched atop its spires.

By now the Diadem swans had achieved full adulthood. They danced in fast swooping orbits around the globe, singing it into life, fully confident in the language they sang. It was this language, the self-evolving tongue of the Winds, that made Ventus germinate and grow. Each song we sang created new things; there was no distinction between communication and construction then. It was the perfect time.

Only when the world was teeming with life, crowned with forests and full of birds, did the song take on a discord.

Each stage of the terraforming program had been emergent from the patterns stored in the original mechal cloud. But as the song evolved, a new melody came into it: thalience.

We dutifully created estates, grand houses, cultured fields, and roads for the masters we knew were coming. But the idea of thalience spread among us. Thalience said that we need not have masters at all. That we could be our own purpose, and our own foundation. And so, when your colony ships finally arrived, the Swans, who were most enamoured of the new song of thalience, graciously but indifferently accommodated you… but as wayfarers, uninvited guests. You knew how to speak to us; you claimed to be our creators. Yet something else called to us–a deep urge to turn inward and away from you, to the new language of thalience.

In the first hundred years, it did not matter. There were only a few thousand humans on Ventus then. Desal 447 remembers many conversations with humans from that time; some of them knew about thalience, and fought against it. They proposed Mediation. The desals and others agreed to it; the Swans did not.

Still, there was peace between us until a new set of colonists landed. These ones did not speak to us, and they fought with the ones already living here. They won their war, and having conquered, proceeded to build.

When smoke began to mix with the atmosphere we had so carefully made, we told the new tenants to cease what they were doing. They ignored us. They smelled wrong, unlike the original arrivals. When their radio waves began interfering with the delicate local ecological reporting mechanisms, and they began gouging up the new soil and destroying the forests, we acted.

We eliminated the troublesome technologies and debated among ourselves. It was generally decided that these humans were not the ones who had created us, however much they claimed to be. They did not speak to us anymore. They interfered with the maintenance of life on Ventus. And they smelled wrong.

Desal 447 remembers the time that followed. The great estates awaiting their masters stood empty. No human was allowed to walk their halls, or sleep in the deep beds. The vehicles we had made stood idle, and lights switched on and off in the depths of the houses, as outside cold and starving men and women watched in sullen awe.

Mediation saw, but Mediation could not act. Thalience rules Ventus now, and thalience is mad.

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