Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Near Worlds: Dhaleur

Dhaleur (Dah-Loor) is a cold, wet world covered with dense, dark forests and deep, tarn-like lakes. There are no large oceans or seas on Dhaleur, only millions of scattered lakes, though some few are of substantial size, enough so to invite favorable comparisons with the legendary Great Lakes of Old Earth. The mirrors are still at work from in orbit, directed by the Tropical Hegemony along the guidelines first established by the initial ecosculptors brought in by Baron Halsember during the initial claimant phase of his dynasty's establishing themselves upon Dhaleur. It was the old Baron who renamed the twin moons of Dhaleur Lucre and Centime. The eccentric old man styled himself as a robber-baron in the best tradition of Getty and other obscure figures of Prehistory. He was criosassinated by his nephew thirty years to the day that Dhaleur was officially registered to the Halsember Dynasty.

Of course an old man with plenty of enemies and a lifetime of looting the fringeworlds by hook or by crook didn't get where he'd gotten without being crafty, cagey and downright vicious when it was called for. Of course not. Baron Halsember always liked to be prepared. He always made sure that he had a contingency plan before moving forwards into any undertaking or adventure. Some, like his six ex-wives, criticized him for not being very spontaneous. Others learned to their drastic regret that the old Baron was nothing if not thorough. Very thorough.

Kelsey Halsember enjoyed his coup for five full minutes before the estate's subsystems extruded and released one hundred autophagous clones derived from Kelsey's own genetic profile. These were not the usual run of the mill Bane-clones, nor were they simple simulacra. These were Kelsey, recreated a hundred times over, but with the minor modification that they needed to devour Kelsey's flesh in order to survive. They had the metabolism of a shrew in that they required sustenance or they would die, horribly, within four hours of their extrusion. They could not eat each other as their cells carried markers that designated them as repellently toxic. They were also extremely sensitive broadband self-heterodyning empaths who were completely locked within a closed, private completely self-contained rapport with each other and Kelsey.

He--and they--saw everything that the other did, smelled and heard everything, felt and tasted everything, and shared every tiniest emotion and reaction. The effect intensified the closer the clones got to their progenitor, their target, themselves. The feedback bordered upon both the orgasmic and the most intense spike of panic a person was capable of experiencing outside of a Solmiri's boudoir or the care of a Kadishtu.

Poor Kelsey screamed in the most uncouth manner after the estate subsystems calmly and lovingly explained the situation to him. He cursed his uncle for unleashing an abominable fate he did not deserve upon him and begged the holicon of his uncle for mercy. But as the recorded persona of his uncle knew all too well, Kelsey had crossed over a line from which there was no coming back and so the holicon merely observed the hysterics and listened to the ravings and watched and waited.

Like many of his generation, Kelsey Halsember had been raised within the ranks of Nobility and Privilege. He had inherited Aristocratic gene-mods, ancestral implants and a tailored physique that was based upon centuries-old traditional designs established during the Reign of the First Worldking upon Aegron. He should have been the best of the best. He was the worst of the worst instead. A failing that his uncle chalked up to having grown up far too soft, sheltered and shut out from the real world. That would change forthwith.

Even as Kelsey Halsember failed his first real test as a Noble, something good did come from his untimely and grisly demise. From that day forward the Heirs of the Halsember Dynasty would be required to leave the ancestral estates with only what they could carry upon their own person and go out into the Wilderness Worlds and make something of themselves out past the Perimeter. They would be barred from returning for one hundred years. They would receive one dispensation, a mere starting-out stipend, and no other support from the Family or Lineage until either they survived the century of self-reliance or they were Recovered.

They were not adults, nor were they children any longer. They were re-classified as adolescents, an archaic legal euphemism restored from analysis of the fragmentary records of Prehistory, and repurposed to suit the aims and ambitions of Baron Halsember.

Those Recovered from failed outings were summarily remanded to the creche-farms and required to undergo slow-growth and re-education as small children with the hope that they might be salvageable or at least manageable.

Little did Baron Halsember realize that he would be instigating a trend amongst his peers.

Within a mere decade every Monarchist Family, Lineage, Dynasty and Clade had instituted a policy very similar to Baron Halsember's original decree. It is considered a rite of passage amongst the Nobility.

Hundreds of new lineages, Cantons, Counties and settlements have arisen over the years directly due to this practice. The Pilots of the great saucer-dirigibles are required to have passed this test before they are allowed to begin service on an airship based out of Aegron or one of the more established Freeholds or Baronies. But as always with such things, there are those who arise within these systems like parasites and vipers, those who would repeat Kelsey Halsember's tragic mistake--to try to wrest what was not his own from his betters when he should have applied himself to making the most of his heritage and seizing glorious opportunities out in the rough and rugged worlds well beyond the confines of the creche--to make something of himself.

Kelsey never recovered. His clones all died, horribly, painfully, each one indelibly imprinting its agonies upon his mind as a terrible lesson that he refused to learn even unto the last, fitful second.

The stain of his nephew's failure has haunted Baron Halsember for many long centuries, even after he was finally released from forced criosleep. The estate's subsystems maintain a preserved specimen of what remains of Kelsey deep in the ancestral crypts of the Halsember estates where it will languish uncopied, deprecated and abandoned as unfit, unworthy and unacceptable.

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