Clouds of Phoenix
Clouds of Phoenix
The Dreamer in the Ruins
B LANCHE RAN AS FAST AS SHE COULD .
Which was: faster than anything on the planet.
Her slender arms waving like a bird's wings, her legs pumping the ground eight times per second, she inhaled the saline air flowing from the distant sea.
The overhead sky was the color of tender grass, a reverse pasture grazed by a herd of fluffy sheep. In a strong contrast, the mineral land replied with tawny shades of honey, oranges, rusty reds, ash grey...
Jumping from a crumpled wall to another, the girl dashed across the ruins sitting downstream of the new town. Her city harbored the builders of the future Phoenix, as the mayor affirmed at every New Year banquet.
Phoenix, her home.
The planet was named after her unique continent, its shape suggesting a great bird raising his beak as to defy the water. The bird shook away some feathers, forming a string of archipelagos. Along is vertebral spine, a mountain range dominated the highlands. A tiny cut on the bird's neck, the valley inhabited by the colonists enjoyed a temperate climate. The ocean thrived with indigenous life, which had yet to take over the firm ground.
Blanche soon found herself on the highest point of the dead city: the temple. At least, that had been how the archaeologists named this abstract-patterned floor, surrounding a high table carved into black polished stone, like the sacrificial altar of the ancient religions. In a single leap, the young pioneer reached the top of the massive block.
A quick look to her oxygen puffer light showed a dark green circle. She had more time left to trot outside the Bubble that enclosed the town. Phoenix might be classed as an open world, but the oxygen mass counted only for a hundredth of the atmosphere, not enough to breathe. The planet's rating, O-, reflected the scope of the terraforming effort needed.
Phoenix had a lesser note than the "P" planets, soft-climate paradises where any patch of land was disputed for fortunes. However, living on Phoenix was more enjoyable than squeezing under the pressurized domes of the closed worlds or in the floating cities of the gaseous giants.
Calypso, a G4 rated star, solitary and inconspicuous, has just risen, her light veiled in a milky halo. This halo was due to a thick dust layer hovering in high atmosphere. Those particles, diffusing the green wavelength, generated the sky color.
Blanche crossed her long legs, a tricky task considering the intricate framework of metal, pumps and pistons around them. Straps rose to her shoulders and encircled her waist to keep her inside the apparatus.
She used her basin and torso to direct the crude roboservers inserted in the mechanical joints of the frame. Clumsy at first, when her father had fitted her with the contraption, her moves had become as natural to her as brushing her hair.
Those mechanical "overalls" enabled Blanche to run, fast. Only a full speed off-road vehicle could catch up with her... if she let it.
A playful wind lifted her long hair strands, trying in vain to steal them. Blanche took out a nutrient bar and nibbled at the sweet chocolate and wheat savor.
This was her own precious moment of solitude.
Her gazed traveled over the low walls, the remains of razed habitations. Here and there, spikes wearing red, orange and sky green ribbons warned the rare walkers of the presence of treacherous hidden wells and other dangers.
The dead city had no name. The crews that had mapped, analyzed, dissected, memorized it had long since departed towards more exciting challenges. No scripts graced the arches and the murals.
The best translators had tolled in vain on the abstract patterns covering the floors. No tool, no tombs helped reconstitute the life of its inhabitants. No