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31 May 2016

Uncoiled, Heavenward

Uncoiled, Heavenward

A Chronoverse Short

Written by Xial Lunashine in 2015


Preface

This is a short story based upon my Chronoverse, a universe where the star that should be at the middle is a core of condensed Time, so dense that extremely close proximity to said core provides a lethal dose of Time.

Time is the essence that comprises both the forces of Magic and Science in this universe, keeping both arts in a realm of reasonable practice. Teleportation does exist in a universe like this, but both Magic and Science use time dilation to accomplish this feat.

Magic is generally class-locked at birth with an affinity, preventing one person from becoming rudely overpowered.

Science isn’t concept-locked, but is overall weaker to compensate for one person being able to jump from concept to concept.

This story takes place on a large planet located in the Low Sphere.

The Chronoverse is divided into three layers:

  • High Sphere, where magic users reside. The proximity to the Time Core is strongly conducive to magic use.
  • Mid-Sphere, where both magic users and scientific practitioners have settled. While the influence of Time is weaker here, which reduces magic effectiveness, it’s still very strong, allowing for scientific practitioners to be stronger here than they would be in…
  • Low Sphere, where magic users fear to tread, and science prevails. The concentration of Time here is much lower than that of the upper spheres. So much so, that there are regulations against magic users drawing upon their power, lest they cause devastation denoted by pockets devoid of the blessing of Time. These pockets are easily spotted by deadsand, which is a sand that bears the appearance of granulated glass, and the properties of being able to soak up Time around it.

 

The adrenaline comes easily when you’re barely in breathable oxygen, up among the heavens. The only thing one can hear is the gentle whine of the ascent engine system in the flightcraft, and even the movement of the vehicle is hard to detect. The gentle thrum of the AES is also faint through its hull, the plasteel plated craft’s ascent smooth and even, though that same thrum is just enough to try swallowing the quiet noises of those in its belly.

Going over the pre-drop checklist, I skip through my menus, and disable my internal heads-up display, and attach the external plexihud to cover my right eye. The faint whirring of my eye is likewise swallowed by the AES, but I can almost feel it as it swivels behind the glass. Not letting the sensation disturb me, I check the magnetic clamps on my board, and verify that its charge is at nominal levels. The external HUD boots up quickly, finishing its diagnostics, and showing me that the board battery is at nearly full charge — more than enough to handle this descent, and two more like it. I cue up some music to listen to for my drop, even as my hands play across the various straps and magnetic clip systems to ensure everything’s ready and in place.

This whole process is akin to clockwork for me. Every week, I come out here, take an AES lifter up to the edge of breathable oxygen, strap on a slim rebreather, and come careening downward toward the soil at speeds that a human wasn’t meant to achieve, and yet I survive it every time. It’s not so much the thrill of defying death that pushes me to do it, as it is the joy of seeing out across the marble I live on from an angle that is still novel to me even after all of these jumps.

My coilboard finishes running a diagnostic in the last minute or two before we reach cruising altitude, its report spreading across my HUD, assuring me that everything has passed. My chute is configured and available for emergency deceleration if something ever does happen to my coilboard, but it is very unlikely that I’ll need to use it, thanks to the failsafe systems for the board. My boots, as well as my coilboard, each contain a coildrive system. The system is designed to generate energy through a complex chemical and physical system.

The easiest way to explain it is that as I apply pressure to the coils, they start to generate energy. The link system between board and boot allows me to dump the excess energy into the board, and feed its e-jet system. The e-jets are used for maneuvering and deceleration. In theory, and in practice, one could drop from just outside of the grasp of gravity, fall toward a planet, and land without deploying a drogue. While that would be hard for a single person to pull off, thanks to the thermal action that accompanies the friction of entering atmosphere, the requirements for a breathing apparatus, and protective equipment for drifting up in the great over…

A larger craft like a Type 3E Techskel can do this with a larger board attached to the feet and not even as much as a by your leave.

Speaking of feet, it’s time to get to mine. The other few occupants of the AES lifter all stand up and file toward the drop exits, climbing down and into the clear tube that will allow them to fall out safely. I touch my board to my left thigh, and the magnets hold it securely as I climb down into my own tube. Down below, I can see us fleeing the starrise, the difference between night and day somewhat obvious as I peer from my heavenward perch. My external HUD beeps twice, signaling that I’m second in the dropout sequence.

Ten seconds later, the hatches over our heads seal, and the clear base dilates, the rim at the edge red indicating that I should wait. The same red rim appears on the other three tubes for several seconds, but soon turns green for the tube farthest away. I see a body drop out of the tube, and the wind tears away their excited yelp as they plunge soilward.

Soon, my tube lights turn green.

With a rough shove, I push down and as soon as my body clears the plexitube, I push for a hard backward roll, backflipping high above our planet until I level out, facing downward with my arms splayed as the wind kicks up around my body. I take the first sip of air from the rebreather as I gaze downward, watching the planet below sparkle as the dawn kisses each sultry, verdant and sanguine inch of the ball as I careen toward it again. Blinking twice, I take a few photos behind the glass as I always do, each launch holding a special spot in my mind as I get to see a bit more of the beauty of the planet I live on. After a few moments, though, it’s time to get to work, tick tock.

My posture tightens up slightly as I angle myself slightly down, my hands grasping the board clamped to my thigh, the magnetic clips on my gloves ensuring that significant effort will be needed to rip it away from me. I snatch it off my thigh and position myself so that I’m belly down on the board, and spread my arms. Whoosh, I’m one of those old fashioned planes that soars through the High Sphere skies! The rush of speed and adrenaline does wonders for my body, and I just enjoy this for several seconds as the wind roars past. Soon enough, though, I work my way to my feet on the board, my feet locking into place on the magclamps present, and I can but surf the skies as I make my descent.

It’s at this point that I start my playlist, needing that skybound solitude before the soilbound reaches up to clasp at me. With practiced ease, I start slicing through the sky on the board, not even activating the e-jets as I sail back and forth, working my way through various stunts and maneuvers, until my HUD lights up, reminding me that I need to start braking soon.

I look down as I get that alert, and can make out roads, buildings, and ants crawling along them.

That bit of skybound solitude feels as if it were ripped away from my chest so quickly, and it hurts. But at least for that moment, I was free.

Braking is deceptively easy, as the roar of the wind is soon supplanted by the rush of everyday life from the ground below, the building shapes becoming more defined, and the roads much wider, its ants made of large plasteel and metal shapes, filled with everyday people going to and from wherever those ants go.

Humans. I have to remember, they’re humans. Not ants…

Reluctantly, I make a rather gentle touchdown on the landing spire at one of the airfields reserved for coilboarders, my landing obscured by the glory of a starrise behind me. I don’t need the audience. I need the sky. I need space, and its murky beyond.

Exeunt ad astra.

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