Pour yourself a nightcap and put those feet up and varps down, Blue, it’s about ten-o’clock Eye Time, and many happy returns of your Eve Day to our Ivyn listeners tonight! In honor of the lady of the hour, our fighter-piloting violin-playing straight-arrow Eve, make sure to dial in after hours for the usual Eve Day sweepstakes. As always, it’s your favorite all-ring culture podcast Thumbdrive Legion here, and your girl Cantabrigia Barth Five via buckie for you live from Two-Thirty-Four Twenty terraside, Habitat Rio cruising by right overhead as we speak. And what an Ivesday! Let me tell you, folks, I’m varping in on the northeast quadrant of this lovely terraside night right now and every university on Stromness is lit up like a Cradleside soiree tonight--I don’t think there’s a graduate student in this part of the ring who isn’t clustered around every flatscreen in the carrels waiting to catch another glimpse of our long-lost cousins, Dinans by way of--excuse me--humans by way of our Dinan sisters’ antecedent, one Mister Rufus MacQuarie. Sound familiar?
If it doesn’t, settle in for an emotional history lesson, ‘cause you’re going to want one before you dig in, no pun intended, to the coverage we’re about to bring you tonight, twenty-four-seven round-the-clock broadcasting straight from Old Earth. Our crew here terraside is working on getting video up to you on our companion website as soon as possible--that’s thumbdrive hyphen legion dot purple dot blue--or, through a very unique joint media settlement for the first time in about three hundred years, its Red mirror, thumbdrive hyphen legion dot red dot red. To any Red listeners tonight, the very warmest of welcomes--it’s an honor for me as a broadcaster, let me tell you, Cantabrigias One through Four truly never thought they’d see the day.
You’re in for a lot of coverage coming in tonight, so for my part, let me do you the courtesy of introducing you to your Blue first contact team, right here with me at the old Crows’ Nest bar owned by Tyuratam “Ty” Lake, the Dinan member of the original Seven who went down terraside on a fairly routine survey mission and came back smack dab in the center of the greatest media event since the Council of the Seven Eves itself. Ty’s skills include shaken whiskey sours and mediating intercivilization conflict! The son of indigens, he’s a looker with a mysterious past, but I think we can all tell he’ll be filling more than just dirty glasses in the very near future indeed!
Celebrating his first Ivesday with the rest of his compatriots up in the ring is Einstein, a lifetime Ivyn RIZ kid and indigen freelance guide who hasn’t technically hit the age of legality yet, whoops! But having spent half a day with him and his crew, I’d say he’s getting champagne flutes by the gallon faster than military can take ‘em away, and he earned it by wading straight into the Bering Strait to make first Blue contact with the submarine-dwelling Pingers, descendants of Eve Ivy’s own ex-fiancee, Major Cal Blankenship. Einstein’s impressions of his sometime cousins, and you heard it here first, include “wild” and “put the cute in subcutaneous fat deposit!” And if my eyes serve me right, there’s a bit of a ringcrossed romance brewing here between this strapping young man and the lovely Ms. Sonar Taxlaw, a statuesque Titian beauty from the Diggers’ Brooks Range settlement who also happens to be volume seventeen of the Encyclopedia Brittanica, and will be joining us up ringside for an epic tour through all seven main habitats, where she’ll be representing her people. Beginning with a stay in the university habitat of Stromness, Ms. Taxlaw will be in the ring for ample time--and you’d better believe we’ll be raffling off tickets to see her in person on future episodes of Thumbdrive Legion.
And now a word from our sponsors, the All-Shift Agency for the Preservation of Moiran Arts and Culture--helping shifted Moirans maintain cultural and heritage continuity from previous incarnations since 3025. Stay tuned until after the break to hear Digger Sonar Taxlaw recite the entry eight-hundred-and-two word entry on sonar, the fortuitous designation that enabled us to make contact with the submarine dwellers! Again, this is your host, Cantabrigia Barth Five, from terraside, just under Habitat Rio.
Happy travels, Blue, and happy day for humanity!
1) Barth, Cantabrigia V. “Spacer Humanity Reunites With Long-Lost Sea- and Mine-Dwelling Cousins: Live Broadcast Special.” Thumbdrive Legion (Podcast). All-Shift Agency for the Preservation of Moiran Arts and Culture. http://rww.thumbdrive-legion.purple.blue. Retrieved 42nd Ivesday, 5012.
2) Barth, Cantabrigia V, as cited in Casablancova, A. “Blue Patch Coverage of Red First Contact with Subterranean Terraside Civilizations.” Thumbdrive Legion (Podcast, Annotated Archive). International Affairs Division, Habitat Kyoto Archival Institute. http:/rww.thumbdrive-legion.red.red. Retrieved 42nd Ivesday, 5012.
“Your radio manner is...farther from your actual personality than a pre-Zero apocalypse contingency plan,” said Ty. “Assuming this is your actual personality. Talk about your emotional labor in the workday. Can I get you another set of bitters?”
“Sans inane bartender-next-door chatter, yes please,” said Cantabrigia Five icily, and slid her glass across the table. She’d taken off her varp to eyes that had gone the murky color of bottleglass in exhaustion, as though whatever lay behind her lineliness forehead were filling her up, flushing her clear tones opaque. Even in the throes of post-broadcast jadedness, Sonar had never seen anyone so utterly arresting in her life and had said so at least five times. “Heptad on the rocks this time, if you have it. With a twist of whatever lemon substitute Indigens use to pull all-nighters these days.”
“Not a problem. Lemons got in around Take-Our-Time TerReForm, we’ve got new originals.” He squeezed a twist into her cocktail, in which seven blobs of electric blue gelatin boloed lazily around the rim of the glass representing what Einstein informed her sotto voce was the Epic’s archetypal arklet heptad. “Einstein, Sonar? Kathree?”
“Another for me, no lemon,” said Kathree. “Us commoners aren’t used to indigen botanicals yet, and I wouldn’t want to acquire expensive tastes on a post-epi slide.”
“Does it wreak havoc with your sex drive?” said Einstein in an understanding tone.
“I noticed that too!” said Sonar, and beamed at him. How tactful he was to couch it as a question when it was plainly obvious to anyone! “Don’t you think she’s only been out to the back room three times in the last two hours?”
“Sonar, Einstein, you really shouldn’t say things like--”
“I don’t mind in the least,” said Kathree, toasted them, and knocked her drink back with a stylish flourish that had Sonar retrieve her own abandoned one curiously, wondering if she might be able to replicate it. Ty caught her glance and shook his head slightly. “When you think you’re about to go epi so you don’t want to sleep with anyone, it’s the worst fucking drag--excuse me, Canfive.”
“No, it’s certainly a drag,” said Cantabrigia Five. “You always court the risk of waking up--”
“A different person,” said Einstein knowledgeably.
“--next to an idiot,” she continued, ignoring him. “But by your second or third shift you do begin to acquire a better filtering mechanism for the idiots, so that’s a useful skill.”
“Wow, you should talk about that on your podcast!” said Sonar. “I know a lot about birth control, so I think that sounds pretty relevant to my life.”
Cantabrigia Five turned her chill golden gaze upon her. “You think the Diggers would want to listen to the podcast?”
“Well, I certainly don’t speak for all of them--”
“You shouldn’t say that,” said Ty. “Not on camera, anyway.”
“Do you contribute anything to her experience of us aside from telling her what not to say?” said Cantabrigia Five to Ty. His jaw promptly snapped shut and Sonar couldn’t help but laugh, although she liked Ty, his honey-hued bar with wood he’d given her a sample of carving a chunk right out of the countertop when she’d asked for a look, his refusal to cover the scarred side of his face, the fact that he’d mounted Cal Blankenship’s ring photo on a pizza box so that it would probably disintegrate or grow fungal and force discarding in any museums that chose to acquire it. But she liked Cantabrigia Five too. Listening to her slip into her broadcast voice she’d thought of the first time she’d been called upon to recite Sonar-Subterranean Mining as an eight-year-old: the tremor kept out of the vocal cords by practice but it was as though you swallowed it and it came out in other odd places, your wrists, the knobs of your knees. Your fingers, which had shaken subtly for Cantabrigia Five throughout the podcast and didn’t stop until she snapped her varp off and raked her hands through her hair in long savage strokes until her hands steadied.
Kathree slid off her barstool and thwacked Sonar on the shoulder. “C’mon, kid,” she said. “Let them hash it out. I’ll show you something more interesting to close out your--what, fifth? Night as a guest of Spacers.”
They left the bar and trekked out into the grass, holding their shoes in their hands although it was really too cold for it but Sonar had seen from the first Reds who made contact that when possible Spacers liked the textures of soil, grass, earth, ice, gravel better than anything else you could do for them, would promise you anything for a chance to have a few moments of that feeling. The third Kath Amalthova was apparently the happiest of the happy sensualists she’d surely been before Sonar knew her, and stretched like a net set into water as they trekked out over the lakeworn Alaskan gravel so smooth it felt like cooled blown glass under their feet.
“Kath One grew up on a yellow-purple meridian,” said Kathree, as though this meant anything more substantial to Sonar. She could tell she meant it to sound like a confidence, so she took her hand and tried to look moved. “You have no idea what I’m talking about, do you?” She shook her head. Kathree laughed. “You should, this was why I joined survey. I saw it from the Eye once, heading from habitat to habitat--I always wanted to see it from terraside. If I’d believed you guys existed, I’d have thought you’d be out here looking every night from the Cloudy Century on.”
“Well, of course we didn’t do that!”
“Well, now I know that. But why?” She took Sonar’s upper arm and helped her up onto an outcropping of rock, stepping lightly and easily in a pair of climbing shoes stenciled with a thumbdrive, the same popular Moiran brand iconography that had appeared on all Cantabrigia Five’s buckies.
“We went on special occasions...new segments--habitats, sorry, lighting up, that sort of thing. But I think it’s historical. It’s no good to develop a habit of looking up all the time.”
“Ha! My mom used to tell me the same, except she said, you know--looking down. Why’s that? Here, cozy up to me. I’m warm, goddamn epi hormones.”
“Haha, how convenient! It’s always cold here.”
They were only a little above the treeline but the ring stretched glittering above them at a sharp, dizzying slanted line, thin as a rime of salt with the shadows of thors and aitrains bobbing about it like ants in pursuit. As the earth turned the ring itself seemed to move, the only indication the sussurration of colored lights trickling past the colder, wilder gleam of the stars beyond it.
What Sonar’s mother had said was that if you looked up too often it was likely to hurt you more that you’d probably die unable to see the sky. That’s how it’ll happen for us, she’d said. One day, it’ll be dark. And then we’ll smell earth, and--
“See that?” said Kathree, and lay back in the grass despite the cold, shoulders sliding up and down easily on planetary soil. “Right there--now. There’s the meridian, and you can see it go from yellow to purple.”
The purple lights signaling the Moiran habitats winked at them from what seemed like immediately overhead. And then gradually they were interspersed by flashes of yellow; she thought of the lemon twist in Ty’s hands, the sudden shock of its scent. More and more spangles of that color pricked the violet. The ring turned; the sky went chilly with its sudden weight of gold. Sonar held her breath until the Camite habitats came to dominate what they could see of the ring. She forgot red and blue, for the moment. Yellow to purple was a peacable transition--a mingling of lights in the sky, sweet unknown flavors she could feel in the back of her teeth.
“You’ll be up there soon,” said Kathree next to her. She was still holding her bicep; she squeezed it. “Stromness, Dhaka, the world, then what? Ground’s the limit--excuse me. Habit, habit.”
And then it’ll get darker, Sonar had finished for her mother, a good rote learner, having known the ending of the story since she’d opened her own eyes into that selfsame subterranean dark. Above her the golden ring shone like those of Saturn, a planet that had been just outside her encyclopedia cachment area and had hung the same way in her imagination, a skein of shimmering coins throwing the constellations into poor relief.
She hadn’t accepted a cocktail from Ty but she felt a vertiginous dizziness anyway; looked at the brim of the sky and imagined her body taking small sips at that expanse now. A luminous harness for space. The press of the encroaching dark in small doses now over a glittering, salted rim.