Later this night, we could see Rolf Gensher, Hans Rufbach and Ulrike Meinster secretly hacking into the Dumria interplanetary communication beam control centre. For safety reasons, the emitter and receiver were into a underground place with scarce visits, dug into the cliff backing the administrative buildings of Palomas. Rolf, and even before him Hervé Elzecher, arranged things so that they could easily disconnect the large optical fibres bundle which was connecting the beam to the World Wide Web. So they could communicate openly with their friends of Dumria while being sure that their messages would not be intercepted by some spyware. Even in this way, it was not easy, as Shedrup Ling was only co-owner of the beam. Any prolonged disconnection would be immediately noticed, starting an inquiry and many complications. So they proceeded secretly, following a thoroughly timed ritual.
«Frei!» indicated Hans, who was looking at the communication flow. «Auf!» uttered Rolf, and immediately Ulrike pulled on the plug, hampered by the heavy cable. «Auf!» she acknowledged. Immediately, Rolf connected his pocked computer to the console, and launched his messages, while hearing for eventual emails from Dumria. In less than three seconds, it was done. «Zu!» he said, swiftly disconnecting his computer, and Ulrike connected again the plug, helped by Hans. «Ya, standard werk, alles gut!» concluded Rolf, and immediately they dispersed, each in a different direction.
On Dumria, it was still night time on the great mauve granite palace of the Shedrup Ling palace in Antüs. But it was a high priority message, so a little music awakened Enken and Elaminaroa. Even before clothing, they read the meeting report. As a conclusion, Rolf asked them to go themselves, before the next day midnight, to the Shedrup Ling centre in Vilayah, where the robots were secretly tested.
«Pheww, it is more than five thousand kilometres away (note 34).
-We have just time to warn our friends and jump in the subway.
-Great. Maybe we shall at last know why Rolf makes his prototypes build on our planet.»
Half an hour later, Enken and Elaminaroa went through the entrance hall of the great Shedrup Ling building, where several bicycles were waiting for them. They took each one and went down the path, free wheeling, toward the bottom of the valley. There was a damp tunnel leading from the basements of Shedrupling to the subway station, but they much preferred the bike, as the weather was warm and the nigh air perfumed with millions of flowers around.
I suggest hearing this music for this passage into the Dumrian Planetrans: Jean Michel Jarre, Equinox, part 4
Five minutes and two kilometres later, they entered the central subway station of Antüs, and left their bicycles available for the next travellers. The platform was a lofty underground hall, which was rather not looking like an Earth subway station. No aggressive advertising, no barrier or ticket office, no sophisticated feminine voices, but a soft music, flower beds and a vault painted in a dreamy landscape with a trompe l'oeil sky. There were still some travellers, despite the late hour. Along the walls were oval airlocks doors, with screens besides. When Enken approached with his computer in his pocket, those screens reacted with displaying an arrow, the direction to follow until the right door. Their personal shuttle, that they already summoned from their bedroom, had arrived automatically, from its underground park somewhere under the mountain, and it was waiting for them, the airlock wide open.
The Dumria subway, despite its name, was really not looking like the Earth urban subways we used to see in the 20th century. It was in fact a huge planet wide network, where individual vehicles moved at very high speed, using magnetic levitation on tracks made of superconductive material, into straight tubes with a high vacuum. Some were comparing it to a kind of Internet of travelling. As a matter of facts, just like the Internet was abolishing the notion of place for information, the dumrian subway was straightforwardly abolishing the notion of physical place, and even of living place, as they were bringing any destination at only some hours of travel.
When, more than four thousand years ago, the Dumrians had discovered steam engines, they built a railway network much the like than the one on Earth. But, as such lazy people were never able to compel themselves to regular time scheduling, they rather built kinds of steam railcars, which went going when there was somebody wanting to drive them. Happily, travels with such a random slow speed were not a problem for these nonchalant people, anyway sure to find, wherever they went, a table and a bed (and even an already inhabited bed, according to the Dumria custom). Those who wanted to go faster learned to drive trains themselves, instead of protesting. At this time, more than twenty percent of the Dumrians knew how to operate a steam locomotive! Yes, these people are like that.
In order not to disturb the silence of nature, they carefully studied the causes of noise of the trains, setting the sleepers at thoroughly calculated irregular intervals, to avoid any resonance into the rails (the rolling noise). Wheels were conical with radiating reinforcements, to avoid them ringing like a cymbal. They went so far as harmonizing the sound of the double exhaust of their steam locomotives, in third, sometimes minor third or fifth! But especially, not to spoil the harmony of their magnificent landscapes, they built most of their network underground into tunnels, despites the huge amount of supplementary work requested. When appeared electricity and internal combustion engines, they kept this system, but they build powerful moles to dig still more galleries, for high speed and long range links. The first moles had cutting disks made of steel, then of tungsten carbide, but this rare material was replaced by powerful supersonic water jets, able to crush the hardest rocks, at a much higher pace, without wearing. Those moles had each a name and an history, as if they were powerful dragons or other mythical animals: the Mountains Piercers, able of sneaking their way through the thickest geological layers, with the high pitched shriek of the giant hydraulic pumps, to which responded the terrifying thunder of crushed rocks. And, following, a full miniaturized factory was setting props, and temporary tracks, while a staggering noria of wagons was permanently bringing rubble out. Some of these machines still exist today, even if their very structure was cast several times. But naming plates and some identity items were kept over time.
When the Dumrians discovered the quantum telescopes, they could examine the time capsules left by the missing planets, and recover the methods for manufacturing superconductors, and electromechanical devices which use them. One of the first applications was for intercontinental trains using magnetic levitation, which on Earth was called the Planetrans: Traverser of Planet. Then, from step by step, they also transformed the regional railways. This is how the Dumria subway was born, a fantastic network of high-speed toboggans, connecting continents faster than aircraft, or sneaking into the farthest countryside, like the small Earth trains of the 1930 years, making roads and cars almost useless. And, two thousands and five hundred years later, the network was still being expanded, in remote mountain valleys, or toward distant lands in high latitudes, where more and more Dumrians were living, despite the incredible temperature range and the terrible storms. With this fantastic subway bringing spring at a few hours of winter, with no more work than a metropolitan subway of Earth, many Dumrians did not hesitated to live or work simultaneously into far away areas of their planet.
However railways had not completely disappeared; there were still some, generally narrow gauge, often only fifty centimetres, that it was impossible to convert to subway lines. Thus, on the modern Dumria, one could still see old bangers blowing, cute little mountain trains painted with bright colours, which were still part of the game in some valley or remote forest. These toy trains were no longer burning fossil fuel, from environment concerns, but wood, or coke obtained with thermochemistry.
Basically, a dumrian subway track was a smooth slide, with a flat bottom about two metres and a half wide, with two inclined edges about thirty centimetres tall, the whole made of a superconducting material, a complex organometallic structure produced with nanotechnology. The vehicles all had a «sole» of complementary shape, also in superconducting material, with slots all along the length, from which emanated the sustaining magnetic field. This field was in fact not very powerful, but spread all over the surface, it was perfectly able of bearing the heaviest loads five centimetres above the slide.
This track was running into a tube of about three metres in diameter, under vacuum, more or less intense depending on the possible speed on the track. This vacuum allowed the vehicles to move practically without energy loss, and the entire global subway consumed only a few gigawatts, supplied by hydro plants and wind farms.
The vehicles themselves were of about three basic types. Originally, for the sake of ecology, the Dumrian engineers designed collective shuttles, with rows of seats as in a bus, where several people could sit together for a given destination. In the meanwhile, heavy automated shuttles were tirelessly carrying containers of freight, in an invisible but constant carousel. But once their subway installed, the Dumrians quickly found convenient to also have individual shuttles. This may seem surprising, from a people with such a collective sense, but, given the very low energy consumption of the system, it was not really an issue. Thus, starting from the standard frame of the collective shuttles, they installed nice small homes into their vehicles, allowing their occupants to work, eat or sleep during long voyages. In two thousand years, even the least tech savvies had enough time to set a vehicle to their taste, which they left at the station, and took back when leaving a place. Some Dumrians even not have a fixed abode, living permanently in their mobile homes, with housing, office, etc. Communities and factories also possessed a large number of automatic shuttles, and the millions of tons of the huge freight traffic were all passing through the subway, in a total silence and without any human intervention.
The propulsion of these shuttles was provided by a linear electric motor, integrated into the slide. For technicians, let us say it was a three-phase asynchronous linear motor, operating at different frequencies depending on the speed allowed on the track, but which could reach ten kilohertz on high-speed sections. These frequencies were in a musical scale, so that the residual noise remained harmonious. Thus the acceleration produced a kind of melody! The track was forming the stator, and the sole of the vehicles the squirrel-cage «rotor». The superconductive material was allowing for a quasi-perfect efficiency of this crude design.
For non-techies, let us say that, in the middle of the bottom of the slide were slots, perpendicular to the running direction, like the rungs of a ladder, permanently emitting an alternating magnetic field, which power was coming from hydroelectric plants. Under the vehicles, facing the slots, identical slots were reacting by an induced magnetic field. From the interaction of these two fields came the traction force, without need of brushes of catenaries to bring electricity into the vehicles. But on board, the induced magnetic field could be modulated, thanks to the magnetors, blades which could at will become superconductive or not, in order to deflect magnetic fields. So the electronically controlled magnetors could at will produce the acceleration of the vehicle, and even, with inverting the phase of the field, brake it while recycling its energy into the track. So the tremendous amount of power used to accelerate a several tons shuttle to thousands of kilometres per hours was permanently compensated by the braking of others, and the total energy consumption was only used against air drag, of against the minimal losses into the magnetors.
Driving such sophisticated vehicles could only be completely automated, and the passengers had only to tell their destination on a small console. They were even able to call their personal vehicle from a distance, thanks to their pocket computer, and it arrived automatically. Even intermediary paths could change, depending on the congestion of tracks, like on the internet.
The problem of the switches was at first thought unsolvable. The first idea was a system of magnets into the vehicle, but this required too much power, or was making it unstable. In more, they had to suppress the traction force at switches, and this was making unpleasant shocks to the passengers. Another idea was powerful magnetic fields on the track, to send the vehicle into the right direction; but how to control tens of vehicles passing at each second? Powerful control systems were required, unreliable in the long run. At last a very simple solution was adopted, requiring no supplementary magnetic field: switches were always into a curve, where the track is sloping sideways to compensate for the centrifugal force. In such a place it was enough of a slight difference in speed to send the vehicle on the higher track or on the lower track. So the vehicle managed itself its trajectory without the need of any apparatus or supplementary power.
The speeds achieved on fast connections were often over the kilometre per second (Near four thousands kilometres per hour, the equivalent of an aircraft at Mach 3) and some straight tracks were approaching two kilometres per second. On local servicing tracks, or in converted former railways tunnels, speeds were much more limited, but anyway still higher than the fast trains which were running here in former times. For short distances, the tracks were following a U profile, descending at start and climbing back at arrival: the descend was enough to achieve the desired speed without any supplementary energy consumption!
So a connection to a nearby station was achieved in some minutes, and a trip to the antipodes, in conditions called town centre to town centre on Earth, requested seldom more than ten hours, against twenty in aircraft, into much more comfortable conditions, with an infinitely lower energy consumption, and without any environment or sound nuisance. So it is not astonishing that the Dumriams did not developed an air transportation system, using the few aircrafts only for science research and games.
Air vacuum was not the simplest thing to preserve, and a noticeable share of the consumed power was requested to permanently run enormous centrifugal turbo pumps, which rotor was encircling the subway tube itself. So the lower pressure was guaranteed into the fastest tubes. But the main leaks were of course at the access points, into the stations or in the factories. On the first lines built, multiple airlocks allowed the vehicles to pass from air zones to airless zones. But this requested about twenty minutes of pumping and door manoeuvres, for only a limited result. Here again a fast and efficient solution was found: the platform, under air, and the vehicles, under vacuum, were separated with a wall; passing from the one to the other was achieved with doors on each side, facing each other, one in the wall and one in the vehicle. So the air volume to pump was reduced to a space of some tens of litres between the two doors. To be able to dock these doors, the vehicles were landing on small swivelling wheels, which allowed them for manoeuvring in any direction and to cross each other on underground yards. Then, when leaving the station, they went through... a sump. A soft sloped sump, filled with silicone oil, able of efficiently separating the rough vacuum of the station from the higher vacuum of the plain track. A vehicle could go through into some seconds, before normally starting its acceleration. Further, while entering the fast tracks, the vehicles were going at full speed through magnetohydrodynamic gates (note 35) which were pushing back residual air toward the local servicing tracks, bringing a maximum vacuum on the fast connexions.
To avoid dust and oil residues to get into the slots of the linear motor, and end up messing with their superconductive walls or with the delicate magnetors, all the surfaces of the slides were covered with... tiles, an idea of a kitchener! These tiles were glazed, but not coloured, so that the tracks looked like made of brick tiles, as in ancient farms!
At last, safety devices were permanently watching this huge facility. The main risks were that a vehicle had trouble to choose its path in a switch, or that two vehicles simultaneously engage in the junction of two tracks. At four thousands kilometres per hour, it would be an huge explosion, which would also engulf the hundreds of other vehicles following a few fractions of seconds after. To avoid this, mechanical brakes and magnets were guarding the switches, and controllers were monitoring the speed of vehicles, ready to cut the power on the track, in order to deflect an uncontrollable vehicle to the nearest stop. The vehicles were also equipped with a small... emergency rocket engine, with compressed air, able of pushing it on the right side of switches, the side where the nearest exit always is. Another major risk was the depressurization of the tube: to arrive at four thousand kilometres per hour on an air puff, it hurts. An accident could even cause the implosion of the tube, which would spread away and away, and destroy the entire global network within hours. For this, airtight doors were ready to close in case of a problem, and the tubes featured from place to place short sections embedded into metres of concrete.
But the most unexpected problem was… continental drift. Dumria certainly has less drift than Earth, and it even has some continental region which seem definitively locked, from the cooling of the planet. But drifts of only some centimetres per year are enough to make unusable tunnels which alignment must be extraordinary accurate: at a thousand metres per second, a deviation of one centimetre does not shake the vehicle, it disintegrates it! For this reason the speeds that could be reached in practice (one or two kilometres per second into calm zones) were much smaller than the theoretically possible speed, and an ambitious project of an «orbital loop» had to be quickly abandoned: a track circling all the equator of Dumria, where the trains would run so fast that passengers would experience zero gravity, like in a satellite! In place of this, tectonically active zones had to be crossed at small speed, into special tubes that jacks had to realign permanently. Some tunnels would have to be remade too often, so in this case it was simply preferred to cross the active zones on the surface, into tube installed on mobile legs.
It was remarkable that such a thing, so abstract to our feelings than continental drift can be, was made visible by displacements of several metres all along a human life…
Enken and Elaminaroa had a cute personal vehicle, a fully equipped little studio with a kitchenette and a mini bathroom, where they could left hours pass by, while sleeping, eating, or being busy to their favourite occupations. It first belonged to Enken, great traveller, who amenaged it on a nude base coming from factory. Now it was belonging to the couple, and Elaminaroa had installed a quantity of flower pots, which made it look like a greenhouse.
Vilayah, the place where they were going now, was northernmost than the Draminyan, but also much further in the east. As they were not much sleepy, they installed themselves, sitting in lotus, gazing at stars, on the rocking chairs provided to compensate acceleration.
Yes, stars, as the Dumrians, those incorrigible artists and poets, had equipped their vehicles with high definition screens, and outside the tubes with evenly spaced cameras. So, when the tube was emerging from underground, travellers could gaze at the scenery on their virtual window. It was still night, and from time to time, the starry sky was appearing above the heads of our friends, only to disappear again a few seconds later into the dark tunnel. Strangely, on such a precisely aligned track, the vehicle was giving a feeling of being motionless, or gently rolling when the banking of the track changed. Only the switches were giving tremors and low rumblings, as the structure of the tracks was more complex here. Despite this, and despite the enormous forces in play, the travel in the dumrian Planetrans was something extremely calm and gentle...
The night only allowed them to see ghostly silhouettes of mountains, seeming to dance in front of the stars, or clusters of lights whirling in the distance, or suddenly rushing besides them. But little by little, the sky became clearer: they were going toward the sunrise! Each time they went out of the tunnel, the sky became lighter, giving a feeling of a sunrise by steps. Then, after a somewhat lengthy plunge, they emerged for three minutes in a plain, the speed indicator showing 467 m/s (Mach 1.4). Far above them, red cirrus were advancing with majesty, while small darker cumulus were rushing under. On each side, trees were streaming in a vertiginous speed, in an enthralling feeling of speed and power! Despite this incredible pace, the vehicle was barely trembling, only the fruit juice in a glass was slightly oscillating at times. Only a soft whistle could be heard, modulated in a long glissando, caused by the linear electric motor, and the soft hiss of the air conditioning system. A point of sun appeared suddenly! Twenty seconds only, as a range of hills arose instantly, and it was again the obscurity of the tunnel, as fast as a switched off lamp.
They were crossing a mountainous region, tectonically active, so the speed was relatively low, with fairly frequent changes of direction. By day, the view from the subway was staggering: each emergence was unveiling a different valley, with its own vibration, its colour of forests, its rock forms, its style of buildings. Each valley had its own musical mode, and each was throwing a new wonder to the eyes, immediately engulfed into the depths of the tunnel. Sometimes a valley was blocked by clouds, vibrating in a minor key, but a few seconds later they emerged in a world of sunshine, flowers and clear rocks. Some escapes were providing glimpses of magnificent virgin forests, others were scattered with a myriad of buildings, or outlined with some magnificent palace of rainbow planted at the top of a hill, nesting into a golden green background.
The tunnel gates, built thousands of years earlier for the railways, were sometimes looking like castles, but they had no time to see them. So each place of their world was a marvel, with its history, its culture, its people, its monuments, and even its unique flowers and trees. Never this incredible diversity of vibrations appeared so clearly than during these trips... They were always moved when contemplating these shifting scenes, silent, concentrated, not to miss a bit of emotion. For this purpose, a small screen showed them the next windows, with its duration, the name of the place, its vibration, the weather...
The Dumrians who were corresponding with Earth friends often described this poetical emotion at the vision of their planet, together with the feeling of quiet and benevolent power which emanated from their wonderful travelling machine. But they also had another feeling, of which they spoke much less, because they did not imagined that Earthlings would not feel it too. This vast network of huge underground machinery, and the immense freedom it was giving them, it was THEIR subway. Even in the most remote barbarian lands, it would be very difficult to find someone who was never one day or another involved in its building. Everything had been designed and manufactured by them, their friends, by people they knew, in the studious silence of the design offices, in the enthusiastic factories, or into the dark danger of the tunnels. All of them had one day or another attended some meeting to decide the layout of a track, or the location of a station. It really was THEIR subway, their play, their lives. A feeling much too rarely experienced by the Earthlings, in their world made by officials and operated by business, subjugated by abstract commercial interests and the power of remote politicians, according to the very specific ideological choices of all those persons, to which few of us ever had access. Hence this widespread feeling, so ubiquitous that it often becomes unconscious, of not being at home in our very own towns and villages, street or public places... Who ever thought «I am in MY railway station, using MY train?».
And in the case of Dumria, this wonderful freedom was expressing very concretely: there was simply nowhere any counter or control, even not the smallest barrier. All the Dumrians, even children, even barbarians who lived apart in the northern regions, all had the right to use the subway absolutely any time when they wanted, as often as they wanted, without any compensation or limitation of any kind. And they did, and some were even living in their home shuttles. The portable computer that Enken was wearing had for only purpose to identify the owner of a mobile home, so that the control robots could deliver it to the right station, and command it on the right path. Even some pets were knowing some pre-programmed paths. In this case, they were wearing a mini computer in their collars, which allowed the control computers to identify them and present them with a simple display, such as the voice of their master calling them toward the right gate!
Our friends entered into a super-fast track, which would let see nothing for hours. They took this opportunity to have some sleep, while their speed was flirting with the six thousand kilometres per hour, so fast that they were felling lighter: the orbital velocity was not far. When they awoke, they were arrived in the centre of the continent Ashar, in a vast area of plains: the Thoradra desert, where was their destination, Vilayah. It was a very cold country in winter, high in the north and far away from the oceans. Rain was rare, resulting in a landscape of stony plains and low sun burnt hills, beaten with terrible storms, which were coming to build... gravel dunes! Into such conditions, living in this place was difficult. As to cultivate anything, useless to only think about it! But this was the dreamed place for huge wind farms, and also for radio-astronomy observatories. They could see the rusted metal skeletons of huge antique radio antenna, worn by three millennia of weathering.
The short time spent out of the tunnel allowed them to see some clouds rushing over them, in a still substantial 320 m/s. Hills were passing in lightnings of ochre and iron grey, cut by the darkness of the tunnel. Each crest was covered with a hedge of wind turbines, smaller than what can be seen on Earth: with regular winds at two hundred kilometres per hour, wind energy does very well! They were all standing on thick towers of local stone, worn by centuries, shaped to withstand the furious onslaught of the wind.
They were slowing more and more, sometimes changing direction on the switches. Soon they reached the oasis of Orassan, a low depression about a hundred kilometres wide, protected from storms by a small worn volcanic mountain range, the Luar of Ezestaphan. Aquifers reaching the ground level were allowing for some patches of vegetation, with a few populated places, some thousands people at most, living on fruit crops. An immensely quiet place, except during storms.
At the periphery of the Orassan, in a valley between two small ochre cliffs, Vilayah had a small subway station, the terminus of a little used track. Here lived hardly but a few hundreds of people, in simple houses with curved and compact forms, half-buried, cut in the local ochre stone. The idea of installing a Shedrup Ling centre in such a remote place was a priori very strange, but it quickly proved brilliant. The country was almost desert, and the few inhabitants, descendants of an ancient barbarian people, had few concerns for the other people of Dumria. It was perfect for secret projects such as of the KRG.
Besides the subway station, there was a garage, profiled like a bunker to withstand tempests, into which waited two four wheels drive cars adapted to the desert, more a small truck with slatted sides and a sheet. These vehicles, despite their terrestrial look, were using fuel cells, which fuel was provided by thermochemistry into solar power plants. This, with a superconductive electric transmission, made them nearby silent and perfectly non-polluting. But the genuine Orassan dweller much preferred the rugged Dumrian horses, the tops.
The Shedrup Ling centre was about twenty miles away. The storm warning indicator was green, so they took a four wheels drive and followed a track devoid of any sign, which was petering out in a maze of glens, with some spherical cactus as only vegetation. On the top of a hill, they came in sight of the centre, nestled in a valley between two small spurs of the Luar: some low rounded buildings, leaning against the slopes, of the same ochre colour than the ground, some ball shaped trees, and blunt tailing heaps of an old forgotten mine, dating way before the brain versions. An ideal hideaway, with lots of tunnels and underground rooms, known only to them! Even on Dumria, this was a rare and precious secret.
Just Like the villages of the Orassan, the Vilayah centre was looking quite Earth-like, with its tracks, its trucks and its anti-storm shielded doors. Even the trees, kinds of lycopodium, were somewhat looking like palm trees. Only the rounded shapes of the buildings and the exuberant decoration of the trucks was telling that we were on Dumria, and not in some Sahara base in the 1950 years. There even was a small pink bulldozer, with a rounded hood, very useful for maintaining the tracks erased by the wind. However, inside the buildings, all the Dumrian aesthetic refinement was in force again, with curved walls in pastel hues, large mural paintings of beautiful landscapes, carved and painted woodwork. But for the Dumrians it was still a very rustic place! And half the rooms were still in work, smelling with fresh paint, while electric cables and materials were encumbering the hallways.
Enken and Elaminaroa found here all the team of the Kuten project, with the exception of two who arrived one hour later, with the truck, bringing food, floorclothes and other household products for one month: they could not go to the subway station everyday. They arrived just in time, as the storm indicator was turning to the orange, announcing wind for the evening, prelude of a storm which would isolate them from Dumria for several days.
Enken and Elaminaroa already went to Vilayah; but they were encountering most of the Kuten project team for the first time. However they immediately remarked Anahata, into the large kitchen-dining room, where the common meal would soon be ready. The tall and slim Dumrian had something intimidating, as a high rank character or state leader, although these notions made no sense on Dumria. But she was also emanating an aura of spirituality, which was peculiarly visible to the eye of the initiate.
«She has something, remarked Enken.
-Yes. I feel it too. Come, and let us sit besides her for the meal. She is alone.»
Anahata was first mistaken about the intent of our two friends, replying that she did not wanted to make love with them. But she soon realized that they too were emanating something unusual.
«We already met...» they were a bit hesitant. On Dumria, modesty and shyness are totally unknown, except specifically on this topic.
«In dream?» concluded Anahata, who was not easily intimidated.
Enken and Elaminaroa told their story, and how they went interested into psychophysics. Anahata heard then silently, with just a slant in her mouth, this half smile which was all her charm. She was a tall Dumrian woman with bluish skin, very slim and rangy, her «hairs» of dark and protruding scales, as if she was curly, more a small childish pointy nose, high cheekbones, large amber earrings, tight trousers and dark blue top with white and purple embroideries. She was seldom speaking, and in a low voice, as for some love confidence.
Anahata too had a story. She was among the firsts to enjoy the second brain version, nearly two thousands years ago. Soon, however, barely adult, she began to have strange dreams, which terrified her for tens of years. She had this unexplainable «mental disease» which often strokes the Dumrians with the second brain version. She got accustomed gradually, noting that, after all, nothing actually wrong ever happened in these dreams. She even found that they often responded to thoughts she had in the waking state. So, by repeating appropriate thoughts in the waking state, she managed to change their content, repelling the frightening figures, or transforming them into others, more benign. Then those dreams became much more rare, but each time deeper. Then a figure appeared, always the same. Sometimes tens of years passed without any dream, but this character always ended up returning, to give her spiritual advices. For her it was a very strange experience, that she could hardly share with the other Dumrians.
So she found herself a bit lonely, even not keeping a husband. She was worried about what was happening to her, and wondered if it was wise to follow the directions of a stranger she saw only in her dreams. But each time she followed his advices, only good things resulted. Intrigued, she studied the data from other planets which had undergo the spiritual transition, making on the way some friends also interested in these matters. Indeed what happened to her was also experienced by others before her, on planets now withdrawn from the material world, taken away by the spiritual transition (See «The missing planets»). She had an inner guide, a spiritual teacher, a guardian angel, who was sometimes appearing to her in her dreams. And he was telling her wisdom, guiding and advising her about her inner life. On Dumria this was exceptional, and it is only very recently that she could share her experience with two friends, who were also «great dreamers». They discreetly placed some few revealing keywords on little known websites, which brought other friends, and from this small circle finally emerged the Shedrup Ling Centre of Vilayah, after the contact with Earth.
Anahata and this group had been part of the «dilemma», the conflict ignited twenty years earlier by the «anti-suicide conspiracy», the first Earth organization to contact Dumria secretly. This went up to fist fighting, but the Dumrians, terribly shocked by the sight of black eyes and bloody noses, instead of dividing into two clans hating more and more like the conspiracy expected, went on the contrary all together, from a common agreement, into a large group psychotherapy, where the conspiracy quickly found itself on the touchline. Anahata was involved into one of the fight scenes, interposing her body between the protagonists. All those who, like her, had to overcome this sad experience, became afterwards very good friends, and it was one of the «enemies» of Anahata, a first brain version, who offered them the perfect place for the Vilayah centre: while searching for minerals, he had discovered by chance this old abandoned copper mine, forgotten for millennia, which entrances were covered with dunes and rumble. Beautiful plates of native copper and intensely blue minerals could still be found, into a network of dykes, old lava pipes, deeply rooted under the mountain. He then told this place to the friends of Anahata, and it was really a nice gift: What a better retreat place than this network of underground passages and rooms to meditate without being disturbed? What they did not guessed was that it would be especially suitable for the Kuten Project...
After the meal, Anahata, Enken and Elaminaroa, while discussing, took in charge the washing of the dishes, while others were busy at various chores, such as unloading the vegetables from the truck. Fresh vegetables were rare at Vilayah, as it was not possible to have a garden. So this truckload was welcome. For this kind of transportations, the dumrians were using small carts with wheels, high and narrow to be allowed into the subway shuttles, and also in cars and trucks. So, once out of the Vilayah station, the carts went quite simply on the deck of the slatted sides truck.
Finally they gathered into the common room. It was one of the benefits of the self managed lifestyle of Dumria, especially in the Vilayah centre, to be able to naturally hold confidential conversations into the common room, without having to be wary of technicians or employees. This piece was one of the few to have a large window. But with the night, one could not see much through. Anyway, the wind was already shaking the windows, so they closed the large wheeled steel shutter. From the outside, this shield was rather dull, dark grey and scratched: no paint could resist the blast of the sandstorm. But the inner side was painted with the same peach colour than the room, and the pink and orange flower patterns were also running on it, as if it was one of the walls. The whole room was a large low vault on a square plan. It was originally a large exploitation gallery, that partitions were now dividing into various places for habitation or work. So, after the meeting room was the dining room, then bedrooms and bathrooms, until meditation cells deep into the heart of the mountain.
In the room itself, plants and sculptures were forming divisions. The permanent inhabitants used to have their own corner, which they had furnished with cushions, rugs or armchairs, while a larger space in the centre was waiting for the guests. So this work place was one of those extremely cosy rooms, as the Dumrians adore them, in the same time practical, warm and intimate. They were feeling as much at home as in their own houses, and even the most austere meetings were interrupted with typically Dumrian activities that we shall not mention here.
Ekarpan, the game leader of Vilayah, his arm on the shoulders of his third spouse Ermine, spoke. Ekarpan was an «offspring of barbarians», of one of the ancient families of the Orassan, a true local specimen. Rather large of the shoulders for a Dumrian, with a grave and ample voice, he used to clothe of a large dark blue robe. His «hairs» of scales were making black sideburns onto his tanned face. Ermine had golden «hairs», decorated with light yellow ribbons, as to imitate a human long hair. She was wearing a large pale blue robe of an uniform colour, onto which were floating half transparent veils.
«Well, we still not advanced on the main question: we still do not know what the sphere is, or what it expects from us. Enken and me have received a full report of the meeting in Palomas. They have a clearer idea of the nature of the object, a psychical texture which would be the dwelling place of conscious entities, possibly very advanced. But they have no proof, and they rely mainly on the extra-sensory perceptions of Tchögyal Rinpoche.
«But they decided to explain to several new persons what the Project Kuten is. A noteworthy point is that the sphere sent the message to the persons who are immediately concerned by the lokouten. This suggests that these lokouten will play an important role in this affair. What role is not yet known, but in anticipation, Rolf specifically requested us to arrange a full rehearsal of all the machines and their riders, together with a test for the two new Earthlings: Liu Wang the wife of Steve Jason, and another we do not yet know, Ernestine Eraert. For Liu, there is no disconnection problem, as she is... uh, slightly dead.» There were murmurs in the attendance, because even at the centre of Vilayah Shedrup ling, talking about a dead person as if he was simply elsewhere, was still something very new and surprising.
«This is perfect, tomorrow, with the coming wind, nobody will be able to come unexpected. (Ekarpan did not needed any indicator: like all the ancient dwellers of the Orassan, he had a deep instinctive feeling of coming tempests.) So I think we should, as soon as tomorrow morning, set all the experiment in working order, with full gear, and eight lokouten ready, together with our two riders Anahata and Orea. For this, I think the best way to get ready, is to go to bed at once, to sleep, in order to be in a good spirit for tomorrow morning.»
At least this first part of their work was easy to do, so it was quickly put into practice, without any other discussion.
And yes, Dumrians use to... number their spouses, in the order of encountering. In this world without administration, this habit was not spoiling any poetry. So that Ermine was the third does not mean that Ekarpan actually had three spouses. On the contrary, given his age of fourteen centuries, he was rather faithful, and not really interested in this kind of activity. It is quite understandable that, if we can expect some tens of years of loyalty to a human spouse, on the other hand no human being could seriously claim to engage for fourteen centuries! With Dumrians, their life is very different, so the idea of loyalty is also very different. But not weaker. When a Dumrian man and woman love each other, they visit each other, or they live together, until their tastes or interest lead them on separate paths. But even in this case, it is a mutual agreement. It must be clearly understood that, despite such a complete freedom, no Dumrian lover would have the heart to let his/her partner suffer from abandonment. Right on the contrary, the only view of this suffering would create enough compassion to bring back the most dissipated. This is what the Dumrians call being faithful, or rather with a poetical Dumrian expression which could be translated with «not to left into the cold». The few who really dared to chuck off their lover were called cheaters, and shunned by everybody, so that they found themselves alone, in such a way that they had to recognize their fault, to be able to find again the warmth of a company.
As to extra-marital relationships, or multiple unions, they were perfectly normal things on Dumria, not arising any kind of problem. Instead, each of the partners wishing the happiness of the other, he was happy to see him happy, even with others, and experiences outside the marriage were often taking place under the tender look of the usual partner. This even was the usual and simple method to live love fantasies that the usual partner could not satisfy. Also we note that, even with such a total freedom, the average duration of a Dumrian couple is more than a century, to be compared with the appalling divorce rate among Earthlings...
So this is how Anahata found herself alone: her last husband had found other occupations, and other hearts, and she had no desire to keep him near her, nor to attract another.
The Dumrians never had a formal marriage, they simply considered themselves husband or wife when they were living and organizing their lives together. On the other hand, this informal link, by its very existence, had a very strong value, much more than our legal marriage so easy to break. They could also have love affairs, liaisons for a few months or years, secondary husbands and wives, lovers, and nights with impromptu guests or strangers. But this was not an obligation, and not all of them necessarily did this. In any case, it made them laugh a lot, to see the Earthlings go to the church, then to the mayor, sign contracts and certificates, all that just to have adventures in secret, and only two babies later, ask for divorce and tear themselves in front of the judges, with their children as hostages. Love life was certainly the domain where the Dumrian life most proudly ignored all the Earth's palliatives, thanks quite simply to the respect of the essential: the happiness of the partner.
When, three thousand years ago, the Dumrians created their immortal bodies with genetic engineering, they did not replaced the whole population all of a sudden. The first dumrian children with the «first brain version» were only a few dozen for some decades. It is understandable that there was some distrust toward so new manipulations, the fear of giving birth to sick children, unable to be happy, see to dangerous dements. Some adjustments were actually required, with some unfortunate experiences. But once the technology matured, everything was looking good, and nothing serious was observed. At least in this time, because the Dumrians had to notice a few centuries later than the first brain version was hardly mastering spirituality, or simply had trouble to learn types of non-programmed knowledge. But in the beginning, this serious defect went completely unnoticed, in this Dumrian world so merry that it ignored any religion.
As new immortal children were displaying all the signs of a happy life, intelligent and healthy, more and more parents wished to give birth to immortal children. Two generations later, the immortals were the majority, and all mortals in this time knew that they should be immortal too, if their parents dared to ask. These last mortal Dumrians grew old and died in turn, openly expressing their bitterness. From this came the idea that it was a fault to prefer the imperfect natural procreation to the new optimized manipulations.
Another century was needed for the «barbarians» to be immortalized too. The rotation axis of Dumria, which caused its terrible climate, had not always been so tilted. It was in facts wobbling with a period of one hundred fifteen thousand years, and during the prehistory of Dumria, eighty thousand years ago, the climate was more pleasant, allowing for various tribes to settle in higher latitudes than today. Then the climate becoming harsh again, these tribes disappeared, or adapted themselves to extreme conditions. The Thoradra desert was one of these areas, and primitive tribes were still living in the Orassan oasis when the main Dumrian civilization began to occupy the entire planet, eleven thousands years ago. The newcomers needed some time to understand that they should not colonize already occupied regions such as the Orassan. This error was the cause of a certain distrust of the native tribes, the «barbarians», toward the main civilization. Worse, the artistic and already refined civilization of Dumria clashed with the hardly poetical lifestyle of the «barbarians». Conflicts arose from this, the most serious having been resolved with sticks. The «barbarians» learned more respect of life, and the other Dumrians developed more patience for their less developed brothers. Subsequently, all the Dumrian communities came to live in peace without encroaching on each other, even if some were evolving away in remote areas like the Orassan.
When the first brain version started to spread, the «barbarians» started to refuse it. (They were the only one to have some religious feeling, from their harsher life. But this feeling was not organized in a though system of belief system.) But, two or three generations later, their descendants bitterly regretted this choice, which condemned them to a short fifty years lifespan, and excluded them of the happiness of the Dumrian society. So they took the habit of going to the CAP (Computer Aided Procreation) centres, to get immortal children, while requesting that their peculiar racial characters were perfectly respected, and while continuing their chosen lifestyle at home. So the geneticists took all the cautions for keeping their racial genes, but they granted them the best about intelligence and capacities. This is how the intellectual differences unfavourable to the «barbarians» disappeared.
Also the «barbarians» could enjoy all the technological advances they were willing to accept, while retaining their rustic lifestyle. So they kept horse riding and straightforwardly refused cars, anyway not very common on Dumria. But they willingly accepted genetic modifications suppressing obesity, so common among them to overcome the long winter famines. Given their relatively dangerous lifestyle, they had more deaths. But so, they could have more births, and this, paradoxically, give them today the highest proportion of second brain version, created five centuries after the first.
This second version was designed to compensate for the shortcomings of the first, too exclusively Aristotelian and conceptual. The second brain version allowed for completely unexpected learning, and provided with much more non-Aristotelian finesse and intuition. The new ideas, especially on spirituality, were propagating much faster among the second brain versions, and for this reason the «anti-suicide conspiracy» attempted to oppose the majority of first brain versions against the second, a very small minority but much more influent.
So, it is not surprising if a small Shedrup Ling centre was installed in Vilayah, because it had for members several inhabitants of the Orassan itself, among them Ekarpan «the barbarian». Their unsung voices could often be heard in the workshops, and this makes to the other dumrians the same effect as for us somebody completely hoarse. If the «barbarians» with the first brain versions were living rather in a secluded group, on the contrary those with the second brain version were wandering all over Dumria, and they even were often sough after, for love.
These people of the Orassan, traditionalists and not technical savvy, were still using to ride horses, or more precisely «tops». Tops were much looking like horses, just shorter and stocky. But, like the humans of Dumria, they had evolved on a hot-blooded reptile basis. Like all Dumrian animals, their skin was a kind of scaly leather, like crocodiles. Even today it would be difficult to find Dumrians who do not know to ride a horse, and all of them do trips in the forests or mountains, mounted on their sympathetic dumrian ponies. In fact it is a true symbiosis, and first taming were made... two hundred thousand years ago! So it was not exaggerated to say that the Dumrians had riding into their genes. The tops also, and training became almost useless, as if they felt telepathically what their teachers expected of them. So a loving relation established between the two species. The Dumrians even respected love relationships between horses and mares! So it is not surprising that equestrian images and metaphors were common on Dumria, for example, that the person who will control a lokouten would be its rider. On the other hand, there were nowhere races, and none of those boring equitation exercises, obstacle jumping, figures, etc. At most there were raids at a gallop, but it was only for the joy and excitement of speed, and nobody ever thought to check their times.
The next day soon, the whole team walked to the underground room where the lokouten stood, except Anahata, Orea and their assistants, who took their breakfast separately, and went directly into the deeper tunnels where the sensory insulation caissons were.
Enken and Elaminaroa could at last see the famous secret robots of Rolf Gensher, the incredible lokutens which made everybody hearing of them fantasizing wildly, and which terrified the secret services all around the Earth. If they knew what it was really about, they would probably be still more scared.
In a large vaulted room, all in length, painted in pale orange, a dozen of workstations were lined up, each with computers and other robot development machines, including an exoskeleton control. Eight of these posts had each a lokouten, connected by cables to the test equipment.
In facts, at first glance, there was no visible difference between a lokouten and any other humanoid robot, as millions of them could be found anywhere on Earth or on Dumria, game robots, worker robots or exploration robots. A large chest was containing the fuel cell, with its fuel tank and exhaust pipe (no, it is toward the top, not where you think) and pawls to attach a backpack. The arms and legs were standard Dumrian types, suitable for works of speed and accuracy rather than strength. Even the head was of a common type, with cameras in the place of eyes and ear-shaped microphones. There were millions of robots of this design, automatic or designed for human remote control using an exoskeleton: the user perceived the vision with glasses, and sounds with earplugs, able to render a three-dimensional sound recorded by the ear-shaped microphones. These robots were accurately reproducing the movements of the human body into the exoskeleton, and this allowed for a very intuitive control of them.
As we were on Dumria, all the robots had a well-finished appearance and decorations, which made them look very humanoid, and even very dumrianoid. We could even see for who they were intended: the first two giving an image of Anahata and Orea, while others showed the long blond hairs of Ulrike Meinster and the China black hairs of Liu Wang. In the back, a team was screaming with laughter while trying to reproduce the complicated frizz of Madame Heraert.
The difference between a lokouten and an ordinary robot was not visible; it was into the circuits and complex software of its electronic brain. This brain had about the same functions than an human brain, and it could then perform the same tasks. As a matter of facts, these robots, in automatic mode, were able to behave in a very human way, speaking and working like a real conscious being. But, through some process of which Rolf Gensher's team had the genius intuition, their circuits had psychophysical properties, which made them sensitive to the influence of a disincarnated human consciousness. It looks strange that electronic circuits could have psychophysical properties; but the neurones of the brain have too. If they had not, we could not have free will, and no intuitions, no premonitory dreams or extrasensorial perceptions. So Rolf's studies led him to the mysterious coupling between inert matter and consciousness, this so elusive coupling, so volatile, but however so fundamental, that some call it the fifth force of physics.
The electronic brains of the lokouten were fully programmable, and they could imitate an human brain as well as a dumrian brain. It had areas of vision, hearing, speech, walking... all preprogrammed. Thus the perception of a word resulted into its automatic translation into a concept: the incarnated user could speak and understand what was said, in any of the programmed languages. A simple connection to the computer of the workshop allowed to program a new language in seconds.
One of the indispensable conditions for the experiment was that the «rider», the person who was to command the lokouten, must be aware at this time, but without being aware of his body as usual. Otherwise, the normal sensory perceptions of this body would overwhelm those from the lokouten. This is what is called in technical terms the ungrasping, or the disconnection (from the flesh body). For Liu Wang, it would be easy, since she was already in a psychical world. For others, they needed some system to cut off the sensory relationship with the body.
This was the main difficulty of the experiment. In facts, only people with some peculiar and reproducible gift, such as OBE or sleep paralysis, could meet this requirement in a reliable enough way, and try. And even like this, the sessions were sometimes failing, because none of the two Dumriannes could get out of her body. To better their chances, they avoided any discussion before the sessions, and locked themselves into very sophisticated sensory isolation caissons, with especially the earplugs system we saw with Yonten Drolma, which erases even breathing noises. And still, they had to prepare more than one hour to obtain results.
Some emotion was building up, while the time of the experiment approaching. The robots, now connected only with the telemetry cable, had their fuel cell lit, humming softly, and their warmth was felt in the cool underground. Enken and Elaminaroa were sitting at a console, with view across the hall, where they would have to analyze different phases of the experiment, from the point of view of the great dreamers. In the meanwhile, on Earth, in Palomas, Ulrike Meinster, Niels Dreyermann, Kurt Wegener, Sangye Tchögyal and Madame Heraert, duly warned by Ekarpan, should normally be preparing too, but without any communication allowing them to check what the others were doing. Somewhere in her marvellous Tushita psychical universe, Liu Wang was also warned by the meditations of Steve.
Scenario, graphics, sounds, colours, realization: Richard Trigaux (Unless indicated otherwise).
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