Thursday, May 2, 2024

A Black Market History of Kalliope

 A follow-up to Kalliope Jazz

Stick around in the Black Market long enough, and you'll hear stories and myths from across the cosmos. You may scoff at learning myths instead of history, but the tellers would say that they're one and the same. This is one of them:

Timestamps are an instrument of machine minds, and as you'll soon discover, they're irrelevant anyway.

Long before mankind or machine set foot on Kalliope, the moon was an ocean of ice: frozen methane, water, and little creatures that had not names or jobs or grand schemes. Thus it was so, for a million-billion generations of these little things.

Long before even that, The Whale died.

Its body, still propelled by an engine of time and gravity at its heart, began to decompose as it drifted through the astral sea - faster on the outside than the inside, orders of magnitude more! That when by impossible odds it collided into Kalliope's cold oceans, its skin and muscles and mind were all long rotten dry, but its heart still smoldered on.

And this the Oracles call The Whalefall.

How it must have been, in those early days! To witness the oceans melt and the tides' liberty. When green things dreamed green dreams and new eyes found unfettered skies.

And the gods and monsters of myth descended from the stars...

Art by Levi Hastings

The Demon was the first to arrive. It burrowed deep inside and nestled right up to the heart. It remains there still, just as it was - a spear point piercing into infinity.

The Dragons came next: they had followed the sweet scent of the dying whale across the great expanse of space and time. They tore into its flesh, burrowing deep inside. They devoured its fat, its muscles, its brain, and they grew strong and wise.

The Pirates followed: crawling, curious, hungry. They'd heard its dying drift and come scuttling across the cosmos in their hardened shells. Around the Dragons' feasting they harvested their scraps. Their hard ships and sharp claws made them unappetizing to the others. They were first to uncover the mighty Sea Worms, and the six Great Ones within the Whale's decaying womb.

Then came The Oracles, tiny little things floating on the astral currents, feeling the call of prophecy across the stars. At the end of their journey they found a rich world to build their nations: bones to build colonies, water to fuel their thirst, fish to fill their bellies, and GRIS to satiate their souls.

GRIS is liquid dream. It's fuel for the fire that burns within. It's metamorphosis in a bottle. It's agency, it's power. It makes monsters and little crawling things out of men. GRIS grew in the Whale's guts, and the things digging within it ate it and dreamed their silent dreams, and when they were finished they discovered that their dreams were real.

GRIS made the Oracles as they wished they could become: strong, quick, sleek, smart, peaceable, clever, beautiful, poetic, fertile, wise, antagonistic, and complacent. In the darkest trenches they dreamed of light... and they dreamed of even greater darks. While many became actualized, some became monsters, and in time they learned to not abide each other. A war began in the hadal depths by the heart, which began long ago and continues to this day, and will continue on until the end of the universe: a war between monsters and men to hold onto infinity.

...At last, came we. Us, with our machine clerics and heavy mechs, with imperial ideology and extraction economies and interstellar market forces. With settlers and tourists, mercenaries and jazz. All of it eclipsed in the blink of an eye to the Whale's still-beating heart.

Art by StitchParadox

It's a nice story... It might even be true, but what we do know is this:

- The deeper into the Nemesis Deeps you go, the more time slows down. It's logarithmic: Epipelagic means a time dilation factor of 1:10. Mesopelagic, 1:100. Bathypelagic, 1:1000. Abyss, 1:10000. In the Abyss, one minute passes down there = one week passes on the surface. You don't even want to think about it being deeper than that.

- When you consume GRIS, your body becomes more what you think it is. It changes, mutates you. It's most pronounced and dangerous when you dream. The Kalliopean Ocean is the only place we know it comes from. The Oracles are the only people who trade it. A single ounce can buy you the moon. The Church is keeping it all under wraps.

- A significant number of aquatic species in the Nemesis Deeps inexplicably possess indistinguishably human genomes, but vastly altered chromatin structure. This has been discovered most often in fish, crabs, and sea slugs.

- "Hic Sunt Dracones" isn't an empty saying. There really are dragons down in the deeps.


  1. Fun Fact: because of the time dilation of the whale's heart, all of the scavengers from all stages of decomposition that have come to feast on its body are present simultaneously. The deeper you go, the bigger and more aggressive they were (are?).