Aurochs Curly Point-Two Canal (Daily Planet email #939)
On this spot, about twelve thousand years ago, megafauna roamed through the dark dense forest, verges, savannas, and clearings. In the late Pleistocene, this Pontic-Caspian steppe was home to mammoths and aurochs, Irish elk and wooly rhinos, cave lions and giant beaver. Roam they did, and lived, hunted, mated, and fought. Over the course of a few thousand years, as the glaciers danced and dwindled under the warming skies, the natural vegetation changed and humans moved in; not just our friends the Homo sapiens, but Denisovans, Homo erectus, and Neanderthals, too. Everybody needed to eat, and who is the best apex predator you know? Goodbye, megafauna.
On this spot, some nine hundred years ago, Bolesław IV the Curly, together with Ruthenian troops, attempted the conquest of the Old Prussians, a tribe of humble cattle-herding Baltic pagans. The high duke wanted territory, but tried to get Pope Adrian IV and Holy Roman Emperor Frederick Barbarossa involved so he could call it a crusade. Humble or no, the Old Prussians were strong and ready to fight for the land they’d inhabited for four thousand years, forcing the Polish army into the swampy marsh along the middle Oder River, where the would-be conquerors who didn’t drown were killed by arrows or throwing clubs. Anyway, a couple hundred years later the mercenary Teutonic Knights subjugated and colonized the Old Prussians, who were then assimilated, converted, and their language made extinct.
On this spot, roughly two thousand years from now, the Pterlum Conjoue is well underway. The Pterlum were smart, not just to shrink the distances of space into something navigable, but for waiting until the coast was clear like they used to say. They found, simply as a by-product of some mathematical balancing, that a sphere on Earth was slightly less than 720 degrees, very slightly less, some two hundred places beyond a decimal. Well, a fraction is a fraction, and with Homo sapiens out of the way the Pterlum were free to harvest this difference to power their travel, burnish surfaces, and launch a new era of prosperity that would last oh, say, fifteen hundred years.
On this spot, just about now, a man gets ready to go out for the morning. In the foyer, the coat rack faces east and his coat is warm to the touch. He lights a cigarette and spits out a piece of tobacco — Belomor Canal brand, crappy but available. He steps outside to the smell of oil and smoke, gasoline and anxiety. Gunfire has emptied the playground once more, so he crosses freely with carbon-black determination, past the burnt and distended fragments of life and/or death. In the distance, sirens and shelling, blue-grey skies, and the tensile crackle of near-constant interference. Another pretender to greatness has appointed himself leader and decided to attack, defensively. No one knows how it will end, only that it will end. More or less.