Warder Cycle: Heavy Biscuits

__—— Warder Cycle: Book #3  HEAVY BISCUITS is set in the turbulent transition period during which oil becomes too expensive to use as a fuel.  Electric light transport ( just cars and bikes, basically ) uses Liquid Hydrogen ( LH ) in a Fuel Cell instead of batteries; synthetic heavy diesel-like fuel is made for ships, trains, trucks, based on a 3-stage fermentation process invented in the 1920s, but updated to allow a different hydrocarbon source – a process that had cost its Indian inventor his life.  Oil companies make synthetic aviation fuel and LH commercially and a new invention – the LH Still – allows private citizens to make their own LH slowly...  just a few liters per day.  Oil companies try to ruin the market for ‘home-made’ fuel.  Other factors that impact on events to make this period a watershed for humanity are the steady increase in trade between the Hidden Realms and Outside Nations – often to the dismay of Outside industries who try to sabotage Hidden Realms trading efforts – and the start of asteroid mining, at great cost to the stock market and the detriment of traditional mining operations.
Main character Martin Farrell is now over 160 years old – even for a cold-flame, he is actually getting old, and would dearly love to retire, after a century in official life as the Hidden Realms’ Ala Daq Da.  To do so, he must smoothly cede control of his private and public responsibilities which, over time, have grown to resemble a business empire.  His daughter Banta and her husband Jabo are next-generation cold-flames, capable of a similar long-term perspective as himself, so they become ‘Patrons’ of two critical Hidden Realms initiatives, and other cold-flame friends and family members become Patrons for others – actual management ( and ownership ) must fall to the shorter-lived hot-flames who form the majority of the Hidden Realms population.  Bio-mass ‘Kidaq’ energy drives all the Hidden Realms’ business, always with an eye to decreasing humanity’s planetary ‘footprint’, which does not win them many friends.
Available for Kindle from Amazon, US$2.60 – 552 ‘Amazon pages’.  Interested?  Read the Prologue of Heavy Biscuits here:

  Prologue:  Gateways

The London Gateway Terminal opened its three allowed Outbound Gateways – Paris, Brussels and Berlin were the chosen destinations – and they performed fairly smoothly, without many traffic snarls or crowding that had dogged many other Terminals.  Everyone was pleased, and there was a series of TV interviews with important players in the Gateway issue, which was a European peculiarity – there were no Gateways outside Europe, because the Hidden Realms were located in Europe.  Or, at least, they were located ‘on’ Europe, but time-offset so that they were inaccessible from normal-time Europe...  except by Gateway.  There was some talk of new Gateways in China and the USA, but they would be purely for diplomatic purposes, not for public passenger trade.
A media team traveled to Elvaya, where they interviewed Gregor Karinski, the man who had actually invented Gateways, and Malaban Tonginati, the genius who had refined the design, and was also a famous figure in the historic, fairly recent integration of Acha with Elvaya.  The Old Professor and the Young Turk.  Karinski was what Achans called a cold-flame, while Tonginati was a hot-flame.  The contrast between the two fascinated the viewing public Outside, because they behaved like father and son when together.  There was an obvious bond of affection between them, instead of the expected slight reservation between two people of very different genetic makeup.
Hot-flames had a similar life expectancy to Outsiders, while cold-flames lived much longer.  Karinsky was extremely ancient, but would not say precisely how old, merely that he carried the ‘teldaan’ genetic mutation.  That, he explained, had arisen in the Hidden Realms because of their complete isolation from the Outside world for thousands of years, and where many lived very isolated lives, deep in forests.  Very few cold-flames tried to live at the same metabolic pace as the hot-flame majority.  Most lived very slowly and, usually, hot-flames had no reason to envy them their long life.  They made little impact on society, he said, because they were small in numbers, spent so much time asleep, and tended to think and move slowly when awake.  Hot-flames like Tonginati easily out-performed them in both physical and social terms.
Statistically, hot-flames born inside the Hidden Realms could expect to live for about 100 years, just a tiny bit longer than Outsiders from most Nations.  So maybe they shared some small part of that genetic mutation, but both lifestyle and diet differed between inside the Realms and Outside, too, and they could be significant factors.  Also, both Elvati and Achans were physically smaller than most Outsiders – by about 20 centimeters for an average adult male – another possible factor.
The interviews generated enormous public interest, and follow-up media exploration became essential.  The most widely viewed follow-up interview was with the Hidden Realms’ Ala Daq Da during one of his visits Outside on diplomatic business.  Martin Farrell was the most famous ‘Elf’ of all...  yet he had not even been born in Elvaya!  He had been born in Ireland, raised in New Zealand, and had built a hugely-successful farming and forestry business in Canada before going to live in Elvaya.  He was thought to be a throw-back to the genetic root-stock that had first populated the Hidden Realms – both Elvaya and Acha – during the Late Bronze Age.  He was also a cold-flame.
He was asked about his long life and how he managed to keep up with those living a shorter life.  The interviewer said, “We understand that you’re heavily involved with day-to-day political issues that force you to live at the same pace as others.  How do you manage, Martin Da?”
“Well, it’s complicated.  I’m a teldaan, what most people now call a cold-flame, and I take cold-sleeps to allow me to live at close to the same pace as hot-flames.  But it’ll cost me – I’ll never be as physically active as hot-flames, but I can burn energy faster than normal for a cold-flame, and this is usually enough for me to keep up.  It’s a checks and balances thing.  Cold-flames have an internal self-repair function that kicks in while in cold-sleep – so small injuries like nerve or ligament damage and so forth, get patched up while sleeping.”
The interviewer reacted to that.  “Wow!  Self-healing sounds amazing!”
“Yes, it is.  It’s how we manage to live a longer time, but the faster I try to live, the harder it is for my internal repairs to keep pace.  Most cold-flames find a natural balance, and are content to live at a slower pace, so they tend to be withdrawn from society...  living apart from the majority.  As you say, it’s difficult for me to do that, so I just have to accept that my life will be shortened as a result.  I will have to pay the price.”
“So how long do cold-flames expect to live?”
“There is some rather sketchy evidence in Acha that some teldaani have lived as long as 400 years – but they lived at a very slow pace, of course.  Slow as a tortoise.  Frankly, I don’t fancy living a long time if I have to do it very slowly.  I’d rather speed up and sacrifice some of that.  I’m currently 140 years old, so maybe I can expect to live to about 200 or so.”
“That’s still a very long life!  What exactly is a cold-sleep, Martin Da?”
“It’s very much like hibernation, and about 60 years ago researchers discovered that it can be chemically induced in teldaani – cold-flames like me – but not in teldemini.  I have a long natural one every winter, and shorter induced ones about every two months.  That’s enough to recharge my energy levels, patch up normal wear-and-tear damage, and let me live at pretty much the same pace as others.  I have to maintain a higher level of fitness than would be normal for most cold-flames, and I have to drop out of circulation for a few days at a time when I need an induced cold-sleep.”
The Ala Daq Da must have caught a fleeting expression on the face of the interviewer, and grinned, pointing at her.  “No, no, nothing scary.  It’s all very civilized, y’know.  In Elvaya, and now also in Acha, teldaani have special rooms in their homes, usually known as Winter Rooms, with all the necessary medical equipment.  It’s all quite safe and controlled.  We just have needs that hot-flames don’t have if we live at the same pace as them.”
“Yes, well, I suppose there has to be some price to pay for the advantage of a longer life.”
He nodded.  “Advantage, such as it is, y’mean!  Now, since you bring up this subject, there are other expectations that people often have.  Long life, you might expect, would give me a huge advantage over hot-flames.  Over time, I could learn to do things that other people can’t do, and benefit from that.”
“Yes, of course, Da.  That must happen to you all the time!”
“Well, no, that just doesn’t happen, because the world...  the world always changes.  The rules change.  And it’s people who make it change.  Someone finds out how to do something that allows him or her to get around a natural barrier – pretty much like other animals might – but then other people copy whatever new thing allows this.  So pretty soon that new ability or skill or tool becomes common, without any selective breeding acting to achieve that.  No actual evolutionary change.  That doesn’t happen among other animals unless special circumstances apply – they don’t have the social structures and knowledge-sharing through speech, writing and mass media like humans.”
“Ah, so as soon as you find some new skill, other people will see that and immediately look for ways to do something similar.  Perhaps not exactly the same but close enough.”
“Yeah, that’s how it seems to work.  New skills or devices that might have worked to my advantage fifty years ago are completely useless today.  I rarely need to do things like I did a few decades ago.  Nobody does – the world has changed, moved on.”
“That still makes you important, Martin Da.  You’ve invented lots of little things that anyone can see are now becoming fairly common in Elvaya.  But I guess that your point is that even if you, as a cold-flame, invent some new ability, intending to use it for personal benefit, it doesn’t stay that way for long.”
“That’s it in a nut-shell.  Darwin’s Natural Selection – just environmental pressures and competition-based mortality – is still operating in nature, but I think you could say that for all humans it’s more like Unnatural Selection!  Our social structures, tool-making abilities and learned behaviors shape the environment more than the environment shapes us.  That happens here, Outside, just as much as it does in the Hidden Realms, but for us...  well, isolation made the main difference, plus living in a heavily forested world.  It fostered many small evolutionary mutations over time, and the main ones were a natural empathy with the Kidaq – what you would call bio-mass energy – which in turn led to Mind-Link and, for some, a longer life-span.  But, in the end, we’re all just slightly different racial versions of humanity, with all the same flaws.  We all love and hate, laugh and cry, bleed and die...”
...and that quote quickly became a popular catch-phrase for humanists around the world.
*  *  *  *  *
Most Outsiders thought of the entire Hidden Realms – Elvaya and Acha – as one concentrated pool of ecology-obsessed extremists.  Despite a complete absence of factual or historical proof, the common belief that these people were the mythical Elves, especially among Europeans, for whom those legends were still strong, had never died.  So surely they all sang serenades to trees, empathized with every bug and butterfly, and probably all shit sweet-smelling flowers.
Ecology was certainly a higher priority inside the Realms than it was Outside, but it was really only a matter of degree.  Inside the Realms, Kidaq had been the predominant energy source for thousands of years.  So energy use had always been limited to small amounts in any one location, so as not to drain the natural energy of the trees from which it was harvested – it was an energy-friendly lifestyle.  Fossil fuels were used, but only in small amounts.  Small water-driven turbines were used for generating electricity, too, but suitable only for local consumption.  The net result was a society that would always be restricted in size.  Kidaq energy simply wasn’t powerful enough for the energy-intensive lifestyle that had mushroomed in the wake of the Industrial Revolution, and was now regarded as normal Outside.  Cities around the world were dazzling hubs of endless activity at all hours.  Villages and towns inside the Realms basically still shut down completely at night.
That energy-intensive lifestyle was becoming a bigger problem with every passing day, Outside, as oil prices crept higher with every survey of new fields.  Fossil fuels were becoming too expensive to simply burn and, although many countries had passed strict legislation specifically aimed at preventing corporations from blocking the development of new fuels or engine types and offering subsidies for research, the immediate future was shaping up as an energy crisis.  Official moves were usually seen as too little, too late.  Synthetic fuels, once considered too dear, were becoming viable, and the biggest loser was likely to be the average citizen.  Private petrol- or diesel-engined cars were rapidly becoming a luxury as electric light vehicles started to make a significant impact on the market with the roll-out of Liquid Hydrogen pumps at most gas stations in the developed parts of the world.  They worked fine, but the cost of LH at the pump tended to limit them to short distances and modest loads.  In less affluent countries LH was far too dear, so private vehicle use had already slumped and showed no sign of recovering.
The real long-term damage to the world economy, though, was in the area of heavy transport.  The cost of freighting goods around the world, using trucks, trains or ships, had been steadily increasing for years until smaller countries started to consider making goods instead of importing them.  The affluent countries that specialized in making most of the manufactured goods did not like this trend, of course.  Airlines increasingly had to use synthetic aviation fuel, much more expensive than the oil-based equivalent, and they were also challenged by the use of Gateway Terminals, which were making steady inroads into their passenger trade – the profitable arm of any airline’s business.
Although the Hidden Realms contributed to this complicated mess with Gateways only, and only in Europe, it was easy for agitators to lay blame at their feet because they were not suffering at home.  Their almost-medieval village lifestyle allowed them a comfortable existence, albeit without most of the advantages of modern Outside city life.  Inside the Realms people did not travel very often or very far.  Making a trip to see someone living more than a hundred kilometers away was considered a pretty big undertaking.  Traveling to the other side of the world was impossible, anyway, without going Outside.
In Outside terms, the Realms stretched from Ireland in the west to half-way across Kazakhstan in the east, although the eastern-most few thousand kilometers was mostly just uninhabited forest and high steppes on the northern side of the Himalayas.  So nobody in the Realms thought of themselves as limited in any way, but travel was a slow affair, just as it had been for thousands of years.  There were certainly no Travel Agencies – encouraging people to travel was not a commercial activity.
House Chalens ran a Beamer line up and down the Atlantic coast for transporting produce and manufactured goods, because that was where most of the mainland population of Elvaya lived.  Elsewhere, most people who needed to travel further than they could ride a horse relied on House Elf to provide a Kidaq-powered ‘taxi service’ using scoots, driven by Wizards as a community service.  The situation in Acha was even more remote – they had their ‘Clearways’ where amplified Kidaq conditions allowed runners to cover large distances with little effort.  But if Achans did not care to run, they had to rely on a Shaman to take them, usually via a network of Power Stones that had been used for this purpose for millennia.  Increasingly, Shamans could also use a staff mirror or a scoot to move, but these were both ‘modern’ things, not as common in Acha as in Elvaya.  Achans tended to move about even less than Elvati.
Outside, Brazil was a sore point for Elvaya.  A Beamer line had been built there with good intentions and at great expense to provide a passenger service across the Amazon forest between the eastern and western edges of that vast country.  It had been built with the expectation that Beamer lines might eventually be built in any country with large forested tracts, but it had been a huge disappointment, and was now falling into disrepair.  This was because the Brazilian corporation that now owned the line had refused to follow the recommendations of the organic engineering team who had built it.
Instead of using the Beamer line within the capability of the forest to sustain, the Brazilian company had run Beamers day and night since the line was first opened, and had steadily drained the forest of Kidaq over the past twenty years.  Viewed from an aircraft at high altitude, it was possible to see the Beamer line from the straight lines of dead or dying trees following the line.  From an Elvati perspective, that was criminal abuse of ecological privilege.  From a Brazilian perspective, it was just shoddy engineering – a passenger service should serve the needs of the passengers, not the needs of the forest.  The disagreement between the Hidden Realms and Brazil was well known.
As a direct result of this, Beamers were now a retired technology, no longer offered Outside to any Nation.  It had been a gross error of judgement to agree to the Brazilian request, even though Beamers were still run in Elvaya by House Chalens.  The main problem was that Beamers used a lot of Kidaq, because they were similar in size to a large bus or truck, but floating on Kidaq-powered triangulation so that they ‘sailed’ through the air above the trees between Transit Stations for the entire length of the trip.  The possibility of anyone using Beamers to the point where damage to the ecology happened had simply not occurred to anyone in Elvaya – because that was something that no Elvati would ever do.  They would be horrified at the very thought.
The replacement for Beamers Outside had been the first Gateways.  They used only small amounts of Kidaq, so were much safer to use, provided that Elvati always controlled the actual Gateways and could monitor the health of the trees from which the Kidaq was harvested.  That was the main reason why all Gateways were operated under such strict contract conditions, with the host Nation owning the Terminal, but the Gateways themselves remaining the property of the Hidden Realms.
Sadly, it also reinforced the popular Outside belief that all Elvati and Achans were fanatical eco-extremists.
*  *    *  *