2604 - Die Stunde der Auguren
The Hour of the Augurs
Wim Vandemaan

On September 5, 1469 NGE the stars go out in the sky over Terrania. The entire Sol system was wrapped in an energy field and presumably moved to a different location. It comes to inexplicable power outages, and the mainframes, NATHAN and LAOTSE are unresponsive until they can be reconfigured. All the transmitter connections to other solar systems are collapsing, and the transfer chimneys in the GALILEO Polyport court go out. But these are not the only pieces of bad news with which the First Terran Henrike Ybarri and the Terran Resident Reginald Bull have to deal with. The displacement of the Sol system was connected with space quakes, which lead to attacks of fatigue in humans. Many people suffer also suffer temporary memory loss and cognitive difficulties. Matter begins to dissolve into nothingness in a completely unpredictable manner - the so-called Nirvana phenomenon. There are also effects that are coined as Gravo-splitting and Gravo-erratics. These are localized gravity fluctuations, sometimes hanging items frozen in mid-air. Rock debris from the Kuiper Belt and the Oort Cloud rain down on the planet. Not all of the debris can be stopped in time by spaceships of LFT fleet, and so it comes to heavy destruction – including in Terrania City.

Journalist Shamsur Routh , Henrike Ybarri’s former husband, living in Terrania finds himself in a changed world. He sets out to search for his and Ybarris daughter Anicée. She has disappeared and does not answer attempts at contact. Her trail leads to Hamburg, where she and her friend Auris Bugenhagen have gone to listen to the pronouncements of so-called Augurs. These Augurs have been living for some time on Terra. No one seems to know anything about these humanoid beings. They appear to be androgynous and have no individual identity. Their faces are sometimes white in color and sometimes like shimmering mother of pearl, in which the gold-colored eyes with slit pupils, and a constant smile stand out. They always accompany their strange sermons with a song, one that they play on their musical instruments, the Phenube. Younger people especially are fascinated by their speeches. It seems as if they have suggestive influences. Routh attends such an event on the Reeperbahn. The Augur Stradnaver speaks of a new ear coming that will lead to the "Reformatting" of humanity. There are only a few tests to be passed, and then the goal will be reached - freedom. On September eighth, he announces, the great Augur Stradhaird would hold a crucial speech in Terrania.

Before Routh returns to Terrania, he follows Stradnaver to a seven-story pagoda tent on the grounds of the Ohlsdorfer Cemetery in Hamburg. There seems to be more Augurs in this building, the Gnauplon. Routh sends a spy probe into it, which, though destroyed immediately, is still able to transmit a still image. The torso of a fresh human corpse is seen in it. Are the Augurs actually ghouls? Stradhaird speaks on September eighth and ninth to tens of thousands of young people. He talks to them of a bondage and warns them of "the old". The old, he claims, will plunge into the abyss and tear along everyone that clings to it. Routh speaks to Anicée and Auris after Stradhaird’s first speech, but his daughter wants nothing to do with him. Suddenly, it comes to a disaster as a result of the Nirvana effect. A building collapses, burying many people underneath it. Anicée survives it with critical injuries. Auris, who had thrown herself protectively over Anicée, is probably dead. Routh takes his daughter to the nearest hospital. The next day he himself hears Stradhaird’s second speech. Routh believes that the Augurs want to fight a kind of proxy war on Terra.

When the situation normalizes at least a little bit, Reginald Bell sends the BOMBAY, a one thousand five hundred meter ship from the Explorer fleet under the command of Colonel Nuruzzaman, on an expedition into the surrounding area of the Sol system. It seems that the system is in an unfamiliar space, which has a diameter of only one hundred fifty light years and in which the laws of nature are being modified. Several dozen suns were in the strange miniature universe. The nearest one is seventeen light years away. Bull gives it the name of Next-Stop and sets it as the destination of the BOMBAY. Apparently, the foreign space is not uninhabited. Three space ships with two thousand six hundred meters length, vaguely reminiscent of gigantic nails, penetrate the Sol system. They do not react to radio calls or to transform cannon shots across the bow. On September ninth they dive into the sun, where they obviously start some manipulation, because on the same day all the people in the Sol system feel terrible name for a few seconds...

Jerry Schneiderman 2014-02-03

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