A group of specialists will arrive within the week
A majestic zeppelin, multi-gondola’d, glowing red and gold in the light of a sun that will not set for days, drifts lazily through clear skies over sparsely vegetated scrubland. It is just as impressive inside as out, with walls of polished red wood, hanging tapestries with complex and beautiful patterns, and lavish suites for every passenger. If ever there was an aircraft that justified having a story written about it, it would be this one.
It is, therefore, unfortunate that these stories do not center on this impressive feat of Antarctican engineering. There are about a score of servants and attendants on this airship, as well as a flight crew and a pilot, but they are likewise not the focus, which is a shame, because what the pilot is currently doing with one of the engineers on the flight deck certainly deserves some attention.
However, these stories are in fact about the various humans that are sitting in their rooms, looking out of place and out the window at the world which they now find themselves in.
Oh, it appears the pilot is pregnant. So much for keeping her little encounter secret.
Jeremy Remus, a Junior Researcher for the Foundation, was not at all sure what he was doing on this gaudy airship. Why are the styles so flamboyant? The Empress of 1483 had insisted on at least one… well, something long and complicated that boiled down to cultural anthropologist. Of the relatively few that the Foundation employed, most of them were in Alaska waiting for new villages, or trying to negotiate the return of some D-Class from wherever that guy with the passports sent them.
A servant, a member of the… Black Court entered his room with a jug of water in his enormous furred hand. Black Court = lower caste. System based on resemblance to animals? Do the animals here have fur? He thanked him absently in English, then remembered where he was and used the Antarctic language.
There had been an embassy in the Empire for years. What more could be learned about the culture at this point? Jeremy had spoken to Dr. Bailey over the phone, and he’d been nice, well, nice enough, but even he seemed puzzled as to why Jeremy was coming along. He hadn’t spoken much with the others, but he was sure at least one of them was giving him dirty looks before they had boarded.
He stared gloomily at the observation notebook that he had been scribbling in. So far there was nothing but questions. He resolved to fix that as he looked out the window.
Was that Large penguin-like creatures observed biting the heads off Antarcticans. Inquire into the effect this has on rural life.
Jeremy got his first glimpse of Rootrel several hours later. It looked a bit like the cities back in his own universe, but more colorful. There were huge black tree-like structures on most of the higher roofs, which Jeremy had to assume were for collecting solar power. And, of course, very few cities had an enormous skeleton surrounded by walls at their center.
The Empress' palace was as opulent as expected, with precious metals, statues, stained glass windows, but it was still very clearly held together by the bones of a titanic creature. Stairs of some light-colored stone, framed by tusks, led to the mouth in a skull the size of a mansion, with two teeth removed and replaced with gilded double doors. A glass tunnel was built along the hollowed out spine, and the outbuildings had very noticeable claws.
Jeremy was still staring ten minutes later when there was a knock at his door. An attendant, looking almost like a dark-skinned human but much thicker, came in and spoke.
"Excuse me, sir, but I have been assigned to help you prepare for your party's welcome." The man pulled open what Jeremy had thought to be a decorative wall panel to reveal several extremely flashy, complicated, and uncomfortable looking outfits.
It was then that he realized that the ship was not heading for the small, relatively unadorned building at the edge of town that was the Foundation embassy, but for the palace.
"Welcome?" he asked, horror starting to grip him as the Antarctican began perusing the closet's contents. "But, but, we're just another group of Foundation employees, right? There's nothing new about us."
"You are wrong, sir. You and your colleagues have been sent here by your Foundation as a part of the Exchange. This is the first time that her Imperial Majesty the Empress will be giving such free access to the many wonders under her power, and it is Her will that she meet the 'expert specialists' that will be working alongside the Institute in an official capacity," he paused. "You are truly blessed for getting such an opportunity."
A crowd was gathering outside of the palace walls, and a small group of very well-dressed women, presumably high-ranking court officials, were emerging from other doors in the skull and forming a small group by the doors. That's right. This Institute was a public arm of the government. There would be red tape, and crowds, and officialties, and all of those other things that you rarely needed to worry about when you were a low level researcher in a vast, mainly secret organization.
Jeremy dumbly allowed the attendant to help him with the complicated robes, and to gather his things to be transported to his rooms at the embassy. It was only after the Antarctican had left that he allowed himself to raise his sleeve to his mouth, and bite down hard.
The Foundation gratefully accedes to the conditions set forth by the Empress Utmai Cjen VI and the Imperial Institute of Paranatural and Esoteric Study. A group of specialists will arrive within the week for the study of anomalies currently under the IIPES’s control.
O5-1, O5-2, O5-5, O5-7, O5-8, O5-10, O5-12
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He dropped out of the articles and into the tales.