Monday, September 28, 2009

90. Thorium



Of the Atlantean civilization known variously as Asgard or Aesir, only garbled memories remain, preserved in the Eddas composed during the barbarian ages following its downfall. Deep linguistic analysis of the texts has revealed glimpses of a society more technologically advanced than our own, yet fatally flawed by arrogance and an over-reliance on military solutions. Asgard was ruled by a committee of computer-enhanced cyborgs known collectively as the Odin or "All-Father." It was defended by a military force known as the Thor or "Thunderers." It was ultimately destroyed in an all-encompassing world disaster called Ragnarok, a word similar to our own Armageddon.

The war with Asgard's rival power Jotunheim (also known as the "Frost Giants," suggesting it may actually have been an alliance of Northern nations) began with an exchange of nuclear weaponry, triggering the Fimbulwinter, a three-year period of unending snow and ice. This was followed by an invasion of land forces known as the Fenriswolf, supported by a naval armada called the Midgard Serpent.

The Thor controlled a doomsday weapon called Mjolnir or "Hammer of the Gods." As far as can be told it was a meteor composed entirely of the metal thorium. When defeat was inevitable, the Thor triggered Mjolnir and by unknown means called it down into the Earth's atmosphere. Low over the lands of the Frost Giants it flew, its surface burning brighter than any sun, and destroyed them all. Because thorium has a melting point of 1750° C (its oxide has an astonishingly high melting point of 3300° C) the meteor passed through the atmosphere relatively unscathed. Which was fortunate for us. A direct hit might well have extinguished all higher life on the planet.

Thus ends our sad tale. Save for one thing. According to the Eddas, the children of the Thor (that would be us, the human race) survived Ragnarok. So far, so good. But the Eddas also say that they inherited Mjolnir.

Deep linguistic analysis suggests that this means that after its near-encounter with our planet, the meteor went into a sun-grazing orbit. In and out it darts, crossing the Earth's orbit perhaps once or even twice a year. But there's no reason to think that it will ever actually hit us.

On this point, deep linguistic analysis must surely be wrong.

© 2003 by Michael Swanwick and SCIFI.COM.

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