Kage Baker loved jigsaw puzzles passionately. When a plot went well and the story began to tell itself to her, that was like a jigsaw beginning to grow together – the pieces turning, mutating, breeding and spawning whole new stretches of sky and edge and other important markers for a jigsaw puzzle …
Me, I hate them. They remind me of being out of books, too sick to go to the library, and too well to decently sleep. Too old for the oatmeal box and construction paper and Crayons; too far back in Time to find decent movies on the black-and-white, 13-inch television.
You need extraordinary resources to keep sick kids happy. Any pediatric hospital will tell you that. Or any mother who had more than one kid sick at the same time. Kage knew exactly what is was like to be bored and ill, in a ward full of other whiny sufferers. That’s where the images of the baby Operatives originated.
But she had to find a place to put those cool white wards full of cranky little Immortals.
There is no plaque commemorating the founding of Australia Base.
Not even underground, where the administration offices have always been and where the rest of the place will end up sometime in the 17th Century C.E. It’s well known that Australia Base was the first major Base constructed, but somehow no one actually recorded the date. It had to be somewhere between 15,000 and 10,000 BCE, though, to get the whole thing up and running before Homo sapiens got there.
It might be due to its vagueness in Time – all the Company Bases are slightly adrift, to keep them from being noticed by the mortals. But Australia Base was built a long, long time ago, when the Operative Project was just getting its legs under it. The full scope of the Preservation Project was beginning to loom massively out of the administrative fog, and someone somewhere in the Far Future was probably beginning to panic.
How was Dr. Zeus going to train all the immortals it would need? Until they reached maturity, they’d have to be raised like any other crop or sequestered rare animal; fed and clothed and educated, to be of use. The mortal R&D staff could hardly cope with modern humans, let alone juvenile Cro-magnons and less identifiable recruits. The staff had to be brought from the Future, of course, and it was hard to find respectable citizens who could take the strain of living amid the savages they were improving.
During the experimental phases of the Operative Project, the work was done in temporary shelters: tents and self-inflating buildings, with fusion generators and electrified perimeters and no windows anywhere. Dr. Zeus might be All-seeing, but His minions only saw what they wanted to see – the emptiness of the Paleolithic was not on the approved list.
But as soon as the process was codified and smoothed out, of course, Operatives began to suddenly appear on the Inventory and Staff Lists; they would walk out of the emptiness and politely introduce themselves as having been on their way to help out for years. Decades. Millenia. It was how things worked with Dr. Zeus. As soon as it began to function, it always had. The Board of Directors up there in the 23rd Centuery gratefully received their first reports from the brand-new Australia Base, and ordered the recall of all the mortal workers. The mortals sighed in relief, and began returning home in droves for redactive therapy.
That first Base was intended to last a long time. Isolation was a necessity from the beginning. If you want isolation, the Northern Territory of Australia is a great place to find it. It was the new Operatives that suggested Australia Base in the first place, and produced the tidy plans to build it. They had blueprints and topo maps and weather forecasts back 100,000 years; all on the letterhead of Dr. Zeus, all brand-new print outs from printers that had not yet been installed. Loosely tethered in Time, you see, so it could be easily adjusted and maneuvered into place.
They put it more or less in the middle of Australia, within sight of Uluru that is the continent’s linchpin. Lake Amadeus, which would eventually be a salt pan and occasional rainwater lake, was fresh and sweet then – there’s water underground there, enough to provide for the fields and pastures and dormitories the Base needed.
Australia Base was all white walls and red roofs, circular walls that echoed the crater Tnorala to the east and the Henbury Craters to the south. The buildings rose up in fat, flattened domes like the rock formations of nearby Kaja Tjuta. Straight lines and right angles in nature get people’s attention, and beach rock gets converted to the work of giants and Atlanteans. But deserts are full of weird circles, that could be astroblemes or creosote bushes or sinkholes or kangeroo wallows. The Company had no intention of leaving obvious clues to their presence, but it always paid to pay attention to the details.
When it was first built, and for long ages afterwards, the Base was surrounded by artificially-maintained prairies. Rare beasts were Preserved and bred there, and little Operatives ran and played in the meadows. No straight lines of roads or fences, of course; boundaries were established with subtle auditory alarms, and drilled into the young cyborgs. The Base staff borrowed a good idea from the Aboriginal peoples, who eventually showed up, and taught their baby Operatives how to navigate through a mental hologram of their world.
Eventually, the fields and sports grounds, the swimming pools and the dormitories, were all moved underground. There had always been a vast many-levelled extension under the surface Base; there was no need to hide anything until the Europeans showed up, but no one likes to rush a move. The Aboriginals had taken the Base pretty much for granted, what they could see of it; its edges were politely blurred into the edges of the Dreaming, so as not to upset the neighbors. The more mundane structures were only hidden when the mortal population got dull and blind enough to have to notice them.
It was a safe place to store all those saved plants and preserved beasts. The works of art went to Euro 1 Base, like the prissy spinster aunt who keeps all the family’s good furniture.
But all the rescued children went to Oz.
Caveat: the foregoing is the intellectual property of Kathleen Bartholomew. http://atomic-temporary-14891989.wpcomstaging.com/ email@example.com