Science fantasy worldbuilding in Phoenix 5: Exotic technology

Exotic Technology

Putting it all together

Let’s put all these ideas back together to see how our cosmic technology is revealed. Here’s the original snippet:

It was a thick black disc, blacker than black, like a chunk of outer space. It was made from some kind of metal that looked like it had fallen from the sky. It felt cool to the touch, and though it was as big as both his hands cupped together, it was very comfortable to hold.

There were no words on it. But around its circumference were faint markings, intricate patterns. Twelve symbols, like a long-forgotten alphabet, carved into the black.

He couldn’t take his eyes off them. He didn’t recognize them, but just looking at them made his skin tingle. They looked ancient. They looked mystical. They looked almost alive.

And within this circle of symbols lay other, smaller circles. A series of dials, like wheels within wheels, tracing elegant arcs and crescents, describing a geometry as precise as it was mysterious.

PhoenixS.F. SaidSource

And here are the examples:

It looked like a formless lump, wobbling in front Biff like an alien dessert. It was like a jelly he might have served in the cafeteria, but with a high-tech core which pulsed lights and emitted a dull mechanical throb. It even felt gelatinous when Biff picked it up; firm enough to stay together, but slimy enough that he worried it might slip from his grasp.

There seemed to be no buttons, levers, dials, switches, handles, or triggers. But the lights, and sounds, the sense of it, said ‘machine’ to Biff. Seven lights pulsed at regular intervals through the goo, like a secret code, each one coinciding with a barely audible tone.

He looked at it closely, trying to keep a grip as he turned it around in his hands. It felt weird and he didn’t understand it at all, but Biff was fascinated. It was strange. It was alien. It was the coolest thing he’d ever seen.

Then it made a noise at him. A distinct set of bleeps and boops, like it was starting a conversation, almost childish sounding, but with textures and layers in the sound that were as strange as distant stars.

It was a cloak of shimmering particles, radiant and soft, like a cloud of tiny jewels. Each particle was a nanobot, invisible to the eye and too tiny to touch. It felt strangely soft, and although it was basically a gas, it draped around her like cotton.

There were no sleeves or openings of any sort. Vijay found the cloak simply responded to the way she handled it. When she pushed an arm through the cloud, a sleeve formed around it. She could grip it enough to pull it around her shoulders, stretch it this way or that, it was like a kind of gaseous clay, forming a moulded piece of clothing.

She turned and twisted her body. The cloak clung to her in a way that was comfortable and flexible, not at all shapeless like she’d been expecting. She felt stunning. She felt confident. She felt like she would turn heads at any part in the galaxy.

As Vijay settled in, she noticed rectangular bands appear at each of her wrists. They were touchbars, like tiny landing strips, subtly illuminated but perfectly straight, impossible in any ordinary gas.

The machine the humans left behind was within a large translucent box fixed firmly to the ground. Like all human devices, it seemed like it wasn't grown; it was made from substances either inorganic or not-of-the-sea. It felt as smooth as a worn stone but not curved like one, with unnaturally straight edges and sides. Distinctly alien, Jola thought.

There were no nodules similar to amphib tech but, deep within, she saw what she assumed were readouts and graphics on a straight, four-sided screen. Ten glyphs in the human’s language seemed to feature on the screen, changing at regular intervals.

Jola was horrified by it. Nothing about it seemed natural and it made her flesh creep. Everything about it was wrong. It had no place here. And, if the humans had delivered it, it was most likely dangerous.

Watching the glyphs in the readout, she realised they were following a pattern. The chain was getting shorter, like a sea-worm dropping tail segments, shrinking from left to right, making Jola feel strangely afraid of time.

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