It is 5881AD and the Empire's original republic is limping toward military domination. Many of the Empire's citizens are fleeing the turmoil to remote locations such as the wilds of the vast Ydlontrostl basin on the Empire's poorest and most primitive planet. The attraction is an artificial modification to the human psyche called the Instinct which prevents any human being from doing violence to another. There are others from the Empire who come to prey on them. They can do so because one can do violence when there is an antidote to the Instinct. To one with the antidote the remainder of the population is helpless.
What form does romance take when the participants are each over 500 earth years old? Surely they won't feel the desperation of young ephemerals who know they really only have one chance at a life partnership. Can they still feel anything at all? Will the careers they have held for centuries get in the way? Will they be too set in their ways to adapt to another person?
Dyoniss is an investigator trying to track down a furball coil that disappeared en-route to the Empire colony in the west. Kessil is a maintenance engineer trying to figure out why gaskets are failing on package sorters all over the Ydlontrostl cities. Their budding love affair is thrown into chaos when his father is accused of smuggling large quantities of the antidote and dead bodies begin appearing close to home.
“No my friend, Karasis does not deny me wealth, he denies me harming others to get that wealth,” Shingharm said as they glided into a quiet opening in the lon. He would not have this garden float if he weren’t a man of wealth. They were out among the lon over five miles from the center of Vnassvuur, which was a tight knot of archwood towers in the grey distance.
“And you believe you have gained this wealth by harming no one?” Starkey asked.
“Are you going to accuse me of harming my crews because I allow them a little yaag?” He’d already noticed that Centorin ways were strong with Starkey, sometimes they surprised him. Centorins were colored by their lack of the Instinct, they were aggressive and dominating. With the collapse of their Republic after the Mechanoid Wars, their planet had lost its place as the Empire’s capital. The new Emperor’s location was formally unknown, but most people knew it was on one of the death stars.
“You never had to strong-arm a supplier, you never hurt a competitor?”
“Karasis allows us to compete in business as long as it’s fairly. If one of my competitors wants to spend money from a contract that was not yet won, I can offer condolences, but not culpability.”
Starkey looked around. Centorins were often avid sport fishermen and this was the closest good spot to town. It had taken almost an hour to get out here from his place, which was a two acre estate on a quiet bayou of the Tveidor River less than two miles from the heart of the city. Of course Starkey had to brag of bigger boats farther out on deeper water on Centorin, but Shingharm let it pass. He’d like to see him take that sport fishing boat of his out on the Tuidain, but no doubt he knew better already, he had been in this basin two centuries now. It does not serve the greater good to compete with a braggart. This pond and bighead ensal were all he had to offer. The Tuidain was another day on the tubes to the east. This pond was the beginning of fifty miles of lon that reached upstream, making the river miles wide but only a few feet deep. There were numerous islands, many with lon pickers camps, now grown into fanciful homes with lacy woodwork and long fronds. There were a few about in their flatboats as dusk approached.
“You say the best fishing here is at dusk?” Starkey asked. His tales were of mid day and bright sun on the southern Altaic ocean of Centorin.
“Yes,” Shingharm told him. He knew that sooner or later their conversation of yesterday would come up. He knew Starkey was watching him for any sign that he’d lied. He probably hadn’t found it in talk of his religion. Karasis was diligent at staying free of lies. Shingharm was confident in his faith, that there is an entity made up of human beings, as human beings are made up of cells. This greater entity may be called a civilization, a belief system, a hive mind, or whatever one likes. He knew it was real and knew that there was a system of pheromones and other ques in the subconscious mind that were the mechanism that united society into that greater entity. His people called it Karasis, and they treasured it and called it holy. He might also believe in the Elvish god of Mother Nature, or Mother Earth, but they were larger aggregates made up of more than just we human beings.