|Probably my best map so far.|
As the Cold War continued to broil, the expectation that the world might atomize into oblivion became an ever more pressing concern for national governments and the subservient scientific community. Bunkers were well and good, but unreliable and didn’t assure Humanity’s long-term survival. Interplanetary or interstellar colonization was too expensive and impractical though some powers with the capital to spend, as the United States, would have limited success in establishing cislunar and Martian colonies .
It was clear that an escape was necessary from the nuclear apocalypse that could edge over at any moment, and one British-Japanese team proposed meeting this demand via interdimensional travel. Whilst initially a laughing stock, the British Government was not one to waste an opportunity and funnelled millions of pounds into the project, dubbed HEFENFELTH. It bore results as well, with the development of industrial-scale magnetic monopoles enabling the disruption of regular particle fields and the effective creation of cosmic inflationary bubbles, in turn producing pocket universes .
It was impossible to artificially cultivate or demand what lay inside these pockets and of over 3000 produced 96.4% were vacuous and quickly decayed. Of the remaining 111, 98 were stable in the long term but either only contained subatomic particles and primordial nuclides -and as such were hostile to Human habitation-, or possessed physics that rendered them inappreciable or fatal to Human existence. That left 13 pocket universes, just over half of which were impractical by virtue of where the ‘windows’ into these universes existed; one on a planet three times the mass of Earth and so under duress of extreme gravity, another in an atmosphere composed predominantly of chlorine gas, and yet another with physics that seemed comprehensible but had a tendency of driving expeditionary teams into fits of gibbering madness on account of the extreme Synesthesia it produced in them. But 6 were liveable, and one of these was dubbed ‘Firmament’.
It was a scenic world; an archipelago of great cordillera, deep fjords and forested valleys suspended above a cloud-like effluvium thick enough to jog across. There didn’t seem to be a time cycle, but a single vibrant blue sun perpetually resting in the pink sky directly above the island chain. The ‘oceans’ of clouds further afield were thinner and given to dissipating beneath the feet of those that trekked upon them -as one poor pioneer learned when he disappeared below the mist- and yet they teemed with life; gaseous airbags wheezing aloft the clouds like jellyfish and winged fish diving in and out of the waves, huge whale-like creatures breaching the surface and spattering the effluvium (later known as aether) across the shores and expeditionary force. And upon the cliffs enormous sloth things crawled and slept and larger, land-ridden versions of the aether-jellyfish rested upon the valleys and tended to their young. It was like something from a dream .
The British government, satisfied at face value with this exceptional pocket universe immediately undertook a process of colonization, sending over a period of a decade and in the utmost secrecy 200,000 of the healthiest and most genetically diverse individuals they could procure as well as the families of the scientists involved in the discovery of the Firmament. The ‘Land Jellies’ were domesticated, valleys cleared for settlement, and the effluvial deltas and oceans tamed with liberal construction of dirigibles and hovercraft.
In retrospect they should have been more thorough.
As expected, in the early 1970s the world was quite suddenly aflame with nuclear fire as tensions between East and West evolved into a brief shooting war and then a nuclear one. Tens of thousands of nuclear warheads were launched in all directions and the British Isles were reduced to rubble, along with the monopolar generator that allowed easy access to the Firmament. The 220,000 British, Japanese and Commonwealth citizens in this strange world were alone. Or so they thought.
Travelling further afield, across the more extreme examples of the jagged shores and steep mountaintops, pathfinders couldn’t help but duly note the glittering fields of lights on the large island to the west of the archipelago proper. What could it be? The indigenous inhabitants of this island? Some kind of perpetual forest fire in an already strange land? Some industrial centre the government hadn’t informed them of?
As it turned out, it was the fucking French.
Although the British-Japanese were aghast and shocked to find 100,000 Frenchmen (and about 30,000 immigrants of various other national stripes) casually camped out on the western edge of ‘their’ Firmament, the French themselves were remarkably relaxed and were actually well aware of the British. Much historically appropriate admonishing and slandering ensued. Incapable of ousting them as the French generator was also destroyed, negotiations and dialogue were opened, and the two groups settled into a tense status quo.
The British settled all across the northern head of the archipelago under the purview of a hastily constructed military government, though experienced many breakaways as a result of that same government who travelled up into the far reaches of the alluvial plano that framed the land to set up small anarchic paradises, and which came to be home to many Irish and Canadian homesteaders.
The multiculturalism-averse Japanese bled away almost in their entirety, setting up shop at the southern cape of the primary landmass. Their attempts to recreate Japan would not meet with much success as Dutch, French and Arab immigrants poured into their high-tech society, liquidating the Japanese majority into a slim plurality nearly overnight.
The French claimed their entire island, and in turn settled across the western coast of the archipelago, setting up vineyards, communal farms, rural municipalities and port towns against the sheer backdrop of the spinal Massif that ran the length of the region; feeling wealthy atop this cloud layer, they would in later generations establish the Republic of Ciel d’L’argent to commemorate this fact. However, their unwillingness to accommodate their many European and African citizens would see them migrate inland, across the Massif and into the Central Fjords to set up many small city-states, havens and ideological oligarchies.
Having learned from their initial tribulations with the libertarians above them, the British (later ‘Hefenish’ as they conceded they would never see the motherland again) were given to federal governorships to dispel any separatism, allowing them to amass the greatest extent of land and later expand to the southernmost archipelago of Súþecg to exploit its apparent mineral wealth, something severely lacking across the Firmament (though it was later proven after extensive mining that the islands ran far deeper than they were wide or tall, leading some geologists to posit that they might actually be sitting upon the peak of some bizarre mountaintop above the cloud layer, rather like Venus). A rather brutish administration and too much Orwellian literature brought through the generator meant that a rabble of disaffected labourers would overthrow Hefenish control in Súþecg’s south to establish a nationalistic, xenophobic and communistic regime. In modern times they’re isolated, but get by trading with the socialistic L’argais and indifferent Klooflanders.
A century later, life goes on; the Hefenish are a corrupt, despotic oligarchy and no state is truly democratic. Numbers have swelled to perhaps six million, but the archipelago is full of violence and conflict as no one has ready access to the sorts of technology that might dissuade conflict; nuclear weapons or even armour vehicles. The Hefenish are trying and failing to suppress the Súþecgi and save their southern colonies; while much intrigue consumes the Kloof; the ideologically indifferent Bank of Vernon bankrolls adventurers, expeditions and coups abroad; Nihonese sailors and L’argais fishermen skim the tired churn of the aether; and ever so slowly they all bore down to try and figure out where they are and what it means .
 – A hint at things to come.
 – Kinda bullshitting how the bubbles are developed, though the science of inflationary bubbles creating pocket universes is based in a real theory by Alan Guth.
 – Quite literally.
 – Ciel d’L’argent was a name I made up a long time ago for an old story that never ended up going anywhere, and I wanted to use it for something.
 – This was not my first version of this description, but I lost the original and can’t find it so I dug up this older text from when I first made the map and edited it accordingly.