1879: The Shivers

From the Fort Alice sourcebook, forthcoming

The tidal forces acting upon the Grosvenor World surpass those of Earth by a factor that has yet to be calculated. Between the other two moons, and the gas giant about which the Gruv and its companions orbit, the stresses create a level of tectonic instability that has convinced most geologists to visit safer locales, such as the upper slopes of Mount Etna. Interestingly, though, the world appears to be a bit more plastic than one would think a ball of rock large enough to live on would be. Instead of cataclysms, volcanoes, whole continents randomly upending themselves, the Gruv suffers from The Shivers.

Every other day or so, there’s a small quake somewhere nearby, regardless of where one happens to be. Doors and windows rattle, dishes not properly secured in a cabinet may be broken, loose objects left on an upper shelf end up on the floor. Anyone who has been in the Gruv for more than a few weeks knows better than to leave their possessions unsecured. It’s rather like living aboard a ship. The older hands, those who have been in the Gruv six months or more, barely even notice the Shivers.

It’s when they stop that they get noticed. Conspicuous by their absence, the lack of Shivers for a few days gets people worried. The tension in the faultlines normally relieves itself as quickly as it builds. If something gets stuck, though, all those little Shivers that should have happened add up to one big shake. Picnics become more popular than lunch indoors. Water jugs get topped up, and emergency supply caches checked. Nobody wants the room on the inn’s second floor.

When the big shake comes, it’s almost a relief. Not only is the tension in the ground released, but that in the people living on its surface as well. Oh, sure, a house or two might get knocked down, a bridge collapsed, rails off their beds, but all that can be fixed, and probably should have been put together better in the first place. After a couple of years of Earther colonization, people have gotten a pretty good idea of how to build for a world that gets the Shivers every so often.

Still, it does make it easier to spot the new arrivals. They’re the ones that notice every little tremor, and don’t understand why the bookshelves have netting drawn across them.