1 of 4 | Chapter 1

Excolopolis

 

Never in her entire life had Karen worked for someone as enigmatic as her current boss had proved to be. Thanks to her innate intelligence she had never felt lost, and her intuitive ability to know people's inner nature had often helped her to get on in her career, but now these abilities somehow seemed completely useless. She had supervised R&D programs for the best tech companies in the world, which meant that she always had to be at the top of her game, so she was somewhat piqued to find that it was only this one person who caused her to feel uncertainty.

She had met him in Tokyo half a year earlier.

It was mid-July 2075, the summer overloaded the senses, even in the capital. It was lunchtime and she was sitting on a park bench near the bay shore thoughtfully eating a salmon nigirizushi, one of her favorite lunches, when out of the blue a man appeared in front of her.

He was above average height, slim and had fairly regular features, but it was all overshadowed by rather piercing gray eyes.

He introduced himself tersely and quickly made her an offer the likes of which she had never heard of in her entire career.

“Hello, Karen! My name is Sean Steersman. You may have heard of me in connection with the Excolopolis project.”

Startled, Karen nodded almost imperceptibly and the man continued.

“If, till now, you thought you were working on the cutting edge, you are badly mistaken,” he informed her bluntly. “I have a much better proposition for you if you are interested.”

Karen chewed slowly and stared back at him blankly for a moment wondering what to do. She swallowed the partly chewed mouthful with some difficulty and managed to ask somewhat thickly. “Namely?”

Karen had always followed global tech innovations closely, and one of them was the Excolopolis project: a truly remarkable city construction plan that was primarily characterized by the huge amount of weird stuff it was to contain, not only in the scientific sense.

Steersman gave a rough outline of his plans right there on the park bench, then they met a couple of times after that first meeting to discuss it further, but she was immediately struck by the man's bizarre personality. She could not decide whether he was just a brilliant businessman, or some kind of mad, unrecognized genius. Eventually, Steersman had to leave Japan, but before he left he told Karen that if she took the offer, she could name her price.

And she did.

 

The city

Karen had accepted the offer two months before, and since then, she had been working in Excolopolis. She had only one responsibility: managing the city's urban planning program. The only part of the job she really had trouble being enthusiastic about were the issues with local building authorities. As it turned out, however, she had no need to deal with them as the city was situated on a 200 square kilometer block of private land that Sean Steersman had so unprecedentedly bought from one of the member states of the United Nations of Europe. The land came with some rather unusual privileges. It did not count as a separate state, neither was it private property. It was a sort of modern province within the territory of the UNE.

As things stood, though, it was not the grandiose mission that her imagination had led her to believe. On the one hand, she now knew all of those to whom she could turn for advice and so was able to sort out any standard issues that arose. On the other hand, every authority, construction company and teams of specialists treated her every request as if it was their only goal in life.

*

The streets were virtually empty as she drove through the town. On all sides, monstrous creations appeared each week, a remarkable feat from a high-tech construction perspective. The speed at which buildings sprouted up across the city was remarkable even for a place where huge quantities of money lay.

“Oh, my! They're not even skyscrapers!” She exclaimed to herself as she looked out through the windshield. Despite their gigantic size, they appeared to be quite weightless. Standing next to each other, they projected a rather bizarre, unearthly quality, alien structures standing on supports that looked like arms and legs. With their lithe, stunning bodies, they looked almost alive or, at least, as if they were about to come to life, stand up and walk away. Thus, the city quickly gained renown so quickly that even before the first building approval was issued, people from all over the world were talking about a revolution within the construction industry.

The attention never waned, not to mention the furor that surrounded the person who had created and funded it all. In fact, the attention was still more remarkable for the skepticism held by many of the world's biggest scientific authorities who considered what was happening here to be a physical impossibility. However, the success of city went far beyond being just an architectural masterpiece. Something else was happening behind the scenes. It seemed as if Excolopolis was being deliberately pushed as a gathering point for all leading scientific research companies. For Karen, this was the main reason for coming here: to become familiar with these companies. Steersman lobbied amongst these companies with hundreds of billions of dollar worth of capital, convincing them to move their research facilities to Excolopolis. Nobody knew how he did it, what sweet talk he used, but those he had visited so far had all come. It was frightening, Karen had many times thought to herself.

And now, as the large majority of technology giants dominated space in the tower blocks that were offered to them, the hunt for smaller research companies began. Karen knew that beyond the tower edifices, each company employee received a house or an apartment that was well above the average standard they could have expected. There were of course differences in size and level of luxury, but the move was well worth it for everyone involved. Karen constantly dwelled on the power of influence Steersman had.

She arranged a meeting at the Diligent Structures offices with chief architect, Eddie Malory. His company had designed all of the towers in Excolopolis and that was all they had done for ages, as they had not had time to accept work anywhere else. The company worked in a traditional, yet extraordinary light building that had been entirely dedicated to them. A large hall led to the inner sanctum; an airy, sunlit workspace designed to stimulate cutting-edge creativity.

“Hi, Eddie,” Karen greeted the architect, who was standing with his back to her.

“Karen!” He turned suddenly and moved to shake hands with his principal client's number one assistant. He enjoyed working with Karen—much more than working with Steersman whose blunt attitude and incredibly high expectations tended to be rather oppressive.

 

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CHAPTER 2 | MACHINES
CHAPTER 3 | A NEW TECHNOLOGY
CHAPTER 4 | ATTACK
CHAPTER 5 | THE SOURCE
CHAPTER 6 | THE SCIENCE CENTER
CHAPTER 7 | UNIVERSITY CITY
CHAPTER 8 | GLIDECRAFT
CHAPTER 9 | SECTOR TWO
CHAPTER 10 | THEY KNOW WE ARE HERE
CHAPTER 11 | GRAVITOR
CHAPTER 12 | INSTALLATION
CHAPTER 13 | ENERGY WAR
CHAPTER 14 | AFTERSHOCKS
CHAPTER 15 | INITIATION
CHAPTER 16 | PREPARATION
CHAPTER 17 | DEFENSE CORPS
CHAPTER 18 | TRUTH
CHAPTER 19 | BEYOND EARTH