3 of 4 | Chapter 1

 

“Hello, Karen,” he said, showing her his dirty hands. “I'd better not shake your hand.”

“Hello Rob,” answered Karen. It was somehow impossible for her to call him Robinson. His name always reminded her of one of her favorite books. Looking at his hands she smiled. “I see you started the day rather early,” she observed.

“Yes. We've started landscaping work in the Orchid Hills residential area as the number of building projects has decreased. Yesterday's rain didn't do us any favors either,” he said wryly.

“Yes, I can see that,” Karen said and turned towards the back of the car.

“Well, what have you got for us, Karen? What creature of mad genius will we build this time?” The big man burst into a loud laugh.

The weak morning sun gave his deeply furrowed face a bronze tinge.

Just like a rodeo man, the thought jumped unbidden into Karen's mind.

“Eddie Malory's office finished plans for these two plots. I'm pretty sure nothing can surprise you anymore, but this might come as a shock.” Karen was winding him up.

“The suspense is killing me,” said Rob, with a grin.

Karen lifted the models from the back seat of her car and put them on the bonnet. Each model was about fifty centimeters high. The two models looked fairly similar, complementing each other, yet maintaining the flow and look of the business district's design concept. There were none of the usual horizontal and perpendicular surfaces and the colors were determined by the building materials being used.

“So … here we go then.” Karen looked up at Rob, trying to gauge his reaction.

“Heavens above! What on Earth are these tentacle things supposed to be?!”

“Well, these contain small wind turbines that supply the building with electricity,” said Karen, repeating what Eddie had told her earlier.

Rob nodded. “Ah, I see. They couldn't have made it a little less complicated for us, could they?” he teased.

“You have to admit, they'll have a pretty impressive impact standing alongside the rest, won't they?” Karen pointed to the city behind her.

“Yep! Just like a comic book metropolis,” said Rob.

Karen stood silent for a moment and then decided she could not wait any longer, she had to ask. “Rob, tell me … how did it all start? How did you get this job?”

“How did we get the job?” he asked back, surprised. “I tell ya, it feels like a thousand years since Mr. Steersman found us in South Africa. Back then, huge construction projects were being carried out. Rich European, Chinese and American companies were moving in, pumping billions into the real estate market. It was hell to watch the sorts of changes that were happening to the environment. But as you know, beggars can't be choosers.” He paused for a moment.

“What happened?” Karen asked softly.

“Well … Mr. Steersman caught up with us one day. We were just having a drink with some of the members of a tribe whose land had been sold to one of the consortiums. So, he came up to me and said that he had a proposition for us, providing we'd had enough of that sort of job. That evening he told us briefly what the story was. He convinced me, in a few minutes or so, that if we did what he asked we'd never need to chase after any job, ever again. So, at the end of that day, we left everything in that hell hole and came here. I didn't even care about contract penalties we had to pay, as long as I was out of there.”

“And what'd you find when you arrived here?” Karen asked.

“Desert!” Rob chuckled. “But the roads were laid down in the business quarter one night. I have no idea what technology they used, but by morning, we were able to use the whole street network right away.”

“Yeah, I heard about that.”

Rob continued, “After a couple of months we received preliminary plans for the very first building. That one, over there!” He pointed in the direction of the TriasLabs tower. “When we saw the plan, the first thing that came into our heads was that we'd been conned, that some weirdo was playing some sort of stupid joke on us.”

“I don't wonder,” said Karen, nodding.

“We talked with Mr. Steersman … talked about things again and again. Sometimes we could hardly believe what we were hearing. As it turned out, the buildings didn't need as much building material as they'd normally need, so their body weight was reduced by a good seventy to eighty percent.”

“And what did you say?” Karen asked.

“I told him it was impossible to build structures as big as these ones like thatbuildings were built the way they were for a good reason. Then I said even if they were lighter, on these string legs, they'd still have no chance of standing. I was sure they'd collapse like big fat clowns in a circus,” Rob looked at Karen.

“What was his reaction to that?”

“He said not to worry. All I had to do was begin the work. Then he pointed out some parts of the building, parts that were pretty much a mystery to us, where we were required to stop working. Those areas were all engineered by another company.”

“What parts?” she asked, becoming more and more intrigued.

“See? Those ones,” he pointed to the spherical sections of the existing buildings. Up till now, Karen had not paid any attention to them. Now, as she looked out over the city, she noticed more and more of them. Indeed, they were on all of the buildings. On the plans, however, the points existed, but the spheres were missing as if someone was secretly altering the plans.

Karen turned back to face him. “What are they?”

Rob shrugged. “I dunno,” he replied. “It is not our job to fit them. One thing is for sure, though: they make it possible for these buildings to be constructed. They might be some kind of weight support system, but how they work I really don't know.”

“Who built them?”

“That's Mr. Steersman's business. The thing is they are fitted at night, and by the following day, we can carry on with our work.”

“That's weird,” said Karen, thoughtfully shook her head.

Robinson nodded, agreeing. “At first, it was weird for us too, but we don't ask questions anymore.”

“I bet you don't,” said Karen, frowning slightly. “Okay Rob, thanks. I don't wish to hold you up any longer than necessary. Let's quickly go over the main issues, then I'll leave you to your work.”

“You don't hold me up at all, Karen. It's a pleasure to work with you, you know that,” he smiled at her mockingly.

“Oh, shut up,” said Karen, returning the smile.

*

A mayor was chosen for the city, or in other words, a mayor was neededalong with the requisite law enforcement and emergency servicesso that Excolopolis could be classified as a city.

Karen found the mayor in the best of good moods. He was the kind of man who felt great, even in the worst possible situations, felt great and went into action when all others backed off. He was not one of those fat, sweaty types who were only focused on their own interests and who did not care about the interests of the public.

 

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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