2 of 4 | Chapter 1

 

“Come. Let's go to the presentation room. I've already prepared the designs for you to look at.”

“Okay,” said Karen, following him through to the next room.

“Can I get you a cup of tea, Karen?” asked the assistant who was leaning on the counter with a phone earpiece hanging on one ear and, on her other side, a small projector beaming images in front of her.

“Yes, please, Helen,” Karen answered, smiling.

On the walls, projectors showed some of the blueprints, but traditional models were also set up nearby on the table, every one of them breathtaking.

To Karen, it seemed impossible to imagine the tiny models standing out there in the city, full size.

“Are these the ones?” She nodded her head towards the models.

“Yep, how do you like them?” asked Eddie.

“Truly awe-inspiring, Eddie,” Karen walked closer to the models, leaning over them so that her nose was almost touching the precisely constructed miniatures. “Tell me, how do you manage to get these structures to stay up?”

“I have no idea,” he looked at her with an almost childlike innocence.

“What do you mean you have no idea? You designed them,” she said, exasperated.

“We design them, that's true, but only Mr. Steersman has contact with the construction companies. You'd better ask them how they do it. I'm sure you'll meet them too.”

“How can it be possible, though?” Karen walked slowly around the table.

Eddie looked across the table at her, one eyebrow raised. “Well, I honestly don't know. It seems that it must be. One thing is for sure, our current work stands far above any we have done in the past. And, I have to say, we're pretty satisfied with it, too.”

“How did it all begin?”

Eddie pouted moodily, looking more like a bohemian artist than an architect. He really seemed to love his job.

“It was three years ago when Sean Steersman looked us up. We were in London at that time. We were designing the usual mundane housing estates, production line stuff, one after the other, you know.“

“I see.“

“So, we were given an offer.”

Karen smiled. The offer. That's where it usually began.

“And what happened next?” she asked, sitting down.

“The job was to design an entire city business district. At first, I thought it was just a practical joke: you know, ex-university classmates playing a trick on me or something. Last week, I saw a program on TV, where …”

“Yes, but when did it all become a reality?” Karen cut in.

Eddie blinked. “Oh yeah, well, it was when—about thirty minutes later—he put a four billion euro check in front me. He didn't say another word about the job. He just told me where he'd bought a 'plot' of land, and then he told us to start moving in as soon as we could because we would be working at the site.”

“Really?” Karen registered her surprise.

“Yes, we arrived at a complete wilderness. The soil was superb, but nothing special apart from that. The next day new companies started arriving. It looked like a huge rock festival in the middle of nowhere.”

“Jesus!”

Eddie nodded. “Yeah … but it was when the roads and highways were laid down in one night that everyone started to take the whole thing seriously. That's when we all got that it wasn't some kind of scam.”

“It happened overnight?”

“Yep. It was a massive joint effort. Loads companies were brought together with enormous stocks of assets and personnel. No one had seen anything like it, not before or since. There was no stopping it and it looks like there never will.”

“And what did he say about the work?” she asked.

“Oh yeah, the work. Well, we had to design office buildings. We'd already started the visualizations and mock-ups, but even our most daring designs had to be binned. Mr. Steersman said they were all centuries behind the times. Then we asked him for more detail about his concepts and ideas, and all he said to us was: ‘design a building as if it was a quarter of its weight’,” Eddie paused.

“What?” Karen looked a little confused.

“Yep, we looked like that too when he first said it. He said that we should think outside the box and create designs as if we had a site with a quarter of the normal force of gravity.”

“And what did you guys say?”

“At first, we didn't know where to start. We had no idea what it was all leading to. Finally, we got Gore; he's like the god of the creative design world. We got him contracted to us. He's a sort of freelancer, but he's left his mark on pretty much every industry where futuristic visions with no limits were the aim. When we showed his sketches to Mr. Steersman, we were given permission to start designing immediately.” Eddie breathed out.

“Amazing story,” said Karen, waiting for him to go on.

“Indeed, it is. Even Gore couldn't believe that any of it was feasible. Believe me, the guy has a really weird mind, like there are almost no limits to his imagination. So, now you get the idea of how much we were floundering about in dark. But, we designed it and handed over the plans.”

“And?”

“And it was built. Within two friggin weeks … sorry.”

“It's okay.” Karen smiled.

“I still vividly recall the amazement I felt when we stood there looking at it, and couldn't believe that it was even standing, even though it was us who designed it. We all felt miserably small standing at the base of that first, impossible tower. It's the TriasLabs building, the first one built in this city.”

“Yes, I know,” said Karen, “but you really don't know anything about how it was possible to build them?”

Eddie shrugged. “Well, we don't know the details. We only know that Mr. Steersman has a construction company called Karelson Brothers. They put the buildings up, but how do they do it I really haven't the slightest idea. Whenever they had any questions they just called me, clarified the problem, and that was it. Ask them. You'll need to talk to them about the new plans anyway.”

“Okay. I guess I'm going to see them soon,” Karen said, and then abruptly changed the subject “So, talk me through the new buildings.”

Eddie shrugged, then moved back to the models and began the tour.

*

A couple of hours later, having been over the most salient and pressing issues, Karen left Diligent Structures. She was still processing all that she had heard. In less than eighteen months, eighty-five of these towers had been constructed at an incredible pace. She still could not get her head around how it had been possible. She decided to do some more digging and get to the bottom of it all. She had to find out more about what was going on, what made it all so strange.

She felt a wave of excitement at the thought and unintentionally stepped on the accelerator. It did not matter, though. No one cared if anyone broke the speed limit in Excolopolis. The roads were plenty wide enough as if they had been designed for urban racing.

Karen met Robinson Karelson, the elderly founder of Karelson Bros at the site of two new high-rise buildings. The construction workers usually commuted in pickup trucks that were always covered in dirt and dust, and as always, Robinson turned up for the meeting in his own specially tuned offroader.

 

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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