2 of 6 | Chapter 12


On that Tuesday, the storm beat furiously at Steersman's passenger plane, the Condor as it emerged from sector two. Air guards flew close behind, but they were barely visible in the torrential rain. His personal guards stood close by, and the rest of the guard units were spread out in amongst the other machines.

Because they could fly in any conditions, they could travel at incredibly low or high altitudes, where no conventional plane could fly.

At an altitude of forty thousand meters, they went almost unnoticed among the drone weather balloons that floated, broadcasting weather information back to Earth. The Condor had been also tested at an altitude of 80,000 meters, but any higher had proved infeasible because the anti-gravitational force weakened as altitude increased, and another twenty kilometers would have meant that they were in space.

From this height, storm clouds could be seen coming in from the west, where the sky had been becoming clear.

“This short journey can tell us a lot about how the new systems are behaving,” said Steersman, moving over to stand next to Trenerry.

Trenerry did not respond. He was trying to maintain his balance.

“The ground is a bit uncertain,” he said.

“Yeah, it's a little like we're standing on floating ice,” added Hofferstein.

“At this altitude, the force of gravity is much weaker which makes adhesion lower. The ship isn't falling so there's no feeling of weightlessness, but we do notice the slightest changes in lateral movement under our feet, therefore, we feel as if we're sliding,” explained Gibbs.

“At this altitude, the auxiliary drives help us to stay on track,” said Steersman.

“So, can't this technology be used for interplanetary travel?” asked Martins. The astrophysicist had tagged along with the team to gain experience.

“No. It's only capable of movement in a strong gravitational area. Paradoxically, the stronger the gravity, the less energy it needs to operate.”

“It would be useful to be able to journey to more distant places,” observed Martins.

“The time will come for that also,” said Steersman.

The others looked at the astrophysicist, their expressions revealing that they didn't quite follow the context of his remark.

Shortly after entering Belgian territory, they arrived in Brussels, the capital city of the UNE. They began the vertical descent over the Capitol at rate only slightly less than an all-out free-fall.

Below them, the irregular city texture slowly unfolded the streets and buildings, emerging from the distant blur in more and more detail. Just under the aircraft stood a white building surrounded by a myriad of red-backed air-borne defense SRT units. They had secured the area in advance. The dome of the Capitolium seemed to rush dangerously up towards them as the craft descended. Groups of people began to appear in front of the main door and in the grassy park in which the building stood, all staring upwards. Although the ship slowed considerably as it approached the ground, some felt it safer to retreat as the giant craft drew closer.

But the ship did not land on the ground, it came to a stop just above the roof of the Capitol building, where helipads were built. Steersman exited the craft in the company of Gibbs and Trenerry, who were followed by a handful of security units. Above them, in the bright sky, a few of the SRT units maintained reconnaissance formation.

There was no delegation to meet them. Just a few elegantly dressed civil servants were there to show them to the internal elevators as soon as they had disembarked from the Condor. More security gates led the way to the meeting room, but these were now ignored. Steersman was aware that the forty federal states senators and representatives were waiting for them, but as they entered the oval state room they could see that it was filled with far more politicians than expected.

Steersman's team was led to a section marked ‘reserved’, where they took their seats while robot guards remained in the background. Indignation at such an affront to protocol was plainly visible on the faces of some of the politicians.

The fourth president of the UNE, William Doyle, began to speak.

“Today, I would like to welcome a civilian—of whom we have all heard much—to join us in this unprecedented event that has been rendered essential in light of the current extreme crisis. Welcome Mr Sean Steersman. The purpose of today's special session is to address the fact that yesterday the biggest energy supplier, the Energy Alliance of the Middle East made announcements, citing breach of contract; and they immediately ordered the shutdown of natural gas deliveries to European territories. Yesterday evening, the pressure in the supply pipes was close to zero.

Their primary condition was that the Gravitor installed in Athens must not be used for the duration of the contract. In other words, it must be put out of use for twenty-five years!” The president took a deep breath. “I would ask the senator and representatives to speak according to the rules of the house and state your position on this issue,” he concluded.

Greek Senator Gus Xanthopoulos spoke first as the official with the closest ties to the problem at hand. A few years before, after a presidential proposal, it was voted that official greetings be abolished in times of crisis which meant that the speaker did not have to separately welcome everyone in the House, and was allowed to cut straight to the chase.

“At seventy-eight years of age, I still feel so much determination and am willing to pay the price of introducing a revolutionary technology that offers us the opportunity for clean, cheap and abundant energy. This has always been, if I'm not very much mistaken, the dream of modern man. Now that we have the technology available, the fact that I have to choose whether to keep it or decline it because of vile threats to our nations is a welcome dilemma in spite of the possible arguments and counter arguments,” finished the Greek senator.

“I am in sympathy with this revolutionary innovation, and in my opinion, we should be more focused on how to maintain the use of this technology, and on how to avoid the disadvantages we may suffer as a result of standing alongside our Greek friends,” replied the lady senator from Italy.

“This comes with a great deal of risk. One point one billion people will be affected, no matter what we decide. We cannot take up the shining role of technological revolutionaries! We are not scientists! Our responsibility is to the people and protecting them. I propose that we temporarily suspend the operation of the power plant and normalize relations with the supplier,” argued the Polish representative.

The senator for Germany stood. “Unfortunately, I have to agree on this point. It may be possible that we are willing to make sacrifices in order to gain a better future result, but we can not expect the same from the rest of the population. The elderly, or mothers with children cannot be expected to understand the situation while they have no hot water or heating in their homes.”

“Here here,” called out a few voices from around the room.

A rumbling murmur broke out as people began to discuss the issue, and it disrupted proceedings for a few moments. The president was also speaking to his advisers briefly until the house speaker called the meeting to order.

“How much do you have in gas reserves?” Steersman interjected suddenly.

William Doyle looked at Steersman, and the house went silent.

“We have enough reserves, at the moment, to last for a period of up to four months at the current rate of consumption,” said the Hungarian senator.

“Which will last till about Christmas,” added the Austrian senator.

“I have a suggestion,” said Steersman.



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