1 of 6 | Chapter 14

Aftershocks

 

After the November 13, the world changed drastically for several reasons. It wasn't more peaceful, just more subdued. Firstly, in a short period of time, huge losses had affected many areas and had shocked nations to the core. Secondly, nobody at all could comprehend what had happened in Excolopolis.

To invent new technology, the likes of which had never before existed, was in itself mind-blowing to most people, yet somehow acceptable. To act as a military superpower, however, opened a whole new world of meaning in the chess game of international strategy.

The force that Excolopolis had utilized had also served as a demonstration, albeit unintended, that had engendered the same fundamental reaction from world leaders.

The situation had become clearer. It was now universally understood that a radical change was emerging, with which might come an equally radical redistribution of power.

ASEC was, for the first time, playing an active global role. Economists, sociologists and political commentators had begun to speculate on the aftermath of the energy crisis and most mentioned the role of ASEC.

It had become impossible to make any real prediction on what would result from the situation, whether objective disapproval and accusations of irresponsibility were conducive to improving the situation, or praise and laudatory subjective opinions. All feelings, opinions and points of view that had come out as a result of the short and catastrophic episode had proven to be of value, and everyone was right.

The only thing that Steersman considered important was what remained after the storm had blown over. What kinds of evaluations and feelings remained. He did not over-complicate: it could be either positive or negative. If it turned out to be negative, then he would feel inclined to make changes, at least on the communications level.

As to the preparations that were in progress, he had not yielded at all, in fact, he was preparing the ultimate solution. His aim was to design a defensive military force that would keep the peace and intervene whenever it was needed, wherever it was needed, dealing with anyone or any nation that chose to violate established lines of conduct, lines that no one had the right to overstep, no matter how high up the food chain the offender was considered to be.

The question was, to what extent did Steersman have the right to do it? He could just simply do it. He was able to do it, and in most cases that was enough in the world. But did that make him better or worse than anyone else?

 

Meeting in the Antarctic

A wax sealed letter arrived at the ASEC distribution center, where mail was treated just like any other delivery that arrived.

The letter looked as if it had come straight out of the past, the envelope containing a letter on paper that might have been manufactured according some kind of ancient tradition. It felt much thicker and had rougher surfaces than modern paper. The text—also hand written in traditionally manufactured ink—was in a script that could only have been from the Far East. The seal also bore a symbol, suggesting the same.

Having been through a thorough inspection, during which it had been verified that no hazardous materials were contained within, the ASEC internal carrier set off to deliver it into the hands of the addressee: Sean Steersman.

The messenger was the youngest employee at ASEC, Little Moz, and he was only twenty years old. He was called Little Moz because of a childhood illness that had caused brain damage, permanently leaving him with the mental level of a ten-year old. He loved working at ASEC because he could go anywhere where he had business to complete with his own private minicar. He always drove slowly, especially after he was informed that consequences of him causing an accident would be the immediate confiscation of the car. Even so, it was immense fun.

There was only one place where he didn't feel good. At the top floor of the highest tower, he was always grabbed by a feeling of depression. Though Karen always treated him kindly, as did everyone in the science center, there was still something there that disturbed him.

He clutched the special letter in his hand as he drove along the corridor. It had a strange smell and was much heavier than the usual letters he delivered.

He walked into the elevator, which had only one stop. As he went up he felt his palms begin to sweat, so he changed his grip and held the letter with his fingertips. When the elevator stopped, he swallowed loudly, then set off across a wide foyer that led to a corridor at the end.

“Are you looking for Karen?” someone asked from one side.

“Yes.” He turned his head towards the voice, which was coming from the shadows of a rustic structure. The adze-shaped space didn't appear to have any function at all. It was merely for show. On the left, where the structure narrowed to a point at the back of the hallway, there was a water feature built into a large stone sculpture, and from the other side a figure was approaching from the gloom.

“She's not here right now.” The figure stepped closer. ”What have you got there?

“A letter. I need to give it to Mr Steersman personally.”

“That's me,” said the man, coming even closer. “You successfully completed your mission,” he said with a smile.

Little Moz said nothing, just stretched out his hand and gave the letter to him.

“Thank you,” said Steersman, and when Karen arrived at the elevator, Moz quickly moved to her side.

“Hey Moz. Are you okay?” Karen looked at him in surprise.

“Yeah, I'm okay, I'm just in a hurry. Lot's to do,” he stuttered quickly, as the elevator doors began to close.

“All right … bye then.”

Karen looked at Steersman. “What have you got?” Karen asked, looking at the letter.

“I don't know. This is Tibetan script,” he said, pointing at the corner of the envelope.

He broke the wax seal and unfolded the rigid page. “It's an invitation,” he said.

“Where? What for?”

“Tibet, a secret meeting with the Dalai Lama.”

“So this is the second, then,” said Karen.

“Looks like it. Obviously, other topics will be up for discussion, just like those with the commanders in chief on Saunders Island.”

“Probably. When are you leaving?”

“I was just heading off now,” he said.

“You do know, Sean, that it's a little rough and windy over there,” she said, looking at his clothing.

Steersman looked as if he was heading off the Antarctica in the same way he would pop out for lunch.

“That's is why I'm taking a scarf,” he said smiling, and pointed to his neck.

“Right! Just like that. No bodyguards?”

“They are already on board.”

“Okay, have a nice trip. How long are you staying?”

“I'll be back by morning.”

 

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CHAPTER 1 | EXCOLOPOLIS
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 15 | INITIATION
CHAPTER 16 | PREPARATION
CHAPTER 17 | DEFENSE CORPS
CHAPTER 18 | TRUTH
CHAPTER 19 | BEYOND EARTH