1 of 6 | Chapter 16

Preparation

 

That winter, whether Europeans wanted it or not, their entire energy supply had to be completely reorganized right across the continent. There was no other choice. The half of Europe's population that was mostly effected by the changes was also the half that most realized it had to happen.

Gravitor plants formed a network across the entire region, and easily supplied enough power to cover all energy requirements. However, machinery that ran on natural gas was virtually doomed to a slow death, but for the time being Gravitors provided free electricity and that—along with additional financial aid—made the transition less painful than might have been expected.

The Middle East Energy Alliance was finished. The Alliance not only had to account for reprisals from its enemies, but also had to deal with their own allies turning against them. Pipelines were ripped out of the ground and pumping stations destroyed as mobs wreaked militant revenge in countries that had suffered the heaviest losses. Wherever the Alliance might have expanded its markets, there was a general lack of ready capital, and without a market the Alliance had no chance of survival. In the meantime ASEC was flooded with orders to install and commission new power plants, most of which came from the Russian Federation, Australia, Brazil and North America.

After the completion of the three side tower building in the science center, sales and logistics of each item designated for serial production was eventually delivered to the commercial center in Tower A.

The ordering process was fairly simple and virtually anyone could do it. Laboratories, industrial giants, small companies, and even individuals could order anything from ASEC. All they had to do was log-on to the ASEC GlobalNet site, where they could order raw materials, parts, equipment or complete products, whatever suited them. From a pound of silver or ten grams iridium up to an entire Gravitor plant. All they had to do was make sure that they had their biometric account identifier and the desired delivery location with the appropriate coordinates ready. Immediately after an order was placed, the consignment was shipped and would arrive the appointed day at the appointed destination, which could be anywhere: a garden, on a rooftop or even the middle of a desert.

 

Assignment

A wise man in self-imposed exile, upon whose shoulders lies heavily the weight of a past existence, looks differently at the world as he readies himself to re-enter it, as, during his isolation, he certainly undergoes changes, evolves, and more importantly, returns as a much greater entity than he was.

This was how the director of ASEC saw it. He felt not a single hint of doubt that, when they were ready, humans would begin to have a different vision of themselves. Steersman was preparing for that moment when he would have to represent his own species to an alien civilization, then he could show the universe that the human race—with all of its imperfections—was to be reckoned with. But first, however, the priority was humans themselves, the priority was learning to appreciate their good fortune and learning to honor the place they called home.

Steersman, as always, planned for the future. In his mind, events that were yet to come, all appeared as if he was viewing them in the past. He went further than that, mentally viewing not only time, but also space.

The results of Martins' algorithm survey were better than expected. Four out of a total of thirty-nine participants sent back their final results within the specified time, and one of them proved to be outstandingly fast. The solution to each one of the five successive tasks gave a cipher key to a hidden code for which the next algorithm was required. To derive the final code, each candidate had to go through all of the steps. By the time they got to the last step, only one code had to be deciphered, saying: ‘we are waiting for you’.

The abilities of the four young math prodigies that were chosen allowed Martins' work to move up a gear. Although the candidates had not yet been initiated into the secret origins of their responsibilities, nor the purpose of their work, it couldn't remain hidden for too long from the youngsters used to dealing with code breaking. The decoders and the team of astrophysicists—along with their entire battery of equipment—were moved to the top level of Tower C, and they completely monopolized the rooftop with their galactic communications device. The communication system prototype had been constructed by an engineering team, based on an earlier prototype that had been designed and built by the Brazilian astronomers. It was given a bit of extra muscle which made it more sensitive, but most of all, it was adjusted and redesigned to be more efficient. From a distance it bore a slight resemblance to a tuning fork, but it had twenty prongs, each 18 meters tall and arranged in a circle. A special sensitive coating made the whole structure look like a massive grayish green crown of thorns, stretched over the dark towers.

Completion of the prototype meant that Steersman was able to tick off one of the more pressing problems that had needed to be solved to allow space travel, though he decided then and there that he wouldn't like to see structures of this size anywhere else in the future.

The life blood of ASEC had never flowed so quickly. Its entire capacity was directed towards large-scale preparations, but even more was needed.

Things had grown so quickly that the time had come for Steersman to delegate more responsibility in increasingly larger doses. Karen was given charge of the ASEC space program. Steersman considered her to be the only choice to keep such a complex and far-reaching machine well oiled. Karen was frighteningly capable of standing firm in difficult situations. She was one of those rare people who became even more productive under pressure, and yet never fell apart, but most importantly, she was able to remain kind and maintain friendly relations with her staff under the most stressful conditions.

“Going by Zachary Nishihara's plans, it will be impossible to build ships of this size, even in the third sector,” Karen reiterated. “We'll need a far larger area for that!”

“This space is nearly one million square meters. It was specifically built for aircraft assembly,” countered Steersman.

“Sean, these machines are massive! In addition, we are building three at a time and we're expediting production too, but if the completed module parts are all together in one area, the final assembly becomes impossible,” said Karen, further supporting her position on the lack of space, despite the mind-blowing dimensions of the existing area.

“All right, understood. Presumably assembly won't take place on the workshop floor, so we need to improve things then,” said Steersman.

“Our basic goal is to complete and assemble the constituent parts so that less work is left for off-site. For some of the equipment, however, we need more free space now.”

“We will soon begin relocating machinery, which will free up all three sectors.”

“If I'm right, then we'll need factories for manufacturing and outfitting the defense corps if we're going to use all three sectors for spaceships and related equipment,” Karen pointed out.

 

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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 14 | AFTERSHOCKS
CHAPTER 15 | INITIATION
CHAPTER 17 | DEFENSE CORPS
CHAPTER 18 | TRUTH
CHAPTER 19 | BEYOND EARTH