1 of 4 | Chapter 2

Machines

 

The Steersman's building was just one of many tower blocks. Compared to other towers surrounding it, it was unremarkable, only the top three floors were joined together where only he and his assistant, Karen worked. Steersman did not like to splurge out on unnecessary ostentation.

Karen felt that there was something quite bizarre about the hours that her boss kept. Steersman was possessed of such strength and implacability at any time of the day that Karen sometimes felt there was no one able to keep up with him. She was fairly sure that Steersman expended far more energy that he showed which was made more remarkable by the fact that usually the opposite was true. She had seen many people possessed by and ready to sacrifice everything for their work, but their lifestyle left its mark on their behavior. In many cases, such people were tyrants, jerks or assholes—in spite of the undisputed nature of their genius.

She loved getting to know people, and thanks to her unerring instincts, she was able to read anyone—almost without exception. At times she wondered why she had not bothered to graduate as a psychologist. Perhaps it was because she was even more interested in what the human mind was able to create than how it did it, so she was drawn to research and development. For now, she could not find answers to her questions, no matter how hard she pondered. Steersman was different. The idea of ‘solving’ his personality drove her mad and excited her at the same time. She gave herself one more month to figure him out. It's just taking a bit longer this time, that's all, she reassured herself.

They usually met in the evenings when they could go over things without interruptions. Even with all the meetings and work, they still managed to have time for the social life too.

It was about 8:00 pm, the surrounding office blocks were all empty and the street-lights had already come on in the business quarter.

Karen sorted out her thoughts before entering her boss's office. It had been quite a confusing day. She had learned a lot about the mysterious beginnings of Excolopolis, still, curiosity was eating away at her. She could not decide whether to question him outright or wait.

By the time she entered Steersman's office, she had made a decision. Wait for the right moment! After all, she was not there to play detective, was she?

The room was dominated by a blurred world of simple compromises between light and shadow. The inner sanctum consisted of parts that complemented each other and merged into an integrated whole. Light filtered peaceful ambiance down from above. Peace and a strange yet pleasant scent wove throughout the room.

Steersman looked up as Karen walked into the office.

“Good evening, Karen. How was your day?” Steersman greeted her.

Steersman liked Karen, as did everyone. Tall, athletic and beautiful, with long auburn hair, and what really stood out was her rare personality. She was kind and empathetic with an extremely intelligent and objective mind, and above all, calm. When she needed to, though, she was ready and well able to stand up for herself with a fiery decisiveness.

“Good evening, Sean. It was rather productive. As a matter of fact, the construction of the two new towers has begun. We've received the permits for the construction of the industrial plant too.”

“Excellent,” said Steersman, unsurprised.

“Tim is madly organizing the civil infrastructure. He wants an ultramodern transportation system,” continued Karen.

“Let him do it, he's a clever guy,” Steersman said blandly.

Karen smiled. “Yeah, he is. He's very enthusiastic. It's actually a pleasure to listen to his ideas.”

“I haven't asked you yet, Karen, but how are you settling in so far? Do you like being here?” Steersman asked.

“You mean personally?”

“Personally, professionally, but yes, mainly personally.”

Karen paused, then answered slowly, “Well, I have to say I feel a bit lonely sometimes, though I'm getting to know more and more people, and I also have many acquaintances among those who are moving here with their companies … but it's not real somehow.”

“What do you mean?” Steersman frowned. “What's missing?”

“Well, neighbors for one thing. I hardly have any neighbor, you know, the kind that just says ‘Hi, how are ya?’ in the mornings, or ‘Pretty hot today, isn't it?’. Just the little conversations. Often, I don't even bump into anyone at the bakery. Those sort of things.”

“Social life!” said Steersman, summing it up.

“I guess, yeah,” she agreed.

“You do know it's changing day by day, don't you?”

“Of course. The population is growing incredibly quickly. It's obvious that'll change, but it's been two months already, and I kinda miss … real connections.”

“I understand. How about your work? Apart from the fact that you can manage, are you enjoying it?”

Karen smiled. “I am. Very much so. I've never felt quite so liberated. This town is a dream to work in. It's an amazing feeling to be a part of its construction.”

“Glad to hear it.”

“Yes, umm …” Karen started to speak, then cut herself short.

A brief silence descended.

Steersman looked at her quizzically. “Are you sure there's nothing else bothering you?”

Karen looked up and smiled, “No, I don't think so. That was all really,” she finished.

“I want you to know that I'm counting on your help for the long haul. Right now you're pretty much irreplaceable already. You can also rest assured that there are more interesting things lined up for you. Projects that'll give you more than just a feeling of liberation.”

“Thank you, Sean. Ummm, I'm hooked I guess, but what are we talking about?” Karen raised her eyebrows in surprise.

“You'll find out in time,” said Steersman, flashing a rare grin.

Karen took a deep breath and got back to business. “Okay. In half an hour, the press will be arriving then I'll bring them in. Do you have any requests for them?” she asked.

Amongst Steersman's regular guests was Natalie Garner from the Belgian TV company, S.P.A.N. This little cutie had been a celebrity reporter ever since she had been given exclusive rights to broadcast all that was happening in Excolopolis. Once a month, she presented a summary of all of the incredible and shocking events that were taking place in the city, spiced up with juicy gossip and conspiracy theories to foster the attention of those who were more interested in sensationalism, than in paying attention to the growth of the city itself. Above all, she shot interviews with the man behind it all.

“No, just the usual. Everything will be fine. Go home and relax. Good night, Karen.” Steersman looked over at her.

“Okay. Good night, Sean. See you tomorrow.”

 

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CHAPTER 1 | EXCOLOPOLIS
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