4 of 4 | Chapter 2

 

This time the audience got something much better.

“That's never happened before!” said Natalie, turning to Frank as the elevator descended swiftly.

“Yeah, it was kinda dark. Freaky how he presented himself,” Frank shook his head.

“I'll be able to get enough out of this to start the next industrial or technological revolution! Or whatever. I couldn't care less which,” she was grinning like a Cheshire cat.

 

The process

After the press team had left, Steersman retired to one of the furthest corners of the vast portico of his office. He knew that he had let the cat out of the bag. From now on, there would be no way back. He was standing naked on the battlefield, but he never, for an instant, considered defeat as an option. On the contrary! He was ready and able to cause such a shitstorm for those in his way that they would be choking on their breakfasts for years to come.

Steersman brought to life a hidden device that was standing in a recess nearby. An electronic voice broke the silence and a dimly glowing screen slid smoothly from the device. Steersman began to draw on the surface with military precision. Something moved behind him. In the dim half-light, it was not clearly visible, but something came to life and began to move clumsily, very slowly making their way across the hall.

Steersman stood in front of the console writing lines on the surface of the screen, sentences in an alien script that flowed across the monitor. The screen was not the usual touch-screen type. Grooves formed on its surface as he wrote, visibly etched into it. As he wrote, seemingly nothing of significance happened. The creatures moved further behind him, there were perhaps four or five of them. They were like a patchwork of disparate parts, grafted together into strange animal-like machines, shaped like nothing that had ever been seen before. 

Steersman finished what he was doing and turned, drawing closer to the shadows in the dark. He watched them in silence, calmly observing them as they worked.

They were lifting the massive steel-like globes and fitting them into the sockets hanging above. Each machine crackled and groaned under the immense weight. Although they were rude, simplistic devices without any sophistication of movement they were strong and incredibly durable.

Each socket terminal accepted its sphere and closed around it leaving only the bottom half of the sphere visible. The spheres began to spin and thick veins of electricity began to shoot and pulse around them. After some time, the spinning became unbelievably fast and bolts of electric current reached the ground. Machines standing under the device became more clearly outlined, their forms still indescribably strange.

The office walls had just begun to moan under the pressure of vibrations when the rotation suddenly stopped and the room went deathly still. From the ceiling, a low creaking emerged. At the same moment, the core of each sphere lit up as if it were just about to explode. The light shone through the solid metal layers that made up lamellas on the sides, increasing in intensity. Silence and the intense glow filled the vast space, replacing the noise and vibration of a few moments earlier.

As the light weakened, it was noticeable that the rotation had centered within the core of each sphere. Orange liquid bulb rotated inside them and the lamellas began to close.

A machine took one of the spheres out of its socket and moved the now transformed object across the room. The sphere had undergone a metamorphosis, and gone now was the creaking and groaning as the machines carried each sphere. Steersman ordered the devices back to their original positions. A mute silence descended on the once again dimly lit office.

 

Karen

It might have been 4:00 am when Karen woke suddenly, startled. The air was still. She had not been woken by anything more than the whining buzz of something that had flown into her bedroom and would not let her sleep. It was summer and she did not like to spend her evenings in artificially cooled spaces. Instead, she loved to feel the natural climate of each season, so she always slept with her windows open. She loved to fall asleep while watching the breeze gently catching curtains that colorfully filtered the hues of the sky.

She sat up in bed and, for some moments, gazed around the room looking for the culprit, but she did not find it. She walked downstairs, barefoot, and into the kitchen, crossing the gentle give of the natural wooden floor, the soft warmth of the living room's thick carpet, and finally the cool rigidity of stone tiles. Karen found joy in everything natural. She opened the huge fridge doors. As the sharp light attacked her vision, she drank a few sips of vegetable juice with her eyes closed. She could not go back to sleep so she thought that she may as well switch the TV on.

The S.P.A.N channel flashed up on the screen. Usually this was the channel to watch for the latest news from around the world, but lately, they seemed preoccupied with the events in Excolopolis. A special broadcast was on. Karen quickly woke up at the sound of Natalie Garner's voice. As usual, the interview had been cut and edited into a sensational report, spiced up with theories and assumptions.

It turned out to be a peach of a report.

“Shhhiiiittt!” Karen exclaimed slowly.

She had never fully understood Steersman, but after this move, she had no idea what to expect next. She could easily identify with Steersman's sense of justice and could accept his ethos, but having a sense of judgment was quite different to openly confronting special interest groups with unlimited power at their fingertips. Even Sean Steersman could do little against them. Against groups of that scale, his business had no chance.

*

Over the following few days, Karen spent her time organizing meetings for her boss with the directors of corporations and companies based in Excolopolis. Sean Steersman put on his nice face, visited each one and gave them all the proverbial 'chill pill'. The artificial storm lasted for about a week, with the usual obligatory feedback from the herd. With time, the furor calmed, but outside Excolopolis there were some whose concerns were not assuaged.

Steersman mandated a private security firm to provide protection over the following month, but they worked rather strangely. There were no guards that anyone could detect, there was a rumor that the equipment they had was being used to screen out potential dangers and allow them to step in if required. The majority of their responsibilities were to carry out preliminary investigations and continuous analysis of incoming security data. They considered prevention to be the backbone of their work, which did not mean that they had no idea what to do in unexpected situations. Karen was happy to know that they were finally in place. The idea to put more weight on strengthening security had been bugging her for some time. Before their arrival, there had only been a couple of old security guards wandering around the building. She had never before met anyone who treated the issue of protection as casually as Steersman did. It was things like that which drove her mad. She even began to consider him a little irresponsible, well from that aspect anyway.

The one thing that seemed strangest to her, though, was Steersman's conviction that in one month time there would be no need for these people.

It is not a long time. If it were decided that he had to be removed from the picture, then one month is just about enough time to prepare something pretty nasty … perhaps he'll grow armor, thought Karen wryly.

“Idiot!” she muttered under her breath.

 

***

 

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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