2 of 6 | Chapter 9

 

“I'm worried about Jeff.”

“Why?” he asked.

“Somehow he looks lost, wandering without a purpose. I understand that he's studying and stuff, but does he know for real what he wants from life?”

“I really don't know, Pat. But he's strong enough. I'm sure life will take him to a good place.”

“Well, that's what's bothering me, and worrying me. Sometimes you achieve more by being flexible and going with the flow. That's something he can't easily do.”

“Yeah, that's true.”

“I don't see any middle road for him. Either he's gonna be hugely successful, or have a fate more miserable than most people.”

“I don't think he'll get lost. All he needs is a chance and he'll take off. As to the rest of us, we'll work hard as always,” Archer smiled.

“That's life, I guess.”

“And you? What do you want out of life?” Arch looked over inquiringly.

“Hmm, tough one. I'm into a lot of things. I love maths and chemistry and you know, you can do a lot with those.” Pat's face was getting dreamy. “I can imagine myself in some lab too, maybe doing investigative work, or code breaking, I don't really know yet exactly. You know me, I love puzzles.”

“Yeah.”

They both fell silent and watched the toddlers tearing their toys apart in the fenced playground area. They made a hell of a racket!

Meanwhile Jeff and Cole arrived back, Cole's face thickly covered in melted chocolate. It was all over his face, even on his nose. They bought ice-creams for Pat and Archer too.

“Hey guys, soon, it'll be a floating ice-cream truck!” Jeff remarked.

“How come?”

“We've just seen the gardener's truck, loaded up with trees, floating across the grass. Isn't that right, Cole?”

“Yeah, it was sooo cool!” The little boy's face lit up with a huge grin and he tried to imitate the humming sound that the truck made.

“Even little Cole is more open to novelties than you,” noted Pat, enjoying her strawberry-passion fruit ice-cream, her favorite.

“Everything is a novelty to him. Whatever. Shall we have a look at the skateboard track?”

“Yeah!!! Let's go!” Cole jumped up in excitement.

“They won't even let you in!”

“Yes, they will!”

“Yeah, there's a track for kids under ten. He loves it,” said Pat.

They walked to the lakeside promenade at the bottom of the violin. Indeed, gardeners could be seen maintaining the park, planting trees and cultivating grass swards with the help of floating equipment. Even the park guards were gliding past mobile salespeople on floating carts.

 

Negative influences

Oliver Trenerry, chief of the communications unit, was just approaching Steersman's office when Jim Hols came out of it. Surely, they had been talking about the university town. Jim looked haggard, but at the same time, satisfied.

“Hi, Jim,” Trenerry called out. “I got the drawings, and frankly, PrEUST is incomprehensible, even on paper.”

“Hi, Oliver. That's right, it's massive. To build it will be a real challenge. There are so many laboratories, warehouses, corridors, and lecture theaters, offices, rooms for who knows what; there are as much attention devoted to fire safety as is needed for a whole city suburb. I can't get my head around how it's going to be possible to run such a beast. It'll need a serious set of regulation systems.”

“That won't be a problem. There will be a monitoring system that ensures that little freshmen won't even be able to lie, and we'll know exactly who goes where and what they do on the territory,” smiled Trenerry.

“Awesome,” said Jim.

“Okay, I'll catch you later,” replied Trenerry

“Okay, see you soon.”

Jim went on his way, and Trenerry went up to see Karen.

“Hi, how are things going?” he asked cheerfully.

“Hi, Oliver. Never boring, you know. Getting a university started is not such an easy job. Mr Hashimoto's attention is spread pretty thin everywhere and his requests require some serious organization.”

“I'm happy he gave in. I've heard a lot of good things about him. I'm sure he'll give all he's got to get the first semester started on time.”

“He's traveling around Europe as we speak, meeting some of his colleagues and offering them positions at the university,” said Karen.

“I heard about that,” he said, becoming serious. “Is Mr Steersman waiting inside?”

“Yes, go on in.”

“Okay, thanks.”

Oliver Trenerry stepped through two heavy, brown wooden doors and entered what was perhaps one of the world's most peculiar rooms. He felt a sense of alienness that he had never felt during all of his years in intelligence. He could not put his finger on what might be causing it. He did not feel nervous or uncomfortable. It was simply as if he had stepped into a place beyond anything earthly.

Perhaps it was the walls with their graphite grey sheen, strange lights, strange noises; and then, there was the smell. Yes, a smell that he could not place. It was not like anything he had experienced before.

Steersman was sitting behind a desk that might have been more accurately described as a console. Built-in screens would slide up out of the surface from time to time and then sink down into the desk, depending on which was relaying information. At each side, there were robots standing like giant statues with a dull orange glow coming from deep inside them.

In fact, other rigid monsters could be seen dotted around the room. They looked like titans, standing immobile, disciplined, waiting for their orders.

Trenerry, despite his strange feelings, was drawn to the atmosphere because he felt the desire for action that had always driven him forward in his life. Secretly, he yearned to prove himself by doing things that others did not dare. Here, he was not faced with the risk of being burnt out that had suffocated him for years; here, he did not suffer from the earthly hell that he had met so many times before in his work. Here and now, he was at peace.

“Where are we with the Expo organization?” Steersman got straight to the point, without any preamble.

“More companies have shown up out of the blue with requests to participate in the exhibition. What's more surprising is that they're from Western Europe and North America. Seems to me that it's only the big multinational automotive companies that are not in a hurry to be a part of it.”

“The big ones will also finally come. They are undertaking some pretty big developments.”

“I'm sure they have their reasons for being circumspect.”

“The territory for the Expo has been laid out and we'll soon have the plans as well. When we are done with the PrEUST opening, we'll be onto that. We have plenty of time: four months. By that time, all of the manufacturers should be ready.”

“Will ASEC present vehicles?”

“No, the GlideCraft has been promoted enough. We won't be producing another one. This Expo is not about us.”

“That seems fair enough.”

“Is there anything bothering you?” asked Steersman.

Trenerry collected his thoughts on what he had wanted to say for quite some time.

 

 

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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 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