41 - The City

Impecca pointed out the gathering crowds, as they made their way out of Diffen’s stolen maintenance lev-car and onto the Grand Kilometre. The lev-car was another example of Impecca’s ability to unlock everything of industrialist provenance that they had come across, with merely her presence. How useful.

People were standing on balconies, on roofs, packing the streets. The dark smudge was foreboding now, certain to encapsulate the city on its way to remedy the disturbing lack of anomalous events in the time dilated fields. And yet, the mood seemed to be one of excitement, one of curiosity.

Some were even selling hastily made tickets, for the best balcony spots.

“Are they not afraid?” asked Impecca, as one man, child on his shoulders, pointed out a streaking meteorite. The child clapped its hands in glee as the ground shook slightly around them.

And here Au had been worried about a revolution, the Observer thought. That’s exactly what these people needed, if they were to be relied upon to help themselves.

“They think their genius industrialists will have a solution to anything that could go wrong. This is just a show to them.”

“Oh. And I take it they won’t?”

“Not while you can just waltz in their doors, that is for sure.”

One or two pieces of loose masonry crumbled to the ground, but otherwise, the buildings stood resolute. The observer, knew first hand the devastation to come if they didn’t figure out how to stop it; there was no respite to be found in the cellars. The earthquakes, meteorites and possibility of ancient marauding beasts would ensure that.

The Observer was conflicted again, should he warn the people? There was no time - of course they needed to get to Alovian station. A ruckus would only hurt their chances for that. They needed to see if there was some sort of solution,especially if Archie and Au couldn’t shut off the machines. Besides what was the use of a panicked last few minutes, might as well let the people enjoy the spectacle.

The C-rails were at a standstill, with select members of the crowd having climbed up the poles and onto the tracks for a better view. The grand kilo was choked. The Observer and Impecca fought the flow of non-capitalized observers as the meteors, still some distance away, streaked and disappeared into the dark smudge encompassing the horizon. With each impact, the ground shook, more and more as it inched closer to the city.

Despite deep and ancient inuititions of danger, everyone was out to see what the industrialists would come up with - it promised to be quite a show. Some enterprising person had started selling snacks. And then there was a clothing stand, optimistically printing “I survived the Meteors” shirts. (artist’s rendition).

Bookies were offering bets on which industrialist would save the day with a spectacular display of genius. The safe bet was on Castle Inovata. There were very profitable odds on the end of the world, presumably because nobody would be left to collect.

They pushed their way through crowds, finding pockets here and there to sprint towards the falls. They were cutting it close to the cable-car departure. It was nearly noon. People barely spared them a second glance. The clouds lit by streaking meteors and other phenomena performing a double flanking manoeuvre about the city provided too much of a sight. A few noticed Impecca’s curious, almost sculpted facial features; her features far removed from those of your tired, drooping working Jard. And neither did she have the sunkissed look of one between contracts. Nor the tightened, severe look of an Industrialist. But, they were always drawn back to the apocalyptical spectacle encroaching on Old Jardinan city limits.

The crowd was sparser now, on the quay of lake halcyon opposite the falls. As usual, the station was empty, and the ancient cable-car beginning its daily noon countdown.

They hopped on.

Impecca, despite the severity of the situation, was visibly interested. She was soon to see, if not her actual people (far removed), then at least the fruits and achievements of their effort, a sect that had flourish where her branch had not. The cities of Old Jardinian had been quite something, sure, but this is where she’d come from, indirectly.

The Observer had told her about the message, and Archie and Au had spoken about the empty station. The self-described Ascension was troubling in a “they-left-me-behind sense”, but Impecca couldn’t help but be excited to learn a little more about her enigmatic people who had, in essence, created her in a machine.

Through Austeras’s reluctant explanations of a few of Archie's more ambitious curse words, she had come to understand that this wasn’t how standard Jards, like her new friends and the crowds that had wowed her, were born.

Impecca watched in awe from the cable car as the city dropped away, still gleaming in the sun as the car took them over the lake. From up here, the smudge seemed at eye level. Menacing them with a severe glare. Threatening the domes and spires with utmost animus. Challenging them to do something about the devastation it had wrought, and still promised to wring.

They closed upon the falls. Impecca wondered nervously about what was to greet her as the waters parted for them, and the Alovian station filled the ancient glass windows. She could immediately tell she was home, all the accents; the geometric platform unadorned and yet beautiful in style called to memory the “coneolith” that had raised her as its own.

Upon Impecca’s arrival, soft lights in the station began to glow. Somewhere in its collective of individual, sharing minds, it knew she was home too. The door at the end of the short hallway opened for her, and she stepped out onto the platform. The observer noticed a bowl of small hexagonal objects by the door, the only ornamentation piece in the whole cable-car platform. For him, the slight strangeness of that was immediately forgotten, stepping out behind Impecca into the softly glowing atmosphere of Alovian Station.

The sight staggered her. The massive atrium with the sun gently filtered from above, and all the danglecars. Extremely ancient remnants of the temple complex sprung from the wall and platform material here and there. The space was of a vastness unlike she, or the observer had ever seen enclosed. No signage, and yet so perfect in form, to look at something, you immediately knew it’s function.

The observer watched as Impecca called a dangler over silently, it traversing the mammoth near-void with ease, on unseen mechanisms high above. Archie and Au had briefly laid out what they knew of the place for the Observer and Impecca.

Au had described the holes honeycombing much of the circular atrium as it rose from the floor hundreds of meters below, broken up by larger levels that prescribed unknown function, at least to Archie and Au. The Observer was sure they would spring to life upon Impecca’s arrival, if the behaviour of the Castle Inovata gates, presumably of Alovian provenance, and front door to this place were of any clue. The largest level, halfway down, and inset around the entire atrium, seemed to hold the most promise of information. Such information would ideally be labelled and bookmarked “solutions to the existential threats facing Greater Jard”, but that was probably too much to ask.

Impecca asked the danglecar to take them to the large level that Au and Archie had spoken of. It started moving before she’d finished the question, and she suspected it had known what she’d wanted before even saying it.

Nurembep Gungadem was overjoyed, a third visit after the ascension. And one of these was an Alovian to boot. So much to be thankful for. To think it had even once considered letting loose the cord that suspended it. What an exciting life it led now.

Impecca felt a glowing sense of welcome. She knew without a doubt that she belonged here. She couldn’t describe it to the Observer, but she felt like she knew where everything was, what everything did, and could “reach out” to the space if she had any queries.

They arrived at the large ring gallery, and could see the dark inset of the meeting hall, contrasting with the soft grey of the research areas, jutting into the falls. The Observer was taken aback. The Old Jardinan constructions like the nodes had used similar materials, but could not measure up in terms of beauty and formation.

The Alovians had a system of design that appealed to pan-mammalian sensibilities, everything as exactly as it should be according to purpose, and in that, a distinct and certain kind of beauty. Even just looking at the patterns as they extended across the space, he felt in his brain a sense of achievement, a rightness, as his eyes ensured him that everything had mathematical correctness. It had the effect of a warm glow behind his ears. Upon impecca’s arrival, soft notes began to play with no discernible source, welcoming her home. Displays flickered to life as she focused on them, projecting into the softness of the space.

Catching himself in the grip of awe, the Observer remembered their purpose, here to save Greater Jard from the menaces of the smudge, if at all possible.

He went to the meeting hall, to see the haptic map that had been described to him.

It was filled with pulsing alarm beacons. The smudge sparked at his arm whenever he moved it across a remarkably intuitive haptic map of Old Jardinian. There was no other information to be gleaned from it, or around the slab table - just another reminder of their impending doom. He could see the smudge from inside the meeting alcove too, a dark blur beyond the waterfall, with subtle yet enormously encompassing vibration as gods knew what impacted outside the city.

Impecca called him over. She was looking at a display, featuring what looked like one of the temporal solar collectors they’d seen arranged in the farming arrays. She could manipulate the projection in 3D space, as she and the observer struggled to understand it. Somewhat comically, there was a manual off-switch on the bottom, with a standard reverse setting. It looked like something in the bridge of an ancient, ancient ship of years far beyond accurate recollection.

He had seen this before, on that fateful graduation day years ago. With the model of the machine were some product notes. The recommended deployment for testing purposes was less than 100.

The observer sighed, remembering the machines that numbered in the thousands. Hoggmitt had completely ignored the testing stage, apparently concerned with little but profit and solitude; lacking the basic physics and probability knowledge to understand that this was Very Bad Indeed.

There were a couple of later notes about countering possible effects by stopping the machines,.

They showed as having being sent to the Dean, or the “liaison” as they called her, cryptically.

Evidently they hadn’t been passed on with the blueprints, They probably lay somewhere in the Dean’s corrupted library. Or maybe Hoggmitt had just ignored them. Who knew.

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