The room was pristine, like it had been freshly built and without a grain of dirt ever touching a surface. But this room had been around for nearly a century. The door was like a thin membrane, both existent and non-existent. Jensen stepped into the membrane and for a moment it formed around him and followed him into the room. Then the room made an affirming sound and let him pass through.
Jensen was a middle aged man with a sort of common handsomeness. Although middle aged in Aero had risen to about 130 years old. He wore a very expensive, light colored suit and beige shoes. He walked over to his kitchen counter and put a coffee mug into a machine. It instantly filled his cup with steaming hot coffee, exactly the way he liked it. He walked over to the French doors leading to the deck. The whole house was very open. No small doors between rooms, but big wide openings.
The French doors opened by themselves from the middle. Jensen walked through and stood against the railing, looking out at the sky. The ground was far below, and he saw mostly clouds.
“Jensen, you there?” asked a voice from what looked like a ball bearing inside Jensen’s ear.
“Of course,” Jensen said. “What do you need?”
“I need you to come down.”
“Sure thing, Vic.”
Jensen took a second to breathe in more of the view, then walked back into his house. The door shut behind him. His coffee mug transformed into what looked like more of a travel mug. He passed through the front door membrane once more, this time going out.
Jensen entered a bright white control room.
“What’s up?” he said. Vic looked up over at him.
“Not sure yet,” Vic said. “But I thought you should take a look.”
Jensen looked at the instruments and screens. He didn’t seem troubled by anything. “Probably just an earthquake or something.”
“It doesn’t look like one to me,” said Vic.
“They don’t all look the same, Vic.”
“What if they’re coming back?”
“I doubt it. They’ve been down there for a hundred years. We scared them pretty badly. They won’t be back.”
“Alright, Jensen. You’re the boss.”
Jensen walked out into the corridor. It was just a small walkway from one floating building to another. He breathed in the fresh air and strolled to his favorite restaurant. He ordered a perfect steak. Cooked perfectly.
Back in the control room, Vic stared at the monitors. After careful consideration, he mentally dialed the Organizer.
“Deora, you there?” he said.
“I’m here,” she said. “What do you need?”
“I need you to come look at something.”
“Down in a minute.” Hayley looked at him from her chair.
“Don’t trust Jensen’s analysis?” Hayley asked playfully. Vic looked at her.
“I’d just like a second opinion.” He paused. “But no, I’m not convinced so easily. He underestimates them.”
Shortly after, Deora arrived.
“Take a look at this and tell me what you think it is.” Deora walked gracefully over to the monitor and stared at it for a few seconds, studying it.
“Could be some kind of volcano,” she said.
“May I propose another possibility?”
“What if they’re coming back up?”
“I doubt it. But I suppose anything’s possible. Just keep an eye on it.”
“What should I do if it is them?”
“Lookup the protocols. They’ve been in place since the beginning.”
Jensen arrived back at his house and went straight out to the balcony to finish what he’d started earlier. A fresh cup of coffee sat in his hand as he admired the scenery. His attention was drawn to something coming towards him from the ground. Flying towards the city. He adjusted his eyes and zoomed in about 400 percent. It was a person on a flyer. It was a girl, and she didn’t look like she was from Aero.
“Vic?” he asked.
“I’m here,” said Vic coldly through the earpiece.
“You seeing this?”
“Yeah, I’m seeing it.” Vic was clearly annoyed.
“Sorry, Vic. I’ll be down.”
Jensen bolted out of the house and out into the city. Down the walkways and back into the control room. Vic shot him a dirty look when he came in.
“What do we do, boss?” Vic asked.
“Charge the cannons,” Jensen said. “She can’t get through the shield anyway, but better to be safe than sorry.”
“She?” Vic said, puzzled.
“He must not have seen it, Vic,” Hayley said.
“Seen what? What the hell are you talking about?” Jensen said.
Vic showed him. He displayed on the monitors the view of the ground. There were millions of people in a swarm heading for Aero. Jensen was shell shocked.
“Looks like those illusions didn’t work,” Vic said. “Guess they got tired of it down there and figured we were full of it. What do we do now, Jensen? It’s your call.”
“Just fire everything we have. These bastards are going back underground one way or another.”
The flyer was simple enough to control. It was specifically designed so that anybody could use it. Petra wasn’t some cavewoman who didn’t know how to do anything, despite the fact that she’d lived underground all her life. There was technology down there. And it was easy enough to see the big red start button and pull the flyer in whatever direction you wanted to go. Push forward on the handlebars and you go forward. Pull back, you slow down. It took her a bit to get the hang of it, but after a while she was able to maneuver it well enough.
But there was only one flyer. At least that she could see. And the mass of people following her had to just run along on the ground in the direction she was headed. But the swarm was in the millions. They weren’t sure what they were going to do once they reached the floating city, but they knew that’s where the battle was. Petra didn’t even know what she would do.
Petra was getting closer. She was almost there. She felt the surge of adrenaline pumping through her veins. Then, just as she was within a couple hundred yards, she saw two things. A gigantic cannon swivelled in her direction and just sat there, aiming at her. Following her. The other thing she saw was a shimmer. Like the glare on a pair of glasses. She couldn’t exactly see it, but something was surrounding the city. Like a bubble. Maybe a glass dome. When she reached the edge of the bubble, she leapt off her flyer and landed on the surface of the shield. She was running before she hit the ground and kept running along the shield. Her bike exploded when it came in contact.
It must’ve looked funny to people below. Seeing somebody running in the air above them. She didn’t want to look down, but when she did, Petra noticed the cannon still following her every movement.
The swarm below reached Aero and just stood amassed underneath, looking up, wondering what to do. That’s when a light started to glow and a humming noise started so low they couldn’t even hear it at first.
As Petra was running, the shield gave out and she started falling. She almost panicked, but instead became resourceful and slowed her fall with a nearby building. Her feet landed on the side of the building and she started running down it. As she approached the ground, she stopped running and grabbed onto a protruding ledge. The rest of the descent was accomplished by jumping from one ledge to another. She landed on the ground and reality kicked in.
The buildings were strange. They all looked the same. She had no way of discerning any importance from one to another. She looked around for the cannon. When her eyes caught it it started to glow and hum.
Jensen watched Petra from the control room, his arms crossed.
“What’s the charge?” he asked the room.
“Eighty percent,” someone said. Jensen paced around a bit. Not worried, but annoyed.
“Whenever it’s ready, fire.”
Eighty-five percent. Ninety percent. Ninety-five percent. Then the technician made a swiping motion on the screen.
Jensen watched the ground monitor. There were millions of people. And then there weren’t. In a flash there was dust. He turned to the monitor of Petra. In mid step her body turned black, then blew away into the air.
“Poor bastards didn’t stand a chance,” Vic said. “Why didn’t we just do that in the first place?”
“Because we thought they’d be happy underground,” Jensen replied. “We wanted them to be happy. But they lived in a different world. They couldn’t join us in the sky.”
“Well sir, you just committed mass murder. How do you feel?”
“It was extinction. They’re pests that brought this on themselves.”
Jensen turned and walked out. Vic looked at the screens for a moment, then turned them off.
“That wasn’t the protocol, Vic,” Deora said in Vic’s earpiece.
“I know,” Vic replied. “Take it up with Jensen.”