The City of Never
by Roland Allnach
An excerpt from the Coda Urbani:
THE CITY, by nature, is an amalgam of the natural and the man-made. Such a statement, obvious as it is, is not to be dismissed as pedestrian in nature, as it holds the pretense of so-called ‘urban’ design, that is, the creation of a human dwelling among that which is already created, Nature. One is not to preclude the other, for each is created in its own wisdom, and must find peace together in the tired eternity of shifting balances so casually referred to as yin and yang. For it must be remembered, remembered at all times and all costs during development, that nothing can or does exist in a vacuum; all things exist with at least a taste of their complimentary opposite.
…I remember the freckles on the soft curve of her cheek under the golden light of dawn, like the photonegative image of morning dew glistening on Satan’s apple…
Gregor gasped inside the stifling, claustrophobic confinement of the immense erector, heedless of the several square kilometers of havoc he left behind him. The erector, a massive, octopus-like machine known as the Saanos-7, clicked, hummed, and hissed around him. His gaze darted about. He was weak, bleeding from a stab wound in his belly. The sensor cap fastened to his scalp felt like an obscene nest of warm tentacles reaching into his mind, but it was through those neural connections that he wielded the might of the Saanos-7 and propelled its megaton metal mass with his thoughts alone.
He blinked, his arms easing to let his hands dangle from the auxiliary control yoke before him. Nests of analog gauges were clustered before his face, surrounding a small display screen the size of his hand. A delicate wood flute was taped in crude fashion to the top of the display; a thin silver necklace with a small and imperfect emerald dangled along one side. An old-fashioned spiral bound notebook was rolled up and wedged between some of the gauges to the immediate right of the screen.
His eyelids fluttered. It was impossibly hot inside the Saanos-7, but then this was not the intended way for its use. No, those plans were long gone, long lost.
Sweat beaded and ran down his temples. He closed his eyes and surrendered to the machine. The world about him snapped into view, bleached under the scores of blinding searchlights that dotted the hull. The leviathan lurched like a wounded animal, but then brought two massive articulated arms to bear, each wielding claw buckets big enough to swallow luxury homes, and sent the buckets hurtling downward.
The ground trembled, torn and shattered under the assault.
“See that?” Maggie wondered, her whisper almost lost among the distant birdcalls echoing in the early dawn light. She turned and looked back, beckoning with the hand of her extended arm. “This is the place,” she continued and crouched behind a large bush, her small frame draped in the dew-laden foliage. Her hands opened before her as her eyes widened with excitement. “This is the place I wanted to show you. There’s no other place like this on any surveyed, inhabited world. It must be preserved. I’ll give it to you, Gregor, I want you to have it, if you make me one promise.”
“Never to touch it,” she said, her eyebrows rising over her large hazel eyes. “Just look, look between those trees, down into the valley. It’s like looking into heaven. It must never suffer the hand or blight of man. Of all things that should never happen, this is the one I would stake my life on, that I give my life for.”
“I don’t understand.”
She crossed her hands over her chest. “It’s mine to decide, and I’ve decided,” she whispered. She looked into his eyes and didn’t blink. “The valley, as my life, I give to you.”
AUDIO LOG 1, SESSION 2:
“Good morning class, and welcome to this semester’s supplemental study course, Modern Minds and Their Societal Impact. I am Professor Lucas Latham. Our curriculum will commence with a study of Saanos Development. Without further ado, we shall now start.
“I am sure at this point in your studies you have at least cursory familiarity with Saanos Development. Going back ten decades--Saanos prefers this measurement of time--you will see the introduction of the great Saanos innovation, the modern miracle combining nanotechnology and recombinant genetics: constructors. The Saanos ‘constructor’ is essentially living concrete, self-replicating into preprogrammed forms that generate structures at amazing speed. The resulting Saanos erector models--Saanos models One, through the latest behemoth, Seven--utilize dispersal and programming of Saanos constructors to build Saanos ‘environments’, or, what we could call cities, almost overnight in comparison to traditional construction techniques. Saanos Development has been responsible over the last three decades alone for the resettling of millions of people into newly built Saanos environments. This, of course, has reaped immense wealth for Saanos Development.
“Which brings us to the focus of our discussion, the owner of Saanos Development.”