Nika Veresk
In the shadow of the stolen light

“I see. I need to discuss this issue with the other members of the Council.”

“Of course. But I don’t think they’ll be against it.”

The top floor of the ‘Unity’ tower, boasting a high dome with bright blue sky and a few slowly floating clouds, housed the ‘Solar Flotilla’ Council. Year after year the seven members of the Council meet in this spacious hall and make the most important decisions on behalf of all Titanium citizens. On the one hand, they managed the collaboration between different key departments such as Universe Studies; Medical Technologies; Engineering and Innovative Solutions; Chronology and Education; as well as Spaceship Services. All these, in turn, consisted of a number of laboratories and other services, which altogether provided for all the needs of ‘Solar Flotilla’, during its travels. On the other hand, these seven people were in charge of foreign policies with alien races and their unions.

“So the doctor suggests helping our guest adapt to life on Titanium,” clarified Councillor Bella Groster calmly, after Lora had finished her short report on the results of the new project.

All the seven Council members were present around the table in the middle of the brightly lit colonnaded hall.

“Exactly. Derek’s quarantine has been lifted because he poses no biological threat to us,” noted the girl.

“Well, what about other types of threat?” asked John Simps, fixing Lora with his steady wise glance.

“What threat can a young man pose with severe memory loss, weak physical state and unarmed after such a long and dangerous journey?” Lora shook her head perplexedly. “It’s true we are still unable to say exactly why the earthlings had launched that ship. However, keeping the only survivor locked and in quarantine until all the details are clarified is, I believe, really cruel.”

“I agree,” nodded Andrey Volkhontsev. Being the youngest Council member and a former employee of the Universe Exploration department, Andrey had always been profoundly interested in diplomatic contact with other races and emphasised the necessity of collaboration with them. “This man is our guest. Our people have worked tirelessly in order to successfully save his life, not to take his freedom and make him a ‘prisoner’ of the Central Hospital. Sooner or later we’ll learn everything from him or from the engineers analysing his spaceship computer. Until then, it seems sensible to follow Doctor Borshchevsky’s recommendations.”

“What you say is not without logic, but still the fact remains that the earthlings attempted to kill Andre Mendes. Two hundred and fifty years ago, it was a deadly feud with the Earth governments that forced us to leave the planet. It was the only chance for us to stay true to our beliefs and avoid a world war.”

“But this happened more than two centuries ago,” insisted Lora.

“Our guest has been in stasis for the past two hundred years, so our perception of time and past events long gone is dramatically different to his” said John Simps. “His parents had witnessed that confrontation.”

“Anyhow, suspicion as well as trust to that man stem only from our assumptions,” summarized Jean. “What’s going to be the Council’s decision?”

“We all trust that the decision will be the right one,” Maria Fernandez’s voice sounded quiet and calm.

“So, you may follow Doctor Borshchevsky’s advice,” Jean pinned his gaze at Lora. She looked around at the rest of the Council members, and they nodded in agreement. “I’ll pass on the orders to the Spaceship Service to prepare everything.

“Thank you,” Lora bowed a little, putting her hand on her chest.

After she left the hall, no words were uttered for a while.

“I’d like to suggest something,” John Simps, the eldest Council member, broke the silence.

“I think I know what it’s about,” Andrey Volkhontsev smiled uneasily.

“Arrange an espial after our guest and an additional investigation into the destruction of his ship by using alternative information sources,” continued Councillor Simps, ignoring the last comment.

“Why didn’t you suggest it while Lora was here?” said Jean, looking at him very intensely. “It’s her project, so she has a right to know everything about it. There are no secrets here on Titanium.”

“Yes, I agree. This decision is an unusual one for us indeed, but the situation is far from ordinary as well,” said John Simps. “So, what’s going to be the Council’s decision?”

Lora was worriedly watching the medical assistants help the guest from Earth make himself comfortable in the mobile chair on the electromagnetic pillows, as he was still very weak to be able to move on his own.

“So,” Lora heard Doctor Borshchevsky’s voice from the back. Appearing there as if by magic, he came smiling and looking at everyone around. “How are you feeling, Derek?”

“Much better, thank you,” the young man subtly smiled, adjusting his dark glasses. “I don’t have the courage to take them off.”

“You can take them off when your eyes feel comfortable with the light,” the doctor assured him. “No reason to hurry. And something else,” he approached the patient and handed him a heavy metal bracelet. “There is a three day supply of medicine inside; injections will be made automatically, while a special device will warn you about it in advance. If there are no symptoms to be concerned about, then I’ll be expecting you here by the end of the period.” Then the doctor looked at Lora. “He’s in your care now.”

After the medical personnel left the ward, Lora perched at the edge of the empty bed and looked intently at the person in her care.

“Derek, before we leave the hospital, I’d like to tell you a little something about the place where we are now.”

“About the spaceship?”

“Yes, I guess you could say so… The thing is, Titanium is not exactly a ship… It’s…” Lora remembered how hard she had been rehearsing this conversation that morning, but when the moment came she was at a loss for words. “It’s a whole city” she finally uttered.

“A city in space?” the young man tried to clarify.

“Yes, a big city in space… So big that we actually classify it as an artificial planet with its own atmosphere and climate and…”

“Wait there!” the earthling shook his head. “Give me a second to think… An artificial planet?!”

“Yes, exactly.”

“It’s unbelievable!”

“I’m ready to show you everything, but the consequences of stasis, amnesia… The doctor is concerned…”

“Don’t carry on, I got the general idea,” Derek softly interrupted her confused explanations. “Even though I might not remember my past, it doesn’t mean that I’m not ready to see the future of mankind.”

Lora nodded. She relaxed a little at the confidence and calmness of his voice. Derek was leaving his ward for the first time during his stay at the hospital. A windowless ward had prevented him from seeing the city till this very moment. But now, passing through the hall with the panoramic glass walls, he could hardly contain his amazement.

“Oh, God…” sighed the young man, gazing at hundreds of towering skyscrapers; at the foot of which one could see rivers, lakes and parks, surrounded by rich greenery and blue rays.

“Welcome to Titanium!” said Lora proudly.

“This is unbelievable!” Derek moved closer to the window in his chair. “A real city! These are trees, aren’t they?” he pointed at one of the parks that could be easily distinguished even from the one hundred and eighth hospital floor.

“Yes, the city has a lot of greenery,” said the girl. It was hard for her to understand his emotions as the dark sunglasses hid his true feelings behind them. However, she could read the excitement in his voice and his pulse running wild as the bracelet indicated. “Let me show you the hologram,” she thought quickly. “This‘ll help you understand how Titanium was created.”

“Yes, of course!” Derek turned away from the window and looked seriously at the transparent tablet computer on Lora’s palm.

“Display the panoramic hologram of Titanium,” said Lora and a basketball-sized 3D model appeared above the tablet. “This is the view from space. The planet is a sphere with a blue nucleus at its core. The inhabited part of Titanium with all its buildings is not on its surface. The city expanse cuts the planet just above the equator into two hemispheres, while a part of the core stays visible and the city, sort of encircles it. The Upper hemisphere is the energetic dome rising over the megalopolis, which keeps the air and protects the inhabitants from the deadly radiation. The floating clouds are only a perfect illusion of the sky: a holographic projection. The Lower hemisphere housing all the city buildings is built from titanium and is shaped like a layered pie. It includes a layer of city communications system, an equatorial transport terminal and several thousand more layers going deep down.”

“And this?” the young man pointed at the shining, rainbow-like cover enveloping Titanium.

“It’s the outer energy field generated by the nucleus and functions as passive protection from a possible attack from the outside.”

“How could people have created such a thing and launched it into space afterwards?”

“The planet was built in space. At the base of the building process is a constantly perfected nanotechnology. The tiny nanites process raw materials and recreate the necessary construction elements according to the project.”

“Did nanites build all this?”

“Yes, nanites and the robotic devices. The raw material was the debris of a gigantic asteroid field. Our scientists have found a way to convert the basic chemical materials from the asteroids into the chemical combinations necessary for the construction. Titanium prevailed among other solids that were used; hence the name of the city: Titanium. Travelling in the megapolis is possible by means of a teleport. I think it’s time you had a real feel of the transport system at work. There are also stairs, but they’re not as popular. The teleport system is the fastest transport means in the spaceship.”