Trapped By Curiosity (Chapter One Aeroplane City)

This is a partial segment of Chapter One of Aeroplane City.

Chapter I  – Trapped by curiosity

Copyright ©  2018 by Lars Hindsley

Please respect the years of work the author labored to produce this story. You do NOT have the author’s permission to reproduce, copy and distribute it for non-commercial purposes. Parts may be copied for commercial purposes provided those book parts remain in complete original form to be used in reviews.

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This book is a work of fiction and any resemblan­ce to persons, living or dead, or places, events or locales are purely coincidental except for Baxter Robertson whose name is used by permission with no relation to the character.  All characters are productions of the author’s imagination and used fictitiously.

An innate moment of memory reflex precedes a rush as I draw my sunglasses from my pocket. The doors’ seal break and I feel it in my spine. It’s the anticipation of what I’ve experienced countless times before. I stand ready with a hint of a grin as passengers behind me avert their eyes. They are unprepared for the overwhelming wash of light that bounces up from the glass runway while I enjoy everything that shines. I’m back in the arms of the one love who has never failed me. Her name is Aeroplane City.

Aeroplane City is like the moon to most people — they know it’s here, but will never visit it. Secluded in the mountains of the east this compact twenty square mile stretch is more than a paradox, it’s one of a kind. No other city in the world is accessible only by airplane and yet within it all its local transit is primarily pedestrian. Roads are unlike anywhere else. With no automobiles on the streets of Aeroplane City, lanes for cyclists and cutters run to each side of a center seam two way tramway for municipal and specialty vehicles.

Stepping out from my plane, the elements of clean air and busy atmosphere shift my anxious mood into what I can only describe as highly tuned perception. I feel twice as alive the moment I land here. Peering down at the glass landing deck beneath my plane,  it’s a true human feat; my relay isn’t resting on some tarmac in a field — it’s ten stories from ground level in the heart of the dense cityscape. A ballet of flights are landing and departing at etched locations across the landing deck adjacent to the inbound runway. Their rotating thrust pivots each relay downward like a bird that has found its nest. Others rise straight up in a hush defiant to gravity, propelling up then out as if each is in a race to escape. The opposite is true.

Crews and passengers like mine hurry from each relay toward suspended muted light beacons hovering off the glass to mark access down into the terminal. Once the first passenger reaches the green hued beam they place a hand through it, a small recess to downward stairs opens.

Even in this day and age witnessing an airport cut into the skyline and made part of a city with seamless harmony is enough to make a seasoned professional linger in the moment. Surrounding me is a breath taking sight of the city to its south, west and north. The feeling is fleeting. I’m expected to exit my plane in a direct line to those same downward openings to enter the terminal, after all this platform is the busiest place in the city with a view that can’t be savored in the moment, only recalled in wonder.

It was 800 years ago the great Eurasian War brought on this ironic Halcyon age. Life is utopian in Aeroplane City while world recovery enjoys an incomplete prosperity. Sure many cities are still suffering, but is by their own faulty design. Here, life is almost perfect and this ten story city transportation hub makes the case even accommodating the outside world’s lack of technology. Stepping down I can’t help but admire everything I see. It’s almost good enough reason to arrive three days early to an important business meeting, but my reason for a three day jump is more safety than sightseeing.

The behemoth cargo planes labor to land with their clumsy wings. From this distance my relay is unobtrusive.

What a paradox — for all the great inventions helping mankind like ion thrust, we still haven’t perfected counterbalance lift for immense cargo carriers. Gravity is a bitch but the world’s step back in modern technology is the real cause of these huge planes still demanding long runways. The Eurasian War in 2038 and the Purge in 2040 saw to this. If any good can be said of those calamities it’s the globe is no longer over-populated. Almost a millennium ago over half the world was eviscerated by the Eurasian War. In the aftermath the remaining population destroyed itself in religious persecution solemnly called The Purge. A common world struggle followed. Much of the world’s advances in technology were established just before the War and Purge that followed. With the population collapse after, few had the knowhow to manage most technology again. Humanity wasn’t just crippled, it lost almost everything it needed to survive. The world had electricians but few bio-engineers or technical engineers. History books teach that after the great war it was equal to aliens dropping off advanced technology with no owner’s manual and the best we could do is find the on button. Everything from science to health advances were at humanity’s fingertips and lost. It is surprising the human race survived at all, yet a sparse core of scientific minds moved technology forward. Damn — I make it seem science saved us. It did not. The first industrial age and science had their day before the Eurasian War and Purge. Just before those events corporations overtook the worlds governments. When all hell broke loose, corporate structure and organization maintained mankind’s civility and structure. That was long ago. A thousand years has solved many of mankind’s problems. While the world ironically avoided a Dystopian future, it hasn’t quite made giant leaps since that last great war one thousand years ago. For instance science has yet to solve this lift problem for large payloads. Until science does solve the problem, Lynxpoint has two huge runways to accommodate an otherwise cutting edge city. They are shaped like a compressed X with the intersection closer to one side. ­­­­

Lynxpoint Airport at the Aeromet
Aeroplane City: Lynxpoint Airport

As the inbound and outbound runway’s cross over one another at a corresponding angle, they in turn enable each other to enter and exit in the same general southeastern direction.

Only on approach is this valley pervious to long body aeroplanes. The hanging valley from the south is majestic to look at from anywhere in the city. A high-rise window isn’t necessary. It’s that same 365 meter waterfall in the hanging valley between Razorback and Quest Mountain everyone sees in the novelty postcards. The divided peaks of the south west Quest and the south east Razorback framing the deep U shaped dip below and its unobtrusive waterfall is a photo every tourist hopes to take when visiting this hidden gem. Yet that majestic cliff base waterfall must be a terrifying sight to any pilot ascending our exit. Experiencing a flight through that valley above on final approach is what amplifies the understanding this is the city of ultimate isolationism. That southern wall is the only direction long body planes can enter Aeroplane city’s airspace. It’s the cargo planes and their hefty payloads which require traditional thrust that make runways an unavoidable necessity here. Relays and jump jets have specific airspace too which keeps the sky above the city civil and quiet. All jump jet and relay approaches are from over the Andochian mountain range at our west, any departure is to the east across the mighty Shasta’s.

My relay rests a on a vast landing deck at safe distance aside the inbound runway. As I deboard, my view is teaming with similar aircraft from large and small relays to the much smaller private jump jets. Considering the liability of annexed space each city is responsible for, I wonder why more cities don’t place airports within their skylines? After all we have achieved some modern flight tech. The advent of relay thrust — all plane exhaust is silenced. It adds to the charm of Aeroplane City. The ambient noise from planes is near absent above the city. What noise can be spoke of is created by the cargo jets. With nighttime restrictions even they remain unobtrusive entering the skyline from that southern approach. Unlike a cargo flight my passenger relay will soon depart from the very place it landed. If it were not for the transports need to drop down to the service bays for exchanging shipments they too could fly out without delay. But like the rest of the city Lynxpoint was planned to perfection. Neither passenger or cargo plane ever taxi ensuring a safe active runway. Shipping planes drop down exchanging payloads, and flow through a short access tunnel that runs along the lower level warehouse space. With a fresh payload each plane elevates back up to the exit runway — over 100 years of efficiency without an incursion.

I may be home but the cityscape around me leaves me awestruck. Where I stand, Aeroplane City showcases its beauty through the masterful use of space Lynxpoint employs. It’s more than just stacking each transportation system around the terminal,  Lynxpoint uses the runway space efficiently. Most of the space around Lynxpoint is used for warehousing goods. Aeroplane City combined its major transportation hub with central storage without making this part of town a blight. Within the terminal one can commute on the high rails without ever setting foot on the ground. Deep below the terminal is Centerpoint Station, the hub of the city’s above ground transit system known as the Aeromet, a few main high rail systems circling the city meet at Centerpoint Station. Centerpoint even connects to the Passways, a pedestrian subway tunnel system which only exists here in midtown. These four transit systems are the nucleus of Aeroplane City. Soon I’ll be lost in it.

Taking that last step down from the plane I stop to tie my shoe, then I do something I’ve not done before. I touch the runway running my fingers along the crystalline surface. Dense like a heavy metal, yet clear with no haze and a slight sense of form it misleads your sight as you see everything beyond it. I expected a smooth touch, it feels as it should, impenetrable. From this near vantage, people below are clear to see. The crowded perspective confuses my eyes with fleeting disorientation. Through my fingers, I see travelers bustle obliviously under the surface of the glass which separates us. A sense of place and purpose return as my pilot walks past my shoulder. Looking down in passing he says, “It’s the most dense surface made by man. You are perfectly safe.”

Yes, I am. I thought to myself. Statistically the safest city in the world. The world is covered in cities, many famous cities, but this one is one-of-a-kind. No one questions — it’s the most unique city in the new post modern era. It’s a short walk off the glass top. I step down the recessed stairwell opening and in no time I become one of those travelers commuting through the top floors of this iron and glass terminal; a face in the crowd. As I should be, because in my line of work, I need to blend in. I do so by instinct.

I’m a man that thrives on instinct. My instinct talks to me now in every measured step. A precognitive on the plane told me that something good will happen to me today. I told him that I don’t believe in fate, but I do follow my instinct. Old enough to be my father, with his full head of hair and trim features he could pass for ten years younger. As if always on the ready he handed me his card and told me if I ever needed more than my instinct, contact him. I grinned and told him, “My instinct has never failed me.” As long as I listen to it.

He answered, “You don’t believe instinct is a form of clairvoyant fate?”

“Not at all.” I said. “There’s a difference between acute perception and putting your faith in a future you can’t control.” I’m certain he was mildly insulted by my lack of belief in his commoner trade. My instinct told me to give him back his card but as a courtesy I placed it in my pocket without looking at it. I have a theory on instinct. That is if you don’t use it, you lose it. I’ve developed mine over time. Even now it warns me not to let my bond with this city control my emotion. It warns, respond, don’t react.  It’s the same warning I give myself each time I arrive. For a man whose living is predicated on grasping knowledge from thin air it seemed odd he would ever need to pose a question. He figured that when I laughed as he asked, “What’s your name?”

I smiled. “Shouldn’t you know that?”

  “Perhaps I already do.” He replied.

I give him the answer I give all strangers as if pondering my own existence. “Me? I’m nobody.”

“Well Mr. Nobody, mine’s on the card. One day you’ll be eager to tell me your name. For now, let me just say that soon you will dump pocket jokers for two kings.” I walked on both understanding and not understanding his point. He felt we’d met again on his terms. As for the pocket jokers. Jokers aren’t part of the playing deck. How am I to draw two jokers? It’s that type of vague bullshit that makes these guys bullshit. I consider how my world would change had he only blurted out my name as proof he was more than a science snake. After all, these men guess the future through math. They hide behind the illusion of magic when they actually rely on the logic of quantum theory. A precognitive sees a mathematical signature in the behavior of all things in an effort to deduce the future effortlessly. It’s all a parlor trick. Still, I tucked his card into my pocket.

Descending two flights down I’m no longer walking on glass but around an open cathedral space which let’s everyone from every floor spectate upwards to the landing deck’s clear runway. I’m still two long corridors from clearing security. Again I stop. Looking around myself in all directions my attempt to contain the elation draws out a smile — one we all know, such as when you open a long awaited gift. You appreciate that moment you finally possess it. I am home.

Light floods around my sunglass frames piercing my eyes. It descends in beams from between the high arches through the glass runway above. I’m caught in one. Standing motionless, I close my eyes a moment to allow my other senses to speak. Pulling my glasses from my face the airport corridors become warm. As I look around with a healthy smile I soak my face in the sunlight. I am trapped by curiosity. This moment conjurors every good memory through unique past experiences. Aeroplane City’s isolationism deprives the world of open building architecture which seems a language of its own.

There is an alternative to flight into Aeroplane City. Walk. Walk hundreds of miles by foot to reach this oasis. You will need more than hard money to survive the mountains surrounding us. I say this hypothetically because while many have walked out to the wilderness surrounding the city I know of no one to ever wander in. There are stories of those who have ventured out, and I don’t mean those in search of the ghost tribe. No the ones I’m thinking of just decide to explore beyond the local nature reserves and never return. Locals know, you stick to Kecher’s Forests to below the southern headwall where the cargo planes approach to camp safely. Red Rangers won’t perform a rescue anywhere outside that patrol zone. About the idea of just walking in or out of Aeroplane City — sure most every story is a lie to fortify imagination against anyone thinking they can walk here, but there is a story in the form of historical evidence. A full legion of Paladin’s left on patrol the early 2400’s, they never returned. Seems unlikely as Paladins are formidable and yet their famous pauldron armor was not always made of light and nimble materials. City history is my hobby but I’ve yet to learn the full back story of the paladins as they control their historical records.

Then there is the general understanding of the cost associated with living here. Outlanders know the city won’t support you beyond the money you spend when you do reach it. If you don’t work here you don’t live here, and here is where everyone that is anyone wants to call home.

Yes, this city is unique to the world; it’s almost beyond description outside of how the world perceives it. Aeroplane City lies in the south east amid mountains which close us off to the world. Satellite news footage lifts the veil to those whom will never experience Aeroplane City. In my constant travels I’ve witnessed first hand those moments in a bar or at a friends home. We call them outsiders, most of which are commoners who stop to dream. While they watch a broadcast screen, I find it even more interesting to watch their reaction. It begins in wonder as breath drifts from an open mouth. Their face is then overtaken by envy of a place they’ll never set foot. I’ve witnessed it in every city I’ve travelled. Eyes affix in harmonious subconscious awe. The hand moves slower, the drink comes to rest on the surface of the bar without sound. But there is sound as the broadcast image collects every soul in the building and rounds them up into a collective silence. And then, the only sound is from the broadcast alone. Every eye is affixed to the contrast of towering buildings against mountains and sky with slow motion video showing a long body plane approaching through the southern high valley Bulanrue Pass. It’s sky ridge waterfall drips down the headwall into Kecher’s Forest, all framed in a way that says, “This dream can be yours.” Or perhaps it really says, “You can’t afford utopia.”

While they watch the screen, I watch them. I must admit I enjoy capturing their emotion. I see their eyes imagining how different and happy their own life could be if they could just live in such a place. It is unmistakable, no other city looks like Aeroplane City. Buildings are woven tight. Overtly wide streets are both unnecessary and rare. Much of the city are buildings under 20 stories, but then there are the towers of midtown. Atypically designed towers contrast with each other in the sky while blending into one another at ground level. The mountains surrounding the city do more than shield us from the world. They keep Aeroplane City contained and compact. There is no sprawl as the entire city is connected by catwalks, skywalks, inclines, and a few other fascinating and unique elevated transit systems keeping most of the city pedestrian. Knowing your way by learning the buildings is the key to daily navigation. Like a thumbprint that can’t be mistaken, every tall structure contrasts in harmony as visual masterpieces. Each building is a colleague to its neighbor, right and left, front and back. While many rise higher in stature they never overshadow each other in design. The development of Aeroplane City is so fine tuned that one might even mistake that the light which falls to the sidewalk was planned as it lands with benevolence and glows along the threadlike streets.

Where it isn’t perfect, it’s a perfect imperfection because not every part of the city is welcoming. To the uninitiated, midtown can turn you around twice and stand you on your head as you curse its beauty. The grid system is misshapen and modified to the terrain forcing the city grid shape like large V. As a result of the original hanging valleys, rolling hills, spurs, and talus’s along this valley the city has been built with numerous buildings which don’t obey the lose grid system. In fact some buildings are so close at their base they flow into one another sharing foundations. Although the city is caught between mountain ranges, it is hard to think of it as resting in this valley. Midtown sits at one of two apex’s in high ground sloping outward in descending waves from the center creating undeniable character in unlevel streets amid the city center. The corporations that laid claim to this land over 500 years ago worked hard to find architectural firms that matched their own vision of an advanced city with romantic appeal. Flattery teetered on resentment as those engineers were brought here and laid eyes on the untamed bedrock. City planners answered the unforgiving terrain with streets that rose and fell like the buildings they graced.

The Highlands are the exception in the southwest side where the true elite of the city reside. It’s on a low plateau both level and highest ground in this valley, providing those that live there a spectacular cross town view. To build on this unconventional land was a design challenge even for the greatest engineers of our time. The land here was never kind and mocked their intentions through thirty years of construction. Fighting the terrain an unexpected harmony was created. The eventual outcome resulted in the character that defines its charm. Parts of the city have become complicated, semi-linear and jagged due to unmanageable terrain. Integrity obscures the chaos, enough streets are traditional and undemanding on an honest grid. Some high rises, often as wide at their roof as they are at the base become narrow in their midsection defying convention. Standards exist for all the buildings such as earth and weather instability, but there is no required standard in building shape. From atop Centerpoint station here on the Lynxpoint runway it’s easy to see, character abounds throughout Aeroplane City but midtown is where grandeur is showcased. They are the sky towers. Majestic, proud, dominating the skyline combining inconceivable height with elegance bathed within the Andochian mountains looking down on them. Some are linear, others utilize horribly chosen cylindrical form but for semi-rotational jump jet pads. Then there are some that even appear alive with their stationary jump jet garages facing east. Broad foundations are common with the sky towers that sweep inward as they stretch upward piercing the sky. The greatest feat is how each building connected by catwalk still maintains beauty and individuality. Almost as tall as its companion the glass Elion Nova joins the Babylon Tower at both the twentieth and fiftieth floors without either structure compromising identity to its neighbor. Skywalks unite the city in an unobtrusive web.

Lynxpoint’s terminal exits everywhere but east. On the north side, at the Volvens Colles Boulevard is a grand view at ground level across the city. Strange that it is called the main boulevard. There is no other boulevard. Lynxpoint is also where midtown ends. Separated by a mere few blocks the heart of midtown lies straight along the Volvens. On the second highest ground midtown is the jewel of the city. The hills there inspire a number of woven buildings in the shape of an “S”. Those turning connections tie buildings together in this part of town. That synchronization created both a haphazard street grid and commuting ease for the savvy inhabitant who can master it’s complicated composition without navigation from a comm. Midtown runs along both the west and east sides of the main boulevard and ends at Yorktown point where the city splits like a Y on its side. Yorktown  Park is wedged between the east and west sides of town and eventually come back together in Oldtown where the city first started. How Yorktown park got its name is a mystery to me. There is not known person, company or anything related to a York. People did once want Aeroplane City to become the new New York but as parts of New York still exist in New Manhattan, you can’t really have any confusion of two New York’s even if one doesn’t genuinely exist anymore. Yorktown point does have a point however. A sheer rocky shoulder that splits the city. Its spine stretches a mile into the city separating much of old city to the east from the art district and back creek to the west.  This small spiny mountain of sorts is used for recreation of all types with parkland to each side. The was originally intended to level the small mountain after mining it during the cities early growth. Someone thought better of it.  Now it’s a safe interior city park.

As for the lone wide street in the city the mighty Volvens Colles Boulevard cuts right down the center of the city and breaks right to the east of the spiny Yorktown Park. The entire length of the boulevard was built as a central shopping district; over eighty city blocks. Engineers labored to keep the boulevard a straight road, and for the most part they did. Beyond the Volvens Colles the rest of the city is a tattered grid.

Volvens Colles begins at Centerpoint station in midtown to the city’s north eastern border. Standing here at Lynxpoint terminal you can see clear to the outskirts of the city skyline down the boulevard. The boulevard rises and falls with an abrupt end framed beyond in green. Where I stand taller structures obscure my view but along that way as you head north or “uptown” is the theater district. The theater district also crosses over and occupies both sides of the boulevard sharing space with the shopping district. Businesses near the theater district find that space the highest city commodity. The finest restaurants are found in there too. Beyond that northern edge you can see again to where the mountains close around the city. I won’t get as far as the theater district in my trek today. I just need to reach my midtown home.

Instinct strikes me and suddenly things change. I sense it is time to respond. My precognitive friend on the plane can talk about fate all he wants. Visions of the future are nothing compared to being keen and alert. Because I see him in the corner of my eye. From this distance he doesn’t make out that I’m carefully studying him. I’m puzzled by this because I’m three days early. He is a spy hunter, they are sophisticated corporate spies who are known to kill. They seem everywhere for such a small trade. Based on the direction of his body and body language I have no doubt this one is about to follow me, and the information I am in possession of is worth killing for. This moment leaves me with an eerie sense — life will not be the same. For a second the comments of the precog on the plane inject themselves into my thoughts. Why am I feeling something more? He’s just another spy hunter I need to ditch. As best I can, I put it from my thoughts yet knowing he is there requires answers.

To manage escape and survival it’s important to respond, not react. My response is to stifle the warning signs and methodically begin to think ahead. To stay collected I return my mind to the one romance that has rewarded me. Aeroplane City. If the world had a capital, this would be it. But this is a world without capitals. Nation states no longer exist. Capital cities no longer exist. What does exist, are city states. Some large, some small, then there are those as large as Britannia cities across the Atlantic Ocean – one of only two other isolated cities. And yet due to its size it’s as much a sprawl into chaos as any other city in the world. My city may not be the world capital, but Aeroplane City is the pinnacle city and destination for the drivers of the world. It’s not about elite snobbery. To be here is the life you earn. Combined with the man made magic in design, the human energy in Aeroplane City keeps it eternally new. A strange byproduct of that energy is the intangible bond one can fall into with Aeroplane City. I too have developed an attachment to living here.

This is the Halcyon Age. Love is based on merit not feeling. Although it’s still taught that love is an innate emotion that bonds people, hardly a soul alive enters into that risk. I’ve been there. I know. Love is such a hard word for me. I hardly understand the meaning of it anymore. It is why I’m so damn good at my job. I’m never confused or distracted by affection as my soul has been twisted by incessant betrayal.

Our world now understands love as an almost irrational decadent luxury, even a liability to your health. Marriage? It’s rare one marries for love. Marriage is entered into on what many call love but again only by merit. You marry without emotional investment throwing the word around loosely like announcing you need to use the bathroom. Our calloused existence teaches us to perhaps feel love once, but never again once it has passed. We speak of love as romantic love, and sensible love. Romantic love isn’t frowned upon, it just doesn’t seem to exist. It’s for this reason Aeroplane City reaches me. I’ve never been in the romantic love written about in the past. It became easy to trade the risk of a woman’s love many years ago for the requited love of this small piece of the world that won’t go wrong. I will never experience the empty feeling of believing that one person is the last hope I’ll ever have at love. When you read passages in books that speak of this love you desire it, but that desire is fleeting. Absence like that makes it too easy to love a city instead. This city made me fall in love with it because it’s the only place in the world where I believe love can survive. I know what lies within the silhouette of its soul more than any historian.

It’s this mysterious passion I exhibit outwardly that serves to confuse any spy attempting to decide if I’m an intellectually challenging target. It’s odd, the years have punished my mind as much as my body. Nothing hides wisdom like an innocent smile.

Copyright ©  2018 by Lars Hindsley