Golem Project In Progress
The Birmingham Electrical Plant stood high in the center of the city. Smaller buildings, travel rails, elevated roads, and support cabling surrounded its base. The triply-reinforced walls of the mighty tower reached up to support its coil, which wavered amid heavy black clouds. Arcs of electrical discharge spat out at the sky, and the dark clouds lashed back, rumbling with a never-ending barrage of thunder.
It was Friday, the day Wessel had agreed to tag along at work with his father. The two stood at the base of the building, looking up. Wind grabbed at Wessel’s messy mop of hair, pushing it up and to the side.
The sun hadn’t risen that morning. Clouds darkened the sky and blocked the light, leaving the entire city in an uneasy dusk. No matter how hard the wind blew, it couldn’t overcome the unease that the whole city felt.
Wessel had experienced days like this before. Days with this sort of weather. It only happened every year or two. He swallowed. Today was not the sort of day he wanted to be in a tower.
“It will be fine, Wes,” his father said. “We are equipped to handle the weather.”
Wessel took in an unsteady breath. “Okay,” he said. His father’s words, normally reassuring, fell flat. Was it the coming storm that was setting him on edge? Or was it just the feel that the tower coil put off, the frigid tension in the air that gave him goosebumps and made his jaw ache?
Wessel’s father and his father’s golem stepped forward, leaving Wessel behind.
“Come on, Aizi,” Wessel whispered, following.
“Do not worry,” Aizi said. “I was made to protect you.”
From other humans, Wessel thought. You weren’t made to stop a storm. The thought made him more antsy, and he hunched his shoulders further.
“I see no difference,” Aizi said.
“Not yet you don’t,” Wessel mumbled. He’d lived in this area his whole life. The city was isolated by design from all sorts of natural occurrences. Floods, wild beasts, and overgrowth didn’t bother city dwellers. Mosquitos and flies were rarely seen in the open air, only clustering in weak patches around sewers and trash.
But there was nothing created that could stop the full might of a springtime storm. Wessel was sure of that.
An elevator buzzed as he and his father walked through the arched doorway of the plant. A doorman and his large gray ‘power’ golem nodded as they passed. That was all the validation they needed to enter the facility. With golems being linked to humans as they were, identifying those who entered or left a building was easy. Another reason that the Golem Project diminished the need for security.
Wessel stepped on the elevator after his father, and the two rose. That tense feeling in the air strengthened as they climbed, and even in the elevator Wessel could hear the rumbling.
“They’re taking us on a tour, today,” his father commented.
“A tour?” Wessel asked.
“They want to give you an idea of what the tower does, how it works, that kind of thing.”
“I thought I was going to see your job.”
His father laughed. “My job would be boring. But hey, at least this way we both get the day off, right?”
Wessel frowned. Going against the plan he’d had in his head, against expectations. He felt more tense than before.
The elevator opened up twice on the way up, letting in a few more people. One of them left on another floor. Wessel watched the dial go up, first ten floors, then twenty, then thirty.
On the thirty-fourth floor, the doors opened to a large lobby full of workers, children, and golems. The group waiting for the tour. As Wessel approached, the sound of conversation grew. It was loud. People making sure they were heard above the others, escalating the jumble of voices into a barrage of noise.
He didn’t like it. The rumble of thunder, the feel of tension in the air, the overwhelming garble of voices. He at once felt like locking his ears and dunking himself in a tub of water, drowning out the feelings and sounds.
His father’s hand landed on his shoulder, firm and supportive. “I’m here,” he heard his father say. “Everything’s alright.”
Wessel nodded and put his hands over his ears, then closed his eyes for a moment. Everything dulled. He saw blackness, then colors of red, yellow, and green pop up behind his eyelids. The thunder was muted for the moment, the conversations around him were only a dull droning.
Jut a moment of peace. He was lucky to have it.
Aizi spoke in his head, firm and clear. “I will inform you when the tour guide appears.”
Wessel didn’t respond, but the message was useful. He could stay here, isolated. If anyone way paying attention to him, he wouldn’t know it. He could ignore the storm and the crowd. For now.
Minutes passed. Minutes of time, ticking away. Wessel’s father didn’t interrupt him, or force him to interact with anyone.
“He is here,” Aizi said.
Wessel took his hands from his ears and opened his eyes. The crowd had fallen mostly silent, but for the murmur here and there. A very tall man, wearing a suit with a loose scarf rather than a tie, stood before them. The man had scruffy straight hair that looked like it would come out if someone tugged on it, and a narrow face with a thin smile.
“This way, please,” he ushered, gesturing through a doorway that Wessel was certain had been closed off before. The crowd ambled through slowly, and Wessel took up the rear to avoid getting caught in the middle of it. His dad stayed by his side.
On the spur of the moment, Wessel moved closer to Aizi and she set him on her shoulders, able to see over the heads of the adults in the crowd. There were about thirty people there, in all, and many had their golems standing by. Too many people for a tour, if Wessel had anything to say about it.
“My name is Eric Holderman,” the tall tour guide said. “Welcome to the Birmingham Electric Plant, the tower coil that fuels the city. I’ll be taking you around the central spire today. Thank you for coming!”
Eric Holderman continued speaking as he led them into the center of the tower, down wide smooth corridors with high ceilings. The walls, ceilings, and floors were all made of different acrylic materials, making Wessel feel like they were in some kind of toy playhouse. Everything looked plastic-y.
“As you can see,” Eric Holderman said, “All of the materials around us are non-conductive. There are grounding lines and strong metal supports within these walls, keeping the electrical discharges strong and direct within this tower. There is nothing for us to fear, even here at the center source of the power zone.”
The group entered the full central chamber. They were perched on a balcony, able to see the tower’s core stretching out above and below them for dozens of floors. The scale was dizzying. Spirals of wire wrapped around, up, and down the central tube, which had a bar of metal in the center as thick as Wessel’s apartment building. The metal continued upward and downward, seamless, reaching up to the coil at the top of the tower. Balconies from other floors could be seen above and below, stretching into a long walkway around the center tube.
And the whole thing, it seemed, was spinning. It spun so fast that the surface seemed a blur, and Wessel could feel the vibrations in the air from where he stood. It hummed, crackled, shook the core of the building ever so slightly.
“We’ll walk in a counter-clockwise direction,” Eric said. “To your left.”
The crowd moved to follow. Aizi fell in line, giving Wessel an even better view of the rotation.
“This is the heart of the wireless power in our city. See how strong it is? The coils, magnets, and wires in this tower are pushed by nuclear fuel cells to turn, and turn, and turn. This spinning provides energy to everything in the city. How? Some say magic. We say electricity and magnetism. A beautiful thing.”
Wessel looked down at his analog watch, at the little holes in it that marked the speaker and the microphone. He looked further, at Aizi. He’d never fueled her in any way, or supplied her with anything. She just moved on her own.
That was how everything was.
“Of course, there are downsides to this system. Static. Some difficulties making more finicky electronic systems work. After all, there’s a lot of turbulence when it comes to a system like this. It’s all worth it, though. Free energy for everyone in the city. And more importantly…” Eric pointed through the crowd, here and there, at the machine-crafted forms that were linked to everyone present. “Without towers like this, the Golem Project would never have been possible.”
Wessel rested his hand on Aizi. Worth it. Worth setting his teeth on edge with the power thrumming in the air, living with the static that grinded out of his watch and computer, growing up with the tower sending out lightning over the city. Aizi was worth all of that, easily.
“Now, I’d like to give your parents a chance to tell you what they do.” Eric pulled a piece of yellow lined paper from his pocked, unfolded it, and read, “Miss Calvinis?”
A woman stepped forward from the crowd. She had straight red hair, wore thick glasses, and wore a common shirt with jeans.
“I work in fueling,” she said to the crowd. Her eyes were focused somewhere in particular as she spoke, probably watching her child. “We sit at the base of the tower, and be set off the reactions and burn the fuels that keep this monster spinning!”
“Very good,” Eric the tour guide said. “Mister Cote?”
“Be right back,” Wessel’s dad said. He left, heading around the crowd to the front. His pale specter of a golem followed behind him.
Wessel gripped Aizi’s head, suddenly alone at the back of the crowd.
“I work on this very floor,” Wessel’s dad said. “My team monitors the rotation at all points in the tower, making sure that we stay in a certain range. Too low and the city might lose some power. Too high, and… well, that would cause the tower to automatically shut down. Wouldn’t want that to happen either.”
Just as he finished speaking, a wail broke out over the crowd. For just a short moment, Wessel thought it was the cry of a baby, or the howl of some creature that had entered the power zone.
No. He knew what that noise was.
The wail rose in pitch, silencing everyone, coming from all directions at once. The pitch wavered and then fell again, up and down, a siren’s call of warning. The wail of those who saw doom approaching.
It was a tornado siren. Coming from every weather center in the city, every warning tower, government building, and community station. They howled in synchronized form, emitting a wail so eerie it made Wessel shiver.
Their message was clear.
The mighty spring storm was coming to bear. The rotation of the skies had begun, and a vortex had been sighted.
There would be damage before the hour was done.