Towers of Grass and Clay

October 26, 2016


Li Tsai stood beside the groundship and studied the ruins of the ancient city. She’d learned in school that the inhabitants of that unhappy place called it Denver, in honor of some forgotten politician. Today those people were naught but dust and troubled memories, she thought, shifting her glance towards the new city standing alongside the bones of the old: Deng Xiaoping, city of the people.

It was a fitting name. Deng Xiaoping was home to the largest undertaking in the history of man, one which would free humankind forever. Li Tsai thought the city’s long-dead namesake would be proud.

“Li, come,” called Fang Shen. “Chiang waits.”

She scowled, ignoring him, and turned instead to view her child, for that’s how she’d begun to consider it. The official name was Shenzhen United Development Project 54. The people simply called it SUD54, or sometimes just the Stairway. Li Tsai cared naught for their names. She’d worked thirty-seven years to get there:  SUD54 was hers.

She knew she must be careful. Her possessiveness was traitorous, if not outright dangerous. If Elder Chiang perceived her thoughts, he’d boot her down to material handler grade, or worse. “No, Li,” he would tell her. “SUD54 belongs to the people. To think otherwise is arrogance.”

“Please, Li,” insisted Fang. “We’ll be late for the review.”

And yet, staring at it now, she knew that the family of distant buildings, the dark spire in the center—massive even from this distance—was the only progeny she would ever create. She would gladly give her life to see it finished. Glaring darkly at Feng, she entered the groundcar, hoping she wouldn’t have to.

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