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The Amphibious Ark
100m, 200m, 300m…
Darkness, endless darkness.
Noah stared at the Old-Tech Screen as the capsule plummeted to the ground. His heart was pounding faster than the steam-powered engines.
The heat from the engines and the explosions above the ground made the capsule an oven. Every now and then, violent seismic waves sent the capsule up and down, then left and right, accompanied by the deafening booming sounds from above that are London’s final cries of desperation.
Noah forced himself not to think about what would be happening to his parents right now. As first-class engineers who worked with Medusa, they were Death’s guaranteed prey. The only way to escape was to board this Amphibious Ark, a motorized capsule that could both burrow underground and fly in the air. London had built the Ark to detect both burrowing traction cities and air cities, but now, it was Noah’s last straw.
He was on a work shift maintaining the Ark in the Gut when a message came telling him that Medusa had overloaded and London had only seconds to live. Now, here he was, leaving behind the city, where he spent the first eighteen years of his life. Only his five-year-old brother, who happened to be tagging along at the Gut, was lucky enough to be with him.
As a young engineer, Noah knew that he could not just leave London like this. From this moment on, the great responsibility of revenge sat on his shoulders. He must build a more powerful New London. With its new wheels, it would penetrate the Shield Wall and finally open the new Hunting Ground of Shan Guo. He would not let down his parents, he would not let down London, and he would not let down Municipal Darwinism.
Noah did not know how long had passed when the ground finally grew tired of its own vibrations and calmed. They were now twenty miles from London.
300m, 200m, 100m…
Noah steered the ark up. It gave a sigh of relief as it emerged from the ground and opened its wings. They landed on the side of a hill to take a last look at London.
The darkness lingered. A dormant volcano awakened by London’s explosion was still spitting hot lava, which made an orange scar in the distance. The air smelled of rotten eggs. The smoke made them cough.
As daylight started creeping in, Noah saw London lay like a bleeding dead lion killed in a hunger game on the barren plain. Scavenger traction towns had already come to enjoy the feast. Greedy hyenas tore apart the lower tiers while remorseless vultures fed on the delicious Gut. Cunning crows and condors stole from the leftovers. Suddenly, a much bigger town ferociously rolled toward the metal carcass like a hungry wolf. It devoured the other traction towns on by on without mercy and then made London its own meal with triumph. It gnawed the lion away, piece by piece, tier by tier until the once magnificent traction metropolis was reduced into a pile of abandoned gray rubble.
Noah felt that his own body was torn apart. He was taught that Municipal Darwinism was the only idea for cities to thrive, but seeing it in action made him nauseous. He imagined that even if he was to build a more powerful London, there would always be traction cities larger than it. No matter how cities armed themselves, there would always be predators and preys, winners and losers. War seemed endless. When every city spent all their resources and energy to expand its military, nobody would thrive.
“Look, birds!” cried his brother. Noah was pulled back from his deep thoughts. A flock of white doves flew over the blue sky into the valley on the other side of the hill. They followed the singing birds onto the top of the hill. The sweet wind of the Bird Roads brushed against Noah’s cheeks. The green valley was bathed in the warmth of sunlight. A happy river meandered its way across the valley with yellow daffodils dancing on its banks. The landscape made itself a perfect canvas inviting the doves to paint in it.
Noah imagined himself following the birds in his ark and settling in this peaceful valley, free from the grip of Municipal Darwinism. Maybe it was better to use engines to build static towns than traction cities. Maybe it was better to grow things than to fight for resources. Maybe it was better to make peace than to seek revenge.
“Get onboard. Let’s follow the birds into the valley.” summoned Noah