8) The Corridor – Page 50
only to Nevada — they are yours. When VIG came looking for them armed with ultra-masers and gravplates, they found them in rectangular fields of stone: sliced platters of raw earth, meters-thick and hundreds of meters wide, floating freely and moveable with an infant’s strength. When the shadows of the great monoliths fell over fields as they worked their way to the Atlantic, even VIG’s money could not prevent the legal battles to come. Did the minerals need to be extracted on site to be licensed in Wyoming? Was the state of Maryland entitled to taxes on the products of the quarrying? Even as the plates slid into place along the underside of the factory, people decried the raping of the landscape, or worried about rock plates falling from the sky onto their roofs. Not in my sunshine.
Another argument: deliberate cities have no soul.
At the mid-point of the 2050′s, half as many people were leaving VIG / Powder Heights every morning as came in. Early housing had reflected new growth architecture; clean, modern and efficient. With the advent of ultra-maser quarrying, it became just as cost effective to transplant blocks of pre-existing homes as building new. Swaths of historic homes, still embedded in the bedrock of their foundations, floated in from depressed locations; locations where they would have been torn down to make way for cheap condos, or gone derelict, argued proponents to those campaigners who termed the process urban removal. Despite the negative connotation, some cities even paid for the privilege of letting Anders repurpose their heritage. The permanent population swelled.
As the 2060′s dawned, the factory had begun transforming itself from a compound into a vibrant city. Billions in gravplates flowed out while untold tons of critical food and supplies flowed in. Powder Heights was not exceptional. On firm ground or not, all cities are lopsided entities: they give and take and none are self-sufficient. They are just as dependant on their tarmac arteries as the VIG factory and its invisible byways to fulfill the necessities of life: organic poultry; cold-rolled steel; leather chaise longueslongues; protractors and compasses; 4-ply toilet paper; nitroglycerin derivates for explosives; nitroglycerin derivates for heart medication; disposable electronics; cilantro; water.
This was the final argument: water. Powder Heights was constantly drawing at the limit of the capacity the aquifers of the Maryland Coastal Plain could provide, sucking the land drier than it could keep up, like Vegas before the population fell. Hundreds of millions of gallons of water per day flowed through the city’s advanced recycling centers, transforming blackwater into greywater, greywater into whitewater. The technology was influenced by the design of multi-stage flash desalination plants, born of grand necessity in places like Dubai. There, they had pumped out so much brine and backfilled the ocean with artificial resort islands that the coastline changed each year. Beach-front property became sand-front, devalued and abandoned within a matter of months as the water receded away. At Powder Heights, the waters were receding: the city was slowly running dry, one sip and shower at a time. The city faced the same imperative as the Dubai developers: move to where the water was.
At 2 AM on March 5th, 2065, with the routine ease of road crew working at night, the city of Powder Heights disconnected from the massive water main that supplied it and the maglev station that bound it in a single location, breaking its last bonds with Terra. It floated away east at a stately seven