Preview book 2/2, travelling
and we still need to talk about sex
What you need to know beforehand
Refreshed from the holidays on the East Coast of Australia, the travelling team begin the second part of their journey around the world.
They travel in Tom’s private double-deck airliner which has a small safe room for encrypted calls.
The Hub started as the project’s own social media platform and has evolved into an internet within the internet.
The Hub Stations maintain the Hub network and include facilities for education, health, art and businesses to support local communities.
About some of the characters
Alice Adler, born in Berlin, 1972, head of the Easy Town Foundation. Before the project, Alice worked as a freelancer in photography and web design. First impression: sportive casual, unruly short dark hair
THE is an exclusive security company which operates independently and internationally. THE only work for people or organisations they respect.
Location of THE’s headquarters: classified.
First impression of THE members: professional, casual black attire; first names only.
Any, real name and personal information unknown, founder and head of THE. Occasionally, he and Alice talk via video call. First impression: classified.
Jazz, born in London, 1982, security expert, head of Project Security in cooperation with THE, and martial arts instructor. Jazz works out with Alice. First impression: athletic, stern, thick curly crown of short dark hair
Jack Harris, born in London, 1972, famous actor. Jack Harris works internationally and mostly lives in London. He has three children (18, 16, 8) with his ex-wife. First impressions: ‘Bloody hell, I’ve seen this guy on screen.’ ‘Blimey, he’s hot.’
Flight to Beijing
preview for book 2/2, travelling
___________________________________Fri, July 8
Rio de Janeiro
___________________________________Mon, August 8
Flight to Beijing
Monday, 8 August 2016
They left Sydney at six o’clock. A bit early for Alice, but working out with Jazz and Jack, and afterwards a nice breakfast with Jack and Hachiro kind of made up for that.
Right now, they were still flying over Australia, some 35,000 feet above the continent.
Alice squeezed herself into the safe room and closed the door behind her.
‘You’re looking great,’ Any said via the monitor. ‘You’ve got tan, and you’re looking— fantastic.’
Alice chuckled. ‘The magical power of holidays. Imagine what three weeks would do to me.’
‘I wouldn’t recognise you, I’m sure. How was last night’s party?’
‘Fun. Most of the Sydney Team came too. And then we had one of Hachiro’s fashion shows.’
‘Ah, yes. The outfits for China, Otaon and Romania were produced in Sydney, right?’
‘Yes. And Hachiro is very happy with the results.’
‘I love his work. We get to wear tunics in Otaon. I mean, I wish I was more into dresses. The dresses he made for China are so beautiful. But I feel like they aren’t me. Or I’m not me when I wear them. Anyway, how have you been?’
Alice leant back with a smile. ‘Tell me all about it.’
Any returned the smile. ‘I’m glad you’re in such a good mood.’
‘Don’t hesitate to spoil it.’
‘If you say so. Hub first. As you know the new Hub features will be launched in twenty-four days.’
‘And now you’re going to tell me I should test the new Hub.’
‘I’m not going to tell you, but I know you want to have a say in the final specifications. Besides, the developers excel themselves. You’ll be amazed.’
‘I’ll have a look and run some tests.’
‘Good. Apart from that, attacks on the Hub and on the project servers have intensified again. The attacks come from all quarters and—’
‘Publish all of them. Attacks a day and who attacked. And add a few speculations about why those people would attack the Hub. Has anyone succeeded?’
‘No, our defences hold. And every new subscriber gets quarantined in a Hub simulation before we let them through. Anyone suspicious gets into a loop of simulations until they’re cleared or kicked out. That’s where all the hackers land. But. You want to publish that the CIA, FBI, MI5, BND, Mossad, private contractors hired by big corporations and nervous billionaires, Google, Facebook and others are trying to get in? Not to mention the Russians, the Chinese? Oh, and India?’
‘Yes. And since we’re at it. Let’s publish figures too. How many people use the Hub? How much money comes in? And what happens with the money? We wanted to do that anyway. Let’s start with it now.’
Any hesitated. ‘Now, I’m not so sure any more about the holiday effect.’
‘Too much sun?’
‘Any, what better way is there? Let’s be transparent. Let’s ask inconvenient questions. Let’s expose.’
Any sighed. ‘And I thought I was the radical.’
‘It’s not even radical. It’s sensible. No one wants to be exposed as a sneaky bastard. So when we start to publish their names and actions, they have a choice: Either leave us alone, or be publicly recognised for what you are.’
‘You know, I’m proud to be working with you.’
‘Likewise. What else?’
Any shock his head. ‘Just like that. On to the next point?’
[Alice] ‘I’m glad to hear it. Your warnings started to worry me.’
‘Sorry about that. You focus on your work, and we’ll have your back.’
‘Thanks. And thanks for telling me to kick out the doubts.’
‘Always happy to be your therapist.’
Alice chuckled a little. ‘Thanks. Tell me, how serious are the death threats?’
[Any] It’s not all straight forward. For one, not everyone wants to kill you—’
‘That’s a relief.’
‘What the heck is their problem? Why attack us at all?’
‘These people were born into power and privilege. And they scare easily. What if the town experiment proves something that endangers their position, influence and power? See, they don’t even belief you can succeed. But just in case you do …’
‘The good old preventative strike?’
‘Pre-emptive strike. Yes.’
‘Hm. Is there anything I can do?’
‘Trust Jazz and her team. And don’t let those bastards get into your head.’
Alice smiled a little. ‘OK. And thanks. I mean, it’s about time I said thanks. So thank you for protecting us.’
‘Pleasure. You look funny when you get all solemn.’
‘Yeah. Hm. Jazz said that everyone knows when we’ll arrive in China and in Russia. Is that a problem?’
‘Not in China. Unless the Chinese decide to pull the trigger. But we have no indication of that, and you’ll be surrounded by us and by their security agents all the time. Besides, they have events planned for every minute of your visit.’
‘Yes, your Chinese hosts. The on-the-spot team weren’t allowed into the country. They’re waiting in Hanoi and might join you in a few days. But they weren’t involved in the planning.’
‘Hanoi? As in Vietnam?’
‘But the Chinese are working with your team?’
‘Yes, my security team is in place, and co-operation has been good.’
‘All right. Talk me through it. From the start.’
Any looked sideways at another monitor, and Alice could hear some clicking noises. Then Any said: ‘You’ll land in Beijing around half past three local time.’
‘Yes. Officers will board the airliner to check everyone’s passports and visas.’
‘Oh. Feels like the good old days at checkpoints between East and West Berlin.’
‘I wouldn’t know about that.’
‘Any, did you just give me a clue about your identity?’
‘What? That I never visited East Berlin while the wall was still up?’
‘And there’s another clue or three. You’re older than twenty-seven. No, make that thirty-two. No—’
‘Alice, you can see me. Don’t tell me, you can’t do better than that.’
‘Well, I always thought you were older than me.’
‘I am. And that’s enough about me. Can we get back to China?’
‘Sorry. It’s just, I’ve been waiting for a slip-up.’
‘Everyone does. China?’
‘Yes,’ Alice said, still chuckling.
‘Six cars will be waiting outside the airliner, and there’ll be seven people to welcome the travelling team. Six of those are local team members. The seventh person, Yang Lian, is your personal translator during your visit. She’s female.’
‘Is it important that she’s female?’
‘No, it’s not. But can you tell the gender from a Chinese name?’
‘All right. No, I can’t.’
Any continued: ‘Most likely, you’ll encounter eight kinds of people on this visit: government officials, official observers, probably unofficial observers, academics, businesspeople, translators, security agents, and local team members. These local team members have been cleared by us and by the government. You’ll not always know who is who, or rather who is what. Your translator, for example, might be a secret agent—’
‘Hang on, hang on— You’re going too fast. Cleared by the government and you?’
‘Yes. We checked everyone who wanted to be part of the local team, and the government checked everyone for clearance from their side. You could say, the local team members are all good people who focus on their work, and who have no major grudge against the government. They are neutral enough to have passed the tests on both sides. We had to reject a few people who were too close to the government, and the government rejected a few people they deemed suspicious.’
Alice’s eyebrows were in danger of disappearing behind her hairline. ‘And we’re accepting that?’
‘That’s the question. And chances are that you’ll ask that particular question repeatedly over the next days.’
Alice pursed her lips and gazed out of the window. Blue sky. These days it tended to cheer her up again. But up here, the blue sky felt like cheating. You never got clouds — except when you looked down.
Alice turned to Any again. ‘So you’re saying I should make up my mind when I know more?’
‘And you’ll meet the local team. They are good people. Their only flaw is that they aren’t interested in politics. If you want to call that a flaw. And maybe in our times it really is. And yes, at some point you’ll have to decide whether or not you want to work with China. Also, the International Easy Town Project Team China are based in the Yunnan Province, in a small town chosen by the government. Since this town qualifies for a Hub Station, and the Yi people, and other local tribes, are interested in running the Hub Station, neither Devery nor Tom objected to the choice.’
‘What is it?’ Any asked.
‘I’m trying to remember why we have a team in China.’
‘Not sure. Tom and I did the international team list in connection with the travelling list. We were travelling to China, so I overlooked that a China team appeared on the team list too. Bloody hell, I just didn’t pay attention.’
‘Don’t worry. It’s not too late to consider all angles now.’
Alice nodded, still frowning. ‘And my translator is a secret agent?’
‘We’re not sure. But you should be careful around her.’
‘I’ve nothing to hide.’
‘All I’m saying is, don’t get chummy with her.’
After the call, Alice stayed in the safe room and checked her emails.
Fran was keeping her promise to prepare the official sex talk, and she had been busy. Her first email contained a password to two digital letterboxes. Alice logged into her Hub account and found the letterboxes in the digital hall. First, she opened the letterbox for anonymous sex talk contributions. It contained over sixty notes. Sometimes only a few lines. This was a good start. Really good.
The letterbox for signed contributions was empty. Well, anonymous contributions were absolutely fine.
Since Alice was logged in, she switched to the upcoming Hub version and gaped. Even in the few minutes, she looked around, she was amazed by the 3D rooms she visited with her default avatar: living room, study, library, sound basement, shopping street, art gallery … She would need a good deal of time to test all the features available now. Maybe on the flight to Otaon. Or in the evenings in China.
Fran’s second email was long, and Alice decided to print it out.
Fran wrote that she was in contact with Devery in connection with the three new initiatives: Learn how to defend yourself, Stop causing harm with your sexuality (Your dick is not a weapon, your boobs are not a means to an end), and Where does our violent behaviour come from? brought up by the Hub Team in Cape Town. So far, each initiative had a small initial team to outline the aims and approaches for their work.
Alice paused reading and looked out of the window.
Blue sky. Nothing to disturb the view. Nothing to suggest that anything could be other than fine — and blue.
Alice sighed. So much violence. Could a few initiatives really make a difference? Well, they had to try.
Fran concluded her email with notes on domestic violence. While reading them, Alice underlined some remarks.
Where do things go wrong between men and women? And why? Is there anything we can do, apart from exposing the violence?
Alice leant back and closed her eyes, pondering.
Where do things go wrong between women and men?
About an hour later, Alice felt a rush of excitement.
Could this be an explanation? Of sorts?
She had to talk to someone. But who? Who would be open enough to even think about this?
Alice stared at the screen in front of her, then back at the notepad she had been scribbling on.
Leo. Of course. Leo.
Alice picked up the headset, connected her phone to the secure line, and dialled Leo’s number. The phone rang five or six times before a tired voice answered: ‘Alice? Are you okay?’
‘Oh, bloody hell. I forgot to look up the time. Sorry, I didn’t want to wake you up. And yes, I’m fine. What’s the time in London?’
Leo seemed to be turning in his bed. ‘Half past one. Only just dropped off. No problem. What’s so important?’
‘I could call you back later.’
‘Yeah. No. I can hear that you really want to talk.’
‘All right. And thanks. Look, I’ll get straight to the point.’
‘Sure,’ Leo said, stifling a yawn.
‘I’ve been thinking about domestic violence, and how it comes about.’
‘Well, eventually I asked myself a few questions about the male body and in particular about the penis.’
‘What?’ Leo exclaimed, suddenly sounding a lot more awake. ‘How would you even do that? You don’t have a male body, and in particular not a penis.’
‘Yes, I noticed. That’s why I need to talk to someone who has.’
book 2/2, travelling
Travelling around the world, Alice and her team further an international network for the Easy Town Project. Travelling with them are the past, personal demons, prejudice and unwittingly the issue of sex.
Flight to Beijing, China, Otaon, Romania, Flight to Moscow, Russia, Berlin, London
Prince Salar explained that the watcher was a reminder that humans will only progress if and when they strive to understand what it is they are doing, and when they ask themselves why they are doing it.
book 2/2, travelling, Otaon
book 2/2, travelling, chapters 6-10
book 2/2, travelling will also be available in single chapters
For Alice the visit in China starts with two secrets. One secret helps her to keep an open mind during some meetings. The other might help her to understand herself better. Meanwhile, the project’s adversaries come up with new plans, but it’s the assassins who get too close.
Otaon is a most remarkable chapter on the travelling team’s journey. It’s a feast with fairy tales, humour and wisdom, an unexpected adventure, a celebration of human ingenuity, an acknowledgement of human faults, a journey magic and a little tragic but overall uplifting.
Despite some drawbacks, Alice has a great time in Romania. Not everyone is happy about that, but when Alice and Bertok develop a new idea, almost everyone is enthused, and Alice spends a sleepless night to ponder a crucial question. Meanwhile, Jack is troubled in Italy.
Filip and Natasha invite Alice to an exclusive ball. Thanks to the sex talk, Alice has a lot of fun. But then things start to go downhill, and after a warning, the travelling team goes into hiding. Disguised, Alice travels to meet the one person who might know what the heck is going on.
When Alice arrives in Berlin, she feels strange. Five months ago, she left with the idea for a town experiment. Now she returns as the head of the town project. It’s time to wrap up her old life. After two very different goodbyes, the launch of the new Hub takes centre stage, and the sex talk gets new input.