Preview book 2/2, travelling, and we still need to talk about sex
Book 2/2 starts with a handful of spoilers for everyone who hasn’t read book 2/1. Therefore you will find short extracts from each country chapter here instead of a peek at the first pages.
They left Sydney at six o’clock. A bit early for Alice’s liking, but working out with Jazz and Jack, and afterwards a nice breakfast with Jack and Hachiro kind of made up for it.
Right now, they were still flying over Australia, some 35,000 feet above the continent, and Alice squeezed into the seat in the safe room, closing the door behind her.
‘You are looking great,’ Any said via the monitor. ‘You’ve got tan, and you are 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. When we got to the airliner in the afternoon, our pilots and the cook had already prepared everything, and 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 and robes in Otaon. I mean, I wish I was more into dresses. The dresses he made for China are so beautiful. But I still feel like they aren’t me. Or I am not me when I wear them. But anyway, how have you been?’
Alice leant back with a smile. ‘Tell me all about it.’
Any returned the smile. ‘I’m glad you are in such a good mood.’
‘Don’t hesitate to spoil it.’
‘If you say so. Well, let’s start with the Hub. As you know the new Hub features will be launched in twenty-four days.’
‘And now you are going to tell me that 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 will have a look and run some tests.’
‘Good. Apart from that, hacking attacks on the Hub and on the project servers have intensified again. The attacks come from all quarters and—’
‘Publish them,’ Alice cut in.
‘Publish all of them. Attacks a day and who attacked. And add a few speculative questions on 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 are 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 are 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 am not so sure any more about the holiday effect …’
‘Too much sun?’ Alice countered archly.
‘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 publishing their names and actions, they have a choice: Either leave us alone or be publicly recognised for what you are.’
[book 2/2, travelling, Flight to Beijing]
DAY 1 // Monday, Sitseaf
No one knew what to expect from the short visit to Otaon, an ancient, influential and rich kingdom in the Middle East.
Of course, it would be very hot due to the desert climate, and there would be many princes thanks to the extensive royal family.
According to the invitation, the travelling team would be staying at a private villa in Sitseaf, the capital of Otaon, and they were expected at some kind of reception in a palace garden this afternoon.
That was all they knew.
There was no on-the-spot team.
No international team.
No mention of the Hub.
No remark about the town experiment.
Nor any indication which of the many royals had invited them.
But the travelling team were hoping for two things: a visit to the Great Library of Sitseaf and a private meeting with two of their Hub developers.
These developers lived in the capital, but their involvement with the Hub was a secret since no one knew whether the King of Otaon would approve of their involvement with the Hub or not.
Paradise Garden, Adeola thought and nervously tugged at her headscarf.
It is so beautiful. An oval garden lined with trees of all kinds and filled with— everything.
She took a step backwards.
Look at the fountains, and the sculptures of princes and warriors. White marble. And the ornamental walls with intricate mosaics. Look. The path, a mosaic too, winding through the central strip of the garden. And the small tents with colourful peaks and open sides, shiny cushions to sit on.
And so many guests. Princesses and princes.
Adeola swallowed and took another step backwards.
And the palm trees and fruit tress and other trees and all the flowers. Purple. Yellow. White.
And peacocks. Prancing peacocks.
Look. Look! It’s so beautiful.
Adeola took another step backwards and stumbled into a hedge.
Her eyes filled with tears.
She looked at the travelling team, their outlines blurred, their figures moving along the path — away.
Alice led the team with something like a spring in her step. Jazz followed measuredly. Behind them, Hachiro, Andy, Jack and Devery walked rather chaotically while Giselle and Kenny, Jane and Dennie brought up the rear in two neat lines. Soon they would reach the tent where Anthony was waiting for them.
I should be with them.
Adeola’s hands started to shake.
She looked over her shoulder.
The gates were just a few yards away.
Anthony felt restless.
Some three hours ago, he and Dennie checked in with the local THE guards, twelve of them. And they all agreed that the garden, the palace and all the guests checked out.
But something didn’t feel right.
[book 2/2, travelling, Otaon]
DAY 1 // Thursday, Bucharest
The travelling team spent an industrious morning on the airliner, reading up on Romania, making calls to the London Team and eventually meeting for a briefing in the lounge, on and around the circular sofa.
Tim, Bea and Jesse handed out folders with paperwork, and Tim reported that the on-the-spot team and the Romania Team had already completed most of the usual tasks. Hence, not much was left for the travelling team to do.
Adeola frowned, looking up from her folder. ‘We only have to sign these contracts and proposals, and that’s it?’
‘Yes, unless adjustments are required,’ Tim confirmed in his usual, slightly robotic, way. ‘They bought a team house. It will be ready in December. Talks with government officials took place. Everything else is in your folders.’
‘So why are we here?’ Alice teased, still turning pages.
‘To meet the local team,’ Tim replied matter-of-factly and sat down next to Bea on the circular sofa.
Bea looked particularly pretty this morning in her flower dress. Though, Jesse stole a bit of her parade by wearing a big flowery dress himself, one of Hachiro’s gender-contradicting creations.
‘Hm,’ Alice muttered, presently distracted by a little article which was called: What if time didn’t matter?
Andy looked at Bea. ‘But why do they suggest so many Hub Stations?’
‘Romania has a population of about twenty million people,’ Bea explained. ‘That means the country could qualify for two Hub Stations. However, Romania is large, and it would be good if more than two regions could benefit from the income of the Hub Stations, not least because a significant rural population is still intact and could benefit from the support. The local team did the calculations. They estimate that a Hub Station needs a minimum of half a million Hub users to have any impact locally. Such a small Hub Station could invest two hundred and forty thousand euro a month. The local team and the on-the-spot team talked with the government, and they would agree to twenty small Hub Stations plus a larger station in Bucharest. The latter would process about two million users and serve as fallback for all stations.’
‘Sounds sensible,’ Andy said. ‘What do you think, Devery?’
Devery, who was leaning against the bar, nodded. ‘Yeah, sounds good. If the numbers hold, this approach could be useful in other places too.’
Andy nodded, Bea looked pleased, and Hachiro stepped away from a window, closing his folder. ‘Eleven dot.workshops running fine and seven about to open. Fantastic. Is there anything at all planned for today?’
‘Yes,’ Tim stated and checked his watch. ‘You will meet the local team at the hotel in three hours. It is an informal get-together in a private lounge at the hotel.’
‘It’s all very relaxed,’ Jesse added. ‘Tomorrow, there will be tours and meetings for Adeola, Devery and Hachiro. And Bertok Morar, the local team leader, hopes that Alice and Andy will join him for talks about the town experiment.’
‘This Bertok,’ Alice said, looking up. ‘Is he the one who sent the team application?’
‘Yes,’ Jesse confirmed. ‘Some say he is a genius. He is a mathematician, a pianist, a town planner and an architect.’
‘Wow,’ Hachiro uttered. ‘That’s a lot.’
‘And practical,’ Adeola remarked. ‘Ideal for our project.’
Andy grumbled dismissively. ‘To build a town, you need more than a maths heavy town planner architect who pushes some keys.’
Alice looked at Andy quizzically.
‘Just saying …’ Andy muttered. ‘I don’t trust geniuses.’
Alice chuckled. ‘Well, it will be interesting to meet him. Maybe we can lure him to London.’
‘Probably not,’ Jesse said. ‘When he accepted his role as team leader, he promised he would stay with the team in Romania, no matter what.’
‘Alice, you’re staring,’ Adeola chided with a chuckle.
‘Um,’ Alice muttered, watching a figure disappear into the hotel lobby. ‘Did you see his face?’
‘Yes. And he’s a total stranger. Come. I don’t want to miss another lift.’
[book 2/2, travelling, Romania]
And now you are fine with me going to some kind of ball, in some kind of mansion, in some remote place, hours away from Moscow? On my own? And why? What for?’
‘Sorry,’ Jazz replied, leaning against the side of the circular sofa. ‘I should have started from the beginning.’
Alice sat down next to Adeola.
The travelling team were all in the airliner’s lounge for the briefing on Russia. Most sat on the circular sofa, only Jazz stood.
The briefing had started later than planned, and they were due to land in Moscow in about forty minutes. But the effects of last night’s party and this morning’s early departure from the hotel didn’t leave much energy to hurry up.
Alice inclined her head, the hint of a smile on her face: ‘Go on then, Jazz. From the beginning …’
Jazz grimaced a little and said: ‘We will be picked up from the airport in Moscow by two couples. The first couple invited you: Lavrenti Mozhayev and Miron Lyamin. They are what you might call intellectuals. Lavrenti is a lecturer in political science at a university in Moscow while being a student in European literature. He is twenty-nine and was elected unanimously as the team leader of the Russia Team. Miron is the older, thirty-eight. He is a teacher for Russian and History at a secondary school. Miron was at the conference in New York. You might recognise him.’
‘Doesn’t ring a bell,’ Alice remarked.
‘I mean when you see him …’ Jazz replied, folding her arms. ‘Filip Ulanov and Natasha Amineva, the other couple … These two are what you might call the goodwill rich. They are millionaires and want to use their fortune to leave a meaningful mark, as they put it. Filip is forty-six, Natasha forty. Natasha Amineva kept her birth name, hoping to build on her success as a child actor. However, she couldn’t repeat her early success, and as a consequence, she and her husband withdrew from public life. While each of them brought millions into the marriage, they continued to extent their fortune with various investments. Two years ago, they sold all their shares in unsustainable industries and invested in green alternatives. When they heard about Lavrenti and Miron, they proposed to join the team. Some two weeks ago, Filip suggested that you join them at the ball—’
‘You’ve known about this ball for two weeks?’
‘So have you,’ Tim remarked, holding up a sheet of paper. ‘It’s in your itinerary.’
Hachiro and Jesse grinned broadly. They sat across from Alice, and she decided not to check how everyone else was reacting. Two grinning faces were enough for a morning briefing.
‘Erm … Sorry, Jazz.’
Tim was right, of course. There was an official itinerary, but Alice hardly ever looked at it. What for? Every day was filled with things to do, people to meet … But for once, she was annoyed that everyone else seemed to know what was going on. This thought prompted another thought which in turn prompted her to interrupt Jazz again, even before Jazz could continue. ‘Tim what are the news from the on-the-spot team in Moscow?’
‘We don’t have an on-the-spot team in Russia. We couldn’t get visas for them. But we have been in contact with the local team.’
‘Oh. So how far is the Russia Team?’
‘Far in planning. Nowhere in terms of businesses or a team house. They are still trying to get permissions to set up businesses in connection with our project.’
Turning to Jazz again, Alice noticed that Jazz looked tired, and she cursed herself for her short attention span. ‘Sorry, Jazz.’
Jazz inhaled. ‘Filip and Natasha, the rich couple, suggested that you join them at the ball. The objective is to meet other rich people and get them interested in the Easy Town Project. You could say, Filip and Natasha are on a mission to make the rich into useful and responsible citizens. Besides, Miron hinted that the couple might be disappointed if you declined the invitation. And since they are vital to the team financially, it might be good to go.’
‘Hm,’ Alice uttered, frowning. ‘And they want to show me to their rich buddies?’
‘And,’ Hachiro chipped in, ‘I have the perfect gown for you.’
‘You have a ball dress for me?’
‘Of course. I collected it yesterday from our dot.workshop in Bucharest, along with the outfits for Berlin. And before you deepen that grimace of yours, it’s a special gown. You can take off the skirt any time and wear the top with the leather-look trousers below.’
Alice smiled lopsidedly. ‘Oh, well … You know how to trick me into a dress.’
‘You’ll look fantastic,’ Jane remarked from the other end of the circular sofa. ‘I’ve seen the gown.’
Alice sighed and caught Jazz’s tired eyes. ‘Sorry for the interruptions, Jazz.’
Jazz didn’t comment and continued: ‘These balls take place frequently. They serve as events where ambitious people find rich partners. Partners for matrimony as well as for business. You would be one of the many guests, a companion of Filip and Natasha. As—’
‘So it’s all very classy?’ Alice interrupted again, grimacing.
Jazz didn’t answer.
Most team members rolled their eyes, and Jesse seemed to express what they were thinking: ‘Just have some fun, Alice.’
Alice twitched the corner of her mouth.
‘As for security,’ Jazz went on. ‘The majority of guests at these balls employ bodyguards. If all those bodyguards joined in the ballroom, it would get crowded. So the consent is that no one brings bodyguards inside. However—’ Jazz paused and pursed her lips.
‘However,’ Jazz repeated. ‘You can bring your boyfriend.’
Pink Blondi was driving, Mo was twirling his green hair, blowing bubbles, and the battered Opel stuttered towards the exit of the car park, the one just across from the terminal at Airport Schönefeld. Neither Blondi nor Mo looked like they had ever bothered with growing up. And Alice liked them. But she was glad that they were strangers, that there was no obligation to talk. Not after the first hello.
In the back of the car, Alice pushed the suit jacket into her overnight bag and slipped into a light fleece jacket to hide the business blouse. The fleece jacket. One of Hachiro’s creations. He asked her back in June for input on the outfits for Germany, and she replied: ‘It would be great if you could make it about Berlin, my Berlin — and let it be snotty, a bit rundown and stubborn.’
‘Yeah, a bit but less restricted to one particular style more a jumble of whims but without any fuss or too many exaggerations, and practical.’
‘The kind of cool no one suspects to be cool next year. But it will be.’
She hadn’t seen many of the Berlin outfits so far, but for all she knew, Hachiro had excelled himself once again, and maybe these results were his most playful yet. The dark grey fleece she was wearing now was draped to fit tightly and display a high, somewhat queenly, collar. You could undrape the fleece and get an asymmetric hoodie skirt with red splashes and some buckles which could be used to transform the skirt into a shopping bag.
Alice ran her hand over the soft sleeve and smiled, an eagle was rising from the hem of the sleeve.
Leaning back in the seat, she looked out of the window, just as Blondi left the car park and queued at the traffic lights. Alice didn’t like the drive from Schönefeld to Schöneberg, but for all she knew, this might be the last time she would ever make it. For a while, she kept looking out of the window: motorway, business parks, a bit of green, and then a long, straight street lined with detached houses. Just as dreary as it had always been. The cloudy grey in the sky didn’t help to improve the view.
Alice took her phone from the bag, turned it on and logged into the Hub. Time to take a look. After tapping the white screen three times, she nearly turned the phone off again. Seventy-two missed phone calls and three-hundred and twenty-eight texts.
She scrolled down the list of people who had tried to get in touch. Jack had sent by far the most texts.
Alice scrolled up again and clicked on Bertok’s name. Two texts seemed manageable.
book 2/2, travelling, and we still need to talk about sex
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
Book 2/2 covers the team’s journey from Beijing to Berlin via Otaon, Romania and Russia. It is possible to purchase single country chapters.
book 2/2, travelling, and we still need to talk about sex
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.
Book 2/2 will probably be published at the end of February 2021. The first country chapters (China, Otaon and Romania) are likely to be published between the start and the middle of February 2021.
Pages: approx 647
tags // China: getting up to date after the holidays, some notes on domestic violence, the penis trauma and apes, explicit remarks, walls, elements, a secret meeting and deep energy secrets, traffic lights and overpopulation, economic balances and spirals, big market players, keeping customers in line, we are all the same, the question of complicity, a walk with a friend, meeting a master, masks / Otaon: princes and princesses in a palace garden, prejudice and fairy tales, fashion and fear, putting up with gods and kings, someone wants to marry, are we making each other?, a fountain, racism slips out, a panic attack, an unexpected clash, a macho moment, deep energies and a big hall, how to punish, Christianity in various hiccups, is there no good in religions?, playing like the Chinese and the Russians, they should have protected you, you should marry, Jazz towers over someone, a tour of Sitseaf, a goodbye, breasts or bleeding?, the Great Library of Sitseaf, a last tour, looking away / Romania: clarity and staring, trains and birds, historic villages and geese, the time of the dwarfs and daisies, the past creeping up and a bell tower, a thunderstorm and a lady, toasts and not drinking alone, darkness and a shared history, conducting and riding on a wave, excitement and perusing later, jeballulo and simple measures, the heart goes boom, boom, boom, on the Italian coast, memory of a rape impulse, explicit content, an announcement, I want, I want, I want, Jack’s daughter makes suggestions, an idea is rejected, a meeting on the airliner, an unwelcome call, a morning and scars, powerful players are celebrating, Devery and Andy make preparations, Andy and working through the boring stuff, a walk at night and flying solo / Russia: Hachiro’s masterpieces and the boyfriend, the intellectuals and the millionaires, world views, frozen figures, the Russian elite, a stolen kiss between Lavrenti and Miron, the prince and the queen, applause and pills from Giselle, a ball, bulges and urges, tits and brains, world domination, puking, wolves and sheep, a dance, a birthday toast, a message, a drive through the night, news, the cinema place, sitting together, a transfer, just sex, at the limit, go looking, a barn, plums lined up, worth living for, losing it, EET, a meeting in a bakery, where is the airliner? / Berlin: Blondi and Mo, Berlin and the past, on the train, saying goodbyes, memories, running out of mistakes, planet hopping, a clear cut, the team, moving on, lesbians, toasts and all cards on the table, explicit remarks, beefs with politics, the EU and being someone, a lawyer, a party night, a narrative
Book 2 is available in single country chapters
There are overlaps between the chapters, and developments within the team, but each country chapter has sort of its own story.
Besides, each country chapter includes a recap about what you need to know for this part of the story.
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Status: coming up