Perilous Heights – Part 1

Perilous Heights Title Pic

The shuttle doors slid open as Jack swore under his breath, “I’ll never be late again in my life.” The shuttle was packed enough to make a clown car envious. Even with nowhere else to go, Jack still couldn’t muster enough courage to step outside.

A random stranger shouted from the back, “Go already! Stop holding up the line!” Full of anticipation, the crowd wasn’t going to wait for long.

Leaning outside the shuttle just a bit, Jack looked down. NOPE, he thought, but just as Jack moved backward someone pushed him from behind.

“AHHHHHHHHHHH,” he shrieked before slamming into the cloud, reflexively catching himself with his hands before landing face first.

Frozen on his hands and knees, staring down in shock at the cloud holding him ten thousand feet in the air, Jack tried wrapping his head around what just happened. I’m not going to fall through. It’s manmade, just like brick.

“Scared of heights?” Jack looked up to see a woman in an all-white uniform smiling above him.

Realizing someone was watching his embarrassing display of paranoid panic, he scrambled to his feet and matched the woman’s smile with a shy grin. “I wasn’t until I got here.”

“A lot of people are scared the first time they step into Cloud City. It’s nothing to be embarrassed about, you get used to it pretty quick.”

“I’ve seen the commercials and all, and felt the shuttle land fine, but when the doors opened…” Jack trailed off with a shrug.

“They almost had to use a crowbar to get me out at first, but now I live up here. I’m Olivia by the way.”

“I’m Jack,” he replied, shaking the hand she offered in greeting. “I take it you work for Atlas?”

Her white sleeveless blouse and skirt coupled with the cloud-shaped “Olivia” nametag made the question rhetorical. Giggling, she answered, “Is it that obvious? I work up here as a greeter and tour guide. I could show you around a bit if you want.”

Of course I want a personal tour with a beautiful woman! Jack used every ounce of maturity he acquired over his twenty-one years to coolly respond, “Sure.”

“Great, follow me.” She spun around and started walking away from the shuttle.

With his sanity back in check and spirits high, Jack’s tunnel vision fell away and he found himself frozen again, this time in awe. Oh my God! It looks even better than the commercials! In front of Jack was an architect’s wet dream made out of clouds. In front of him was a massive skyline that put the New York City to shame, all sculpted out of clouds. Crowds of people flocked just inside the city’s entrance, taking pictures and marveling at the sights. Hundreds were making their way to Cloud City from the sprawling shuttle pads sitting along a massive pathway funneling everyone towards the entrance.

Snapping out of his awestruck trance, Jack found Olivia patiently standing just outside his shuttle pad’s exit, watching him with a smile. Trying not to show how nervous he was with each step, he made his way over to Olivia.

“Pretty amazing isn’t it?” Olivia asked.

“Yeah. It looks even better than it did in the commercials.”

Jack’s heart sank as he read the Tour Guide sign next to Olivia. I’m an idiot.

“We’ll start the tour once the shuttles take off,” Olivia announced, still smiling as she had before. “Please take a listening device out of the bin under the sign and set it to channel three.”

Jack took a small rectangular walkie-talkie and put the attached headphones over his ears, placing the left portion behind his ear to hear the world around him. He took a look around as the crowd started to form, realizing he wasn’t the only one who had a hard time stepping out of the shuttle. Each pad had attendants helping people gather their bearings.

A few minutes later Jack’s tour group had grown into a pack of fifteen to twenty people, with him relegated to the back as each one walked past him to pick up their own listening device. He heard the shuttle engines start to rev as Olivia’s voice rang through his right ear, “Can everyone hear me okay? The dial on the left controls volume. It’s pretty loud at the entrance, so you might have a hard time hearing me as we get closer to Cloud City. I’m going to give you a brief introductory as we walk up the docking pathway and let you take in the sights when we first step into the heart of the city. We’ll talk about the entrance once we get to a quieter area.”

“Give me a thumbs up if you’re ready,” Jack, along with the rest of the group, followed Olivia’s example. “Good! Before we begin, I’d like everyone to jump one time.” This time only a few brave souls followed Olivia’s example, giving more reluctant members like Jack enough courage to follow them with a slight bunny hop.

“The material you’re standing on is 100% safe. It was first created 50 years ago by an Atlas engineer Dr. Eobard Stein and has been used to create everything you’re going to see in Cloud City. While it has a cloud-like appearance, it’s actually a thousand times tougher than steel. During thorough testing to fully understand the compound’s limits, Dr. Stein also discovered that applying an electrical current to the material allowed him to fully control its density without suffering any loss of tensile strength, making the creation of stable mid-air objects possible. What makes CloudForm truly extraordinary is just how malleable and readily available the material is to create, making it the ideal building material for airborne expansions like Cloud City.”

Olivia began walking down the docking pathway and towards the city’s entrance as she continued, “Atlas started as a privatized space company during the early 2000s, competing with dozens of other companies around the world to create the first shuttles capable of commercial space flight. They succeeded, creating patented vertical take-off and landing shuttles like the ones you rode to get here. Using their commercial space flight technology, passenger flights around the world began soaring higher than ever to drastically reduce flight times. Before Atlas, flights from London to Sydney used to take twenty hours longer than they do today.”

A woman in front of Jack commented to the man beside her, “Can you imagine if it took us almost a day to fly to your mother’s each year?!”

Jack rolled his eyes. Like you haven’t heard this history story before.

They were halfway to the entrance as Olivia continued the history lesson, “Becoming a leader in aeronautical and space travel shot Atlas into the stratosphere.” Jack chuckled at the pun. “Connecting the world more efficiently than ever before opened up a lot of air space. With the looming issue of overpopulation becoming a disastrous environmental concern, Atlas opened an R&D department dedicated to finding a way to make the skies safely habitable for people – similar to how Lantis Corp works on underwater habitats, although Atlas didn’t want to invade any natural eco systems.”

And so the rivalry continues. Jack rolled his eyes again.

“Atlas started with traditional engine-based floating structures that used the same technology as their shuttles – I’m sure many of you are familiar with the sky residences around LA and Boston. While they succeeded and still stand today, the constant oscillation of the platforms have made these residences less than ideal living conditions.”

Not to mention the constant exhaust pouring out of the engines keeping those residences afloat.

“Shortly after the LA residence took flight, Dr. Stein made the miraculous breakthrough in CloudForm technology you’re standing on today.”

They were close to entrance and it was becoming hard to hear Olivia over the massive crowd’s ambient noise. Olivia turned towards the tour group as she reached the entry way and shouted, “Welcome to Cloud City!”


6 thoughts on “Perilous Heights – Part 1

  1. I would step off with confidence… And maybe a parachute just in case. Science can screw up sometimes, and there is always a glitch…
    Either they do some crazy expensive shit or the city has no electricity… Cuz if that accidentally got into CloudForm. Bad things.

    Can’t wait to read more!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Ooh! I like this! I got on your blog(?) because of a KOTOR review and just kept reading!
    I like the start of this story, but what year is this set in? You mentioned early 2000’s, but not the present time.
    I’m looking forward to more

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m glad you like it. The second part is already up and I’ve been meaning to finish it out but just haven’t gotten around to it. I’ll focus on it this week.

      In the story it says Atlas was created in the early 2000s and that CloudForm was discovered/created fifty years ago, which would mean the story takes place in 2050 at the earliest, but I imagine a lot later than that. If I had to pin down a date, I’d say 2150 – 2250. I’ve been intentionally vague about it so as not to set an actual timeline. and create a, “Well it’s 1987 now. Where’s my hoverboard?!”

      I also think that stories are better when you can add bits of your own imagination to them. For example, when I read I tend to imagine characters as people I know or whatever I think fits the roles regardless of the description. It makes the story resonate more and it becomes a bit more tailor-made for me. Instead of saying it takes place in 2225, I leave the door open for the reader to come up with the time they feel is appropriate.

      Some may call that lazy writing, but I’ve never been a fan of super-descriptive prose. I don’t care what the inn’s sign looks like and I don’t need to know some character has a dimple on their right cheek – I’m going to forget and assign them the look I want anyway.

      I don’t think people liked Part 2 as much as Part 1. This was just world building, part 2 is where the narrative starts to form. I have the story fleshed out to the end, but I’m not sure people are going to like how it ends – so I’ve been a little reluctant to write it.

      It deserves to be completed though and I don’t like leaving it incomplete, so I intend to make it a priority.

      Thanks for the comment.


  3. I was drawn in by the KOTOR post (I was linked by something on the Bioware forums), but for the most part, I’m enjoying your style of writing. I do think you should write more gaming centered articles, as the two I read were done very well. You provided a past for the games and how opinions have been in the past, then went on to your own experiences with the game. As a suggestion for games you may like, I can safely state that Bioware (developer of KOTOR) has rolled out quite a few games that were done very well. I love the Dragon Age and Mass Effect games and would recommend trying them sometime when you are able.

    Perilous Heights has me kinda captivated (I like stories about “future events” and alternate timelines) and I am unashamed by this! In my opinion, you use just the right amount of description for everything (buildings, people, CloudForm) and I am able to put myself in Jack’s shoes. Too much description and I don’t feel like I’m in the story, but just looking at it like a movie. I honestly can’t wait for Part 3 now 🙂

    Your Experiment was humourous in its own little way and I must say I enjoyed myself. You did what my roommate and I have done multiple times when we put meat in the fridge (forgetting about it). In our experience the internet will tell you one of two things, 1) you’ll be fine if you eat it or 2) you’re going to die if you eat it.

    All in all, I can safely say that I will be a faithful reader of your blog and you are now n my favourites column on my work computer 🙂
    I thank you for the entertainment you are providing me 🙂 kKeep up the fantabulous work!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I appreciate the encouragement and I’m glad you like the articles. I have played the Dragon Age games and Mass Effect – although I never did play 3 due to personal circumstances at the time of its release and never really got around to it. Inquisition was better than Dragon Age 2, but Origins is still the best by far. I just don’t have the games and haven’t played them since they were released, so I don’t feel like I have a strong enough basis to talk about them. (I also didn’t beat Dragon Age 2 or Inquisition because I got immensely bored with both halfway through.)

      I’m currently researching an article about competitive gaming ranking systems and am thinking about writing reviews for Pillars of Eternity, Sunless Sea, Wasteland 2, Portal 1 & 2, and a few others that I have sitting my Steam library. Now that I’m thinking about it, a few overarching article ideas come to mind – like how rushed development was the overarching idea of the second KotOR article – but the KotOR games were a little unique in the controversy, massive appeal and timeliness of all things Star Wars related.

      The point I’m dancing around is that I don’t think future gaming articles will be quite as in-depth and drawn out as the KotOR articles. Honestly I’m not particularly happy with the three gaming related pieces I’ve written since. I tried something rather out there with the story review of Legend of Grimrock that didn’t quite hit the mark (it was a fun attempt though), and the microtransactions and horror in first person articles were more discussion-oriented pieces than anything else.

      The next two are more journalistic in nature – they just take a bit more time to write because I’m a little OCD about having my facts straight. I don’t want to attach my name to something that’s not true.

      I like stories and enjoy writing about TV shows and movies – like the article I just posted – but I do fully intend to continue writing everything you mentioned.


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