I just finished this chapter heading, which gives a bit of future history about my neo-Victorian world:
It was Abigail Kovacs who made the first Kovacs engine, of course. She started it out in 2070, with a team of engineers, and plans for a self-contained engine that could be sold commercially. When asked about it, she told the world bluntly, “I want my house to fly.”
She made the news at first for the humor, but when her engine reached the point where it was self-sustaining, people stopped laughing. The engine looked like a tall, thick cylinder, with fusion generators, wind turbines, and solar collectors wrapped around it. The central cylinder sucked air in from above the unit, and out through the bottom. It was little more than a directionless jet engine, but it shocked the world because it could run, without maintenance, for a hundred years, and could hold twice its weight in ballast. She mounted several of them to the perimeter of a platform, and built a house on top. Again she made the news, with pictures of her beaming face and a flying house hovering over a Kansas City field behind her. Sales of her engines took off.
People started replacing stilt houses with Kovacs. They started building lake houses hovering over the lakes. They were still remarkably expensive, but with the influx of cash, Abigail was able to build on her platform, extend it to allow other buildings, and improve on the engines. In 2079, Abigail announced the first Kovacs-powered city, with a population of only two-hundred. The platforms held shops and restaurants, hydroponic gardens and homes, and every hotel had a view of the wide expanse of land around them.
By then, the government was ready to take her seriously. They started investigating wether her city violated zoning laws and airline regulations. Environmentalists started questioning whether she was affecting the jet stream, and what damage could be done by blasting air down on a countryside constantly. An outpouring of public support coupled with her impressive legal team to keep the regulations from shutting her city down, but she was never one to wait on others for permission.
In 2085, Abigail Kovacs had engines mounted at a 45-degree angle along every edge of her city’s platform. A year later, when construction was finished, she flew the city out over the ocean, to uncontested land, where no government could touch them. By that time, the city had grown to more than five-thousand people, and they all stood behind Abigail and her dream. She was still in litigation with the mainland of America when the Western War started.
In 2117, when the economic meltdown dissolved most major nations, the Kovacs city remained largely untouched. It seemed an unintended blessing that the city had become self-sufficient, and able to survive a devaluation of all terrestrial currency. However, as family members were brought on board, saving them from the hunger and homelessness of the mainland, they brought with them their prejudices. Every nation who had been fighting with sanctions and devaluation brought their hatred for the other nations that had devalued their own money. Each saw their neighbor as a tyrant, trying to pull them into slavery.
Many say it was a blessing that Abigail died in 2120. She did not live to see her dream literally torn apart by imported nationalism. The city was torn by looters, rioting, and infighting. People began to break off sections of the platform, announcing that they were keeping their section “pure”. One section was disconnected from too many other engines and dropped into the ocean, killing hundreds.
By 2125, the Kovacs city was reduced to a series of city-states that moved to remote sections of the world. Some continued to grow, becoming important financial centers in themselves (The New Chicago Kovacs, for instance, is considered a tax haven for the most affluent), while others have specialized in agriculture (The Bremen Kovacs is well known for it’s fifteen layers of hydroponic crops, hovering off the Western shore of Dakhla).
Many of the rich and famous still buy Kovacs engines for a floating house, but the stories of whole flying cities is generally discounted as a logistical impossibility from our distant past.
- Excerpt from “Man and his sky” by Cary Stefanek