Rising high above London, the Towers shone white in the sunshine, visible from miles away in all directions. The golden towel on the top of the tallest Tower shone almost as brightly as the sun itself, and banners draped from the Towers rippled gently in the wind.
At the base of the Towers, a plaza covering two square miles was filled with people, sitting at tables with drinks, lunches, cups of tea, or just wandering around and chatting. Laughter filled the air, and the sounds of children at play could be heard above the adult chatter. Walking through the crowds, Bath thought that it was quiet and subdued. Two months earlier, the laughter would have been brighter, louder, and there would have been more smiles. Now, everybody was wary underneath. The earthquakes had changed a lot of things.
Reaching the Towers, Bath passed through the huge doors which stood wide open, welcoming all into the entrance lobby, which was the single largest room Bath had ever been in. He headed for the far side of the room, and eventually found an elevator which took him halfway up the tallest Tower, babbling all the way about how happy it was to be an elevator. Gritting his teeth, Bath endured the ride, deciding at the last minute not to vandalise the elevator because it had at least taken him to the right corridor.
In a room at the end, he found a group of people seated on big, squashy bean bags drinking from glasses of pineapple juice.
'Ah, Bath, come in come in!'
A middle-aged man said, leaping to his feet.
'Pick a bean bag. We were beginning to wonder if you were coming.'
Bath recognised the man as Pord Frespect, Sitter on the Chair of Moxon.
'My towel got caught in the train doors.'
Bath said apologetically, pulling his scarlet towel out of his satchel and displaying the tattered end where the doors had torn it.
'I had to ride on the side of the train down to the next station, then find another one going back.'
'Everything seems to be falling apart these days!'
Pord said, shaking his head ruefully.
Once Bath was settled with his drink, Pord stood up again.
'Okay, now Bath is here... we introduced ourselves while you were rescuing your towel, so I'll be quick.'
He proceeded to make introductions. A tall, blonde woman reclining on a blue bean bag was Agnes Topplebury, an accomplished singer from Scotland. Seated next to her was The Geraldine, geologist, seismologist and oceanographer extraordinaire. The two young men opposite the ladies were Bite and Bark, twin Gurus from Bavaria.
'And this is Bath, holder of three Peta awards in the field of psychic research and Sitter on the Chair of Abi.'
'Quite an influential gathering.'
'Why are we here?'
Bite started to say, but Pord cut him off with a wave of his hand.
'The meaning of life can wait.'
'There are more urgent things in the works. Geraldine, if you please?'
The Geraldine said.
'Now, you all know about the earthquakes of course.'
Everyone did. Seven large earthquakes, unpredicted where all had been predicted for the last hundred years, and with epicentres which were quite clearly in totally the wrong place to be natural.
'Well, I've been working with a team of seismologists, geologists, oceanographers, volcanolagists, wizards and many other scientists to work out why the earthquakes occurred, and we have come to the conclusion that the only possible cause for them is human activity on this planet.'
'But we don't do anything which could cause earthquakes!'
Agnes protested in a warm Scottish accent.
The Geraldine said.
'But we suspect that someone else might.'
There was a long silence, then...
'You mean, the Americans?'
'They are the only other people on the planet!'
The Geraldine said.
'But we've had no contact with them for over three hundred years.'
Bite pointed out.
'They rejected the lessons we learned from h2g2 and continued in strife and turmoil long after we found peace.'
'What do you propose we do about it?'
'I am proposing that us in this room travel to America to find out what is going on.'
'Go to America? Are you crazy?'
'Who knows what they get up to over there? You've heard what it was like here before h2g2! America must be hundreds of times worse to have rejected peace.'
'Of course I'm crazy,'
The Geraldine said,
'However, nobody I have discussed this with can see an alternative. We must go to America.'
'And why do you want me along?'
Agnes wanted to know.
'What good is a singer going to be?'
'You're not here for your singing voice, lovely though it is.'
Pord told her.
'You're here because you can turn yourself invisible.'
'Oh yes. Of course.'
'I'd almost forgotten about that, I do it so rarely.'
'I guess we'd better be going soon then. When do we leave? And how are we travelling?'
'We leave in the morning.'
'We will take the train to Land's End and cross the Atlantic by hydrocycle. Now, I'm sure you all have a better idea of what you will need to survive in America than I do, so I suggest we all go out and obtain the things we'll need, and then meet back here at nine o'clock tomorrow morning.'
Join us again for part two, in which our heroes cross the Atlantic and discover that America is even more unusual than they had expected...