Building New Atlantis

Mike Grist Science Fiction, Stories 5 Comments

building new atlantis1by Michael John Grist

The first stage in the construction of New Atlantis went quietly, and the world scarcely noticed. It looked enough like a new ship or oil drilling platform on the satellite photos that no other nation would pay it too much mind.

It was only after that first stage was completed, and the second stage begun right next to it, that the world sat up and took notice.

“Is this a new fleet then?” asked the United Nations.

“Whose property is this?” asked NATO.

“How did you finance this?” asked the WTO.

“What shipping rights have you declared?” asked UNESCO.

“What about all the little animals?” asked the WWF.

New Atlantis sidestepped the questions. Lawyers were sent to spill nothing answers over the courts and demands. “Wait,” they said. “Give us time. We’re building something amazing here.”

Image from here.

It didn’t work. International waters were supposed to be unclaimed. A war of attrition began, and embargoes were placed on New Atlantis’ raw materials. The transit of goods from Japan, China, the Philippines and Indonesia were blocked by United States blockades. But still the materials came through, shipped by night across the Pacific, air dropped splashdowns off the rig itself. And with the materials New Atlantis built drills, and with the drills it mined more materials.

United States navy ships scouted its progress, but clamped down on the press. Two photographers cruising over in a micro-light were ordered down by a gunship and divested of all their recording equipment.

The first attack on New Atlantis came a year after that. It was a sudden night strafing that seemed to be testing the bridge’s response capacity. Great chunks of the piping and undefended stilt structure were gouted and blown into the sky. The planes flew by and strafed again, machine gunning the control towers and the red jacketed engineers scurrying for cover.

The next day the shields went up, and the big guns started to arrive. Somber faced men in white jumpsuits carrying automatic weapons took up their stations guarding the engineers. By that time New Atlantis was some 200 miles in length. It covered more space than many countries. And it approached the world’s organisations, through a series of top class lawyers in the highest international courts, and demanded independence, the right to be recognized, and global condemnation of the unclaimed attacks which had claimed 13 lives.

The international courts didn’t know what to do. International law had no precedent for newly created lands, and New Atlantis was just that. In addition, it was already extending beyond international waters and into Japanese waters, off a small mid-pacific island called Ry-Goku. It was an empty island, but it belonged, as did the waters around it for nigh on a thousand kilometers, to the Japanese. The Japanese played their trump card, the United States, as their defenders, and labeled New Atlantis an invasion, a miscarriage of the shipping rights charter, and a blatant attempt to steal the resources from under the surface of Japan’s waves.

It was, of course, none of those things, and barely skirted the most distant fringe of Ry-Goku’s waters, if that. But that didn’t stop the issue becoming a serious issue. Every news channel tracked the debacle, as conspiracy theorists after highly placed government ministers after expert professors theorized about the purpose, creator, and rights of New Atlantis. Its own lawyers remained silent throughout this procession of television witnesses, and when the three month charge was finally laid, they immediately turned the case back over to their appeal. Independence, the right to be recognized as a new country, and condemnation of the attacks.

All their appeals were rejected. The United States publicly threatened to bomb New Atlantis beneath the waves if it grew one more inch towards American coastlines. The New Atlantis lawyers responded immediately.

“We shall take such action as an unwarranted act of agression,” they said, “since our country is clearly bounded within international waters and therefore inviolate and free. If such a threat is acted upon by the United States, we shall be forced to respond in kind.”

“In kind?” asked the American ambassador in closed-door meetings with the head lawyers from New Atlantis. “Don’t be ridiculous. You’ve got some oil tycoon’s brain-child scraping the crud off the ocean floor, and you think you can take us on?”

“There’s something you should know,” said New Atlantis’ head lawyer.

“What?” asked the United States.

“We went nuclear this morning.”

That shut up the world.


New Atlantis continued to grow.

They built a hangar and factory over the existing pylons and started churning out new rigging sections from the raw materials they mined from the sea bed. New Atlantis became a weed that couldn’t stop growing.

There were no more attacks. Instead there were a steady stream of news planes and boats following the growth of the bridge, America no longer able to keep the new nation quiet. All interviewers and reporters that docked were welcomed with open arms and given royal treatment, showed around the developed parts of the country, and toured past the preserved strafing damage from the original, still unclaimed, attack.


New Atlantis grew exponentially. As each new section was welded into place a new section was already being winched into the water and it’s pilings filled with cement, while fresh units were under construction in the factories all along the length of New Atlantis. Resources were dredged up at the middle, digested east and west along the production lines, and spat out of the far ends as more land for the city to spread onto. Those sections that couldn’t rest on the sea bed, since in places it reached depths of up to 2 miles, merely floated like giant tethered ocean liners.

New Atlantis life changed. More people started to immigrate in. At first it was just technical types, eager to get the city underway and working, but soon they were issuing visas and handing out government jobs. Children could be heard laughing down the alleyways of New Atlantis’ burgeoning residential quarters. There were blocks of flats, and the new land was landscaped with reclaimed earth, parks were added, a golf course constructed, and soon there were schools and libraries and museums and art galleries and sports fields and not just one town but two, three, four, springing up along the length of the burgeoning country. The towns had names and they communicated and they formed town councils and they planned for the future.

The new town councils acted independently of the unknown overseer of the New Atlantis project. They spent their time applying and re-applying for independence to the UN and erecting public works and beautifying their cities. There were amazing levels of manpower available to them, and all the specialist equipment they could need, being manufactured beneath their very feet.

The armed guards soon started taking orders from the council members, and shortly after that they started taking up lodgings on New Atlantis itself rather than the docked security boats they’d lived on for years. They adopted one uniform and drew their wage from the government, becoming a police force more than an army. Soon New Atlantis, with the American threat seemingly contained and the country booming, started to feel like just another place to live.

It became a port and a hub and a major shipping lane. It was sending trade goods of the sea to every nation on earth, and it had its own fleet of merchantmen, flanked by gunships and warships and aircraft carriers. When there was enough space they built their own commercial airport, and the big carriers like BA and AA started to fill the slots. The population grew. People started taking their holidays there, and tourism became a major industry. Many holiday-makers returned to live. “It’s the atmosphere,” they said. “It’s just so nice. Everybody’s your neighbor. Everybody’s in this together”

15 years after its initiation, with a population of 3 million, New Atlantis was approved by the UN as an independent country. The United States was not happy, and using the statute of trade limitations controlling proximity of shipping lanes through bounded territory, they declared open hostilities. Their government believed the nuclear threat was a fake. So American shells rained down on ‘strategic’ targets in New Atlantis, though not even the residents knew what contributed to the strategy of the blast zones. Nobody knew who ran New Atlantis, and nobody knew how it should be disabled. It was over 1,500 miles in length by the time America acted, and it was spreading faster every day as the resources flowing in grew more and plentiful.

The world held its breath in the wake of the unprovoked attacks. Everyone knew the New Atlantis lawyers would make their case soon. And so they did. On television at a meeting of the World 7 with the New Atlantis flag back-dropped behind them, they spoke up against the illegality of America’s unprovoked attack.

“What worldwide laws have we broken?” they asked. “Why must we suffer this censure? Do the American people war with us? No. Many of them, dissatisfied with their country and its leadership, live with us. It is their government that wars with us. That kills our innocent people. We declare that unless this war is halted immediately, with full apologies and compensation being made to the victims of families already killed or injured, as well as the cost of structural damage to New Atlantis received, we will send a nuclear device over Washington and explode it within 3 days. We advise all citizens to evacuate this city if they wish to live.”

America called the claims a lie and told its citizens to remain. It offered to send a nuclear device right back. Atlantis replied with one terse international acknowledgement. “You kill your own people. New Atlantis is one quarter American, your people seeking a new life with us. Are you the same as your British Imperialist forbears? Would you quell a new world solely to line your coffers? Our deadline remains, and your route to apology lies open. Conversely, if there are people in Washington when the bomb explodes, it will be on your heads.”

America launched their own nuclear weapon that night. It blew a massive chunk from the middle of New Atlantis and killed 2350 people. Some managed to swim clear of the immediate blast zone thanks to radar fore-warning, diving beneath the waves as the gamma rays spread out and the heat wave exploded, but most of them in that 3 kilometer stretch passed away without any chance of escape. 3 kilometers of city, beautified and colonized, sank beneath the waves, along with the dead. But New Atlantis’ infrastructure remained intact. There was no central government to destroy. There was no military establishment. Not one person knew who the man behind the new country was, nor what his reasons for building it were. There was no head of state for the United States to remove.

New Atlantis launched it’s own nuclear weapon the next day, from a submarine docked at Reykavik off Greenland. It exploded 2 miles above Washington and gave the city time to escape the lethal radiation. The heat wave was felt but not enough to kill. New Atlantis claimed it was a warning shot- they had no desire to kill innocents. America showed no such compunction, and realizing it was under serious threat immediately fired 5 more nuclear missiles at New Atlantis. They all landed, and destroyed 3 kilometer long stretches at a time. The death toll in New Atlantis rose to 6,000. So they threatened New York.

Within a day New York was empty.

“WORLD WAR III in the balance,” read the papers. “Atlantis fights for independence with non-lethal show of strength.”

“We want immediate cessation of hostilities,” said the New Atlantis lawyers. “Further, we want the United States held accountable for its actions, its entire government arrested and placed under international jurisdiction for war-crimes. We want a complete apology and full reparations for our country and for our 6,321 dead. We wish the world to know what happened here. These are real people, who have been attacked and killed for no good reason. We want justice for them.”

“New Atlantis nuclear brigade claims underdog status,” ran the New York Times. “New York targeted by New Atlantis!”

Great Britain organized peace talks. 100 nations attended. The Unites States sent their secretary of State. New Atlantis sent their lawyers. The United States accused New Atlantis of terrorist intentions. Atlantis said the United States were the terrorists because they had attacked first without declaring war. They had probably been responsible also for the strafing in the early days of New Atlantis’ growth. The United States claimed New Atlantis was spreading into their own waters. New Atlantis told America to look at a map, they were clearly within international waters. The United States argued that New Atlantis was stealing away the best scientific minds the country had to offer. New Atlantis said the people came and they didn’t stop them. They had room. As long as there was ocean, they had plenty of room. The United States said nuclear weapons were not to be tolerated, and New Atlantis should begin to decommission theirs immediately. New Atlantis agreed. Nuclear weapons were wrong, they said. They should never be fired, much less should they be fired with intent to kill. They were the worst form of terrorism, they said, being nothing less than outright, irresistible war on civilians.

They reminded the United States who had fired nuclear weapons first historically as well as in this instance. Upon Japan in the first world war when the war was already all but over, and upon Atlantis as reparation for, what? The possession of nuclear weapons? The 2,000 kilometer proximity of their country? They branded the United States terrorists, the grandest terrorists of them all, so accustomed to getting their own way in the world it had gone beyond habit and become constitutionally enshrined government practice.

The United States denied New Atlantis was a country. They denied their nuclear strike was pre-emptive- basing it on very good evidence that New Atlantis had been preparing to strike. New Atlantis replied that yes, of course they were preparing to strike. They had threatened as much at the UN, in reciprocation to America’s own unprovoked attack. They added also that they had not yet even formally declared war. The war had been declared, by Atlantis, after the first nuclear bomb descended on the country. America should be seen as the world’s grandest, most self-righteous terrorists of them all.

“This is ridiculous,” said the US Secretary of State. “They just won’t listen.”

An uneasy peace descended. New Atlantis strengthened its ties with the world through trade, and talks, and by presenting a reasoned and reasonable approach to the international community. The Unites States shunned its allies and called into question the resolve of the UN in dealing with terrorists. Publicly, heads of European states began to question the US’s motives. New Atlantis’ accusation of terrorism rang in their ears, and many repeated the claims.

“What was Hiroshima?” asked the Spanish prime minister of a gaggle of press only days after his successful re-election. “How can you tell me that was anything but total terrorism?”

The French prime minister questioned the Vietnam war, asking how it was any of America’s business to go halfway across the world and kill people. Germany stated that, though their record was not perfect, they at least decried the acts they had committed in their past. They had paid reparations, tried their guilty leaders, and held themselves accountable. Yet the US, they claimed, had shoved their nuclear attacks down the throats of the Japanese, refused to apologize, and drawn the world’s attention to the surprise bombing of a US naval base.

The British prime minister was pulled in both directions. As the world shut down its trade with America, fostering in a new era of nigh on isolationism, England faced growing censure within Europe for remaining strongly allied with the States, while also benefitting hugely from being America’s sole equal trading partner.

“They threatened the White House,” the president told him in private talks at Downing Street. “You just can’t do that. That’s history. Washington should be inviolate in the world. And what did they lose? Some chunks of bridge? All they have to do is back down.”

The Prime Minister didn’t know what to say. Finally, at a fresh joint meeting of the EU and NATO from which America was excluded, the UK threw it’s weight behind a statement which condemned the US, supported New Atlantis, and called for immediate apologies, arrests, reparations, and constitutional change in the US.

America closed its borders and entered isolation.


The original New Atlantis plan was completed in the year 2074, grand circuit of oil rigs some 400 kilometers in diameter drawn upon the Pacific. But the growth didn’t stop there. Will Harding, oil tycoon and financier of New Atlantis from the start, made himself known and stepped down from active governance, handing the reins of power over to New Atlantis’ first Prime Minister.

He gave his transition speech on New Atlantis’ 20th anniversary. He thanked the world for its support. He condemned America, but invited its citizens to continue immigrating. He spoke of the blessings of multi-culturalism, tolerance, and freedom. He accepted the Nobel peace prize. At the end of his speech, after officially handing over the office of Prime Minister to his successor, Will Harding said this:

“We are a small country. But we will grow.”

He stepped down to cheers and elation.

The End


Michael John Grist is the author of numerous dark weird stories ranging from flash to novel length, as well as the author of this website. He lives in Tokyo, Japan. When not writing he works on his photography, on the site, or on his Japanese language skills. He recently finished a dark weird novel titled The Book of Dawn 1- Jabbler’s Mons, which in a month or so he’ll be touting to publishers. It’s the first in a trilogy.

You can see more of his stories here:

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Comments 5

  1. New Atlantis is an interesting idea and could be a great setting for a series of science fiction stories, but this story’s politics is too grotesquely one-sided for me to enjoy the read or to feel receptive to its message.

    I’m not sure what you mean by categorizing the story as “surreal”. It seems to me you are going for something here far more realistic than, for example, “Waterfall”. Am I missing something?

    Anyway, just my thoughts offered in a spirit of constructive criticism. I don’t expect all your stories to be to my liking. Looking forward to reading your next one.

  2. Post

    David- This is an older story, about 6 years, written at the height of antipathy towards America over Iraq’s missing WMD as the cause of war, so that colors the story. It doesn’t fit now- the Obama ‘Yes We Can’ message is doing what New Atlantis hoped to do. I hadn’t intended to publish the story for those reasons, but did because I didn’t get enough story submissions from other authors, and just wanted something up.

    As for the cataloguing, right on, it should be sci-fi, amended, thanks for pointing it out.

  3. I’ve stopped trying to guess the age of your stories since I blew it on “The Sphinx”. 😉

    I think this story has the potential to be reworked into a much more thoughtful piece on a theme like an alternative to the US military response to the 9/11 attack, or the morality of the nuclear strikes on Japan at the end of WWII. Not that I would necessarily agree with either thesis, but I think they would make very thought-provoking stories.

    You would need a little more nuance in your depiction of the US government, though. In this version you’ve got no more than an evil-Nazi caricature.

  4. To:Michael John Grist—I have a web site as listed–It is also entitled as SKYTRAINZASTRON,an anomalous title.
    It may be my version of hypothetical “Atlantian” causus belli—I believe mine may have once actually happened.–But,don’t we all feel that way about some of our dream’s–????

  5. I love the idea of the construction of a new world in the middle of the ocean. This idea is rich with possibilities. The way it was told here feels like you were giving an outline of a novel, novella or some sort of longer work rather than a fully integrated short story. Aside from that i think it was very imaginative and not as “weird” as I hoped and expected having read a couple of your other pieces. I kept waiting for some alien race to be behind Atlantis, which they built to be like a roach motel or fat farm for humans or something hehehe.
    Do you intend to do more with this?

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