Sydney, March 15, 2025

Ian finishes his cup of coffee before heading into his office space. No liquids are allowed in the workspace. Climbing down some steps, he ducks under one of the six ultra-HD curved monitors that form a full circle, then climbs back up and into the chair surrounded by heavy-equipment controls. Similar pods fill the gigantic space—one even more sophisticated than NASA’s control rooms. Over the top of the monitors he can see a glimpse of the bridge traversing the harbor, with clouds scudding behind it. As much as he has watched it, he doesn’t notice any looping of the projection.

The lighting of the room shifts slightly to correspond to the weather outside, and if he listens very carefully, he notices the pink noise being filtered into the room. For working in a windowless room all day, he finds he never experiences the dissonance he gets when walking from a dark movie theater into broad daylight.

As he settles into his chair and places four of his fingers on the touchpad, the screens come to life. “Good morning, Ian. Welcome back to work. I am ready and waiting for you today. Would you like to begin?”

“Good morning to you as well, Val. Everything quiet on the western front?”

It was not long ago that Ian was driving trucks nearly 1,500 kilometers outside of Perth, a 12-hour flight away, leaving his family for weeks at a time for the high-wage opportunity in the mining district. Trained as a mechanical engineer, upon graduation ...

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