The smart coral burst out of the depths with violence that shocked Hackworth, even though he'd been in on the design, seen the trial runs. Viewed through the dark surface of the Pacific, it was like watching an explosion through a pane of shattered glass. It reminded him of pouring a jet of heavy cream into coffee, watching it rebound from the bottom of the cup in a turbulent fractal bloom that solidified just as it dashed against the surface. The speed of this process was a carefully planned sleight-of-hand; the smart coral had actually been growing down on the bottom of the ocean for the last three months, drawing its energy from a super-con that they'd grown across the seafloor for the occasion, extracting the necessary atoms directly from the seawater and the gasses dissolved therein. The process happening below looked chaotic, and in a way it was; but each lithocule knew exactly where it was supposed to go and what it was supposed to do. They were tetrahedral building blocks of calcium and carbon, the size of poppyseeds, each equipped with a power source, a brain, and a navigational system. They rose from the bottom of the sea at a signal given by Princess Charlotte; she had awakened to find a small present under her pillow, unwrapped it to find a golden whistle on a chain, stood out on her balcony, and blown the whistle.
The coral was converging on the site of the island from all directions, some of the lithocules traveling several kilometers to reach their assigned positions. They displaced a volume of water equal to the island itself, several cubic kilometers in all. The result was furious turbulence, an upswelling in the surface of the ocean that made some of the children scream, thinking it might rise up and snatch the airship out of the sky; and indeed a few drops pelted the ship's diamond belly, prompting the pilot to give her a little more altitude. The curt maneuver forced hearty laughter from all of the fathers in the ballroom, who were delighted by the illusion of danger and the impotence of Nature.
The foam and mist cleared away at some length to reveal a new island, salmon-colored in the light of dawn. Applause and cheers diminished to a professional murmur. The chattering of the astonished children was too loud and high to hear.
China is bound by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which it has ratified. The law states that sub-sea structures, such as reefs, cannot be claimed as sovereign coastline, and that building artificial structures on top of them does not turn them in to sovereign territory either.
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