Clieo’s lips had maintained a perfect O for what felt like ages. In truth, it had only been five minutes since their Rover had slowly made its way past the Olympian gates of the walled city. Yet she felt like she’d seen enough to keep her in awe for a lifetime. The herculean walls and the massive gate that rose intimidatingly to let them pass had been impressive enough. What she didn’t expect, was the resplendent view that awaited her on the other side. On either side of her, were long, thin triangular shaped structures, much like her college back on Spectral 7, but much more massive. In the distance, she could see that the structures repeated themselves in dizzying patterns, curving this way on one side of her, and arching another way on the other side. The triangular buildings had what looked to be rectangular windows, and people were cheering. It sounded muted inside the rover, but she could only imagine the thunderous noise that awaited them when they got down.
Clieo didn’t have to wait long. The Rover slowed down and eventually came to a stop. A few minutes later, the back hatch lifted slowly, powered by pistons on either side. A man who was heavily dressed in what looked to be combat gear stood at the entrance. He stroked his long mustache and shot what he must have thought to be a friendly smile at them. In truth, it was more of a snarl and it made Clieo cringe.
“Alright. Come on out and soak up the ovation. It’s all for you.” The man said.
He looked bored like he had done this a thousand times before. Clieo wondered how often first-time settlers made it to Gaia and if their entry was as adventurous as hers had been.
When they stepped out, the sound of what seemed like thousands of voices, cheering as one, reached a deafening crescendo. Clieo was sure she could feel the ground shudder beneath her. Now Clieo noticed, as she closely observed the buildings, that there were what appeared to be tracks on the edges of the building, and vehicles that glided up and down the sides, stopping at the deep ridges that segmented the buildings into numerous layers, each one getting smaller until the apex. Indeed, the buildings were not pyramidal in shape. They were like triangular slabs, packed closely together in a manner reminiscent of Domino slabs. In one of the rectangular openings that sat on one of the rectangular structures short faces, Clieo could barely make out an elderly man approach the edge. He was flanked by two men who wore combat gears, much like the one worn by the man who’d let them out of the Rover.
The crowd had thundered even more loudly when the elderly man came into view. It was a noise unlike any, she had ever heard and she wondered why anyone would be so overjoyed at their arrival. Clieo stole a glance at the soldier – she had concluded he was a soldier. He still looked bored. When he caught her stare, he flashed her a smile. It looked a bit better than it had a few moments ago.
Practice makes perfect I guess.
Clieo nervously returned his smile and fixed her gaze on the old man once more. He had stretched out his frail arms and immediately, the deafening roars had died down to murmurs and whispers that rolled over the crowds like an invisible wave, undulating and swaying back and forth. It was then, that Clieo realized they were gathered among several inhabitants of the city who had spewed into the streets to see them. There were multiple Rovers all parked with their own passengers crowded outside of each one. She wondered where Maggy and Kaya were. The elderly man began his speech.
“CITIZENS OF EDEN!”
His voice flooded the streets and boomed from every building surrounding them. Clieo felt her sternum reverberate in resonance with the amplified sound of every word he spoke, and her eardrums thud in rhythm. She covered her ears and squinted her eyes.
“I thought I was the only one who found that over the top.”
The voice startled Clieo and she whirled around to see a thin boy standing beside her. His hands were pressed to his ears as well, burrowed underneath an unkempt shock of brown wavy hair. He smiled at her, and his emerald eyes smiled along with him. He had a thin wispy layer of beard over an oval jaw that had only begun to show signs of the manly jaw he would later possess.
“Hope’s the name. What’s yours?”
“Um… Clieo. Hope? That’s a peculiar name.”
Hope flashed another bright and innocent smile and Clieo thought she felt her stomach do a happy dance.
Uh uh! Settle down butterflies. You should only be excited at food. Just food.
“… So they named me Hope. They said I made them believe once more, that beautiful things can happen even in times such as these.”
“Oh… they?” Clieo’s cheeks flushed red. She had been so lost in the smile, she’d missed a part of the conversation.
“My parents. It would help if you dropped your hands now. You’ll get used to the booming voice.”
He closed his eyes and smiled again.
Stop smiling! Ugh!!!
“Okay…” Clieo dropped her hands and just as Hope had said, the booming voice was a bit better. She could endure it.
“Councilor Mason has such a commanding presence, doesn’t he?” Hope continued.
“Is that his name? How did you know it?” Clieo asked, perplexed.
“You didn’t read the Gaian guide back on Spectral 7 did you?”
“Um… Nope. I really just wanted to see it for myself.” Clieo smiled at him and she thought she saw his breath hitch. Her smile deepened.
Hahaha, who’s got the butterflies now?
“So just who is Councilor Mason?” Clieo asked, saving Hope from collapsing into a hopeless heap on the floor.
“He’s an eighty-year-old embodiment of greatness, that’s what he is.” Hope responded while looking up at the elderly leader with an expression of utter reverence.
“Oh…” Clieo rolled her eyes.
“When the first human settlers came to Gaia, they were lucky not to meet an indigenous species to battle. However, what was supposed to be a good thing, ended up being the exact opposite. The earliest settlers on this planet began repeating the same mistakes that almost lead to the destruction of the first home world, Earth. They warred against each other for a few hundred years.”
“Oh…” This time Clieo was fully engaged.
“Yup. And Councilor Mason was the leader who emerged from the chaos to unify them. Legend has it that he was a brilliant tactician who had won so many battles, that the other warring groups found it best to join him rather than go against him.”
“Wow… that’s incredible.”
“Indeed, it is.” Hope said, smiling proudly at the effect his story had on her. “Soon the fighting died down and everyone came together to form this mega-city, Eden.”
“Eden... I’ve heard that name before.” Clieo’s eyebrows furrowed in thought.
“Yes… it’s in the Bible.” Hope responded.
“Of course! That’s where I saw it. Genesis, right? The garden that God placed the first man and woman. Adam and Eve.”
“Exactly. I imagine it to be the first city. And I have a feeling that was the inspiration behind the Councilor, naming this city, the first in Gaia, Eden.”
Clieo took another glance around her. She could tell it was evening, as the sun was setting, casting an orange glow on the titanic buildings that decorated the landscape as far as the eyes could see. They seemed to bathe in it, soaking up the color and spreading it around their surroundings. She could see that there were large tube-like connections from the sides of one building, to the next. She could see objects whizz through the interior of the glass tubes quickly and a swarm of aerial traffic above.
The first city.
Clieo felt a rush of excitement flow through every fiber of her being. She wondered if Maggy and Kaya were excited, wherever they were. She had no way of communicating with them and it worried her a bit. The councilor was rounding up.
“Here in Eden, we showcase the pinnacle of human civilization, in a harmonious relationship with the nature around us. Never again will we, by our own hands destroy our home and ourselves. You are encouraged to be part of a tradition, as old as I am. A tradition of peace, prosperity, and equality for all!”
The crowd roared to his speech.
“And most importantly, a tradition of freedom!” The councilor’s voice boomed, causing both Clieo and Hope to cover their ears for the first time in a while.
The roar had reached deafening heights once more. The Councilor’s frail hands shot upwards and quieted the multitude once again.
“Let us be an example to our fellow humans, inhabiting other planets in this galaxy and in others. You are our newest additions and our greatest. Welcome home, my children. Welcome to Eden.”
The roar peaked and spilled over, as Councilor Mason turned around and disappeared into the dark shadows deep in the balcony from which he had emerged.
“Okay inspired ones, get in line, and back in the Rover for registration.” It was the bored soldier talking once more.
“What’s registration?” Clieo asked Hope as they filed in line.
“I think it’s where we get assigned our living spaces, communication lines, identification codes and all.”
“Oh great, cos I have a few sistas I need to contact.”
“I’m sure they’ll have a databank. Families were split up too.”
“Oh good.” Clieo heaved a sigh of relief.
The line kept moving and they kept inching closer and closer to the Rover.
“Sit together?” Hope asked.
“Sure.” Clieo responded.
Neither could see the other’s face, but they were both smiling.