Author Topic: Part 2, Chapter 10  (Read 204 times)

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Offline Daen

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Part 2, Chapter 10
« on: July 21, 2022, 01:02:37 AM »
Part 2

Chapter 10

Simon shifted from foot to foot, trying to hide his nervousness. Not at the ceremony itself; that would be simple enough. No, more at who would be there.

His brothers surrounded him, some of them excited, some nervous like him. They all stood in the same black robes, like people on Earth had worn during graduation ceremonies. This wasn't the same at all—they hadn't completed their schooling by a long shot. No, this was more about who they were than what they knew or could do.

The oldest was in front, his face blank and calm. Simon knew that it was just a mask, though. Behind that nonexpression was probably a lot of strain. He carried the heaviest burden of all the people here in Harmony, after all.

That was the name of the new settlement Noah had constructed a few years ago, after their previous home had been buried in lava flows. They'd spent a few months in that temporary agro dome up north, before being flown here to the island and shown around their new home. Simon remembered being overwhelmed by how big it was. A few years later, when he'd been taught the basics of construction, he realized how much effort had gone into building it so quickly. Then he'd been overwhelmed all over again.

Harmony was a flattened dome, like their old place had been, but much larger. The island had several smaller satellite domes just like the old one did as well, for various uses. It was within sight of the mainland on one side, but on the other, New Eden's oceans stretched out forever. Argent had even talked about building a canoe and exploring up and down the coast. While the idea was exciting, Simon had told him to hold off until after the ceremony. And he wouldn't be going along, either, even if some of his brothers would want to. Simon was content just sitting on the beach and staring out over the waves.

That must have been another difference between New Eden and Earth. There were four moons here, pulling the tides in all sorts of directions. Earth's moon was much bigger, but all alone in orbit. From what Noah had said, tides here were much more irregular and less extreme than those on the homeworld. As such, NE calendars would be... a little complicated when they were finally produced.

A light chime sounded from the airlock, and Simon knew it was time. He reached into his black robes and pulled out a breather. As with the previous area, oxygen levels here were far too low to breathe, so they relied on these while outside of the domes. Each would last about an hour before needing a new O2 cartridge, but they wouldn't need more than fifteen minutes for the ceremony. It was pretty simple, despite its importance. Even Simon could sense the tension in the group.

Another difference between Harmony and their old settlement had been the wall. Harmony was divided, right down the middle, with a thick concrete barrier running from the foundation all the way up to the top of the dome. As he'd learned last year, the wall doubled as a support column, allowing the dome to be bigger than most others. The wall did have a door right in the middle of the dome, but it had never been opened. At least not as far as Simon knew. He and all of his brothers lived on the eastern side of Harmony. All the girls lived over there. The girls they would all be seeing again for the ceremony, after spending years apart!

The chime sounded again, and Simon filed forward into the airlock with the others. It was large enough to hold all of them at once. Simon felt his ears pop during the few seconds that the air and pressure changed, and then the outer door opened. Sunlight poured down on them, and cold air rushed in with an icy embrace.

New Eden was on the edge of the Goldilocks' Zone here: on the cold end of habitable. Even here in what would eventually be one of its tropical zones, he still shivered at the air. At least he was outside. He and the rest of the first class of boys had been given the freedom to leave the dome as they saw fit last year. It was their biggest gesture of responsibility and trust from Noah yet, and Simon had really taken advantage of it. He loved going down to the beach, and sitting for hours on a special rock he'd found jutting out over the water. Argent came with him sometimes, and the others were aware of it, but they spent more time roughhousing with each other than reading and meditating in silence like he did.

Time and again he'd wished that there was someone else sitting with him on that rock. God, he'd missed her. Had she missed him as much? Would she even remember him? Simon had tried to get a glimpse of her inside the dome many times, but Harmony's dome was taller than their old home. The concrete foundation was too tall for them to stand up on to look out. He thought he could see the tops of some furniture from the outside, but climbing up the edge of the dome was forbidden, and probably impossible anyway.

There she was! Parallel to the boys gathered together on the north end of Harmony, the girls had gathered as well. They were wearing robes of a similar cut, but pure white in comparison. It had been three years, but he recognized her face in the crowd. Her eyes scanned over the group, and then paused on his, and a smile spread over her features. He felt like his insides were melting. She did remember!

Noah was there, on a makeshift stage set up just for the ceremony. Well, his main drone was. There were at least a dozen flyers in the area, as a sort of witness group. Not that it really mattered. Noah was Noah, regardless of his form. He beckoned over to the oldest of each group, and they stepped up onto the stage, followed by their siblings.

Most of the kids stayed down in the crowd, as they weren't old enough yet to take part. Still, they looked excited as well, if cold. At least they could bundle up. Again, Simon wished he'd worn several layers under his robe.

Once all twenty of them were onstage, Noah stepped forward. "Welcome everyone, to New Eden's very first Naming Day! It's today that our oldest citizens step out of my shadow, at least a little, and become more of their own people than before. It's today that these twenty youths take their first steps into adulthood. Don't get ahead of yourselves, though. You've still got years before you can be rid of me for good."

Simon gave a weak smile, and there was a rustle of amusement through the crowd. Noah's attempts at humor were usually pretty pathetic. It wasn't his fault at all. He was just a machine, and he couldn't be like Rhys, who was always coming up with creative new ways to get people to laugh.

"I was conceived of and constructed back on Earth, by members of the Faith," Noah continued. "They loved me, and gave me my name. But since I'm incapable of love myself, all I could give you were nicknames, until you were old enough. Now you are, and it's time to shed them in favor of something more appropriate, more meaningful, and more permanent." He gestured to his right, and the oldest boy stepped up.

He cleared his throat nervously, but his excitement showed through it as well, as he looked down on the hundred or so people in the crowd. "I was raised with the name Woad, but under the grace of God and with the support of His people, I take the name Adam as my own. For obvious reasons," he added with a smile.

A genuine laugh rippled through the crowd, followed by applause. Simon started clapping with the rest. Woad had kept his name longer than any of his siblings, by far. He'd insisted on being called that right up until this very morning. Once, Simon had asked him why he wasn't already using his new name, and he'd responded that he had to set the right example for all the younger boys.

Woad, or Adam as he should be called now, stepped down to the end of the stage, and Argent took his place. Simon and all the others took one step to the left, accordingly. "I was raised with the name Torth, but under the grace of God, and with the support of His people, I take the name Argent as my own. If you don't know why, you'll soon find out." As with Adam, they were each allowed to add a small statement at the end as an explanation of their choice.

Adam's name made perfect sense, given that he was literally, the first and oldest male on this planet. Argent's name meant Silver in French, and it fit him perfectly. He had a silver tongue, just like his favorite characters in those old books. He was a persuader, and good at it. He and Simon were closer than the others, though for different reasons. Argent knew he couldn't rope Simon in on his little schemes, and valued him partially because he was apparently immune to Argent's persuasion. Simon just liked a little company, since the other boys found him boring.

Now it was his turn. Simon stepped forward. "I was raised with the name Chif, but under the grace of God and with the support of His people, I take the name Simon as my own. It's after Simon the Shoemaker, the friend... and the muse, of Socrates." That hadn't been hard for him to choose. Noah had only needed to mention the old Greek philosophers and lawmakers to get Simon interested. After that, Socrates had rapidly become his favorite.

The other boys cycled through, each with their own style, and dramatic flair.

Ris chose the name Rhys, and had to explain the slight change in spelling. He said it was because his favorite actor was Rhys Ifans from Neverland and the Christmas Carol movie, but Simon and the other boys had shared a knowing glance upon hearing that. It was rumored that despite his creativity and humor, he'd just picked the name because it was close to his old one.

Zwax went with the name Hippocrates, after the ancient Greek healer. It fit him, given that he'd been both interested in and encouraged by Noah to study medicine. The boys had all been calling him Hippo for years now. That fit as well, because he was heavier than most of his class, and had a really thick skin and could go along with the joke.

Tas was now called Tycho, after Tycho Brahe, the famous astronomer from Scandinavia. Like the others, he'd been pushed to pick a path in his life early on. His love for the stars was far beyond anything Simon had done, even back when Valae had been at his side. He'd even built his own simple telescope, and was now pressuring Noah to get materials to build a more powerful one.

Adwa went with the name Torin. Not after any person so much as a place. He wanted to be a clothmaker, and the shroud that Jesus himself had been buried in, had reportedly ended up in a place called Turin. As part of a school project, Torin had planted and grown cotton and flax seeds. He'd then, with a lot of effort, turned them into some very ugly cotton fabric and linen. He wanted to grow and harvest silk from silkworms, but Noah had put a hold on that until he was older.

Jeo would be known as Massimo, after an Italian chef who'd gotten his mandate to cook directly from the Pope. While the Faith and Catholicism had some big differences, Jeo/Massimo didn't care. He just wanted to feed people. He'd teamed up with Argent to start a garden that could produce foods Noah wasn't willing to put the effort into growing just yet. Simon had been there several times.

Speah went with Bezalel, or Bez for short. He was set on being an architect and builder. He'd already bullied Noah into giving him some basic lessons on how the domes were constructed, and more importantly, how the life-support systems worked. So far, he was the only kid Simon knew who could actually refill breather O2 cartridges. Anyone could replace them out in the field, but once those supplies were emptied, only he and Noah could make them useful again.

Lastly came Bas. He chose the name John, but didn't give any explanation. There were a number of Johns in the Bible, and he could have been inspired by any of them. Bas, or John as he would have to be called now, was the most spiritual of them all. Even Noah had commented on it, despite his own inability to be pious. There was no doubt that when the Church of the Faith was built, John would be its first pastor.

That was it for the boys, and Noah turned to his left. The girl Simon had known as Laz was first in line. "I was raised with the name Laz, but under the grace of God, and with the support of His people, I take the name Sarah as my own."

Simon supposed that made sense. She was the oldest female, if only by a few minutes, and he doubted many girls would name themselves Eve. After all, who wanted to be known as the woman who brought sin into the world, and caused suffering for both men and women for the rest of time?

He remembered her being confident and forthright, back in the day, and she seemed even more so. The other girls all clapped upon her announcement, but Simon thought that some of it was forced. She was in charge of the girls, just like Woad—Adam—was of the boys. There was no hesitation in her, though. Unlike Adam, she liked being in charge. She glanced over at the male line briefly, and her eyes lingered a little too long on Simon, he noticed uncomfortably, before she stepped down and went to the end of her line.

One after another the girls came up and gave their new names. They were mostly Hebrew or Biblical, like him and his brothers, but not based on any specific professions. Jessie, Angie (after the word angel, he supposed), Abigail, Hannah, Naomi. He didn't care about most of that, though. He impatiently waited for the last one on stage. Finally, she stood up in front of the crowd.

"I was raised with the name Valae, but under the grace of God, and with the support of His people, I take the name Diana as my own. As a princess who was beloved by her people, I hope to win the love of mine."

Diana. It wasn't what he was expecting, but Simon wasn't really sure what he'd been expecting. She grinned to everyone, and he clapped hard, along with all of them.

Noah said a few words in conclusion, but no one was really paying attention. After years apart, they were eager to get reacquainted with each other. Even Simon, who spent most of his time alone, couldn't wait to finally talk with her again. Noah dismissed them all after a few minutes, and the separate crowds bled together in one mix of white and black robes, punctuated with the greens and browns of the younger kids.

He found himself breathless, upon facing her again a few seconds later. "I can't believe it's really you. Here, right in front of me... Diana."

"Simon," she said wryly, as if reminding herself of his new name, and then grabbed him up in a big hug. He returned it, laughing, noticing that most of the others around him were doing similarly. Some of the younger kids were poking each other and playing, letting all that pent-up energy out, after what to them had no doubt been a boring and pointless ceremony.

"Look at you. You've gotten so big!" He leaned back to take a better look. They'd both measured themselves against doorways at the old settlement. The marks were probably still there, if they hadn't been burned away by the lava.

"Look who's talking," she retorted. "I have to crane my neck up to look at you."

"And your eyes! They used to be blue!" They were darker now, to the point of being brown, like his.

She nodded. "Yeah, Noah says that's normal for some people. He said my donor probably had the same thing happen back on Earth when she was little."

He let out some more nervous energy with another laugh. "I've got so much to tell you! I've learned so many things—we all have. I wanna hear all about you, too. I just wish we could have talked before. Did you see any of us through the dome? We couldn't see you from the outside—the concrete was too tall."

Val—Diana, he reminded himself—shook her head. "We can only go out on Mondays and Thursdays, and most of us go to the greenhouses to the north. I got a look at the one on the south, one day though. Is that yours?"

"No, it's Argent and Massimo's. I helped plant part of it, though. Maybe I'll be able to take you inside one day, now that the door in the wall is gonna be open. Noah only lets us out on Wednesdays and Saturdays. I guess it's just another way of keeping us apart."

She looked sad at that, and he could sympathize. He understood why the sexes had to be kept apart. The only reason he and... Diana had been so close as kids was because their first dome hadn't been big enough to keep them completely separate. Men and women were supposed to live separately until they were married, according to the Bible. Noah was just getting everyone used to living that way. Still, he'd missed her a lot.

It didn't matter, because he had a plan. "Listen, I might have a way to talk to you without," he paused, and looked up at the stage. Noah was still up there, but there was way too much noise in the crowd for him to pick up what they were saying. "Without Noah knowing about it. Have you heard of tap code?"

She shook her head.

"No problem. It's a way of spelling things out without saying things." He lifted his left arm, and then tapped on it with his right index finger. Once, and then a second later, again. "That's the letter 'a'." He then tapped twice, followed by four times. "That's 'r'. It's easy once you know how. Sometimes after light's out, the guys tap messages to each other through the walls."

He'd forgotten something important. "Listen, do you have your own room? One right next to the edge of the dome I mean."

"No, I've got one to myself, but it's near the middle."

"I traded rooms with Massimo to be right on the corner next to the wall and the dome. Do the girls trade rooms sometimes?"

Diana nodded slowly. "Some of them did. Most people like their rooms now. It hasn't happened in a while."

"If you can, trade rooms with someone next to the dome. I put a mirror out by the water, on a rock I use for my prayers and meditation. I told Noah it was to help center myself. If I shine a flashlight at a mirror in my room, I can send you a message. If you're next to the edge, I mean."

Her eyes brightened at the possibilities. "Yeah, I'll ask. Naomi never really liked her room. She might switch with me. She's not right next to the wall, though."

"It won't matter, as long as you can get a mirror up next to the dome," he said confidently.

At that point Noah spoke up. "All right, everyone. Split up and head back to your halves of the dome. There will be a joint movie tonight for the first class here, in the male half of the dome. A supervised movie," he added pointedly, looking at Adam and Sarah. They both nodded back at him respectfully, and then started splitting up the crowd.

Hurriedly, Simon pulled out a piece of paper and pressed it into her hand. "This is the five by five tap code setup." He paused, and then grabbed her up in another hug. "It's so good to see you again. Whatever you go by now."

"You, too," she said with a slight tremor to her voice.

There was a slight cough off to their side, and Simon looked over to see a stern-looking Sarah. "Come on, Diana. We've got to get ready for tonight."

Diana let go of him with a final squeeze of his hands, and was drawn away, back into the dome. Simon was pushed himself, but he didn't really notice. She had changed, sure, but so had he.
« Last Edit: October 02, 2022, 11:24:07 PM by Daen »