It had been a very long time since a new relic had last been deemed safe for Central Expositorium display, accessible to the masses, so most had forgotten what excitement such an event brought. Some children had yet to ever see an unveiling first-hand, even.
People of all ages, creeds, allegiances, and upbringings had put aside their differences, banded together in front of the giant, gilded building, and one could state the entire world seemed to had stopped for this short, unique moment.
Icarite zeppelins were moored off at the edge of the giant terrace at the entrance to the Expositorium, and the Subterran tunnels had been teeming with activity the entire morning as the dwellers of the deep faced the sunlight with glee rather than the normal apprehension. A giant mass of Wastelanders could also be seen, hanging back from the forefront, dominated by the Euphorians themselves, but there was something more to it than all the four people standing close to one another in the same place… There was a sense of anticipation, wonder, but most of all, camaraderie.
Where normally you’d see small pockets of people keeping to their own kind, with even the odd inter-faction exchange not permitting much insight into their respective domains, now there was mingling, laughter, hands slung over each others’ shoulders no matter their status or background, and a constant, joyous buzzing that rose as high of the Observator Prime, an overhang, far up on the top floors of the Expositorium, reserved for studies and experiments pertaining to issues of the sky.
It was up there that a couple figures stood, surveying the lands below, frowning at the seldom seen gathering that would soon be let in through the Pearlescent Gates and into the very temple of knowledge inside that now held yet another piece of long-gone times for them all to marvel at.
“Are all of us in agreement then, Inspector?” Highmaster Cronne raised an eyebrow at his counterpart. His wise features coupled with the long red-and-gold cloak that hung down to his platinum-clasped boots made him look much more regal than his position as head of the Artifact Retrieval Ministry would suggest.
Compared to him, Inspector Frillen paled, with his simple red jerkin and pearl white trousers appended with the most regular pair of brown shoes. The duties of an inspector seldom allowed them the luxuries Ministers reveled in on a daily basis, and the stern look on Frillen’s face certainly enforced this, along with his rectangular vision-aids. He dropped his chin on his chest and cleared his throat.
“It is still my personal take on the matter, Minister, that we are making a mistake by allowing the masses even the slightest gaze at such apparatus from the days before the Incident.” he pursed his lips “The Expository stands for remembrance and admiration and we should never deny the people these luxuries, true, but this may spark something we will not be able to contain down the line.”
Highmaster Cronne crossed his arms on his chest and glanced over at his counterpart. “This artifact has been deemed harmless by all involved, old friend… Apart from you.”
“It’s not the artifact itself, Josiah, it’s what the idea behind it opens the minds to… This isn’t some comfort item, or a plaything, or a collection of stories…” Frillen leaned against the railing and stared downwards “It’s dangerously close to realising that our forebears were more than capable to build a society as great - if not greater - than what we’ve achieved following the Event.
“And you don’t need me to tell you the road this leads down…” he took the vision-aids off and gave Cronne a meaningful look while rubbing the bridge of his nose.
“Your concerns are noted, Williad. And I will follow events with much interest, care, and constant reports to the Inspector Corps. Thank you.”
Williad Frillen clicked his heels, nodded, and left towards the main building. Once inside, he approached the central transport shaft and spoke when the screening panel of the nearest transport cell flickered to life, stepping aboard it.
“Exploratory Hub.” the panel flickered out and he was set into motion as the guardrail of the cell rose up to his waist and detached itself from its perch.
He descended straight down the shaft with nothing but the usual electromagnetic buzzing of the cell along the direction rails and his thoughts for company. He reached a platform where the cell turned sharply to the right and carried on across a causeway and into an adjoining building - the Exploratory Hub. It was the starting point for most of an ARM Inspector’s days, this being no different.
Williad rushed off the cell as it beamed back the way it came, and turned towards his personal Exploratory Pod, which was being readied for him by the technicians.
A sleek Euphorian design infused with Icarite technology, and a secret that the ARM kept mighty close to its chest, the Pods were a current-day marvel. Able to brave land, sea, and air, and travel for thousands of miles on end provided either solar or wind power was available, and even capable of harvesting electricity straight from the clouds for a near-10-hour battery-operated stint should the need arise. Yet all the sight of it did was make Williad sigh deeply. What would amaze over 99% of the population at large had become largely tedious to him.
“Another day, another artifact.” he mused in a low monotone, reading the golden words etched into the side of the pod “And another reason to worry.” he added, getting in and starting his descent down the underground launch shafts whose exit points lay far away, in the middle of a purposefully made, so-called experimental orchard that nobody was allowed near.
Williad smirked. The four peoples of the land had worked together to aid in increasing the ARM’s reach and efficiency in the field…
And the ARM alone knew that they all did so.
Back at Observator Prime, Josiah Cronne could see the people growing restless. With a final look towards the Exploratory Hub, he brought his hand up, input a few commands in the wristboard and spoke.
“Open the gates. And may the past enrich the future.”
He himself couldn’t even remember the last time he spoke the traditional words, and smiled at the sight of the masses shouting with joy at the doors swinging open and permitting them entry.
“Are we really going to see it, daddy?” a little girl hung tightly to her father’s hand as they slowly made their way under the entry arch and into the Grand Hall where new exhibits were first displayed.
“Yes, honey, we’re almost there, see?” her father pointed to a clear-glass case suspended above the hall, in clear view of the thousands that were gathering below. He knew the case would be made to travel all around the hall so that all could get a good look at it before it was sent to its definitive resting spot, somewhere inside the Expositorium’s many galleries.
“We’re risking much by coming here, Jhon…” a golden-haired woman whispered to the man.
“Relax.” he smiled reassuringly “there are plenty here to cover for us, even without knowing it.”
“Merelle!” a voice boomed at them from the left and another coupled almost toppled over the little girl, engulfing her in a great, big hug “My, how you’ve grown! And what a pretty bow you have!”
“Aunty Daira!” the girl giggled, letting go of her father’s hand “Uncle!”.
“Daira, Keven!” the father put in, taking the man’s hand and shaking it vigurously “so good to see you again! How are the Southern crops?”
“Ah, we still can’t figure out how to keep the damned fields wet... I swear those cavern-monkeys are just laughing at us and trying to pull a fast one… Hello, Delynne!” he waved at the woman who responded in kind.
“He worries too much. There’s a little over half the field still struggling with irrigation, the rest of it’s doing just fine” Daira chimed in “and it’s all thanks to your mommy’s hybrid plants, did you know that?” she picked Merelle up and puffed her cheeks.
“My, my, I won’t be able to do this for much longer at this rate!”
“She’s a sweetie.” Kevin smiled “You guys must be really proud…”
“We are” Delynne smiled and then added with a smirk “wouldn’t hurt if her uncle came around and picked her up for a few hours now and again…”
Their discussion was muffled by the collective sigh of all gathered there as the artifact was brought lower above them and started its hypnotic, spiraling movement around the room.
“Uncle Keven, I want to go higher!”
“Alright, you, come here!” he placed the little girl on his shoulders and she reached her hands out to the approaching case.
“Are you getting a read?” Jhon huddled closer to his wife while keeping an eye on Merelle. “I am...” a faint beeping noise came from a battered viewing screen Delynne was looking at on the inside of her longcoat. She gasped “Two distinct readings! We were right!” she beamed at her husband.
“Of course we were!” his shoulders relaxed and he hugged her “And that bow-scanner was the best idea you’ve had since marrying me…” he kissed her to prevent any retort, and then picked their daughter up and placed her on his own shoulders.
The case was making its way above their heads. Inside, draped across a metal frame, lay a ragged-looking tarp, slightly thicker than your regular bead spread, a couple of frayed wires sticking out from one of its longer ends.
A golden plaque at the bottom read: “self-warming bedtime apparatus”.
~ To be continued ~
All names, characters, imagery, and references pertaining to the Euphoria universe are the work of fan fiction. Euphoria and other related IPs are the property of Stonemaier Games LLC, and are used in this piece without the express intent of monetary gain or other material benefits.