Minuet had died shortly after Friday was born and Anderson had died a few days later, both victims of a biological weapon created a million years before by a now-extinct, warring civilization—a weapon that had killed 85 percent of the colonists who had traveled the 200 light years from Earth to Enya. Their names were just two of the 6,375 who had perished during The Sickness, but they were the names which meant the most to the 12-year-old girl.
But hearing isn’t the same as knowing. Friday frowned, the vertical lines between her too-bushy eyebrows deepening—her dimples were conspicuous by their absence. She was not happy.
“I wish you had known Momma and Daddy,” the platinum-haired beauty standing behind the young girl murmured.
Friday, an almost mirror image of the speaker, turned and looked at her older sister. It was probably the thousandth time in the last decade that Cheyenne Dawn Lovett had repeated the same phrase and probably the thousandth time in the last decade that her younger sister had nodded her head and answered, “Me too.” It was a ritual that should have suffered a natural death long ago, but the two kept reprising their roles every September first, the day the colonists had designated Memorial Day. Both were reluctant to do anything that might dim their parents’ legacies—Cheyenne Dawn from heart-wrenching sadness, Friday from an emptiness that not even the older sister she adored could fill—still, it was their ritual and neither of them was about to turn it loose.
CeeDee, as everyone called Cheyenne Dawn Lovett, reached for her sister’s hand as she stared at the names engraved on the Wall of Honor. She had known almost every person whose name appeared there. The Wall of Honor listed everyone who had given their lives in the initial exploration of Enya as well as every colonist who died from The Sickness. Her throat tightened, as it did every time she visited the memorial. Her lips barely moved as she repeated the names of her family who had fallen in The Sickness. Anderson Winchester Lovett. Minuet Ono Hays Lovett. Austin Raleigh Lovett. Ember Anne Lovett. Like Friday, her dimples were nowhere to be found.
I miss all of them, CeeDee thought, but of everybody, I miss Daddy the most. Once again, as they did every Memorial Day, the tears she so detested escaped from beneath her long eyelashes and left evidence of their passage on her cheeks. She knew they would come, just as she knew there was nothing she could do to stop them—she no longer even tried. Even the thought of her fraternal twin, Ember Anne, as inseparable as the two had been, never caused the twisting, singing sensation in her stomach that came with memories of her father.
It had taken a long time for the heartbreaking loss of all of her family except an older brother, Beaumont, and, of course, her little sister, to recede into the constant, low-grade mourning that was her ever-present companion, but it had. CeeDee was no longer the devastated 12-year-old orphan without a hope for the future. She had children of her own now—six of them in fact—three girls and three boys, all of whom were waiting for her with their father, Hari Paynter “Bear” Rockwell.
In spite of his love and affection for CeeDee’s parents, Bear had never accompanied the two on their annual pilgrimage. When asked why not, his answer was simple: “I would not think of intruding upon her sorrow. It is her’s—and Friday’s—time to mourn their parents. Not mine.”
CeeDee’s commband vibrated, breaking into her disconsolate recollections. She took a deep breath, exhaled noisily and glanced down at her left wrist.
“It’s time,” the holographic image of her brother said succinctly.
“I’ll be right there, Bo,” CeeDee answered and turned away from the Wall of Honor, still holding her sister’s hand. “Time to go,” she said quietly.
Friday nodded and took a last look over her shoulder at the Wall of Honor as she accompanied her sister, her bright green eyes searching once again for her parents’ names.
City of Starlight
The Enya Colonization Corporation’s grounds overlooked the junction of the broad, leisurely flowing Brandywine River and the lapis lazuli waters of Impact Harbor, an ancient, 400-kilometer-in-diameter asteroid crater near which the first shuttle from the colony ship Gossamer Wings landed on July 20, 2238 C.E. (January 1, 0001 E.T.). A dome of indigenous, marble-like, White Enyanite topped the central hexagonal building, the residence for the CEO of ECC, and gleamed in the noonday sun. From each face of the hexagon, a 30-meter-long, three-meter-wide, covered walkway connected the center edifice with another, smaller hexagonal building. Each of these secondary outbuildings housed the administrative offices of one department of the corporation: Finance, Human Services, Infrastructure, Jurisprudence, Land Management and Operations.
CeeDee climbed the dozen steps to the Executive Building’s portico with Friday alongside. Friday had made this same trip every Memorial Day since her birth and she stood tall and proud next to her sister. This time, CeeDee had a difficult time maintaining her usual aplomb; her message today would be much different from her past ones. She looked out over the crowd gathered on the Vanilla Grass in front of the Executive Building. Vanilla Grass, Enya’s version of grass, Earth’s predominant ground cover, seldom grew higher than 10 centimeters and perfumed the air with the smell of vanilla (hence the name), which had been intensified by the crowd’s movements.
A sprinkle of applause grew louder and quickly turned into a thunderous ovation. She had been the favorite of the colonists since the First Flight, when the colony ship Gossamer Wings transported the initial group of colonists to Enya. Her popularity had grown through the last decade as the colony matured. The audience’s reaction to her was still embarrassing, even after so many years, but CeeDee gave little sign of her discomfiture at their esteem.
As the eldest daughter of the colony’s leader, she had known almost every passenger on that first voyage, and the colonists had taken the young, effervescent preteen into their hearts. When she disappeared from the Survey Team investigating the old-growth forest in the south of Xanadu Quadrant, they mourned; when she miraculous reappeared several months later alive and, for the most part well, they rejoiced—it was the first positive news they had received since The Sickness started to kill their sons, their daughters, their lovers and themselves.
Her burgeoning love affair with Hari Paynter Rockwell, known to all as “Bear,” who, even before the colony ship left Earth, had become an unofficial, “adopted” part of the Lovett family, caught the colonists’ imagination. The Union Partner ceremony (a step beyond the cohabitation contracts that had long ago replaced religious or civil marriages) during CeeDee’s Cotillion had been celebrated by the surviving colonists with great fanfare. However, it was her actions to stop the Xanadu Dreams addiction that swept through the colonists and almost brought the colony to its knees, which sealed her place in Enya’s history. To the majority of Enyans, Cheyenne Dawn Lovett could do no wrong. I wonder if they’ll still share that opinion when I finish my speech today.
The ceremony began, as usual, with Enya’s anthem, Fanfare for the Common Man, written by Aaron Copeland in Earth’s twentieth century. The audience turned as one and, like those on the portico, faced the Enyan flag atop the pole two meters outside the walkway encircling the complex. The flag was double-sided with a white field containing a blue, stylized dragon with gold wings in the center and its tail encircling the word “Enya.” It barely stirred in the negligible breeze. As the roll of deep-throated tympani and the bold brass notes died away, a tall, distinguished-looking man stepped forward. Not a single strand of his brown hair was out of place and his hazel eyes seemed to look into the eyes of each person gathered at the bottom of the steps.
“Ladies and gentlemen, I greet you on this Memorial Day, the day each year when we pause in our daily activities and remember our brothers and sisters, our mothers and fathers, our children—all the ones we lost to The Sickness. Today is September first, of the year Thirteen, Enyan Time, the anniversary of the heart-rending day of maximum deaths from The Sickness. We stand here today to honor each one of those no longer by our sides.” Jefferson Kellogg paused, looked out over those who stood below him, and then continued.
“There was an old cliché on Earth: ‘Time heals all wounds.’ It is just as untrue today as it was then. Our wounds will never go away. They will always be with us. They will be an itch we cannot scratch, an emptiness we cannot fill, a longing we cannot satisfy, a loss we cannot replace. Join with me now in a moment of silence to salute them.” Jefferson Kellogg, Chief Executive Officer of the Enya Colonization Corporation, bowed his head and closed his eyes.
For a long minute, nothing broke the silence except for the call of birds as they went about their business, untouched and unmoved by the sadness beneath their wings.
Finally, Kellogg raised his head and continued. “And now, ladies and gentlemen, I welcome Steadholder Cheyenne Dawn Lovett, daughter of the leader of our colonization attempt, Anderson Winchester Lovett, and Friday Lyn Lovett, the first child born on the new world. Steadholder Lovett, as she has on every Memorial Day, will share a few words with us.”
Kellogg stepped back, the sweep of his outstretched arm and stiff bow encouraging her to step forward. CeeDee and Friday stepped to the edge of the portico. CeeDee glanced at Friday with a wan smile.
“Go ahead, Sis, give ‘em hell,” Friday said soto voce.
It was the right thing to say, and CeeDee looked up, her head high. She licked her dry lips as unobtrusively as possible and raised her free hand. “Thank you, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you very much. We are here. . .” she paused as the applause and cheering overwhelmed her voice.
“We are here,” she repeated when the accolades began to fade, “on this day, as we have on each first day of September, to honor those we lost during those terrible, dark days we call ‘The Sickness.’ As you know, I lost my father, my mother, an older brother and a twin sister to the pandemic. Many of you could tell the same story, only the names would change. However, in spite of the deaths that devastated me then and still sadden me to this day, I gained a new sister during that horror, and will forever treasure that unexpected gift.” CeeDee looked at Friday and smiled at the doppelganger next to her.
Both girls had the same platinum blonde hair in identical pixie cuts; the same huge, exotic, bright-green eyes and the same smooth, bronzed skin; both even had too-bushy eyebrows. Friday was already taller than her sister’s 158 centimeters and weighed a kilogram or so more, and showed no inclination to stop growing. There could be no doubt in any observer’s mind that they were sisters.
“We came to this planet just over a decade ago, each of us for a different reason,” CeeDee looked back at the audience. “Some came for adventure. Some came to escape the ever-tightening noose of the United Nations. Some came for other reasons. What we do here—now and in the near future—will set us upon a path that will lead us to success—or failure.
“We have come a long way together, you and I, but we have not yet reached the end of our journey. Enya is a going concern with new cities popping up in all four quadrants and new entrepreneurial efforts bursting forth in every city. We are rightfully proud of all we have accomplished. Never forget all that we have done—but never forget that we are the last humans in the universe with so much more to do. We must always remember our long history on Earth and, though we are here today for those on Enya we lost, never forget those billions we left behind who fell to the death sentence that was Heininger’s Profile.” She took a deep breath.
“Unfortunately, all is not well—once again. We landed on Enya as free souls, thanks to Daniel Woodhouse Snyder, the creator of the Enya Colonization Corporation. I knew Mr. Snyder well, and I knew what he intended for Enya. For any of you who are still unsure of his dream, all you need do is to read two documents: the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of that long-dead country once called the United States of America. In their words, you will find his vision of our new planet and his aspirations for our future.” She paused for a moment.
“Those who should have only our best interests at heart are again trespassing in our private lives. Slowly but surely, the ECC is intruding into our freedoms and smothering our hopes for the future under a growing blanket of hegemony.”
She glanced at Jefferson Kellogg out of the corner of her eye and almost smiled at the thunderous frown on his reddened face. Kellogg’s actions to increase his domination over the planet and its citizens were the targets of her harsh words. Obviously, Kellogg recognized her intent and knew that he was powerless to intervene.
“I encourage each of you—no, I beg each of you—to think hard about our future. To think about how that future should play out. To think about who might be best to guide us through the wilderness. There is an election coming up next May, an election to fill spots on ECC’s Board of Directors. Look closely at those who are currently on the Board and at those who put their names forth as candidates. Listen carefully to their words, weigh those words and compare their words to the others, incumbents and aspirants alike. Look hard at the actions of the current Board and compare those actions with your own visions and aspirations. Perhaps it is time for replacements who will be more in tune with our wishes and less in tune with someone else’s dictates.
“I cannot tell you who to vote for, citizens of Enya, but I can tell you to vote. The last Board of Directors’ election resulted in less than half of you casting a vote. Awaken from your sleep, citizens of Enya. You may rouse from your indifference one day to find another United Nations on your chest, slowly squeezing the breath out of you. That would give new meaning to the word disaster—a disaster from which we might never recover.”
CeeDee looking around at the crowd, trying to meet as many eyes as she could, hoping they could see the sincerity that filled her and threatened to flow down her cheeks. She took a deep breath and fought back against her emotions.
“I beg you to get involved, to exercise your right to vote, to replace those who would be nothing more than a rubber stamp with those who will resist this increasingly heavy hand reaching out to smother us, to choke off our freedom and to dominate our future.” She stopped when she realized she was shaking a clenched fist at the audience. She dropped her arm to her side and she took a deep breath to calm her raging emotions. She continued in a more composed voice.
“Thank you, ladies and gentlemen for listening.” She paused. “And now, I believe it’s time to eat.” CeeDee pointed at a grouping of picnic tables on the Executive Building’s pristine lawn of Vanilla Grass, Enya’s ubiquitous but fragrant ground cover. “And, since Chef Saia is in charge of the food, I can guarantee you it will be delicious.”
Cheers greeted her comment and she maneuvered down the steps to join the audience without as so much as a glance at Jefferson Kellogg. She was welcomed with hugs and handshakes as the crowd began to find its way to the feast set out at the junction of the broad, leisurely Brandywine River and the lapis lazuli waters of Impact Harbor.