The third chapter of the first installment of The Legacies Saga
"Above the ceiling!" Ermot shouted, for a single moment behaving like an anomaly. "That's impossible, even the Ekinta stops just below!"
The ceiling, the vast metallic dome that made their entire nation - their whole world, really - one big cave. It was set to produce light just as the sun did, only without the harmful effects of ultraviolet radiation. Artificial sunlight was used for floral growth and nutritional farming only - oxygen was cleanly manufactured without plants while emissions were released outside the ceiling through distinctly marked jettison tubes, and overall the ceiling protected mankind from everything outside the Earth.
"Actually," James said. "The Ekinta is one of the buildings holding up the ceiling. The ceiling is not the same height everywhere in the world; the Ekinta is the highest building holding it up. What? Did you think it just stayed up with magic?"
As a matter of fact, neither Marrell nor Ermot nor any of the other adolescents who'd started listening had ever really thought about how the ceiling stayed up.
"Whatever," Natasha said. "This elevator is the only way from the Ekinta to the Upperworld, or rather, the Hidden City."
With a small Bloom, the elevator doors opened. Outside Marrell saw the sun. A bright white disc, nothing like the pictures she'd seen of a yellow circle with triangles emerging from the sides and a smiling face. All over, atop the ceiling, were developed buildings similar to those in Ofiotia, only... rectangular. And perhaps, in Marrell's mind at least, most importantly, were the trees. Strong wooden supports with delicate leaves - mostly orange, a few green, some even had pink! They were...
"Beautiful," Marrell whispered. James shot a glance at her and she flushed, looking down. "I... I like trees."
James nodded. "Yeah, there aren't many of those down in the Mainworld, are there? Far as I can tell, there's only one and that's probably just a myth."
"It is," a girl Marrell didn't know said. "Trees were deemed obsolete centuries ago when new means of artificially producing oxygen, wood, and fruit products were invented. As a result, all forests and jungles were systematically cleared of trees, the space they held used for less superfluous purposes."
"There's more to trees than that," Natasha said wistfully. "Many animals back in the old days called trees their homes. Trees were marks of cultivation that began civilization. The Tree of Life, the Family Tree, the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil - those were all trees that shaped human thoughts. And then the Mainworlders decided to get rid of them because they built something that did trees' jobs without taking up so much space."
At this point, Marrell actually felt a little sympathetic for her captors. She had always, alwaysthought of trees as being vastly important, and believed their eradication was a waste of natural life. Seeing the beauty of this... Upperworld above the ceiling made her realize, more than any picture in a book, just how beautiful a tree truly was. "What is this place?" Marrell asked. "Who exactly are you two? Where'd you get... trees?"
James grinned. "Well, you'll find out when we take you to Julia. She'll be interested in an anomaly like yourself, and she knows the history of the Hidden City better than anyone."
Julia, Marrell thought. She had a name as unusual as James' or Natasha's. But the real certainty is that, in some way, she was some kind of auronel up here. A leader.
Marrell needed to know.