Because the Gaians were limited primarily to the city of Gaia, and because paranoia reigned regarding undue pollution, only the infirm were allowed to use transportation machinery within the city limits. For those traveling to Foster City, Pax, or beyond, it was necessary to be transported more quickly, so they reserved the right to ride in vehicles powered by electricity. Why the Gaians were worried about these "clean running" vehicles polluting the air was beyond me. I tried to research the thing once, but my editor shot down the idea. I believed that the leaders of Gaia simply didn't want the Gaians to have the ability to leave, but maybe that's just a crazy idea. At any rate, I walked from my little office to Candace's home. It had all of the signs of a wealthy residence. There was an iron gate around the house, a fountain that enabled an irrigation system for ludicrously rich gardens, and doorknobs and other little accessories were made of copper. The house sat back far from the road as if it were hiding from loud noises or something else. I pushed a button on the intercom that was nestled in the front gate's corner.
"Name?" a voice said accusingly.
"Uh, yeah, I'm the journalist scheduled to meet with Artemisia?"
I did what I was told. The gate opened. I walked down the path to the door, which was shaded by an arch of sharlen trees (the Gaians also referred to these as Burwadian Cherries). A heavy door that was painted white contrasted sharply with the cobalt house -- the wealthy Gaians had borrowed the look from the Burwadians. A door knocker in the shape of a Cootoo beetle begged me to make my presence officially known, but for some reason, my heart was making the same sound that I knew the door would make when I rapped it with the knocker. Why was i so worked up? I came close to turning around and retreating down the path laden with white petals, but just then the door creaked open, and there in the warm light of the day stood Artemisia.
Artemisia smiled at me in a very strange way. Or maybe it was just my imagination. I was searching my mind for a clever greeting, but I was still unbelievably out of sorts for some reason.
"Come in," Artemisia said, still smiling.
She was wearing the traditional garb of a "laborer," which was quite similar to the simple, white, gauzey garments that Foster had seen when he first discovered the Burwadians. The Burwadians were skilled in making clothing, but were not allowed to distinguish themselves by wearing any of their fine creations. Still, I found it strange that Artemisia was forced to greet people in her slave clothing. I would have thought her employers, as the Gaians called themselves, would have wanted her to look the part of an author when meeting with the press. In retrospect, maybe that just shows how accepting the Gaians were of their slaves' situations. There was nothing to be ashamed of.
Artemisia beckoned me into a small corner room. The walls were terra cotta. A round table made of the batchawu tree (akin to what Gaian architects referred to as Earthling mahogany) sat in the middle of the room, with two chairs made of the same material sitting on opposite sides. The chairs had intricate embroidered cushions, and the work was so beautiful I felt guilty sitting on them.
"Did you make these?" I asked, using my head to point at the cushions.
"Those? Yes. Many years ago. Before it was decided my creative juices would be better served flowing through people's brains instead of people's butts. If there's a difference."
I laughed nervously, perhaps because of Artemisia's joke, but more because I had finally managed to say something. I noticed a painting of Candace on the wall facing the door so that you couldn't miss her visage when you walked in. It became clear from the papers I saw strewn about and the readiness with which Artemisia helped me hook up my equipment that this was her meeting room, or rather the room she was allowed to use for her meetings, but it seemed like Candace still was determined that her presence had to be tangibly felt. Next to the portrait was a window that looked towards the pathway. I was sure this was not the best view in the house. And suddenly, my adrenaline morphed into pity for Artemisia, this powerful writer who yet had to clean house and do other chores before promoting her works, an action she was obligated to do so that her owners could get more money that would not be spent on her. It all seemed ruthlessly unfair.
Artemisia cleared her throat as if she was reading my thoughts and was uncomfortable with them.
"Have a seat, get out your recording equipment, and have some coffee," she offered.
Coffee, among other things, had been brought by the original gaians, but had, like the Gaians themselves, changed over time. Instead of simply using coffee beans, which grew well in some places on Burwadee, the recipe had been expanded to include spices and other delicacies. It was an aristocratic beverage because it reflected ties to Earth, and because the ingredients were relatively hard to find. I was surprised Artemisia would be allowed to freely serve such a drink. I took a sip, relaxed, took a breath, and looked at my Ready-Pad to see what my real first question was supposed to be.