The GAIA Project
The GAIA Project
“Welcome to the GAIA Project’s headquarters and primary terrestrial-based research and investigative institute,” the tall man with the English accent said to the group of distinguished dignitaries representing every geo-political union, governmental group, and scientific organization on Earth.
“Welcome to the GAIA Project’s headquarters and primary terrestrial-based research and investigative institute,” the tall man with the English accent said to the group of distinguished dignitaries representing every geo-political union, governmental group, and scientific organization on Earth. The man wore a black felt bowler’s cap, a dark grey suit with a brightly colored bow tie and matching sneakers. Beneath his hat, his brown hair was cropped short, and extended down the side of his face where his chin kept the two sides from merging. Despite his eccentricity of appearance, his face was kind and his smile wide and inviting.
The dignitaries were seated throughout the theater in small groups as they watched the man on stage as he stepped away from the podium and approached them. Without the aid of the podium’s microphone, he raised his voice so it could be easily heard from the balconies to the rear of the theater.
“The GAIA Project is the single most ambitious endeavor ever undertaken by the citizens of Earth,” he said taking a seat and allowing his feet to dangle off the edge of the stage. “The contributions you and your respective organizations have made to GAIA has gotten us far, as you are about to see during our tour, but we are not done yet. With your continued patronage, we can see this project to its logical conclusion and herald a new era for the citizens of Earth.”
Swinging his legs back and forth, they tap-tapped against the front of the stage in a rhythmic fashion, as he continued speaking to the dignitaries in the theater. “Nine years ago, we broke ground on this facility and several others all over the world, and began the arduous process of building a new future for all of us. I am proud to announce that we will be ready to take our first step into that future in just a few short months.”
The Galactic Astronomical Investigation Administration, also known as GAIA, was the brain child of Sir Walter Smithe, an eccentric genius, reclusive multi-trillionaire philanthropist who had made his vast fortune as a pioneer in asteroid mining, and resource acquisition and recovery during the early days of the commercialization of space and the inner solar system. Smithe spent the later portion of his life and the lion’s share of his fortune trying to better humanity in order to cultivate interest and support for the GAIA Project and its multi-generational, intra-galactic spacecraft, the ARC. With his dream only a few short months from fruition, he never had the opportunity to see it through to the end, since he passed into the greater universe at the ripe old age of ninety-eight years three months and twelve days. His son, Junior – Wally to his closest friends – took up his father’s mantle to bring to life the elder Smithe’s vision for galactic exploration.
“I know you have a lot of questions, but if you save them until the end of the tour, I will be happy to answer them. But, I believe the tour will answer all of your questions and more,” Junior said with a proud flourish.
Amid the smiles on the faces of the Ambassadors, Heads of State, scientists, philosophers, and their assorted aides, assistants, secretaries, and other honored guests; there were a handful of inconvenienced scowls. Junior sensed their impatience and decided that he better get on with it then.
Junior hopped down from the stage and said, “Now if you will come with me, I’ll show you what all of our efforts have produced.”
Rising to their feet, the dignitaries shuffled to the end of their rows and made their way down the aisles to where Junior stood with a toothy grin and an outstretched arm ushering everyone towards a door to the left of the stage. “I have transportation waiting for us just through that door,” he repeated several times as the assembled VIPs and their contingent strolled passed, murmuring to themselves. A few people paused to share their displeasure with their accommodations, or any number of other concerns that Junior’s staff will be pleased to resolve once the tour was completed.
With the stragglers shuffling to the door, Junior’s assistant, Tanis Mealockovich, tapped him on the shoulder. “Excuse me, sir.”
“What is it, Tanis?”
“I just wanted to let you know that preparations for the banquet are almost complete. When you’re done with the tour, the elevator is fueled and ready to take everyone to the reception.”
“Thank you, Tanis. Will I see you up there later?” Junior asked with a charming smile.
“I’m afraid not, sir,” stealing a glance over his shoulder to the dignitaries shuffling through the side door. “It’s date night.”
“Bring Malcolm. It’ll be fun to see him again.”
Tanis shook her head. “I don’t think so. If we do, I’d up spending the evening working and dealing with our guests, while you and Malcolm drink the night.”
Junior couldn’t contain the burst of laughter that burst from his mouth.”I hate how well you know me, Tanis,” he said. “Very well. Have a good night and send Malcolm my regards.”
“I will,” Tanis said before strolling up the long aisle toward the theater’s main exit. She stopped after a few paces and added, “Marlo will be there if you need anything.” She turned for the exit and hurried home to be with her husband.
Junior had no idea what she saw in Malcolm. She was too good for his old university flatmate. But she was right. If Malcolm had attended the party, he would be hard pressed not to spend the evening catching up with his old friend, reminiscing about all of the times they spent drinking cheap beer and even cheaper whiskey. Junior chuckled to himself and shook the thought from his mind – he had more immediate concerns. He had to convince his guests that their collective efforts on the GAIA Project had been worthwhile.