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Davis hung up his overalls on a clothes hanger, gave them a quick sniff, shrugged, and slid them into his locker alongside an identical, slightly cleaner set of overalls. He closed the door with a thunk, but didn't bother to lock it. The humming workshop he shared with a dozen or so other workers appeared to be a safe enough place to leave some dirty laundry unattended. "It's nice to be out of uniform." he said. "Those guys back at the border office, they were looking at me like I was there to fix the plumbing or something."
Flora sat across the workshop's hallway from Davis, upon a repurposed wooden bench. She looked him up and down. Hiding under his work clothes had been a tan t-shirt with short earth-tone sleeves and blue denim trousers. A black belt of reclaimed leather circled his waist, and matched his sturdy black boots. "Can you? Fix plumbing, I mean?" she asked of his remark, curious. She had put her own stripy green sweatshirt back on, comforted in its warm embrace, but had rolled up the sleeves. Her feet rested idly on the sturdy, concreted surface of the building's floor. A noticeable amount of dust and grime had been trekked into the hallway from the inner workshop, a consequence of labour not traditionally considered glamourous.
Davis chuckled. "Given the right tools, some instructions, materials and enough time, I can fix almost anything. I usually do machines, but in my line of work you often become a jack of all trades". She was impressed. It would be useful to know someone who could help her if she ever broke something by accident - not that she had much right now, not besides the emergency beacon that she needed to keep nearby. Davis paused for a moment, then changed the subject. "But enough about me. Do you want to go see more of the city?" Flora nodded. "Great. Like I said, it's a pretty neat place." he promised.
"Where are we going to next?" she wondered aloud.
Davis reclined a little, shifting some of his weight onto his locker as he leaned against it. "First we need to take an elevator up another level to the main deck." He pointed to the ceiling, and Flora's eyes followed his gesture instinctively. "We've got an appointment rigged up for you with my family doctor, then afterwards we can look around for a bit, grab dinner at some point, and head back to my place to meet Nan. Sound good?"
"Um, yeah." she reassured him. She agreed with the plan for the most part, but still had some lingering worries.
"That's the spirit. Let's go." Davis proclaimed. He led the way, moving from the cramped hallway, through an internal door, and down a short ramp, exiting onto one of the main accessways of the industrial core. 
It was yet another busy place. Forklifts and trucks shifted their wares between buildings, storage yards, and elevators, while cranes moved freight to and from the port below. Vast tanks brimming with unknown liquids glistened in the mid-day dusk, with linked cables and pipes plumbing the depths and ascending through the ceiling. The shadowy industrial core was a hive of activity, with workers humming to ensure a steady supply of goods and materials would forever be available to the city. A steady whirr of machines filled the air with reverberation, and the filtered exhausts of innumerable production lines emanated the unmistakable scents of second-hand manufacturing. East and West, as far as the eye could see, the industrial core churned, producing tomorrow's products out of yesterday's remnants. Davis had told her all about the process on their way to his workshop.
Now, as they walked back through the level, Flora asked of her new caregiver "Do you spend much time down here?"
While headed towards the nearest Pillar and the elevators embedded within, Davis gestured up and down himself, his milky complexion on display among the shadowy district. "Yeah. The sun and I aren't exactly on speaking terms." he quipped. She looked to her own hands and arms as she rubbed them in the cool springtime air. His was a stark contrast to her own skintone, an inheritance forged in the potent sunlight of Melanesia and Sub-Saharan Africa. She didn't pay much attention to skin colour personally, but in the back of her mind lingered the difficult knowledge that, to some people, it was something worth fighting over.
Flora rolled down her sleeves and tucked her hands into the pockets of her sweatshirt, obscuring her hands and trying to focus on something less troubling. She watched the factories, warehouses, and workshops crowded into the space below the main deck. She looked out at the truss arches which held this elaborate built environment in place, and how they connected the superstructure with the port below and main city above. Her eyes followed the curving lines of reinforced metals and composites, bolted and welded and woven in place as they met the pillars to either side. The trusses held aloft the very floor the two were standing upon, and terminated at the main level of the bridge above them, which filled their entire sky.
Surprisingly, the industrial core was not without adequate lighting in spite of its subterranean aesthetic, with twinkling downlights making up for the shaded spaces deep within. Additional floodlights stood unilluminated in silence, awaiting a command to spring to life when the day turned to night. The district glistened before the pair, bathed in a perpetual twilight, with the star-like lighting forming repeating constellations upon the underside of the bridge's main deck. 
"Kinda sparkly up here," Flora observed, as they neared the pillar before them.
"Yeah, it is. Fibre-optic light redistribution." Davis informed her, sharing more of his inexhaustible supply of engineering insight. "Sunlight is gathered from above and sent down here through cables. Doesn't cost us a single watt of electricity." 
She was happy to let him geek out over the technology, as he usually did. Flora was more interested in admiring the view, trying to put her mind at ease of what was yet to come. The zone struck an interesting balance of form and function. The metallic buildings were sleek, but not uniform nor sterile. The infrastructure was artificial, but not inhumane. It was moving and glistening like a well-oiled machine - just like clockwork. Here was an improbable place to find an artistic muse, but that just made it all the more special. Yet there was one thing missing, and it had her a little concerned. "I don't see any plants here."
Davis nodded with an affirmative murmur. "Not enough sun for 'em. Tucked under the main deck, this place only gets a few moments of direct sunlight per day."
As an additional consequence of its geometry, the industrial undersection was also imbued with mild temperatures. The steady, cool climate likely had some practical justification, but when flora sensibly tucked herself in, Davis was left rubbing his bare arms in the cool ambience. A steady sea breeze wound its way through the labyrinth of buildings assembled within a cloister of support structures. The tiny hairs on her lower legs began to prick up. This level was a noticeable contrast to the sunny waterfront underneath.
"A bit cold, and no plants. Is the main deck like this too?" Flora worried. Davis looked to her. His eyes were about the only green thing she had seen since they arrived at this level - besides her own favourite sweater, of course.
"No, actually it's quite the opposite." Davis answered. "Plants everywhere in the city, as far as the eye can see. Above and below and all around. Lawns and shrubs and wildflowers, everywhere you look. Green roofs and walls and towers" He swore. "A couple o' tiny trees, here and there too. It's lovely, all the botany you could ever want and then some. You're gonna love it."
That didn't sound right. It didn't even sound possible. "Really?" Flora asked with incredulity. "No way! How can you have plants everywhere, on... on a bridge, if anywhere?" Flora knew he was joking, and she wouldn't let him get away with it. Most plants only existed in any significant abundance in enclosed greenhouses, or in the handful of isolated patches of shrinking wilderness. Certainly not in cities, and definitely not one built in the middle of The Ocean. The few shrubs and mosses at the waterfront below were surely the meagre limit of plant mass and biodiversity that would be found here.
He smiled with a coy chuckle. "How about I show you?"
A pair of elevator doors slid open with a swoosh as the pair approached the array of elevators embedded in the massive support pillar. Unlike last time in the elevator, Flora took a closer look at the buttons on display at the console inside. Ordered vertically, four prominent levels of buttons at waist height were illuminated in distinct colours and embossed with braille and tactile symbols. A keycard reader was linked to additional buttons above and below, which were not currently lit up. Green Canopy, Yellow deck, white industrial, blue harbour, Flora observed, before continuing to examine the remaining buttons. A few higher above, and far, far too many below, if they meant what she thought they meant. "Does this thing go... underwater!?" She asked, concerned at the prospect.
"Don't worry," Davis replied, "it only goes to the seafloor if you're authorised to be there, and even then only if you want it to. We're headed the other way, for the main deck ground floor, so bump that yellow button." He encouraged her.
She pushed the button, and waited as the doors closed. To her relief, the elevator did not in fact take her underwater, instead lifting the duo upwards. Through the translucent screen doors their vantage point of the industrial core briefly extended their line of sight, showing them a panorama of sparkly industrial buildings and infrastructure accentuated by occasional puffs of steam. Then, as quickly as it appeared, it was gone again, replaced with the black windowless interior of the Pillar's interface with the thick base layer of the main deck.
Then, as they emerged above the deck, her eyes shot wide open. He had lied. He hadn't prepared her for this. It wasn't green everywhere. No. Her senses reeled as they were flooded with a staggering array of colours. She could have sworn that was she seeing every colour of the rainbow and then some, painted and scattered across a bewildering canvas of every shade and tint and hue of green. Greens like nature had never imagined and humanity could never invent. A cacophony of chlorophyll cascaded into her corneas as the elevator came to a gentle rest and time stood still. She was taken aback. Sheer disbelief. Surely this was a trick? Surely once the doors opened they'd reveal a landscape as desolate as any other city and as drab as any other nation. This couldn't possibly be real.
"Founder Plaza, Main deck, ground floor, Centreport." The automated voice seemed ethereal, dreamlike as the doors of the elevator swooshed open. Flora's state of mind was shunted from disbelief to dumbfounded. She swore, not only was the intense vibrant green she saw, somehow, impossibly true, but the overwhelming surge of colour was overflowing from her mind and spilling into every sense in her body. The light motion of the gentle wind felt green as it unfurled into their elevator and curled around her legs like vines climbing to the light. The scents of all the flowers she had never met before wafted through and her nose was so overcome that she could only smell the green. She took in a deep, uneasy breath, and the lingering sweetness tasted in the air was green and clean and gentle. And the sounds of rustling leaves, creaking branches, and spongy lawns underfoot, all echoed a single whisper, "green".
Flora rubbed her eyes, finally emerging from her daze, as the green eyes of Davis looked down on her in surprise. "Woah there. I guess I forgot just how special this place is. Come on, I'll show you outside". She toddled along, awestruck.
They emerged from the elevator into a world far in excess of anything she had dared to imagine. She had never before seen so much green in a single place, and as she blinked back the filtered sunlight she began to take a closer look. Finally starting to settle from the initial shock of laying eyes on the garden metropolis, Flora could now recognise the more familiar outlines of a city taking shape. They were standing in a wide outdoor courtyard adjacent to the busy elevator terminal. Sheltering the passers-by and elevator commuters from sun or rain were grand arches of trellises bearing a verdant display of climbing flowers and vines. Clambering above them she recognised the blue clematis and lilac wisteria between over a dozen more flowers, vines and climbing plants. She hoped to some day be able to name them all.
Behind them, past the edges of the Pillar, the thick fence at the edge of The Bridge presented a barrier between the city, the featureless horizon in the distance, and the ocean below. As with everything else, the boundary was coated in a sprawling facade of plants, which curled and wove through the gaps to exploit all the valuable space on offer. Before the fence, a line of dwarf cherry blossoms, about Flora's height, dropped a gradual sprinkle of seemingly weightless pink petals upon the ground, which twirled in the wending breeze. Sparrows and songbirds flitted between the branches, and performed their concerts free of charge to the passing commuters.
Underneath them as they walked, Flora felt a spongy, permeable pathway, and noticed it was lined with a hybrid lawn of intermixed mosses and low-sprawling ground covers. Across the lawns, planter boxes of wildflowers billowed with sweet-scented bursts of colours - red and pink and yellow adorned the borders. Marigolds, sweetpea, and carnations occasionally buzzed with the undivided attention of an insect, hummingbird, or butterfly. Before her, the plaza's edges transitioned into a cityscape. Pathways lined with leafy shrubs passed under the connected upper floors of mid-rise buildings. Open-air balconies and rooftops lined with hanging vines spilled lush curtains of plant life below them. Even some of the walls were alive, with mats of long grasses, grown upon the sloping outer surfaces, undulating in the gentle winds. They paused for a minute as Flora caught her bearings, and her breath.
Flora's eyes suddenly caught the erratic movement of a wayward honeybee as it meandered past their heads. She instinctively flinched and took refuge behind Davis. "What's wrong?" he asked of her reaction.
Flora waited a second until the threat had vanished. "...I'm... scared of bees" she admitted in a barely audible whimper.
Davis nodded. "I understand." his deep voice was calm and unfazed. "They can be a bit frightening if you're not used to them. But they're not dangerous if you leave them alone."
Flora cautiously watched from a distance as the assorted pollinators buzzed and flittered between the abundant flowers. She hoped that Davis was right.
"I know. I'm strange" she said.
"What? Why's that?"
"I'm a girl named flowers who doesn't like bees" she tried a nervous laugh. It came out a little forced.
Davis considered something for a moment before replying "I'm a grown-up named Young. Nice to meet you"
She tried to conceal a smirk, disarmed by the exchange. "You-" she laughed briefly before regaining her composure. "You've got a city to show me"
Flora basked in their surroundings as they continued to move through the unconventional city. Further above them, and far in the distance, a row of towers of translucent windows and shiny metals could be seen, adorned with layers of waving leaves and wooden panelling. Some buildings were shaped like the hulls of massive ships - she wondered if some had actually been ships before being recycled into buildings. Other structures were towering stacks of interlocked rectangular shipping crates, dressed in flaxes and reeds. A few were built with integrated columns of revived metal piping or slabs of what looked like recycled plastics, all beneath facades brimming with ferns. The built environment was an elegant mosaic, seemingly assembled piece by piece from re-purposed materials, and then inundated with plant life.
The sustainable skyscrapers, however, were themselves rendered miniscule by a set of towering convex columns of clear composites and structural metals. The inside of the columns seemed to be filled with loops of shining green liquid, flowing through the inner membrane of the structure like the sap of a tree. These columns spread a weave of what resembled branches from their towering summits, like the trees they imitated in an elaborate act of biomimicry. These protrusions connected them with the rooftops of the few nearby skyscrapers that reached this altitude, but also stretched to other, similar columns that could just be seen rising towards the east and west. Surely, Flora thought, this network in the sky was the canopy that the elevator mentioned.
Far beneath the verdant roof, in the partial shade of the canopy, people went about their daily business - catching elevators, answering messages, playing gentle tunes on exotic instruments, or simply relaxing in the cultivated outdoors. Amongst the crowd could be seen denizens of every skintone, with every imaginable hair colour, and dressed in outfits ranging from utilitarian to flamboyant to minimalist. One young woman wore a thin green dress over desert-camo cargo pants, and held hands with another youth in a blue kilt and dark hooded jacket. An old man in long blue robes slowly carried an elaborate metal flask alongside two others in similar gear. Another woman in a starkly asymetrical red dress caught Flora's eye for more than a moment. The billowy garment was sleeveless on the left, and long-sleeved on the right, with a similarly asymetrical skirt section. Impractical, but a real sight to behold. 
But one thing Flora found particularly interesting was how fabrics were not the only plant materials the denizens of Centerport wore. There were bracelets of coiled bamboo. Necklaces of carved wooden beads and rods. Rings adorned with prominent seeds in place of gemstones. Hats of woven flax or crown wreathes of herbs. Fresh cut flowers worn as earrings and headdresses and corsages. It made Flora feel underdressed in her simple outfit of dirty travelling clothes. She hoped to get some new things to wear soon. It had been months since she had lost most of her limited wardrobe, and simply having something new to try on would be a welcome step back towards normality, and maybe even make her feel at home in this surprising new world.
"Ready to keep going?" Davis's voice cut through the chatter and music of the crowd and cast Flora's wandering mind back down to earth. There was something they were meant to be doing, but she couldn't remember what exactly. Flora wasn't sure, but there was something that had been making her nervous.
"Uh, yeah." Flora agreed cautiously, and followed Davis along a trail deeper into the city. They emerged onto a skypath spanning over what appeared to be a conventional street recessed below the plaza. Bicycles, buses and service vehicles passed through, heading east and west in separated lanes, all whirring past beneath the sleek skybridges and elevated rail tubes that linked the many terraced levels of buildings above and around them.
Davis continued unfazed across the skypath that linked them to the next neighbourhood. Flora's eyes wandered to the buildings before them. She hadn't seen any advertising billboards around, but unobtrusive building and street signs were still common enough to enable navigation, punctuating the green architecture with mixtures of polylingual fonts and pictograms. A leaf here, a glass of liquid there. She caught a glimpse of Instrumentos (tools, spanish) and ??? (Art Gallery, Chinese) next to ??????? (lawyer, Bengali). One sign glaring down at them had an icon of a red heart with a stethoscope. Flora's heart sank as her memory caught up to her.
"Oh..." Flora said glumly, suddenly recalling the purpose of their current journey. "The doctor". The dread returned from its amnesia, and swirled oppressively through her insides, and she stopped dead in her tracks. A cold sweat erupted across her brow, and her rioting empty stomach felt nauseous. She had never enjoyed the experience of a doctor's visit - being poked and prodded, undressed and inspected, and being bossed about and told how to live by someone she wasn't familiar with. Someone who used big words and treated her like little more than an inconvenient chore to finish. She hated the tedium and the worry and the pain that seemed to always accompany it. Right now, the physical was one of the last things she wanted to be subjected to, no matter the reasons why the adults demanded it. Yet all that was distant to another concern that had gripped her since her arrival.
Flora was weighted in place, stopped in her tracks by a sudden fear. She noticed Davis had continued onwards for a few steps, but he returned within moments when he saw she had stopped following him. "Come on Flora, the skypath is sturdy as a girder" he told her, motioning her onward with his hand.
Flora sighed. "Uh, Davis?" she weakly asked, remaining stopped firmly where her shoes had become glued to the paving.
"What's wrong?" he asked, with a hint of confusion.
"What if... I don't want to see the Doctor" She wasn't sure if that had sounded like a question or a demand. She wasn't sure which she had intended either. Her eyes shifted from that stupid glowing red logo, over to Davis. A look of concern swept across his face as he furrowed his brow and pursed his lips.
"Flora," he began, "It's important. We need to know if you're healthy. And if you're not, we need to know how we can make you better." 
Despite his explanation, she remained unmoving in her spot on the footpath. She shook her head. She frowned. She didn't know if she was ready to endure something she hated being put through. Not after the stress of her journey here. Not right when things finally seemed to be getting better, only for this to eventuate. She had almost started to like this bizarre new place, but her enthusiasm had immediately evaporated into the cool spring breeze.
Davis took a step back in her direction. Flora struggled to find words to elucidate her concerns, weakly responding with a stammer of "I'm, I uh..." She didn't want to cry - not in front of him, and not over this. She clenched her teeth and twisted her foot left and right in uncertainty. "They're not gonna arrest me, are they!?" she blurted out.
Davis visibly recoiled at the notion. He waited a few moments to compose a response, but for his part he was receptive. "Arrest you? Course not. You're not a criminal."
"I..." she shook her head and looked away as she confided in him. "My family always worried about things like this. Bosses and police and neighbours, even doctors would tell on you if they found out where we were from. Have you arrested and... deported or put in jail or a camp."
Flora felt a hot tear in her eye, then a warm hand on her shoulder. "Oh, sunbeam..." the deep, gentle voice washed over her. "That isn't how we do things here. You're my guest. You have every right to be here - no matter how you arrived. And even if you did break the rules, the doctors are sworn to confidentiality and the Hippocratic Oath - they can't get you in trouble and they can't hurt you, I promise."
Flora just silently glanced at her shoes. The gnawing fears were cementing her in place. Flora shook her head, indicating to him that her fear was still too great. She ran a thumb over the emergency beacon on her hip, wishing it could whisk her away from this emergency too.
"I know you're worried." Davis continued in his deep rhythmic voice, and it held calm and steady amongst this storm that was brewing inside of her. Don't you dare cry in front of him, stupid, she ordered herself. Her voice was choked by a blanket of dread, and all she could manage was to shake her head, pathetically, once more.
"I know, Flora. I'm sorry. We can get nervous about these things sometimes. But I promise, Doctor Nguyen is a kind lady. She's going to look after you and make sure you're comfortable and safe." Flora remained unmoved. She watched the cars and bicycles quietly swoosh past underneath them. She gazed to a distant train silently hurtling through its tube, and wished that, like them, she was headed anywhere but here.
"Honestly, I'm worried too." Davis admitted. Flora glanced to his hand, resting gently upon her shoulder, as he tried to talk her into compliance. What's he got to worry about? she wondered, a little incredulously, a little surprised, as she waited for him to justify his claim.
"I'm worried that you could be unwell from what you've been through, and we might not find out until you get sick. And that if you don't get this checkup, I wont know if there's something I need to do to keep you healthy and safe. And then I wont be able to as a result. And I don't want to let you down like that" he stammered the reasons out, one after the other, showing little regard to the passers by who might overhear. "Not when I promised to look after you." They stood together over the busy street, the two of them alone. Even though people continued to swarm past them, headed in every direction, they may as well have been a world apart, and universe away.
Flora sighed. Whimpered. But she was listening to him. Something was stirring inside her. The basic explanations hadn't moved her, but this approach of an emotional appeal was starting to gain some ground. "I promised you and the others that I'd look after you. And I don't want to be scared for you. So, can you please do this? For me?". She hadn't anticipated that he'd employ that tactic, and it caught her off guard. The tug on her heartstrings left her trying to balance the gulf of her anxiety with an entirely new fear. She didn't want to let him down too - not when he'd gone to such an effort for her and asked for virtually nothing in return. Was that who she was? Someone too scared and selfish to be gracious to someone who had done nothing but help her?
"I promise you, there's nothing you need to fear here." Davis crouched down in front of her, down from his tall stature to her eye level, and into her field of vision. He looked into her eyes, and she eventually looked back into his. She tried to gulp back the choking feeling she felt squeezing the back of her throat. Of course she trusted him - he had been completely honest with her, and had lived up to every promise he had made so far. Who was she to call him a liar when he said that something was important and that she was being unreasonable? Surely she owed him something, anything, even if all she could offer in return right now was her begrudging compliance.
The balance of fears within her had tipped beyond the point of toppling over. There was only one path ahead, as much as she hated what it entailed. With a barely visible nod dripping in reluctance, she relented, finally consenting to his request. She clenched her fists. She dug her unkempt fingernails into her dirty palms. She steeled herself to face down this challenge, this thing she supposedly had no reason to fear.
Maybe she was just being stupid again. She hated this fear almost as much as the thing she was getting wound up over, and being guilt-tripped wasn't a great feeling either. It was a difficult choice between something that she had always hated, and something new to be afraid of. But, maybe this thing wouldn't be insurmountable after all, so long as she had Davis's support. The doors opened, and they walked inside.

Submitted: November 10, 2020

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