Hi again. I am sorry for the length of time between chapters. I have two jobs right now, and only recently have they both lagged up a bit, or at least enough to write. I am also working on changing Chapters one and two so that the story makes them flow more smoothly, by making them from the perspective of Tory. This would be Chapter 3 of the book, but Chapter 15 of the series.

Thank you all for your patience.

Chapter 15 – The Truth

As we came to the top of the stairs, Dr. Garretts turned around towards me. "When I said we were going to The Gaia Project, I meant more that we were going to where we experiment with it. This room doesn't contain the actual project, but it is where we do most of our testing."

I looked around slowly, noting the contents of the room, and the room itself. It was a stark white room, but absolutely covered in plants. The plants were beautiful, all lined up in rows near each other, but separated enough to be able to distinguish where one group of plants ended and another began. There were tons of air vents along the walls and all over the floor. While there were no visible windows, I could see that many of the ceiling tiles had hinges and looked as if they could be swung open. There was a giant sink in the corner, with multiple basins and faucets, presumably used to water all of the plants. Hoses ran under the tables, coming up from holes in the floor seemingly to avoid tripping people walking the isles.

"So, what do you think? Amazing, no? All of these plants require different amounts of sunlight. Some of them would never be able to survive outside of their indigenous habitats, not without our project." He pointed into the far left corner. "Those plants are from Mexico, a rare specimen called Mexipedium Xerophyticum," Dr. Garretts continued his monologue on the different floral life in the room. "Next to them are the Cintia knizei from Bolivia."

As Dr. Garretts continued his speech, my mind wandered as I contemplated the reality of the project. The orchids Dr. Garretts had identified as the Mexipedium Xerophyticum were but a few yards from the cacti that he had named Cintia knizei. In between and all around them were flowers from roses, which I knew required at least six hours of direct sunlight a day, to ferns which needed little to none, thriving in filtered sunlight and humid conditions. I knew some botany, but not to the extent which Dr. Garrets did, so much of the speech was wasted on me. As I regard the air vents again I noticed Dr. Garrets was winding down for lack of specimens to point out.

"These are all examples of what The Gaia Project can do," Dr. Garrets finished, a smile spreading over his face. "At first all we tried to do was grow plants indoors that preferred outdoor life. Not something entirely unheard of. After all, we have greenhouses, controlled environments where we can make the perfect accommodations for almost any kind of plant life," Dr. Garrets began walking down the isles of plants, his expression the most open and gentle I had seen on his face thus far. "Soon we started growing plants with different needs together, not just in the same room, but next to each other and again we found success. We kept building on that, adding more plants, varied climates, all the corners of the world, brought together here," Dr. Garrets passion was burning within his eyes as he looked at the plants, his small history of the Gaia Project seemingly at its end.

"But why does it matter? Even if this project could make plants of all kinds live in different conditions, why keep everything so secret? What is it about the project that you can't share with the world?" And why does Colin have to be a part of all of this?

"I should think that's fairly obvious, because it isn't some gadget that's done all of this, it isn't something we are selling-" Dr. Garretts broke off at the sound of feet on the stairs, and turned towards the door we had just come up.

And then I saw him, for the first time completely at ease, standing in the threshold of the door. I've never seen him look so...happy before.

Colin walked in with a small smile on his face, and gently touched one of the more beautiful plants before turning back towards us. "The reason that this has to be kept a secret, Tory, is because the project isn't just about the plants. It's about the earth, it's about us being affected by the earth, and affecting it back. Or I guess I should say, it's about me doing these things," Colin took a deep breath before continuing. "Because I am The Gaia Project," at revealing this, Colin turned back towards the first plant, seemingly at a loss for words after revealing the secret he had kept for so long.

Dr. Garretts on the other hand had no qualms about continuing. "You see, Colin has what we call attunement. He has the ability to feel the paths the earth is taking if he concentrates. He can predict weather more accurately than any computer, almost 100%. These plants, he knows exactly how to operate the vents in this room to keep every last one of them alive, just how much water to give them. And of course, how much sunlight." At this, he walked over to the hinged sections of the ceiling and opened one using a hooked pole, letting in a square beam of sunlight. "He doesn't hear their thoughts, for they don't really have them, but he understands exactly what they need. Just imagine it Tory! We could get rid of the need for weather prediction instruments, we could solve world hunger! All we would need is more people like Colin, enough to get around the world, and to educate people how to flawlessly nurture their crops. He isn't here all the time, yet because of his instructions I have been able to keep these plants alive without any attunement at all." Dr. Garretts at this point seemed to lose himself in his plans, mumbling to himself about future acquisitions. With a distracted farewell the doctor descended the stairs, his footsteps echoing in the narrow stairwell.

As the echoes retreated and silence saturated the air, Colin glanced back at Tory. He stared at Tory's face, and blushed, remembering the fight and what he had done. "Sorry about…that. I don't like people trying to control me and I just don't understand exactly where you fit in all of this. Because of my attunement I know you can do something, but you aren't like me." He reached towards Tory, and cupped his face, making him blush. "Are you ok? I don't know what came over me…I…" Colin started moving his face towards Tory but stopped suddenly, looking unsure. What should I do? He attracts me somehow. I feel more alive when we touch, and I can't help but be excited when we see each other. The mystery is solved yet I don't want to leave. I don't want to be away from him!

"It's alright, I'm fine, really. You hit like a girl," Tory jibed.

"Oh shut up," retorted Colin, but it was obvious he was looking at Tory differently than usual. His gaze was akin to the way he had admired the plants earlier. After starring for a few more moments he said, almost inaudibly, "It would make more sense if I was a girl."