RC: 2-PS-F (Read and Comment)

Chapter 1

Untitled Chapters


The sky was just beginning to get light when Karra rushed her daughter toward their new home.  Safety had its price, and Karra was willing to pay any price to keep her daughter safe.

        Karra knew Chalatta was probably full of questions, snippets of them gasping out at odd moments, her little girl's eyes wide, the way they became when she had a hundred questions nudging toward expression.  But Karra had no time to answer them.  They were hours away from where they needed to be, and soon would be visible to everyone.

        Chalatta kept stumbling in mounds of snow, and then would run to catch up, but Karra didn't slow.  She had to get through their old neighborhood before someone recognized them.

        The early dawn had blossomed into full morning before she stopped, so suddenly that Chalatta ran into her.  Karra pulled her daughter to her and eased into the shadow of a building while she kept her eyes on the airway glistening not far away in the morning light.  No dark uniformed Security guarded the entrance, but a handful of people moved toward the airway.  More people in the distance also strode toward this location.  Their number made Karra nervous.

        She glanced down at ther once-beautiful B'anu silk dress, and sighed in defeat.  Nevian attire was very out of place here in the Area where people wore durable thickweave, not fancy, flimsy clothing that wouldn't last a season.  They would be noticed.

        "I had hoped to be there by now," Karra said, more to herself than her daughter.  She kept staring at the airway and at the increasing number of people boarding individual bubbles to speed them to their destinations.

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        "Wh..." Chalatta gulped for air.  "Where?"

        Karra knelt beside her daughter.  It was time she knew a couple of things about their new home.

        "There are some people I know.  We'll be staying with them but..."

Her eyes flitted toward the airway again.  This place, even in the shadow of a building, was not safe.  She wondered when she would be able to offer her daughter a measure of security.

        "No one I know is safe, baby girl," she finally admitted aloud.  What was she thinking, taking her one precious jewel into her world?

        "I'm not a baby," Chalatta said in protest.  I'm seven today."

        Karra chuckled under her breath.  And so you are.  How silly of me to forget that a girl of seven is no longer a baby."

        Her daughter snuggled under Karra's arm.  Karra loved the rare moments of closeness and wished she knew how to leave herself open enough to enjoy them.  She always felt as if she fought against herself, the desire to be close warring with her need to keep a protective distance.

        But now was not the time to discuss her failings as a mother.  "Do you remember why I had my youngest sister and brother walk you to and from school?"

        Kata and Benej kept me safe from the bad people," Chalatta said.  "Mama, I know how to hide.  I'm not afraid of the bad people."

        She couldn't keep back the bit of a smile that escaped.  "I know, baby.  I know.  But it might be a bit different if we have to live with some of them."

        "We're gonna live with bad people?  That doesn't sound like a very good idea, Mama."

        "Well, they won't be bad to you."  Some memories still hurt.  "When I was just a few years older than you, I lived on the streets.  Both my parents were dead, and no one else cared if I lived or died.  I lived with these people, off and on, until I could finally survive on my own."

        Karra wondered if her daughter understood.

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        "What about Aunt Kata and Uncle Benej?" Chalatta said.  "And didn't Aunt Su care about you?  She cares about me."

        Karra remembered how it had been, her brief visits to a home that was never hers.  Karra and seven siblings survived their parents' deaths.  Her next-to-oldest brother, Jem, never moved with the family to their new apartment.  Instead he moved into Homelander Front Headquarters, the Front being the only organized resistance against their Nevian invaders.

        Her oldest brother, Carlon, not quite out of his teens, provided for the rest of them financially, but he never made it a secret that he didn't want her around.  Even Suzin never expected more than visits.  Karra had been only ten.

        "Maybe Su," Karra said.  "Su agreed to watch you for me."

        "Aunt Su loves us," Chalatta said with a firm nod of her head.

        "Has she ever said so?"  Had anyone ever spoken up on her behalf?

        "Well, no.  But she calls me her little girl lots of times.  And that means she loves you too, doesn't it?"

        "I suppose so."  She knew otherwise.  Her sister wanted Chalatta as her own child, and would have taken her away if she could have.  Still, Karra didn't resent the bond Su had with Chalatta.  It had kept her daughter feeling safe and loved, a healthy way to live.  Karra couldn't have asked a better person as a substitute mother for her daughter during the years she couldn't parent her.  Was she doing the right thing by taking her daughter away?

        "If I could make it possible, would you like to go back?  I know my sister takes very good care of you."

        Instead, Chalatta pulled herself away so that her mother could see her face, and jutted out her chin.  "No.  I want to live with you."

        Not that there was much choice.  Jem would use his niece to make sure she returned to her assignment.  Her daughter was safer in hiding with "bad people" than she ever would be with Jem.

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        Karra rose and turned her attention at the airway.  "Good.  Then it's settled.  Here's the situation.  I want to use the cover of night to get us to our destination, but morning's already here, and people are now using the airway tubes to get to work.  So instead of the cover of night, we'll use the crowds to hide our movements."  She was still worried about her Nevian clothing attracting attention, but there was nothing she could do about it.

        Suddenly she felt a cold shiver of air, and blinked in irritation.  From here?  Snake was much more powerful than anyone had a right to be.

        "We won't be noticed," Chalatta said, surprising her.

        "How do you know that?"

        Chalatta shrugged.  "I just know."

        Karra stared at her daughter, puzzled, then squared her shoulders.  "Let's go."

        Chalatta beamed at her in complete trust and thrust her eager hand into her mother's.  "It's kinda like an adventure, right Mama?"

        "Kind of," Karra said, wishing her adventures were less dangerous.

        As they walked toward the airway, no one even glanced at them, not that she expected anyone would, now that Snake had hidden them.  She had told him not to bother.  But when had he ever listened to her?  What niggled at her the most, though, was that Chalatta seemed to know without being told what he had done.  No, it scared her, another reason to doubt the wisdom of this whole "adventure."

        Karra waited for an opening, then stepped into the bubble, and pressed a code.  The membrane formed around them.  A breath later they were speeding through the airway tube toward their destination.

        Only twice before had Chalatta traveled by airway.  Karra stole glances at her daughter's expressions as the city sped beneath them, delighted with each flicker of awe and amazement.

        When the bubble stopped and finally opened, Karra pulled her daughter out so that they would not accidentally touch those waiting to enter.  She knew that Snake had hidden them in shadow.  People became unnerved when something they couldn't see touched them.

        "It's not far."  Karra whispered because disembodied voices were just as disturbing as being touched by unseen people.

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        But Chalatta paid no attention.  She gazed around her in amazement.  Karra imagined she might be comparing the boxy apartments in shades of gray and dun of her former neighborhood to this new neighborhood with the blocks of plastiform giving everything a pinkish-orange glow.

        "Plastiform," Chalatta said.  "Right, Mama?"

        Karra grinned.  "Yes.  Much of this part of the city has been rebuilt in plastiform blocks or liquid plastiform poured over a frame of some kind.  "See how some of the upper floors seem to grow into the adjoining buildings?"

        "What are those things in front of the shops, the ones on legs?"

        "Porches," Karra said.  "They keep the snow away from the front door of the shop so that even in winter they can have customers.  Do you remember how often Sirra Darrell, the grocer back in your old neighborhood, shoveled the snow away?  Even with his door above ground level, he still had to shovel snow all the time."

        "He coulda used a porch.  Oh, Mama, this is the most exciting neighborhood.  Look at all the shops.  We don't have this many shops anywhere at home."

        "We're heading for the main thoroughfare," Karra said.  "It's a wide avenue with shops lining both sides of the street.  In the center will be a row of street venders selling everything you can imagine."

        "I can imagine a lot.  Oh, there's a grocery.  And another one over there.  We only have one, well, I mean in our old neighborhood there was only Sirra Darrel's.  And bars.  Does every neighborhood have bars?  Look, Mama, a hardware store.  That means they sell tools and such, right?  And there's a place that sells fabric and yarn.  We don't have anything like that at home.  Books.  Mama, there are bookstores.  I've never seen a bookstore before, and here there is more than one.  Toys?  They have stores that sell toys?  The don't just make them at home?  A candle store.  Soaps and lotions."

        Chalatta paused to catch her breath.  "Oh," she sighed.  "A bakery.  A bakery, Mama.  Erren't you hungry?  I'm starving."

 End of Chapter One.


This is excellent Science Fiction!  Not only is the writing, itself, top notch, but it's superbly crafted, as well.  The story really grips you and gives you the sense of a harrowing adventure.  The escape is suspensful.  And after the escape is successful, a brand new, refreshing environment is laid out.  Good transition.  Also, note how the freshness of the environment is, through Chalatta's perspective, stroked with excitement and pizzazz.  That's the author's literary "brush" at work.  Like a painter enriching his nature scene via a certain artistic technique -- such as applying a subtle lighting effect to the backround.  Another thing I liked is that the first chapter stays within the realm of reality while [still] possessing a rich Sci-Fi element, which really draws one in and engulfs them in the plot.  In other words, while it's not to the "unrealistic" extreme of, say, Star Trek, it delivers all the essential goods and ingredients [of heavier Science Fiction].  This is accomplished with the mere mentioning of select words and phrases.  For example,  'Nevian attire,' 'Nevian invaders,' 'Homelander Front Headquarters.'  So, the reader is getting the best of both worlds -- realism AND fantasy.  This effect is, in a nutshell, achieved due to the author's high quality of craftsmanship, which I come back to; the importance of which cannot be overstated!  And as the story progresses, it takes on more and more of a Sci-Fi/Fantasy shape.  For example, 'Karra... stepped into the bubble, and pressed the code.  The membrane formed around them.  A breath later they were speeding through the airway toward their destination.'  Yet another exapmple of slick craftsmanship!  Or, another word, 'composition' -- like a music group arranging all the sounds 'just right.'  Great writing has a lot of similarities to great painting and music.  A lot can be learned [about writing] BY READING this author's writings!  (1-LB-F)

"This is awesome!  It's incredibly descriptive yet uses terms that are decipherable as an outsider to this mysterious world.  I'm curious who these "bad people" are!  The author has done a great job of shrouding them in mystery.  I genuinely enjoyed tagging along on Karra and Chalatta's adventure.  I'm a little unclear as to what is occurring in the following sentences: "Suddenly she felt a cold shiver of air, and blinked in irritation.  From here?  Snake was much more powerful than anyone had a right to be."  I understand that Snake is a character but I don't grasp what he's doing or how his abilities differ from Karra and Chalatta.  Perhaps it just needs a little elaboration.  If it is explained earlier in the story, then disregard my comment.  I thoroughly enjoyed reading this.  Great job!"  (6-LL-NF)