Excerpts

Here’s a couple of excerpts from my two novels (as yet unpublished).  The first comes from Explorer, the first book of my Anthanian Imperative trilogy.  This excerpt focuses on the early years of Lilea, the main character.  She’s lying in bed, trying to get to sleep.  NOTE:  Both of these excerpts have been removed from the novels.  I decided they were not essential to the story, and so could be removed, but they do give you a taste of my writing style and a little bit of the plot line.

 

Even by the time she reached her fifth birthday, Lilea had never been outside Kalarias, her hometown.  What little she knew of the sterile desert that made up the Lifezone of her planet, or of the searing heat on the hot side, or the vast ice fields on the cold side came exclusively from images on the Information Services and the few conversations she’d had with her teachers in preschool.  So when her parents took her on a trip from Kalarias to visit her mother’s family in their ancestral home of Bes, a city of one million inhabitants 8,300 anthans away, it was a major event, a trip she eagerly anticipated.  They boarded the Mag-Lev train on 431.222, and off it went, zipping smoothly and quietly over the surface of the Lifezone at 280 anthans per sub.  But even at such an innocent age with only a tiny knowledge base on which to build permanent memories, she was struck by the absolute barrenness of the landscape outside the window of that speeding train.

At first it was like a great sand pile, beckoning her to come and play in its golden-brown drifts.  Yet, the constancy of the parched, sterile wilderness, the unvarying, immutable, almost eternal expanse of sand raised suspicions in her mind.  This was not like the city with its buildings and streets and houses, even parks with all the potted plants that required watering every other T-sector.  There was nothing outside that train window–nothing at all.

She filed the images in her long-term memory, carefully preserving them to be recalled later.  As she began school, she listened as her teachers explained the history of her planet, about the early vegetation, the expanding sun, the slowing of the planet’s rotation, and the sterile sand that made up the surface of the planet.  As she grew older, she learned how to make enough sense of what she’d seen and heard to be able to formulate questions to which answers could be given.

She grew fascinated by what she learned about the prehistoric days of Anthanos, especially the anthanians who lived during the Vegetative Eras, and she read voraciously on her personal notebook all the publications she could find about those aboriginal beings.  She could trace her decision to become an anthropologist to that early reading.

Then, in 458, when Spaceflight Command said they were looking for anthropologists to undergo spaceflight training to look for intelligent life on other planets, she decided to join, just as her new husband Bent did at the same time, because SpaceComm needed geologists, too.

Now here she was, right in the middle of it.  She’d been picked for the Gold Team, and that made her proudest of anything she’d ever done.  Soon they’d blast off for another planet, a planet ouside her own solar system, taking her and nine others, including the love of her life, Bent, cute Bent, the guy with the olive-brown skin and curly, dark brown hair and rich, sienna eyes that always seemed to have a twinkle in them, and the cute smile and the small pot belly, but the exercise of training for the voyage and landing will take that pot belly right off, she figured, and…then she slowly became aware of Bent’s voice penetrating a drowsy haze.

“C’mon, sleepyhead, time to get up.”  A gentle hand joggled her shoulder.  “We’ve got to be at SpaceComm headquarters at 687.1.0.”

*  *  *

The second excerpt comes from Traveler, the second book of the trilogy.  This excerpt focuses on the backstory of a secondary character, Mlada.

The knock at the thin, wooden door of the house of the Lontor family was unexpected–yet in many ways it was not.  It was a brutal knock, not the gentle tap that might be expected from a good friend coming over for an evening visit.  The light had almost faded from the sky, and the darkness–as pervasive a darkness as could be found on any planet–had settled over the little house on the outskirts of the town where the young Mlada and her family lived.  The cool air of the evening edged between some of the boards of the house, forcing the residents to start a fire in the cast iron stove that sat in one corner of the living room.  At five years old, Mlada played on the floor at her parent’s feet with her favorite dolls.  When the knock came, she stopped her play immediately and gripped tightly one of the dolls with both hands.  Her mother and father stiffened visibly, and her mother raised a hand to her mouth to stifle a gasp.

“Mlada!” her mother whispered hoarsely.  “You know what to do.  Go to your special place.  Now!”

“But mother–”

“Do as your mother says,” her father warned, his voice strict, but not harsh.

“It’s the Talatan Guards, isn’t it?” Mlada’s older brother Tlan said.

“Hush,” their mother said.  “Mlada, run.”

Mlada knew what to do.  She gathered her dolls and dropped them into the small satchel her parents had provided.  She removed her shoes so her feet would not make a sound on the bare floor and scampered toward the rear of the house.  She ran past the kitchen and bathroom, through her parent’s room.  She headed into the small bedroom she shared with her brother–little more than a small storage room off her parent’s room–and tiptoed across the floor, reaching her bed just as her father opened the front door to the Guards.

Mlada fell to the floor and froze, not wanting to make a sound while the Guards were in the house.

“You were late in opening the door,” the Captain of the Guards said.  Mlada could hear his dark, booming voice from her place on the floor in the bedroom.  “You are required to open the door in twenty seconds or less.”

Mlada crawled under the bed from the foot, past the boxes of her brother’s clothes her parents stored there, and with her fingertips carefully pried open the narrow trapdoor lying beneath the bed.  The old metal hinges that held the door creaked with a tiny mouse-like squeak and she stopped, holding the door in one place for a second, then she slowly pressed the door open slightly more, hesitating briefly at each creak.  She held it open with her left hand while she dropped the satchel in, then she herself slipped into the recess between the door and the floor joists onto the small rug that gave her the slightest cushion against the wood panel on which she lay.  She kept the door cracked open only the tiniest amount so she could hear, ready to drop the door completely closed should the Guards enter the room.

“I am terribly sorry,” her father said.  “We were in the back room.  It will not happen again.”

“I am giving your house twenty marks,” the Captain said.  “It happened once two weeks ago.  I am very concerned about this house.  We have heard that you are keeping a young girl here.  Is that true?”

“No,” Mlada heard her mother reply.  “We have only the boy Tlan.  Here he is.  He is our only child.  That is the regulation.  We have complied.”

“But we have reports from several people that they have seen a small girl in the vicinity of your house.  Do you deny it?”

“Yes, we deny it.”

“Then how do you explain this?”

Mlada was aware of a sudden quietness that developed in the front room, and the lack of conversation seemed only to magnify the clomp of heavy boots as several of the Guards left the front room and began searching the house.  It wasn’t an exhaustive search; they poked their noses into the various rooms, pausing at the door to the bedroom where Mlada lay hidden, but only to turn on the light.  They did not enter or search the room.  Mlada silently dropped the trapdoor completely shut and listened for the footsteps as the Guards withdrew.

Mlada learned later that the Captain had shown her parents a photograph of a small girl in the back yard of her house, and the girl was her, but her parents denied it, saying it was the daughter of a friend, not Mlada at all.  Only a friend who had come over to visit.

At first it’d all been a game.  Her parents showed her the trapdoor hidden under the bed and taught her how to use it, quietly and surreptitiously, repeating the drill over and over until she could enter with her playmate dolls within a minute or so, and stay until her mother or father called her to come out.  Each time she stayed quiet and hidden, repetition after repetition, through drills and the real thing, waiting patiently to come out, staying quiet, breathing slowly and calmly to avoid detection by the Talatan Guards.

But by her fifth year, she knew it was no longer a game, that she was expected to hide and stay hidden for an hour if necessary, and that it would happen over and over, almost every other week, or even every week, or several times a week, until other arrangements could be made.  And she lived like this with her family year after year, hiding from the Guards when they came to the house to search for her because she was the second child, and two children in one family were forbidden on her planet.

It scared her, too.  She was too young to understand the real reason for hiding like this, but she knew it was serious, and she began to be scared more and more often.  She hated the little recess, the terrifying closeness of the opening, the musty smell of the floorboards that lay over her only inches from her face, the darkness that left her unable to see.  She could run her hands over the little valise that contained her beloved dolls, but she couldn’t play with them, only touch, and she wanted so very much to pull them out and hold them close to her, but her parents said no, and she complied.  Her heart would pound, tears would stream down her face, and she would emerge when her parents called, crying and scared even more than when she went in because she knew she would have to go back again, soon.

Eventually, she grew too big to fit comfortably in the little recess hollowed out among the floor joists, and other arrangements were made.

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