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Child of Far Away
By F. C. Young
Trafford PublishingCopyright © 2012 F. C. Young
All right reserved.
Chapter OneUnwelcome News
"NOW? I DON'T believe it. Whyyyy?" Cassie screamed. Her parents had just told her that the family would be leaving Jupiter station.
"I like it here," Jamie whined. He was Cassie's eight-year-old brother.
"But you knew this was coming. We've talked about this since you were very small," Cassie's mother pleaded.
"Y-y-y-yes," Jamie stammered. "But I didn't think it would ever c-c-c-come."
"My friends are here! My trees are here!" Cassie choked, feeling hot tears run down her cheeks. How could she go? Everything that made life worth living was in this place. There was nothing out there but cold, empty space.
"Please, Cassie. You're too old for this," her father begged.
Cassie knew that fighting with her parents would do nothing but give her and them grief. She dashed from their living quarters. She didn't think; she just ran.
Minutes later she was in a clear bubble transport unit. Her fingers entered the code for her destination and she was off. In a trance, she flew through the remaining segments of the living module into the huge central shaft of the station, past the industrial module, arcade module, and finally slowed and stopped at the outer rim of the arboretum module.
Cassie was surprised to see where she was. She hadn't thought about her destination when she left but now that she was there, she understood. Most of her friends were not human; they were trees in the mini-hardwood forest that she stepped into. The musty smell of damp earth and the faint twittering of small birds seeped into to her injured soul and began to calm her. She walked down the familiar path, not aware of the crunching of the gravel under her feet, until she found the old, sagging wooden bench where she spent so much of her time. She threw herself onto the seat and cried.
It didn't take long for Cassie's sobs to slow and stop as she allowed the incredible changing scene outside the dome to divert her attention. Jupiter station was a three-mile-long lollipop stand, complete with suckers (the modules), in orbit around the giant planet, but it was also positioned not far above the smallest of the Galilean moons, Io. As the station rotated on its axis her view of the space around her changed. At times Cassie looked up at the angry, roiling pink clouds of Jupiter and at others she saw the bright sulphurous-yellow surface of Io or into the inky reaches of space and towards the brilliant dot so very far away that was the Sun. She had been looking at these scenes for as long as she could remember. They comforted her—they were a part of her—but in under six months she was to be put to sleep in a steel coffin for fifteen years and transported across the galaxy to a new world.
"What can I do?" Cassie whispered. "How can I leave this?" A bird chirped from the lower limb of an elm tree and the faint tinkling of water calmed her, but no answer came. Or did it?
No matter how she acted or how unhappy she felt, life went on. She could protest and make her existence and that of her parents miserable until they boarded the colony ship, or she could accept the fact that they were going and learn about her new home. Cassie was never one to hold a grudge or stay unhappy for long, and so it was now. Her heart would hold her unhappiness at leaving but her head would find a way to overcome it and step forward into the unknown.
Cassie went home. As she opened the door, she could see Jamie lying on the sofa, his head buried in his mother's lap, alternately crying and moaning, "No, no."
Her parents didn't seem to notice her. She stood listening. "But son, you knew we were on the crew list," said his father in a matter-of-fact way.
"You've even gone to a special school with the other children who will be going. Surely, you've all talked about it. Haven't you wondered about the world we're going to?"
"It was only make-believe. I never thought we'd really go." More sobs.
"You are eight years old, and that's old enough to stop this ..." Jamie's father said with an edge to his voice.
His mother held up a warning hand. His father turned away shaking his head. "Bah!!" he said.
"Jamie, you like to run and play, right?" his mother asked.
Jamie nodded and sniffed.
"And you know how much you like going to the zoo and looking at all the animals?"
"Well, on this new world you can run and run and run until you fall down. There are no fences, no pressure domes and no one to stop you. Doesn't that sound nice?"
Jamie raised his head.
"And there are animals. Not like in the zoo behind force fields, but flying in the air, swimming in the ocean and running on the land. You will be able to see them in their homes ... in your home."
Jamie sat up. "Animals not behind force fields?"
He's interested, Cassie thought. Animals free to roam. What an exciting idea. She felt a tingle stirring at the base of her spine. Maybe she was excited too.
"That's right," his mother said.
Cassie noticed that his face was pink and not from crying. "He is excited," she said under her breath.
"Well ... maybe it'll be okay," Jamie said slowly.
Jamie wanted to go, Cassie could tell.
"And you and Cassie can help us pick the place we will live. We want to be sure we all like it." His mother was smiling and waved to Cassie to join her on the couch.
"We can see where we are going?" Jamie licked his lips.
"Of course." His father went to his desk, brought a large, colorful map to the sofa and sat down on the other side of Jamie. "This is an aerial map of our new home," he said and opened it up for Cassie and Jamie to see.
Jamie looked at the paper and said, "Dad, you got the wrong map. That's Earth."
"No, it's not." Cassie's father smiled. "That is Florabal," he said pointing to the blue and green and white planet floating in a sea of indigo.
"It is just like Earth," Cassie said. Then she looked more closely. She could make out land masses peeking through the clouds. Where North America and Europe should be, there were three irregular brown shapes, and where South America and Africa would lie there were hundreds of small islands, and all of the brown was floating in a blue and green sea.
"It's much like Earth. The planet itself is about half again as large and its gravity is a little heavier, but not much. The day and night cycle is twenty-nine hours and the seasons are about the same," her father explained.
"And Cassie," her mother said.
Cassie smiled behind her hand. Her mother always changed the subject when her father began boring them.
"The star that Florabal orbits is also named Cassie. It is your star."
"It was named for me?"
"No dear. It was named over two hundred years ago but still, it is your name."
"That seems so strange. Why would someone name it Cassie's Star?"
"You should try and find out, dear," her mother said.
And that's exactly what Cassie did. The next day she went to the library on her lunch break. She took a seat in a little cubicle and faced a blank wall.
"Computer," she said. "Access historical records from the year 2000 and up."
"Access complete," a pleasant male voice replied.
"Locate records on Cassie's Star."
"Information available," the computer answered.
"Display." The wall in front of her shimmered and words appeared. As Cassie read, a tear trickled down her cheek.
An International Star Registry had been set up during that period so that people could have their names placed into the heavens. It gave them a sense of immortality, Cassie guessed. Cassie's Star had been purchased by a daughter whose mother was dying. The daughter gave her mother an eternal gift.
And now, the gift was passed to a new generation. Cassie was the beneficiary. She would go to that star and make the world of Florabal her own.
"Computer. Display information on how Florabal was discovered." The wall shimmered and new information appeared. There was a lot of it. "Read it to me," she said.
"In the years 2105 through 2117, 5000 automated probes were launched into the galaxy. They were tasked with finding star systems with planets. If planets were found, the probes were to examine each of them. If a probe discovered an Earth-like world, it was to take detailed readings and then return to the point of origin. The first probe returned in 2194. The probe that discovered Florabal returned in 2210."
Cassie sat back. Florabal had been known to someone for three years? "Why didn't you tell me three years ago?" she asked the air.
"I cannot answer that question," the computer replied.
Cassie blinked. She hadn't realized she had said the words out loud. "Sorry, I wasn't talking to you." And then she had a thought. "Computer, how long has the information about Florabal been in the mainstream?"
"The existence of Florabal was just released."
Cassie nodded. That meant her parents had not known before now. In all of her twelve years, five months and twenty-one days, Cassie had never known her parents to keep things from her, and she was glad that they hadn't this time, either.
"Tell me about the worlds of Cassie's Star."
"There are fourteen bodies orbiting the star. Nine are rocky, three are gas giants and two are asteroid fields. The inner three planets are no bigger than Earth's moon and have no atmosphere. The fourth planet, Florabal, has an oxygen-nitrogen atmosphere, oceans and continents ..."
"Stop. We will get back to that later. Continue with the fifth planet."
Ten minutes later, Cassie knew a great deal more about her new home. It seemed wondrous to her that out of all the planets in the star system, only one, Florabal, contained life. It was very much like the star system she lived in now.
As Cassie turned to leave the library, she realized that the other cubicles were also full of students. From the snippets of conversations she heard, she knew that everyone was researching Florabal. From the moment she had sat at her desk in the morning, she was bombarded with questions about their coming adventure. All the children in the school were going, and they seemed beside themselves with excitement and anxiety.
"Hey Cassie, what do you think?" Jason sat behind her in English and was waiting for a computer cubicle. He was Cassie's age but was much shorter and darker than she. His deep brown eyes matched his skin and his chiseled features held a look of worry, like everyone else around her.
"I don't know what to think," she said.
"Yeah. My parents said I should be happy, but ..." he said as he shrugged his shoulders.
"Me too, Jason. Me too," Cassie said as she brushed by him and left the library, not wanting him to see the tears welling up in her eyes. She would get hold of herself. She would master her feelings.
Chapter TwoWelcome Home
"IT LOOKS JUST like the sun," Cassie whispered to herself. She was sitting in an observation window aboard the Polaris looking at Cassie's Star. The Polaris and the Vega were the two colony ships making their way to Florabal. They had dropped out of hyperspace two days before on the edge of the star system and were now wallowing their way slowly inward. Twenty families including Cassie's had been awakened from stasis and were preparing to explore their new world. All five thousand people on the Vega would remain asleep until it was deemed safe to live on Florabal.
"You're going to be late," Jamie yelled as he pelted past.
"Is it four already?" Cassie jumped from the ledge and followed her bother. She must start wearing a watch. There was a meeting of all the children and she had to be there.
After sprinting through many long featureless corridors, she watched Jamie dive into an open door ahead. She could hear excited chatter within and knew that this was her destination. She slowed her pace and walked into the room hoping that no one would see how out of breath she was. Several dozen pairs of eyes turned at her entry and followed her as she tiptoed towards two girls who were waving at her. Ellen and Eileen, cute, redheaded twins, her own age, had saved her a place on the floor of the exercise room. She hastily dropped into the space and crossed her legs.
The twins patted her and giggled a hello. The room was filled with children sitting on the floor because this space was used for exercise and there were no chairs in it. Cassie could see a basketball hoop high on the wall ahead of her and different sizes of hand weights on a rack along the far wall. She had not visited this room because her main interest lay in watching Cassie's Star grow bigger and exploring the gigantic ship she was on.
The Polaris, like her sister ship the Vega was more than a half a mile long. The forward section, where everyone was living, contained the bridge for steering and navigation and the living quarters for those few families who were awake. Also in this forward section was the shuttle bay and the flyers that would take people back and forth to the planet's surface. The rest of the forward areas were devoted to the five thousand cryo-pods of the colonists. A long skinny tube ten feet in diameter connected the forward section to the drive section at the back of the ship. The engines and fuel tanks were back there. Clamped onto the connecting tube, like barnacles on a sailing ship's hull, were the pods containing everything needed to make a new home on Florabal. But those pods were not accessible from the ship.
"Who else?" the head teacher, Mrs. Dalton, asked. She was a tall lady, with her dark brown hair pulled back from her face in a ponytail. It bounced and wagged from side to side as she moved and talked.
"The Ishihara brothers," her equally tall husband answered. He was standing by the open door with a list of names in his hand.
"We'll give them another minute or two, then we will start," she said.
Just then the thunder of feet could be heard in the hall and two boys, twelve and fourteen, skidded to a stop in front of the door, sheepish grins on their faces. They walked in panting and quickly dropped to the floor. All the seated children broke into noisy clapping.
"Now that we are all here ..." Mrs. Dalton said, eyeing the two boys and holding her hand up to quiet the rest of the room, "... your parents will be leaving us this evening."
Cassie knew this but she still felt a little tinge of fear over it.
"While they are doing a hands-on survey of the planet, all of you will be alone for two days. Until then, you will have to rely on Mr. Dalton and myself if you need help. But you are old enough to do this, plus you must have a hand in making the final decision as to where we will place the first two colonies."
"I'm so excited," Cassie said to the twins. "Isn't it wonderful that they think we are old enough to be alone?"
"No, it's scary," Ellen and Eileen said in one voice. "We've never been away from Mom and Dad."
Cassie was used to them talking like that. They were identical twins with two bodies that seemed to share a common brain. They said the same things at the same times and even brushed hair out of their eyes together. Cassie had known them since kindergarten and was used to their synchronized movements but still ... it was a bit creepy.
"Not scary," Cassie said slowly. "Just different. Maybe even a little like an adventure."
She was nervous about her family leaving but she was determined to make the best of it. It was the same game she had been playing ever since she found out that they were going to Florabal. Find the good in a bad thing and maybe there wouldn't be anything bad after all.
"Oh," the twins said, looking a little astonished.
"Quiet down, everyone," Mrs. Dalton shouted. "Jamie, Nicholas, when you are quite done," she said eyeing Cassie's brother and his friend.
They snapped their mouths shut and sat up straight.
"Good. While your parents are away, you will eat in the main hall as usual and continue with your classes. You can sleep in your own cabins or you can join us in this room which will be set up as a dormitory. My husband and I will sleep here with you. Those who want to sleep here can put their names on this roster as you leave," she said waving a clip board. "Those who try to sleep in their own cabins but find it lonely may join us at any time. Are there any questions?"
A sea of hands shot into the air. Cassie moaned and rolled her eyes. Why hadn't they listened in the first place?
"Are you gonna sleep in here?" the twins asked.
"No. I like my own bed."
"But it'll be fun here," Ellen said.
"We can talk all night," Eileen said.
"Too noisy in here. Why don't you come to my cabin?"
"And be by ourselves?" Eileen asked.
"Alone?" Ellen gasped.
"Of course," Cassie said.
"Oh no. We couldn't do that. We've never been alone."
"But you wouldn't be alone. I'd be there." What was the matter with her friends? It would be fun to have the cabin to themselves. They could talk and play dress up and do whatever they wanted. "It would be fun," Cassie urged.
"Noooo ..." they said together.
Cassie couldn't change their minds.
It wasn't long before the children were released. Ellen and Eileen were the first to sign up for the group sleepover. Cassie saw that her brother ducked out the door without signing. She smiled. He liked adventure, too.
Cassie and Jamie strolled into their family's cabin a few minutes later. It was a little disappointing living on the ship because the family's shared quarters were so small. Their home on Jupiter station had been spacious, with tall ceilings and large windows looking into space. But on the Polaris, the family room was only ten feet by ten feet with the ceiling only inches above her father's head. And there were no portholes, just a bunch of blank walls.
Excerpted from Child of Far Away by F. C. Young Copyright © 2012 by F. C. Young. Excerpted by permission of Trafford Publishing. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
ContentsChapter 1 Unwelcome News....................1
Chapter 2 Welcome Home....................9
Chapter 3 Avies....................22
Chapter 4 A New Friend....................35
Chapter 5 Sentinel....................45
Chapter 6 It's Brain Waves, You Know....................55
Chapter 7 The Hunger....................65
Chapter 8 Lightning Bees....................75
Chapter 9 Battle Plans....................88
Chapter 10 New Friends....................98
Chapter 11 Success....................109
Chapter 12 Surprise Attack....................117
Chapter 13 Attack....................127
Chapter 14 The Battle....................136
Chapter 15 New Beginnings....................149