By the twenty-second century, human heedlessness and natural disasters have led to a world where the air is unsafe to breathe, the soil will grow nothing but kudzu, and wars will never end. Crowded together in domed communities, growing food in greenhouses, and living under martial law, people go about their lives, working at their jobs and caring for their families while striving to make the world a better place for their children.
Hundreds of young volunteers come together for a dome-raising project in South Carolina. It's love at first sight for seventeen-year-old Michael Travis when he sees a graceful weaver floating lightly in her antigravity belt above the giant dome. When he learns that she was born on the far side of the Moon, he is determined to meet her and share his dreams of living on Mars.
More than a tale of survival, Weavers of the Crystal Domes is a salute to the resilience and ingenuity of our species, a coming-of-age story set in the world of the future.
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WEAVERS OF THE CRYSTAL DOMESBook One of KUDZU WORLDS
By Suzanne Strange
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2011 Suzanne Strange
All right reserved.
"As if she had found wings, light as the wind"
from "The Wakers" by John Freeman
Beneath a sparkling crystal dome sprawled Queen City Middle School, a roofless brick building three stories high where Ruth Weller had spent thirty years teaching English to restless seventh and eighth graders. On the first day of the 2115-2116 school year, she stood beside her pod and greeted students as they filed into her classroom and found their seats. The teardrop-shaped pod, with built-in seat, desk, computer, and storage compartments, was parked near the classroom's left front corner, allowing students a clear view of the multi-screen monitor that filled the front wall.
On stackable plastic chairs, students sat in groups of four at long narrow tables embedded with touch-screen keyboards. In the Wi-Fied classroom, students used the keyboards to download information from the monitor, process it with computers built into their eyeware, and store it in their personal data chips.
On that day, Ms. Weller presented a writing assignment to all her eighth grade classes. At the beginning of every period she explained the assignment carefully:
"During the next four weeks each of you will write an essay in the form of an autobiography at least five hundred words long. This will be done in addition to your other assignments. During that time we shall be reviewing grammar, sentence structure, and punctuation. We shall also read and analyze excerpts from biographies and autobiographies of famous people."
In every class, someone asked, "Ms. Weller, what's an autobiography?"
"It's the story of your life," was her inevitable response. "Look it up. On the board behind me you'll see AUTOBIOGRAPHY neatly printed so you can find it in your dictionaries. I want each of you to write about important events in your life, what you did, what you learned, and how you feel. Tell what you plan to be doing twenty years from now. Think about what you want to say. Writing an autobiography will help you understand yourself and clarify your goals in life."
In every class, the question was asked, "Is it okay if I write about somebody else instead?"
Her response was always, "No, it is not 'okay.' All of you have dictionaries in your data chips. Please look up the definition of 'autobiography.' No more questions. Anyone who has written at least two hundred words may bring the unfinished work to me for comment. I'll be glad to look it over and make suggestions if you need help."
After the last student in the last class had left, Ruth Weller settled into her pod. She opened a small drawer, took out a bag of candy, and poured several Hershey's Kisses onto her desk. "Hello there," she whispered to the chocolates. "I've been thinking about you all day."
Four weeks later, Ms. Weller stood before the first period class, most of her students watching her attentively through the lenses of their school-issued eyeware, hoping to not be asked to read, recite, or venture an opinion on anything. One girl was the exception, her eyeware resting on the table before her as she gazed absently at something – most likely nothing – beyond the teacher's left shoulder.
"Before we download your autobiographies," said Ms. Weller, "I'd like one of you to read yours to the class. Do I have a volunteer?"
No hands were raised. "Fine," she thought. "We'll start with the Moon child." She looked directly at the daydreamer, and in a firm clear voice announced, "Miss Reyes, let's hear what you have to say."
"It never fails," thought Luna. "Whenever she doesn't know who else to call on, my name pops right out of her mouth." Luna stood up, put on her eyeware, and walked to the front of the classroom. The microcomputer's right temple pressed against her skin over an implanted data chip, the right lens was a monitor, transparent when not in use, and the left temple held a small earbud. Luna touched the right temple to activate the monitor, and began reading aloud as her essay scrolled before her eye:
"My name is Luna Reyes. I was born September 11, 2101 in a town called Mega City, on the far side of the Moon, and lived there until I was five years old. Everybody worked for Mega Mining, and they had come from nearly every country on Earth. They all wanted to celebrate the same holidays they had back home, so there seemed to be a parade somewhere in Mega City nearly every week. Santa Claus paid us a visit every Christmas Eve before making his rounds on Earth.
"I spent most of my time playing with friends in the Children's Center. The Center had a big room with lots of toys and a playground with swings, slides, and plenty of space to play games. We learned to sing, count to ten, and speak a few phrases in several languages. I can still remember most of the things they taught us.
"On weekends, I went exploring with my parents, holding their hands as I walked between them. They used to lift me off the ground and swing me back and forth while they were walking. I loved for them to do that. We visited the greenhouses every week. Mama taught me the names of all the plants and insects we saw there. 'Greenhouses are the Moon's Garden of Eden. A greenhouse is a holy place,' my mother used to say. I was always on my best behavior there. Sometimes my parents took me outside the complex, away from habitat gravity, so I could bounce around in my spacesuit. That was my very favorite thing to do.
"When I moved to North Carolina and saw kudzu for the first time, I didn't know what to think. The only outside world I had ever seen before was the surface of the Moon, and nothing grows there.
"I had never seen anything growing outside a greenhouse before. I thought the kudzu was creepy-looking, and I was afraid it would reach out and grab me.
"Now I am used to the kudzu and the rain and I like living here. I have learned about music from my grandfather and weaving from my grandmother. My parents and grandparents even taught me to use an agbelt when I was only five years old. I outgrew the belt several years ago, but didn't get another because I am so busy with other things. When I need a belt for a school project my teacher gets me one from the supply room.
"I like to do things with my friends. We take dancing and karate lessons together. Last year, my friend Ellie and I made up a funny dance routine that combined ballet and karate moves. Susie and Abby performed with us and we won third place in the seventh grade talent contest.
"I'm not sure what I want to do when I grow up, probably something to do with science or health. Maybe I'll be a safety inspector for Mega Corporation and live on the Moon like my parents did."
"Very nice, Miss Reyes," said her teacher.
Thank you, Ms. Weller," Luna replied. She turned off her eyeware and returned to her seat.
Charles Reyes and Jenna Becker worked for the Moon Exploration Division of Mega Mining Corporation. Charles, a young structural engineer with a sturdy build and a serious demeanor, was a building inspector. One afternoon in 2099, he walked unannounced into the greenhouse where Jenna was working, showed her his company ID, and told her he was there for a safety inspection.
"I'm a safety inspector too," said Jenna. "I worked a couple of years in a testing lab for the FDA, then took this job because I like to travel. What about you?"
"I started with Mega right out of college," replied Charles. "I wanted to see the world, and this seemed like a good way to do it. Or maybe not. So far I haven't seen much except the Moon."
Their conversation continued through that night's dinner and many more meals as mutual attraction deepened into love. Later that year they married and moved into a small apartment in the downtown area of EGH, the earth gravity habitat. In 2101, shortly after the birth of their daughter Luna, they rented a larger apartment in the EGH neighborhood known as "the burb."
Luna was curious and energetic, always on the move. When she was three years old, her parents rented a small pink spacesuit and started taking her outside the habitat to play. She loved to jump again and again, bending her knees as she landed, then springing up and forward with all her strength, keeping her legs straight behind her as she pretended to be a grasshopper like those she saw in the greenhouses.
One Sunday evening, after an afternoon of Moon-hopping, Luna had a question for her father. "Daddy, can you get me a green suit?" she asked him.
"What's wrong with the one you have?" he wanted to know.
"I see lots of insects in the greenhouses," Luna said, "but I've never seen a pink grasshopper. Can't you get me a green suit so I'll look more grasshopperish?"
"Sweetheart," her father told her, "What you really look like is a kite trying to get off the ground!" And he was right about that, as Luna's spacesuit was always connected to his by a long pink tether.
"Daddy, what's a kite?" she asked.
Charles tried to explain about using wind to fly kites, but Luna couldn't understand what a kite was, or wind either. She had never felt wind on the Moon.
That night, after Luna was asleep, Jenna told her husband to stop teasing the child and let her pretend to be whatever she wanted to be. "What she really wants to be," said Charles, "Is free of the tether that keeps her from disappearing over the nearest hill." Jenna had to agree with him about that.
The next day, Jenna called Spacesuit Rentals to see if they had children's suits in any colors other than pink and yellow. "Are they available in green?" she asked.
"No," said the receptionist, "Pink and yellow are easiest to see from a distance, except for white or orange, which are reserved for adults. We don't carry them in green. We usually assign pink suits to girls and yellow suits to boys, but there's no reason why a boy can't wear pink or a girl can't wear yellow. Would you like to exchange your daughter's suit for a yellow one?"
"I'll let you know," said Jenna. "Thank you for the information."
That night Jenna told her daughter that, although rare, there were such things as pink grasshoppers, but green spacesuits in a child's size did not seem to exist.
"Some grasshoppers are yellow," she said. "I've seen a couple of them. You decide what to do. You can be the first pink grasshopper on the Moon, or swap your pink suit for a yellow one and be a yellow grasshopper instead." Luna decided to stick with pink, and the issue was settled.
Much later, when a teen-age Luna told this story to her friends, she admitted that even though she had wanted to look like a grasshopper in a green spacesuit, she had wanted even more not to look like a boy in a yellow one!
Shortly after Luna's fifth birthday, her parents were transferred to Mega Mining North America, headquartered in western North Carolina. Coming from the dust-gray Moon to the kudzu-green Earth was an eye-opener for the little girl, who remained glued to her window during the entire hovercraft trip from the Virginia spaceport.
It was late afternoon when they approached the Charlotte airport, the sky's usual grayness yielding to a brilliant sunset. As their craft, circling to land, turned away from the setting sun, Luna saw a spectacular blaze of red, orange and yellow bursting from the kudzu below. She tugged at her mother's sleeve. "Look!" she cried. "Is that a fire?" She knew about fire, but had never seen one.
Jenna looked out the window. "No, Sweetheart," she said. "That's not fire. Charlotte's crystal domes are reflecting the sunset. We're home at last."
Soon Luna and her parents were living beneath a crystal dome, sharing an apartment with Philip and May Becker, Luna's Poppy and Grammy.
In his role of building inspector, Charles regularly visited many of Mega Mining's US operations. Jenna traveled with him, inspecting greenhouses and kitchens at every site. They were often away for weeks at a time, leaving Luna with her grandparents in a world very different from the unchanging Moon.
Luna had been brought to a world where violent storms appeared without warning and daytime skies suddenly darkened as gusting winds sent torrents of rain swirling about her new home. The little girl trembled with fear when thunder boomed incessantly and lightning streaked the sodden skies above the crystal dome.
From a circle of lightning rods atop the dome, insulated wires snaked downward through a crystal forest into huge underground storage batteries. When lightning struck the metal rods, distant booms were replaced by deafening thunderclaps and flashes of unbearable brightness pierced the dome. As the storm's furious energy raced harmlessly to the ground, the crystals resonated like the strings of a giant harp, enveloping Luna's body in waves of sound.
"Come here, Little One," Grammy would say, wrapping her arms around the frightened child. "That's just the music of the dome. The storm will soon be over and everything will be all right." Eventually Luna realized that Grammy was right. Safe within her singing dome, she would no longer be afraid.
Earth weather aside, life with Luna's grandparents could be great fun.
Poppy explained the musical scale and taught her to play simple tunes on a small keyboard. He taught her the words to a lot of old-fashioned songs, too. Her favorite, "I Want To Hold Your Hand," reminded her of walking through Mega City with her parents. She and Poppy often sang it together when he walked her to and from school.
Grammy was an accomplished basketmaker, and often had lengths of kudzu strung up to season throughout their home. She taught Luna to make small toys and baskets from kudzu vines. The little girl practiced for hours, making tiny furniture for her dolls and a dome for them to live in. Grammy even helped her make a small stool, tightly woven and sturdy enough to sit on.
One day Poppy walked through the front door and looked around at the latest batch of vines hanging everywhere. "I feel like I'm living underground," he said, "with roots reaching down to grab hold of me." Luna giggled at that idea, but Grammy didn't think it was the least bit funny.
Although Moon residents live by Earth's clock and calendar, an actual Moon day lasts about four Earth weeks, with two weeks of bright daylight and two weeks of total darkness. When Luna finally adjusted to Earth's rapid cycles of light and dark, she realized happily that Earth was always dark when it was time to sleep and light when it was time to play.
She discovered other differences the first time Mama and Daddy took her for a walk outside the dome. She was pleased that she didn't need a bulky spacesuit, just goggles attached to a small oxygen mask. Best of all, there was no tether. She would be unrestrained, able to move about freely.
Eagerly Luna stepped outside, holding her parents' hands as they walked together along the wide strip of bare ground around the dome. "This is great," she thought. But then she discovered something strange. When they released her hands, she couldn't jump high at all, no matter how hard she tried. She could hop a tiny bit, but she wasn't able to leap like a grasshopper as she had done before.
Shocked and disappointed, Luna began to cry, tears spilling from her hazel eyes and pooling in her goggles. Alarmed, Charles picked up the sobbing child and carried her back into the crystal dome, her wavy brown hair flowing over his arm while Jenna walked alongside trying to comfort her.
That night, the four adults took turns holding Luna on their laps as they attempted to explain Earth's gravity. They all tried to assure her that gravity was a good thing even if it did ruin her favorite game, but she kept thinking the Moon was more fun and she intended to live there again someday.
The next morning, Charles called the office of Mega Mining's training director and made an appointment to see Director John Williams. That afternoon he and Poppy traveled by zipcar through a subterranean tunnel connecting the Charlotte complex with Mega Mining's administration dome. Once there, the men showed their credentials to the security guards and were ushered into the training director's spacious office.
"It's good to see you again, my friend," said John, shaking hands with Charles. "And it's good to meet you, Mr. Becker," he said, turning to Poppy. "Now both of you sit down and tell me about this pressing personal matter you need my help with."
Luna's father explained the situation, and soon the three men were smiling broadly.
Excerpted from WEAVERS OF THE CRYSTAL DOMES by Suzanne Strange Copyright © 2011 by Suzanne Strange. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. 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
chapter one: luna....................3
chapter two: kudzu....................14
chapter three: michael....................21
chapter four: the domeweavers....................26
chapter five: family matters....................35
chapter six: luna in love....................41
chapter seven: uncle phil....................46
chapter eight: birthdays....................50
chapter nine: luna's quest....................54
chapter ten: megan....................60
chapter eleven: dylan....................66
chapter twelve: uncle richard....................72
chapter thirteen: winter holidays....................79
chapter fourteen: the documentary....................88
chapter fifteen: visions....................102
chapter sixteen: trader bill....................109
chapter seventeen: at the end of the rainbow....................115