Book Review – Wind Catcher (Chosen #1) by Jeff Altabef and Erynn Altabef

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Wind Catcher (Chosen #1) is a Young Adult novel by the father/daughter duo, Jeff Altabef and Erynn Altabef. The reader is introduced to teenager Juliet Wildfire Stone whose life balances between two worlds, that of the rich and wealthy who attend an elite high school called Bartens and that of her Native American heritage. While Juliet tries to fit in at her new school, she is also taught the wisdom of her heritage by her grandfather, Sicheii. Along the way, you meet Juliet’s friends – Katie who also attends Bartens and has a father who will soon go to jail, Troy who is Native American and lives near the reservation and attends a normal high school, and Ella and Marton who are friends of Juliet’s from her former school. Juliet has a special gift. She hears voices and when she dreams, she has visions of her Native American heritage. All of this confuses Juliet, but soon becomes clear as a series of murders occur and are tied to her grandfather. Juliet and Troy embark on a journey to discover what the strange tattoos mean, why her grandfather is involved in a secret society and what all of it has to do with Juliet.

Wind Catcher takes the reader on a wild ride of fantasy, science fiction and Native American lore. As the story unfolds, the reader will learn about the Great Wind Spirit, Coyote, a demon, and the Seeker. The plot is complicated, but unfolds in a well-written series of events. Juliet is the Chosen and she must stop the Seeker, an alien, from destroying all she holds dear as well as Earth itself. The characters are all well-developed and even a bit complicated through their woven relationships. The Altabefs do an excellent job with settings, from Juliet’s school, to Slippery River, the town, and all of the vision worlds Juliet visits. The battle scenes near the end are exciting and well described.

What I loved most about this novel is the Native American lore sprinkled throughout the story. You can tell that the Altabefs spent an enormous amount of time researching it to make it believable, even though they do not link any one particular tribe or nation to it. I also loved the science fiction elements to this story, which the read will discover near the end.

Wind Catcher is one of the most original stories I have read. It has mystery, adventure and aliens. Who could want for more? I highly recommend this first novel in the Chosen trilogy for anyone who enjoys fantasy and science fiction. Although it is categorized as Young Adult, I believe even adults will enjoy it. I know I did.

Note: I received a free copy of this novel for a fair and honest review.

Rating: 5 stars

Genre(s): Fantasy, Science Fiction, Young Adult, Native American Lore

To Purchase: Amazon

Book Review – Splinterlands by John Feffer

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Splinterlands by John Feffer is a dystopian novel set in 2050. Julian West is writing a report updating events of the world since his book Splinterlands was published in 2020 before the Great Undoing, the global collapse of economies around the world. Julian, sick and old, visits his children Aurora, Gordon and Benjamin via virtual reality. He witnesses the damage to the world he had predicted in his book, the careless lack of empathy from those who’d profited off of the world’s demise, and his younger son’s battle for what he believes in. Finally, he visits his ex-wife who lives in a commune and attempts to draw her into a rejuvenation project until he realizes it has all been a ruse – the report and the reason for the treatment.

What I love about this novel is that not only do you get to see this dystopian world through West’s eyes, but there is also an unnamed editor who leaves footnotes in West’s report that clues you in on different aspects of West’s life and those around him. It is a clever writing technique.

Feffer’s book is a reminder of what can and is happening in the world today. Globally, we are on a precipice of decline. The upper 1% keeps getting wealthier and the lower 99% has little hope. His novel is an all too real, bleak glimpse into our own future.

Rating: 5 Stars

Genre: Science Fiction/Dystopian

To Purchase: Amazon

Andromeda Dreaming – Part 5

For a moon, Elune wasn’t the bleak place Atica assumed it would be. Parts of it had been terraformed and domed as living spaces for students and faculty of the Astroengineer Authority. The small communities consisted of lush parks filled with assorted shrubbery, flower gardens, and pink lawns; dormitory housing for the students – large blue buildings that stretched upward toward the domes’ ceilings; the various Authority campuses which were all linked by underground rail systems; and smaller housing units like the houses back on Marmooth for the faculty. Atica found herself placed in Dome-4A for new underage students, those eleven and younger. She’d been saddened to learn that Ostare would be in Dome-3B for new appropriate-aged students, twelve-year-olds.

She’d been assigned to Aleck Towers, a dormitory filled with other alien children from all parts of the Universe. Atica hadn’t realized there were so many others like herself on Marmooth – orphans, all of them. She worried that being segregated from the Morethans and Lessthans in this manner would result in more discrimination for her and the other alien children. She quickly learned that it was only for a period of adjustment, not from the Morethans, but from the Lessthans. They’d all been quarantined from one another – Nonthans, Morethans, and Lessthans, but just their living quarters. Classes were all unsegregated. The Authority could keep a better eye on them in the classrooms. Safety was their main priority.

“Once the Lessthans learn to live peacefully among you, you will be moved out of Aleck Towers,” a student resident told Atica and the other alien children during their orientation.

Atica shared her dorm room with a Gilatian, a race of warm-blooded, fur-covered aliens who preferred the cold. This would set well for Atica’s need for cooler temperatures and her crystal chamber.

“I am Min’Hotan, but you can call me Harper,” the Gilatian said as she extended a furry paw to Atica, who placed her small hand in Harper’s paw and returned the introduction.

Atica understood the nickname immediately. When Harper spoke, her voice sounded just like a harp – melodic and beautiful, like celestial cords being struck. The two became fast friends.

Since Atica had her pod with Braxas on board, she’d been assigned a first level dorm with a patio that opened out into a garden. On their first night, she and Harper walked the grounds with Braxas in attendance. Gilatians didn’t have holographic technology, and Harper was fascinated with Braxas, asking him questions and getting him to fade in and out for her. That night, Atica asked Braxas her usual question, but for the first time, she allowed someone else to be present when she did so – Harper.

“Where’s home?”

Braxas scanned the sky. “There,” he said, pointing slightly to the right than he had down on Marmooth. “Follow my hand. See that small cluster? Just there, twinkling blue as always, dear Atica.”

Atica and Harper both looked up into the sky and to where Braxas directed. Atica smiled as she spotted Allura, but Harper sighed.

“What’s wrong?”

“I wish I could see Gilatia, but it is too far away.”

Braxas waved his hand and created a computer screen in front of them. Within seconds, Harper’s homeworld spun in an infinity pattern around its two suns. Braxas zoomed in on the purplish giant planet to reveal snow-capped mountain peaks.

“Sorry. Those are the only scans in my database,” Braxas apologized.

Harper teared up. “It is more than I have seen since I was four.”

Much like Atica’s parents, Harper’s mum and dad had been explorers when raiders had attacked their small ship. And just like Atica, Harper had been put into a pod and shot off into the Universe. Her parents had been confirmed dead and she’d ended up on a trade ship which brought her to Marmooth.

“Once I recharge, I will create you a permanent space chart of Gilatia,” Braxas promised the young Gilatian.

That night, while Braxas recharged out on the pink lawn in the pod, Atica and Harper curled up together in one of the twin beds. They were both homesick, and having realized how similar their stories were, they’d sat up half the night talking about their parents and their homeworlds.

As they slept, Atica dreamt of Allura in the Andromedan Galaxy. She walked the crystal streets with her mom and dad, sat on the crystal benches in the garden by their home, gazed up at the sprawling blue crystal mountains, and the violet skies above them. Atica had never been on Allura, but it was a place she knew all too well. A place Braxas would never let her forget.

 

The next morning, Atica and Harper rode the rails to Dome-5K to begin their first day at trade school. Like their dwellings, the rails too were segregated, but once they stepped off the rails and onto the platform, they were in the company of Morethans and Lessthans, all scuttling about to get to their classes. Atica clasped her hand onto Harper’s paw and dragged her across the courtyard and toward the campus. They’d nearly escaped notice, but just as they reached the elevators, a Lessthan stepped in front of them.

“Nonthans take the stairs,” the Lessthan said as he narrowed his bright green eyes at the two.

Atica stepped in front of Harper, shielding the younger Gilatian with her own body. “Not true,” she said defiantly. “We are all equals here.”

The Lessthan scoffed as he looked around the lobby. “I don’t see any guards here to protect you. Take the stairs.”

The elevator dinged and Atica moved to step inside, but the Lessthan shoved her out of the way.

“I said, take the stairs.”

Just then, Harper let out a loud string of growls and grew twice her size. Her calm, peaceful face scrunched into a snarling beast with yellowed, razor-sharp teeth and red eyes. Harper lunged toward the Lessthan as Atica backed away from her new friend.

“You take the stairs,” Harper grimaced.

The Lessthan screeched and ran toward the staircase, nearly crashing into other students as he kept his eyes on Harper. Within seconds, Harper reduced back to her calm, teddy bear self and grinned at Atica.

Harper laughed. “Sorry, I should have warned you. We Gilatians can be such animals when challenged.”

Atica let out a deep breath. “Don’t let me ever cross you,” she said with a glint in her eyes.

The two boarded the elevator and went up to the tenth floor to begin their first day of lessons. As they entered the small Astro lab, their tormentor had already arrived and was seated on the opposite side of the large round table in the center of the room. Harper glared at him as she took a seat.

Atica looked around the room, but Ostare was nowhere to be found. She sat down beside Harper, folded her arms, and lowered her head. Had she lost her friend already?

 

They spent the morning learning how to operate the computer systems. Professor Domnal, a hologram, taught them the basics – how to switch on the systems, how to create charts in the air, and the various programs they would need to learn over the course of the next six months. At the end of their orientation in Astro 101, they would go to the actual Astro labs and learn to create barrier systems. For now, their time would be spent creating mocks until they could control the computer systems like experts. For the first time, Atica realized that Astroengineering was all about tedious computer modeling. No wonder her father had spent so much time in the ship’s computer labs.

Professor Domnal assigned them all partners. To Atica’s dismay, she was partnered with the Lessthan who’d tormented her that morning.

“Introduce yourselves and shake hands,” the Professor ordered.

Atica didn’t want to make waves on her first day. “Hi, I am Atica,” she said as she extended her hand.

The Lessthan stood off to Atica’s right with his arms crossed in front of his chest. He refused to speak or touch her.

“Oh, come on. Do you really want to get us both in trouble?”

He still refused to speak.

Atica withdrew her hand and shook her head. “Are you so blatantly arrogant that you cannot make nice for even a second?”

The Lessthan looked over at the Professor who had a scowl on his face. He turned his attention back to Atica. “Helmsley,” he finally said, but still refused to shake hands.

Atica and Helmsley worked the computer systems in front of them, each avoiding the other’s space, for over an hour. For Atica, it felt like an eternity. Twice she’d accidently brushed up against him, only to have him recoil from her like she had an infectious disease. It was the longest, most irritating time she’d spent in all her days since coming to Marmooth. By the time the bell rang, Atica couldn’t get away from Helmsley fast enough, in fact, she nearly tripped over him as she dashed out of the room.

Harper caught up with her near the elevators. “How could you stand working with him all morning?”

“It wasn’t so bad. He’s quite intelligent. I just wish he didn’t view me as some hideous creature.”

“If he had treated me that way, I would have eaten him.”

Atica flashed Harper a curious look.

Harper laughed. “Not really. We Gilatians are actually vegetarians, but just the thought cracks me up. Did you see the look on his face this morning when I bore my teeth at him?”

Atica giggled and leaned against Harper’s shoulder. “He was terrified.”

“Who was terrified?” a voice said behind the pair.

Atica turned and let out a squeal. “Ostare! I thought I’d lost you.”

“Nonsense. I am just down the hall from you in the main Astro labs. Who’d you terrify on your first day?”

“Some Lessthan named Hemsley,” Harper interjected.

“Oh, my manners! Ostare, this is Harper. She’s a Gilatian.”

Ostare smiled. “Nice to meet you, Harper. You are the second Gilatian I’ve met today.” She turned back to Atica. “Hemsley, huh? He’s an Orkamf. His father is the mayor of a small village just a few miles south of Hatash. I have his brother, Donsley in Astro 102 with me. Lazy, pathetic Lessthan.” Ostare tossed her long black hair and pushed the elevator button. “Lunch, ladies?”

The three climbed aboard the elevator. Atica kept her gaze on Ostare. Suddenly, she felt very small in the Marmoothian’s presence. For whatever reason, she thought Morethans were more tolerant, but she realized that they were just as intolerant of Lessthans as the Lessthans were of them. No wonder the two sides were constantly at odds with one another.


Andromeda Dreaming is a YA Science Fiction story. Young Atica has been marooned on an alien world, adopted by a family there. She longs for her parents who may or may not be alive, and Allura, her homewold in the Andromeda Galaxy. Will she ever see her parents again? Or will she have to accept a life on the foreign planet Marmooth where she fears she will never fit in?

Andromeda Dreaming ©2016-2017 Lori Carlson. All rights reserved. Permission must be granted to distribute or copy this serial (unless reblogging). Thank you.

In case you missed a part, click Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4

Or jump ahead to Part 6

Andromeda Dreaming – Part 4

Atica was sound asleep in her portable crystal chamber when she heard loud chatter coming from the main room of the hostel. She slowly opened the chamber door and crept out of the room she shared with Elanta. The chatter turned into a loud argument by the time she reached the end of the hallway. She peeked her head around the corner, careful not to be seen. The argument was about her.

“She has to go now,” Cristasha exclaimed as she paced about the room.

“And she will,” Mingule confirmed. “Just as soon as we get back home.”

“That won’t do. You weren’t there. You didn’t see the Morethans walking around with their white wigs and blue contacts.”

Gladia shrugged her shoulders. “Who cares who the Morethans mimic.”

“It wasn’t just the Morethans,” Timos said as he hung his head low. “Some Lessthans were also dressed up like Atica. This is all the Grand Master’s fault.”

Gladia clasped her hands over her mouth and inhaled sharply. She let out a deep sigh. “Did Elanta see them?”

Cristasha and Timos nodded their heads in unison.

“She was thrilled by it,” Cristasha said. “There was a stand set up with the wigs and contacts, a line of people stretched around the plaza to buy them.”

Gladia and Mingule exchanged glances for a long moment. They knew the inevitable had arrived. Atica was far too dangerous to keep around Elanta, even for a few more weeks. They nodded at one another and turned their attention to the other parents.

“She will leave tonight,” Mingule decided. “I will contact the Astroengineering Authorities and have them remove Atica’s things from the house.

Atica crept back to her room and crawled inside her crystal chamber. In a way, she was happy about the Morethans and Lessthans mimicking her. It showed a unifying force. A start of a revolution, perhaps. In another way, she was sad that she wouldn’t even get a chance to see the home she’d known for so long again. She was more than a little frightened. She was about to embark on a new journey, alone.

 

“Why do you have to go now?” Elanta asked as she sat on her cot.

Atica shrugged. “The parents said so.”

“It isn’t fair. You are going so far away. Why Astroengineering? You will be off-world. I won’t get to see you very often.” Elanta sat pouting and swinging her legs.

“I’ll visit as often as I am permitted. I promise.”

Atica finished tossing her clothes into a small suitcase, sat it aside and joined Elanta on the cot. She held the young one who’d become a sister to her and placed a kiss upon her forehead.

“It won’t be forever. Maybe when you are twelve, you can join me on Elune.”

Elanta shook her head. “I don’t like astroengineering. I am going to be an artisan,” she said with a big smile on her face.

Of course, she would, Atica thought to herself. Elanta had a way with clay and sculpturing. She would make fine sculptures and houseware. It was in her blood; Mata C was an artisan too.

“We’ll stay in touch. Now you’d better run off before the parents realize you are in here with me.”

Elanta gave Atica a hug and a kiss on the cheek. “I’ll never forget you,” she whispered as she skipped out of the room.

Atica remained seated. She stared around the room, the same room she’d shared with Elanta and Sasine for so many years at these birthday festivals. Sasine was away at the Maths Authority. Someday, she would be a famous mathematician. An asset to the family. Elanta would be a famous artisan. Another asset. All the boys studied at various Authorities. They’d be nautics, chemists, doctors, and engineers. The Klaufks would be proud of every one of their natural born children. Atica knew she would never receive praise for her chosen field, or for any other reason.

“Are you ready?” Dal M asked, standing in the doorway.

Atica nodded. She stood up, picked up her small suitcase and followed the Dal out of the hostel. They’d already boarded her portable crystal chamber. She walked out into the main room half-expecting a send-off, but the room was empty.

Dal M accompanied her through the dark streets of Hatash. Atica tried to memorize everything about the place. The plaza, the main square, the streets, and the children she’d met there for the past four years – Ito, the Lessthan boy who’d never befriended her, and Ostare, the Morethan girl who had. Their faces were burned into her memory.

As they crossed the landing field, Atica stared up at the large craft that would carry her to Elune, the smaller of the twin moons. Since the day her pod had landed on Marmooth, she’d never been off-world. The steel grey sky of night matched the color of the craft, and Atica’s mood. As they reached the craft’s entrance, Atica turned to say goodbye to Dal M, but he’d already turned around and was walking back toward the man streets of Hatash.

So, that was that. No send-off from the family and not even a goodbye from Dal M. Atica shouldn’t have been surprised, but for some reason, she was. Had she meant so little to them? Apparently. With her head hung low, she boarded the craft and took a seat far away from the others onboard. Most were older children and adults. Morethans, all of them. Atica was the youngest on the craft. She’d never felt so small nor so unwanted.

Fasten your seatbelts. A voice said over the intercom.

Atica fastened hers and curled up into a ball. She pulled the hood from her coat up over her head. It would be a five-hour trip. Atica figured she would just sleep through it. She closed her eyes, but the jolting of the craft prevented her from sleeping. Suddenly, she heard a voice.

“Atica! You’re here.”

Atica opened her eyes and there sat Ostare beside her. She wouldn’t be alone after all.


Andromeda Dreaming is a YA Science Fiction story. Young Atica has been marooned on an alien world, adopted by a family there. She longs for her parents who may or may not be alive, and Allura, her homewold in the Andromeda Galaxy. Will she ever see her parents again? Or will she have to accept a life on the foreign planet Marmooth where she fears she will never fit in?

Andromeda Dreaming ©2016-2017 Lori Carlson. All rights reserved. Permission must be granted to distribute or copy this serial (unless reblogging). Thank you.

In case you missed a part, click Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

Or jump ahead to Part 5

Andromeda Dreaming – Part Three

Atica returned to the hostel with Mata G and Dal M. Mata C and Dal T remained behind in the city square with the other children. Atica felt the tension as soon as they entered the hostel. She’d done something to displease the parents, but she hadn’t a clue what it was. For a long while, they said nothing to her. She sat in the portable crystal box alone, wishing for an explanation. After an hour of recharge, she couldn’t stand the silence any longer. She stepped out of the box and went to the kitchen.

“Have I done something wrong?” she asked the parents.

They sat at the table, sipping hot castil, a substance that resembled coffee, but had a sweet, not bitter taste. They didn’t look at her, only at one another.

Atica sighed. “Please, I want to know.”

“You were fraternizing with a Westerner,” Dal M finally said.

“So? She was my table mate. Should I have ignored her?”

Mata G looked up, her forehead wrinkled. “You don’t understand, Atica, and obviously, we have not taught you well enough. Your table mate is a Morethan. Lessthans do not fraternize with Morethans.”

“Morethans? Lessthans? I don’t understand.”

“I told you we should have explained this to her long before now,” said Dal M, looking at Mata G with his nose turned up.

Mata G waved her hand at him. “Shush. She was too young to understand and being an alien child, she still may not understand.”

“Stop talking about me as though I am not here,” Atica demanded with her hands on her hips.

Mata G patted the chair beside her. “Sit, childe, and I will explain.”

Atica did as instructed, but huffed as she sat down.

“Good girl,” Mata G said with a smile, ignoring Atica’s attitude. “What I am about to tell you is the history of our planet. Marmooth began as a slave planet, thousands of years ago. The original Marmoothians had a lovely golden brown skin and bright sparkling green eyes. The slaves were copper-colored with dull green eyes. They came from a neighboring planet that has long since been destroyed. Over time, the slaves revolted, gained their freedom, and became prominent people on this planet. They intermarried with the Marmoothians and bore children with them. Eventually, their DNA overtook the original Marmoothian’s DNA and we are the result of it.”

“So, you are all the same now. What’s wrong with that?”

Dal M crinkled his nose. “We are not all the same. We, the inhabitants of the Southern region, have less slave DNA than those from the rest of the planet. Our copper skin isn’t as bright as the others and our eyes are bright green. We’ve maintained this by only marrying and bearing children with other Lessthans.”

“I still don’t see what this has to do with me.”

“Social order, Atica. See, I told you she wouldn’t understand,” Mata G quibbled with Dal M.

“Give her a chance, Gladia.”

“Fine. Let me explain further. You are the adopted daughter of a Lessthan. You cannot be seen interacting with a Morethan. It disrupts our social standing on the planet. Do you understand?”

“It’s your way of remaining snobs,” Atica tossed out with a roll of her eyes. “There’s something I don’t understand then. If the Grand Master knows about this social order, then why did he put a Morethan at my table? I am assuming that Ito is a Lessthan, correct?” Atica recalled that Ito’s skin was less coppery and his eyes a brilliant green.

“Yes, Ito is. And we are very upset with the Grand Master. For decades, he has tried to undermine the social order. He has it in his head that we Lessthans need to get out of our bubble, as he calls it, and socialize with the rest of the planet. What can you expect from a Morethan, though? He brazenly mixed up the children this year.”

“Let me see if I’ve gotten this right. Because I am an adopted child, even though I am not even of this world, I cannot fraternize with a Morethan. Even a female Morethan, because it would disrupt your social standings. By this logic, what does that even make me? I am not a Morethan or a Lessthan.”

Dal M nodded his head. “You have it all correct, childe. Unfortunately, you are a Nonthan, and we must keep you guarded from the Morethan at all cost. If your mind became filled with their global agenda, it could infect the Lessthan.”

Atica let out a deep sigh. “This is bigoted snobbery. What happens when we leave your charge and go off to Trade Schools? Surely this social order doesn’t remain intact.”

Mata G shook her head. “We start from birth with our offspring, instilling in them our ways and values. Our children do not go to trade school until they reach Entignastia. By then, reason has guided them for twelve years, and they will carry it forward into their lives away from us.”

“In other words, you’ve brainwashed them,” Atica said defiantly.

Dal M glared at her. “Call it what you will, childe, but this is our way of life. You don’t have to like it, but you do have to obey it.”

“What difference does a few days make though? You are sending me away before I even reach Entignastia. I’ll have no choice but to mingle with the Morethan then.”

“We know that,” Dal M began. “You’ve already influenced Elanta with your Andromedan ways. We cannot stop that, but we will not have you infect her with Morethan philosophy before you leave. She is still too impressionable, too naïve. You will not speak to her about what you and that Morethan discussed. Is that clear?” he concluded with another glare.

Atica lowered her eyes. She understood far too well now. Elanta was only eight. She still had four years of indoctrinating from the parents. They still had time to undo everything from Atica’s presence with the family, but only if Atica left now. This had less to do with their running feud between the Morethan and Lessthan and more to do about her being from another world with different values.

“It’s crystal clear,” she finally whispered, knowing that the word crystal would tell the parents just how well she understood.

“Good,” said Mata G with a bright smile on her face. “Now, let’s talk about trade schools.”

Dal M clapped his hands together. “Yes. Where does Atica want to go?”

Atica remembered the conversation she had with Ostare. She had to persuade the parents to send her to Astroengineering. “Anywhere but Astroengineering,” she pleaded.

“Why not there?” Mata G asked. “I’ve seen you tinkering with things. You would do well there.”

Atica shook her head. “My father was an astroengineer. I don’t think I could bear studying the same field that got him killed.”

“Nonsense,” Dal M said. “It wasn’t his field of study that got him and your mother killed, it was a raid ship. It might do you some good to study his field. Bring you closer to him. What did your mother do?”

“She was a terraformer.”

“Well, I think you should begin at Astroengineering and if after a few years of training, you still feel uncomfortable with it, we can send you to Terraforma. How does that sound?”

Atica pouted. “Do I have any other choice?”

Mata G smiled at her. “You always have choices, childe, but you have engineering in your blood. At least give it a try.”

“Fine. I’ll try,” Atica bellowed, throwing her hands up in the air.

“Good. It’s all settled then. I will contact the Astroengineering Authority in the morning. Go finish recharging now,” Dal M decided, a smug look upon his face.

Atica lowered her head and nodded. She got up and went back to her crystal box, grinning from ear to ear from her deception.


Andromeda Dreaming is a YA Science Fiction story. Young Atica has been marooned on an alien world, adopted by a family there. She longs for her parents who may or may not be alive, and Allura, her homewold in the Andromeda Galaxy. Will she ever see her parents again? Or will she have to accept a life on the foreign planet Marmooth where she fears she will never fit in?

Andromeda Dreaming ©2016-2017 Lori Carlson. All rights reserved. Permission must be granted to distribute or copy this serial (unless reblogging). Thank you.

In case you missed a part, click Part 1, Part 2

Or jump ahead to Part 4

Andromeda Dreaming – Part Two

Birthdays rolled around far too quickly on Marmooth. It hardly felt like a year to Atica, and in truth, if she’d been aboard the Dilectia or on Allura, she’d still be half her age, but since she was on Marmooth, she followed the Marmoothian calendar. It still made little sense to her. Four turns of the solar cycle marked a year. Andromedan’s used a lunar calendar. It was more accurate.

Today marked Atica’s tenth solar birthday. With each passing solar year, her memories of lunar years faded. Had she been on Marmooth a little over two years lunar or definitely four years solar? Braxas tried to keep it all straight for her, but his advice made less sense to her these days. She was becoming a Marmoothian, if in name only.

All birthdays were celebrated the same. No one’s birthday was more or less important than anyone else’s and for that very reason, Marmoothians came from near and far to celebrate. Atica shared her solar birthday with a hundred other Marmoothians, one of the largest number of celebrators. Hatash, the largest city on the small planet, hosted these events. It took three nights’ travel for the Klaufk family to reach its border. They spent the night in a hostel outside the city, a cold, damp place that invigorated Atica, but left her adopted family in misery. They preferred the warmth of their southern township. Since birthdays were only for children up to their solar twenty-first year, they only traveled this route and stayed in the same hostel seven times a year, two times for their two sets of twins, four times for the other four children and once for Atica, but they only complained when it was Atica’s journey. Their complaints were always in hushed whispers, but unlike Marmoothians, Andromedan’s had acute hearing. Atica heard each harsh word, from the Matas, the Dals, and all her adopted siblings. Atica knew her place. She would always be the odd one, the adopted one, the strange, ghostly child of an alien world.

Atica had no advocates on her journeys and stays in Hatash. Braxas’ signal wasn’t strong enough and he couldn’t travel with her. She always felt so alone on her birthday. Ten marked a special time for Marmoothians. They were no longer ibishbies, babies. If their parents decided, a ten-year-old could be sent to trade school. Most parents waited until their children reached Entignastia, twelve years of age, the age of reasoning, but the Klaufk Dals made it clear to Atica that as soon as they returned to their township, she would be sent away and earn her share for the family that had sacrificed so much for her. Today was not a day of celebration for Atica.

Mata G helped Atica dress that morning. She wore the traditional birthday clothes for females, a long sweeping grey dress with a cream-colored, crocheted half-sweater over top, grey slippers and a halo of purple flowers that rested upon her head. The clothes were striking on the copper girls of Marmooth, but they paled on Atica, leaving her washed out. Just another reminder of who she was. Once properly attired, the Matas guided Atica through the city streets to the center of town. They followed the procession of all the celebrators. First, they were presented to the Mayor, who crinkled her nose up at Atica, but politely acknowledged her with a nod of her bejeweled head. Next, they were presented to the Grand Master, who was less of a snob and embraced Atica as he did all the birthday children. And lastly, they were led to tables filled with gifts, cakes, and punch. For the first three years, Atica had always sat with a boy named Ito, but today, she sat next to a girl named Ostare. She glanced around at the other tables, but Ito was nowhere to be found. Her heart sank a little. They weren’t exactly friends and he hadn’t always been friendly to her, but he was familiar. Atica preferred consistency now. Soon, her life would be in chaos.

Ostare leaned in, cupped her hand over her mouth and whispered, “You must be the adopted alien.”

Atica sighed. Why did everyone state the obvious? She so wanted to be rude, but knew better. Any misbehavior would result in strict punishment by the Dals. Atica merely nodded.

“I’d give anything to have your hair.”

This startled Atica. No one had ever said that to her. She’d always been teased for her appearance. She turned and stared into the deep green eyes of the Marmoothian girl. “You would?”

Ostare reached out and ran her fingers through Atica’s white locks. “Oh yes. Your hair is beautiful, silky to the touch. I envy you.”

Atica turned her head away and lowered her eyes. “Believe me, you wouldn’t want my hair. The price is too great.”

“You are from the southern region, yes?”

Atica nodded again.

“I figured. They are so xenophobic there. I wish you had landed closer to my region in the West. We are more forgiving there. My family hosted an alien child before I was born. He was from a place called Earth. A funny little boy with a mop of red hair, peach skin with freckles and a delightful accent. He said he came from the country of Ireland. We have holovids of his stay with the family. He was eventually rescued, about a year before my birth.”

Atica imagined what it would be like to be accepted. A grin creased her face. So not all Marmoothians were as cruel as the Klaufks or those where she lived. This brought a small amount of joy to her heart.

Ostare glanced at the purple flowers in Atica’s hair. “You’ve turned ten.”

“Yes,” Atica said in a low voice.

“I suppose your adopted parents are eager to send you off to trade school now.”

“As soon as we return home.”

“I am not surprised. That will relinquish some of their responsibility toward you.”

Atica hadn’t thought about that. She would be under the supervision of the Trade School Authority. Her heart sunk and she sighed. Just another group of people to discriminate against her.

“Don’t be so despondent, Atica. Some of the Masters and Mistresses of the TSA are very nice. Have you decided on a trade yet?”

“Not really, Sasine and Elanta, my adopted sisters, said I wouldn’t have to choose until this year, then I would have to write a report about my interest, deliver the report to the Dals and get their agreement.”

“Dals?”

“Sorry, it is a term from my homeworld. The papas.”

“Oh yes. Sounds lovely. Will the Dals force you into just any ole trade school since you haven’t chosen?”

Atica shrugged her shoulders. “They haven’t said.”

“What would you like to study?”

“Astroengineering.”

Ostare’s eyes lit up. “Really? That’s what I will be study. Oh, you must convince the Dals to let you.”

Atica studied Ostare a bit closer now. A halo of yellow flowers encircled her head. Twelve years of age. Of course, she would be going to trade school. It would be glorious to have an advocate at the trade school. Could she convince the Dals to send her there?

“Maybe,” she finally said. “But if they knew how badly I wanted it, they would send me somewhere else out of spite.”

Ostare giggled and hugged her. “Then you, my dear pishku, must convince them that it is the last place you want to go.”

Atica teared up. She’d heard the term pishku from her adopted siblings. It meant friend, or more accurately, soul of my soul. No one had ever referred to Atica in that manner.

Ostare pulled away from Atica and looked at her tear-soaked face. “Why are you crying, Atica?”

“You… you called me pishku.”

“And we are. From this day, forth.” Ostare embraced her once more. “Memorize this. Zet2Ostare. That is my interstellar code. You do have a zetaphone?”

Atica shook her head.

“No worries, you will get one at the trade school. Still, it will be good to memorize it in case the Dals send you to a different trade school. We will never lose contact, and definitely not over the Dals’ xenophobic cruelty.”

Atica whispered the code repeatedly in her head. She would also give it to Braxas when she returned home. Her pod would travel with her to trade school, so she would have Braxas with her. That alone gave her a small amount of peace.

Atica and Ostare continued to chat as they opened their gifts. They received the standard gifts from the State, appropriate for their ages. Tablets filled with books, games, and puzzles. Their families also left them gifts. The Klaufks gave Atica a small globe filled with shiny seafish surrounded by the Marmoothian ocean and crystals dazzling in the planet’s pink sky. It was a kinder gift than Atica had expected. Ostare received a shiny silver dress. She felt the love and care Ostare’s family felt for their daughter. It radiated from the expensive, delicate material. They ate their cakes and drank the punch, all the while continuing their conversation. As midday approached, Atica had to leave the company of her new and sole pishku, but only after she explained to her about how the sun affected her skin. They stood and hugged, vowing to meet up again at sunset for the ending fireworks show. A show Atica would not get to see.


Andromeda Dreaming is a YA Science Fiction story. Young Atica has been marooned on an alien world, adopted by a family there. She longs for her parents who may or may not be alive, and Allura, her homewold in the Andromeda Galaxy. Will she ever see her parents again? Or will she have to accept a life on the foreign planet Marmooth where she fears she will never fit in?

Andromeda Dreaming ©2016-2017 Lori Carlson. All rights reserved. Permission must be granted to distribute or copy this serial (unless reblogging). Thank you.

In case you missed a part, click Part 1

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Andromeda Dreaming – Part One

“Where’s home?” Atica asked as she rubbed her eyes and gazed out the window.

Braxas pointed to the sky. “Just there. See the bright star in the center? Now look just a bit to your left. That’s your homeworld, Allura, in the Andromeda Galaxy.”

“Will I ever see it again?”

“Someday. Don’t despair, Atica,” Braxas assured her as he guided her back to bed. “Sleep well. I will see you again soon.”

Atica crawled into her bed and grabbed her stuffed bunny. As she snuggled into her covers, she watched Braxas wink at her and then fade away.

Like so many other orphans scattered across the Universe, Atica had been aboard the Dilectia, an enormous expedition ship exploring deep space when it came under attack. The parents placed their children in pods and cast them out into the vast expanse, much like seedlings from an Earthly dandelion, dispersed by solar winds. At the age of six, Atica landed on Marmooth, a small planet occupied by bipeds, like herself. She’d been accepted into a caring family consisting of two mothers and two fathers and their eight children, but Atica never felt a part of them. She was not a Marmoothian and never would be.

Atica’s only salvation was the nightly visits from Braxas, a hologram who’d been placed aboard the computer on her pod. Unfortunately, he was only a Model-2 ATH – Andromedan Tutor Hologram – and had just enough power for a few hours of evening courses. He taught her all about the known Universe, about Allura, and about her parents. All things to keep her memory barely intact. When he left her each night, Atica imagined him returning to the pod that still sat in the back yard of the house she occupied with the Klaufk family. He’d be kicked back in a reclined seat, sipping a fizzy with his body hooked into the matrix to recharge. It was a silly story she told herself. She knew full well that when Braxas disappeared each night, he became the matrix, nothing but bits and bytes of data.

As she closed her eyes, Atica thought about her parents. They were both engineers and had been so proud for the chance to serve aboard the Dilectia. Atica had only been three when they’d boarded the ship, but she remembered so clearly playing in the zero-gravity school room while her parents worked. A tear fell from her clinched eyes as she recalled the horrible explosions that pelted the ship minutes before she was cast off by her mother. She could still see her mother’s red, tear-soaked face as she said her final goodbyes.

“If we survive, we will come for you,” her mother had promised as she buckled Atica into the small seat. “We love you, Atica.”

It had been three years. Atica no longer had hope that she would see her parents again. Somedays, she feared she would never return to Allura either. Had the Captain not sent a distress signal back to Andromeda? Her pod had a tracking chip in it. Surely someone would come for her, even if her parents hadn’t survived.

These were thoughts that kept young Atica awake at night. Thoughts that she dragged around all day like ghosts. Her mind recalled the mournful eulogy the Captain said each time someone had been killed or lost in space. Words she could never forget. Words she repeated each night as she drifted off to sleep.

We mourn the loss of…. And cast back to the Universe our brethren. Those who came from stardust and now return to stardust. May the light of Andromeda bring your spirits home again.

As she fell into a deep sleep, Atica wished to be lost, to be stardust, riding the solar winds back to Andromeda.

 

Each morning began the same. Her adopted sisters, Sasine and Elanta, who were close to Atica’s age, would jump on her bed to awaken her. They were the only three too young to join a trade school and remained home with the mothers. Atica still couldn’t bring herself to call them Mama, so instead she called them Mata G and Mata C, mata being a word of endearment on Allura. G stood for Gladia and C stood for Cristasha, the women’s given names. They’d both accepted Atica’s words for them. Even Sasine and Elanta used them on occasion. The fathers weren’t as accepting. They didn’t like being called Dal M or Dal T and insisted upon being called Papa. Atica tried every way she could to keep from addressing them, often directing all her words to the Matas.

“Mata G says we can help her in the garden this morning,” Sasine informed Atica as she helped braid Atica’s long white hair.

Elanta rummaged through the closet. “We should all wear matching shorts and tops. Then we’ll be the same.”

Atica stared at herself in the mirror. She would never be the same as Sasine and Elanta. They had copper skin, long black hair, and deep green eyes. Atica was as pale as the light blue seas of Marmooth, and with her cobalt eyes and her white hair, she stood out regardless of how she dressed. Despite the agony of the reminded contrast, she smiled at Elanta and nodded her head. She couldn’t refuse Sasine or Elanta anything.

With their matching outfits and braided hair, the three clambered down the stairs and into the kitchen. They expected to see Mata C at the stove cooking breakfast, but she was nowhere to be found and there was no food laid out for them. Sasine and Elanta didn’t seem at all bothered by their missing mother, but Atica fretted and paced the floor.

“Don’t worry, Atica. You know our mamas disappear sometimes,” Sasine said as she dragged a chair to a cupboard, climbed onto it and gathered three bowls.

Atica sighed. “But never at breakfast.”

Elanta gathered cereal and milk and sat them on the table. She glided by Atica, patted her on the shoulder and chuckled. “Our poor sisling doesn’t like change.”

Atica cringed at the word sisling which meant adopted sister. It reminded her once more that she was not a part of the Klaufk family. It was true though. She didn’t like change. She ignored Elanta’s teasing and walked out onto the cobblestone patio, looked over the edge of the wall and out into the garden. Mata G was nowhere to be found either.

“They’re both missing,” she announced as she rejoined Sasine and Elanta in the kitchen. She plopped down in a chair, frowning.

Sasine poured the green and purple cereal into each of the three bowls, covered it with milk and sat a bowl in front of Atica. “Eat. They’ll be back when they get back.”

In all this time with the Matas, Atica still didn’t understand why they disappeared periodically. Usually it would be just one or the other, but since Sasine turned ten a week prior, they’d given her more responsibilities. It was apparent that now she was also their babysitter.

“Aren’t you just a tiny bit curious?” Atica asked, staring at Sasine and lifting a spoonful of cereal to her mouth.

Sasine shrugged her shoulders. “I will know soon enough. No sense in rushing my childhood.”

They’d had similar conversations in the past, but this was the first time Sasine had alluded that she too would go through this. Did all the Marmoothian women disappear for a bit?

“How do you know you will know soon?”

“Our mamas told me.”

“But they didn’t tell you why?”

“No.”

“And you didn’t think to ask?”

Sasine sighed. “I am not as curious as you are, Atica. When it is my time to know, I will know.”

Elanta slurped her milk and then looked up at Atica, grinning wide with a milk moustache. “I will know some day too.”

“So, this is a Marmoothian thing.”

Sasine nodded. “Our papas disappear too. We just don’t see it since they work all the time.”

“Will I disappear?”

Sasine and Elanta glanced at one another for a long moment, and then with scrunched up faces, they looked back at Atica. In unison, they replied, “I don’t know.”

Atica folded her arms across her chest and leaned back in her chair. “I’ll never get used to this place,” she said with a sigh.

 

The three toiled in the garden all morning. Sasine tended the matarask fruit trees which yielded a sweet, honey-like purplish-blue fruit. The limbs had to be pruned often or they would entangle themselves with the other fruit trees and bear poisonous fruit. Elanta pulled weeds along the rows of lettuces and other greens. She enjoyed being close to the ground so she could play with various beetles and worms. This meant that Atica got the nastiest of jobs – wheeling barrels of manure and water to the garden and dispersing them.

Every now and again, Atica stopped, wiped her brow, and looked up into the pink sky. She tried to imagine what the sky looked like on Allura, but she’d only seen pictures of home on the vast holowalls in the suite she’d shared with her parents on the Dilectia. Her memories of then were fading with each passing day. Had the skies been periwinkle? She struggled to remember, but failed. She’d have to ask Braxas. It was nearing high-noon which meant Atica would have to go inside. Her skin couldn’t handle the heat of midday.

“I’m going in now,” she yelled at Sasine, who merely waved in acknowledgement.

By the time Atica reached the shade of the house, her skin burned. She’d stayed out too long. She went up to her room and walked into the small closet-like chamber the Klaufk Dals had built for her. She closed the door, sat down on the coolness of the crystal bench, and let out a relieved sigh. This small floor-to-ceiling crystal room was all she had to connect her to Allura. She closed her eyes. In her mind, she could hear Braxas speaking.

The cities of crystals. Streets, buildings, even the saunas, all filled with crystals. The mountains of crystals beaten by the clear aquamarine oceans. That is Allura, my sweet Atica. That is home.

Atica curled up on the bench and fell into a deep sleep, dreaming of Allura, far away in Andromeda.


Andromeda Dreaming is a YA Science Fiction story. Young Atica has been marooned on an alien world, adopted by a family there. She longs for her parents who may or may not be alive, and Allura, her homewold in the Andromeda Galaxy. Will she ever see her parents again? Or will she have to accept a life on the foreign planet Marmooth where she fears she will never fit in?

Andromeda Dreaming ©2016-2017 Lori Carlson. All rights reserved. Permission must be granted to distribute or copy this serial (unless reblogging). Thank you.

Jump ahead to Part 2