The Kesher Chronicles #1
It is 2,241 years after the human race resumed counting. America has undergone a prior century of tyranny. The country is slowly finding its way again under the leadership of President Schulberhe. While no one doubts the good he has already brought the Nation, others question his motives. He is a foreigner, after all, hailing from the war-torn Island of Artemisia. When Janice Smith's mother is suddenly targeted as a national threat and attacked in their home, the twelve-year-old girl escapes. While evading the agents who pursue her, Janice stumbles upon an underground society living outside the System's absolute control. They have been watching the influx of Artemisians for years and stand ready to resist the President's unfolding plans.
Streaks of pink and gold split the darkness as dawn peeked over the horizon. The hush that blanketed the countryside offered comfort to the children’s ragged nerves. It was twenty-five miles of wild and unclaimed landscape from the Crater to the Oklahoma Border. The road they followed now was one not well traveled or known. It was more of a glorified dirt path that meandered through the thick grasses and scattered thickets.
“Steve! Wait up!”
The boy slowed his horse to a trot, then stopped altogether as he tossed an impatient glance behind him.
“Hurry up, Janice.”
“I’m coming, I’m coming.”
Chestnut made her way forward, ever the cheerful and easygoing mare. When she’d made it to a stop beside Steve’s mount, the boy resumed the lead.
He said, “You know, for a Horse Thief, you’re sure not a capable rider. Can’t you move any faster?”
Janice rode ungracefully beside him.READ MORE
“Leave me alone. I’m getting real sore, okay?… And, you know what? For a Four-Eyes, you’re sure not observant because if you’d look right in front of you, you’d see that we’re already here.”
Steve paused. Looking up at the sprawling view ahead, he felt his heart drop to his stomach. A series of white, octagonal poles stood erect at precisely distanced intervals. They were each approximately ten feet high and followed the Red River as it bordered Texas and Oklahoma. They ran in this manner for miles in either direction, until they disappeared long into the distance.
As the sunlight intensified around them, the children listened to the crackle of electricity. Laser-induced plasma channels created a webbed barricade between each pole. Steve guessed the main Gates, that allowed rare access across the Border, would be few and far between. On the most traveled highways and near the cities, law enforcement would be able to stop any infraction at the Border. Here, so far out in the wilderness, the police would not have enough time to find the children once they’d gotten across. It gave the boy some comfort just to know that.
Still, though the barricade in front of them had to be over fifty years old, it crackled with alarming power. Surely it was not kept in the best repair, compared to other points nearer the Gates. But it was yet a most formidable and dangerous thing to cross.
Steve looked over at the girl beside him.
“Well, okay, we’re here now. What do you suggest we do?”
“Don’t be so sarcastic. You didn’t have to come, you know.”
“I couldn’t just let you go off by yourself.”
“I made it to your house on my own. I can go a little farther without you and do just fine.”
Steve wasn’t so sure. He crossed his arms and sighed.
“Well, then, General Kamikaze? What’s the next move?”
Janice didn’t respond. She would hate to admit to him that she didn’t know. Instead, she ignored him.
“Why did you come along anyway?” she said. “You realize you’re only putting yourself in danger? You’ll be a Border-Crossing terrorist now, too.”
Steve watched the dizzying plasma channels flicker in front of them before he answered.
“Look, I know you probably have everything figured out, and maybe you don’t need anybody taggin’ along and getting in the way, leastwise me. Contrary to what you may think, I have better things to do than help you pull a silly stunt like this. And I don’t know what possessed me to leave my life and my parents behind to follow you across this stupid Border.
“But,” and he turned to look into her fervent almond-brown eyes, “you’re in just as much danger as I am now -- more, actually. Nobody should have to face something like this alone.”
Janice allowed her tone to soften a bit.
“Just don’t go feeling sorry for me, Four-Eyes.”
Steve rolled his eyes at this and urged his stallion forward. He paced alongside the crackling barricade and followed it for a few feet. Worried, Janice scurried after him.
“What are you doing, Steve?”
He lifted a hand to say that he’d heard her but was in no state of mind at the moment to answer.
Steve studied the details of each pole closely. The crackling web of electricity leaped between each of them, and he muttered to himself as he went along.
“The plasma channels go all the way to the ground and then all the way to the top of the fence… I don’t see any way to slip past this Border without getting seriously hurt…”
In the midst of his focused wanderings, Steve found his stallion’s hooves splashing in the water. They stumbled down the bank of the river, and, startled to awareness, Steve sat up straight to get a good look around him.
“Hey, Janice! Look!”
Steve guided his horse back up the river bank to the edge of it where Janice remained. He pointed at the spot in the barricade where he and his stallion had just been standing.
“See that?” he said. “Up until this point in the Border, the fence was on the solid ground on our side of the river. Now, look to the west of us. The fence is on solid ground on the Oklahoma side. And right here, right where we’re standing, the fence crosses the river. Or, more accurately, the river is winding back and forth beneath the straight line of the Border. They’ve had to compensate with the placement of the fence.”
Janice struggled to understand why he seemed so optimistic all of a sudden.
“So what? There’s still no way to get through those active plasma channels. And I don’t want to be near electricity and water.”
“No, no, you’re not getting it. Plasma is formed in the air or some atmospheric gas. The fence won’t be operative under the water’s surface. As long as they didn’t somehow barricade the opening in the space underneath the water, we might just have a chance…”
Janice stared at him, her eyes widening with understanding.
“But how can you be sure?”
Steve jumped down from his horse.
He said, “Only one way to find out. Wait here. I’ll be right back.”
Frightened, Janice dismounted and shouted after him. But, seeing that his mind was made up, she remained at the edge of the riverbank with the two horses in tow.
He waded into the water. When he was nearer than he liked to the crackling barricade, the water reached just above his hips. Securing his glasses in his shirt pocket, Steve drew a full breath of air and dipped below the water’s surface. Janice fidgeted as she waited for several silent moments.
When he resurfaced, she gave a sigh of relief. He climbed up the sloping shore, and his face beamed as he panted with excitement.
“I was right,” Steve laughed. “They didn’t count on anyone finding these spots where the fence crosses the river’s path. Not way out here, or after so many decades. Beneath the surface, it’s just open water. We can swim under here and cross to the Oklahoma shore.”
Janice’s jaw dropped in amazement and tender appreciation. Steve seemed to read her emotions.
Smiling, he took her by the hand and led her to the spongy shore. He gave a sudden cry that the horses seemed to understand well. He watched them gallop across the countryside and knew they’d find their own way home.
Satisfied, he turned back toward the buzzing fence with Janice at his side. Hand in hand, the two waded into the river. He kept her close when he felt her tremble.
When they were near enough, Janice said, “This is actually going to work. We’ll be Border-Crossers…”
Steve shrugged nonchalantly.
“You did it once, we can do it a second time -- together. Ready?”
Janice nodded, mimicking Steve’s actions as he led her to inhale. Then, before she knew what was happening, they dropped beneath the water’s surface. The old river was murky, and their frantic paddling stirred the silt into a muddy fog around them. Janice floundered and began to panic. But she felt Steve tug her along behind him as he swam between the nearest pair of poles.
Janice kept close to the riverbed below. The thought of floating too close to the plasma channels, flashing mere inches above them, frightened her. She allowed Steve to lead her, and, in another moment, they arched skyward and broke to the surface and the sun’s warmth.
Janice heaved for breath and shook from the chill of the experience. Just ahead of her, Steve laughed and splashed in the water for joy. He looked back at the barricade and the riverbank they had left while he paddled toward the opposite shore.
“We did it, Janice!” he cried. “We’re in Oklahoma!”
At the brightness in his voice, Janice allowed herself a smile as she followed him the rest of the way across the river. They reached dry land and took a moment to sun themselves in the grass before continuing their journey.
When they were ready, they stood and began to meander inland, continuing along a northerly route.
Janice’s features regained a hint of their former hardness as they walked.
She said, “Now we’ve just got to figure out how to find Oleta.”
Steve was unwilling to be dismayed so easily after their recent victory.
“Pa said it’s about forty miles from here, right?”
“That’s an awful long walk. Believe me, I know that ten miles are hard enough as it is.”
The two continued in thoughtful silence. They allowed their pace to ease as they considered their best options. But, after several uncertain moments, Janice gave a sudden yelp and reached out for Steve’s hand. She found herself stumbling over a slender rail of metal planted in the grass.
Steadying her, Steve’s pace slowed. He bent to study the rectangular cup that hugged the ground. It ran long into the distance, in both directions from their position. He observed it disappearing into the rippling grass. Janice waited for him to speak his mind. At last, he spoke, his eyes shining.
“Hey. I think I have an idea…”
“What is it?”
His face scrunched cleverly.
“There’s an old, regional, maglev freighter route that runs from Dallas to Little Rock. The farmers of Delphey use that maglev to transport their goods to regional distributors. Now, if my memory serves me, that same freighter track splits at Idabel, Oklahoma to run northward to Oklahoma City. The split is right about at the Border. It has to, to service the three neighboring States. Idabel’s got to be around these parts somewhere!”
He pointed at the slender rail running at their feet.
“Look, this is part of the track. We can follow it and see where it ends up. If we’re lucky, we can catch a ride on the northbound freighter.”
Steve took Janice’s hand again and led the way across the flat landscape. They bounded through shallow woods and grassy meadows, with the maglev track ever at their side.
Janice looked up at the boy as they ran, and she smiled. She wasn’t too proud to admit that she was truly glad to have him along.COLLAPSE
LinFlo on Amazon wrote:
In an America of the distant future, Janice Smith is a fairly ordinary thirteen year old girl with a decent life. Not too rich, not too poor, lives with her mother, with whom she is very close, and while not exceedingly popular, is comfortable socially. Her mother is a political activist who speaks out against the government’s monumental levels of control over the people. Social levels and travel restrictions mean that only the most wealthy and influential have any true free will or options for their lives. Unfortunately, this has gotten the attention of the wrong people. Janice comes home from school to find armed unknowns spiriting her mother away, and Janice must flee for her life and her freedom through a world where everything is monitored and it is unknown who can be trusted.
Janice’s journey is very exciting and without giving spoilers, all I can say is that the manner in which events progress is extremely well-orchestrated. Sarah Wallin-Huff has provided something that this book-lover finds only too rarely: a unique experience. That may not sound like the highest praise, but it is. Her world is very well-developed. The future tech is innovative and conceivable. This book is highly recommended, and I cannot wait for the next one to be released.
Wetdryvac on Amazon wrote:
Imaginative, compelling, intelligent storyline. Quite engaging! I'm looking forward to Sarah's next book!
Not a style of writing I usually go in for - I'm for more prone towards David Weber's occasional pedantry - but this made a nifty change of pace from that, and an interesting variation on faith, or fate, as well. A good expansion of horizons, in terms of plot and style, and I'm glad I picked it up.