Questions of Faith

The Kesher Chronicles #2

Book Cover: Questions of Faith
Part of the The Kesher Chronicles series:
Editions:Kindle: $ 4.99
ISBN: 9781520296821
Pages: 385
Paperback: $ 13.25
ISBN: 9781520296821
Size: 5.80 x 8.30 in
Pages: 381

Twenty-three years after surviving the Scandal of 2241, Janice Parc lives out her adulthood in pleasant normalcy with her husband and three children. The family gets the chance to visit the village of Hiskitan in northernmost Artemisia. Janice knows she must face her memories with courage if her heart is to move on. So she agrees to the journey for the sake of her family and for her own growth.

Unfortunately, the depth of the Artemisians’ pain is too great to ignore. The last living relative of Agent David Rifadoft will not allow her suffering, nor that of her people, to go unanswered. By her guidance, the adventure that began with such hope will escalate into a cycle of tragedy. In the effort to rescue Janice and her family, Special Officer Steven Roberts abandons his post at the Experimental Colony on Ares. He returns to Earth, and the darker truths behind their past begin to unfold.

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“Rachel, this is Bryen Sedreth. He accompanied your brother and Maxamillion Schulberhe to America. He is also responsible for my own acceptance into the sacred Mission. I was rather young at the time.”

Bryen said, “I heard around town that David’s little sister had returned home. I had to see this for myself.”

Rachel wished she could partake in Xavier’s admiration for this man. Bryen’s austere demeanor kept her on edge while his gaze bore down on her. She straightened to her full height in response and matched his inquisitive stare.

Bryen soon relented and allowed her a genuine smile. He extended his hand to her in formal greeting.

“The little sister is no longer so little. It is you, Rachel Rifadoft. You have your brother’s eyes, and I perceive you have also his quiet strength and intuition.”

“Thank you,” she said, humbled by his words.

He continued brusquely. “So, you know of eda Haerjiteh.”

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“Yes.”

Bryen smiled, a little surprised by the firmness of her response. “And now you wish to continue your brother’s legacy?”

“I do. I believe we are all entitled to victory. We must continue what David started, or soon perish.”

Bryen glared at her. “And what makes you think that you are the one to do this? To be the next great leader of the Warriors, only because you bear the Rifadoft name?”

Rachel could not answer at first, startled by his curtness.

“What makes you think we haven’t been continuing the work of the Mission already? Long before you even realized there was a life outside that American hospital?”

“Bryen, sepeldre... We meant nothing by it...”

But Rachel stopped Xavier’s plea short. Instead, she leaned toward Bryen with striking authority.

“Scattered attacks at the American borders and random strikes on the Island's tourist hot-spots are not what I, nor David, would call the work of the Mission.”

Bryen bristled against her effrontery. “You dare to assume what David would do now? I was beside him as his chief Warrior during the whole of it. I served him faithfully—…”

“…—and now he is dead.”

Flexing his might, the old Warrior reached toward a silver dagger hidden in his belt. He rested a hand on its hilt, but Rachel peered at him, unfaltering and unafraid. There was something in her gaze that made him pause, and he frowned at her gravely.

“If you have any hope of resuming David’s work, you must have the consent of the Warriors.”

“I agree. My understanding is that they are divided. Some follow you in your foolhardy attempts. Others have tried to put the whole matter behind them. But by uniting again as at the first, we will be unstoppable.”

Bryen held his tongue and kept a wary eye on her. He thought for a moment, then answered.

“I will assemble them all tonight. Meet us at the Temple if you are serious about this, Rachel Rifadoft.”

With that, he turned to leave. When he had disappeared into the night, Xavier looked at Rachel with amazement.

“Your brother was famous for apprehending things impossible for him to know. He was greatly respected and feared. I see you following in his steps, Rachel.”

Rachel lowered her gaze with humility under the burden of her brother’s memory. She leaned back in her chair and waited for the fateful meeting to come.

~ * ~

...Men and women numbering eighty strong surrounded Rachel in the worship hall. Hearing her passionate cry, they embraced her with tears of elation. The Warrior Remnant accepted her unanimously, for she spoke with commitment, sincerity, and reason. They allowed her words to reignite their zeal, to revive their faith in David’s Mission and the strength of their heritage. As Rachel stood among the dynamic multitude, she beamed with joy. Her heart soared at the sense of belonging.

Xavier stood behind the cauldron on the scarlet-covered dais to watch with pride. As the fervor had begun to die, the Remnant made to return to their homes. Bryen moved to join them on the way out when Rachel stopped him.

“Bryen, thank you for gathering the Remnant.”

“Don’t thank me yet. You may have won over these nostalgic hearts with your sheer enthusiasm. But you've yet to persuade me that you have any notion of how you’ll deliver on these lofty promises you gave tonight.”

Rachel smiled. “That is why I’m leaving the grunt work to you. No one knows these people and their strengths better than you. I want you to delegate our preparations to each according to those fittest for the task.

“The first order of business is to research America’s current system in operation. Look for any history behind the growth of the Assembly of Elites. Also look for any connection from it to what the Americans call the Scandal of 2241. We can’t very well jump into the Mission again without really knowing what might be waiting for us.”

Bryen allowed her a modest smile. “I can work with that. I know just the person to steer us in the right direction…”

He gave her a polite nod before turning to leave. Once the Warriors had cleared the Temple, Xavier approached Rachel. He was hesitant to disturb the perfect stillness that enfolded them now.

“Rachel,” he finally said. “There is a matter that begs your attention.”

She looked at him with concern as he explained.

“I did not want to trouble you with this, mea detta, not after all that you’ve been through today. So I did not say anything at first. While managing the lobby at the Tenamonta Bedyea today, I saw something…nui, someone... And I needed to confirm what I felt in my heart to be true. It was a simple matter to look up the guests registered in our system. But I was nonetheless shocked to find my suspicions verified.”

Xavier saw Rachel's eyes glimmer with foreboding. He drew close and lowered his voice to explain.

“Janice Smith — now Janice Parc, under her married name — is here, in our village. She is staying in our suite on the third floor with her husband and three children. They arrived two days ago, but it is unclear for how long they will remain here.”

A stunned silence fell under the weight of his words. Rachel’s cheeks flushed with emotion, but she considered her words carefully.

“I do not want our Mission undermined by this distraction. Our purpose is much too great for that.”

She allowed a cautious glance at the empty hall around them before continuing. “We will proceed as planned, and I will ensure that Janice Smith remains apart from us and our holy purpose. I will see to it personally that she is never a threat to us again.”

This decisive promise, spoken from the depths of her broken heart, startled Xavier. He hadn’t imagined for a moment that the frail woman could be capable of such resolve, and the thought of it now chilled him.

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Reviews:Fern Harrison on Facebook wrote:

I'm not a real good book reviewer. All I know is what I like. I get into the characters and feel for them. I liked that Janice's life has progressed Ito adult hood with her marriage and children but she was still haunted by her past. Story line easy to follow even if the reader had not read #1. (Even though they should)

Wetdryvac on Amazon wrote:

Fits well with the first book in the series, and the gentle passage of time works nicely. A fun read, and decent for reading aloud as well.


Pursuit of Truth

The Kesher Chronicles #1

Book Cover: Pursuit of Truth
Part of the The Kesher Chronicles series:
Editions:Kindle: $ 2.99
ISBN: 978-1-329-83868-0
Pages: 289
ePub: $ 2.99
ISBN: 978-1-329-83868-0
Paperback: $ 11.45
ISBN: 978-1-329-83868-0
Size: 5.80 x 8.30 in
Pages: 304

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.

 

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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.

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“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.

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Reviews:ourmorgan 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.

LinFlo on Amazon wrote:

Imaginative, compelling, intelligent storyline. Quite engaging! I'm looking forward to Sarah's next book!

Wetdryvac on Amazon wrote:

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.