RESCUING MARA’S FATHER
A Middle Grade Science Fiction Adventure
By D.M. Burton
Approx. 75,000 words
ISBN: 978-0-9990452-4-4 (ebook)
ISBN-13: 978-0-9990452-5-1 (print)
Her father is gone! Taken by the Queen of Compara’s agents. Mara has to rescue him before the Queen tortures and kills him.
Instead of the kind, loving father she’s always known, he’s become demanding, critical, with impossible expectations—not just as Father but also as the only teacher in their frontier outpost. Mara would rather scoop zircan poop than listen to another boring lecture about governments on Central Planets. Give her a starship engine to take apart or, better yet, fly, and she’s happy. Now, he’s gone.
Never mind, they’ve had a rocky road lately.
Never mind, Father promised she could go off planet to Tech Institute next month when she turns fifteen, where she’ll learn to fly starships.
Never mind, she ran away because she’s furious with him because he reneged on that promise. Father is her only parent. She has to save him.
Along with her best friend, eleven-year-old Jako, and his brother 15-year-old Lukus, Mara sets off to find her father. Her mentor, old spaceport mechanic, seems to know why the Queen captured Father. In fact, he seems to know her father well. But, does he tell her everything? Of course not. He dribbles out info like a mush-eating baby. Worse, he indicates he’ll be leaving them soon. And Lukus can’t wait to get off our planet. Mara’s afraid they will all leave, and she’ll be on her own. Despite her fears, Mara has to rescue her father.
Another boring class on another boring day in my boring life. Nothing ever happens here at Raythos Outpost #3, the most boring place on the planet. I can’t wait to leave. Just three tendays and I’ll be off to Pamyria Tech. Then I won’t have to listen to Teacher drone on about governments of the Central Planets.
“…democracy, confederation, autocracy…”
Blah, blah, blah. I’ve heard this lecture a thousand times already. Teacher is only going over it because Perfect Lukus missed the other nine hundred and ninety-nine times. He’s fifteen—a year older than me—my best friend’s brother and a pain in the butt. He only comes to class when his work in the stable is done. Lucky him. I’d rather shovel zircan poop than sit through another history or government lesson. Bo-ring.
Of course, where I’d really rather be is in the pit at spaceport taking apart the engine of a Gilean Cruiser or, better yet, at Pamyria Tech learning how to fly one. I can’t wait. It’s bad enough this class comes after Mid-Day Meal. The sun shines through the closed window, and guess who’s sitting in its beam? If the window was open, the fresh air wouldn’t help. Just more heat, making me more drowsy.
“. . . Mara?”
How in Smilian’s Pit does Teacher always know when I’m not listening? Reluctantly, I get to my feet. Teacher insists we stand when speaking like we’re in a real classroom on a Central Planet instead of Teacher’s study in a mining village on the Outer Rim. Teacher’s desk is in one corner, and the eight of us older kids sit in two rows, one in front of the other, our comp pads for note-taking on our laps.
Usually, I sit in the back row with my buddy Jako. Today, the others got there first, and I had to sit in front. Lukus always sits in the front row whether or not he comes in late, like today. His light brown hair is slicked back and wet, as if he’s just showered. He missed the linguistics and mathematics lessons which were a lot more interesting, where I always know the right answers. Now, he gets to see me humiliated. Not that I care what he thinks of me. I don’t.
Teacher waits, his expression stern, while I try to figure out what question he asked. Part of me wants to crawl under the chair and hide. Instead I continue to stand, back straight, head up, my face burning hotter than the Laborian Desert.
I stare back at Teacher, who knows I don’t want to be here. I’m just about the only kid in this outpost who has to go to school. No, make that the only kid on this planet since Outposts #1 and #2 don’t have any kids. Wish I lived over there. As far as I’m concerned, learning history or government is a waste of time. Now, learning the inner workings of a Gilean Cruiser would be a lot more interesting.
Behind me, Jako whispers, “Example of autocracy.”
He always has my back. He’s the best friend a girl could have, even if he is only eleven.
“CoalitionPlanetComparaintheCentralDistrict,” I say in a rush and sit down.
“And why is the government of Compara considered an autocracy?” Teacher looms over me. Since the study is so small, he actually looms over all of us. He’s so tall his dark brown hair nearly brushes the ceiling. He stands as still as a soldier, back straight, his dark green eyes boring into me.
His hair and eyes are like mine, only darker. We’re a minority at this outpost. Most people have light hair the varying colors of grain in the fields, and their eyes range from pale blue to a light gray. Our green eyes set us apart, as if we don’t belong here.
I keep my head down and sharpen the pleat in my dress slacks. Most of us wear our best clothes to class. Those of us who have good clothes, that is. Being orphans on their own, Jako and Lukus don’t have good clothes. Still, they always wear clean pants and shirts, even if they are mended in places, especially Jako’s. His clothes are Lukus’s hand-me-downs. Even Teacher wears dark gray slacks and a white shirt, more formal than the normal work clothes other men wear in town. He says appropriate clothing is essential to making a good impression.
Right. Like I want to make a good impression on the kids I’ve grown up with.
Teacher clears his throat, waiting for a response. If I don’t look at him, maybe he’ll pick on someone else. It’s not like I don’t know the answer. He’s drummed it into our heads all year, as if knowing how Comparans are governed is the most important topic in the galaxy. Big whoop.
Lukus stands. “Teacher, may I attempt to answer your question?”
At Teacher’s nod, Lukus explains. “Technically, Compara is an absolute monarchy which is a more specific type of autocracy. The Queen Regent assumed absolute power after the king and both their sons died fifteen years ago. She dissolved the Body of Representatives and rules by intimidation and terror.”
“Very good.” Teacher smiles. When he does, his eyes brighten. “Unlike some students, you have been listening,”
Gee, you think he means me?
“Thank you, sir.” Lukus sits, alert, eager to get on with the rest of the lesson.
Teacher’s Pet, I sneer, though I don’t say it out loud. I could’ve been the focus of Teacher’s smile if I’d answered. I don’t want to show off in front of the other kids. Most are my friends, and I don’t want them to think I’m better than they are. Lukus doesn’t have a problem with demonstrating what he’s learned.
How does he know this stuff? Maybe he only missed nine hundred and ninety-eight lectures. Okay, how’s this for irony? I have to be here all the time and hate it. He wants to and can’t because of his jobs. He’s the janitor at a boarding house in the morning, stable hand in the afternoon, and dishwasher at night. You’d think he’d want to just chill when he finishes early. Instead, he comes to school. Weird, huh?
The four little kids in the other corner of the study are getting restless. They must have finished the exercises Teacher gave them before he started teaching us older ones. He ignores them and asks us to identify the ideal form of government.
Like the others, except Lukus, I keep my head down so I won’t be called on. Once again, he stands. The rest of us sit back in relief. Lukus has Teacher’s attention, which is just fine. “The ideal form of government is one where all the inhabitants have a voice and are treated equally.”
I snort then mutter, “Like that’s ever going to happen.”
Jako yanks my braid and hisses at me to shut up.
Teacher pins me with his stare. “Mara, you have something to add?”
“I can explain what Mara means.” Lukus is still standing and according to class protocol, I shouldn’t have spoken. “Civilizations strive for the ideal. However—”
“I can do my own explaining.” I ignore class rules and stand without waiting for Lukus to sit. “Out here on the Rim, the only thing that matters is who’s rich enough or strong enough to rule. Might makes right. The Central Planets with their Coalition Security are light years away. They don’t care about us. Why should we learn about them or how they rule? All we have to know is who’s in charge here, and that’s the mining company.”
I sit quickly, surprised at my own outburst. Not as surprised as the rest of the class, let alone Teacher. He gives me a look that says I’m going to hear about this later. I am so glad I only have three more tendays of this. At Pamyria Tech, I won’t have to learn useless information about the Coalition and especially about Compara. I’ll learn important stuff about starship engines. Three more tendays. Just three tendays. And I am gone.
About the Author:
The first time D.M. Burton saw Star Wars IV: A New Hope, she was hooked on science fiction and space travel. The Star Trek movies made her want to travel to other planets. Alas, she is still Earth-bound. D.M. and her husband live in Michigan, close to their two children and five grandchildren.
Join D.M. Burton's readers’ group on Facebook.
For more info and excerpts, visit D.M.’s website: http://www.dmburton.com
She writes adult fiction as Diane Burton, where she combines her love of mystery, adventure, science fiction and romance into writing romantic fiction. Besides writing science fiction romance, she writes romantic suspense, and cozy mysteries.
For more info and excerpts from her books, visit Diane’s website: http://www.dianeburton.com
Connect with Diane Burton online.
Goodreads: Diane Burton Author
Sign up for Diane’s new release alert: http://eepurl.com/bdHtYf
A $10 AMAZON e-GIFT CARD
Many chances to win.
a Rafflecopter giveaway