Dal and Chandra Chapter 2
Dal and Chandra Last Life on Earth
The first chapter "Dal and Chandra, Last Life on Earth" outlines the theme of this novel and starts with Dal's early life on ravaged Earth-renamed Uni where the outside is toxic desert and Dal goes to school and plays in holo vids in her families' tiny apartment.
In this chapter child heroe Dal has more adventures.
Dal and Chandra
Dal and Chandra Chapter 2
After breakfast Dal was hopping from foot to foot, so happy because she was going to real school to see her best friend Ran in the flesh. She planned to give him a big hug and share her real sugar sweet with him.
"Where is Ran?" she asked her voice quivering. "He's supposed to be here.
"Ran couldn't afford to come.” Says the teacher.
Dal clutched the sugar sweet and tried not to cry. Ran was her only trusted school friend and the other kids look very big face to face. She has been going to VidSchool since she was six. Her mom realized she could afford to send her to school when a lunch program was started to help the undernourished students focus. Some parents eat the food instead of feeding their kids, and some sell it, but Sal makes sure Dal gets her allotment every day.
That night Dal speaks to Ran on the vid.
“Why weren’t you there Ran?”
“I couldn’t afford to come.”
“Ran, I brought real sugarsweet for you to the school meeting.” she says.
“Did you eat it?” He asks.
“I’ve still got it but it’s a bit squished.” says Dal.
“Put it on the vid tray.” says Ran.
Dal follows his instructions and suddenly the candy disappears.
“I’ve got it.” says Ran.
Dal watches amazed as he gobbles up the sweet.
“How did you do that?” she asks.
“Don’t tell anyone I can teleport stuff.” says Ran. “Mmm that was delicious. I’ve never eaten a real sugarsweet. Have you got any more?”
When Dal was six and a half her parents, professors Jon and new grad Sal Smit, take a daring step. They apply for new job posting as Uni exchange scientists/ethnographers on the strange planet Exarna.
One day when Dal was seven she spent her full day at VidSchool, Dal ate her dinner snack and went back on line to perfect her navigation program game. Later she exited her cubical eager to tell her mom that she and Ran had developed a new program. Their teacher was so impressed he was recommending them for the National Ed Game Programming Prize. Dal stood in the living area, looked at her parents and couldn't speak. She was amazed to see her usually quiet serious parents singing and dancing around their living room.
“We got it Dal. We have our research fully funded by the Exarna/Uni friendship society.” said Sal. “There will be endless good food and wonderful music.
“What will you tell your mother?” asked Jon.
“She can’t deny me my career.” said Sal. Dal go back to your Vid cubical.” Dal opened her mouth to reply but her mom had turned away. Dal crept back to her cubicle and was about to plug in when she was disturbed by loud voices from her parent’s cubicle.
“Hell, she won’t even want to come with us. How can a little twerp like her have the guts to leave Uni and her grandmother and her friends? And her schooling will be disrupted.” said Jon. Mommy Sal didn't reply.
“Leave her with your mother. Fay has so much surplus food and credits.” said Jon.
“I’m not leaving Dal.” said Sal.
Dal was terrified. Will mommy leave her? Will Dal have to leave her Vid school and Ran?
“You can damn well go alone to Exarna Jon. I’m not leaving without Dal.”said Sal.
Dal was having trouble breathing. She started to cry. This conversation was horrible.” Jon was right Dal didn't want to leave home and Grandma Sal and Ran.
“Mommy what’s happening?”
“This isn't your business Dal. Don’t listen. Go back to your Vid games.”
“But are we leaving Uni?”
“We may be going on a nice interplanetary trip to Exarna where there is lots of space and food.” said mommy Sal. “Now go back to your Vid. Daddy and I need to talk.”
Dal was so upset. She called Ran.
“What can I do?” she asked. “I cant leave home now. We are just about to win the National EdGame prize.”
“Want to run away with me?” said Ran.
“How can I by pass the sensors?” asked Dal.
“Just leave it tome.” said Ran. Stick your mobilecom in your ear.
Dal’s parents were so busy arguing they didn’t notice when she slipped outside the apartment. She ran down the stairs to the lobby. No one was there.
"Now open the locker and find a survival suit that fits you. Good , now put it on."
Dal's fingers were shaking but she got the suit on. There was a whoosh of air as the helmet clicked shut. She was claustraphobic in her survival suit, but kept breathing. Ran’s voice was soothing in her ear.
"Go out the front door. Don't look around too much. Turn right and walk to the big shiney black doors."
Dal was too curious not to look. The space in front of her seemed to go on forever endless grey buildings and rubbly spaces. She thought she could see as far as the edge of the survival dome, as far as the leaky places where the toxins seeped in. She tilted her head back and the bright brown sky went on forever. Dal sat down suddenly on the hard gravel. She was dizzy and afraid she could fly off the earth and into space.
"Dont look around so much it makes you dizzy.Now put your hand on the side of our condo and walk until you come to the big black doors."
The big doors opened and Dal entered the airlock. The big doors clicked shut and there was a whoosh of air. Dal turned back as the doors closed. Scrawled across the nearest door was a sign "No Exit. Deathzone."
"Keep moving," said Ran. You need to keep the suit on down there. Now walk twenty meters down the hall. That’s right now look down. There is a panel at your feet. Kick it three times and it will slide back and you can crawl in.”
Dal found herself in a cold dark space on a small platform. Her headlight lit automatically showing two metal rods going up with bars across at intervals. Below was dark empty space.
“What is it Ran. I’m scared.”
“Don’t worry Dal. That’s a ladder. It’s what people used before they had anti grav lifts. It’s sort of like the Vid gym. But don’t let go or you will fall. I’m above you so just start climbing.”
Dal grabbed the ladder. It was cold. She started climbing until she had to stop for breath. Her arms and legs started to shake.
“Don’t stop.” said Ran. “Look up you will see me.”
Dal looked up and saw a light. There was an opening in the wall and a tiny creature was there. Then a large metal pincher reached down and grabbed the back of her survival suit.
“I’ve got you now Dal. You won’t fall. I’ll winch you up.”
Suddenly Dal was pulled up to the lighted platform. She stumbled forward out into a dim hall. Small hands helped her remove her survival suit. She sat on the floor shaking. Before her was a tiny scrawny creature. He was way shorter than her, with a big bald head. And he was completely white: white skin, thin bits of white hair, only his eyes had color, red. And his eyes and ears and teeth were strange, uneven.
In fact his whole little body was uneven. He didn’t quite fit together.
“Who are you? Where are we? Where is Ran?” asked Dal.
“We are in my fort on the empty upstairs floor. Dal, it’s me.” Said Ran and tears streaked out his little red eyes. Dal stopped shaking. He was crying quietly. She hugged him and held him close. Ran stopped weeping.
“Don’t cry Ran. You are still my best friend. Why did you come to school in that Avatar?”
“I couldn’t tell anyone I'm mutant. They might kill me and they wouldn’t let me into Vid School.” said Ran. “The Avatar is what I might look like if my dad hadn’t messed up my genetic program.”
“Dad really wanted a kid but he was too poor so he made me himself."
"Isn't that illegal?'
"Yes. That's the other reason I need to hide. Well dad was so focused on giving me brains he neglected how I looked or how my body fitted together, Then when he saw my great brain growing he didn’t want to abort me.” Said ran.
“Thank the gods he didn’t abort you. But how old are you Ran?’
“I’m almost five.” But I was so lonely and bored. I had to start school.” Said Ran.
“You'll probably grow if you get enough food," saod Dal. " But Ran it’s terrible. I don’t know what to do. I can’t leave my mom, and my parents want to take me far away to Exar Planet.”
“Dal you are totally lucky. I’ve always dreamed of going to Exarna. They are experts in body altering technology. Maybe they could fix me.” said Ran.
“But I don’t want to go to Exarna and leave you and school and Grandma Sal.” said Dal. “What can I do?’
“Umm... let’s ask your grandma. What’s her ID?”
Ran fiddled with his complex unit and in an instant Grandma Sal was there.Her hair was messy and she had no makeup on her face.
“Dal how did you get here? Your mother is frantic looking for you. Well Dal aren’t you going to introduce me to your friend?”
“This is Ran. He needs to get his body altered. Could you help grandma?”said Dal.
“I know who you are. You are the Great Diva Faye. I love your vids.” said Ran. “It’s an honor to meet you.”
“We need your help grandma. Mommy and dad Jon want to fly away to Exarna.” said Dal.
“Well darlings, I’m glad you called me. I'm very pleased to meet you Ran. You must be a real Vid whiz. Please help Dal get back to home and I will see what I can do to help the two of you.” said Grandma Faye.
Despite her powers of persuasion there was nothing Grandma Faye could do to change her daughter’s plans. By the time Dal turned 7 the date to leave earth was set. The goodbyes to friends, and family were meant to be brief. But Grandma Fay threw a big good bye party. As one of her good bye gifts Grandma Fay planned to pay for Dal’s deluxe beauty treatment. Dal convinced her to spend the money on Ran.
“I’m fine,I don't need to be beautiful on Exarna. Ran really needs an introductory beauty treatment.”
Ran arrived at the party beaming. He was still tiny and misshapen, but he was a little bit fatter and had turned a very pleasant shade of brown. His red eyes had been tinted green. He hugged Dal and they jumped on the trampoline in Dal's vid game set.
At the end of the party Grandma Faye gave both Ran and Dal a participation holo vid of the party.
Dal played in that holo a lot when she first left Earth and was homesick. At the party Grandma Fay fed everyone delicious treats and sang a beautiful good-bye song to Dal. Ran joined in back up with such beautiful harmonics that Grandma Faye said: I could use you in my band.” Even years later on Exarna planet Dal liked to play in that party vid.
The Smits flew to Exarna on a budget class freighter.They had their own cheap little suite and the adults spent almost the whole trip studying the nuances of Exar language. Dal spent many hours staring at the starship’s exterior view screens watching the flight through the endless twinkling stars and the vast dark reaches of space. Dal’s mother had programmed neat kid’s holo vid games in which Dal played in damp green Exarna forests and fields of purple flowers.
Playing for many hours in the holovids, Dal learned to sing with Exar birds and animals. She picked up quite a bit of local language. However she didn’t realize that the green fields, blue mountains and singing birds in the holo vids were real on Exarna. All of Uni Planet was toxic desert on the outside of plastisteel life bubbles, and synthetic imitations inside. So Dal reasoned that the Exar vids where she was playing must also portray artificial places.
When they arrived at Exarna the Smits were surprised that they were expected to walk from their shuttle to the immigration area in the outside fresh air. They were afraid that they would choke but the air smelled good. The Smit professors expected to be met by a group of academics. They found out in the spaceport immigration area that they would not be posted to a University. Instead they were sent far away from the cosmopolitan centers and given an educational/cultural posting on the Lord Sri Astad’s beautiful private estate.
Daddy Jon was angry. It wasn’t what he had expected. But mummy Sal and Dal were happy. Lord Sri Astad was a famous dancer. He was also a specialist in Exar history and culture. He had personally invited the Smit family to stay in their own detached house. His estate was located on Exarna’s south jungle continent.
Lord Sri Astad wasn’t extremely wealthy. He didn’t own a gigantic valuable holding like some other Exar Lords and politicians. But he had a vast resource Vid library and an implant research unit. His estate was bordered by deep jungle forests and rocky hills. The snowy southern mountains could be seen shining far in the distance. When they first arrived the Smits couldn’t stop staring. They though they had arrived in paradise. They walked from room to room in the first house they had ever seen. "Is this really our house?" asked Dal. "All of it, all this space just for us?" They sat on real wooden chairs with real cloth cushions. They looked out real windows. Dal had her own room with a door of real wood that she could open and close just pushing it with her hand. They ate natural food.
“Mommy my stomach feels funny.” said Dal.
“It’s because you are too full. You ate too much.”
"But it tasted so good."
Dal had never felt full before.She started to grow and put on weight. Unfortunately there were no children of Dal’s age nearby. Dal wished she had friends to play with. She amused herself walking in the woods staring at the brightly colored birds and the rocky cliffs. She also liked following Lord Astad’s groundskeeper Shivram on his rounds and was delighted when he fed her fresh strawberries and showed her nests with baby birds crying for food.
“Why don't we have green grass and birds and forests and mountains like this on Uni?” She asked.
“We have other neat things on Uni Sweety, remember the Technicolor air play domes, the no gravity plastiteel kids parks, and the rinks and pools where I used to take you to play.” said Mommy Sal.”
“Yes, they were fun, but there was no blue sky or wind or clouds.”
Drs. Jon and Sal were happy with their research and were committed to spend years on Exarna. Sal was a somewhat vague woman who usually had her nose inside the com screen and was often humming along to some obscure Exar opera, or trying to get her little family all singing in three part harmony around the breakfast table. She was a head in the clouds woman, who mainly practiced the benign neglect form of parenting.
Jon was a big stern man who specialized in the history of Exar technology and the multi implant culture. He spent a lot of time at the estate tech labs and acted as if Dal wasn’t there most days. The Exar culture was very different from Uni. The grounds man Shivram, and Lord Sri Astad used to take Dal along on outings into the forest and tell Dal stories about magical forests. Lord Astad told her how the young Exer scientists first discovered body alteration-wings to fly, claws to grasp and tear. Dal remembered that back on Uni the external environment was pretty much gone and body implants even ones that would help Ran were shunned. Exar was a lot more fun.
Sal specialized in the study of ancient sagas and operas, many of them devoted to battles, friendship, love and nature. One day she looked up from the screens and noticed her only child was past school age. She determined Dal must begin to formally study Exar culture. It would help her in her future academic career path. Exarna culture would always be valuable to Uni performers and intellectuals and a well educated child would always have food to eat. Sal naively ignored the power of the corporations to provoke another war.
” There are too many econo-cultural benefits coming from Uni-Exar cooperation. No one would want to sabotage that.” said Sal.
Dal’s father Jon looked away and did not reply. Jon was intently studying and researching Exar technology. However he took breaks. Sometimes he went away all day. He worked on constructing weird mechanical robots and communication devices. One the few occasions her spoke with Dal he asked a lot of questions about her playmates and their implants. She couldn’t tell him much since she didn’t have any playmates. When he felt like tormenting Dal he played tricks, hiding her clothes in strange places, feeding her different foods he had discovered: wild green and orange mushrooms, oven roasted honeybees, ancient preserved pickles, raw serpent meat.
“Raw serpent meat. Ug. I can’t eat that crap.”
“Just try a little bite Dal.”
He laughed when she threw up.