Lady Dana of the Badlands
Copyright © 2016 by Alexandra Mars at Shakespir
All rights reserved. No portion of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means—-electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording, scanning, or other—-except for brief quotations in critical reviews or articles, without the prior written permission of the publisher.
Just another scorching day on Deadman’s Planet. Orange, red, and gold sand whipped by the wind into the sparkling waves of sands over scorch rocks and into the huge cracks of landscape. For it’s mission was to cover and invade everything, whether, it was alive or not.
The rolling hills appeared to burn with fire-orange sand snaking down to the valley, while it engulfed anything, wanting to devour it. A wave of fire-orange sand moved towards the path by tossing and tossing grime around on the ground. Then forming into a ball of red dust appeared, and rolled down the hills, and these bits of red dust were left behind. Once the sunlight hit the bits trail, as appearance of a blazing fire, making the hills glowing crimson. This area was known as Crimson Hills.
The path carved out in the lower section of the hills by the colonists, who lived in the Badlands of Deadman’s Planet. An approaching decrepit hovercraft vehicle in a backward shape of an u that bolted towards the village. A cool plastic dome tinted to keep the sun out, covering the passenger compartment.
Inside of the hovercraft was an eighteen-years-old girl, Dana sat in the passenger seat, and held a laser rifle in her lap. She watched for any threats in the hills, and tried to avoid hitting the dashboard with her knees that was held together with wire protruding out that was plastered in tape. While her itchy arm cried out for relief, as she tried to ignore her arm.
She eyed her mother, Keenan, who drove the old hovercraft vehicle to the village, while they sweated. It was only early morning. Dana’s shirt was already damp, sticking to her skin. She longed to take off her jacket, but couldn’t due to the sand, which cause Sand Fever infection to expose skin.
Still had another twenty-five minutes drive to the village. No longer could she deny what her skin craved. She rubbed hard on the tan sleeve of her jacket to calm down her arm, and hoped her skin wasn’t inflamed due to the infection, causing it to itch. The first symptom of Sand Fever was itching, so it could spread.
“Dana, please stop scratching your arm! I don’t need you getting Sand Fever infection on me,” her mother snapped.
She looked at her mother, wanting to roll her eyes, but instead sighed, knowing her mother was in a mood. “It itches! Besides, I’m only rubbing the outside of my jacket!” Dana snapped, not realizing how she sounded until it was too late.
The glare from her mother’s dark eyes targeted her head. She bit her bottom lip, bracing herself for the impending wrath of fury that her mother would release on her.
She cringed in her seat, trying to make herself smaller.
“Dana Elizabeth Ivy! I’m your mother! You will not speak to me in that tone of voice. I don’t care if you are eighteen years old! You are my daughter, and I’ll always be your mother – beyond death,” Keenan stated.
Not wanting to respond to her mother, Dana opted to gaze out the window, which was surrounded by nothing but dry sparkling sand. It indicated another hot day on the planet. No huge surprise, for Deadman’s Planet had three seasons: dry; windy, which caused sandstorms; and the rainy season. Dana studied the sand and sighed heavily again.
Sandstorm season is coming more quickly this year. Not good. A lot of work needs to be done at the village and the homestead with the mines, she thought.
“And another thing, young lady, this planet was nicknamed Deadman’s Planet due to the sand that infects people’s bodies. You need to start thinking, baby girl. I can’t always protect you,” her mother finished the lecture.
Why is it that my mother can make me feel so small at times? I’m one of the toughest teenagers in the Badlands! I must be. Because of my mother’s position being the head of the council. Since my mother is the Duchess and I’m her Lady, she thought.
A helpless feeling washed over Dana that didn’t settle well with her while she was trapped inside of the vehicle, as the hills started to flatten out.
Just another ten minutes of driving to the village, she told herself.
To the north, a rainbow of colors swirled and twirled, dancing in the sunlight. The Life Domes soaked up the full rays of the sun. Most of the population lived in the Life Domes protected from the environment.
Dana often daydreamed about living in the domes, wearing cleat clothes washed in water or having clean and clear skin. Not having to worry about things that could kill her. She had heard the domes had ponds for swimming. It had been several years since she had swum in water. That was before her mother brought her and her siblings to this death trap of a planet to live and operate the mines to make money for her father.
Why can’t we live in the domes like normal people? Why did my parents choose to live in the Badlands where living is three times harder? she thought.
Dana eyed her mother, realizing this was more than an edgy mood, but making Keenan appear fickle.
“When is Dad coming home?” she asked.
“It will be another week before he is home,” her mother explained, and stiffened in the driver’s seat, an indication that this subject was closed, and the reason for the uneasiness in her mother.
The Sun Empire, who were devouring planets to enslave the inhabitants by seizing control of planets by corrupting the government’s system to ensure chaos. It didn’t help the situation the Sun Empire considered her father a warlord.
A lot of independent or free planets like Deadman’s Planet were left. She hoped the environment was better on those planets than it was here. It occurred to Dana that her father had been gone longer than usual this time. The last time she remembered both of her parents being home together, and their relationship seemed off.
The past few weeks her mother had acted erratically. She examined her mother closely. Dana was an exact replica of her mother with the same body shape, light brown hair and tanned skin. The only difference was that Dana had inherited her father’s icy blue eyes.
Dana noticed that her mother’s clothes were a bit tighter, for Keenan had put on a few extra pounds. She looked down. In between them was a light tan cloak. It belonged to her mother.
My mother couldn’t be . . . or could she be? she asked herself.
Everyone who lived out here didn’t put on extra weight. For speed was necessary to out run the snakes, rats, and sand cats; or to kill the red scorpions before they took aim with their deadly venom.
“Mom, are you pregnant?” Dana asked softly.
Her mother wiped her eyes. “Yes, baby girl. I am. Nearly forty . . . going to have a baby. I’m scared to death. By the time this child is your age, I will be old and gray, if I live that long.”
Dana took a quiet moment to think. “Mom, you are the strongest and bravest woman I know. Uncle Burt, Chadwick, Alexis, Miss Brenda, and I will help you and the baby.”
“Thank you, Dana. If I have this baby, I’ll be gone for two years. I’m not raising this child on this planet.” Her mother sobbed.
The truth was many young children never made it past three years old unless they lived in the domes. Her friends who wanted children were considering leaving the Badlands to start their families or wait to have children later in life.
Dana eyed her mother, and summoned up her courage to ask the question. “Mom, why can’t we live in the domes?”
“Those domes are nothing more than a fancy prison, where the population doesn’‘t know they are in a slave camp,” her mother snapped.
Dana hunkered down in the seat trying to get some rest, for her mother was in a horrible mood. There was nothing else she could do, so she remained quiet until they arrived at the village.
New Land Village
The hovercraft approached the village, as Dana perked up, sitting a bit. straighter in the seat. The Crimson Hills flattened out, making the two-story round buildings appear to emerge from the sand. It was an awesome sight to witness the rise of New Land Village. The makeshift round buildings stood in defiance of the sands. She grinned, for the village was growing and full of new faces.
A new sign pointed to the spaceship docking area. Two large triangle cargo ships laid on their sides with the points, which was the bow of the ships, pointing to the Crimson Hills, and about three stories in height were docked. While dock workers unloaded the ships, the people were caught in a wild maze, attempting to avoid the new obstacles. Dana’s blue eyes glistened with excitement. She couldn’t wait to see the stores full of new items for sale.
In the distance were the old and worn out structures that were crumbling to the ground. These rotten buildings were the leftovers from the first settlements. Dana shook, for she and her family had stayed in one of those cramped domiciles. Her mother, Keenan drove by the worksite, while a swarm of demolishing crews surrounded the site with men whose huge hammers swung at the walls. They pounded and pounded until the building began to form the cracks.
A watchman in a gray vest over his blue uniform shouted, “Look out!”
Debris crashed to the ground while the workers scattered like rats. The settlements needed to be removed, making room for the new workers’ housing units. The haulers entered, picking up debris and heaving it into the hover trucks to be used in another project because supplies were limited and the demand was high. The village policy was to reuse items.
This didn’t matter to Dana as she eyed another group of men hurling the stones into a hover truck. A loose strand of her hair fell by her face. She swirled her hair around her fingers and admired the men’s huge muscles while they worked.
Keenan giggled at her daughter.
Dana turned her head to look at her mother. “What?”
“Oh, to be young and experience young love. It’s a good thing. I started you on your cycle drugs.” Keenan laughed.
“Yeah, I hate them because those cycle drugs make my arm sore for days,” she stated.
“I know. But it is for your own good. You are a young woman with a grand future, and this is no place to have babies. You are a smart and bright young woman to see that.” Her mother smiled.
Dana understood that her mother didn’t want her pregnant, for she was too young. There was no safe place in the Badlands to have a baby unless the mother was in the domes, or an expectant mother left the planet. She knew that her mother at some point during the pregnancy would have to leave the planet.
I wonder what it is like to be with a man, she thought.
“Mom, is sex fun or is it just hype?” She gave a puzzled look.
“Sex can be very fun with the right man, who is your husband that you love and trust.” Keenan gripped the steering wheel, and cleared her throat. “Are you thinking about Joe being your first? After today’s dose of the cycle drug, your body will be ready.”
No, my mom didn’t suggest that! Joe has disappeared from my life! We had some great dates with a nice relationship starting. Then nothing from him for days, she thought.
“Mom!” Dana’s face turned red with embarrassment.
“Baby girl, I can’t stop your body from growing, though your father would. I might be like that with Chadwick. Your father and I would prefer you to wait until marriage . . .”
“Mom, how can you discuss this topic with me? Most mothers around here would rather close their eyes to let their daughters to discuss sex with their own doctors.”
“Dana, I’m not like most mothers. I want my children to be able to defend themselves and have the knowledge about their bodies in order to make the right choices.” Keenan took in a deep breath and let it out. “Living here on Deadman’s Planet has made you grow up more quickly than living on most planets. Working for me, as My Lady in the village, you understand your duty and responsibilities. The reason I put you on your cycle drugs is for you not to get pregnant until you are ready to have children with the love of your life, some day. I don’t expect you to live here your whole life.”
Dana sat there for a few minutes. She had never thought about leaving her home and traveling the solar system. It did not occur to her to find a husband in order to have a family of her own. Her mother was giving her options to have a future that she wanted when she was ready for it. Dana wiggled in her seat. “When I turned thirteen, we started having a conversation about this topic.”
Keenan smiled. “When your friends began chatting about the myths of sex, you knew better.”
Dana laughed. “I remembered one of my friends’ mothers was very upset at you when I explained to her daughter how she could have a baby. Then my friend told me I was wrong.”
“That woman came and yelled right into my face. She scolded me like a child, and told me that you would be having a baby before you were eighteen. I explained to her that it might happen, but I wanted my children to know the facts.”
“Did you think I would?”
“No. You understood what being a mother is. Anyway, that mother. Your father saw her a couple of weeks ago. He said that she is raising three of her young grandchildren because her daughter left,” Keenan said.
“Wow! That’s a shame.”
“It is. Your statement proves you understand what being a mother is all about,” Keenan said.
Longing to change the subject, she pointed to the next worksite. “They need to dig out the sand to start working on the foundation for the hotel,” Dana said.
“I need you to check with the supervisor today to make sure the foundation of the hotel will be poured in the next couple of days.”
Dana checked her computerize watch, as a small holographic screen appeared with a list of her tasks to do. Then as the computer did a quick search on her personal hunt on the Recruiter from the Life Domes, who was targeting her friends, and she wanted to know why. “It’s on my list. There are new faces today in the village. Some of them look like trouble that could be tons of fun.” She grinned.
“Baby girl, please don’t play ‘my gun is bigger than yours’ today. I don’t have the energy to bail you out.”
“Who’s asking, the Duchess or my mother?” she asked.
Keenan eyed her daughter. “Both. You worked for me as My Lady in my position as Duchess. I would highly advise that you remember that.”
“Sorry. Mom, when was the last time you had to save my itchy hide?”
Here it comes! She is going to remind me when I discovered the truth about my ex-fiancé, Kashmir, she thought.
Keenan eyed her daughter. “A year ago! When you found Kashmir in bed with another girl. After you beat up Kashmir until he was bloody and bruised, I thought they would put you in irons, and take you to the domes.” Her mother pointed to the white strands of her hair. “Because of that, I have gray hairs, young lady.”
Yeah, I didn’t know he had joined their Service Security Force, she thought.
“I will do my best to stay away from any trouble,” she said.
“When that happens there will be a river and meadow in the Badlands,” Keenan said.
The hovercraft parked near the doctor’s office. The exterior of the two-story round building was fading into a light gray color, for the sand was eating away at it.
I need to send a memo to the maintenance crew to repaint the building a darker color, she thought.
“Let’s go, itchy,” her mother said, and laughed.
She leaped down, hitting the ground like a graceful cat and racing to her mother’s side, where Dana helped her mother down. Keenan was on her feet, clutching her daughter’s arm for support. As she helped her mother with her cloak, Dana knew this pregnancy would be different.
“Good morning, Duchess, and Lady Dana,” a passerby said and went on his way.
Keenan waved and smiled. “Be friendly, baby girl. You always have that stone look on your face like your father. That scares people who don’t know you.”
Dana waved and hurried with her mother. A blast of cold air hit her as they entered the doctor’s office. Dana unzipped her jacket. An older nurse escorted Keenan into an examination room. She wanted to follow her mother, but knew after her shots, she had work to get done.
Betty walked out behind the workstation, wearing her sea green scrubs, with her hair wrapped up in a matching scarf to protect it. The sight of the nasty green color made Dana nauseous. The clinic doctor, who run the practice thought it was a lovely color.
The waiting room had been painted a light color. So much dirt caused from the sand by layering and eating away at the paint, making the room much darker, and now, the room was depressing. It was the reason why the painters used a dark color of paint, for over time the dark paint would lighten from the sand.
A light layer of grit covered the hard benches that were attached to the walls. One of the nurses wiped down them to get rid of the dirt. It was a losing battle, for the sand always won.
I can’t wait to get those fancy venting systems for the village. To put an end to the sand, she thought.
Betty motioned for Dana to come over. They walked behind a cloth divider, and she removed her jacket, noticing her friend’s brown eyes were red from crying.
“This one is for your cycle. I know you don’t like it,” Betty explained.
“It makes my arm throb for hours.”
Betty injected the shot. Her arm started aching in seconds. Next, she received her second shot in her other arm to prevent sand fever infection.
“Oh . . .” Betty kept her voice down, and pulled up Dana’s sleeve.
She stared at her arm covered in red tiny bumps.
“This looks bad. I should get the doctor to look at this.”
She touched the nurse’s hand. “I rubbed my arm a little while ago.”
“Let me treat this, before you go, because I need to talk to you, Dana.”
She nodded, sitting on the stool. Betty cleaned the rash, and Dana flinched her arm felt like it was burning.
“That hurts,” she stated.
“It might be infected.”
“What’s wrong?” she asked.
Betty placed a cold cloth on Dana’s rash, which now was stinging like little needles poking into her rash. Her friend’s brown eyes stared at Dana, and Dana knew something was wrong with her friend.
“My boyfriend dumped me to go live in the domes. He said we are all going to die here, and the council can’t stop it. We’re not able to raise babies out here, unless we leave the planet or live in the domes,” Betty explained.
“Been a lot of reports our friends are leaving and heading for the domes, besides leaving the planet. I know some them want to,” Dana said.
Betty peeked over her shoulder, and lowered her voice. “I find it strange we never hear from the ones that are living in the Life Domes. I mean it is legal to move there . . . I mean you’re . . . I should say the Council isn’t stopping us. Or are they?”
Dana sat there on the stool collecting her thoughts. She had overheard the Council concerns about not hearing from the young people who had left for the domes. Now, parents were voicing their fears about this Recruiter from the Life Domes, who was targeting their children with his propaganda. Dana studied her friend for a moment. “Why didn’t you go with your boyfriend?”
Betty removed the cloth slowly. “I didn’t go because my boyfriend did not ask. I’m glad. He was a huge jerk. Another reason, I don’t trust the Recruiter, Seth. He just seems to be phony.”
After weeks of researching about the Recruiter, she had a name! Dana wanted to jump up and to hug her friend, but remained calm by taking in a deep breath, and letting it out. Dana looked at her arm, which was better. “That’s the first time I heard that someone called him a phony.”
“My boyfriend took me to his pub. There’s a lot of drinking and so much food. He and his staff kept pushing the sales pitch about the domes. After a while the people started acting strange, so I left,” Betty said.
Dana arched her eyebrows. “If they were drinking strong ale like my uncle does, they would act like they were dumb and bit tippy.”
“No. This was different . . . like someone being doped up on pain medicine . . . no . . . being in a dazed state. More like a trance. I was scared, and left.”
“That is odd. Where can I find this pub?” Dana asked.
Betty looked down at the floor. “I don’t think it is a good idea for you to go.”
Betty stared into her eyes. “Because, Dana, he has threatened your mother.”
“All the more reason I need to find him. I have been hearing the threats against my mother’s life.”
Betty rubbed some ointment on the rash. “I think he moved to the northwest section.” She wrapped Dana’s arm. “Have you ever thought about leaving the Badlands?”
“From time to time. This may sound weird, but this is my home.” Dana sighed. “The domes are trying hard to convince us to join them. That makes me wonder why.”
“I told my boyfriend this was my home. He told me I was dumb.” Betty cried.
Dana pulled down her sleeve on her arm, and it didn’t itch anymore. “Besides, you deserve better. Your boyfriend is more like a boy than a man because he doesn’t know what he wants,” she said.
Betty poured Dana a glass of water. “Now, let me fill you in on the rumors in the village.”
Both women giggled, and started chatting about the latest news in the village before starting on their day.
The Northwest Section
The late morning sun was beating down on the inhabitants of the village. Dana stood underneath the overhang to get out of the blinding light. The sand sparkled, causing a glare that made it difficult for her to see, so she pulled out her shades and put them on. Once again her ivory shirt was soaked, sticking to her skin; this was a normal day, and a recurring occurrence for living in the Badlands.
With her important tasks and errands were done for her mother, Keenan, who was the Duchess, and in charge of the Council. It was part of Dana’s role as the Lady for the Duchess to do errands, check on needs of the village, or perform other tasks that her mother couldn’t do.
Dana finished up with the supervisor of the hotel and knew her mother would be pleased. Tomorrow the work crew would start working on the foundation for the new structure.
Time had come for her to start her own personal hunt for the recruiter, who was somewhere in the Northwest Section of the village. The past few weeks Dana had been searching for the Recruiter, but he kept moving his location within the village. She needed answers why he and the Domes were targeting the young people and to understand the threats against her mother. She dusted off the grit from her tan jacket and light beige-colored pants, and she adjusted her cream-colored boots that came up to her knees.
Next, she zipped up her jacket which covered her neck, tucking her hair in the scarf that was attached to her hat. Any exposed skin could get bitten by the sand fleas in the Northwest Section, because that area wasn’t treated. She tightened the cream-colored gloves on her hands that exposed some of her fingers. Then Dana took out a small spray can and sprayed her face and her fingers. Putting the can back in her pocket, she checked on her holster, which carried her laser pistol on her left leg and double checked her staff, which she carried on her waist underneath her jacket. Finally, she placed her knife blade into her left boot for a back-up weapon.
Turning on the silence feature of her computerized wrist watch on her right arm, she didn’t want to hear all the communiqués in her earbud that were linked to her watch.
I hope my mother doesn’t find out where I’m going. Because, I don’t need another lecture. And she doesn’t need to worry in her current condition, Dana thought.
She dashed to the Northwest Section of the village.
In the horizon, the rise of the decrepit structures glistened in the light. Once this part of the village was a gorgeous place, with grand huge buildings, and spectacular sunrises and sunsets, making it an area where most people longed to live. However, that changed when the village and the domes went to war. Those were the longest and scariest four days of Dana’s life, until her father came with reinforcements from his fleet. The village won the battle, but the war continued on with a shift in strategy.
Debris still was scattered in the streets and alleys, a reminder of the destruction and lives loss from that battle two years ago. Once she was in her mother’s office, and she spotted the design plans to reuse this section the Council was working on. The Council had attempted to reclaim this area many times, but it was blocked by the criminal element that wanted to linger here. So good honest folks just avoided this section due to the crime and the increasing rat population.
A bright color popped out from behind the rugged ruins catching her attention. Dana spotted a teenager, a male about her age, racing into the Northwest Section. She followed him, hoping he would lead her to the Recruiter. He zigzagged through the section of broken fragments from the decaying buildings, a section that looked like a maze.
She kept her distance from him, not wanting to be seen. Noticing that his bright color clothes were clean, Dana examined him for a few seconds. The teenager was a few inches taller than she with dark brown hair.
He could be a Domer from the Life Domes or a worker from a ship, she thought.
He turned and saw her. Then he charged at her. She moved quickly, hoping he would fall, but he didn’t. He rammed her against the wall with the dust falling onto the ground. His arm pressed against her neck so that she had just enough air to breathe.
She remained calm and relaxed.
He let up on her neck. “Look, thief, I’m onto you. Next time, I’ll just break your neck.”
“Are you from the domes?” she asked.
“I am. We don’t need a thief.” He narrowed his hazel eyes and glared at her.
“Not a thief but a fighter,” she said.
He stared at her like an animal about to be skinned, and laughed. “A thief, yes. A girl that could offer some fun things. But not a fighter.” He stroked her face, and she cringed.
He isn’t playing with a full deck of cards. Something isn’t right here. Maybe he has been out in the sun to long. It can happen with newcomers, she thought.
She wanted to vomit on him. He wasn’t worth the energy, and she remembered her training. Ramming her knee into his prized possession, she watched his smile turned into a disappointing frown. He wobbled away from her. She did a high kick to his face.
He charged at her. Ducking down, she kicked his knee hard. He collapsed onto the ground, rolling onto his stomach. She pounced onto her feet.
Dana dashed to him, putting her boot in between his shoulder blades to hold him down. “See, a fighter.”
“What do you want?”
“Where’s the Recruiter?” she asked.
“I don’t know what you are talking about . . .”
She pressed a bit harder smashing him into the sand. “I don’t have time to play these games. You are not from here! Because you’re to clean.” She let up just a bit.
“I work on the ship. My captain gave me some R and R. I was searching for some action and fun. Got lost in this crazy loony village.”
Dana shoved him harder by stepping onto his back and pulled out her pistol, pointing it at his head. “We are bit crazy, but not loony. That type of talk could get you killed here.” She eased her boot off his back, and slowly stepped away from him.
He stood. “If you are looking for work, my captain is hiring for his ship.”
Why do outsiders always lie? she thought.
“Thank you for the tip about work on your ship,” she said, adding, “you might want to get checked for sand fleas.”
His face and neck turned a bright red. “Thanks for the advice.”
He charged at her. She fired her weapon as a swarm of desert small rats, not fully grown, raced out of the makeshift buildings.
“Run!” He yelled at her.
Dana put away her pistol, yanking out her staff. Once it touched her hand, the staff expanded into a long rod.
“I don’t run!” She eyed at the rats. “Do you want a piece of me?”
They stopped, chomping on their teeth.
She narrowed her blue eyes. “Come on!” she shouted.
One of them bounced up in the air. She heaved her rod and knocked it down. Then another came and another. Dana swirled and swung the rod at the rats. She was a graceful wind to clean up the trash. The rats slammed into the walls and hurried back to their nests.
In a few minutes the rats vanished. Dana gave a menacing stare at the teenager.
These rats were just fed and protecting their nests nearby, she thought.
“Who are you?” She inspected him.
A wild flow of lust filled his hazel eyes. A frigid tingling sensation raced throughout her skin, making her tremble. She found herself slowly backing away from him.
His posture changed, he hunched over and gawked at her, making him seem like a crazy man, as he released an evil laugh that echoed around her.
Dana never encountered a person like this before. Every fiber of her being told her she needed to flee from him.
“Not so tough, are we? He snickered at her.
He lunged at her, trying to seize her wrist. She grabbed his arm, pinning it behind his back. Then she shoved him into the wall. She took a few steps back away from him, placing her hand on her pistol.
“You are feisty, but not a fighter,” he said, and attempted to scratch her face.
“You are insane!”
“Soon you will see my lair.” He laughed at her.
“No, I learned that trick a few years ago . . . so, no, I won’t be seeing your lair!”
“You will! Because you are not a fighter,” he snapped.
They stopped when footsteps echoed from the concrete paths. Someone was coming!
He dashed away into one of the buildings like a rat wanting to hide. He motioned with his fingers, daring her to follow him in.
“I am someone you don’t want to meet up with again. Next time, I will be ready for you,” he hissed.
Have fun with the rats, Ratboy, she thought.
After her encounter with the Ratboy, Dana had more important pressing issues: to find the Recruiter, who was targeting her friends. The past several days she had hunted down every single lead about the Recruiter. Well, she had until today, when Nurse Betty, her friend at the doctor’s office, had called him by his name, Seth, describing him as a phony. Most of her friends raved about the charming and generous guy from the domes.
I shouldn’t have left my mother at the doctor’s office by herself, but I need to find Seth, she thought.
A tall bald-headed man in his forties, wearing a brown uniform trimmed in blue, the Chief stood at the end of the alley. In the vivid sunlight brought out his brawny physique. Dana could appreciate the Chief’s chiseled body. He used it as an advantage to intimidate people at times. Underneath his hard-rock persona, he was a loving guy, who put the village safety first.
Now, he listened for the faintest whisper among the broken concrete shards. She hid behind some ruins in the alley, eased herself away from the clearing, and inched back to the shadows not wanting to make a sound. The man had a lightning quick radar to find trouble, which would lock onto her. This wasn’t a good time to be discovered.
She ducked down in the shadows allowing the darkness to engulf her while she was still to blend into the environment. He stood like a statue, listening for any sounds in this game of wait and see.
Just have patience, Dana told herself.
Eying him, she wondered if the Chief knew she was here. All at once, he marched on, continuing his patrol of the area. Breathing a little bit easier, Dana dashed away from him and headed in a different direction.
She walked a few blocks in the blistering sun and spotted a group of wealthy young people in their sparkling everyday clothes. They chatted and goofed around with each other. She stayed back, for she didn’t want to startle them.
A piercing chill raced down her spine again breaking out in goosebumps on her sweaty skin, as it did when she encountered the Ratboy. Looking up, she surveyed the towering structures, but she saw nothing. There was a possibility that he could be watching and hiding inside the desolate buildings.
I should yell at the rich kids and tell them about the dangers in this section, she thought.
The back of their heads was sinking into the orange grime as the glittering trail led to them, and it looked like the sand swallowed them, as the teenagers disappeared down the steps into a basement of a building. Her heart pounded in her chest, for she had discovered the location of the pub. Checking her wrist watch that was linked to her earbud, she wiped the sand from her clothes. She slowly went down the steps, preparing herself for what she might discover.
A handsome young man stood underneath the overhang, narrowing his deep brown eyes at her. His fancy clothes sprinkled with sand that made him glitter in the shade. Dana found him easy on the eyes, and admired the twenty-something young man.
He looks like fun but is very serious about blocking the entrance, she thought.
He placed his hand near his laser pistol and asked, “What do you want?”
She took off her shades, and put them away. “How about you buy me some ice-cold water? It wasn’t easy finding this place.”
“Well, you’re going have to find a different pub for your water.” He snickered at her.
“Is this how you treat new customers?” she asked.
“This is an invitation only pub. And I don’t see your invitation.”
“I was told this place was open to all the young people.”
“Well, you were misinformed.”
“Friend, I came to listen to the Recruiter,” she said.
“I know who you are, Lady Dana.”
His deep brown eyes stared at her. She wondered if he was undressing her with his eyes. Her mother had told her on a few occasions her perfect body would be a blessing because most men would find her alluring.
It’s time to see if my mother is right. Be sexy and confident, she told herself.
She strolled to him by pacing her steps, imitating her mother; it was what Keenan did to catch her father’s eye, before her parents would dash away to their bedroom.
He chuckled. “Are you going to touch me? There are girls better experienced than you at the domes.”
She stepped closer to him, and stared into his eyes, beckoning him. “True. You see, I am eager to learn.”
He stood, trying to maintain his tough exterior with sweat dripping down his forehead. “You have a point there.” He grinned at her.
Now she was only a few inches from him. It wasn’t a bad idea at all to kiss this guy. “I just want to hear what he has to say, and I could use a cold drink with some company.”
He shifted his weight from one foot to the other, and stared at her. “You are an alluring creature.”
Running her fingers down his purple shirt, she said, “I’m not here to start trouble.”
“That’s what all desert rats say before they bite,” he snapped, and shoved her away.
Dana nearly stumbled, but she quickly caught her balance.
He drew his pistol, aiming it at her, and with a smirk on his face. They stood in the silence as the hot breeze whipped the sand around them. She held her ground with her fingers hovering over her holster for she was determined to enter the pub. Eying each other, they each waited for the other one to make the first move.
The vibration flooded into the ground underneath her feet, and hissing sounds erupted from the door, as it jerked away from the wall. All at once the door was opened, beckoning for her to enter, as he stepped aside.
Walking by him, Dana winked, and the guard laughed.
Dana walked through a narrow corridor, guided by a yellow glow. Not sure what she would find, she eased her hand near her pistol.
I need to be careful in here, she thought.
The corridor emerged into an elegant hall lit by sunshine, and was once a grand place before the war. Now, there were cracks that zigzagged from the floor and up to the ceiling in the walls. Holes in the plaster allowed the dripping grime from the ceiling to enter the structure.
Near the entrance, couples nestled together kissing, and others interlocked on the dance floor slowly swaying to the light music flowing from the speakers. The hall was packed full of people having a good time and they didn’t care the building was decaying around them.
To her right the tables overflowed with platters of fresh food and a cart with spotless flatware ready to be used that beckoned Dana to eat.
Most of the guests ate and drank. Some were simply drunk and stumbled around bumping into others.
Underneath a vent as the cool air washed over her making her tight muscles to relax after fighting in the heat. She found a spot near the back where she could survey the pub.
Her wrist watch beeped, and she tapped her earbud.
“Don’t eat or drink anything in there, Trouble,” said the Chief, adding, “don’t do anything dumb and dangerous, or you will be in my cell by your mother’s orders.”
Dana chuckled and tapped her earbud.
A bar maid shoved a small glass into Dana’s hand. She sniffed the water. A smoky odor rose from the liquid burning her nostrils, and she decided just to hold the glass, observing the guests.
There’s something wrong here. But what?
A board started broadcasting people with huge, friendly smiles, saying, “Come live with us!”
Spotting the huge electronic boards, she strolled to them, but stopped and kept her distance from it. The images played beautiful scenery, showing the blue sky and luscious green grass inside of the domes.
The wonderful environment with happy people smiling and enjoying fun activities. She noticed the inhabitants wore fine clothes, and they had perfect and clean skin.
The boards flashed and showed offers for free housing with modern conveniences. The images switched to groups of teenagers and twenty-somethings enjoying the exciting night life in the domes.
A few of the guests watched the electric boards. Each board played different images for each individual. She noticed a guy watching, and it showed him with a family and a mistress living happily in there.
Are the domes that desperate to want us?
Dana walked over. It displayed wide green spaces and a house with a yard near a park with a young good looking man, waving at her. She found herself wanting to go there. Then suddenly the park had a pond in it.
Something was wrong here; she backed away.
Those people look happy, but they’re not. How do I know this? she asked herself.
Bringing the glass to her lips, she remembered the warning and spotted the nearest pot and dumping the water to the plant.
Whoever was behind this excellent campaign was dangerous and clever, she thought.
“Miss Dana, it is a surprise you are here.”
She turned around to see Joe, who was a few inches taller than her, standing there as his blue shirt outlined his rippling muscles from working in the mines from the last rainy season, and now, his job on the construction site.
Dana gasped for the sight of him created a burning desire in her. They had dated only a few times until he stopped pursuing her.
“I wanted to see what all the fuss was about,” she said.
He eyed her glass. “Looks like you need another drink . . .”
She covered her glass with her hand. “I’m fine. Thank you.” She flashed him a smile. “Anyway, where have you been hiding?”
Joe tapped his foot, looking around. “I have been working and hanging out here. I’m thinking about moving to Paradise. . . I mean to the domes. They have more opportunities there. Here it’s just back-breaking work with no fun. I mean their government gives their young people a home of their own. The night life, I hear, is quite freeing with no judgment. No adults—like our parents—saying you can’t do this or that.”
“Our parents just want what’s best for us,” she said.
“How can you stand there and say that? Oh, I know, because your mother is so controlling over you!” Joe snapped.
Dana clenched her fist, trying to remain in control. Her mother had asked her to wait to be with a man until the cycle drugs took effect.
The truth was she wasn’t ready to be with Joe or Kashmir, and her dates only thought about having sex with her.
“What did my mother do to you?” she asked.
“She stopped us from being together.” He touched her cheek. “We could be together in Paradise.”
A daze look filled Joe’s green eyes, making him appear in a trance, as she stepped back from him. “I haven’t heard from you in weeks. Now, you want us to run away together?” She raised her eyebrows in disbelief.
“I do. It would be romantic, don’t you think?” His lips released a smile.
Until my father showed up and pointed a pistol to the back of your head, she thought.
“Tempting offer.” She fingered the rim of her glass to conceal her nervousness.
“Your mother controls you way too much,” Joe snapped.
She put her hand on her hip. “No one controls me! In fact, that my mother doesn’t want me in this place, but I’m here.” She glared at him.
“Good point.” He leaned down and whispered, “I don’t believe you.”
He stood and waved to the bar maid. The young woman quickly refilled her glass.
“Show me, by drinking it,” he ordered.
She glared at him. He was trying to control her, but her rage was building inside of her. This wasn’t the kind and loving Joe that she had liked and wanted to know better. He was a different person now!
She tossed her drink on his blue shirt, missing his face. The shirt started to change colors in the spot, as a red color emerged.
Water should make it wet, she thought.
“Are you nuts? That’s good water!” Joe tried to dry his shirt.
“Your shirt has changed colors,” she stated, and dumbfounded.
“It’s just water! Your mother is so scared that she is putting her fear in all of us!” he shouted at her.
Joe walked away, leaving Dana alone, lost in her own thoughts with this new development.
Clapping came from behind her. Dana turned around to see a young man, who was only a few inches shorter than she. His silver hair had a light blue streak on each side of his head, and his skin glowed like it had been kissed by the sun. The glittery clothes he wore made him appear radiant, and he moved with a grace that made him enchanting.
Wow, she thought.
Her heart pounded in anticipation. He circled her like a high value prize for inspection. She sniffed his light cologne, making her weak in the knees. She attempted to hold on to her strength, to stay in control of her emotions and thoughts.
“Your eyes are as blue as the sky in Paradise. They remind me of home,” he said.
She giggled with a rush of excitement that raced through her skin. “I bet you say that to all the women.”
“Only ones who have eyes like the blue sky,” he said, and bent down to kiss her hand.
He is a charmer that could bite like a diamond back viper, she thought.
“That could be dangerous, sir.”
He stood. “You are worth it, Lady Dana.”
“You know my name, but I don’t know yours.”
“Seth is my name. I was so caught up in your lovely beauty that I completely forgot my manners. Please, come join me at my table. I want you as my guest.” He held out his arm for her.
She took his arm. The crowd gasped. They walked to the table with everyone’s eyes staring at them. Dana soaked up the feeling of being treated like a young lady. She was more than just a fighter.
Seth pulled out a chair for Dana at the elegant table prepared for two, as the light danced on the crystal glasses and plates. She sat down, and he sat across from her.
His personal servant was an older man in a white uniform trimmed in black. His auburn hair also had a gray streak on one side.
This man just seemed broken and didn’t say anything while he performed his duties.
“You have a lot of questions for me.” Seth motioned to his personal servant. “Bring us some water,” he said coldly.
“Why do you dislike my mother?”
“I don’t. I just disagree with her policies here.”
“She’s not in charge, just a member . . .”
“A member of the Chamber of Council. I know. But your mother is the power behind the council. You must see that.”
She sighed, longing for a date with this man, but Seth didn’t feel right to her. “I can. But, you see, I keep hearing threats against my mother’s life.” She narrowed her blue eyes locking her gaze on him. “I take those very seriously. If anyone hurts my mother, there’s no place where he or she can hide from me.” She straightened her back and smiled. “Now, I do understand things can be misconstrued.”
Seth fidgeted in his seat. “You do understand politics. I haven’t threatened your mother. In fact, I admire her.”
Why do I feel like you are lying to me? she asked herself.
“The Domes want peace with the Badlands and we want to be united. That can’t happen until we are under the same law. We have plenty of room for everyone.”
“Everyone? Why not target the parents or older single people?” she asked.
“They don’t fit in our plans yet,” he snickered.
She looked up to see his personal servant pouring the water in the crystal glasses, and he stared at her.
“My lady, you sit with a viper. Leave here,” he mouthed to Dana.
“Why don’t they?” she asked Seth.
“Too old, for their minds are closed. But yours is not.” He picked up her hand and kissed it. “Let’s discuss other things. This topic about politics is such a boring conversation to have with a gorgeous beauty like yourself.”
“Have you dreamed of wearing a white dress, running barefoot in the grass near a pond?” he asked.
The room began to spin. Dana sat there, maintaining her composure that everything was fine. “Many times, I have. However, I live here in the land of sand.”
“Don’t you get tired of living here?” Seth asked.
“No, this is my home.” She stood with the room spinning all around her. “But you haven’t told me why the domes want us so badly?”
Seth snapped his fingers, as his servant approached Dana.
She pulled out her pistol. “Keep him away from me!” Dana shouted with everyone’s eyes on her. “You drugged me, you . . . viper!”
He motioned for his servant to seize her.
“Just listen to me. No one will hurt you, Lady Dana. It’s time for you to know the truth.”
She fired her weapon, shooting at the wall. “Next time there will be blood alerting the scorpions to lunch!”
“Disappointing, your mind goes back and forth. You are not ready for what we offer.” He snapped his fingers.
“What are you doing to me?” she asked.
Seth snapped his fingers again.
The room spun at a faster rate.
“Please, no one will harm you,” he said.
His words were soothing to her. She pointed her weapon to the floor.
The plaster above them buckled and broke. Rats fell into the room like an overflowing waterfall. The guests screamed out of terror. The rats flooded into the pub and chomped their teeth. The guests dashed to the main exit, trying to flee from the rat attack.
Seth and the others escaped from the back entrance before they blocked it off.
Dana stood there dazed in the chaotic scene!
Joe raced through the heard of teenagers, kicking the rats to get to her.
“Dana!” Joe shouted at her.
All at once she shook her head and fired her weapon at the nasty creatures.
She tapped her earbud. “Chief, I need assistance! There’s a rat attack at my location!”
A couple of rats were trying to crawl up her leg. Joe picked up a pitcher of water and hurled it at them. Dana jerked away. The rats squealed out of pain, racing toward the windows. Dana and Joe looked at each other. She dashed to the electronic boards. When the rats sniffed the scent of water on her. They bolted in the opposite direction.
She picked up the board. “Joe, catch!”
He raised his arms, and she threw it to him. Then she pointed to the window. Joe nodded, and tossed it into the glass.
It shattered, causing the teenagers to scream. This enticed the rats to start attacking them. Dana raced to a huge bowl filled with water and hurled it to a bunch of rats, who were biting the people who were trying to leave.
The water burned the creatures, as they squealed out of pain. She threw another electronic board at another window. More rats zoomed out, giving the teenagers time to escape the pub.
“Dana, are you okay?” Joe asked.
She shook her head. “I think he drugged me.”
He picked her up. “I was hoping you would get mad at me. So you would leave this place.”
“I called for help . . .”
“He turned on the blockers so we couldn’t,” Joe explained.
“You are not with them?”
“No. I am working undercover for the Chief. It is time to leave,” he said.
Joe dashed down the dark corridor. The bright sun hurt their eyes, and he took out his shades. Dana buried her face in his shirt. He raced out of the Northwest Section.
After a few blocks in the hot sun, Joe found some shade. He put her on her feet. “I can’t take you to your mother. It will blow my cover.”
She leaned against the wall looking at him. “Why are you doing this? I mean your cover.”
“You are drugged.” He held her closer to him. “My sister went into the domes. My parents received a letter from her asking for help. She wants out. I’m trying to locate her.”
“We will leave Deadman’s Planet,” he said simply.
“I hope you find your sister,” she said.
“This means our relationship is over,” he said.
She nodded and hugged him. “Just be happy and find someone who will love you.”
“I will. You do the same.” He patted her cheek.
Dana dashed out of the shadows and raced in the hot sun for a few blocks. Her thoughts cleared, but she was still emotionally upset from her encounter.
Somehow she made it to Chamber Hall and collapsed on her knees. A young patrol man found her and carried Dana to her mother’s office.
“Duchess, your daughter is drugged,” he yelled.
An exhausted Dana covered in sweat was placed on the sofa.
Keenan hurried to take off her daughter’s jacket and boots. “Get the doctor!” Her mother ordered.
She closed her eyes and knew she was safe in her mother’s presence.
Dana couldn’t sleep when danger was around, and woke up to dripping cold water was running down her face from a wet cloth over her eyes. The drapes in the office were pulled shut to block out the afternoon sun. The cool air rushed out of the vents, making them vibrate against the walls. Removing the cloth from her eyes, Dana found her mother, Keenan, sitting in a chair.
The office’s wall displayed the latest artwork of trees, flowers, sun, and rain from ten-year-old Alexis. It was a reminder to Dana that her mother needed to stay alive, for her little sister and brother.
“Alexis is improving in her artwork by expressing herself more,” Keenan said.
“It might be due to the fact that Alexis can’t talk,” Dana said, and moaned.
“She will talk when she is ready. Once her implant and her mind combine with each other.” Keenan eyed her daughter. “Well, baby girl, what did you discover?”
“You’re not going to ask if I’m all right?” She stared at her mother.
“I already know you’re not. But you are safe here.” Keenan had a proud grin on her face.
“Mom, sitting here pretending that the Domes don’t want my friends is doing more damage. I needed to find out what’s going . . .”
“By putting yourself in great danger. If your father were here, he would be giving you a mouth full about your little stunt,” she said, and stood. Keenan felt Dana’s forehead. “You are still warm.” Her mother handed Dana a glass of water.
She sat up slowly, feeling every ache in her body, and took the glass, sipping it. The cold water soothed her throat that felt like sandpaper. “I will be all right.” She put the cold rag behind her neck. “I’m sorry.”
“You are your father’s daughter more than you know. I can no longer live in denial, and I find comfort in that,” Keenan said.
“I’m your daughter, too!” She snapped and saw her mother’s glare. “Sorry about my tone. There are times I think you search for dad in me. Why?”
Keenan sat there, appearing older in the low light. She pondered Dana’s question. “Perhaps I do way too much. You have my wisdom, my sweetness, in your soul, and my determination. These are honorable traits for a young lady.” Keenan’s fingers rubbed her chin back and forth when she had an inner debate within herself. “There are many things you don’t know about me. The more you are like your father, the better your life will be.”
“Mom . . .”
Keenan held up her hand. “Dana, there are some things I do not wish to burden you with.” She paused. “Now, why did you track down Seth?”
How does my mother know what I do? she asked herself.
“Because, I am your mother,” Keenan stated with a grin on her face.
Dana shrugged. “I went because I kept hearing threats towards you.” She put on her boots and her jacket.
“I keep hearing the same threats about you. I have alerted your father to these new developments. He will be here in a few hours. We agree it’s time for you to know.”
“To know what?” she asked.
Keenan stood and beckoned Dana to follow her.
Dana tossed back the glass to finish her drink, gulped down the water, and hurried to catch up with her mother.
Keenan placed two of her fingers on the wall above a picture of her children. A door slid opened, revealing a secret entrance. Keenan stepped in, waving to Dana to enter.
She swallowed hard, for she disliked the darkness and didn’t know what was waiting in the shadows. Walking into the room, she stopped when she felt her mother’s presence. The door closed behind her. Dana flinched.
“Baby girl, you’re safe. That’s for our protection,” Keenan said.
“What’s this place?” Dana asked.
“You shall see.”
The lights turned up slowly, allowing their eyes to adjust. A spiral staircase led down to a lower level. She shivered. The howling air blasted up from the lower level, and the temperature dropped since the door was shut.
“This is a hidden room,” she said with excitement.
Keenan giggled and motioned to Dana.
I wonder what else is down here, she thought.
Her mother stood, shaking near the spiral staircase. Dana grabbed her mother’s arm. They went down the steps.
“Mom, are you feeling all right?” she asked.
Keenan patted her daughter’s hand. “I will be fine.”
They reached the last step; Dana squeezed her mother’s arm indicating something was wrong. Pulling out her pistol, she pointed her weapon to the movement in the shadows. The Chief stepped out of the darkness with his arms crossing his chest. He stood there, staring at them.
“She’s not ready,” the Chief snapped.
Keenan stood there. “I’m her mother. She’s ready, and we are going to need her.”
“After the stunt she pulled today . . .”
Dana stood in front of her mother. “Do not speak to my mother like that—in her condition!”
The chief’s eye brows went up. “You’re pregnant?” He shoved Dana out of his way, guiding her mother to a chair. “How did this happen?”
She caught her balance. “Why are you asking my mother these questions?” Dana glared at him.
“You need to apologize to Dana,” Keenan said to the Chief.
He nodded. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to hurt you. Because I care about your mother.” The Chief turned and gave Keenan a glass of water. “How far along are you?” He bent down, staring at her.
“A couple of months according to the doctor.” Keenan drank the water slowly while her arm trembled.
“It will be another three months before the nursery is ready.”
Dana walked to them. “What’s going on? I mean are you two . . . having a relationship?
The Chief stood with his jaw dropped open, and Keenan’s dark eyes widened out of shock!
“No. We are very good friends. Your mother saved my life a long time ago,” the Chief said.
“This child I carry is your father’s,” Keenan said.
“I’m sorry for this embarrassment . . .” Dana looked away from them, playing with an invisible pebble on the floor.
“Trouble, I know how it looks to you,” the Chief said.
She lifted up her head and said, “Thank you.”
Dana had a new respect for him.
“The nursery is the next step in our master plan, which is in progress. This is why the Domes are after you and your friends. If we can provide a safe place for mothers and their children, who can live away from the sand, it will change everything!” the Chief explained.
Dana saw the pitcher of water, filled her mother’s glass. “That’s an excellent idea.” The Chief gave Dana a chair to sit down. “Thank you.”
“We do believe the nursery will work. However, our planners have pointed out there could be psychological effects. For example, the negative effect that could have on a marriage,” the Chief said.
“I don’t understand,” Dana said.
“Mother and child will have to live in the nursery away from their family. That will affect the marriage, and we are not prepared for that,” the Chief said.
“This may sound dumb. Why can’t the father visit his family?” Dana asked.
“Baby girl, it’s the sand. Young children under three years old are vulnerable to the sand fever. It infects the babies, who could get sick or even die due to the fever. We need our future children healthy with no disabilities,” Keenan said.
“We have medical equipment, medicine, and vaccinations to ensure a young child’s health after the child reaches three years old,” the chief explained.
She studied her mother. “Mom, will you be staying in the nursery?” Dana asked.
“I’m waiting to discuss it with your father.” Keenan looked at the Chief and said, “Please, show Dana our design for the future.”
The chief offered his hand and escorted Dana to the next area. A force field dropped and lights popped on ahead of them, leading down a circular corridor. Dana recognized the place. They were in the old mines. Now, these mines were transformed into effulgence tunnels, led to rooms holding secrets for the future. Her heart pounded faster with excitement plumbing through her veins.
They stopped. A huge holographic ball lit up, and it played images of a completely different world. Rivers flowed throughout the landscape with green thick grass for miles. There were so many varieties of trees, and then the pockets of wildflowers like the colors of a rainbow. The sky was a light blue.
A squirrel raced up to the screen, and then dashed away, playing with a snow-white deer. A flock of birds flew out of the trees. A yellow butterfly flew by the screen.
This is incredible, she thought.
Dana stood there amazed by the sight that played before her.
“Welcome,” said the computerized female voice. “This is a presentation of our future of the Badlands. You have just seen what the Badlands looked like in the past. A long time of go, this planet was very different. It had rivers, ponds, and oceans with plant life and animals. Then there was a catastrophic event on the planet. That resulted in bringing this infestation of alien sand.”
A different image started to play: dark clouds rolled into the sky blocking out the sun, and then sand fell like snow that covered the ground. The screen faded to black.
Nooooo! That’s horrible, she thought.
“The alien sand ate away at the surface, destroying nearly all life that didn’t evolve. We know that the sand cats, rats, fleas, scorpions, snakes, and some plant life were able to adapt. For centuries the sand has ruled the landscape,” the computerized female voice said.
Another image played inside of the holographic ball of the Badlands before the first settlers came.
“Many years this planet remained untouched due to the sand until one day when a group of explorers came and discovered underneath the surface a rich deposit of rare minerals. This new find led to the Domes being built.
The Domes couldn’t settle the Badlands due to the harsh conditions. Scientists had always believed that this planet was dying, because there was no soil; however, nature has a way of surviving. One day, the first independent miners came to the Badlands with new technology and made a discovery. Once they broke through the Sand Barrier, the soil buried deep within the planet’s layers bubbled up into the mine, surrounding the miners.
“There’s life here.”
Wow, she thought.
The lights came on and Dana turned around, looking at the Chief.
“Is this a joke . . . or am I dreaming?” she asked.
“Nope. You’re not. This is very true. The government of the Domes knows this too.” The Chief grinned. “We have a greater plan in store.”
“What’s that?” She raised her eyebrows.
“We are going to revive the surface,” the Chief said.
“Wait . . .” Dana’s eyes widened out of shock. “When?”
“Many years from now. It will be a long process. We need workers to get settled to proceed to step one.”
Images of the future flashed on the walls as Dana studied them. “What stage are we in now?”
“Stage zero due to the Domes trying to stop it.” The Chief stood there admiring the photos. “I hope I will live to see this. There are so many dangers here. But you and your siblings will.”
“This grand plan could put my mother in great danger?” she asked.
The Chief nodded. “Yes, that’s why the Domes sent the Recruiter here to stop our plans.”
“It is possible that someone could kill her . . .”
“No, I don’t think so. The Domes may try something else,” the Chief said.
“Now you are going to tell me not to say a word. And only discuss this with certain people.”
“You’re smart like your mother.”
“Chief, why thank you very much.” She winked at him.
They walked out of the tunnels, and the force field turned on. Dana turned around to stare at it. She couldn’t help feeling that someone might attempt to kill her mother. The Chief tapped her arm, and they returned to her mother.
Dana strolled down concrete paths under the canopies after running an errand for her mother. Everything was fine at the construction site and on schedule. She couldn’t stop thinking about the Badlands being transformed into a beautiful meadow again. Exhaustion flooding into her body, she yawned. It had been a long day with new exciting adventure: her mother about to have another child, the Recruiter run out of the village, and the future plans in place for her home.
The day’s heat was vaporizing, and the cool evening breeze played with the sand. It fell back down like glittering rain to the ground in the last rays of sunshine.
The dance clubs and pubs prepared to feed and house some of the workers. People dashed in and out of the shops to buy their last-minute items for the night. The stores were shutting down, and they closed their shutters from the approaching nightlife poised to invade the village. The first wave of workers was rushing in, and they whistled at the women as they passed by.
Her mother had told her that they would be staying the night in the village, and she dashed to meet her mother for dinner before more workers arrived.
I need to hurry, she thought.
Her skin tingling, Dana stopped and surveyed the top of the round, glowing structures of the skyline, searching for any movement.
I have this nagging feeling that someone is watching me, she thought.
A bunch of young women gathered by the door of a pub. They stood in their sparkling skin-tight clothes in high heels, and put the last few touches to their layer of make-up, attempting to appear older.
The group of girls pointed and snickered at Dana. She rolled her eyes, and a group of sweaty and lustful workers on the other side of the street eyed her.
I promised my mother I would stay away from trouble, so I have to deal with the want-to-be hotties, she thought.
Dana walked to meet her mother for dinner.
A girl in a pink skin-tight outfit with silver sprinkles on her face and hair blocked Dana. “Where are you off too?”
“Excuse me, I’m late for an appointment,” Dana said.
She moved away, but the girl blocked Dana again.
“You know, those workers over there like you.”
“That’s nice. I need to go. Please, excuse me.” Dana went around the girl.
The girl grabbed Dana’s arm, and a surge of pain raced up her arm. She narrowed her eyes, glaring at the girl.
“I highly suggest that you release my arm,” Dana snapped at her.
The girl’s friends laughed and watched with excitement.
The girl released Dana, and waved her hand underneath her nose. “I was going to ask you if you want a job that doesn’t require wearing a layer of sand. You’ll need to take a shower first,” the young girl mocked her.
Her friends busted out laughing and pointing at Dana.
“I know I do. But since we have a very small water supply, showers are not possible here.” Dana moved closer, staring into the girl’s eyes. “Your dates for tonight will smell worse than I do.”
Something caught her attention; she felt warm, and weak again, so focusing was difficult.
“Is the desert rat mad at us? That we get a date and you won’t have one,” the girl stated.
A red scorpion crawled on the door frame. It turned dark red, about to strike the young teenager that was mocking her. Dana pulled out her pistol. “Move away from the door, now!” She ordered.
“You can’t take a joke? Spending a bit too much time in the sun.”
“Move, now!” Dana demanded.
She fired, killing the scorpion, which flopped down dead on the sidewalk. The teenagers’ screaming made Dana’s ears hurt.
“Are you born stupid or something?” The teenager waved her arms and shouted at Dana.
She pointed her weapon at the teenager. “I suggest you stop making fun of me, or you won’t have a date tonight. Anyhow, I just saved your life! There was a scorpion about to strike at you. So I killed it.”
The teenager and her friends looked down at it.
“Ladies, those will kill you! They inject their venom into your bloodstream. As the venom takes hold, you begin to sweat, and your skin begins stinging. Your muscles begin to burn. The venom travels up to your brain and your head starts pounding. The worst part is you begin to see things that are not there. If you are lucky, death can be quick, but that is rare. It is quite a long, painful death,” Dana said.
The girls backed away from the dead scorpion.
An older woman raced out to see the aftermath. “Lady Dana, oh thank you for saving my girls. Please, come in to have a drink and a meal in my little pub.”
Dana smiled and put her weapon away. “Thank you. Perhaps, another time.”
The woman waved the girls into the establishment. “Lady Dana, I do understand. If you excuse me, I have a lot to do before we open,” the woman said and disappeared into her building.
Putting her hands on the window, Dana couldn’t see anything inside. She studied the situation for a moment.
That’s odd, she thought.
She shrugged and looked up to see the name of the pub Betsy’s Bar. She walked, but couldn’t help thinking something was wrong back in the bar. The maintenance crews had sprayed the village for scorpions a couple of days ago.
Shadows moved on the top of the buildings.
There’s something going on! I need to warn the Chief, she thought.
Dana bolted to the Patrol Office.
Dana dashed into the patrol office out of breath, and leaned against the counter for support, she wanted to hide the fact that she was weak. Her arm was inflamed and craved to be scratched.
I hope I don’t have sand fever. I don’t need to be sick with my dad coming home, she thought.
Behind the counter in the small office was crammed with desks facing each other, as empty chairs sat at the side of each desk. In the far back corner a group of officers huddled at the round table sitting in the chairs gobbling down their dinner.
The Chief stood, poured some water in a glass, and he hurried to her. “Drink this slowly, Dana.”
She took the glass, sipping the water. The Chief pulled a stool and guided her for her to sit.
He raised his eyebrows out of puzzlement. “Miss Dana, is there anything wrong? I thought you were going to meet your mother for dinner.”
She held onto her glass, looking at him. “I don’t know. . . I got this weird vibe from Betsy’s Bar. And . . . I saw shadows on the roof tops watching the village. There’s something wrong.”
The men started laughing, trying to hide their amusement while they continued shoveling their food into their mouths.
“Would you mind letting me in on the joke?” Dana asked nicely.
The Chief rubbed his neck, as he turned red with embarrassment. “Well, Dana that place is kind of shady. They offered things . . .”
“About dating . . . well . . . a paid date. I figured that much out,” she said and laughed.
The men were chuckling about it, too.
“You are all right, Lady Dana,” one of the officers said.
“Thank you,” she said.
The Chief examined her. “The late sun can play tricks on us. I think I should get a medic over here. You have had a rough day . . .”
“Chief, a scorpion almost killed a girl about my age. I killed it. Then a woman came out and rushed the teenagers inside. She wanted me away from her bar!”
The Chief walked to a monitor, pressing on the screen. “The maintenance crew sprayed there yesterday.” He looked at Dana. “A group of girls went in?”
“Yes, one of them was mocking me. They were dressed in tight clothes and wore too much make up,” she said.
“Captain, call a medic for Dana,” the Chief ordered.
“I don’t need a medic . . .” She put her hand on her forehead as the room spun around.
Boom! Boom! Boom!
The thunder roared over them, as the building shook and dust fell down like heavy snow from the ceiling. A vivid flash of light lit up the sky. The Chief knocked down Dana, covering her with his body, his men dive to the floor, and a couple of them quickly crawled to the door.
More explosives erupted from the outside with more flashes of light.
“Chief, those are Thunder Bombs!” a man yelled.
“My mother is out there,” Dana cried out.
The lock door budged out from a couple of raiders kicking down the door, wanting to get inside. The Chief reached for his pistol and fired at the intruders. Once they were dead, he and his men raced to the weapons lockers, grabbing their rifles.
The Chief gave Dana one, as she looked at him. “Trouble, you’re going to need this,” he said.
They raced out into the madness as more explosions lighting up the main path of the village. The people screamed and fled inside of the structures to escape the attack. The raiders stood in the middle of the path and used the rifles killing the workers. While others threw nets over women and girls to capture them.
Dana stood in the middle of the street and spotted one raider, racing toward her with a net, in front of the other raiders who rode on hover bikes. Pulling back the trigger, she opened fire at them, as a blue dazzling light struck the hovering motorcycles that were engulfed by the flames killing the invaders.
She remembered her mother was waiting at the diner for her.
“Mom!” She yelled, feeling a intense pain gripping her chest.
Pushing through the pain, Dana dashed to find her mother. The diner was being blasted away by three raiders holding in their hands were long, round rifle-cannons. A surge of blue streaks flooded out from the windows at the attackers for someone inside was returning fire, and she hoped it was her mother.
She locked the weapon on them, and shot at the men who were trying to kill her mother.
A figure landed in front of Dana and kicked the rifle out of her hands. The attacker’s clothes revealed a woman’s body, but Dana couldn’t see the woman’s face.
There was nothing that would stop Dana from rescuing her mother. She executed a high kick to the woman’s head. The attacker took a couple of steps back from Dana. She performed another kick to her attacker’s stomach, releasing her wrath on this woman.
The woman snatched her leg and Dana pulled out her staff. She swung her arm, while the staff grew into a rod, and she struck the woman’s head. She yanked her leg free, kicking the woman’s stomach. Dana’s attacker collapsed to the ground, scurrying away like a rat returning to the darkness for refuge.
The raiders bolted to their motorcycles. Dana raced to the rifle, seized it, and fired at the bikes to make them explode, stopping the raiders from fleeing the village.
The officers surrounded the raiders, taking away the weapons and cuffing them.
Dana hurried into the diner to find her mother lying on the floor, bleeding from her chest.
“Mommy!” Dana screamed like a little girl and raced to her mother.
A waitress gave Dana a first aid kit. Placing the clean cloths over her mother’s wounds, Dana tried to stop the bleeding. The waitress dashed out yelling something.
Keenan woke up, staring at her daughter. “Baby girl, listen to me. Fight for this land, for your family, for your home. By doing this, you will honor me. My lovely daughter.” Her mother coughed.
“Please fight, Mommy. . . I’m not ready for this…”
Keenan touched her daughter’s cheek with her fingers. “Dana, yes . . . you are. Always remember . . . I’m proud of you. I will love you beyond death . . .”
The medics arrived and took over. She sat there in a confused state while rocking herself.
The Chief grabbed and removed her from the scene. “We need to let them work on your mother. The clinic is preparing for her arrival.” He placed his hands on her shoulders and bent down to be at eye level with her. “Dana, this isn’t your fault.”
Dana shook and sobbed, as the Chief hugged her.
Once the medical team had Keenan stabilized, they brought in the hovering board, placing her on it; then they bolted toward the clinic.
“I want this village on lockdown!” the Chief ordered, holding Dana in his arms.
The Chief looked at a woman medic with her uniform drenched in Keenan’s blood. “It doesn’t look good,” she mouthed to him.
He held Dana tighter in his arms. In a few hours the village would be mourning.
“Sir, we need to examine Lady Dana,” the medic said.
“I think it be best if you get another medic.” The Chief pointed to the blood.
Another medic stepped forward and looked at them. The Chief stepped aside to talk to the woman medic.
“Lady Dana is going into shock. We need to get her to the clinic,” the woman medic explained.
“Come on, love. We need to get you to the clinic,” The Chief said.
Dana followed his lead and sobbed while they walked. She knew death when she saw it.
They entered the clinic, as Dana saw everyone stepped back from her mother who was lying on the hovering board. The medics and the doctor was dumbfounded as Keenan’s body was fading in and out of existence. A soft lavender bubble appeared from the ceiling of the clinic bolted towards Keenan. The bubble color transformed into a purple light engulfing her mother!
Dana broke free, heading to her mother. Knocking anyone or anything down that was in her way, she raced, and something yanked her away! Air rushed all around her when a needle entered her neck.
Her knees gave away on her, and crashed onto the floor when somebody picked her up, as everything went dark.
“I’m sorry,” a voice said.
To be continued into Episode Two
Thank you for taking the time to read my story. I do appreciate it. If you enjoyed my book, would you please consider leaving a review with your favorite retailer?
Thank you again,
About the Author:
Alexandra Mars lives in Northern Indiana with her cat, living a quiet life when she is not writing or editing. She enjoys reading during her down time. Currently, she is working on several writing projects that are in development.
More books from Alexandra Mars
Coming in the Winter 2017:
Destiny Chronicles: Princess in the Wilderness Episode 1
Coming in the Spring 2017:
Destiny Chronicles: Princess in the Wilderness Episode 2 the Encounter
Deadman’s Planet Series:
Lady Dana of the Badlands Episode 1
Connect with Alexandra Mars
At her website
Follow her at Twitter @AMstorytelling
At Facebook [+ https://www.facebook.com/Alexandra-Mars-1804080213181852/?ref=bookmarks+]