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1st chapter of InterWorld

1st chapter of InterWorld

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From Interworld, a 12-16 year old's book I am writing. Please comment if you like or dislike it, and say why. Cheers.
From Interworld, a 12-16 year old's book I am writing. Please comment if you like or dislike it, and say why. Cheers.

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Published by: Meta on Aug 14, 2007
Copyright:Traditional Copyright: All rights reserved

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05/04/2011

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Snail TrailThe massive Snails slid forward, branches cracking under their weight and widetrails of slime glistening on the road behind them. Guns bristled from inside theshells, and long cannon were mounted at the uppermost apex of their gradualcurves. Tiny specks, barely discernible as men, clambered and climbed over thehuge domed shells.Jack Briar, 14 years old, fresh from boarding school and full of excitement,watched from the ground below. He had wandered out into the wide road for abetter look at the column, but now hurried back to join the rest of the passengersembarking a Transport Snail. These Snails were smaller, and instead of gunscarried huge pagodas, nearly half as tall again as a Snail. It was to be one ofthese which would be Jack's home for the next month as the convoy made its way tothe Capital, Industry Stump. He reached the end of the queue, and laid down histwo heavy cases. These contained all of his worldly possessions; mainly books,clothes, and personal effects, but, significantly, also a small brown bagcontaining a great deal of someone else's money. This money had paid for thejourney, which, despite being one of the greatest single expenses of his life, hecould now easily afford dozens of times over. However, he would be required tolive off the money in that little bag for at least the next 4 years in IndustryStump, and to make it last he would need to be prudent.The queue diminished as people boarded the pagoda, and Jack was now able to smellthe Snail; a rich, earthy, tangy smell. It didn't smell particularly bad, justunusual. He had only ever seen the Snails outside the town walls, and breathedgreat lungfuls of air to try and fix this strange smell in his mind, quiteforgetful of the fact that he would surely be exposed to it constantly for thenext month. He could see the mottled, green-blue surface of the Snail itself, andnoticed that it was translucent and shiny, and pulsed near-imperceptibly in timewith the Snail's massive heart, something that he had never been close enough tonotice before.He began to ascend the boarding scaffold, a wooden tower and staircase thatspiralled up to the pagoda. As he climbed, the shell curved close to the wood, soclose that Jack was able to reach out and touch it, feeling the rough, brownsurface slide underneath his fingers. He looked out through the gaps in the tower,watching as the ground got farther away and the horizon became more distant. Hecould see most of the town of RockWeed now, built on a low flat rock, with lazysmokestacks stretching diffusely into the sky, and he felt a sudden sorrow that hemay never see it again. He had lived there his entire life, and would miss it. Itwasn't always the most interesting place to live, and enjoyed a quiet, slowexistence, but it had been Jack's home He climbed on, more tiredly, as the spiralwent round and round. He was breathing deeply, and felt sweat prick on hisforehead, as he tramped up the last few turns.At the top he let out a sigh of relief, sagging his shoulders, but before he couldrecover his breath he felt a smart tapping on his shoulder. "Come on," a red facedboarding officer scolded him, "You're blocking the stairs. Move through to theatrium."Jack breathlessly nodded to the man, then walked the few remaining steps up intothe atrium. This wide hall was filling up with people, all anxious to be shown totheir rooms and unpack their luggage. He joined this new queue of people, and thenlooked around at the decorative pillars and low ceiling with its delicate woodadornments and strong stone buttressing. Their were several doors at the other endof the room, and occasionally a boarding officer would direct a group through one.Jack put his cases down again and stretched his arms, careful to keep an eye on
 
his suitcases as he did so. He had been instructed to always keep his money insight, and he intended to honour that instruction to the letter.As before, the queue eventually diminished, and Jack found himself at the front. Asmartly uniformed officer with a revolver at his side gave him a form to fillout, and asked him and a group of a dozen others to move through one of the doorsat the end of the atrium, labelled Form Room 4. Jack obeyed, and found himself ina small room with chairs around its edge. He sat down and looked at the form hehad been given. It asked him for some details about his appearance "forrecognition purposes". He filled these in. Jack was tall for his age, and quitethin, which made him look taller still. He had light brown hair, flecked withblond strands, and blue eyes. At present he was wearing a loose fitting top andtrousers, both of shapeless hemp material, and he noticed that his clothes were,although clean, quite shabby compared with the others in the room.A well dressed family sat across from him, the father absorbed in filling in hisown form while his wife, who was rather taller than her husband, noticeable evenas they sat, fussed over the restless children. The youngest child was staringcuriously at Jack, and giggled when Jack gave a little wave, burying its headshyly in its mother's skirts.Jack continued with his form. It asked for confirmation of booking details, whichJack filled in, before the last paragraph."As of today the South Gdn. Transport Snail 'Ponderous' is administered as amilitary vessel and the passengers are advised to observe the precautions laiddown by the Captain and his crew. No person may enter the prohibited decks withoutwritten permission from the duty officer or Captain. All passengers will remain intheir rooms from 21:00 each evening until 7:00 the following day. No one is toleave the pagoda at any time. Failure to comply with any of these instructionswill result in imprisonment and subsequent prosecution."Jack read through these, wondering why the Snail was now classed as military, andreached the last sentence, "It is within the Captain's power to execute withouttrial those who are believed to be planning mutinous actions."Jack was taken aback by this. Once they had all filled in their forms a tall womandressed in boarding officer uniform entered and collected them, briefly scanningeach as he picked it up to check the details."Follow me, please" the woman said, "and bring your bags." Jack stood and heftedhis cases, and followed the woman through to a staircase and up several floors.Again, by the time they reached the top he was panting. Others, too, weresimilarly exhausted by the climb. "Come on," snapped the woman, "We have 400passengers to deal with today, so hurry up please." And then she set off along thelong corridor at a fast pace.They reached the top passenger deck, which looked more elaborate than the lowerdecks, as these were the most expensive rooms. As the slowest passengers caught upthe woman was already checking off names from a list and handing out keys. JackBriar, alphabetically second, received his key after "Arachides", the family fromwhich he had sat opposite in the form room. His key was small and golden, and wasstamped "F7R12". This meant Floor 7, Room 12, Jack guessed."Right, listen closely now, please." The officer said, "Those keys are yourresponsibility for the duration of the trip, so please look after them carefully.The room numbers on this section of the deck refer to those on your keys, and weask that you now remain in your rooms until the Snail is in motion in half an
 
hour's time. We recommend that you use this time to unpack. Any questions?" Sheglanced swiftly over at the passengers, then immediately continued "No? Good. Wehope your stay is comfortable."And with that she said goodbye to them and strode off, leaving them standing inthe corridor. "OK," said the Father of the Arachides family in a surprisingly deepvoice for such a small man, "Come on children. Look for room 13." he then set offdown the corridor, counting his way along the room numbers, which were displayedin raised gold on the thick wooden doors. "5... 6... 7..." Jack followed behindthe family, as his room would be along here also. "12...13 - Good! Here we are."The family stopped at their door and the father rattled his key impotently in thelock until it clicked open after a few seconds of effort. They disappeared inside,and the door closed behind them, clicking locked.Jack, now alone in he corridor, took his own key and turned it in the lock of Room12. The heavy wooden door swung open, and Jack pulled his cases inside.The room was small, but not tiny. It contained a bed, with sheets and a blanket,and a cupboard. There was a little window with a curtain, and a washbasin andbucket. A small notice on the bucket asked the user to please dispose of anyBucket contents in the communal disposal facility, and not to dispose of it out ofthe window. There was also a small oil lamp, and a box of matches. All in all,Jack thought, the room was pretty good. Unlike at boarding school he wouldn't haveto share with anybody, and at night he would be able to read his books bylamplight.He sat on the bed, and opened one of his suitcases. He took out clothes, andbundled these into the cupboard, then put his soap and toothbrush at the basin,and carefully stacked his books beside the bed. He then opened the other suitcase,and reverently removed the money bag and put it on his pillow. He removed somemore books, and stacked these with the others.And so he had finished unpacking in less than 5 minutes. He checked his watch, asimple clockwork device that required frequent winding, and saw that he had stillthe best part of half an hour until the journey began. He couldn't leave the roomuntil then, although he restlessly wished to explore, so he lay back on the bed,carefully moving the money bag from the pillow to the top of the book pile.Jack stared up at the ceiling for a few seconds, looking at the knots in the woodand absent mindedly counting the planks, and listening to the creak of the floorof the room next door, hearing the muffled voices of the Arachides family driftthrough. He sat up and picked up a book from the middle of the pile, careful notto dislodge the money, and opened the book at the back page. The selection of bookwould look to an observer as if it was done at random, but this was not the case,as Jack extricated a neatly folded letter. He replaced the book, and lay back onceagain. He had read and re-read this short letter so often that he was wordperfect, but once again found himself drawn to look at the actual words written bythe man who had sent him the money. A man whom Jack could only remember meetingonce, when he was seven, and barely knew. A man who was, in fact, his Father. Theletter read:Dear Jack,I hope this letter finds you well. I am aware that your mother's inheritance hasbeen fully expended on School tuition fees for your final year. I have creditedyour school fund with GC 100 which is to be granted to you when you graduate in 2months time. You are to use it to travel to Industry Stump and enrol as anundergraduate student at Stump University.

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