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This is chapter 2 of Cliffton book 1. This is all new stuff. A couple people asked to see the library trip, and I needed a less expository way of explaining why Kalen and Calla decided to set off the bomb. As always, concrit is much appreciated. Rip me to shreds. I don't mind. No warnings that I can think of.


If you're reading Cliffton for the first time, here are the previous chapters so you can catch up:
Prologue | 1



Never Judge a Book By Its Cover
(Kalen -- four days before the bomb)



We've been walking for over three hours, and still no sign of the library. By the time we crest yet another sand dune, I'm starting to wonder if it even exists. Pushing aside my doubts, I stare at the sand below.

Hey, what's that down there? I squint into the distance. It's a hulking object, a shadow in the weak moonlight.

"Is that it?" Calla breathes.

I dig my night-vision binocs from my pack. A building, the first we've seen in what feels like forever. It's impossible to make out much else. "Looks like it. Let's make camp when we get to the bottom." My stomach growls so loudly I can barely hear my own words. "Aren't you dying to eat something besides a NutriBar?"

"Lands alive, yes." Calla sounds as relieved as I feel.

When we reach the bottom, I want to do a victory dance. I turn to the RoboCart and begin unpacking our gear.

"Is it supposed make that ear-rending screeching?" Calla eyes the cart warily.

I shake my head and turn it off. It belches smoke, filling the air with the acrid stench of burning electronics. Sighing, I turn my attention to setting up our sleeping quarters. I unroll my heatproof camping dome and lay it on the flattest spot I can find. When I press the Expand button on the front, the dome inflates with a loud huffing sound.

"Food's heated up." Calla hands me a bowl, then sinks gratefully into the camping chair I offer her. All the work she does on the farm sure has made her tough -- she's kept up with me every step of the way. Although I don't understand why her side doesn't have scientists and machines to take care of food production. Ours does.

"Hey, Calla?" I ask. "How come people do the farming on your side? Isn't there tech to handle that?"

"Active hands mean untroubled minds," she intones, like a schoolgirl reciting her lessons. Then she rolls her eyes. "Technology's used as a diversion in what little free time we've got. Labor keeps us occupied the rest of the time. I reckon the government'd prefer we don't have much time to think."

I pick at my food, even though Mother packed my favorite, cheesy hashbrown casserole. Maybe Calla's government has a point -- my mind sure was less troubled when my hands were busy. Now the questions are creeping in. What if Father finds out I lied about being with Cam and Brad? What if we can't get inside the library? What if we don't find anything?

What if we do?

Setting my half-eaten meal aside, I concentrate on the RoboCart instead. Even after I've meticulously cleaned and lubed every inch, it still screams like it's in pain when I turn it on. Maybe I should have brought my AutoDuffel after all. But it's military issue -- people will ask questions if it's all scratched up when I show up for team training.

When you're not who you say you are, you avoid questions at all costs. I know that better than anyone. All my life, I've played the perfect soldier, the model student. I was crowned King of the Reaping, recruited for a fighting team before anyone else. At graduation, my class voted me Most Likely to Make Heads Roll.

I never gave a damn about any of it, but Brendan sure did. He's always been jealous, assuming my life is easy because I have what he wants. Brendan doesn't see how hard it is, having to hide who I am just to fit in. How lonely it makes me.

Something tells me Calla would understand -- that there's more to her story than she's letting on. I've spent my whole life with a smile on my face, covering up what's underneath. Do that long enough, and you learn to spot it in others. But you also learn not to get involved in other people's business.

"So, what do you know about this library?" Calla's voice comes from above.

With a start, I look up. She's taken down her hair, raking her fingers through it like a comb. It cascades over her shoulders in shiny black waves, and I have to will my jaw not to drop. She's the perfect girl, with her thick-lashed brown eyes, full lips, and flawless dark skin -- and she's a powerhouse, too. If only she liked me the way I like her.

"Kalen?"

Oh, yeah. Library.

Retrieving the folded map from my pack, I spread it out and show her a tiny "X". "There should be an entrance right here."

"What's this over here?" Knitting her eyebrows together, Calla points to a perfect semicircle inked on the map. Like a fence, it encircles a region on the coast of the Great Sea. My heart plummets into my boots.

"It's -- it's -- " Swallowing hard, I try again. "It's the border."

"The border?" Calla echoes.

"Yeah." I let out a gusty breath. "We really are all savages, penning your people up like livestock."

Calla puts her hand on my arm. My face burns despite the cool desert night. "Who's to say your people're even the ones who did it?" Her eyes look a thousand years old, even though she's seventeen like me. "Our government's always watching out for our safety. Or so they say. For all we know, they're the ones who put up the fence."

"Good point," I admit. My dazzling smile belies the gloom I feel inside. I know my people all too well.

* * * * *

"Well, that was certainly an adventure." Calla laughs -- a bright, resonant sound that fills the empty space.

It slowly fades away, leaving the abandoned building silent and dark as a tomb. The leatherwings have settled back into slumber. Outside in the distance, desert dogs howl, and the hairs on the back of my neck stand at attention.

Unshouldering my pack, I pull out two XploreHelmets and put one on. There's a slight tingle as it links with my neurovision implant, bathing the room in a soft, pervasive light. I grin, and for once it's genuine. We scaled a pile of rubble and jumped through a ruined roof to get inside, but it was worth it. The shelves lining the walls look intact, as do the rows of books they hold. I hand Calla the second helmet. "You handled yourself well -- you'd make a great soldier."

Calla snorts. "I'm positive all soldiers duck and scream the way I did."

"Who doesn't scream the first time they disturb a leatherwing nest?" My gaze still riveted to the bookshelves, I shrug. "I know I sure did. We should be okay now, though -- as long as we're relatively quiet, they'll stay asleep."

"We ought to go look at those books." Calla snickers. "You've been undressing them with your eyes since we got here."

I'm standing in front of a shelf in nanoseconds. For a moment, I stare, awestruck -- I've never seen so many books in one place. My people don't have much use for them outside of classrooms, but they've always fascinated me. Inhaling deeply to take in their musty smell, I reach for a volume with careful, reverent hands.

But as soon as I turn a page, it crumbles to dust -- as do my hopes when each book I open does the same.

I grit my teeth to stifle a frustrated scream. Yelling could wake the leatherwings, or cause the roof to cave in further -- and if there are troops stationed nearby, I don't want to draw them here. There shouldn't be, not in the middle of nowhere. Besides, if the military knew about this building, it would be rubble by now. Still, I don't want to take any chances.

"Kalen, come here!" Calla shouts from far away. "I found something in the back."

Swallowing my disappointment, I follow her voice to a doorway marked "Special Collections". When I step inside, my heart skips a beat. In the center of the room stands a case stuffed with books. It looks like smoked PlastiGlass, with no visible locks or hinges. I run my fingers over its cool surface -- it feels slick, almost oily. No cracks or seams.

"Are you going to blast it open with one of your lasers?" Calla teases. "You must've brought at least one."

"You know me too well." The corners of my mouth twitch, my mind eased by our friendly banter. "The problem is, I can't tell how thick this material is. I'm not even sure what it is. If I overshoot, I'll damage the books."

"What if it's got some sort of invisible lock?" Calla chews a fingernail. "I've seen them in town, on doors in some of the public buildings. Only government workers can open ours, but maybe this one'd be different if the information here's truly free for the taking." She's still gnawing at her nails -- even she doesn't believe what she's saying.

I don't think I do either, but I sure don't have any better ideas. "How do the locks work?"

"The ones back home? Like this." Calla places her hands down flat on top of the case. With a low-pitched buzzing, it glows bright red. The glow slowly dissipates and the buzzing stops, leaving the books as inaccessible as before.

"Let me try." My cheery tone implies a confidence I don't feel. "Maybe only my people can open it."

Bracing myself for defeat, I lay my own hands on the lid. Nothing happens. My insides turn to lead -- I've failed. Then the room's infused with an eerie green light and the lid dissolves beneath my hands. Willing them to stay steady, I pick up a book and cautiously thumb through its pages. They hold, crisp and strong as the ones in my schoolbooks.

My composure cracks and I cry out in joy. Grinning at Calla, I gather a heaping armload of books and carry them over to a large table at the rear of the room. Her dark eyes flash with excitement as she follows my lead.

"I'll start with the fence," I say. "You want to research the War itself?"

Calla nods. Tense with anticipation, I grab the first book in my stack and flip straight to the index.

As I page through volume after volume, my enthusiasm gives way to dismay. There's nothing more about the fence than I'd find in a fifth-year History of War textbook. The fence was built 76 years BZ -- Before the Zero-Year. The Zero-Year was the start of the War, 1183 years ago. Everyone knows that much. It's even in children's rhymes.

Turning back to my shrinking pile of books, I reach for the one on top -- and my breath catches in my throat. It's bound in animal skin, which means one of two things: it's very old, or very valuable. In a place like this, it probably means both. The book feels comforting in my hands, like a well-worn pair of boots. I open it and begin poring over it.

The Great War began in Lord's Year 5076, but the first stirrings of conflict predate the construction of the People's Fence. The fence was erected in LY 5000 -- the identity of its builders is unknown, and the root causes of the War are the subject of perennial debate. This much is certain: at the turn of the 51st century, the North and South

I try and fail to restrain myself from snickering at the use of the word "erected." Calla shoots me an odd look.

"I -- I'm sorry," I stammer. My ears are burning. "The language in this text -- it's so old-fashioned."

Averting my eyes before I can embarrass myself further, I read on.

This much is certain: at the turn of the 51st century, the North and South were states in a single nation.

Now that's something I never learned in History class.


(Next chapter is here)

Date: 2013-04-09 11:17 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] theun4givables.livejournal.com
I actually really love this chapter so hard. Even if you did agonize over the ending of it for like days. One of these days we'll learn to recognize this particular quirk of yours. ;)

Kalen's voice feels way more "him" this go around. His voice is certainly distinct from Calla's. It's also nice to see that he certainly isn't as clueless as we originally thought, too. He just doesn't reveal what he knows. That line where he says he stays out of other people's business? Really fucking says it all.

Date: 2013-04-10 03:42 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] n3m3sis43.livejournal.com
Thanks! And thanks for reminding me that I do have that quirk because I am really bad lately about forgetting that. I'm still not 100% sure my plan of spreading the information out more is going to work, but I hope it does, because I think it would really tie together what are otherwise going to be some pretty disparate chapters. :D

I'm a lot happier with Kalen's voice in this than I have been in his other POV pieces. I really hope this is going to be like the time I went back and did the rewrite of that one Calla story (you know, that heinous chapter 4 I'm now about to hack to little bits) in that it will help me start to get a better handle on Kalen as a character and give him a better role in the story, even if a lot of it happens from the sidelines.

Although if it's anything like what happened with Calla, I expect his voice and character will continue to evolve and I will end up doing more rewriting later to deal with that. But hey. Progress. :D

Date: 2013-04-09 05:43 pm (UTC)
ext_224364: (Jessica)
From: [identity profile] x-disturbed-x.livejournal.com
Aha I'm sure that't something they never wanted them to learn in history class! ;) That sure is something they would never want them to know.

I like reading Kalen's POV because it didn't seem like we got a chance too very often. I also agree that voice is very different from Calla's and that's a good thing when you have all these different POV in the story. :P.

Date: 2013-04-10 02:45 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] n3m3sis43.livejournal.com
Thanks! I'm really glad Kalen's POV is working for you so far. I'm going to try to work in a few more POVs for him this time around. :D

scene 2

Date: 2013-04-09 07:27 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jennickels.livejournal.com
Ooooh, finally some facts about the war.

I actually think you could put more bits of text here. At this point it doesn't feel info-dumpy. I wanted him to read more to get a little bit more information. I was kind of sad to see it end so quickly.

I am so all over the place--one week I tell you that your chapters are kind of long and then another I'm like, "dude, moar!!!"

I cracked up at the "erect" comment. Boys are so stupid. Then again at that age I would have snickered, too. How I remember taking sex ed in 9th grade. At our Catholic school we still got comprehensive sex ed. Our book had illustrations of boy parts and our teacher was our religion teacher. She was very matter of fact while the 25 or so 14 year old girls snickered and made faces and blushed. I felt bad for the teacher.

I liked the disintegrating pages. Just before I started reading I had thought of that--if the library has been lost for such a long time the books would just fall apart. I was glad you put that right in there from the start.

I'd love to know why Kalen was able to open the case. Maybe because he's military or something. Like they have special DNA or some kind of chip or something in them that signals it. That's what my mind went to right away.

I'm not sure about the beginning, though. After the way the first scene ended it seems kind of abrupt and telly. It's a legit way to go but I kept thinking it would have been better if it started with them waking up or climbing. Maybe it's just that it started with dialogue. It might work better (at least to me) if it started with a summary of what they'd done first. Something like:

We've been working our way into the building for an hour. If we thought scaling the pile of rubble outside was hard it was nothing compared to climbing down through the collapsed roof. Calla proved to be a better climber--I nearly fell twice. Luckily she only noticed the one time. But when the leatherwings noticed our descent things got a little tense. We've made it down, though, and the leatherwings have gone back to their roost in the eaves.

Then start with the dialogue.

Why do I have so much fun reworking and rewriting paragraphs from your story but can't seem to do the same with my own novel? Ugh.

I think the scene actually needs more war facts. There seems to be this huge set up of them getting in, finding the books, searching them and almost giving up to only get a couple of facts. I WANT MORE!!!! Yes, I'm saying it again. Even just a few small details that Kalen has never heard before and then he calls Calla over to look. Or she finds something herself and reads it out loud to Kalen.

Maybe Calla finds something that is unknown to her but is what Kalen was taught on his side and then he shows her what he found. Maybe a little discussion of them comparing the histories they were taught and how they were both wrong.

And now I think I've just lead you into another Calla chapter because that would get super long.

I'm definitely interested (as a reader) to find out what happens next after reading this.

Re: scene 2

Date: 2013-04-10 02:38 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] n3m3sis43.livejournal.com
Okay, for starters, I kind of agree with you about the beginning of the second section. I was trying really hard for economy of words because my original plan for this section was to end it with the exchange between Kalen and Calla you mentioned -- more text, them talking about what they found in their books, etc.

It started to feel like it was going to be infodumpy, though, or like it would require a whole other chapter. So I decided to leave it with the two things that would stand out to Kalen -- the fact that none of the references say who built the fence (this REALLY bothers him) and the fact that the two sides used to be one country.

So anyway, that leaves me thinking I do need to expand the beginning of that section a bit.

My plan now (which may or may not end up working) is to spread the rest of the information they found about the War over the course of my next three chapters. Because I have three more POV characters I need to introduce. There is some information I know applies to the confrontation between Kalen and Brendan in Brendan's chapter (stuff about how things were before the two sides split).

I'm pretty sure Devin wants to talk or at least think about the fence (his chapter is next and I've been working on it a little) and I know Kalen does because like I said, it really bothers him. And there is some tech-related stuff Devin would be interested in so I'm thinking those go in his chapter.

And I want Devin to open up to Wes some in the Wes chapter, so I think some other stuff will come out there. I'm trying to make an outline now to figure out exactly how I'm going to do this (because the original plan was for all of it to be in the library scene).

I guess if it doesn't work, that's what even more rewrites are for, but I'd like to get some of the plot in Wes and Devin's chapters because otherwise it's kinda like, "Why are we watching these dudes just dick around for two chapters?"

As far as Kalen being able to open the case, that is an answer I know and you will someday find out if you stick it out through this whole mess of a book. ;-)

And I'm glad you liked the "erect" comment because I was writing the book text and "erected" ended up in it and I was like, "Well, crap. I either need to change that or have Kalen laugh at it." Hahaha.

I'm glad this left you wanting to know more. There is more -- I just have to figure out how to spread it out effectively without being too much of a tease. :D

Re: scene 2

Date: 2013-04-10 04:01 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] n3m3sis43.livejournal.com
Okay, I think I have a rough updated outline of how/when I want to reveal the other stuff they found in the library. Now it'd be nice if Devin actually cooperates. Ha. And I'm going to try to go through your plot post tomorrow, too. :)

Date: 2013-04-09 08:30 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tatdatcm.livejournal.com
OMG! I love this! It defines Kalen so much more and much better than the previous chapters from his POV. I know you've had a hard time with his voice, but I feel like you nailed it here.

"When you're not who you say you are, you avoid questions at all costs. I know that better than anyone. All my life, I've played the perfect soldier, the model student."

"I never gave a damn about any of it, but Brendan sure did. He's always been jealous, assuming my life is easy because I have what he wants. Brendan doesn't see how hard it is, having to hide who I am just to fit in. How lonely it makes me."


These two lines do so much to help define his character. It sets us up for when he acts so clueless in future chapters, but doesn't lead us to believe his whole personality has changed, or that he's a complete dolt. It also sets the stage for when we finally meet Brendan. We're already making assumptions about him and their relationship. The curiosity factor (to a new reader) is probably huge here.

I love how the rapport between Kalen and Calla is increasingly stronger and more of a friendship, and that Kalen realizes that he likes Calla in "that way" more than she likes him.

I feel like it wouldn't hurt for us to find out even more facts about the beginning of the war at this point rather than waiting for another chapter.

Date: 2013-04-10 02:43 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] n3m3sis43.livejournal.com
Yay! I'm really glad Kalen's voice worked for you here. I realized that the only POV for him that I've ever been pretty happy with was I'm Not Sorry, so I tried to go for similar thought patterns and sentence structure.

And one of my awesome betas helped me realize during the last rewrite that I really needed to show early on that he was never exactly who he seemed to be in Calla's eyes. I do hope they're going to maintain a bit more of a friendship in this version.

I was really torn on the ending. It felt infodumpy when I tried to get all the facts in, but I wonder if adding a bit more would help. One reason I want to spread it across more than one chapter is that I need a little more plot-relevance in my early POVs for Wes and Devin. But we'll see. :D

Thanks for reading and stuff.

Date: 2013-04-09 10:06 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] favoritebean.livejournal.com
This is great! It's nice to see the library adventure in print. Getting the back story of North and South is chilling too, because it draws attention to history of so many civil wars in our world. Imagine if they became as long, drawn out, and dystopic as the war in this story. Brrrrr... shivers.

Date: 2013-04-10 03:37 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] n3m3sis43.livejournal.com
Thank you so much! I'm trying so hard to make this coherent and, you know, have the actual plot and worldbuilding stuff show up more. I swear it exists -- it's just taken a while to solidify in my head and then my characters also tend to get away from me sometimes.

It's funny, because a lot of the inspiration for the original version of the Kalen/Calla story was from the Middle East conflict (which this book is not intended to be a commentary on, because here is my ten-foot pole and here is me not using it to touch that, ever). Some of the topography and climate and other details in the book are inspired by Israel because I'm not very well-traveled, but I've been there and it fascinated me.

The more I work on building the world, though, the more I end up thinking about and sometimes using elements of other conflicts and civil wars, too. It scares me how easy it could be to go from our world to this one.

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