by Renee Duke
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Earth-born adolescents, Meda and Kirsty, are eager to explore the Zaidus system. They just don’t want to explore it as members of an organized tour group. The chaperone’s a harridan, and most of the places they’re forced to visit are really boring. Striking out on their own holds far more appeal, and despite limited funds and unexpected mishaps, they manage quite well – at first. But thanks to a bratty little brother, a dimension-travelling alien girl, and a handsome alien prince, their independent tour of the Zaidus planets is not without its complications.
Mrs. Bromley’s decision to sit in the barge’s windowless main section did not go over well with Simon. Like most small boys, he likes to watch planets shrinking beneath him whilst transferring up to a ship. He took a seat, but having what one of his teachers once called a low regard for authority, he didn’t stay in it long. The minute Mrs. Bromley turned her back he headed for the doors leading up to the observation deck.
It was not until she went to take her own seat that Mrs. Bromley noticed Simon’s was empty. “Where is your little brother?” she demanded, looking down at Arlyne.
The query threw my sister into an immediate panic. The Brent siblings all have dark brown eyes, dark brown hair, and an average build for our respective ages. Except for our hair (she wears hers long; I keep mine medium length), she is, physically, a smaller version of me. That’s where the similarities end. Arlyne is compliant, sweet natured, and inclined to look on the bright side of everything. I am…not. I might not clash with the powers that be as often as Simon, but I don’t always find it convenient to fall in with all their edicts either.
Arlyne, well, let’s just say adult approval means a lot to her. The only time she wavers in her ongoing campaign to please them is if it involves telling tales on Simon. Bitter experience has taught her he has too many ways of getting even. Unsure as to how she should respond, she just bit her lip and looked helplessly at me.
“Simon’s not here,” I said, deciding to bail her out.
“I am well aware of that. What I want to know is, where is he?”
I considered the matter. “Well, he really likes window seats. Since there aren’t any down here, he’s probably gone up to the observation deck.”
“I told everyone to stay with the group.” The astonishment in Mrs. Bromley’s voice indicated that opposition to her dictates was not within her realm of experience.
“Och, well, Simon never listens to a word anyone says,” said Kirsty, tossing her short, copper-coloured curls unconcernedly. “Dinna fash yourself. He’ll come back when we connect up with the ship.”
“He’ll come back now,” Mrs. Bromley declared.
She wheeled round, but before she could go in pursuit of her errant charge, the barge’s launch siren sounded and she had to strap down. Thwarted, she could do nothing until we had docked beside the ship and Simon joined us at the connector doors. Elbowing aside several passengers, she seized him by the collar.
“How dare you go off by yourself after I expressly forbade it,” she scolded. “You’re a naughty, disobedient boy.”
Having been called that, and a lot worse, by a number of harassed educators, Simon did not exactly reel from this rebuke. Before she could improve on it, the connector doors opened and we were forced to move onto the starliner’s receiving deck. By the time boarding officials had scanned our travel documents and pointed us in the direction of our on-board accommodation, her annoyance had increased tenfold. She had also got it into her head that everyone connected to Simon was responsible for his act of insubordination.
She ranted all the way to the row of double-occupancy cabins allotted to our group. “Such behaviour is totally unacceptable. I know good conduct is not your strong point—reports supplied by every school you have ever attended revealed that—but you will find me far less tolerant than the people at your former institutes of learning. You four have got off to an extremely bad start with me.”
Arlyne started snuffling. Seeing how upset she was about this so-called bad start, Kirsty and I hung our heads and tried to look remorseful.
Simon didn’t bother. Had we known how the rest of the edu-tour was going to go, we wouldn’t have either.
Renee Duke grew up in Ontario/ B.C., Canada and Berkshire, England. In addition to this young adult novel, she is the author of the middle grade time travel novels, The Disappearing Rose and The Mud Rose, the first two books in the eventual five-book Time Rose series, and has just completed the third book, The Spirit Rose.
Visit Renee's Blog Time Traveling with Kids for interesting historical facts and findings of interest to both kids and adults.