A Free Online Science Fiction Novel- “Liberty”- Chapter 13
Leaving the city behind
*Note-a short prologue on chapter one provides details of the world in which this story takes place. Each chapter links to the next to make reading easier.
This is chapter thirteen of a novel I am sharing online, titled Liberty, A Daughter Universe Novel.
Comments and criticisms are welcome and encouraged.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Leaving the city
Even though they were an hour’s drive west of downtown Capitol City,
on old, pothole-ridden roads, Sarah had enjoyed the ride. The Buick glided right over rough patches in the road and was roomy, comfortable, and more luxurious than any NuCar even Lucas’s Lincoln, which was the nicest car Sarah had ever ridden in before then. And Rosie, with her fully developed personality, would be an amazing thing to have in a house, let alone in a car!
“Why don’t you recline the seat and take a nap,” Lucas said. “I’ll let you know when there’s something to see.”
“Recline the seat? I didn’t know that could be done in a car, but I wouldn’t mind a quick nap. If it’s okay with you?”
“Of course, it’s fine,” Lucas replied. “There isn’t much to see until we get closer to the mountains, anyway. Rosie?”
Sarah felt her seat back begin to recline back so she did the same, appreciating the luxurious, deeply padded seat back. This is more comfortable than my bed.
“I’ve never travelled like this before,” Sarah said. “Don’t let me miss anything.”
“I won’t,” Lucas promised, and Sarah let her eyes close. Riding in Rosie felt like floating on air and Sarah’s mind drifted back to the night she had met Lucas.
~ ~ ~
She had been at a fundraiser party, as a favor for her employer. She had never cared for that sort of affair and would not have gone if asked by anyone else, but he was the senior partner at the law firm that employed her and she had felt it best not to refuse the ‘invitation’.
“Sarah, I’d like you to meet a friend of mine, William Donahue.”
“It’s nice to meet you, Mr. Donahue,” she had replied.
What a handsome man.
“The pleasure is all mine, Ms. Morgan,” Lucas smiled as he shook her hand then slowly let it go.
“Just call me Sarah, Mr. Donahue. Everyone else does.”
“Well, Sarah,” and Lucas had looked a little sheepish, “William Donahue is my pen name. You can just call Lucas.”
She had smiled. “Then it’s a pleasure to meet you, Lucas.” Sarah had thought for a moment, then said, “William Donahue… that name sounds familiar, Mr. - I mean Lucas.”
Lucas had nodded. “I publish under that name,” he had told her, “so it’s possible you’ve seen one of my books.”
“Possibly,” she had told him. “I do read whenever I have time, so it depends on what you write. Mysteries are my favorites.”
“What a coincidence,” Lucas had said. “I write mystery novels.”
A look of recognition had crossed her face. “You wrote the Central City Capers!”
“Guilty as charged,” Lucas said and held up his hands. “Don’t hold it against me,” he added, smiling.
“Actually, I’ve read and enjoyed every one of them. Your characters and settings seem so real.”
“Thank you,” Lucas said as he gazed into her eyes then glanced around the room. “It’s getting a little stuffy in here.”
“The people, or the atmosphere?”
“Both, actually,” Lucas had laughed. “Would you like to get some fresh air on the veranda? It isn’t too cold for a winter night, and at least there will be fewer people than in here.”
“I’d like that.” She smiled, and they headed toward the glass doors that lead outside. “This really isn’t my kind of party. I only came as a favor to my boss.”
“I don’t particularly care for these fundraisers, either,” Lucas had told her. “I’m only here because my father insisted, I at least make an appearance.” They both laughed as Lucas led her through the crowd toward the patio doors.
They walked across the deserted patio to a low, Grecian-style railing and looked up at the sky. With no moon and the daytime haze dissipated, the night sky was visible, but the glow of city lights drowned out all but a few bright stars.
“It’s beautiful,” Sarah said as she pulled her sweater tighter around her. Lucas removed his jacket and placed it over her shoulders.
“You’re welcome. And it is a beautiful night,” Lucas replied, pointed directly above. “Do you see that bright star? The one that’s bluish white?”
Sarah looked where he was pointing. “Yes… That’s Vega,”
Knowing the name of the star seemed to pique his interest.
“Not many people would know that.”
Sarah shrugged. “My father used to take me to the Holotarium when I was young. His hobby was astronomy. He had a telescope and showed me the craters on the moon and taught me their names. I learned about the constellations and the names of a lot of stars on my own. That one,” she pointed toward Vega, “is one of the few that can be seen in the city.”
“Have you ever seen a really dark night sky?” Lucas had asked her. “The stars are overwhelming compared to the Holotarium.”
“No, I haven’t.” Sarah had replied. “Is there any place that dark left? That I’m likely to ever go? And I don’t mean the Artic zones,” She had added with a laugh.
“Well, peat fires are burning in the Artic again but there are a few places. I know of one in a valley deep in the mountains southwest of here, where the city light is blocked from all directions. My grandfather took me there when I was ten years old, and I haven’t been back since. But I plan to go again.”
. . .
Sarah had touched Lucas’ arm and he had smiled.
“I’m sorry, I must’ve been daydreaming,” he had said. “About the valley where so many stars can be seen.”
“When your grandfather took you?” Lucas nodded. Sarah realized that trip must have been special for Lucas for him to still think about it. At a party, of all places. Then again, the ‘party’ was indoors; they were the only people on the rooftop terrace. “Would you tell me about it?”
Lucas had squeezed Sarah’s hand, then shrugged. “It’ll probably just bore you,” he said, and he gave a self-deprecating laugh.
Sarah shook her head. “If it puts the show at the Holotarium to shame, I’d love to hear all about it.”
Lucas stood quietly for a moment, then: “What I remember most is the vastness of the night sky. The stars were so bright it looked like you could fall right into the sky. I was ten-years old, and the Buick was almost two-hundred-thirty when Poppa took me with him to Liberty. Riding in the big, antique Buick with had seemed almost magical: the long ride through mountains to where we could see out over the lowlands for miles. Development was already encroaching at the foot of the mountains, and the curving road followed the contours of the mountainsides.
We stopped for lunch next to a small stream, and I sat on a boulder and watched droplets of water splash off rocks, fracture the sunlight and tumble down the hillside.” Lucas smiled in remembrance of the falling water. “The evening weather when we came home was warm, so Poppa kept the top down, and I climbed into the back seat- it felt like being stretched out on a sofa- and I fell asleep under the stars and thin, silvery light of the moon…”
“You could be a poet, Lucas. That sounds beautiful,” Sarah had told and squeezed his hand, “Maybe I’ll see a place like that myself someday,” She had said with a sigh. “Although I don’t know if I’ll ever get the chance.”
“I hope you do,” Lucas had told her. “It’s a sight you’ll never forget.”
“Well, there’s always hope…”
“Look, I’m not in any hurry to get back to the party. Would you like to stay out here for a while?” He had asked and smiled. “It really isn’t very cold, and we could have a hot chocolate, if you’d like. I’m not a big drinker, anyway.”
Sarah had looked up at Lucas and smiled. “Sounds good to me.”
Lucas ordered two hot chocolates from the kali stationed on the patio. They talked and laughed and did not even notice that everyone else had already left. As they stood to leave, Lucas had turned to face her.
“I can’t remember ever being glad that I attended one of these fundraisers,” he had told her. “But meeting you made all the difference. I really enjoyed spending the evening with you, Sarah.”
“I had a wonderful time, too,” Sarah had said and smiled. “I usually don’t enjoy this kind of party. Everyone is so rich, and I always feel out of place, like I’m the hired help or something. But you’re different than most of the guests, Lucas. I’m glad that I came.”
“So, it wasn’t just me,” he had said and grinned. “May I call you sometime? We could meet for coffee or go to a museum or whatever you’d like to do. There’s a Salvador Dali exhibit at the Met. If you’re interested, that is.”
Her heart had fluttered a bit and she had smiled. “I think I’d like that.”
Lucas had a broad smile as he tapped the holographic face of his comm, and it beeped twice. “I sent my number to your comm,” he had told her. “Now you know I’m not just some playboy out to pick up beautiful women at parties. I want to see you again, whether at that museum or wherever it suits you.
“Here’s my contact info.” Sarah said as she took her QCom from her purse and passed it in front of the Lucas’ to transfer the information then smiled sweetly.
“I’m looking forward to it.”
He had walked her to the ground floor entrance and waited as her car was brought around, then leaned in for a gentle goodnight kiss.
Handsome, educated, obviously well-off to be at this type of affair, and a true gentleman, she had thought. A rare find, these days.
~ ~ ~
She had been a bit surprised when he called her the next day to confirm the date. They viewed the Dali exhibit then he had taken her to a restaurant for a meal unlike any she had ever had before. Her first taste of real, grown-in-the-ground vegetables and grass-fed beef! She had assumed that, as a well-known author, he had gotten a reservation without the long wait most people had. When he had his Lincoln drive them to her apartment, he had asked if she would attend a performance of the Capitol City Symphony the following day, with dinner after. She accepted and he took her to a different high-end restaurant, and their third date was to a contemporary music performance and yet another fine restaurant. Sarah could not believe her good fortune in meeting such a gentleman. After that date, he invited her to his downtown condominium.
“For a cup of real coffee,” he had said, “not that imitation stuff. And you must see the view, the city is beautiful at night!”
Sarah did not normally go home with a man after only a few dates, but something about Lucas made her feel she could trust him, so she had accepted the invitation. He sent his Lincoln to pick her up and was surprised when it drove to one of the nicest towers downtown and pulled to a stop. A doorman opened her door and walked her inside, then swiped his hand in front of a panel beside the elevator and a hologram of floor buttons appeared. His hand blocked the view, and she could not see the floor button he pressed but the elevator door opened, he ushered her in then stepped back, with a tip of his cap as the doors closed. The high-speed elevator seemed to continue longer than she had expected then slowed and came to a stop. As it opened, Lucas stood waiting, a warm smile on his face. She realized then that his ‘condominium’ was the penthouse floor of the tower, the one-hundred- twentieth floor. How can a writer, no matter how famous, afford a place like this?
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
This story was originally posted on Simily.co.
Thank you for reading this far and if you would like to see more of what I have shared on Vocal, view my Profile for fiction, poetry, and my thoughts on social issues, spirituality, religion, and politics. Join Vocal and have full access to many thousands of stories, articles, and the viewpoints and thoughts of thousands of writers.
If you enjoyed this work a small tip would be greatly appreciated!
About the author
Born at the end of the Boomer generation, I enjoy a quiet retirement with my long-time partner and three dogs.
When I write, it's on a variety of subjects or short stories. I'm a student of life and go with the flow of the Tao.