Carte Blanche (Camille Anthony in Charming the Snake) – Prologue

Before the prologue actually starts, we get a brief explanation for what a carte blanche actually is:

In the days before the world burned, the original definition of the term “carte blanche” literally meant “blank ticket.” If one could obtain a blank letter or ticket stamped with the king’s seal, one could write whatever they wished upon the paper. Many such papers were secured and sold for a price to ruthless men of power. Many people disappeared — some into the dreaded prison called the Bastille and others into the murky waters of an undisclosed and unmarked death. And so carte blanche came to be known as limitless power and authority. The years passed, and in the latter days of the kings of Great Britain, men took mistresses as they always did. Also as always, the women who captured the lusts and interests of such men demanded something in return for their favors. The bargaining was intense as the doves negotiated everything but a wedding dress. The highest any kept woman could aspire was to be given a home of her own and a blank ticket of credit. — Ananda, ship’s librarian Diaspora a. p. 194

Okay, so that’s clear. The only thing that’s not really clear is how this goes with a Science Fiction novella/short story. I mean, usually, those take place in the future, right? And now you keep talking about Kings and mistresses and so on…

Let me put it this way: after the part royalty played in Seducing the Saint, I’m a bit wary about what’s coming next.

But, brave as I am, on to the Prologue!

One of the last original colonists from Old Earth, Liana, stood on her balcony, eyes narrowed against the hot rays of Paradyse’s afternoon suns. One hand shading her face, she gazed out over the verdant, teeming jungle of New India.

Creative naming, isn’t it? And why is there always two suns?

Anyway, Liana misses everything that stayed on Old Earth, from blue skies to her parents.

She, of all her family, had been the only survivor of Earth’s death throes. She had grown to maturity aboard the colony ship, ironically looked upon as one of the leaders. Her visions had given her a place of authority. After all, she had been the first to sound the alarm, though no one had heeded her. Amidst the turmoil of terror, the people had turned against all scientists, claiming rampant technology had stripped them of the atmospheric protection Earth had needed. [Oh my goodness, I hope she loses a bit of that stilted language… For Pete’s sake! Death throes, turmoil of terror, yadda yadda.]

So, Liana is Cassandra, only with the end of the world and not the end of Troy. And now, she senses evil yet again – she feels it in the water. She feels it in the earth, she smells it in the air. But she’s old and she doesn’t want to be responsible. But she also knows that she can’t ignore it.

There was much she needed to do to prepare for the threat that drew nearer every day. Evil’s stench surrounded the figure of the father [stilt, stilt, stilt… and why is there always a father? Or a mother? Why isn’t it a president or a manager or whatever?], and she feared it might be beyond her capability to aid him. [Now, is the father the evil one or is he to be helped?] Even if she succeeded, the attack against her father [Again, does she want to attack the father or help him?] would devastate Chastity [oh, here we go… this is even worse than Liberty. Seriously, couldn’t Liana be the main character?], and she would need her old ayah in the days to come.

Chastity is a seer as well, she’s Speshul… and Liana loves her like “the granddaughter she never had”, having taught her how to use her ability and all. And now, Liana starts packing, hoping that she’s not too late.

*****

The loud retort of a shot rang through the air, startling Chastity out of a light doze.
“What the hell –?” That sounded like it came from Father’s rooms.
The book she’d been reading fell from her lap as she jumped up from the divan. [So she can read and doze at the same time? I envy her…] Rushing out the library door, she tore through the corridors separating the duke’s private quarters from the rest of the house. Her scandalous pantaloons — held in oft-reiterated aversion by Papa — gave her the freedom of movement she needed to reach her father’s side as quickly as possible. [Oh, come on!!! It’s the future! The earth exploded! Or the sun exploded! Whatever, we had the fight about women wearing trousers already and guess what – women have won!]

So, the attack on her father happened, Liana is too late, the world will end – can we stop here?

Chastity runs to her father’s room and finds him lying on the floor with a bloody chest. With a cry of “oh, my guardian angel-serpents!” she tries to feel for his pulse. It’s still there. Relieved, Chastity cradles her fathers head, wondering aloud about who wanted to shoot him and who their enemies could be.

Just then, she hears the sound of someone running, a cry of pain and then a horse. [Amazing, how she can hear all that over her cries of “WHO DID THIS???”. And btw… horses? Only a fraction of the humans made it off the earth and they took a few horses with them?]

Torn between wanting to catch the person responsible for harming the most important person in her life, and staying to see him out of harm’s way, Chastity cursed the unknown person but chose to remain with her father. [Does this sentence even make sense? Torn between A and B, she chose B. Uhm… right..]

And then Chastity swears that she will find the villain, who tried to kill her father.

*****

Liana has reached Chastity and they discuss what to do next. Liana tells Chassy that she should let the world believe that her father is really dead and go live with her uncle, who is her guardian until she turns 18. While she’s there, she can find out, who “killed” her father. [Pretty much responsibility for a seventeen year old, don’t you think?]

“Just the thought of having to deal with so-called ‘polite society’ turns my stomach. I don’t have it in me to sashay around like a weak reed, leaning on strong, protective men. I am a capable woman and I –”
“Of course you are capable. You are also a smart woman, and smart women know when to bend.” [Again, a capable woman. I hope that this time, this actually proves to be true.]

Chastity worries that her uncle might try to marry her off, because he’s a greedy bastard. [What kind of future is this, where everything happens like in the 1900s?] Liana tells her to just put it off until she’s of age and then say no.

“What if I find… him? ” Fear and anticipation warred in her voice and expression.
Liana chuckled, refreshing amusement momentarily displacing the dread she’d felt since before arriving at the duke’s plantation. “I don’t doubt that you will. It is fated, after all. I suspect what you are really asking is, ‘How should I respond to the man who has been haunting my dreams for the greater part of my young life?’ and my answer is: honestly and courageously.” [*headdesk*]
“Huh! I’m no coward! I fear no man.”
“I didn’t say you did. However, you do fear giving in to the emotions of love.”

Okay, one: Who are they talking about? The attacker? The love of her life? Or are they the same person? And two: How come that the strong people are always afraid to love? Can’t you be strong and love at the same time?

Anyway, Chassy is convinced that love only weakens a woman and that she doesn’t need a man and that she’s not her mom, who died of a broken heart because of the way Chastity’s father [did I mention he was a duke?] treated her. Liana tells her that she will need love to have a fulfilled life (not everyone does, as Liana explains, but Chassy definitely).

Then we get an introduction to celebbeast – six legged horse substitutes [whatever they need them for, when they have horses]. And then a hovering kind of vehicle (flitter) turns up to take Chassy into the city.

The plantation fell away below, the panoramic view well-known and well-loved. Chastity had a fleeting notion to order the flitter about and return home. A frisson of fear slid down her spine and she knew — as clearly as if she’d seen it in a vision — her life was about to change.

No, really? You’re moving away to live with your uncle to find the almost-killer of your father and you think that your life’s gonna change? Tell me, how did you figure that out?

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One Response

  1. […] get really good, my dear bitchlings. Dare has to shake off a whole flock of angel-serpents [as in “oh, my guardian angel-serpents”], who try to groom him… So, angel-serpents actually exist. Not only that, but – as the […]

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