Star Travelers, Through the Portal:
Part 8, Ticket to Chicago: Welcome to Earth
Lesson Language Study Focus:

  1. Search and find words not fully understood, in the text and clarify their meanings, such as: flare (verb), proclaim (verb) immense (adjective), unadorned (adjective) disheveled, patter (noun, as used in sales or customer service), exasperated (adjective)  shoo (verb), fervent (adjective),  gritty (adjective)
  2. Clarify use of ellipsis (…)
  3. Clarify use of quotation marks, especially during dialogue.

We left off  with Anya of Earth arriving to a galactic starship, meeting a droid named Philomena.   Princess Aine, having arrived on Earth, found Anya’s backpack with directions to Chicago which is where she’s now headed…
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A Ticket to Chicago
Princess Aine of the galactic starship stepped up to the bus ticket counter in Kansas City. “I would like a ticket to Chicago, please.”
“Chicago. No buses to Chicago – not today. There is a revolution in Chicago. The people are taking to the streets in protest.”
“Oh, I didn’t know.”
“Yes, they have taken to the streets. They refuse to work for polluting companies any longer. Their children are dying from pollution, from radioactive waste, from poisons in the air, water and land. They are sick of it. And, although I am not at liberty to say as an employee of the bus company, I agree with them.”
“Could I get a bus to Chicago? I have a friend there.”
“Doubtful. But I’ll try.” There was a long pause. 
This woman was gorgeous: jet black hair piled up to the sky, with some dangling doo-dads lodged up in there. Her eyelids were painted sky blue and her fingers and her earrings sparkled. She wore a uniform and on her chest was a tag that said, “Beatrice.” 
Beatrice looked at Princess Aine like she was going to eat her for dinner. Then she squinted at her and said, “Well, there is one seat left. They’re taking the alternate route through the Indian reservation. It takes an extra hour.” Beatrice looked up from the computer screen and noticed the disheveled girl in a skin suit with something still sparkling in her hair, smiling at her and admiring her outfit. It threw her off her usual customer patter and they looked at one another for a moment. “…If you’re okay with that, you could have the ticket. You okay with that?”
“Of course,” Aine fumbled around with the pen on the counter, not sure what to do next. 
Beatrice waited. And … she waited. She shook her hands. Then she shook her head. Then her eyes flared large and her whole body shook. Finally, she pointed at the backpack. “Come on, come on, come on, your ID and the money… there, there, that’s it….” 
  Aine opened the backpack and tried to follow Beatrice’s directions, rifling through it. Well, whatever an ID was, it wasn’t the crackers or the map. She pulled out the wallet. 
“Right. ID. I D E N T I F I C A T I O N,” Beatrice said very loudly and pointed to the picture on the card. 
Aine looked at the card. It said “Anya Henderson, Hair: Brown, Eyes: blue, Height: 5’9”” Princess Aine blinked several times then carefully pushed the card across the counter. My goodness, not only had she arrived to this new world, she even had an identity card!
Beatrice patted her hair then glared at the card and then up at the princess, then back at the card again, as if she was looking at quite a strange picture. But finally, she ripped the ticket off the printing machine and pushed it toward Aine, who just stood there. “Take your ticket! Go, that’s all you need. Now!” she said and shooed her away with her hand to indicate the next in line. “Odd child,” she said under her breath as she watched Aine walk away, “At least she’s heading home.”
Aine turned around, holding her ticket, feeling pleased with her accomplishment only to be met by the exasperated sighs from the people in line behind her. 
She lowered her eyes and walked to the benches in the middle of the large room where people were sitting, slumped and waiting. Well, getting her ticket was not too hard, things would get easier, she thought, hopefully.  Princess Aine sat down, putting the backpack beside her. 
She looked around. On the wall was, what appeared to be a two-dimensional moving picture, with a gritty announcer proclaiming facts; evidently some sort of news. She listened.
“World news today: Revolution in China, Protests in South America, Protests in Europe, War in the Middle East. Violence broke out in Africa, Australia, India and Washington D.C. Violent weather across the world: hurricanes, tornadoes, melting glaciers, volcanoes. More news at 11.”
Aine looked at the map on the screen. She recognized the map! She was on Earth! How did she ever get to Earth? Could it be she fell through the portal to Earth? Earth! She jumped up. She sat down. She jumped up and then sat down again. And then slowly she stood and sunk into her seat for the third time, stunned. It was true. She was on Earth!
She had never been to Earth, but had heard a great deal about it because she herself was part human. Many of the cuddly animals had DNA from Earth. She had always wanted to come to Earth, but had never been able to come because of – as she had been told – the responsibilities she had at home on the ship. 
Oh, how she’d wondered about Earth! She’d been curious what it was like. Secretly, she’d wondered, was Earth her real home? Of all places, Earth! 
Oh, Earth! It had been at the center of a great deal of attention on the starship. It had been the subject of many lengthy conversations in those long, (boring) Federation meetings with people from around the Galaxy talking in confusing detail and staring at her with cold frustration, as if she had done something terribly wrong. No one explained what it was or how to fix it, though. Not even her Droid, Philomena, would answer many of her questions about Earth. So she never knew why Earth was off limits. It had left her feeling kind of empty and curious if she could discover more.
Could this be a dream? Could it be a dream from all the stress of trying to figure out what to do about Earth? The pressure had been so great and the responsibility such an immense weight when she had no idea what to do about Earth! All she wanted to do was escape. And yet, here she was, right in the exact location of her troubles!
Well, at least she would have the opportunity to see for herself. How are the Earthlings? Were they like her? Would they be her friends? Are they violent like the rumors she had heard? She looked around the bus station with its high ceilings and stone floor.
Most of the people were bent over, staring at their hands or, looking at the floor. Their clothes were dark and unadorned. They seemed to be distracted by metal objects in their hands they watched or put to their ears. Most of them looked annoyed. Some looked busy, frustrated. A mother barked at her small child, ordering him to her side. Several people stood in the ticket line, shifting their feet, looking at the floor, balancing their packages. They seemed upset and fearful, as if they were slaves awaiting some punishment. 
Suddenly, near the doorway, an argument broke out. Anya did not understand the words but she heard fervent voices passionately arguing, followed by a loud noise, followed by screams, people running and an announcement over the loudspeaker, “Get down! Get down!” 
Anya crawled under her seat, put her arms around her knees and tried to stay calm.
So this is Earth.
Welcome to Earth.
No, this could not be! This could not be happening on the beautiful planet she had seen from space. The cuddlies that had kept her warm every night since she was a girl, they had DNA from Earth. She herself had human DNA! This could not be true. This could not be the answer to her prayers. What if the rumors were true? What if humanity was just a terrible experiment gone wrong?
Everyone huddled under the seats until, at last, an announcement over the loudspeaker came: “The gunman has been apprehended. You may return to your seats.” The announcer did not say, “You’re safe now.” He simply said, “The gunman has been apprehended.” Princess Aine felt a kind of nervous, sick feeling in her stomach. She looked at her hands. They were shaking. “No one should have to live in this kind of fear.” No one. Ever. Hopelessness swelled in her belly and tears rose to her eyes, filling them with sadness. She tried to wipe them away with her hand. 
Then she saw something that astonished her – a little girl in a pretty flowered dress holding the hand of a man who must’ve been her grandfather. As they walked in Aine’s direction he picked the tiny girl up in his arms and gave her a big kiss on the nose. He did not look afraid like the many others. He was smiling. He put the girl back down on the floor on her tiny feet and helped her to walk towards her grandmother who held out her hands to the child. The child toddled along until at last when she fell into her grandmother’s arms. The grandparents cooed and laughed and cried out, “Yay! Very good!” 
Tears that had welled up in her eyes began to flow as she watched such love and compassion amidst the harsh violence.  She wept, until over the loudspeaker she heard, “Chicago, Gate 9, boarding now.”
Comprehension questions

  1. What is the setting of this scene? Where is she?
  2.  Please notice how quotation marks are used in the dialogue. Notice how each time a person starts speaking, a new paragraph begins.
  3. Discuss: What kinds of conflict do you think Princess Aine will face on Earth that she did not have to face in the galactic starship?