ckcover6.jpg (12529 bytes)
For Shawn, Kyle,
Jared, and Drew
Cyber.kdz :6
When the Chips are Down
Available Now from Avon Camelot Books

After an argument with her parents, Sanjeev's sister runs away from home to be with her boyfriend. A few days later, news arrived that she has been killed in a train accident. Depressed and grieving, Sanjeev sets off to find his sister’s boyfriend, a crewman on a cruise ship, to let him know what has happened. But what Sanj finds on board is both wonderful and deadly. Without pausing for an instant, Sanj connects to the Cyber.kdz to help him out on what could be the first, and last, cruise of his life.

Below, you can read the first two chapters of When the Chips are Down.



Slam! Sanjeev’s monitor shook as the front door banged shut. He stared blankly at the Java code on the screen while the image settled back into place. The few lines hadn’t changed for the last twenty minutes. Ever since his sister had come in and told him she was leaving. He wasn’t surprised; what else could she do after the fight she’d had with their parents that evening? He didn’t blame her. He just knew he was going to miss her.

Sarita was nineteen, three years older than Sanjeev. They looked like brother and sister, yet their tastes were so different, it was amazing they were related at all. Though both of them had been well-schooled in technology by their parents, Sarita wasn’t able to fathom how her brother could sit for so many hours in front of his computer staring at the cryptic symbols that compiled into his code. Sanjeev cared nothing for his sister’s studies of ancient Sanskrit literature. He thought she was crazy to spend her days in the university library staring at the obscure symbols that were supposedly the great works of the ancients.
Sanjeev lived on the classics of Indian cooking: curries, tandoori, and tikka. Sarita spent most of her time at the espresso café or McDonald’s. Sanj wasn’t much of a talker in a crowd — he appeared aloof and distant. Though Sarita was a young university student, she appeared much older. Sarita was full of confidence and carried herself like she owned the world.
But there was one thing they did share: music. They both loved it. In fact, Sarita had turned Sanjeev on to rock when he was quite young. She’d given him his first album: The Beatles’ Let It Be and he was hooked from that moment on. Though their tastes didn’t align on all types of music, Sarita was a Flavor-fan so Sanj couldn’t complain. And Sanj actually started liking Nusrat Fateh Ali Kahn after Sarita had made him listen to it about seventy times.
Sarita was more than just a big sister to Sanj — she was his friend. They had spent long hours together when they were young. Their parents were both electrical engineering professors at the university and early in their careers there were many demands on their time. Faculty meetings, lab planning sessions, staff get-togethers; these all left Sarita looking after Sanjeev when they were little. It wasn’t that Mr. and Mrs. Surati were bad parents. It was the opposite. They loved their children very much and worked hard to raise them right. Part of that was providing a good home and an excellent education. Knowing the cost of those meant working hard and establishing their positions at the university, which they had done over the years. They were now respected members of the faculty and the community.
Neither Sanjeev nor Sarita felt abandoned during those early years. They loved it. And when they entered their teens, they’d sneak off together to the clubs in the town to listen to the newest music from local bands as well as the few that toured from the England and the U.S. Though he rarely told her — it wasn’t like Sanjeev to get mushy — he loved his sister dearly. She was his pal. His music-mate. And besides the Kids, his best friend.
It had been painful listening to Sarita and his parents argue that evening. It had started as it usually did — with Sarita talking about Raj.
Raj was a boy she’d met when she was on holiday in Goa the year before. The cruise ship he was on had stopped there and he had a rare night off. Sarita and Raj had fallen in love instantly and spent nearly every moment together. When Sarita returned home, she told Sanjeev that she’d met the man she was going to marry. She wrote to him daily and he wrote back. Sanjeev was happy for her. But his parents were not.
Raj worked below decks on the cruise ship Star of Asia — one of the few ships that frequented India. He had a menial job, but it was a job. For Raj, that was good. He came from a very poor family. His father was Hindu and his mother was Moslem. In India, that made things difficult. Certainly in Mumbai where he grew up. Raj’s father drove a rickshaw while his mother cared for him and his seven brothers and sisters. At fifteen he left home as the family could not afford to feed him any longer. For years he did a variety of horrible jobs until, through a lucky connection, he got the position on the Star of Asia. Compared to his childhood, working on a luxury cruise ship was the height of comfort — even below decks. Though he worked long days and had little time off, he always had food and a bed.
Mr. and Mrs. Surati were not so impressed with Raj’s job. When they first found out about their daughter’s correspondence with him, they tried to stop the relationship. But both parents had miscalculated the determination of a nineteen year old in love. Sarita had always been ruled by her heart. She had fought with her parents (and lost) when she wanted to move into her own apartment when she began college. She had fought with them (and won) when they opposed her changing her major from computer science to ancient Indian literature. And now, her obstinacy grew the more her parents tried to influence her. Eventually, they stopped trying to change her mind and, silently, hoped the flame would die with distance.
That was until tonight.
Sarita was excited at the dinner table. The Star of Asia would be in port in Bombay in a few days. Thinking her parents had warmed to the idea of her being with Raj (since they hadn’t said anything negative for months), Sarita asked if she could borrow money for a second class train ticket to Bombay so she could visit her boyfriend. Her parents looked at her, baffled.
"Sarita," her father said frowning, "why would I give you money to visit this boy?"
"Because I love him, Bapuji," she answered, unaware of his renewed disapproval.
"We had this discussion months ago," Mr. Surati said severely. "Your mother and I do not want you seeing this boy."
Sarita looked up quickly, surprised by her father’s tone. She opened her mouth to speak. But Mrs. Surati cut her off.
"Daughter, you know we always hoped you would marry Chandu. He comes from such a good family. We have known his parents since you were born."
Sanjeev could see the fire ignite in Sarita’s eyes.
"I will never marry Chandu! How many times do I have to tell you? I don’t love him. I don’t even like him."
"His father owns a fine chain of bookstores. He will one day take his place as the head of the company."
Sanjeev was often amazed at how blind his parents could be when they talked to Sarita. They were both very intelligent when it came to engineering, literature, learning. He had even heard them counsel their friends on financial matters. But with their children, they sometimes acted as if they were completely different species.
"How dare you call those stores fine," Sarita hissed. "They don’t have a book worth reading between all of them. They open next to local stores and put them out of business. They sell nothing but kachrapatti."
"You will not use language like that at the dinner table, Sarita," Mr. Surati scolded.
"I will use whatever language I please!"
"Daughter, do not speak to your bapuji in such a tone." Mrs. Surati pleaded as her husband began to turn as red as the tandoor murghi on his plate.
Sanjeev felt it was time to speak.
"Mother, Father, Sarita. Wait." He paused. His family turned toward him. "This happens every time you try to discuss this. You’ll never communicate this way. You use different languages. Different thoughts… incompatible thoughts. You have to listen to each other. You have to try to understand… so you can connect."
Sanjeev’s words calmed everyone for several minutes. But it did no good. His parents simply could not — or would not — grasp the fact that their daughter was thinking of marrying someone who was not from a good family.
"We have worked so hard for you, Sarita," Mr. Surati chided. "And now you throw it away."
"Throw what away?" she challenged.
"Everything…" Mrs. Surati raised her hands in supplication.
"Why? Because Raj is poor? Or is it because his mother is a Moslem? Is that it?"
"No!" defended her father. "It is just that he is not from a good family…"
"Ha!" goaded Sarita. "You both act so modern — so enlightened. The new India! But you still believe in the old caste system. Only you call it a different name!"
"How dare you!"
"Please, Sarita…"
And it got worse. Until Sarita finally called her father a small-minded brute. He jumped up and swore that she would never leave his house to see that boy. She swore she would and stalked to her room, slamming the door so the whole house shook.

After he had finished dinner, Sanjeev knocked on Sarita’s door. He could hear her crying inside. She told him to go away. He did.
Ten minutes passed and she was in his room telling him her plan. She was going to run away with Raj. She would take the train to Bombay to meet him. She had just enough money for third class passage and she was leaving that night. She said Sanjeev could have her CD collection. She gave him her key chain with the keys to her bike and the front door — she declared she would never need them again. She wrapped her arms around him, kissed his cheek and told him how much she loved him. Then she went back to her room to pack.
A short time later, as Sanjeev sat staring at his monitor, the front door slammed. He knew Sarita was gone. He knew she was doing what she needed to do. He knew she was doing what would make her happy.
What he didn’t know was how he would stand the pain of missing her.


>//CYBER.KDZ Secure Line Login. Thu, 12:12 (Thu, 15:12 GMT)

>//Welcome, Tereza. Enter Line Request: 1

>//Enter Password: ********

>//Who are you expecting to meet? Sanjeev

>//Validation Complete. Line request accepted.

>//Tereza is connecting to CK Secure Line 1....

Tereza: Sanj?

Sanjeev: hey, tz.

Tereza: Sanj, what’s the matter? Your email sounded so serious.

Sanjeev: it’s been a bad night.

Tereza: What’s the matter, meu amigo?

Sanjeev: it’s my sister. she left home tonight.

Tereza: What happened?

Sanjeev: she fell in love with this guy last summer and my parents don’t approve. they’ve been arguing about it for a year. it reached the climax tonight. she ran away to be with him.

Tereza: Is she OK?

Sanjeev: yeah, i think. she’s angry. who wouldn’t be? but I think she’s happy to do want she’s wanted to do for months.

Tereza: And your parents?

Sanjeev: they don’t know yet. they think she just went out to cool off. but she’s not coming back.

Tereza: Ever?

Sanjeev: that’s what she said. i hate thinking about it.

Tereza: I know, meu amigo, I know. You were so close to her. I have always envied your relationship. It made me wish that I had a brother or sister.

Sanjeev: she’s pretty cool.

Tereza: She is also young, Sanjeev. She may change her mind and come back. Maybe in a few years.

Sanjeev: but my parents will never let her marry raj. sarita accused my father of following the caste system.

Tereza: Does he?

Sanjeev: mostly no. but in a way, yes. india is becoming like the west now. there are three classes: the poor, the middle class and the rich. it is like we have replaced one system with another. my parents want a good life for us, i know that. but they don’t see the way things are now. they think it’s like when they grew up. but it’s all changed. the competition to get into school is terrible. there are a 1000 applications for one spot. last week a kid in town killed himself because he was worried about his level 10 exams.

Tereza: No!

Sanjeev: it’s true, tz.

Tereza: Then how come you are so sossegada… What is the word? Easy-going, I think is the best translation.

Sanjeev: couple of reasons, i guess. my computer is one. when i’m programming, the whole world disappears — my room, the time, all of india. it’s like when you lose yourself in a book, you know?

Tereza: Sim. I know.

Sanjeev: so that gets me away from it. and then i have the kids. you guys keep me sane.

Tereza: Even Becky and Deeder’s arguments?

Sanjeev: yeah. it’s kind of like a family spat, you know? besides, it’s hard to get worked up about what’s going on here when becky’s trapped by terrorists.

Tereza: You’re right. It is hard!

Sanjeev: and then there’s sarita. she’s always been my friend. my anchor. i can’t blame her for leaving. with all the pressure, why shouldn’t she do what she wants, instead of what everyone tells her to do? why shouldn’t she find happiness? it’s like that line in that neptune’s song:
"i’m gonna pack my bags and get out of town.
i’m gonna learn to smile before they teach me to frown."
it was one of the songs i turned her on to. she really liked it.

Tereza: Oh, Sanjeev. I see that you hurt.

Sanjeev: you got it.

Tereza: Sarita feels about you like you feel about her, yes?

Sanjeev: yeah. sure.

Tereza; Put yourself in her place. If you had to leave home, would you not stay in touch with Sarita?

Sanjeev: i’d call or email or something.

Tereza: Then she will do the same. Just because Sarita and your parents disagree, does not mean your sister will forget. She will stay in touch. And you will know that she is out there living her life… learning to smile.

Sanjeev: i guess that’s all i have right now.

Tereza: Not all.

Sanjeev: what else?

Tereza: You have me. And the Kids.

Sanjeev: yeah, i do. thanks, tz.

Tereza: Muito obrigada. You are very welcome. But you don’t have to thank me, Sanjeev. It is always nice to comm with you. It is exciting to see so many words in a row come from the quiet one!

Sanjeev: that means i’ve said too many. raat.

Tereza: Abraços.

>//CYBER.KDZ Secure Line Closed


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