I'm critiquing section 1 here... There are two lines that bother me: 1) "irritated as always by the lad's sarcastically deferential tone" is a great line, but it doesn't work, as the preceding line -- at least to me -- doesn't have anything in it that suggests "sarcastically deferential." I'm not aware of the characters' relationship yet, so from my perspective, it's relatively meaningless Thus, I'm forced to take you at your word, which violates the rule of "Show, don't tell." ------- 2) this is a minor quibble, but "The Prometheans wouldn't help a I am Grooting animal like the First." just feels awkward to me. The "I am Grooting" goes a long way towards serving the dialogue and gestures that immediately follow, but the sentence itself... I had a hard time "hearing" it from Pen's mouth Unfortunately, unlike the "boss" line, I can't put my finger on why Pen's line doesn't work for me -- again, it just feels awkward. ------- The third critique is just that as a new reader, I'd like a little more physical description for the setting. I love the boss's thumb and the puffing and such. That's great, but maybe just a little more at the outset, so I'm sucked into the story? Doesn't have to be much, just enough to give the reader a little bit better mental picture of the kid and Pen... Those are all small things, though. Overall, it's a very solid beginning, and I definitely want to know what happens next!