Here I present the first one thousand words of Restoration, the fourth novel in my series, Tales From A Warming Planet. In a near-future world threatened by climate disaster, a sassy, independent city girl finds herself in a small, conservative town that’s resisting a plan to take down an irrigation dam. You can also hear me read the first thousand words via the video after the text. Tell me what you think in the Comments section.
The other books in the series are The Mother Earth Insurgency (check out the free reading of the full-length novelette on this page), Carbon Run, and City of Ice and Dreams. All except the first book are available in print and ebook format on Amazon. Please support my writing with a purchase via the links. Thanks.
People work in this upside-down pie tin?
Junie Wye rolled her eyes. She prepped herself for an about face and a run back to the public car that had dropped her off at the entrance to the derelict, saucer-shaped visitors center. She wanted nothing to do with the place, but the soles of her shoes, despite her raging desire to mount an escape back to San Francisco before it was too late, stuck to the stained sidewalk.
She couldn’t disappoint her father. Turning up her classic Greek nose at the brutalist architecture, Junie imagined him directing workers to pry out the letters that once hung on the wall by the glass doors. Reversed shadows of unbleached concrete made the old name easy to read: “Arroyo Grande Reclamation Project.” Removing the name was part of taking down the bone-white decommissioned dam looming behind the center. “It’s one step toward fixing the planet,” her dad said.
Why does Dad need me here? It’s hot enough to bake something in the pie tin. I’ll end up a cinder.
She knew why. Support. A shoulder to cry on, though he’d never put it that way. Control over a teenager. That was more like it. “Face-time matters,” he said. She growled. Bullshit.
After two and a half days in the car, Junie was crabby from a rough night’s sleep as the car’s AI drove the 1,380 kilometers northeast to Utility. She would’ve arrived sooner, but she had to stop a couple of times to avoid feeling imprisoned in the two-seater. The countryside east of the Cascade Mountains was nothing but a sea of dust and sagebrush. A few orchards of apple and pear trees were an improbable green in this wasteland. She missed the home smell of ocean and cypress.
She’d rather be a million other places, but her father was right about one thing: The cinnamon-red basalt columns that rose in cliffs either side of the arroyo, like old-style bar codes, were breathtaking.
Sweating in the 43-degree heat, she cussed at forgetting her sun hat, and she fought an urge to retrieve it from the car, because she might climb back in and tell the AI to screw this place and take her back to her friends. She and Ed fought about it for days, but she promised him she’d come to Utility. Dammit. She had to, because she was 17 and still his responsibility, and he couldn’t raise a child from 1,380 kilometers away. Child? Who made up these stupid rules? The day she turned 18, she swore to him, she’d steal money from her college fund, buy a plane ticket, and be back in time to entangle herself with Alex and watch the sunset from Golden Gate Park. She secretly hoped Ed would fail again, so she could go home sooner.
Fuck it if I don’t love my dad and want him to be happy. And so I’m here.
Her surprise arrival was sweet revenge. Ed budgeted four days for the car and three days in hotels. He assumed Junie preferred to sleep in a bed rather than a public car’s uncomfortable cot. Junie was outdoorsy in only a fair-weather way, despite a half-dozen summers at a Girl Scout camp in the Sierra Nevada. Rock climbing, hiking, gossiping, enough to last the rest of the year. Maybe not gossiping. It was true she preferred a mattress and sheets to a sleeping bag, but roughing it in the car was worth the chance to get to Utility a day early and see Ed go ape shit.
Pausing on the sidewalk, she shaded her eyes to study dark streaks on the looming dam’s—What’s it called? Spillway. Where’s the water? A car with flashing yellow roof lights accelerated out of the nearby “authorized only” parking lot, teasing her curiosity. She watched the car for a few seconds as it raced toward the concrete monster like a police car chasing a robber. After half a kilometer or so, it halted among other vehicles with strobing lights.
Junie stepped through the glass doors into an arena-like open space under the pie tin’s roof. The space was empty and deconstructed, as if a parasite had eaten out the interior, leaving a scattering of lonesome cubicles. The contrast between the desert air and the A/C in the building raised goose pimples on her butterscotch skin. She stepped up to a decrepit security bot.
“Excuse me, I’m here to see the project superintendent.”
“Junie-girl!” Edward Malcolm Wye’s baritone echoed in the cavern of the repurposed building. It seemed to add 10 centimeters to his 188, as well as his open-mouthed smile. Junie’s heart melted and she rushed to her father, her tenny-runners silent on the bare concrete floor. Father and daughter hugged, and she took in the smell of his broadcloth shirt tinged with coffee and maple from his breakfast cereal. For a moment, she forgot her resentment of his demand that she move to Utility. For the moment, she let herself be his favorite only child.
She stood on tip-toe to kiss his cheek. “Surprise!”
“You’re supposed to be here tomorrow.” Ed wasn’t angry, just a little nonplussed. “I’ve been in meetings all day, and I didn’t think to check your progress.”
“I didn’t see any reason to wait, Dad.”
“We’re in an emerging situation, and I can’t break away right now.”
Junie had no idea what “emerging” meant, but she took satisfaction from flustering her father. The triumphant feeling faded quickly. He was working, and by the look of the people around him, doing something important. “Sorry, Dad.”
“No, I’m glad you’re here.” He returned the kiss.
Ed made quick introductions for Junie: A well-dressed, if dowdy woman who was mayor of Utility, and a craggy-faced, calloused man who had to be at least 80 years old. Culchies all. After a minute of negotiation, the group allowed Junie to come along on a site tour.