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Surrender the Sun - Book 4 - Savaged Earth

Surrender the Sun - Book 4 - Savaged Earth

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"I've spent the last eleven years of my life in an underground colony, which was meant to keep me safe from the harsh effects of the mini-ice age. However, all of that's changed now that I've been given hope in the form of a purple crocus. It's a symbol of new beginnings, and it's given me the courage to leave the colony and step onto the surface. Not everyone agrees with me, especially my dad, Bishop.

I emerge from the underground to find a world that is vastly different from the one I remember as a child. The ground is covered in snow and ice, and the air is so cold it burns my lungs. I can feel my heart racing in my chest as I take in my surroundings, unsure of what to do next."

Sample: Savaged Earth

Year 2042--The weekly walk from Colorado Colony Hatch 5 to the old Deer Trail railroad station was an hour there and back, and for much of it, Ben hadn’t said a word. For the first half hour he followed behind his mother, Maeve, and his stepdad, Bishop. His three younger siblings dashed in random orbits around the trio, coming in close and once in a while, nailing him in the back with a snowball and circumventing again.

His parents either didn’t notice or didn’t care. They were doing that thing again. They didn’t like to call it arguing. It couldn’t be that. No…it was a discussion. They were discussing, louder than before, Ben noted, that returning to Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, wasn’t wise. 

“But you said yourself the temperatures are coming down. The worst is over. Those were your words,” Maeve said.

“That’s true,” Bishop replied, stopping briefly to make his point, “but I also said I’m not comfortable moving this family above ground until the first real thaw.”

“Well, when is that going to happen?” His mother flung her arms out against the gray landscape.

Bishop made a growling noise deep in his throat. He’d been doing that a lot lately.

His parents continued like that for another seven minutes. Seven minutes was a long time to listen to parents arguing. He didn’t care how they’d tried to portray the discussion, that’s what they were doing, and…listening to his siblings laugh while crunching in and out of the packed snow, louder and louder. The sound of it brought back memories of when he was a boy. Some of them, he’d rather forget. So he stopped his progression with his family and looked down at the ground. Neither of his parents noticed immediately and as his younger sister, Jackie, skipped her way to catch up with the parental unit, Sean, his little brother, ran up behind her and nailed her with a snowball. Jackie wailed but Ben continued to look down as the distance between them lengthened further. It was Louna, his adopted sister, who came up beside him and said, “What you got there?”

But he didn’t answer. Instead, he yelled, “Mom. Dad. It’s another flower. What did you call it? A crocus?”

They immediately retraced their steps as Ben pointed between his gray snow boots to a small purple flower with a bright yellow stick coming out of it.

His mother sucked in a breath the moment she spotted it and fell to her knees just to get nearer. “Oh my…it is a crocus. See, I told you, it’s a sign.”

His little sister Jackie grabbed his glove and said, “You’re lucky, Ben. You spotted the first two flowers the Colorado Colony has ever seen.” 

Ben pulled her up into his arms. She was only five years old, had never run through the sprinkler on a warm summer day, and had hair just like their mother’s…all fiery red. “I bet you spot the next one. Just keep your eyes open.” 

She hugged him and then wriggled free, so he put her down.

“Can I touch it? What’s that yellow stuff?” Jackie asked.

Maeve hovered over the flower as if warming her hands over a tiny flame. 

“Don’t touch. The petals are so delicate. That yellow stuff is saffron, actually. It’s a spice…or I mean, was a very expensive spice in the old days.”

“Can we sell it?” his younger enterprising brother Sean asked, and Ben laughed. 

“No. No one’s touching it,” Maeve responded, holding her children back.

“Tick, tick, tick…too much time above means frozen toeses,” Bishop said. 

“That’s not a word,” said Sean.

Ben touched his brother’s shoulder and said, “But still. Dad’s right. We have to get back or we’ll look like Jax.”

Sean grimaced and gave a shudder while Louna suppressed a laugh behind her hand. “That’s mean. He can’t help that his nose was frostbitten.”

Maeve stood up and linked arms with Bishop and took Jackie’s hand in hers, and Ben noticed his mother had cried at the sight of the flower, but she also had the brightest smile on her face that he’d ever seen. Not even the birth of Sean or Jackie made her that happy.  

Then something strange began to happen…her face began to glow.

“Mom?” Ben queried.

It was Bishop who answered his concern by grabbing Ben by the shoulders and quickly turning him in the opposite direction. “Look. It’s a sun shower.”

And when Ben looked up into the sky, it was as if the heavens above parted and let through a flame of fire. 

“Run. Tell the others. It might only last a few hours this time,” Bishop urged. 

Ben raced like a bullet through the snowpack, back to Hatch Five, followed by Louna and Sean. And once he reached the door, he took the right corridor as Louna and Sean took the left and banged on every residential door they came to.

“Sun shower alert! Hurry!”

An hour later, Ben had the same smile on his face that his mother bore earlier. Only, as a teenager, he’d never admit to crying happy tears. Still, having warm rays on his bare skin for the first time in a year was enough to make him sob like a baby. 

“You’re going to get burned. Now come here,” Maeve yelled as Sean battled her long-reaching arms in an attempt to apply a glob of white stuff. 

“No. That smells funny,” Sean protested, and Ben laughed. It was like watching a man battle a sea monster. But Ben knew from experience that Sean would lose the battle soon and as predicted, a moment later, Sean was shirtless and standing as still as a statue with the most disgusted expression on his seven-year-old face. His eyes were covered in protective sunglasses but beneath them, Ben imagined they were rolled back into the top of his head.

“Just grin and bear it, buddy,” Ben said.

“You don’t have to,” Sean said.

But it was Maeve who answered. “That’s right and when you’re seventeen, you can deal with the natural consequences of a third-degree burn.” Then she cut her eyes at her oldest born and smiled. “But don’t come crying to me.”

Ben shook his head. “Give it here,” he said, reaching for the bottle full of the icky-smelling lotion.

As he applied the sunscreen to the back of his neck, Sean asked, “You can really get burned by sun exposure?”

“No. Mom says that just so she can rub you down in public with lotion,” Ben retorted, but then realized his little brother might take him seriously. “But yes, and it hurts a lot. I only burned a few times when I was younger than you, so I don’t really remember much, other than my back was beet red and stung when I tried to sleep. And Mom put this green gel on my skin that made it feel cool.”

“Aloe vera,” she added as Ben told the story. “We can’t get that anymore.”

“But you didn’t have to take vitamin D pills every day, like the rest of us do now.”

“True, but I’d much rather have sun shower-filled days and put on the lotion to keep the burns away.”

His little brother nodded and ran off when a few of the other kids his age from Hatch Five showed up. 

“Do not take off your shoes,” his mother yelled after him. “You’ll cut your feet on the ice.”

Ben laughed and leaned back in his chair, letting the sun warm his skin, as his mother shook her head and watched all the others from the colony setting up chairs in the sun shower, dressed as if they were going to the beach. Only there was no liquid water around, just the frozen tundra beneath their feet. 

“He’s just like you at that age, you know,” she said and pulled her hat down lower on her head while applying lotion to her own fair legs. Then she leaned back in her chair as well and when Ben glanced at his mother, the sun reflected the red highlights in her hair. 

“I hope the breeze stays down. It’s about what? Twenty-five? Thirty degrees right now? We might get above freezing.”

“Something like that, but it won’t last long,” Ben reminded her.

“What a great graduation gift for you! Aren’t you excited? High school is over! Wait, why aren’t you hanging out with your friends? Where’re Julie and Ames?” 

He shrugged his shoulders. “Ames is working with his dad at the moment. They’re firing up the grill. I don’t want to get in the way. And Julie…I don’t know. I think she’s with the girls. She made me angry picking on Louna the other day.”

Maeve took in a deep breath and patted his knee. “I’m glad you caught that. Louna doesn’t say much, and she doesn’t need anyone giving her a hard time, but listen Ben, Julie isn’t bad. She’s just a girl and we all make mistakes, so don’t be too hard on her.”

Ben sat up in his chair when he saw that Bishop was coming their way. “I’m not being too hard on her.” He shook his head. “I haven’t even talked to her lately.” 

“Honey, it’s natural for couples to grow apart at times…”

“Ice is melting slightly,” Bishop said.

“Isn’t it great? See…things are changing. Everyone’s so happy. Look at all the smiling faces. We really needed this. Oh, there’s Cassie. Where’s she going?”

“They’re bringing some of the cold variety vegetable plants out of the greenhouse,” Bishop said.

Maeve sprang up. “I’ll give them a hand,” she said and kissed Bishop on the cheek before she ran off.

“She sure is happy,” Bishop said.

“Yeah. Just wait for the sun to go down,” Ben replied and raised his eyebrows. 

Bishop laughed and sat in the chair next to Ben.

“I was thinking though, Dad. She’s right about one thing.”

Bishop did that growling thing again. “Not you, too.” He shook his head. “I know you want to go back. It’s all you’ve talked about since you were ten, but don’t you remember what it was like? I’ll recap for you as we sit on lawn chairs upon at least fifteen feet of ice under what we now call sun showers. Everything’s the opposite of what was normal when you were a little kid.”

Now it was Ben’s turn to growl under his breath.

Bishop continued, “The Grand Solar Minimum is a natural disaster. The last major sudden ice age was the Maunder Minimum that happened back in the mid-1600s. I know you remember that a lot of people died. It took everything I had and more to save you and your mother and Louna from that maniac, Roman. It could have easily gone wrong, Ben. It was that close. I nearly lost you both in the early days more times than I can count. I’ll never forgive myself for Louna losing her mother.”

“Dad, she doesn’t remember…” Ben started to say but trailed off because deep down, he remembered Louna’s mother only briefly, but he remembered her, and if he did…Louna had to have memories of her too. 

Bishop breathed deeply. “We lost a lot of people on the way too. Bear attacks…fighting, sudden freezes. And I know…conditions are improving but we’re not there yet. This is nice,” he admitted, raising his hands to the sky in a kind of concession. “But I still remember those days and I won’t risk your lives again.”

“The Colorado Colony is a safe place. We’ve made it that way over the past eleven years, with hard work. We’ve joined the Arizona and California Colonies in the Underground Federation, and we’re expanding east. 

“I can’t believe my eyes when I walk the streets down there. It’s an entire city. Two-lane roads. Businesses and houses on either side. A high school. A pizza parlor. A wrestling team. Good take-down at your last meet, by the way.”

Ben smiled and nodded, remembering the look on Ames’ face when he threw him over his head. 

“My point is, we’ve built a life here. Why give that up? Why resurface and deal with all the savages that brought us here in the first place?”

Ben thought about that. He’d been thinking of that exact question for a long time. Years, perhaps. And because Bishop was always honest with him, and always said that he could tell him anything with no judgment, Ben said, “Because…I want to go home.”

Given hope in the form of a purple-hued crocus, Ben Tildon emerges from the safe haven of the underground colony meant to preserve his life from the harsh effects of a mini-ice age after eleven years. But what he doesn't know about the surface might kill him anyway.

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