Scorched Earth: Land, Sea, Sky Book 3 - Chapter 1

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Author's Note: This is my WIP, which I'm writing as part of Camp NaNo this month. Part of it is already published in the back of Undertow, the second book of the series, but I've edited it and added some stuff. Hope you like it. And I hope you're not too lost, lol.

5/16/14: I've reworked it a bit. See what you think. :)

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Offices of Earth in Balance, Alexandria, Virginia, September 11, 2023

Sue stared at her computer screen, feeling overwhelmed. The number of emails in her box seemed to multiply every time she blinked. She almost wished she hadn’t gone on vacation.

Almost wished. She had needed the break badly, after the march-turned-melee on the National Mall in August. And the gods had clearly needed her in Virginia Beach; after all, she was the only human being on their little team who could have pushed Hurricane Hubert out to sea. I need to remember to add “storm wrangler” to my resume.

Not that she’d be sending out any resumes any time soon. Although she ought to pull out her most recent version and update it, just in case Robbie managed to talk her into leaving D.C., after all.

The thought of Robbie Duckworth, her fiance, made her smile. Meeting him was the other reason why she was glad she’d gone on vacation. She wouldn’t have missed that for the world.

She just wished the office hadn’t been in such a shambles when she returned.

She glanced at her computer again and grimaced. Five new emails had popped in while she’d taken that thirty seconds to daydream, all of them having to do with this cockamamie project Freda had signed EiB up for.

Sue remembered Freda’s excitement when she’d told the staff about the project. “We’ve been awarded $2.5 million grant by the U.S. Department of Agriculture,” her boss had said. “They’re in the process of developing a superfood – a grain called ayalendo. They tell me it grows quickly and easily almost anywhere. It’s drought-resistant and pest-resistant, it provides a complete protein as well as a number of other crucial vitamins, and it provokes no allergic reaction in gluten-sensitive people.”

“Super kudzu!” Dave had said, to laughter.

Freda had laughed, too. “I know, I know, it sounds impossible,” she said. “But here – give it a try.” She passed around a plate with slices of bread on it. Sue had nibbled gamely at her slice, and then finished it in three bites. “That’s yummy,” she’d said, and her co-workers agreed.

Freda had beamed. “The U.S.D.A. believes that once ayalendo seeds are disseminated worldwide, we will be able to wipe out hunger within ten years,” Freda said. “Think of it. No one need ever go hungry again. And Earth in Balance will be part of its development.”

She’d then explained that the project would require substantial testing. EiB, at the suggestion of the U.S.D.A.’s project manager, had subcontracted a private-sector firm called Universal Test Co. to conduct further research on the test crop, which was growing at the Agricultural Research Center in Beltsville, Maryland. UniTest’s manager had told Freda that their share of the federal grant was only enough to get started. But, she said, the government had an additional $2.5 million available as a matching grant, assuming Earth in Balance could raise $2.5 million of its own by the end of September.

“This is going to be a huge feather in our cap,” she went on. “And it’s because of all of you that we can even entertain a proposal like this one. Your outstanding work has gained our little nonprofit a great national reputation. You should all be very proud.”

That was in April. Sue had spun up planning for the annual Alternative Power Week show on the Mall right after that, and so had been largely out of the loop on the ayalendo project. She’d heard Freda had contacted a few other environmental groups for help, and there had also been talk of a crowdfunding appeal, but she didn’t pay attention to any of the details.

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