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ROOTLESS by Chris Howard - Chapter One

ROOTLESS by Chris Howard - Chapter One

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Published by Chris Howard
17-year-old Banyan is a tree builder. Using salvaged scrap metal, he creates forests for rich patrons who seek a reprieve from the desolate landscape. Although Banyan's never seen a real tree—they were destroyed more than a century ago—his missing father used to tell him stories about the Old World. Everything changes when Banyan meets a mysterious woman with a strange tattoo—a map to the last living trees on earth, and he sets off across a wasteland from which few return. Those who make it past the pirates and poachers can't escape the locusts . . . the locusts that now feed on human flesh. But Banyan isn't the only one looking for the trees, and he's running out of time. Unsure of whom to trust, he's forced to make an alliance with Alpha, a beautiful, dangerous pirate with an agenda of her own. As they race towards a promised land that might be a myth, Banyan makes shocking discoveries about his family, his past, and how far people will go to bring back the trees.
17-year-old Banyan is a tree builder. Using salvaged scrap metal, he creates forests for rich patrons who seek a reprieve from the desolate landscape. Although Banyan's never seen a real tree—they were destroyed more than a century ago—his missing father used to tell him stories about the Old World. Everything changes when Banyan meets a mysterious woman with a strange tattoo—a map to the last living trees on earth, and he sets off across a wasteland from which few return. Those who make it past the pirates and poachers can't escape the locusts . . . the locusts that now feed on human flesh. But Banyan isn't the only one looking for the trees, and he's running out of time. Unsure of whom to trust, he's forced to make an alliance with Alpha, a beautiful, dangerous pirate with an agenda of her own. As they race towards a promised land that might be a myth, Banyan makes shocking discoveries about his family, his past, and how far people will go to bring back the trees.

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Published by: Chris Howard on Aug 21, 2012
Copyright:Traditional Copyright: All rights reserved

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09/23/2014

 
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CHAPTER ONE
 They figured me too young for a tree builder. I could see it in their eyes. Bunch of rich freaks, staring at me like I needed to impressthem. But I did need to. That was the problem. The wagon was about out of juice and my belly was so hard I couldn’t even stand to scratchit. I built the best trees in the Steel Cities, but you’d never know it from the drought I’d hit.“You thinking evergreen?” I said, looking at Frost, him being theman wanting trees.“We’d like to see the seasons, Mister Banyan.” Frost was a big bucket of a guy with too many chins, and the hair he’d bleached whiteto look older left his face looking twenty years too young.“That’s the real trick, ain’t it?” I said, shaking my head. Make a big deal of every request, Pop had drilled it into me. The client pays moreand ends up twice as happy.“Just get all the scrap you need,” said Frost. Man practically smelledof cash. His wife all lit up with sparkles in her hair and studs on her face. Hell, even their watcher looked polished — his dreads clean andfluffy, his long beard woven with fabric. Not a mark on him, either. The sign of a bodyguard you do not want to mess with.
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I took a look around the dirt lot. Acre at least. Blank and ugly, fullof dust and sky. But not for long. Not if I built a forest to get lost inside. Shade from the sun and a break from the wind. Show the world you could still own something special. A decent slope gave some perspective to play with, and I’d givethem the seasons, all right. Plastic leaves wired up to turn color andshrivel on metal branches. I’d give them spring blooms and fallcolors.“Good news, Mister Frost.” I made a smile, extended my hand tohim. “Seasons are my specialty.”Frost returned the smile but ignored the handshake. He just stoodthere with his arms resting on his belly, and his mouth all twitchy at some internal joke. Then he stomped over to his wife and put his armaround her pointy shoulders and I felt bad for her just having to beso close to the guy. She was a stunner, no question. Gray eyes anddark skin.“The question is,” Frost began, his body trembling as he pawed his wife’s polyester top, “can you build this?” Then Frost tore open the front of her shirt and the woman waspractically naked, right there in front of me.I’d never seen a thing like it.She was more pretty than I knew what to do with, no doubt about that. But it was the tree that took my breath away.It was tattooed on her skin in a thousand different shades. Theroots spread down her right hip and a thin white trunk curvedacross her belly, branches reaching all the way up. A fragile tree.Flexible. With golden leaves falling as the tree swayed in some imagi-nary breeze.
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I felt sweat trickle down the groove of my back. But Frost’s wifelooked ice cold, her silvery eyes staring straight through me until Ifinally turned my head away.Frost laughed and stepped away from the woman, leaving her there,her shirt ragged and open.“Can you build it, boy?” It was the watcher who spoke. Voice as big as he was. Unblinking eyes the same color as his skin.I stared at the dirt, shaken. Frost reckoned himself a tough guy,doing that to his woman. And a man like that don’t deserve nothing pretty.“Can you build it?” the watcher said again.I had a bad feeling about this one. But a worse feeling was theempty howl in my guts. I needed the job and I needed it bad. And what was I going to do? Quit?“Yeah,” I muttered, all the swagger drained out of me. “I can buildit. But I’ll need a place to pitch my wagon. And I need an advance onsome corn.”“You can stay here. In your forest.” Frost laughed as he gestured tothe dirt. I looked out at the sparse shapes of the city — the filthy steeldomes and bunkers, the crumbling concrete remains. The wind waspicking up and it came screeching around the buildings, whipping thedust into a shotgun spray. I pulled my goggles down, buried my nosein a rag, but the rich freaks were caught off guard and they choked ontheir pampered lungs.“Make yourself at home,” Frost muttered, after he’d quit coughing and the wind had died back. He shrugged at the watcher. “Crow willget you the corn, but it’ll be deducted from your fee.”“Which is what?”
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