My YA Scavenger Hunt Guest : William Campbell Powell
William Campbell Powell lives in a small Buckinghamshire village in England with his wife, Avis, his two teenage sons, more books than you can shake a stick at, and a collection of bass guitars. By day he is a Software Development Manager and by night he writes YA and Science Fiction.
Expiration Day is his first novel, published by Tor Teen in April 2014.
About Expiration Day
Nobody can have kids. Well, almost nobody. And nobody knows why. It's just something that's happened. Some said that it was all the radio waves and microwaves messing up our DNA. Others said it was the gigahertz radiation from all the computers doing it. Global warming and pollution got blamed, of course.
And there were some really weird theories, too. There was one scientist who claimed that every generation lost a certain amount of information from the gene pool, so we'd just reached the point where we no longer had enough information left in our genes to build a fully working human.
So I'm a real rarity. A real girl. All the other kids in the world are just robots. Realistic robots - not clunkers like Soames - but like Julia Ellis, a near-perfect copy of a human child. Good enough to fool the maternal instinct. Good enough to stop the riots. Even good enough to play with sometimes.
Hello, Book Hunters!
Expiration Day isn't an action novel. Sorry. On the other hand, it does have serious levels of Rock'n'Roll and a dramatic court scene. Tania isn't an athletic heroine, either, preferring to play bass with her band, or else to curl up in the big reading chair in the spare room, reading a treasured book.
But I did wonder what would happen if she ended up in physical danger. After all, the world of 2049 isn't a nice place, though she's living in one of the more civilised spots. It's definitely not all sweetness beyond her village, though, and in England there are many places that the rule of law doesn't reach. These are the Red Zones, and in the earlier drafts of the novel, back when it was still called 'A Child Alone', I had Tania visit a Red Zone twice.
The first time she made contact with an 'underground' organisation, that she hoped might give her refuge. That scene got re-worked quite a bit, moving from London to Oxford in the process, and re-surfaced here , where you'll find other bonus content. This second scene is unique to the YA Scavenger Hunt, and fits around that court scene, where Tania sees that the case is going against her, and decides to flee. She contacts the 'underground' and arranges to meet the woman she knows as Marla ...
I'm just going for a stroll. What could be more natural than going for a stroll in the twilight? So I resist the urge to check if I’m being followed.
It’s a bit of a hike, it turns out. My faithful AllInFone tells me I can still get there in time, but I can’t hang about. It’s all Green Zone, at least, past the Tower of London and as far as Tower Bridge. Beyond, though, is another matter…
Am I really ready to run away to the Red Zone? I have no idea. I love life – who doesn’t – but life at any price? Maybe I will find more than just food and shelter in the Red Zone. Maybe I will find friends too. Some way of making music. Drama. It mightn’t be too bad. If I don’t fall ill and die, or get raped or killed by marauders from another gang…
Do I really want to live in the Middle Ages? Is that really a choice? Or, as Mrs Hanson might have said, is that Death trying to convince me there are no better choices?
* * *
I can see the Tower of London now, which takes me back to where this journey began. A game of hide-and-seek with Siân. If not for that, I might never have learned of my true nature. No, I can’t believe that. Something would have happened sooner or later – I couldn’t be so dumb as not to notice something non-human about myself, could I? But would I be here now? Would I be happier?
For nostalgia’s sake, I detour down towards the river, past the entrance and then turning left at the bank walkway. Passing over Traitor’s Gate, I shudder, briefly. I really thought I had been about to drown.
Tower Bridge is close, now.
Up the steps and onto the bridge. I emerge beneath a huge arch, and look down the ramp. Deserted. Forty years ago, you’d have been trampled by tourists. It’s a long way to the end, to my meeting point – I should have gone where my AllInFone told me, instead of sightseeing. Stupid Tania. Oh well.
As I draw nearer, the shadows divide and I can make out trees and shrubs, benches and tables of the Boleyn New Park. Is that somebody waiting? In the shadows beneath the trees, a darker shadow in shapeless clothing. The shadow moves, faces me. A woman.
“If you like. I was wondering if you were going to turn up. I was getting ready to leave.”
“Thanks for staying. I came here as quick as I could.”
“Yeah, well, I’m still here. You said you were in trouble.”
“Somewhat. Fighting a lawsuit with Oxted for my life.”
“Yeah, you are in trouble. Come on, then. We need to move. It’s not far to Whitechapel, after which it’s all Red Zone.”
“Wait. I’m not sure. I need to …”
“What can you possibly need to do? Don’t be stupid. You’re here; this is your way out. This is your only choice.”
My only choice? Then, by Hanson’s Law, it must be death that’s on offer. Does that make sense?
“In that case… Thanks, but no. I’m going back. Sorry, Marla.”
“You what? Didn’t you hear me? This is your only…”
But then there’s a flash, a flare of light, and Marla and I are caught in the beam of a searchlight.
“This is the police. Do not move. You are under arrest. Put your hands up and keep them where we can see them.”
Marla curses: “Did you bring them here? Did you bring a AllInFone? Oh, you stupid f…”
But then she breaks, and the searchlight follows. For a moment, I am in shadow, and for the first time in my life I make a good decision, and scramble over the low railings into the hedge behind the trees.
For a moment, I lie flat, able to see beneath the bushes.
Marla is down, quivering. A Taser? Night-visioned troopers converge, hyena-like.
Nothing I can do.
I crawl back towards the river. Behind me, a single searchlight swoops and arcs wildly.
* * *
One moment I was crawling on hands and knees; the next, my outstretched hand met empty air and I tumbled through space, landing hard and rolling, to finish up in a patch of … nettles. Stinging nettles, Mister Zog. But my skin chemistry is inert to histamines, so thanks to a lazy gardener, I had myself a briar patch that Brer Rabbit would have loved, extending all the way back to the river, alongside the moat.
From the noises behind me, it sounded as though the police had followed some false trail, maybe some town fox, or unlucky pedestrian. A few minutes later, though, I heard a more systematic search begin, with a couple of police officers walking back up the ramp to the bridge, shining torches down onto the path below.
By that time, though, I’d just about reached the waterfront, where I turned right, moving briefly across open space before finding safety again by the outer walls of the Tower of London. It didn’t feel right, though. I decided I couldn’t afford to look like a fugitive. So I found a park bench and sat down, and watched the river flow, wondering if I’d have the nerve to stay seated if any officers actually came my way.
After a while, two rather stout officers strolled towards me, so I took out my AllInFone and started taking photographs of HMS Belfast across the river. They walked past.
That was my worst moment. After that, well, the frontage is long, but as I drew near to the main entrance, I began to meet other pedestrians, and felt I could just mingle.
It was still a long walk back to the hotel, and my nerves were on edge the whole way.
* * *
When I reached the hotel, it was eleven o’clock, but the bar was still open. No calls on my AllInFone, so I reckoned Dad was still hard at work on his spreadsheets. With a coffee from the bar in front of me, I felt able to think. So I called him.
<<Mmm? Hi Tania. Where are you?>>
“In the hotel bar, now. Just sitting and thinking over a coffee. Are you still working on the spreadsheets?”
<<OK. Did you want to come up? You won’t disturb me. I’ll be done in half an hour.>>
Which meant an hour, if I knew Dad. He’d be working till midnight.
I was right. At least I think I was right, but I’d showered and was in bed before he was done, sleeping the deep sleep of the guilty-but-exhausted.
To be blunt, the scene didn't fit. Oh, it's Tania's voice, and to that extent it represents Expiration Day, but Tania fails to escape and is forced to follow the path of the courts. Ultimately the scene didn't advance the plot, other than to close a door. So it got cut.
If you don't mind waiting a couple of weeks, Tor Teen is publishing Expiration Day in paperback on April 14, 2015.
And before you go...
... the YA Scavenger Hunt is all about discovering new authors, and there's a bundle of books to be won. To enter, you need to collect all the favourite numbers of the authors in a group, and add them up. That's your code to enter for the grand prize! I'll also be running my own giveaway of Expiration Day on my own website at http://williamcampbellpowell.com to celebrate its upcoming release in paperback on April 14th.
Dorothy Dreyer, Colleen Houck, Carly Anne West, Kate Brauning, Lydia Kang, Joshua David Bellin, Heather Demetrios, Kathryn Holmes, Romily Bernard, Martina Boone, Dhonielle Clayton, Victoria Strauss, Trisha Leaver, William Powell, Christine Norris, Gwenda Bond, Kate Smith, Bree Despain, Lisa T. Bergren, Suzanne Lazear