Welcome to another Charity Sunday! Today I am supporting one of my favorite organizations, Room to Read. Room to Read helps to set up locally-controlled and managed programs to increase access to education and to encourage reading in poorer countries including India, Nepal, Rwanda, Sri Lanka and Jordan, with a special focus on learning opportunities for girls.
I get lots of fund-raising emails from the causes I support (and from others that want my cash). Room to Read consistently talks about their successes and progress in those emails – rather than wringing their hands and trying to tell me how terrible everything is. I truly appreciate this. The world faces problems that seem insurmountable, but in fact local efforts by passionate individuals make a difference. I remember one email that showed up in my box at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, talking about a teacher in India who, when schools were shut down, rode his bike around the village, every day, delivering books to each of his students. A small gesture, perhaps – but one that could have a lasting impact on a few, important lives.
The pandemic has disrupted education for 9 out of 10 children in the world, with children in low income countries the worst affected. In response, Room to Read has supported a range of “distance learning” programs that depend not on the Internet (which is not available in most of their target areas) but on human connectivity. You can read more about these programs here: https://give.roomtoread.org/campaign/covid-19-urgent-appeal/c278379
So, today I will donate $2 to Room to Read’s COVID urgent appeal, for each comment I receive.
And to thank you for joining today’s event, I’ve got another exclusive excerpt from my new release The H-Gene. This MM scifi erotic romance takes place two and a half decades from today, in a U.S. that has been devastated and depopulated by a terrible Plague. Even before the Plague, however, the country was on a downward trajectory, due to global warming, environmental degradation, natural and man-made disasters and intergroup conflict. Education has declined to the point that some citizens no longer know how to read. Propaganda nevertheless survives...
By the time Dylan and Rafe had finished consulting with Hammer, returned to the locker room and dressed, dusk was falling. Shadows made the shattered landscape of the exclusion zone even more forbidding. Rafe had relaxed somewhat during their technical discussion of streaming servers, encrypted feeds and specialized codecs, but now, as they made their way back to the gate, Dylan felt the other man’s unease.
The fear was contagious. Sweat gathered in Dylan’s armpits. Adrenaline boosted his pulse. Three days had elapsed since their escape, more than enough time for the Guardians to have disseminated images and particulars of the two fugitives. As they trudged along Market, hoods pulled over their masked faces, Dylan ventured a glance up at one of the screens. Just the usual programming,Technicolor fantasies of peace and plenty—glimpses of a world that was long gone.
He monitored the broadcast while he and Rafe waited to cross the street at one of the remaining traffic signals. It was six p.m., what passed for rush hour these days in Sanfran. A steady stream of miscellaneous vehicles flowed past.
A public service announcement popped up, full of chubby babies and clean-cut, beaming parents, offering free fertility augmentation. This was followed by an ad for Saturday’s rally, details posted both in English words and in simple icons that made reading unnecessary. There were no security advisories, no mug shots of his face, or Rafe’s.
He recalled his theory, that the Guardians might be unwilling to publicly admit his escape. That didn’t necessarily lessen the danger. A mini-copter droned overhead. He dropped his eyes to the ground, hiding behind his minimalist disguise, jumpy as a rabbit expecting the swoop of a hawk.
The red LED finally switched to green. Rafe strode forward into the intersection. The movement jolted Dylan out of his nervous fugue. He hurried after his lover, trying to catch up.
“Halt!” The flat, mechanical voice was a remembered nightmare. Dylan looked over his shoulder. A Robbie loomed on the corner they’d just left, its black carapace flickering in the light from the vidscreen. Its multi-function gripper extruded the sparking prongs of a tasegun.
“Halt, citizen 33609861022. Surrender, by order of the Guardians.”
Dylan sprinted across the street, snatching at Rafe’s sweatshirt. “Hurry!” He kept his voice down, not wanting to attract the attention of other pedestrians. They might be more deadly than the android. “Come on!” The signal had changed again and, for the moment, the Robbie was trapped on the opposite side.
Rafe gave a single glance backwards and understood immediately. He loped up the sidewalk, moving fast, but not running, not yet. Dylan struggled to keep up with the pace of his longer-legged companion.
Ignoring the red light, the hulking robot stepped into the road. Vehicles squealed to a stop. The Robbie marched across the road, each stride covering twice as much distance as Dylan’s own. People on the sidewalk shrank away from the ambulatory tank barreling along the broken pavement. “Halt! Halt!” the Robbie continued to intone, waving the Taser in their direction, gaining on them by the second.
“Run!” Rafe yelled back at him, following his own advice. The powerful black man streaked along Market, then ducked into a side street. Dylan raced after him, breathing hard as he strained to catch up. The Robbie was nearly in range. Desperate, Dylan summoned every ounce of energy and channeled it to his pumping legs.
The street sloped upward. Rafe had almost reached the top of the hill, a good twenty yards ahead. Dylan’s calves screamed from the effort. His chest ached with each labored breath. His hood had slipped off and his hair clung to his forehead, soaked with sweat. I won’t go back, he told himself, pushing himself to the limit. I’d rather die.
Remember, every one of your comments helps to secure an education and improve the future for young women in low income countries. And please do visit the other authors who are participating in Charity Sunday today. (You'll find their links below.) Each one is supporting a cause dear to his or her heart.