Atticus and Zak are two teenagers (16, 15) stolen from their families as children. They work in a dry-docked factory ship making beautiful red shoes alongside other kids, including a mute young girl, Phoebe (12). One day after spending detention on remote mudflats, mining for precious metals, the crowded monorail transport carrying them back to the sweatship jolts to an abrupt stop. There, in the middle of the desert that was once Los Angeles, doors in the glass walls on either side unexpectedly slide open. An alarm sounds and the doors immediately start to close again. But before they can slam shut, the boys and Phoebe are pushed out onto the sand.
Or parched death on a sun-baked dune.
They slide several hundred feet to the bottom of a sand valley. Atticus looks up and sees, pressed against the glass windows of the transport, the smiling face of the old man who worked alongside them on the floor, the one they called Troubadour.
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