One thing I've noticed as I've gone through each chapter, how different my writing is now compared to when I wrote Grave Diggers two years ago. It's definitely been a good exercise in editing and spotting scenes I wanted to change. I should probably do this more often.
Have a great weekend!
“We have a problem.” Edmund frowned, his fingers flying over the computer keys. He'd been working on decoding the Grave Digger footage for over a week, spending hours going through line after line of code that made up the data the plane had gathered.
“What’s wrong?” Desi looked up from where she’d been fiddling with an antique radio system they'd rescued from the incineration plant. Parts littered the floor around her in a kind of electronic halo.
“I think I’ve found why the photos from this mission weren’t sent to us.” He expanded one section of the code and shifted it to its own corner of the screen. Desi couldn’t read code nearly as well as Edmund, but she understood the basics. Even from across the room she could tell something was off about the segment he'd separated. It was like someone had taken a masterfully done portrait and crudely pasted a picture of a duck right in the middle. In this case, someone had gone into the program that provided the Intells with reports on archeological sites and shoved a blocking command in front of it.
“Edmund…” Desi gripped the back of his chair. “Have we gotten any other reports from the Reclamation sites since Puck brought us this?”
“No, we haven’t.”
“Has any communication come in from the government at all?”
Edmund brought up the database all the Intells had access to, the storage space allowed to them by the Council. There was nothing. It wasn’t visible unless you pulled up the entire shared database, but the last time any of them received any type of file transfer from the government was a week before the last mission Puck’s squad completed. A mission Edmund had only found out about by reading the National newspaper, which few Intells did anymore.
“They’re shutting us out.” Desi whispered. A knot dropped into her stomach like a stone. “They’ve deliberately stopped the communications about the archeological sites. Who knows how many they’ve destroyed during this time and we didn’t even notice!”
Desi said, “He’s meeting with the Elders right now.”
The Elders, the few living Intells who were old enough to remember the early days of the Rebuilding and the formation of the Council, had begun having weekly meetings with representatives from each Intell family. Their numbers had dwindled over the last decade, and the Elders were growing concerned. Fewer Citizens were marrying into Intell families, from fear of the Council or their own disagreement with the Intells’ work. The Village was becoming more isolated every year.
“We’ve got to tell them about this.” Edmund sent a copy of the corrupted code to his tablet. The cousins locked up the office and raced downstairs.
Desi grabbed her bag, threw open the front door, and slammed face-first into Squad Commander Puck with his hand raised to ring the bell. Puck lurched away from her, their combined momentum sending them toppling back into the street.
He broke most of Desi’s fall.
Puck stared up at the sky, trying to will air back into his lungs. The fact that Desi was lying on top of him didn’t escape his attention, but breathing was currently more important. Her cousin stood frozen in the doorway, mouth hanging open like a gasping fish. Puck tried to ask him to move her off his chest, but all that came out was a high-pitched wheeze.
“Ow…” Desi’s muffled voice floated up from somewhere near his sternum. He reached up and reluctantly moved one of her soft, sweet smelling braids off his face.
“Hello, Desi.” Puck rasped, his lungs finally inflating.
Edmund finally came to his senses and lifted her off the soldier. He set her down carefully on the door step, then offered a hand to Puck. Once everyone was back on their feet, Desi scowled.
“Did you know?” she snapped.
Puck stared at her. “Did I know what?"
“This!” She grabbed Edmund’s tablet out of his hands and shoved it at the bewildered soldier. “Did you know your precious Council was doing this to us?”
He eyeballed the screen, but didn’t know what it said. Council members’ children weren’t required to learn how to read code in school. “I can’t read code.”
A loud snort drew their attention to the boy leaning against the side of the building. Edmund affected a look of innocence and shrugged. “It shows that someone has but a block on any communication between the government and our database. We haven’t gotten any communications in weeks.”
“That doesn’t make any sense.” Puck handed the tablet back.
Desi took a deep breath. “Of course it doesn’t. We were just on our way to tell my father.” She peered at him. “What are you doing here?”
Puck clasped his hands behind his back. “I came to apologize for my behavior the last time we met. It was rude of me to leave the way I did.”
Desi continued to assess him. He began to feel if she stared at him much longer those blue eyes would bore straight through him.
“Apology accepted. Thank you for coming.” Her expression became thoughtful and she turned to her cousin. “Edmund, could you please take the code to father and the others? There’s something I want to take care of.”
“I’ll be back soon.” Edmund loped off down the street, his long strides taking him quickly out of sight.
"Come with me." Desi led Puck back inside the house.
“What are we doing?” Puck asked when they reached the third floor office.
“I need your help.” Desi unlocked the door and turned on the lights. “You use some pre-Quake technology in the army still, don’t you?”
“Yes.” Puck took in the mess of parts still on the floor. “There are some communication tools that work better in more remote areas than the National database connections.”
“Good.” She knelt down next to an old radio system. It was large and blocky, older than the radios the military still utilized. “I’ve been trying to get this thing to work, and I keep getting stuck.” Patting the only parts-free space on the floor next to her, Desi waited for him to sink down beside her before continuing. “I wanted to see if I could get it functioning, and then somehow wire it through a receptor connected to the database.”
“Why?” Puck peered into the open side of the metal box, where Desi had been experimenting with wire connections.
“To communicate with the other surviving nations.” Desi said, as if he should have already thought of it himself. “The distance is too far to reach them on the radio frequency alone, but if I can link up through a satellite in the Nation’s database, then maybe…”
Her mouth was set in a stubborn line. “There’s something the Council isn’t telling us about the other people left in the world. There has to be a reason why we know they’re out there but never hear from them.
“Maybe they’re hostile and that’s why we don’t have any contact with them. But what if they are good people and could help us? What if we could open up a network of trade and knowledge sharing that would benefit everyone?”
As she talked, she tried connecting a line inside of the radio and sparks flew out. They both flinched. “I understand if you don’t want to help.”
Puck stared at the hunk of metal, weighing his options. When he’d gotten off the train at the Village station his plan had been to find Desi, apologize, and then get out of there as quickly as possible. He was already conflicted enough over what he’d found at the records office, let alone everything else that was thrown at him when he came to this place.
Nothing ever went according to plan when this girl was around.
“I can’t guarantee it will work, but I’ll see what I can do.”
Puck would have promised to get the radio working, reach the other nations, and arrange a friendly get-together if it meant those blue eyes would shine at him the way they were right now.
Desi smiled and handed him her toolkit. “That’s all I’m asking for.”
© Courtney Carter, http://writingdeskblog.blogspot.com, 2018