In an underground city devoid of adults, fifteen-year-old Raquelle Granger holds the position of Council Member, and thousands of lives within City Ten rest in her hands. Unfortunately, she only has two years left until she’s supposed to join the adults on the frontlines in a war that never seems to end.
But when the enemy army rolls into the area with drills, intent on destroying the city and taking no prisoners, Raquelle, together with her little brother and childhood best friend, must make a choice—Fight, or die a martyr among the Christian youth.
Read the excerpt…
Nights like these make the war seem like a distant nightmare. The stars swirl in patterns I don’t understand as I stare at them from my perch atop the mountain of rusted and long forgotten machinery. The clashing rings of metal sound off all around as my team of scavengers scour for resources on the ground below. The sound is almost soothing, like a song. If only for a moment, peace washes over me. That is, until the stretch of blue on the horizon reminds me that our time here is limited.
Glancing out at the shadows tumbling around the Graveyard, which expands for miles around the true mountains, I set my shoulders back and stand tall. “Pack it up!”
The early morning sun illuminates the forest stretching across the snow-capped mountainside and the valley we’re in. I tighten the strap of my gun and scale to the ground before pacing behind the six-wheeled wagon. Only a few pieces lie in the back, and I shake my head with a heavy sigh. “We’re not going to make quota.”
“Yes, we are.” My best friend, Faith, smiles with a sense of innocent wisdom as she runs her fingers through her long, black hair. Faith’s blue Medic sash drapes over her shoulder. She shouldn’t be here.
“You have to have optimism.” Faith turns to one of my scavengers. “The engineers need a sprocket rocket spring. Do we have one yet?”
He straightens and salutes her. “No ma’am, but we’re searching.”
She nods dismissively, and he continues his duties.
A boy runs toward me. He stumbles as he runs over uneven gravel, and I step away from the wagon to meet him halfway. I don’t have to see his eager eyes to know that he has found something interesting.
He catches his breath. “I found a couple of relics.”
If we were looters, the relics would be our treasure. We know very little of what the past was like, with the technology they had that was much more advanced than ours. So, I guess that’s why I like being the Head of the Scavenging Department. Occasionally, we find relics, and when someone does, he or she is rewarded with extra rations or precious baked goods, like cookies.
The entire yard freezes, watching the small twelve-year-old. Having only been assigned to the job a few months earlier, finding a relic so soon is unheard of, but he claims that he found two. “Here, ma’am.”
I carefully take the first one from the boy’s shaking hands and sit down on the open tailgate, with him right next to me. One relic is flat, smooth rectangular metal with an engraved apple in the middle. I flip it over, revealing cracked black glass. I dust it off and try to rack my mind with an answer to what it is. “It looks like a mirror.” I turn it back to the side with the apple.
“My grandpa once said that there was a company with that…uh…” The scavenger stumbles for the right word.
“Logo,” I say. Old writings explain of times where a good logo meant a lot to a business. It doesn’t make sense to me, how a picture could make you rich. There are faded words printed onto it. “iPad.” That’s a strange word.
I set it down at my feet, and he hands me the next item. It’s rectangular too, but chunky, and this one flips open horizontally. There is another black screen and buttons. I press them, but nothing happens. Of course, the relic wouldn’t have power after so long. The word “Nintendo” is pressed into the back side.
“So, what does this give me?” He wrings his hands together.
These are great finds. We don’t usually find technology relics. “Five desserts,” I say, getting out a piece of paper and scribbling the order down. “When you’re done here, go see Rosemary.”
His eyes light up. “Thank you.”
“Don’t tell anyone your reward.” I place the relics in my satchel.
He nods and hops down. The other workers wait patiently for the outcome. I kick my feet in the air. Huh, the drop is longer than I thought. Looking out at the faces in the moonlight, I say, “These are excellent additions to send to The Gathering Committee.”
The Elders in the Gathering Committee will know what the items are. They’ll label and store the items for future generations to enjoy when we have returned to peacetime.
The ever-changing sky tugs at the knot in my stomach. A cool breeze raises goose bumps on my arms. Crossing my arms, I swallow the tension. “Faith, the scouts patrol at dawn. We need to pack up.”
I take a deep breath and glance at my friend’s glassy eyes as she watches the morning light emerge. Not everyone gets to experience the surface.
I reach into my leather jacket and take out a pocket watch my grandfather gave me before the elderly were drafted into the army. The relic was passed down to him from his grandfather, who served in a similar war. I wind it, making sure it keeps in perfect time.
The ground rumbles as a squeal of decompressing air echoes from within the trees. Someone calls out, “Spider Scout!” and everyone takes off into drill maneuvers. Some hold defensive positions while others unload our findings from the wagon into bags. I run across the clearing and grip a giant gear on the ground. With a heave, I lift it high enough for the youth to deposit the precious metal into a chute and then scurry down the ladder. Faith stands beside me, helping me hold up the gear.
A searchlight cuts through the dim light as an eight-legged mechanical beast walks the perimeter of the Graveyard. My heart squeezes.
“Raquelle!” Faith snaps me out of my daze. “They’re all safe. Let’s go.”
I shimmy onto the ladder and slide down, anticipating the impact that rattles my bones. Once on the floor of the tunnel, a lone lantern illuminates my twenty scavengers and their finds. Our heavy breaths echo, and they quietly fidget. Just as I open my mouth to say something, Faith lands beside me with a playful smirk.
“That was close,” she says.
Sometimes I wonder if she’s an adrenaline addict.
“Too close.” I take a breath. “Did we get everything the engineers and mechanics need?”
Harland’s the oldest of the bunch. “We’re missing a few gears and pistons, but we can get them tomorrow night.” He brushes the dust covering his jacket.
I close my eyes as heat grows in my face. “Need I remind you that these parts are to repair the boilers? I don’t want to be the one to tell Section Two they have to go another night without power.” Pebbles drop from the earthy ceiling. I’ll request the mechanics add more support beams for this tunnel.
Harland shrugs with an indifferent sneer. “Not my problem.”
I grit my teeth. Nothing is ever his problem.
Faith places a hand on my shoulder, a silent plea for me to calm down.
I sigh, releasing the bubbling anger. “Rest up, because we need to make quota tomorrow.”
Lamps in hand, they begin to walk through the outer labyrinth of what we call home. Our footsteps echo along the arched tunnel that was carved before our grandparents were born. Every few hundred feet, we pass metal beams embedded into the structure. As I watch them go, my stomach churns and my hands begin to shake. I cross my arms to hide them.
Faith puts a hand on my shoulder again. “I can make the announcement for you.”
I shake my head, fighting the nausea threatening to overtake me. “Thank you, but it’s my turn to deliver the war news.”
Enter the giveaway!
About the Author: