we were supposed to unlock something else. Or maybe itâs not even for us.â
Clooger sighed. âItâs something. Itâs a start.â
âIt might be a lot more than that.â
Everyone pivoted in the direction of Hawkâs voice.
âLet me see that thing,â Hawk said, pointing to the device Clooger held in his hand. Clooger kept his Tablet and handed over the strange, clear block. Hawk peered inside, rotating the Plexiglas housing, until he found what he was looking for.
âCarl, can you open this up or is it vacuum sealed?â
âDepends,â Carl answered. He pulled a large, hammer-like tool from his belt. âAre you going to want to use it again?â
Hawk took an even closer look at the device and saw that there was no way around breaking the outer shell. The items insideâthe diodes and wires and bulbsâwere all soldered directly into the bottom section of the casing. The only way in was to break it open.
âWe have two, right?â Faith asked. She was worried about cutting off communication with everything and everyone. At least with one of these, she felt a small connection to the world outside the mountain. Carl noddedâ Yes, thereâs one other.
âHawk, what are you not telling us?â Dylan asked.
Hawk photographed the underside of the Plexiglas box with his Tablet, then set the box down and stretched his Tablet large. He enlarged and sharpened the photo, then held it out so everyone could see it, pointing to a rectangle. On the device itself, this rectangle was about as big as a baby tooth, but his Tablet had taken a highdefinition picture and now it was blown up to fill the screen.
âThis is the micro flash drive the voice message was recorded on,â Hawk said. He leaned forward and a mop of brown hair covered half his face like a curtain. âIâve read about these old Tom drives. These little guys could hold a terabyte of data. They were a revolution in their time.â
âIs this what I think it is?â Faith asked.
âAn M4-ZTom,â Hawk said. âAnd if we can access it directly, then Iâm guessing the passcode we were just given will unlock something hidden there.â
âHawk, I love that computerlike brain of yours,â Dylan said. âYouâre a genius!â
Faith looked Dylan up and down, head to toe, and marveled at how this boy could carry the weight of the world and still take the time to compliment everyone around him. His dark hair was getting longer and he was letting his stubble grow out. He still wore the T-shirts and the jeans and the skater shoes, even in the mountains, but he was looking more like a grown man every day. He flashed a sideways smile at her and it felt as if they were one person, not two.
Hawk turned his attention to Jade and smiled as if to say, Not a big deal, I do this sort of thing all the time . Jade smiled back at him, her gem-green eyes glancing back and forth between the floor and Hawkâs face, but she kept her cool. It was hard not to be impressed with Hawk when he pulled off technological miracles.
Carl took the device back from Hawk and set it on the floor.
âYou sure about this?â he asked no one in particular. Hearing no objections, he removed a foot-long buck knife from a leather sheath at his hip. He placed the tip on the Plexiglas box and hit the butt of the knife once with the hammer. The glass shattered with a sharp popping sound and Hawk leaned down with a pair of tweezers from a tech kit he kept in his cargo shorts.
âNice shot, Carl,â Jade marveled. âNot too hard, not too soft. You hit it just right.â
âNerds really do inherit the earth,â Dylan whispered to Faith, putting a hand on her knee as they waited nervously.
âWe got the best one,â Faith added, loud enough for Hawk to hear her and see him crack a smile as he lifted the tiny object out of the mess Carl had