After the trip through the river, Drake appreciated that he remembered to place the maps and other documents in resealable bags. None seemed damaged, but the hands-on his compass hung like dead fish in water.
“Either this demagnetized,” Drake said, “or whatever is killing the plants is blocking the magnetic field.”
“What grand conundrum are you solving today, Drake?” Charley asked.
Drake smiled. Though they’d forgotten to pull watch for the dying plants, his mood had improved since everything seemed to go to hell. Though Charley didn’t use his pet name, D, like she did when they were still in their honeymoon phase, this type of question sent Drake reeling back to the past.
“Damned Compass won’t work,” Drake said.
“And talking to it is going to fix it?” Charley asked.
Drake knew that she wasn’t insulting him. It was like her way to joke with him and hide her worry at the same time.
“You’ve seen my magic work on more complex machines,” Drake said.
Charley smiled back at him, and Drake couldn’t help but think that she seemed happier too. Without a functioning compass, Drake depended on using terrain association to find their location. After climbing a few trees and then some hilltops, Drake recognized two peaks that could lead him back to the bunker. Then a silver flicker of sunlight bounced high above the two reference peaks.
“Follow me,” Drake said.
Charley didn’t question Drake as she followed him up the mountainside in mostly dried boots that had sat next to the fire the night before. Drake crossed his fingers that she wouldn’t realize they weren’t headed back to the bunker. It’s most likely surrounded by whatever plague is killing off the plants anyway. It took them most of the day before they broke through the tree line, and Charley started to vocalize her concern.
“Wait,” Charley said, leaning against a boulder, “we aren’t heading the right way. You always said that if we broke the tree line, then we missed the bunker.”
Damn, I was hoping she’d forget that. Drake wanted to lie, but with the progress they’d made in just one night, he didn’t want it to be for nothing.
“You’re right,” Drake said, “I saw something that might help us more than just keeping us safe. There’s a radio tower used by the government at the peak. If we can get it working, then maybe we can find out what’s really going on.”
“I know we haven’t seen any more signs of that Death Air,” Charley said, “but how do you know it hasn’t destroyed that place already?”
Drake had been worrying about the lack of threats since they began their climb.
“I think it’s due to the lack of plant life,” Drake said, “from what we’ve seen, it looks like the infection attacks plants before people.”
Charley looked up at Drake with pleading in her eyes.
“Do you really think this place is our best bet to survive?” Charley asked.
Drake looked up the mountainside where steep cliffs hid Francis Peak.
“Yes,” Drake said, “because if we can’t communicate with anyone there, then there is no one left alive besides us.”
Charley nodded and began to hike up the mountainside once more.