Welcome to the last week of this month´s Author spotlight with Susannah Noel.
Susannah wanted to share with you an excerpt from her latest book word and deed.
Excerpt from Word and Deed book 2 in the wordless chronicles
Riana Cole had infiltrated a Union stronghold before, but she’d forgotten how nerve-wracking it could be.
It had been almost three months since she’d done anything so risky.
Her heart raced as she entered through the double glass doors into the spacious lobby of the Exhibition—as sleek and sanitized as all Union buildings with the requisite decorative waterfall cascading down one wall.
Connor walked in front of her, looking masculine, attractive, and rather un-Connor-like in the charcoal gray uniform of a Union guard and not wearing his glasses.
Without hesitation, he strode toward the welcome desk and barked out that he’d been ordered to escort a Reader to the Book Room.
He made sure to sound less than enthusiastic about his task.
Riana stood quietly behind him, relieved when the bored attendant behind the desk glanced at the ID Connor flashed and gestured toward the metal detectors all visitors had to walk through.
The official name of the museum was the National Exhibition of Union History, but everyone just called it the Exhibition. It housed art and artifacts from the past, all selected and presented in a way to support Union values rather than to encourage appreciation of the objects in their own right.
The Exhibition was almost always empty, and Union officials weren’t displeased with that fact.
There were two armed guards near the metal detector—a normal display of power for any Union building.
Riana kept her eyes down, trying to remember how she would have acted in this situation when she’d actually been a Reader.
Just three months ago. She’d lived a different life.
“What’s your business?” one of the guards asked Connor as they approached.
“Escorting her,” Connor replied gruffly, giving Riana a disparaging look. “She’s a Reader and needs to look at an old book. Sent by the supervisor.”
The guard was not particularly interested in a mission so irrelevant. He waved them through the metal detector without further questioning.
Connor stepped back to let Riana go through first. When she hesitated, he put his hand on her back to guide her in.
It wasn’t a gentle nudge – it was closer to a shove. Even though she knew Connor was playing a part, she didn’t have to fake a scowl of annoyance over her shoulder.
The second guard snickered as they walked through the security station and into the Great Hall of the Exhibition.
Connor slanted her an apologetic look as they entered the huge airy room, which was lined with gleaming glass cases of artifacts and supported by stainless steel beams.
The hall was silent as the grave.
Since there was no one around, Riana risked a tiny smile which was answered by Connor’s blue eyes.
Both of them knew where the Book Room was located, so they made their way to the public elevator and ascended to the fourth and highest level of the building.
They walked through an empty hallway to the back corner of the floor where the Book Room—more like a Book Closet—was located.
Books, of course, would not get pride of place in today’s Union. They were only kept here at all as archaic reminders of a past they’d long since left behind. If they’d pressed the large red button on the wall, a disembodied voice would provide a slanted history of books, emphasizing how much trouble they had led to in times gone by.
They didn’t press the button.
Instead, Connor quietly shut the door so no random passerby could see what they were doing.
After finding no security camera in the room, they both started scanning the shelves to locate the particular book they’d come here to read.
“What a waste,” Riana murmured, running her hand over the spine of a beautiful leather-bound collection of early post-Cataclysmic poetry. “All these amazing books that no one bothers to even look at anymore.”
“Try not to think about it.” Connor smiled at her, causing lines around his eyes to crinkle. He was wearing contact lenses, since Union guards didn’t wear glasses. He obviously didn’t like them, since he kept blinking a lot more than normal.
Riana wasn’t sure she liked them either. He didn’t really look like her old friend of so many years.
“Do you know what the book looks like? What size and binding?” he asked.
“It was slim and leather bound. Maybe a dark red or brown. I can’t remember it very well.”
She and Connor had been working on their translation project for the last three months. They’d made some significant progress in translating the coded version of the Old Language found in the mysterious book so many people had risked so much for. But they still weren’t very far along.
Yesterday, they'd had a lucky break, finding that the book’s first section appeared to quote briefly from a philosophical text they knew was available in full in the traditional Old Language they both could read.
Riana’s grandfather, Marshall Cole, had owned a copy. About half of his library had ended up in the Exhibition when the Union had confiscated his belongings at his death.
If they could look at that book and get a copy of the quoted passage written in the Old Language, then the comparison would greatly help their translation of the coded language.
Riana felt familiar shivers of excitement at the presence of all these books, some of which used to be her grandfather’s. The feeling was old-fashioned and sentimental in a culture like theirs in which reading was obsolete—replaced by voice recordings, images, and symbols—and in which excess emotion was frowned upon.
Riana didn’t care what the rest of the world did. She loved books, and she’d loved her grandfather.
“Here it is,” Connor said after searching for about five minutes. He pulled a tall, thin volume off the top shelf. She walked over and peered at the pages as he flipped them.
It took them a few minutes to find the page with the quotation they needed and then another few minutes as Connor meticulously copied out the words.
Soon, however, he replaced the book on its shelf, and Riana felt a surge of excitement. Their mission hadn’t been particularly dangerous—certainly not as dangerous as many of the Front’s normal activities. But there had been some risk involved, and now they had nearly accomplished it.
“Oh look,” she said suddenly, catching a glimpse of a familiar book on a lower shelf. “This one was my grandfather’s too. I loved this book.”
She leaned over and pulled out the vinyl-bound storybook, scanning through the illustrated pages of the simple fables. “He used to read the stories to us at bedtime. My favorite was about a frog who lived under a lily pad.”
Connor smiled—warm, almost tender—and for a moment they shared a moment of perfect understanding and appreciation.
Then he said, “We need to go.”
“Right.” She replaced the book and fell in step with him as they left the Book Room.
They didn’t speak as they descended on the elevator, and they’d almost reached the lobby when they both jerked to a stop at the sudden blaring of an alarm.
She should have known this trip was going too smoothly.