Athena's mother slammed down the telephone, more angry than frightened. She peeked out the kitchen window and saw what she expected to see -- the house was being watched from the back as well as the front. It was possible that her house was being bugged -- or that Old Man Rafferty's house had been bugged. Or not. It was also possible that the boxcar itself was enough to set things in motion.
She went to her bedroom, as apparently was the custom in this town, and came back with a device in her hand. Kyria shook her head at Athena before she could say a word, and took her into the bathroom. She ran water in the tub, while she pressed a bunch of buttons on the thing. When she was done, she looked up at her daughter.
"It's a cell phone. You should watch more television." She pointed at the screen. "It's a kind of telephone, but safer than the land line. I just sent a message that we're surrounded by white rats. The person on the other end will spread the message to ... well, whoever."
"Why can't they just turn that one off too?"
"They don't know about it. It's not in my name, and not even registered in this state. It's just for emergencies. This counts as an emergency."
"Well, then who did you send the message to? And who's paying for the phone?"
"Your father. Well, the man you thought was your father."
"He really isn't dead, then? He really did leave? But who was he? And why are we surrounded by white rats, anyway? Why did you call them white?"
"Calling them white rats instead of just rats points out that they're government agents, not just dangerous locals or spies. They're going to be worried that you read too much of the diary. You're more likely to try to do something about it than, say Valeria or Taryn. Taryn won't risk her children, and Valeria is, well, the opposite of brave."
"Well, even speaking out would be a problem for them. People in power, groups in power, they want to keep it. It's quite possible that lots of people have forgotten what things were like before. Well, lots of white people, anyway. The people who lost their power, lost their voice, lost their family members, they haven't forgotten." Kyria got a distant look in her eye for a moment. Then she continued.
"Do you ever wonder why we ... I give you the books to read that I do? Why I encouraged you on your current path and not some job in a shop or factory or farm? Why it was so important that you be as independent as possible -- you and Carlo ... he would've been a perfect husband for you, by the way!"
"Mother! Wait. What books?"
"Remember that girl Katniss in that book? What do you remember about her?"
"That by the end of the last book, she was as annoying and whiny as Bella?"
"Besides that! Think of the middle book."
"That she was kind of a symbol for people to rally around. So they could change things back to when they were free. Or change them to a new freedom."
"That's what they're worried you'll become. You have the potential to be like Katniss, only more willing and more vocal. You're a girl whose father is missing. Once the trial started, no one heard from him again. You can stand up and ask what happened to him. You can remind people that we were multicultural once. We were a nation of laws and rights, at least in theory. So obviously, the rats want you silenced."
"Well, then why didn't they do anything sooner? Why wait until now?"
"Maybe you weren't a threat any sooner. Or they couldn't find you, until that boxcar pointed a huge neon arrow at all of us."