The cell phone was the most important relic of the tribe. We did not know when it was originally made, but it had been passed down through the generations, each taking care of it, replacing its parts, memorizing and passing on its secrets.
The current cell phone case had been made by my uncle, after the former case had been shattered in a moose hunt. He had melted down plastic and cast it in the precise dimensions. It was waterproofed with rubber seals in case it fell in the water or got wet. Each of us had our task in keeping it going. Mine was the batteries.
“I think we are going to need a new battery soon,” Hadrian told me. He was my cousin, in charge of maintaining and repairing the solar panels that charged our batteries. The current battery was getting less than an hour of use per charge.
“I will need to make a journey,” I said. “The necessary materials are far away.”
The next day, I set out, taking only my spear and a skin bag of food and tools I would need. It was a three-week walk to the mineral spring my grandfather had shown me, where the precious salts crusted along the outflow. I collected what I needed and then began the long process of heating and refining, then more refining. I took special rocks from my bag and crushed them, heating, mixing, siphoning, all in the precise order that I learned from my grandfather and that he learned from his father long ago: The Way of Making the Battery.
I stayed at the mineral spring for a week, preparing everything in sequence. It was exacting work, working with the fine tools my great-uncle had made, and working under a magnifying glass that had been hand ground generations before. When all was complete, I assembled the components in a battery case that my brother Yocub had made, and set off back to camp. My path crossed the lands of the Tensheein, and a band of their warriors stopped me, demanding tribute. I gave them some of my food, but when they learned why I was traveling, they let me go. Missions of teknoji were sacred.
When I got back, Hadrian and I tested the new battery, charging it with the solar panels. There was a small flaw inside it and it did not hold charge, so I had to take it apart and remake it. A week later, we tried again and this time the charge lasted up to eight hours: a very successful battery.
My father wanted to call a neighboring tribe with whom we hunted every fall, but the wind had died and he had to wait another day so that the wind could power the tower on the hill and transmit the signal. They talked for fifteen minutes, arranging to meet at Black Cross a week later.
That night, we sat around the fire, listening to my sister code. She had been creating an app that would pick out the locations of nearby animals by their calls. She had been working on it for almost a year, writing it on the phone itself on an application written by our great-great grandmother. As she worked, she sang the lines of code aloud, each of us listening, learning, checking her work.
The Song of the Code echoed in my head as we all lay down in the great tent for sleep. It was like us, I thought. Each line nothing in itself, but working together, each with its own purpose, it could make something great. Without my battery, the cell phone was nothing. Without the solar panels, or the case, or the microphone, or the delicate camera optics, the cell phone would not function as it should. Each part and person working in perfect unison.