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Justin - Chapter Seven

by Machelli

The next morning found Justin in his bed at nine o’clock.  The alarm clock above his bedpost had not gone off and when he had woken up at six so he promptly pulled the blankets over his head and went back to sleep.

When he finally did get out of bed, he was met by the coldness that most everyone feels after sleeping under soft, warm blankets.  Justin shivered once and pulled the comforter off of his bed to wrap around him.  Thus attired, he dragged himself and the blanket over to the desk.

The voice drafter was still on the polished wood and seemingly in the same spot as yesterday.  Justin picked it up and looked at the small screen in the center of the rectangle.

One, saved document.

So, no one took it last night.  And that meant that his father did not hear Justin’s phony story, which also meant that Justin was still under suspicion.

“Darnit,” he breathed.

After Justin took a shower and got changed, he went downstairs for breakfast.  On his plate he found two large waffles. These waffles, however, were not just any ordinary breakfast pastry.  They were the perfect set of generic waffles.  They both had been baked to a light golden brown and were only slightly crispy on the outside.  Each waffle had been spread with butter, and topped with strawberries and some sort of semi-thick whipped cream.

Justin wasted no time in relieving the plate of its burden.

Once breakfast was finished, Justin wandered outside.

It really was a nice day.  The deep blue sky was blocked by only a few billowing white clouds and the heat from the sun was of such a tolerable level that Justin felt as though he were still in bed.  Justin walked along a stone path that, as far as he could tell, led all the way around the immense, white house.

As he walked and took in the fresh air, he began to think of the outdoor track practices back home.  This led him to the realization that he had not gone for a run since he had left Connecticut.  The idea appealed to him and soon he found himself walking faster and faster until he was finally in a full-fledged run.

He rounded the front of the house and continued down the stone path with the wind only slightly resisting him.  It was just like he was back home.

Justin stopped.

Back home.

This was supposed to be his home.  How many times had he referred to Connecticut as “back home”?

And why?

Well, he thought.  It’s because that is my home.  And it will never stop being just that: my home with my school and my friends and my Mom and all of my relatives. 

Why couldn’t I have lived with one of them?  At least I could have stayed in East America and maybe, if I was lucky, I could have stayed in the same school and never gone here! 

I would have never moved in with my Dad with his big, empty house and his operation room-clean hallways and those stupid walls. 

Justin looked at the large, metal wall in the distance, fencing him in.  Outside of that wall was a different world, a world where kids weren’t put into labor camps because their parents or grandparents were criminals, where no one needed to worry about whether talking to someone was going to get them into trouble or not, where the normal kids didn’t have to leave fake journal entries on their desks so their parents would trust them.

Why couldn’t Justin be a part of that world instead of this one?  Why couldn’t he be one of the “normal kids”?  Why did his Mom have to get on that stupid plane and die so he could be shipped out here?

Justin collapsed onto the picture-perfect, green grass.

A half an hour later, Justin slowly walked through the heavy wooden doors and onto the marble floor.  He looked down at the image of himself and rubbed his eyes, trying to keep his eyelashes from sticking together.  He was about to go into the downstairs bathroom to wash his face when his father called.

“Justin,” his voice descended from a room upstairs, “could you come here please?”

“Coming!” he called back.  He supposed that the red puffiness around his eyes would have to wait.

He walked up the crimson carpeted stairs with his hand trailing behind him on the fancy banister.

Everything was so perfect.

It made him sick.

After a short journey down one of the hallways, he arrived at his father’s study.  Justin put his hand on the door and slowly pushed it open.

His father was sitting at his desk but was turned away from the door, looking out the window.  When Justin entered the room his father’s chair swiveled around so he could look at Justin instead.

“I’m going to ask you a few questions,” he said in his slow, calculated voice.  It was starting to get annoying.  “And you had better think carefully before you answer them.”

Darnit! Thought Justin.  That sentence never came before an easy question.

“First question,” said his father, holding up one finger.

I can count on my own, thank you very much, thought Justin.

“Why did you go back to the mess hall a second time?”

“Well, I-”

His father held up his hand to stop him.

“I said think carefully, Justin.”

Justin stood there, looking at his father.  The look on his face seemed to indicate that he already knew the answer.  Or, at least he thought he did.

“I went back to talk to some people my own age,” Justin stated.

Might as well have this story back up the voice drafter.

His father turned his head slightly to the right but still maintained eye contact.

He doesn’t believe me.

“It’s just that there’s no one around here to talk to!” Justin explained.  “Back ho-”

He stopped himself.

“In Connecticut I could talk to people at school.  I don’t have that here.”

How true was that?

Actually, Justin thought.  It was right on the mark. 

After all, didn’t he like talking to Sam?  Didn’t it make him feel more normal?  Hadn’t he felt better when he left?  Wasn’t he looking forward to talking to him again?

His father stared at him, unblinking.

“Fair enough,” he admitted.  “Second question:” he held up two fingers.  “What was written on that note?”

Justin thought fast.

“What note?”

But not fast enough.

“Oh, come on, Justin!” his father said in a don’t-treat-me-like-an-idiot voice.  “The note you brought with you on your second visit!”

Justin wasn’t sure but it seemed as though his father’s voice was loosing that measured calmness.

“Oh,” Justin said, trying to sound as though it was all coming back to him.  “That was just an invitation to come back.”

His father leaned back in his chair.

“I see. .”

For a moment, Justin simply stood there in the middle of the room as his father looked past him at the wall, contemplating his next words.  It reminded Justin of his first meeting with his father in the office.  In fact, the study was very similar to his father’s office at the plant.  The same dark colored wood had been worked into almost every place imaginable and, where there wasn’t wood, there was the color red.  The only thing the study lacked was a computer in the corner.

Just then his father looked back at Justin.

“Well,” his slow and steady voice had returned.  “I can see no problem with any of that, providing you are telling me the truth, of course.”

Justin leaned forward, unintentionally.

“Although, I must caution you.  These Lunars are not the normal sort.  Some of them are just fine but most of them are ill-tempered and uncooperative.”

I wonder why, Justin thought.

“So, while it’s perfectly fine to visit with them, I would still advise that you be a little more careful than normal.”

Justin started to walk toward the door.

“Oh, and Justin?”

He stopped.

“Next time, just come right in.  We won’t mind.”

As Justin walked back down the elegant hallway he thought about what his father had just said.

But I HAD gone right in!  He thought.  And who is “we”?

But then, after he thought about it, he realized that his father hadn’t been talking about the meeting in the study.  He had been talking about the meeting in the office at the Evarb plant.  But Justin hadn’t been a part of that.  He had just stayed outside the door and-

THAT’S what he was talking about!  Next time he’s talking to Drake and Miss Carten I should come right in and not wait outside. 

But how had he known?

There hadn’t been any windows to see through so how did his father know that Justin had been right outside the door?

Justin, in a very puzzled state, walked down the red carpeted hallway to his room.

On Sunday, Justin decided that he would, in fact, help Sarah, Greg, and Francis escape from the Evarb Production Plant.  His decision had not been made out of spite for his father but simply out of pity for the Lunars.  After all, Justin couldn’t imagine living the way they did, working all day with their only break being meals and sleep.  And then, waking up the next day to do it all over again so they could work off a life sentence that most of them hadn’t earned.

Justin didn’t know it now, but soon he would be able to imagine it.  Very vividly, in fact.

On Monday Justin found himself once again in his father’s helicopter.  As the craft rose out of the “garage”, Justin began to wonder if his paranoid thoughts were based on anything at all.  This reconsideration was brought forth mostly by the fact that when he had checked the voice drafter he had found his one, lonely document staring back at him, just like the day before.  No one had opened the file on a computer as Justin had predicted.  In fact, as far as he could tell, no one had touched the voice drafter.  It hadn’t moved.  It was still on the desktop in the exact same place that it had been when he put it there on Friday.

Perhaps he was making it all up.  Maybe he invented the situation to pass the time.  But what of his father’s knowledge of things he couldn’t possibly know?  How had he known that Justin was standing outside of his office while he talked to Drake?  How could he tell that Justin didn’t like dress clothes?

And what about the topic of his father’s office meeting?  Hadn’t it been about Justin?  Why had Chief Drake been collecting information on Justin when he should have been performing duties more typical of a “Chief of the Guards”?

Because it had been reported to HIM, Justin thought.

He leaned over in his chair and looked out the window at the field below.

I AM making too big a deal of this, he thought.  Why would they bother with me?

But that just made him feel worse.  If anything, the thoughts of paranoia had convinced Justin that he was a major issue to his father.  And, if he had been imagining it, perhaps that was the reason why.  Perhaps he wanted to be more important than he felt at the moment.

Justin sighed and turned away from the window.  He looked up at the ceiling of the helicopter and absorbed the harsh, red light of the cabin.

About an hour later, Justin was walking down the large, immaculate hallway that led to the Lunar mess hall.

His visit with his father had been a brief one.  After they had talked for a bit, his dad had shown him how to download a file onto the computer from the voice drafter.  The setup with his father’s computer had been somewhat different than what Justin was used to back home but it wasn’t too far off.

After that, Justin had asked if he could use the computer to send an e-mail to his friend, Jeffery.  His father agreed and Justin got busy typing.

When he was done, he read it over one last time and sent it.  The message had been a simple one but it had covered all the basic questions:  How are you?  What have you been doing lately?  Etcetera.  He had also told Jeff about everything that had happened to him in Oregon.

Well, almost everything.

His paranoid thoughts had gotten the better of him and Justin had decided not to include all of the things that he didn’t want his father to know about (just in case his father read the message when Justin left).

After he had sent the message his father had looked at him and said, “well, I suppose you want to go to the mess hall now.”

Justin had admitted that he did and, since his father said nothing more, he walked out of the office.

His dad had kept his calculated tone of voice when he said those words but, somehow, emotion had still been exposed.  It was strange how someone who would go to such great lengths to show as little emotion as possible could still be betrayed by what they said.

The words seemed to have come from sadness and regret; both feelings melted together to form something in between that had been expressed with the words, “I suppose you want to go to the mess hall now.”

Justin had not been particularly fond of leaving the office with that being the last thing said.  He hadn’t exactly wanted to end the meeting on such a seemingly sour note.  It was like a bad taste in the back of his mouth.  Almost as though he had eaten a meal that had been okay, but would have been better if the dessert had not been spinach. 

I can’t believe I’m comparing food with emotions, Justin thought as he entered the mess hall.

Once again, Justin was met by the immense proportions of the room.  He still found it hard to come to terms with how many people were in it.  The Lunars were spread over the floor like some sort of swarming, living carpet.  After Justin looked at Mr. Livel who turned his head and smiled, he proceeded into the ocean of people.

Justin made it to row seven, table five much more quickly than last time.  He was greeted by Sam, Greg, and Francis but mostly by Sam.  Greg seemed content to stew in his grumpiness and Francis was his usual, passive self.

After Justin sat down at the cold, metal table, an awkward silence fell upon the group until Sam finally spoke up.

“So,” he said, seemingly hesitant.  “What’ve you decided?”

Justin’s gaze swept over the two others before resting back on Sam.

“Well, I-”

“Just a minute,” Greg cut in.  “I wanna say something.”

Justin sat back, surprised.  Greg hadn’t spoken in front of him before.  What was so important now?

“Look,” said Greg, turning to Justin.  “I don’t think you understand.  If you’re caught, you’ll be in so much trouble. . .”

He trailed off, seemingly unsure of how to finish his sentence.

At this point, Francis turned around to look at Greg.  His once lifeless eyes seemed to light up momentarily.

“If I didn’t know any better,” he said in a slow drawl.  “It would seem that you don’t want to get out of here.”

Greg quickly looked at Francis but slowly turned away when he met the man’s eyes.

“That’s not what I said,” Greg objected as he looked sideways at Francis.  “I just don’t think he knows what he’s getting into.  That’s all.”

Justin was beginning to wonder just what exactly went on over the weekend.  It was as though Francis and Greg were entering raw ground on which they had already traveled.  Justin was also taken aback by this other side of Francis.  Granted, when he talked it had been slow but the way he had spoken made everything seem so definite.  It was like he had expressed an entire, thought out debate in eighteen words.  And had won.

Francis now looked at Justin.

“Well?” he asked.

“Well,” Justin repeated.  Again he looked at all three of them.  “I’ve decided to help you.”

A visible smile of relief spread over Sam’s face as he exhaled loudly.  Francis sat back and Greg resumed his original attitude.

“If you get caught . .” he said again.

“Alright,” said Sam, ignoring Greg.  “Here’s the plan:  This place used to be a mining facility so I think we should be looking for a tunnel or something like that.”

“Whoa, wait a minute,” said Justin.  “It was?  How do you know?”

Sam looked at him.

“Indirect questions,” he explained.  “You can learn almost anything if you find a way to bring the subject up in a round-a-bout way.”

He stopped.  His explanation was complete and he quickly got back into “plan mode”.

“Anyway,” he said, picking up where he had left off.  “We could probably find an open tunnel that leads out of here.  I think you could probably find something to do with that.  Maybe books or blueprints or something,” he suggested.

“Right,” said Justin.  He already had a good idea of where to start looking for books.  His father’s library was bound to have something on the subject.

Sam had paused and was looking concerned, as though he was thinking over a very delicate matter.

“Although. .” he started.  “I think you may want to be a little careful when you’re looking.  As much as I hate to agree with Greg on this I can’t help but wonder – if you’re caught . .”

He stopped.  Justin wondered what would happen if his dad did find out.  Sam gave a shrug of ignorance.

“Well,” he said.  “I don’t know what they’d do if they caught you.”

Justin was beginning to feel less and less confident about his decision.

Suddenly, Sam looked up at something far behind Justin.  “It looks like Drake is done with his meeting for the day,” he said.

Justin twisted in his seat to see Chief Drake talking to Mr. Livel near the doorway to the mess hall.

He turned back to face Sam.  “Does he have one every day?” Justin asked.

“Yup,” replied Sam.  “He meets with your father everyday at almost the exact same time.”

“Really,” said Justin, more as a clarification than as a question.  “What do they talk about?”

Sam shrugged.

“Got me,” he said.  “Probably stuff about the company.”

Justin turned back to look at Drake.  He was still talking to Mr. Livel.  It seemed to Justin that Drake was whispering.  He couldn’t be absolutely sure but Luther’s hunched, “leaning in” posture painted the very generic picture of someone who was trying to tell secrets.

Just then, Drake quickly looked away from Mr. Livel and fixed his eyes right on Justin.  When he realized that Justin was looking at him, he hastily twitched his head back to Mr. Livel and started talking again.

Somehow, the experience was very unnerving.  At this point, Justin was almost positive that Chief Drake was not a person to trust.  He couldn’t understand why his father even associated with the man.

Justin shivered.

He turned back around to Sam, Greg, and Francis.

“Well,” he said.  “I think I should probably leave.”

He got up and stepped awkwardly over the metal bench he had been sitting on.

“I’ll come back tomorrow and tell you what I found, okay?”

Greg grunted and Francis nodded very slightly and very slowly.  Sam was the only one who actually said an intelligible word.

“Bye,” he said with a hint of hope in his voice.

Justin walked toward the exit, hoping that he wouldn’t disappoint them.

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