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Justin - Chapter Ten

by Machelli

During Monday's private lessons, Justin found that he could not give all of his attention to Miss Carten. His mind kept drifting off to thoughts of the two computer disks behind his desk and exactly how he would test them on his father's computer.

Justin realized that the single most annoying obstacle in the upcoming operation would be his father. He just simply could not be in the room when Justin used the disks. But how would he get his dad out of his office?

An answer failed to show itself and Justin began to have serious doubts as to whether or not he would ever see what was on the disks.

And so, at four thirty five, Justin found himself walking to his father's office with the disks in his pocket and an absence of a plan in his head.

As he neared the office door, Justin knew that he would at least have to stall. Perhaps the problem would solve itself and his father would leave the office on his own, given enough time.

Justin opened the door and walked in.

After a few, short conversations and many glances at his watch (Justin had actually remembered to put it on in the morning) it became painfully obvious that his father was not leaving the office.

So Justin sat in silence, trying to come up with one more idea to take up a few more minutes.

At long last, an idea surfaced in Justin's head but before he could speak, his father looked up and asked his usual, end-of-meeting question.

"So, I imagine you probably want to go to the mess hall, right?"

Justin could not let his father dismiss him now. He had to see what was on those disks! Somehow, he knew he wasn't going to get a second chance at this.

"Actually," he said, trying not to sound too contradicting. "I was kinda' hoping I could check my e-mail."

Something, almost reminiscent of a smile, made a ghostly appearance on his father's face.

Why is he smiling? Justin wondered. Could it be because I'm not going to visit Sam, Greg, and Francis?

"By all means," his father said.

"Thank you," said Justin in a tone he hoped wasn't as suspicious as he felt.

He turned the computer on and was just about to open up his messages when the office door was opened rather quickly by Luther Drake.

Justin's father looked up from his work and said, "hello, Luther."

"David, I-" Luther started but had stopped once his vicious, gray eyes settled on Justin. "Why is . . he . ." Drake didn't finish his sentence but nodded toward Justin instead. Apparently he was not as welcome as he was led to believe. At least, not by Drake.

Justin's father stood up, gathered a few papers into a folder and said, "perhaps we should go elsewhere."

And with that, Justin's father and Luther Drake walked out of the office, leaving Justin alone at the computer.

Justin quickly got out of the e-mail program and took one of the disks out of his pocket. He slid it into its respective slot and was immediately surprised at what appeared on the computer screen.

Plant walk-through has already been loaded.

Please insert disk 2.

Justin scanned the vast amount of shortcuts on the desktop and realized that a program called "Plant walk-through" was, in fact, already on the computer.

Justin took out what, according to the computer, was disk 1 and replaced it with what he hoped to be disk 2.

After a few tense moments in which Justin did a lot of finger crossing, the computer screen went blank and the title page of a program appeared.

Welcome to Plant walk-through.

-open walk-through- -skip to external view only- -cancel-

Hoping that it meant what it sounded like, Justin clicked on "open walk-through." Again, the computer screen went blank and was replaced by a picture of the main lobby.

In the corner of the screen, the words "to move forward, use arrow keys" were flashing.

Curious, Justin pressed the uppermost arrow key and was surprised when the "picture" began to move as though the computer screen were the eyes of a person who was walking through the Plant. Justin realized that the "picture" wasn't really a picture at all. The program was a three-dimensional rendering of the entire Evarb Plant. This was almost better than blueprints!

Justin soon discovered that the second set of arrow keys controlled where he looked. For instance, if he pressed the uppermost arrow key, the view would gradually swing upward and the ceiling would come into view. Also, if he wanted to turn slightly and walk forward, he simply had to lightly tap one of the "left/right" arrow keys in the first set.

After a while, Justin became very accustomed to the controls and was gliding through the mess hall, headed for the "out door" as though he was actually, physically there.

Once in the hallway, he turned left, hoping to explore the Lunars' workplace instead of making his way back to the office.

The hallway gradually turned from brilliant white to dull, cement-gray. Small ripples, seemingly frozen in time, coursed through the walls and offered the only decoration to the increasingly drab scenery.

Finally, Justin came upon a door and, as he had done with the last two he had come across, glided right through it. That was the strange thing about the program. When Justin walked toward a door or something that would naturally open in the real world, the virtual "camera" passed right through it. However, if he tried to walk through a wall, the camera would stop as though he had really hit a solid object.

Justin now stood in a vast room, many times larger than the mess hall. A varied arsenal of strange equipment littered the floor. A wide, cylindrical object stood in the middle of the room like some sort of idol, with all the other machines somehow gathered around it as though they were its followers.

Justin walked over to something that appeared to be an assembly line. A lever protruded from the ground and Justin wished to push it but could not figure out how. It was then that he noticed the thin toolbar running down the left side of his screen.

Justin laid his hand on the mouse (which, up to this point, had not been used) and selected a hand icon under the word "touch." Justin positioned the hand on the lever and clicked.

Nothing happened.

Justin clicked the lever again and, acting on a whim, pressed the left arrow key. The lever slid over with "schunk" sound and the assembly line began to move. Long, metal tubes of various sizes were pulled down the track but nothing was done to them. Discouraged, Justin turned around and walked toward the cylindrical-shaped object in the middle of the room.

It appeared to be a corkscrew wrapped in some sort of casing except for one side that opened up into a steep, broad slide. The slide started very far above the ground and emptied into a large bin.

A thick, red button stuck out of the side of the cylinder and Justin, hoping that what happened would be more exciting than the assembly line, pressed it.

The corkscrew spun to life. The upward-sloping blades swung around and around, bringing up thin sheets of metal from some indeterminate depth. The sheets were pushed off onto the slide by a slanted wall in between two blades of the corkscrew. They slid down the shoot and fell noisily into the bin at the end of the slide.

And then the bin started moving.

Or, more precisely, something inside the bin started to move.

With a loud, mechanical crank, the bin shuddered to life as the sheets of metal fell into it. Justin wanted to see what was happening to the metal but the bin was very tall and boasted large walls on all four sides. He scanned the toolbar on the left side of the screen, looking for something that could make him taller. Seeing nothing that fit his needs, Justin clicked on a curious looking icon under the letter "X" instead.

Suddenly, the mouse-operated hand transformed into a medium sized circle, almost as if Justin was using a powerful flashlight. But the circular beam did more than simply illuminate what it fell upon.

It penetrated.

Justin could now see through the thick walls of the bin but only in places where he pointed the circular beam.

Justin looked back at the toolbar and discovered that, just as there had been a hand under the word "touch", there was a flashlight-shaped item under the letter "X".

He swept the X-light over the bin and revealed an intestinal system of machines that pumped, pushed, and snaked around in a life-like, wormy mass, each layer a little more opaque than the previous one.

Justin clicked the mouse and the circular beam disappeared from the screen and was replaced by the hand. He walked over to the end of the bin and watched as metal tubes of various shapes and sizes fell out into a receptacle. He walked back over to the red button and pushed it again, halting the corkscrew and the bin.

Then, wondering where the sheets of metal had come from, he once again activated the X-light and looked at the floor.

Similarly to the inside of the bin, the floor below Justin was a chaotic mass of mechanized tubes, gears, and purely indescribable objects. Justin was beginning to wonder why his father even needed all the Lunars when so much of the Plant seemed to be run by machines.

Justin disengaged the X-light and walked over to a door other than the one he had entered through, hoping to explore more of the Plant. However, when he attempted to walk through it he simply bumped into door as though it were a wall. Justin backed off and noticed a small, blue-gray button on the right side of the door. He walked back up to it, laid the hand pointer on the button and, accidentally, double clicked.

At this point, two things happened. The door in front of him opened and another noise, seemingly behind Justin's "camera", caused him to slowly turn around.

A semi-large cylinder had risen out of the ground. The top had the same, grooved cement texture as the floor and had been camouflaged perfectly. The sides, however, did not. They were made out of a shiny, mirror-like substance that disproportionately reflected everything in the room. Justin walked around it to discover that the front of it was open.

Is it an elevator? Justin thought. Are people supposed to step into it or is it some sort of product transport? Maybe it leads to the level below me and the machines down there process whatever is put in this thing.

Grateful for the fact that he wasn't doing this in real life, Justin stepped into the cylindrical elevator. A door of some sort swished across the opening and Justin was bathed in darkness. Or, rather, the computer screen was.

A few moments passed, accompanied only by a muted humming. Then the door slid back open and Justin was confronted with an amazing sight.

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