During the ride back to the house, Justin went over the contents of Jeff's brief message again and again. The P.S. had been so cold and precise it made the rest of the letter seem sarcastic.
Justin just could not understand it.
Jeff, Justin's best friend, had completely destroyed their friendship with two, simple sentences.
However, as Justin attempted to work himself into a funk, his efforts were thwarted by the realization of what he had accomplished.
He had found a way out!
All he had to do was tell Sam, Francis, and Greg about it and they would be home free.
All in all, the second half of the helicopter ride was much brighter than the first.
During Tuesday's private lessons, Justin took the opportunity to ask Miss Carten another, Lunar-based question.
"Why does my dad even need the Lunars?" he asked.
"W-what?" Miss Carten stuttered, somewhat taken by surprise.
Justin couldn't blame her, really. After all, he hadn't exactly built up to this question as he had done the last time he had asked about Lunars.
"The Plant has so many machines," Justin said, hoping to clear things up. "What's left for the Lunars to do?"
Miss Carten adopted the same, nervous look as last time.
"I don't think I feel comfortable answering that question," she replied. "Now, getting back to History. . . I'd like you to look up the Twenty-four-hour War. Then we'll discuss why it's important, and why it was so short."
Justin couldn't believe it.
She had completely ignored his question!
Last time, she had at least answered part of it, the part about Lunars coming from the moon. Justin had been hoping for a similar response, one that partially cleared up the issue.
Oh well, he thought. I guess I'll just ask Sam about it.
And so, at around five o'clock, Justin did just that.
"What do you guys do, exactly," asked Justin. He was in the mess hall with Sam, Greg, and Francis.
"What do you mean?" Greg asked. He had become a little more conversational over the past week and Justin was grateful for it.
"Well, what do you guys work on?" Justin said, re-stating the question as he had done for Miss Carten. "What's your job? What do you do?"
This time, it was Francis who leaned forward and answered, which surprised Justin immensely.
"We put the finishing touches on things," he said in his slow, reflective drawl. "We correct mistakes the machines make, and we assemble everything. All the machines do is make the parts. We have to put them together."
"Oh," said Justin, satisfied.
Suddenly, he remembered something that the group would probably want to know.
"I think I found a way out of here," he said casually, as though he was commenting on the weather.
Sam, Greg, and even Francis leaned in closer, surprised by what Justin had said.
"Was I right?" asked Sam, imploringly. "Was it a tunnel?"
"Yes, it's a tunnel," said Justin, wondering why it was so important to Sam. "But there's no door into it. You kinda' have to go through a wall."
"What?" Greg exclaimed, disbelievingly. "A wall? What are you talking about?"
Justin shifted positions, laying his arms out on the table so he could create a visual aide with his hands. But before he even started to talk, he was interrupted by Sam.
"What's that?" he asked in a somewhat horrified tone of voice, pointing at Justin's arm.
"What's what?" said Justin, looking down at where Sam was pointing. As soon as he did this, the answer became clear.
A faded bruise was on the inside of his elbow.
"Oh, that," said Justin, curious as to why Sam had made such a big deal of it. "I bumped my arm on the back of a chair when I- . ."
In the middle of the bruise was a small, pinpoint of a scab. It had started to peal around the edges, which is what made it stand out from its black and blue surroundings.
"Huh," said Justin, unsure of what to make of it. "I guess I got a splinter or something."
Sam didn't seem to agree.
"Are you sure?" he asked. "How long ago did you hit your arm?"
Justin thought about it for a few seconds and then replied, "two days ago. Sunday."
Sam sat back. It seemed as though his fears had been baseless.
"But," he continued. "I think it was hurting before that. I can't really remember. Saturday was a bit of a haze."
Sam quickly leaned forward, as though this last piece of information was the most important of all.
"Were you tired on Saturday?" he asked importantly.
"Yeah," said Justin. "I slept until twelve o'clock. How'd you know I was tired?"
At this point, Greg started to show a little bit of concern as well.
"Sounds like you were drugged," he said.
"What?" asked Justin, confusedly. "Drugged? What're you talking about?"
Once again, it was Francis who came forward with the answer.
"When Lunars finish their time in the Production Plants, they get promoted to something else," he explained. "Most of the time, it's still in service of Mr. Evarb. A person might enroll as one of the guards, for instance."
"Is Mr. Livel a Lunar?" asked Justin.
"Yes," said Francis. "A lot of men become part of the guards because that means they don't have to be drugged."
"But what does that mean?" Justin asked. "What do they get drugged with?"
"It's called chemical hypnosis," said Francis, his mouth slowly working around the words. "They give someone a pill or a shot and the person goes into a semi-conscious sleep. Then someone tells them what to do and what not to do."
"Why?" asked Justin.
"Probably so no one finds out too much about this place," Francis explained.
Suddenly, something clicked in Justin's head.
"Is Miss Carten a Lunar?" he asked.
"Yes," said Francis. "I think I even remember her from several years ago. I believe her first name is Laura."
But Justin wasn't done with his question.
"So, she would have gotten that chemical hypnosis thing because she's not a guard, right?"
"That's right," Francis agreed.
"Well, that explains a lot!" Justin exclaimed. "Each time I asked her anything about Lunars, she would kind of go all funny and say that she didn't feel comfortable talking about it."
"That's a pretty good indication that someone's been drugged," said Francis, slowly. "They're usually given a cover-line to say when anybody tries to find out too much."
"Well," said Justin, confidently. "That means I couldn't have been drugged because on Sunday I remembered everything I had forgotten!"
"Well, that's the catch," Francis explained. "The drug only works nine-tenths of the time. Some people's systems just reject the chemical."
"So what happens to Lunars that reject it?" Justin asked.
Francis's face became even more serious, if that was possible.
"This part is only a rumor, really. But I've heard that Lunars who don't take to the drug are killed. That's why so many people become guards. They'd like to walk away from this place, but they don't want to be number ten."
That last part stuck out in Justin's mind.
"Is there a special name for the process?" he asked, hoping Francis would say "yes".
"Not really," Francis replied.
Justin grimaced and looked off to the side, disappointedly.
"Although," Francis continued. "Some people do call it an M. A."
Justin perked back up. "M. A?" he asked.
"Memory Alteration," explained Francis. "Not too original if you ask me."
But this was exactly what Justin needed to know. When he had overheard his father, Drake, and Miss Carten talking about him in his father's office, Drake had said, "Thank God for Evarb technology." And then his father had told Drake that what he had said wasn't appropriate, that the only reason he didn't have one was because he was Chief of the Guards. His father must have been talking about an M. A shot! Which meant. . .
"Is Drake a Lunar?" Justin blurted out.
"Yes, he is," said Francis. "And quite a successful one at that. Not only is he Chief of the Guards, but he's also the representative of the West American Government to the Plant."
Well, thought Justin. That explains why my father keeps such a questionable character as Luther Drake around. He has to!
But something else took the place of this bothersome question that had finally been answered. Why didn't his father give the drug to the guards? Surely there had to be a reason.
"Why don't the guards get the M. A drug?" Justin asked.
"Well," explained Francis. "Sometimes the drug has some weird side-effects and you wouldn't want a guard to suddenly go crazy, would you?"
But Justin didn't fully hear the last part of Francis's explanation. He had been distracted by the memory of another snippet of the conversation in his father's office. He remembered Miss Carten saying, "Mr. Livel" as though the man couldn't be trusted.
"Does Miss Carten not like Mr. Livel?" asked Justin.
"Actually," Francis contradicted. "Miss Carten and Mr. Livel were going to get married and live away from the Plant but Mr. Livel didn't want an M.A."
"He thought he'd be lucky number ten?" Justin suggested.
"Exactly," replied Francis. "And, since people who work for Evarb aren't allowed to marry—"
" 'Don't know, they just aren't. Anyway, since they couldn't get married, I imagine Miss Carten was and probably still is a little resentful of Mr. Livel."
As Justin thought about the whole "M.A" thing, he began to realize something. He, Justin Evarb, had been given the drug and had just happened to resist the chemical. But what if he hadn't? What if the shot had worked? What had his father tried to make him forget?
Justin realized that the answers were sitting right in front of him.
Sam, Greg, and Francis!
That's why his dad smiled when Justin didn't go to the mess hall on Monday. He thought that the M.A shot had worked!
Infuriated, Justin got up from the table and walked purposefully toward the mess hall door.
How could his father have done such a thing?
The blur of pure anger clouded Justin's vision as he made his way down the hallway to his father's office. He burst through the door. Luther Drake and Justin's father looked at him, shocked.
"Justin," his father said. "What are you—"
"Get out," Justin breathed to Drake who proceeded to simply stare back at him. Luther seemed to be amazed that a fourteen-year-old boy was giving him orders.
"Perhaps you should leave us alone, Drake," his father said, even-toned.
Drake left the office and closed the door soundly behind him. Justin's father turned to face his son.
"What do you think you're doing?" his father spat at him.
"Nothing worse than anything you've done!" Justin retorted quickly. It felt so good to just yell.
"What?" his father whispered. Somehow the whisper was more menacing.
"I know what you did!" Justin hissed. "You gave me that shot so I wouldn't talk to the Lunars anymore!"
Justin's father sat back slightly, anger seething across his face as he tried to think of something to say. But Justin wasn't about to give him time to do that.
"And I know why, too!" he stated accusingly.
His father's eyes grew larger.
"You're making weapons in your Plants, aren't you?"
His father was motionless.
"And the East Americans didn't find them because you make them under ground and—"
Suddenly, Justin's father sprung forward in his seat. His hand came down forcefully and struck what looked like an answering machine on his desk.
"I'd be careful if I were you," his father said through clenched teeth. "It isn't wise to lay all your cards out on the table."
But Justin didn't want to stop. He seemed to have hit a nerve in his father and he wanted to keep hitting it.
"And the Lunars shouldn't even be there!" he continued. "Most of them are the children of prisoners! They haven't done anything wrong!"
"But they – don't – know – that," his father said, seemingly trying to argue his case.
He wasn't exactly doing a bang-up job.
"Most of them are grateful to me for shuttling them down here!" Mr. Evarb continued. "They're happy to work for me!"
"Not the ones I talked to!" Justin retorted. He stopped himself short of telling his father that Sam, Greg, and Francis wanted to escape.
"Besides," said Justin. "I know you don't believe that! You can't possibly think that's true!"
His father seemed to wrestle with himself for a moment before finally exploding again.
"Alright!" David Evarb, cried. "You want to know the truth? Here it is!"
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