As he walked, Justin became aware of a new sensation in his injured leg.
An annoying, crawling sensation was now joining the constant pain that he had grown somewhat used to.
Wonderful, Justin thought. I better get out of here soon or this leg'll drive me crazy.
He passed room fifteen, room fourteen, and then he finally came to and entered the thirteenth door.
Greg was not in the room.
He was not in the bathroom and, after limping through the corridor for a while, Justin concluded that he was not in the hallway either. Unless he checked every single one of the Lunar barracks (a task that Justin did not feel up to at the moment) it was obvious that Greg would not be found on this night. And so, somewhat disappointed, Justin walked gingerly back to his room.
"Did you find him?" Derek asked after Justin had taken a shower (this time with a towel, but without Sam).
"No," replied Justin. "I didn't see him anywhere. He wasn't in his room or the hallway but he could easily have been in one of the other barracks; I didn't check those."
"Yeah," Derek agreed. "Greg is kinda' hard to find after dinner for some reason. Even Sam's never seen him after six."
"I guess I'll just ask him tomorrow," said Justin as he pulled the bed sheets back and retired to bed.
While sleeping, Justin experienced the same disturbing dream as the night before, featuring the solved mystery of his bugged alarm clock and involving a cast of almost everyone he had ever met. Needless to say, Justin slept rather restlessly.
In the morning, Justin awoke, understandably groggy. He immediately noticed that the entire room was empty save for Derek who seemed to have been waiting for him.
"Why didn't Tom wake me up?" Justin asked as he pulled the sheets away from his body. "Is he scared of me?"
"I think that most people in this room are," said Derek. "At least to some degree, that is."
"Good," stated Justin. He liked waking up on his own schedule for a change.
After he got changed, Justin and Derek went to the mess hall for breakfast. As they passed by the kitchen, Justin looked at the television set, noticing that the same person was once again forecasting the daily weather.
"Why don't they ever show anything important in the morning?" Justin asked Derek as they walked to their table where Sam, Greg, and Francis were already seated.
"Weather's important to everyone but Lunars," Derek pointed out.
Justin pondered that simple sentence, realizing the disturbing truth behind it as he did. Very few Lunars had ever been outside the Plant. They had never experienced the ideal summer day. They had never felt grass between their toes or the refreshing feeling of a light breeze on a hot evening. Anything and everything that Justin took for granted, the Lunars did not have.
Well, Justin thought, confidently. All that will change soon once we get out of here. After all, there has to be some sort of opportunity eventually.
Breakfast was over quickly, for Justin and Derek had arrived later than usual and therefore had less time to eat than everyone else. As they made their way out of the mess hall Francis and Greg, instead of following the hallway to the second floor, walked on with Sam, Derek, and Justin towards the first level of the Plant.
They were several yards away from the entrance to the downward ramp and moving slowly, when Justin noticed that a guard was stationed near the door.
Had he been there before? Justin wondered. Was he there to make sure everyone went to their proper level? How could he? How would he be able to recognize every single face in this crowd?
This last question, however, was answered as Justin looked up at the ceiling and saw for the first time a wide, surveillance camera-like object above them. This was obviously the device that the guards used to count heads. As this realization dawned on him, Justin became aware that Francis's and Greg's change of schedule would not go unnoticed. The bigger question was, of course, would somebody stop them?
They were now two feet away from the entryway and the guard had not yet moved. Justin couldn't help but wonder if he had gotten his friends into trouble.
What if the guard does pull them out of the crowd? Justin asked himself. What would he do with them? Would they be punished? I hope not. This was, after all, completely my idea and if they get in trouble the blame can only fall on me.
However, to Justin's relief the guard did absolutely nothing as he and his friends passed by. This began to raise serious doubts about the security of the Plant. Perhaps Derek was right; maybe they could just walk right out without getting caught if they did it quick enough.
After showing the supposed entrance to the tunnel to Francis and Greg, the group split up and began to rotate around the room from machine to machine as was customary. Justin broke away from Sam and Derek and eventually worked his way to Greg and Francis. Greg was working on one side of a rather long machine and Francis was down at the opposite end, feeding metal into it.
"So where were you yesterday?" he asked Greg.
"What?" Greg replied, a little confused by the question.
"Last night," Justin explained. "You weren't in your room. Where were you?"
"Oh," said Greg. He thought for a moment and finally replied. "I was in Sam's room. He was trying to explain where the fake wall that covered up the tunnel was. I'm glad you got to show us. I never would have guessed that from what he was saying."
Satisfied, Justin opted not to mention the purpose of his search in front of Francis even though he was pretty sure they were out of ear shot. After all, he didn't want to create an awkward situation for Greg.
His attention (or at least what was left of his attention from what was directed toward his job) was now focused on the empty spot near the corner of the room where the gun barrel machine was still absent.
Could that really have been the reason the East American's are readying their bombers? Justin mused. How could something so relatively small found only in one plant be responsible for that kind of reaction. But then again, did I hear the whole story? I just kind of came in at the middle of it. I'll have to check the television at Lunch. Perhaps they'll have some sort of update on the situation.
And that's exactly what he did. After a particularly uneventful morning during which Justin's leg (not surprisingly) got worse, the Lunar population of the Plant made its way to the mess hall.
As was now routine, Justin got in line with everybody else and made his way slowly towards the kitchen with Greg behind him and Derek, Sam, and Francis in front. Justin looked back over his shoulder at Greg.
"Well," he said. "It looks like the guards didn't notice that you guys switched levels, huh?"
"No," agreed Greg. "I guess they didn't." Then he brought his voice down to a low whisper. It reminded Justin of Luther Drake's voice. "So when will we try that tunnel?"
"I don't know," Justin replied. "Maybe tomorrow? I'm not sure."
"Why not today?" Greg asked.
"Today?" Justin repeated in disbelief. "Why would we do it today? That's kind of rushed, don't you think?"
"Yeah, but why wait?" Greg questioned. "Today's as good as any other."
"But this kind of thing needs at least a little preparation," Justin explained. "We can't just 'make a break for it,' you know?"
"Yeah," admitted Greg, reluctantly. ". . . I guess you're right."
By this time the group had collectively reached the serving area, trays in hand. A member of the kitchen staff was ladling out some kind of meatball and vegetable stew when he ran out and had to disappear momentarily to retrieve some more.
The group took this opportunity to glance at the television. However, their attention was held for much longer than just a simple glance. In fact, they all found themselves staring at the TV, completely paralyzed.
The picture on the television was once again of the military base that Justin had seen yesterday during dinner. The only difference now was that there were no longer any bombers on the runway. The faint voice of the newscaster could be heard every now and then through the din of the mess hall and they all leaned in slightly to hear the report.
". . . - sumed to have taken off but we are unsure of exactly what has happened to the bombers that. . . . . . ."
Justin, Sam, Derek, Greg, and even Francis visibly strained to catch what the man was saying. Normally, this would have been a foolish thing to do, but given the fact that most of the kitchen staff had their backs to the mess hall, also glued to the television, Justin, Sam, and the others risked little chance of being noticed. After a while the wave of talking that had briefly drowned out the newscaster ebbed away and his words became distinguishable once more.
". . . could be related to the recent discovery of broken-down weapons-manufacturing machines in a good portion of the Evarb Plants when the East Americans inspected them. David Evarb refused to comment about thi- . . . . . . he lying? Many questions have arisen from this recent turn of events. Was Mr. Evarb actually manu- . . . . - pons in his Plants all this time? Will our country be ready for an attack by East America? What will become of the Evarb Plants? And more importantly: what will become of the Lunars? Many . . . believe that the Lunars are protected by their immense popularity, but a few skeptics . . . and are unsure of what East America plans to do. According to our information, in order to destroy the plant but not hurt the Lunars, the raid will probably occur after. . ."
Just then, the cook returned with more food and resumed his ladling. Everyone immediately turned their gaze from the television screen, hoping that the cook had not noticed their statuesque postures.
The staff member was apparently oblivious to their previous odd behavior and, after he finished filling Greg's bowl, the group rather reluctantly departed from the serving area and sat down at table five.
Once everyone was seated, words literally exploded from their mouths.
"So does that mean that the bombers are headed this way?" Sam asked, his voice wavering and slightly louder than normal.
"Not necessarily," said Francis.
"Maybe they just moved them somewhere else. Like in a hanger for instance," Derek added.
"No, I think Sam's right," corrected Greg. "I think the planes are either in the air already or will be soon."
"Jeeze," exclaimed Derek. "Why do you always have to be so negative, Greg? Just because they're not there doesn't mean they-"
"I'm not being negative!" Greg interrupted. "I'm being. ." he paused briefly as he searched for the appropriate word, "realistic!"
"Really!" scoffed Derek in disbelief. "Just like when you thought Francis was a spy? Or when you argued that they must've killed Justin? Gimme a break, Greg!"
Greg looked at Derek, wide eyed with emotion. He stuttered mutely for a moment, his lips forming vainly around silent words. Finally he gave up.
"Fine," he said, defeated. "Fine. . . You're right."
The rest of lunch was spent in silence, each person wondering what exactly they had seen. As each assurance was created, an equal, contradicting argument would cancel out the thought, leaving everyone in a state of worry. After all, they had a lot to be worried about. If the planes were in fact on a course for the Plant, then this would be their last day to have any kind of access to the tunnel. The next four working hours would be their last chance to escape.
Soon lunch was over and the group found themselves back down in level one.
"How much force would you need to break through it, do you think?" Greg whispered to Justin.
There was still a small hole in the wall, where the pole had shot into it two days ago. Strangely enough, the spot where the pole had struck had been the exact center of the tunnel's entrance. The makeshift door had already been started.
"I'm not sure," Justin replied. "All I did on the walk-through was just . . . walk through it."
"But how long would it take?" Derek asked. He was not trying to refute Greg's statement, but was simply expressing a concern, for by this time, even he had been grasped by some level of paranoia. "We don't even know how thick the wall is. Maybe that pole didn't go all the way through."
"No, I'm pretty sure it did," stated Justin. "But how could we make another hole? There's really nothing in here that we can hit it with, save the machinery."
"And it's not like we can just pick these things up either." Derek said. "They're bolted to the floor, and if we un-did them, we'd need more than five people."
Justin clenched his fists in frustration. What were they supposed to do? The door was right there in front of them, so close, so tauntingly close. On the other side of that wall was freedom and they were still stuck in the plant, trying to figure out how to get through. There had to be an answer.
And yet no answer revealed itself as the hours slowly wasted away and the end of their work day drew near.
Justin checked his watch.
They had thirteen minutes to come up with a plan. He tightened his face in concentration and looked up from his watch, noticing as he did this, something that seemed to be out of the ordinary.
The two doors to the hallway were closed. Usually the doors on the far side of the room - the only doors out of level one - were wide open with a guard in the hallway and a guard in front of them. In addition to that peculiarity, there were also no guards. The man in front of the doors was gone and, as Justin scanned the room he realized that there was a complete lack of guards anywhere. Where had they all gone?
Justin turned to Sam who was bent over a conveyor belt, his light brown hair carelessly falling over his eyes as he worked.
"Sam," said Justin, getting his attention. "Have those doors ever been closed while Lunars were still down here?"
Sam looked up, and was immediately struck by the oddness of the sight.
"I don't remember," he said. "I've never really looked at them before, but they look wrong that way."
Then Sam, too, glanced around the room.
"Where are all the guards?" he asked.
By this time Justin also had the attention of Francis, Derek, and Greg.
"What's wrong?" asked Derek.
"Those doors," said Justin, motioning toward the wall opposite them. "They're closed and there aren't any guards in here anymore."
Francis looked around the room, an expression of concern slowly growing on his face.
"I don't think that's ever happened before."
Francis's statement made Justin even more uneasy. However, at the same time, it also summoned a rush of thrilling energy. Perhaps this was the moment they had been waiting for. Perhaps now they would finally be able to tackle the wall without getting caught.
But before he had an opportunity to voice these optimistic thoughts to anyone else, the buzzer sounded, signaling the end of work and the beginning of dinner.
All of the Lunars surged toward the door but instead of passing through they seemed merely to collect in front of it. After a moment of confusion there came shouts of "What's going on!" and "Why the hell aren't we moving!" These calls were answered by one faint, yet completely audible reply.
"The door's locked!"
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