Chapter Nine

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The vault-like door slams shut behind us as we follow the burly man through another dark hallway, leaving a booming echo in its wake.

"My name is Sam, and I am the head of the Training Department here at the Depot. While working with us, you will have little contact with the rest of the Depot and you are expected to treat everything you learn as top secret. You will sleep in the dormitories we provide you along with a fellow Trainee, and you will take all of our exercises seriously. Am I clear?"

"Yes sir," Leah and I murmur simultaneously. I'm so nervous that I find myself shaking, whether physically or mentally, I can't tell. Sam definitely doesn't seem like the kind of person you'd want to anger. We make a right with the hallway and enter a large, white-tiled room with human-looking robots spread evenly throughout. People all in white mill around or sit with friends on benches that are evenly spaced against the walls. Countless doors line the walls; I assume that they lead to different training rooms and dormitories. One whole wall segment is dominated by the beginnings of a gigantic tunnel, just like the one that first led me to the Depot. A small group of boys stand in the rocky impression, attacking the earth with pick-axes and loud drills. The tunnel-diggers. This is a whole other part of the Depot, I realize. The white tile is much different from the Warehouse's grey stone.

"Follow me. I'll tell you what you need to know," Sam orders. We waste no time in following him into one of the rooms that lines the walls. It is quite small, humbly containing a desk with three chairs across from it. Sam heavily sits behind the desk with a sigh, and we take the seats facing him. Leah seems unusually straight-backed in her chair, like she's never sat in one before.

"You are here because you have lived in the city and you understand how the government's version of society works." Sam pauses and stares at us. Not knowing what he expects us to do, we both nod hurriedly. He continues.

"Here at the Training Facility, you will be taught to infiltrate government buildings and to be perceptive of propaganda. You will also learn to discern what particular information is crucial to the success of the Resistance. To do these things properly, you must understand the Depot and its purpose."

He pauses again. We nod again.

"Fifteen years ago, our founders realized that our government--which was once a just, democratic political system--had slowly turned into a tyrannical, power-hungry dictatorship. The United States used to be divided into sovereign states that were roughly in control of their own affairs, but then the government rezoned the country instead into ten Regions for its own purposes. In every Region, a single city serves as the center of that Region. For example, we are presently in the center city of Region Two: New York City. The founders decided that the only way to escape the government's control was to build an unattached, hidden society in which people could live freely and peacefully. Hence, the creation of the Depot. Our Trainees are taught to discover the inner secrets of the Elite by utilizing a mixture of their prior knowledge and acquired skills. It helps tremendously that neither of you accepted RScreens. You will retain many more memories than your Unplugged comrades." Leah snickers a little and Sam turns his beefy head towards her. If I were Leah, I would shrink back under his stare. But she's not me.

"Are you telling me that some guys who decided they had enough grabbed some shovels and started digging? Very secretive." For a while Sam continues to stare at her, and I brace myself for the wrath she will face. But then, to my surprise, he smiles a little.

"Tell me, Leah, have you seen the tracks stacked in the Warehouse?"

She nods.

"Have you ever heard of subways: trains that used to run in underground tunnels?"

She nods.

"The founders had more brains than a banana, Leah." Leah starts to nod again then she pauses, deciding whether she's offended or not. I have to hide a giggle behind my hand.

"So," Sam continues in a louder voice. "I'm sure you've seen or heard the tunnel diggers." As if on cue, a familiar screeching noise leaks in from the Training Facility.

"Yes sir."

"Those people have a very important job. There is only one way to enter or leave the Depot: the way you both arrived. The diggers expand the subway tunnels so we have more space to move around, and--more importantly--so we can reach a larger amount of people. Sure, we could choose to stay put and act like sitting ducks. But saving Members only in the Manhattan area wouldn't help the millions of other RScreened people across the country."

"So..." I begin hesitantly. "The goal is to create a hidden, underground society that spans the United States?"

"Exactly," Sam says, pointing at me. Leah gasps softly. "But it all starts with us. That's why we need you to be spies in the first place, so you can learn information that will help us to overthrow the tyrants and take back what's rightfully ours!" In a brief fit of passion, Sam slams his fist down on the metal table. When he pulls his hand away, slightly abashed, I see the curves of a dent in the metal. Leah looks at me, wide-eyed.

"What happens next?" She whispers.

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