Chapter Twenty Two

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The large door closes behind me with a heavy, final thud. Matthew isn't here yet.

Being in this room alone is much different. The robots lined up against the walls appear creepier, more like a silent, still army just waiting to strike. I walk around the room slowly, observing all of the weapons that rest on various racks or shelves. Every time I blink I see fire bursting in the streets.

I try not to blink.

Instead, I feel the urge to know the truth. Why must we settle for the way that things are? Why do we live in a society in which unfairness and mindlessness run rampant?

Suddenly, I hear the door close behind me and I swivel around on the balls of my feet. Matthew stands tall in front of it, looking shaken. Without thinking, I run forward and wrap my arms around his torso.

I don't know if it's because I almost died today. I don't know if it's because I'm mourning the loss of my brother. I don't know if it's because I like him. But my grandmother used to say that the best way to comfort someone is just to be near them. Maybe I want to be comforted.

Matthew's body feels stiff at first -- all taut muscles and strung tendons -- but then he relaxes a little and hugs me back, placing his palms on the small of my back. I distinctly notice how his hands fit perfectly into the curve of my spine.

We stand like that for a long time. Maybe too long a time ... "I'm sorry," I whisper after a moment, a little embarrassed. What am I doing? I back away from him awkwardly.

"I heard what happened," he says grimly. His face is redder than usual. "It's fine." I sigh and hold a hand to my forehead.

"I just... I just need to know the truth," I mutter. "The whole truth. And I don't know how I'm going to get that by hiding out in the Depot every day." Matthew studies me for a moment before speaking.

"We don't have to fight tonight. I'll let you relax." I nod.

"Thank you." He pulls up two chairs and we sit down.

"Could you tell me what happened?" He asks gently. I tell him everything. It's strange, but talking to him seems so easy: much easier than talking to Leah or my grandmother or even my mom. When I finish the story, Matthew nods and thoughtfully stares at the floor.

"I just don't understand why the helicopters would attack this part of the city..." I muse. I remember seeing Luke sneak back into the Depot, and my suspicions about him grow stronger within me.

"Matthew?"

"Hmm?" I pause a little, uncertain. Why would I disclose this to him, of all people? But something tells me that I can trust him. I have to trust him. After all, he's been helping me this whole time.

"I think Luke is sneaking out of the Depot." As soon as the words leave my lips, I regret saying them. They sound much too crazy to be true. But Matthew stares at me intensely.

"Why is that?" He says carefully.

"Well, I... I was in the Security Quarter and I saw him sneak out through the Entry Hall. Then he followed me back into the Depot today, after the attacks. I don't think he knew that anyone saw him." Matthew seems to be thinking hard.

"I think there may be something to that theory."

"Really?" I ask, my spirit lifting. Maybe I'm not imagining things.

"Yeah. I haven't seen Luke in a long time, and he was assigned to dig the same tunnel as me..."

I rest my chin on my steepled fingers, troubled. What is Luke sneaking out of the Depot for? Why was he gone during the attacks? I look back up at Matthew. Exhaustion courses through me, but I don't feel like leaving him.

"You should probably rest up," Matthew suggests. "You've had a long day." I nod and stand. After I stack my chair back against the wall, I turn to him.

"Thank you," I mutter, trying to fit more meaning into those two words. He looks at me for a while then nods. Against my own will, I force myself to turn away and leave.

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