I wake abruptly the next morning to Sam's voice.
"Get up, all of you! Gather around!" I drag myself out of bed and throw on some clothes. They may or may not be on backwards. When I trudge into the Training Facility with the rest of the exhausted Trainees, I notice Matthew leaning against the wall by the tunnel, alone as usual. My stomach does somersaults. I feel like I might puke if I look at him any longer, so I focus my gaze on Sam, who stands in the middle of the room looking somber. Did Grace tell him about my concerns?
At midnight last night--when I returned to my room from the Atrium--Leah spent the next ten minutes drilling me about my whereabouts.
"I hadn't seen you all day! You're not still sneaking out and fighting droids, are you?" I had finally convinced her that I was visiting my mother and Mark, then she cautiously left me alone.
"Alright," Sam growls once the Trainees are gathered around him. "As you know, our mock mission is coming upon us very soon. In a week, in fact. Because of this, we are no longer studying Propaganda Detection and we will go back to fight training." A stampede of noise fills the hall, peppered with excited shouts and groans of disapproval. "Early this morning I received orders to heighten security and increase the vigor of our training. Also, it was demanded that at least five able-bodied Trainees remain in the Depot at all times." I can't help but glance back at Matthew, who stares intently at Sam. The pick-axe hangs loosely in his hand.
I was right: Grace must have spoken to Sam last night. But I get the feeling that my name wasn't dropped. No matter how cowardly she may be, she's still smart.
"I wasn't told the reason for doubling down our efforts, but, nonetheless, we will benefit from our hard work. On that note, starting today we will train on the practice droids at least eleven hours every day: from seven in the morning to six in the evening, with a break only for lunch." Instantly, complaints begin to flood the room.
"I won't even have time to shower!"
"How long do we get for lunch?"
"What about bathroom breaks?"
"I'll die of exhaustion if the robots don't kill me first!"
Normally I would be complaining along with them, but after Matthew's coaching, I'm a pro at fighting the droids. I feel a persistent tug in my gut, like I should repay him somehow for his help. Sam glares at everyone until the shouts die down and raises his beefy hands for silence.
"I want you all to be back here in ten minutes," he mutters. The crowd disperses with some grumbles, but I stand and watch as Sam makes his way to the storage room. I think I know how to repay Matthew.
* * *
"Sam?" I ask. He doesn't turn around, just keeps stacking droids onto a metal trolley.
"You said we need more people to defend the Depot." He sighs.
"Yes, I did."
"I know someone who would be more than happy to." Sam glances over his shoulder at me.
"If you are referring to yourself, then--"
"I'm not talking about me. I'm talking about Matthew." Sam raises an eyebrow and smirks.
"Elliot, huh? He put you up to this, didn't he?"
"No, he didn't," I snap. "Listen, I know why you aren't letting him train, and I think it's a bunch of crap." Now I have his attention. He turns and glowers at me, his muscles tense. If he wanted to, he could knock me out with one square punch to the face. But I know he won't.
"How dare you tell me how to run my program," he hisses. I take a deep breath to assuage my fear.
"Listen, I'm sorry. But if things start to go to hell, Matthew is perfectly capable of fighting on the Depot's behalf. And it's not like he'll be running around in the streets. Like you said, he could remain in the Depot and protect it from the inside. Please give him this chance: he deserves it."
Sam seems to think hard about my proposition. Eventually he shakes his head in annoyance.
"Enna, you've got to stop meddling in things you don't understand."
"Oh, so I don't understand subjugation?" I snort. "I hope you remember that I spent the first eighteen years of my life with a camera practically strapped to my back." Face red with anger, I storm towards the exit.
"Fine." The word is spoken so quietly that it almost doesn't carry over to me. I turn around slowly.
"I said fine. He can train, here in the Depot. Tell him that he starts in two days." I can't quite read the expression on Sam's face, but it doesn't matter. Joy courses through me, making me unstable for a moment, and I smile a little before returning to the Training Facility.
YOU ARE READING
Unplugged: The New World (#1, Unplugged Trilogy)Science Fiction
Choose to Rebel. RScreens (Reality Screens) are all the rage in America's future, just a few years after the climax of World War III. They were invented for sport, convenience, and -- most importantly -- surveillance. Enna Price, an 18-year...