Anne and I crept closer to the side walls. We had spent the whole night biking around the settlement, seeing where there were the least guards. We found that the sides were also transparent barbed wire fenced and there were barely any guards. They seemed only to be concentrated at the front and back of the settlement. It was good knowledge.
We had also observed that there were very few people walking around. Isaac reasoned that it must be because the guards didn’t want any problems dealing with people during the night, so they had banned anyone from coming out (but anyone could have came up with that explanation).
Therefore, to make the entry during the day at the side-fences were the best bet.
Anne and I crawled quickly and soon we reached the barbed fence. We hid behind a bush that was growing in front of the fence. “Anne, where’s the towel?” I asked.
“Here.” she said, and handed it to me. I quickly jumped up and carefully wrapped the towel around the barbed wire.
“Alright. I hope this work.” I said, taking in a breath. Getting lots of cuts from the barbed wire was not something I fancied much. I touched the towel. No, it did not get through; thankfully Anne’s towel was pretty thick. I quickly jumped up and landed myself on the other side. Anne followed my example and soon we were in Settlement 43.
“Okay. What do we do next?” Anne asked.
“Follow the plan.” I suggested logically.
Anne rolled her eyes. “I know that, you dingbat. What I need to know, however is if where we’re gonna do it. We need to create some sort of distraction, yes. But we need to do it at a place that will make it visible to Sophie, Toby and Isaac at the left side so they can destroy the barbed fence in time.”
“This is starting to become too big a gamble.” I muttered inaudibly. In a louder voice I said “Let’s just walk around this settlement first and see what the people are doing. Then we’ll get a better idea of what to do.”
“Very well.” Anne replied, and together we began to tour Settlement 43. We first came across neat roles of squared houses, all of them white and totally undecorated.
“This must be the homes of the people.” I said to Anne. “How…boring they look.”
“Not a good place to launch a distraction.” Anne said. “This’d bring the attention of the soldiers to the very people we’re trying to free, so it’s not gonna help.”
“So since Toby is gonna bomb the right side of the barbed wire, we need to find a place to set fire on to the left.” I said. “That will be diversion enough. The soldiers would be too far away and too busy trying to take out the flames while our side would have plenty of time to bomb the barbed wire to pieces.” I looked around. There were people walking around, though a lot of them were visibly distressed. Anne sighed. “It sounds too easy. Let’s walk around more.” We walked away from the living area and soon came across fields. Open, empty fields, all of them full of crops. We’d seen them from a distance when we were circling the place, and now we saw them full of people working the fields.
“So…productive.” Anne commented. “These crops don’t look bad actually.”
Somehow the sight of the crops so ripe, so beautiful…they gave me an impression. An impression that perhaps the Great Leader’s idea could actually bring stability to the country, root out the corruption in the government and perhaps make the nation as close to utopia as possible. Suddenly, I saw it all in my mind about what the Great Leader’s idea was: organized settlements where people worked the fields and a police force kept peace. Everyone was to be equal and everyone worked and contributed towards the nation equally.
I shook my head to clear my mind of the thought. No. As equal as one could be, as productive as one could be, a person is but the freedom that he has. The Great Leader did not put freedom into the equation of utopia. And without freedom, what could one achieve?
Nothing. I remembered again what I was doing this for. I was doing this to contribute, in some small way, not to the Great Leader’s nation, but to the nation’s freedom.
“We can burn these fields.” I said. “It will not be hard and it will spread quickly.” Something in my mind ached at the thought of burning crops planted by hardworking people, but to accomplish what I wanted there was not a choice. Anne nodded.
“It sounds good.” Anne said. “But somehow…you know, I actually kinda feel bad if we’re going to burn all these crops. If we burn other stuff, then I don’t feel too guilty because it was built by the people working for the Great Leader, but burning these crops is burning the product of ordinary farmers. They didn’t want to do this, but still.”
I chuckled. “I just thought the same thing, Anne, but it doesn’t matter. We have to do this. This is what I suggest we do. We’ll pretend to be working hard somewhere in this settlement and at night we’ll set fire to the crops and hope that Toby sees it. Fine with you?”
Anne nodded. “Fine with me.”
We looked away from the vast fields and began walking back towards the housing area. “There has to be something for us to do.” I said. “Something easy we can pretend to do.”
“Hopefully there is. I don’t really want to be harvesting crops or something.” Anne mumbled. In the distance, I could see a group of people coming towards the fields and I squinted my eyes. They were soldiers, the uniforms showed that. There were about twenty of them.
“Gee…so many. What are they doing?” I wondered out loud. “Let’s stay clear away from them, Anne. Is there any place here that we can hide?”
“I don’t know,” Anne said, “I came into here at the same time you did.”
“Hmm…” my voice trailed off. The soldiers marched at frightening speed. We started to walk at frightening speed as well and soon we reached the housing area again, while the soldiers walked on without noticing us much.
“That was close.” I said to Anne, laughing. “We’d have been dead meat if we were caught in that empty field.”
Anne chuckled, but suddenly she stopped laughing. The moment she stopped laughing, I felt a grip at my shoulder.
“What did you say, my son?” came a deep voice. “What did you say?” I turned around slowly, not wanting to see who would say that.
It was a soldier. Man in green suit.
“What do you have to say? What were you doing to be ‘caught’?” There was something sinister about his way of speaking and I trembled slightly. His stare seemed to be one of those ‘soul-burning‘ sort of stares, the one that penetrated inside of you and made you feel vulnerable to everything. He did not blink and did not lift his stare away from me.
“Uh…nothing, sir. We were simply…”- I searched for words- “Wandering around the field and we had accidentally stepped on a bit of the crops.” That was the best I could come up with.
The soldier chuckled. “Is that true? What are you supposed to be doing right now?”
I swore to myself. Why didn’t we learn more about the tasks that were available in the settlement? There was no way I could come up with a good lie except by luck alone.
“Well…we were supposed to be studying.” I gulped. “But our parents called us to work in the field.”
“You two are brothers and sisters?”
I glanced at Anne. “Yes! Yes, certainly.”
The soldier did not take away his stare. “What class were you supposed to be in?”
The soldier chuckled. It sounded rough. “There is no history class in the country anymore, young people. If you were actually enrolled in school, you should know that.” He wiped out some sweat from his forehead. “I am coming to the conclusion that you people are not from this settlement at all, but some sort of rebel who came in here for who knows why.”
“N- no, sir…there was a change in the course. There was a history class.”
“Yes, sir.” Anne spoke for the first time in the conversation. “We really were learning history.”
“Who was your teacher?”
I looked at Anne. Damnit. We had not prepared for this well. We had trusted our luck too much and perhaps that had run out. I knew that we had to run away. We could run away and the soldier might not be able to shoot us quickly enough or at least we could get away quickly and be out of the settlement. Finally, our dried-up luck seemed to restore itself and the soldier looked away into the distance, whistling. With that, I gestured towards one of the alleyways and started running, and Anne followed immediately. Behind us the soldier gave a cry but we have had a lot of practice running away from enemy soldiers over the past few months (and perhaps this statement hasn’t done the exact amount of practice justice either) and we were skilled in the art of turning tail. The alleyways were not exactly large but they were full of people. We easily lost ourselves in the crowds of fast-walking people. People swore at us as we run pass them and accidentally hurt them, but theirs was simply a matter of bruises while ours was the matter of survival.
The soldier seemed to be well versed in the art of catching people who turned tail and ran, however, and he followed us with speed. I quickly thought. Turning to a new street was a good strategy, tried and tested many times. I quickly sprinted across a junction to another alleyway, and I saw one of the doors of a concrete square building open. I quickly ran in, and when Anne got in I swung in shut. I looked out of the window and saw that only then did the soldier reach the alleyway and was still searching for us. I breathed a sigh of relief. We were saved, for the moment at least.
“Who are you?” came a voice. Instinctively I turned around. It was a teenager, about the same age as me. At least he was as tall as me.
He was thin, but his eyes looked fierce. He was wearing only some very old looking shorts. It gave me an impression that he wasn’t being treated very well in this settlement.
“Uh…I am sorry for having invaded…your home.” I said quietly. Anne nodded.
The teenager smiled. “It’s not a home. That’s what they call it for us, but it’s more like a prison. You are welcome here for a while, at least until I’ve heard why you even came in here. Come, sit. I’ll get you some water. My name is Sean, by the way.”
“Sean.” I liked that name. I sat down at a chair and so did Anne. Sean got us both a cup of water. I sipped at it politely until I realized Sean was waiting for an explanation. I decided to be blunt and honest. No time for games and deceptions here.
“We’re here to destroy this place.” I said. “Today, we will bomb the barbed wire fences and everyone will be free. They can go wherever they want.” I saw Sean’s eyes widen at that and he looked truly shocked.
“What?” he spluttered. “You’re…you’re going to bomb this place? How? You…you look my age.”
I shrugged. “We’ve been through a lot, Sean. We’ve been through too much. Anyway, we have a grenade. We’re going to create a diversion using a fire, and friends we have will bomb this place. We were escaping from a soldier. We’d lied that we were supposed to be in history class. I guess you don’t actually have that.”
“The Great Leader wants to brainwash us.” Sean replied in a bitter voice. “He banned history because he doesn’t want us to know our own history, the freedom we once had.” He paused, thinking. “I know that the next question you must be asking me is whether I can help you out or not.”
“How’s life in the settlement anyway?” Anne asked.
“It’s hell.” Sean said. “We work three days a week and study two days a week. Only one day is given to rest, and in the day of rest you cannot come out of your designated settlement, except for lunchtime and dinnertime. I’m in my rest day right now.
“We eat in a central food hall and the food is crap. It always tastes like five year olds cooked them. The guards have no mercy and they will beat the hell out of anyone who refuses an order. There is to be no show of defiance, no freedom. Nothing close to it or resembling it is allowed.” He paused to think. “I think that your next question will be if whether I can help you or not.”
I nodded. He was guessing my mind.
“I will gladly help you.” Sean said. The bitterness didn’t leave his voice and his eyes seemed to flare up with determination. I gripped his hand and we shook each other’s.
“Together, we’re going to free the country.” I told him. He nodded and I knew from looking into his eyes that we were not going to fail.