15. Long Ride Home
“So, girls, tell us as much as you could about your lives. We’re in this together now, right, and we have a plan to share as well.” The old man spoke up as everyone took a seat in the train. Olive and Ilana started pouring information out. With a little phrase of something that was obvious in the islander’s everyday lives, shock and horrification was seen on everyone’s face. They explained in detail how they met each other, discovered the outer world, and came in contact with this organization. When the story was over, the old man had something to share. “So what we’re going to do is very simple. We are going to get on the islands and protest. If they see us actually on these islands, they won’t be able to bomb us.” All the organization nodded, but the girls didn’t quite get it. “But what difference would that make?” Ilana asked. The old man thought for an easy way to explain. “Well, in our world, there was a big protest to save the redwood trees. People climbed up the trees in order to stop others from cutting the trees. It’s kind of like that.” “But it would just be the same, as they’re willing to bomb thousands already. I doubt a few more people would be much difference, though I sincerely hope so.” Olive asked. The girls still didn’t understand. The old man sighed and explained once again. “Well, yes, that’s logical. But you see, we’re real people-“ he said, then stopped short, realizing what he had just said. It was too late, and the girls had heard. And understood. “Real people?” Olive asked softly. “No, I didn’t mean you’re-“ The old man started scrambling back up his words like mad, trying to cover mistake in vain like an eraser trying to erase a stroke of ink. “No, it’s okay. Of course you didn’t mean it that way.” Ilana said, the spunk in her cheery brightness gone. She looked down. Everyone was silent for quite a while, and while Olive and Ilana repeatedly told themselves that he didn’t mean it that way, they could not stop themselves from thinking about it over and over again. ‘These people want to help us, they say, but they’re different. We could never be the same. All I ever wanted to be was a normal, happy person. Now I‘m not even sure what normal is.’ Olive thought. ‘It’s an unbreakable barrier. To these people, we’re not people. People wanting to destroy us, wanting to save us, their objects are different but they think of us in the same way. We’re not real people. Will we ever be? Even if we survive?’ Ilana sighed. It was a long, long ride home. * * * As they got closer to Mayfield, a new thought surfaced: the leftover government officials will be leaving from both the islands. What if they were met as they were getting off for the protest? They were all worrying when suddenly, their radio buzzed. “This is a news flash from BBC. Currently, the government has expedited the time of the bombing. Despite police efforts throughout the entire city of London and even beyond, the government has yet failed to find the two fugitives. In worry that the girls, along with the organization, might in some way try to stop the bombing, the government has in fact decided to get the first bombs in action within four hours.” Four hours! Olive and Ilana were suddenly flooded with panic. Four hours, 240 minutes, 14400 seconds. Even this moment, the clock was ticking away, and the time was getting closer, closer… Until everything they had ever known was gone. But what to do if they met General Harris and everyone else as they were getting off? At that moment, the radio buzzed again. But this time, it was not the calm voice of the anchor reading off the script, but a panicked deliverance of news. “This is a news flash, again, from BBC! The, uh, government officials were trying to escape and discovered that the train was not on either island. It has been checked that the train, currently, is not in London either, which means that it is in action right now. The government is in alarm because this means that the girls are possibly on the train, and if escape is not available, the government cannot bomb the islands along with their own people. In emergency state, the government is putting everyone in search for a way to get around this problem.” Everyone looked at each other with cold feet. They were found out. “Okay, we need a new plan. There’s about… three hours and 45 minutes left until the bombing, and there’s no telling how much longer this train is going to take. If we manage to drop half of us off at Mayfield without meeting the government officials, great. But still then, we have Charbon to save. What do we do now?” The old man looked around at the crowd of people. “Well, we could persuade the government, one way or another. If we could broadcast ourselves and the people of the islands, maybe the people in London would protest. No matter how strong the government is, the people are always stronger.” Olive proposed an idea. “That’s good! We actually do have a broadcasting team in the organization. It’s small, but it will have to do. We have a camera, a tech guy, a reporter… do we have lights?” “Yes, we do!” Someone in the back shouted and waved. “Perfect! But the problem is, we won’t be able to do any of that if we meet the government officials on our way out to the island.” Just as everyone was trying their best to come up with a solution, the train slowly came to a stop… And on the other side of the platform was General Harris with dozens of government officials and their bodyguards.