We met up with the others in the large mess tent later. As Ahlaam had said, there were pitifully few of us. How we were ever supposed to make a difference, I don't know. The opposition to the Govians was gaining momentum but apart from rallies, nothing else was being done. The government's control over the internet was well in place and with it was their control over what news leaked out to the general population. Most of the population of England waked around blithely unaware of the lengths the government was controlling the media.
Having been on quite a few scout camps, I expected a certain level of food. usually it was tasteless which only a large dash of Henderson's Relish or Tabasco could make palatable. Since I'd left home without grabbing a bottle of either I was dreading the food that would be served up. I was mentally trying to picture where I'd last seen the Maccydees and how long it would take me to get there. However the plate of food that was placed in front of me looked extremely eatable. it was some sort of meat stew full of fresh vegetables. I attacked it with much gusto, realising that I hadn't eaten anything for most of the day. It was a truly wonderful meal, really well cooked and not a hint of burntness. I could taste garlic and herbs among the stew and a hint of spice, however I couldn't work out quite what meat it was. Lily must have noticed me poking around.
'Is it OK?' she said anxiously
'It's really beautiful, honestly. Just wondered what the meat was?'
She laughed and looked around.
'Well Ahlaam and Prez tell me it'd taste just like chicken. They go out everyday and catch something to go in the pot. This time they'd skinned it before I could see what it was. They say it's safe to eat, but with those two you never know.' Lily said glancing at Prez.
'It is safe to eat,' Prez said with a laugh in her voice, 'I just couldn't bring it to you as it was, I know how you like those squirrels.'
'Oh dear,' Sinead said putting her spoon down, 'I think I may turn vegetarian after this.'
'Come on Sinead, it’s good protein, doesn't taste too bad' Prez said in between mouthfuls, ‘don’t be like Lil here and become a veggie.’
We all laughed but most of us did continue eating. Squirrel stew was a new one on me too.
'So fill us in with what's happening' I asked
Ahlaam settled back in her chair, putting her feet up on a box and nursing a mug as she spoke.
'We tend to organise the smuggling in of books from Scotland. That's why we're located at this end of the country. We then pass them on to groups in the cities to distribute through illegal libraries. It's quite easy, but lately it's becoming harder. The GS are finding out about our supply lines, we've had some pretty scary times lately. Mostly we have friends like Jacqueline who help us ferry the books across. However they’ve started to look for older people now. That’s one of the reasons We’re glad you’re here Squonkie. You can drive the vehicle now and let Jacqueline have a night off.'
I noticed Prez sat on the floor furiously carving away at a spear she was making. I sensed rather than saw the tension in her body. She appeared about to burst and was using the carving as therapy. As I watched she dropped the spear and launched the knife through the air towards a board at the other end of the tent. It hit with a loud bang, the tip sticking in a good way. The knife vibrated before stopping.
I felt Sinead's hand on my thigh grip tightly as it happened. I turned to her. Like me, she was shocked by what had happened. Looking at the others, none of them appeared surprised or even blinked an eyelid. Obviously this was an everyday occurrence. Prez stood up and stalked towards the knife.
'We need to do more than just smuggle the books in. We need to be fighting back. All those people locked up in the camps and we smuggle a few books onto the country. Jeez, we're making no difference at all to the struggle. Let’s go and cause some havoc for once.' Prez said cradling the knife in her hands.
'I agree with you Prez', Ahlaam replied, 'we need to take the struggle forward. Next time we meet the resistance council I'll ask for some better jobs for us.'
'And while you're there get us some weapons that really work' Prez said.
I looked pointedly towards the guns on the side of the table. EH caught my gaze.
'They're just fakes,' EH said, 'they just look like the real thing and give us a bit of presence'
'The resistance is reluctant to give our group real weapons in case we can't handle them properly,' Lily interjected, 'and I for one agree with them. We're too young to have the responsibility of having guns.'
'I agree, some of us can't be trusted' EH said looking pointedly at Prez.
'Aww, come on I wouldn't use them,' Prez said smiling, 'relax Tay, I'll protect you all better if I had a real gun'
Lily shook her head. From their whole demeanour I could see that this was a regular conversation.
'Anyway, Meg will be back tomorrow. She's meeting with the resistance today in Newcastle. Hopefully she'll have some job for us to do, it's been quiet for a while.' Lily said eventually.
We sat there for a few minutes more. I looked from one face to another, still not quite believing that I was actually sat with these girls. They were my confidents, my moral supporters but most of all, even though we had never met, my best friends.