The door opened on seven people moving as if to conceal something. When they saw Moon standing silent and calm, they relaxed. She stepped in and Justin followed. “What is he doing here?” a hoarse, but feminine voice accused.
“It’s fine, he’s on our side.” What side is that? Justin wondered.
“We know that, but he’ll draw too much attention.” A man about his sister’s age said.
“Hey guys, I’m standing right here you know.” He had never seen sixteen eyes roll in unison before, it certainly did not instill self-confidence. Moon had lead him to this room, holding his hand tightly as they walked. He expected to be lead to a private room somewhere. That assumption was not wrong exactly, but this is not what he was expecting for the rest of his evening. This group was visually indistinguishable from the typical Open Acres resident: long hair, tattered clothing, and a pallet of facial expressions that mostly consisted of consternation or disconnection. For some reason, though, they were meeting in secret and Moon thought he might fit in.
“Look, we can’t take any risks. Everyone voted to call off acts against the Landbridge until the situation with Mike, Pat, and Al blows over. The last thing we need is Helen’s brother tagging along.”
“Thomas, would I bring him here if it wasn’t ok?” He had never seen Moon so confident. Was her sullen demenor an act?
“I don’t think you would intestinally put us at risk, no. But I can’t imagine any reason he’s here except that you have a little crush.”
“Yeah,” it was the girl who called out when they walked in, “on the whole family I’d say.”
“Sure, Astrid, as if all of us were not building alters to Allison.”
Justin laughed and they all turned to him, staring death. “My sister? What’s there to worship about Allison?”
“She got away,” two or three people said at the same time.
“She stayed when everyone else ran,” Moon explained. “She evaded capture and has enough information to bring Links down.”
“I think you may be exaggerating a little bit here.”
“Exaggerating? You don’t give your sister credit for her bravery and commitment?”
“Sure, but I think you’re underestimating Links. She didn’t evade capture, Links knew she was there the whole time. It was just more convenient at the time to let her think she was hiding out.”
There was an awkward beat before Thomas spoke slowly and deliberately, “If that’s the case, then you have to leave now.”
“What? I haven’t done anything.”
“Justin, maybe it is better that you sit this one out. We’ll talk later.” Moon opened the door, revealing a quiet, dark footpath that would take him back to the barracks. Why did she bring him here just to kick him out ten minutes later? He opened his mouth, but decided not to speak. He stepped out and the door closed gently, but surely behind him.
At breakfast, Moon sat down across from Justin, sitting tall and looking directly in his eyes. “I calmed them down after you left.”
“Calmed them? From what?”
“They’re just a little paranoid about new people, especially potentially high profile people.”
“Still not following, what does high profile have to do with me?”
“Well, your sister obviously. But also, she wouldn’t have brought you and… what’s his name?”
“Right. She would not have brought you and Mark here if there weren’t some trouble you were in. We already know what she’s hiding from.”
“Ok, so I can’t join your club then?”
“You shouldn’t take this so lightly. We want the same things.”
“Is that so?”
“Sure, we want to get out of here and do something about Links and his Landbridge.”
“Is that what I want to do?”
Moon shifted, uncertainty flashed before she adopted a bored look. “I don’t want to play games about this right now. If you want in, you have to come back tonight.”
“I thought I wanted out… OW!” His shin throbbed where she had landed a quick kick. Moon smiled, and Justin smiled despite feeling he should be angry. “Ok, were do we meet?”
“What do you think he’s been doing?”
“What do you mean?”
“I see him walking around the compound, but he hasn’t spoken to me in two days.”
“So we’re talking about…”
“My brother! You’re an ass.” She smiled and took his arm. They were walking on a shaded path, occasionally weaving around trees. There were trails here that seemed to go on forever and go nowhere.
“Probably just spending time with that broody girl that’s always staring at you.”
“What? At me?” Allison dropped Marcus’s arm and pressed her palm against her chest.
“You haven’t noticed?”
“No… but I’ve gotten used to stares and whispers at this point. I can’t tell if everyone hates me or loves me.”
“Both. They admire you for staying on the island and getting information, but the others had been on the commune for years. You’re a reminder that no one knows what is happening to their friends.”
“Links is a power mad asshole, but I don’t think he’s torturing the guys.”
“You don’t think? So it’s possible.”
“You’re being weird. Why are you being so weird?”
“Sorry, I listen to a lot of idle conversation in the kitchen.”
“Wait, people are talking about me?”
“About all three of us, but especially you.” They walked up a moderate hill and looked back at Open Acres. It was modest, that was certain, but quite ambitious. Here were hundreds of people forsaking the modern world and building a community. Looking the other direction there was nothing. There was a speck in the distance could have been someone’s home, or it could just be an odd shaped rock, it was too far to tell.
“Anyway, what do you think he is up to?”
“I don’t know, he’s your brother. Which way should we go from here?” Allison pointed. “But there’s where we just came from.”
“Yeah, I have to get back and see what Justin and that girl think they’re doing.”
“Does it matter?” She gave him a blank glance and walked around him to get on the trail back to the village. “OK, fine. But you still owe me a hike and picnic.”
Back at the compound, Allison started asking around. Everyone knew he was with Moon, but no one could tell her where they went. Marcus said he would see her at dinner and left her to hunt by herself. No sooner had he walked away than Old Nan cornered her. Allison looked left and right for a reason to excuse herself.
“What are you looking for, sugar?” Nan said in an affected accent. At least, everyone was pretty sure it was affected. Nan was a washed up hipster older than Allison’s grandparents and mentally the age of her brother. No one knew how long she had been on the compound. As far as anyone could tell she had always been around to mooch intoxicants and spin tangled yarns.
“Oh, it’s just my brother. You haven’t seen him have you.”
“Ooo, I’d like to find him too, if you know what I mean.”
“Ew. I mean. Wait, what do you mean?” Nan just laughed. Allison was about to let her have it when she saw Justin out of the corner of her eye. He had disappeared behind a door before she could turn her head. “There! What is that building?”
“That? Oh, that’s storage.”
“I see, but why would…”
“Storage and where those kids think they’re meeting in secret.”
“Some secret. Everyone knows, but they won’t let me hang out with them anyway.”
“What are they doing in there?”
“Pfft. Who cares? It’s not like anything will come of it. Just a few kids against a whole corporation.”
“But… I thought the commune voted… Oh no.”
“Wait, where are you going? I was going to tell you about the council. Do you know what they are up to now? Under all of our noses? Think they own…” Nan’s voice trailed off as Allison jogged to the shack Justin and, presumably, Moon just entered. What was she going to do with that kid? He came halfway around the world to bring her home just so he could get into the same mess she did.
“Alright, alright, five minutes and I’ll have more clean plates.”
“Oh, no. It’s not that. You came here with Allison and her brother right?” Marcus turned around. A young girl was looking at him, shifting her weight from one foot to the other. She was wearing a spotless bandana over her hair, which was finely brushed. People did not bring up his relationship with Allison, though it seemed as if they had opinions about it.
“Who’s to say they didn’t come here with me?” The girl did not say anything, just rubbed her hands together. He could see her nail polish and that it was in perfect shape. “Ok, yes. And?”
“Your name’s… Mark, is that it?” he nodded, “I’m Astrid. Look, Justin has been hanging around with Moon a lot and…”
“What is everyone’s deal with this? I think it’s great, if anyone needs a few dates it’s those two.”
“No, no. I don’t care about that. It’s just that he’s always around her now and I don’t know if he’s, well, trust worthy.”
“Honestly, I don’t know him all that well. I do know his sister, and I think you know I admire her quite a bit. I also know he blindly traveled into the unknown to find her when she disappeared.”
“So, you’re saying…”
“I’m saying nothing really. Why do you care?” Astrid was about to speak when she saw something behind Marcus.
“Doesn’t matter, I have to go.”
“Who’s that walking away so fast? And I thought I was a little young for you.”
“Hah, hah. Just some girl. You two actually have something in common; she was nosing around Justin and Moon’s relationship. I don’t know what that kid does to these hippie girls.”
“Oh! Where’d she go? I’ve got to talk to her.”
“I don’t know, she just ran off as soon as you showed up.”
“Something is going on. I’m sure that they’re going to get Justin in trouble. Which is also trouble for us.”
“What’s going on?” Marcus turned back to the pile of dishes, cocking his head to show he was listening. Allison explained about Old Nan and the shack where Moon had been taking Justin.
“What does he have to say about it?”
“I don’t know. I can’t pin him down to even say hello. I saw him go in that shack, but he was gone before I got in there.” Marcus started laughing. “What, what’s funny about this?”
“I just started thinking about how weird that is, to not be able to talk to someone. Even on Nesson I couldn’t avoid someone if I tried. I certainly tried, that’s why I was there in the first place.”
“Did you ever try to avoid me?”
“No, no, I’m just kidding.” She was already gone. Marcus was holding a dish he just realized he had already cleaned two or three times. She wasn’t really mad was she?
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