“That’s going to take you forever,” said Cheng, leaning over Giovani’s shoulder at the computer screen displaying a satellite map of the planet. “Besides, this is really old. Do you know when the last satellite came down? Ages ago!”
“Anyway, I don’t think that place you saw is something that would even show up on a map like this,” added Nero from the chair beside the two of them.
“I thought you were for finding this other facility,” snapped Giovani, not taking his eyes from the screen.
“I’m not. I’m being realistic. Were there any clues about where it might be located?”
“Desert as far as the eye could see? I’m pretty sure it’s somewhere in the south or southwest.”
“That sounds reasonable. Still, that’s a pretty big area to cover. Isn’t there something to look for, in case it doesn’t show up on the map?”
Giovani sighed and turned toward Nero. “Okay, look. If the facility was finished before the satellites started going down, then there was an image of it, and it was probably edited. If it was edited, it’s likely that it’s obvious that the image has been edited. Hasn’t Cheng ever shown you the image of our facility?”
Nero shook his head.
“It doesn’t show up on the map,” Cheng informed him. “But you can tell that the area around it was edited, since there’s a cloud passing over the woods that has a square corner missing right around where our facility should be.”
“Anyway,” said Giovani sternly. “Don’t you have some packing to do?”
Nero took the hint. “Come on, Cheng. Let’s go stuff our backpacks.”
* * *
“You’re not going.” declared Violet, her bracelets clattering as she wagged her finger.
“But Vi…” pleaded Adrina.
“Look, even if Giovani does manage to find this other facility on the map, which is unlikely, I doubt there’s anything of value there that requires your presence.”
“It’s because of this, isn’t it?” Adrina said, indicating her wheelchair. “You think I’ll slow you all down.”
“No, it’s not…look, I’m not even going. I just think the whole trip is a bad idea.”
“Just because you never get out doesn’t mean I can’t.”
“The reason I never get out is because there’s no where to get out to.”
“Well, there is now.”
“A wild goose chase. That’s all it is! I don’t want you endangering your life on some stupid hunch from Giovani.”
“No! That’s my final word on it!”
Adrina let out an exhasperated sigh, leaning on her arm in defeat. “You never let me do anything.”
“No, I don’t,” replied Violet as she stomped out of the room.
Adrina watched her go. As she continued staring at the doorway, lost in thought, she noticed red hair peeking in, soon followed by brown eyes and the rest of Red’s face.
“Is it safe?” he asked.
“She’s gone,” Adrina answered. “What are you doing here?”
“I heard raised voices. And for the record, I was asking about you.” He stepped into the spotless room, walking over to a desk in the corner where Violet sometimes sat. “You know you don’t need her permission to do anything.”
“Well, sure, but…” She paused. “But what if she’s right, though? That this facility doesn’t exist, or that there’s nothing there? What if I do go, but I get everyone killed?”
“Never! I’d look after you, if anything. Anyway, that’s just good old overprotective, antagonistic Vi. I’m sure she’ll warm up to the idea. Most of the others are willing to try this out, especially Nero. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him so excited about anything before, unless you count him showing us that crazy room he found with his key. We’ll do a role call about who’s going, she’ll put up a fuss, then Cheng or Nero will note that it’ll be safer if everyone goes, she’ll sigh, and relent. You’ll see.”
Adrina cracked a smile. “That sounds like her.”
“You know it does.”
Adrina caught the look of utter confidence in his face and giggled.
“Well, it looks like my plan has succeeded,” said Red.
* * *
“We’re back!” called Aurus as he and Albus entered the living room, holding groceries and other supplies in their arms. “Has Giovani found that place yet?”
“Well, he better have – this will only last us a couple weeks, and we couldn’t find a vehicle.”
“We couldn’t find that tree right by the north entrance to the school either. It looks like something dug it up. But that’s not important.”
Nero poked his head in from the open door to the boys’ wing. “Two weeks?” he asked skeptically. “With Giovani’s eating habits? Anyway, he’s in the library. We don’t know if he’s found anything yet.”
“He has.” Aurus and Albus turned around, exposing Giovani, who was obviously trying to contain a great deal of excitement. “It’s about a hundred and thirty miles southeast of here.”
“That would be a little more than two weeks for the whole trip then,” said Nero, stepping into the common room.
“If we walk.” Violet entered from the girls’ side, Cheng close behind her. “Look, that’s a really long time to be gone, and a rather far ways to go. Is it really worth it?”
“I believe so,” replied Giovani. Red appeared in the girls’ doorway, wheeling Adrina along in front of him.
“But what if we get there, and there’s nothing?” Violet persisted.
“Then at least we have the journey to reminisce about. It’s not like we’ve got anything better to do.”
“The journey’s what I’m most worried about. It’s dangerous out there!”
“It would be less dangerous if you came with us,” Nero pointed out. “Besides, I think everyone else is pretty set on going.”
Violet’s eyes glanced between the others in the room. She sighed in defeat. “Fine! But it’s not my fault if some monster eats us all!”
Red bent down by Adrina’s ear. “Told you.”
“That settles it then,” said Nero, clapping his hands together. “Everyone, pack your bags. We leave at dawn.”
“Dawn?” exclaimed Cheng. “Who gets up at dawn?”
“Ten o’clock then.”
“Ten? Who gets up at ten?”