Jolson O’Meern awoke with a start. He instinctively reached for the knife under his pillow, but when he didn’t hear any more distinctive calls, he relaxed and set his head back down. He massaged his wrist: it was sore from yesterday’s training during the off-shift.
Checking the time on the clock, Jolson saw it was going to be a long while before the sun rose and baked the earth again, but there was no way he could sleep again now. He pushed himself up slowly, grimacing at his stiff joints, and sat at the edge of the bed, staring bleary-eyed into the stale darkness. It was far too warm outside to open the windows, so they relied on the inner conditioning enchantments to do their work.
Jolson slumped his way into the kitchen, where he filled a glass of water and grabbed his strength meds and hobbled off to his office. It was even stuffier in there, but he closed the door nonetheless. It was Watcher policy.
He sank back into his barely used, tanned-leather chair and stared at the map screen on the wall. It covered every nook and cranny of the areas around NeverSeen that were vulnerable and needed Watching. Some areas they scoured daily for suspicious activity, others they checked only in their biweekly rounds.
And then there were other areas. Territories covered by the High Order, which they claimed to be accounted for and fully cleared. Nobody went in except for the elites of the Watchers: the soldiers and military personnel. There was no concern for their business, and they were never to be asked.
Even though he was barely awake, Jolson began to wonder. He vaguely remembered seeing men taking large crates and covered trailers towards that old mine, the one that caved in a few years before. It was a terrible accident. Right in the middle of a shift change, there was an unexplained explosion. The roof of the main cave collapsed in on itself and trapped dozens of men. Rescue attempts were made, but the rock was still too unstable. Half the men who went in never came back out.
So why would soldiers be taking things in through the back entrance?
Jolson got up and scrolled across the surface of the map until he reached the section with the mine and its surrounding area. He grabbed a stylus and started marking where the cave had collapsed, drawing arrows to show which direction it had gone. Then he drew stick figures to show where he remembered seeing the men with the boxes.
They all seemed to be leading in one direction, towards a small cave near the back of the mine. Perhaps there was an emergency exit there…but that still doesn’t explain why they’d be taking stuff there in the first place. It’s impossible to get in. Right?
Perplexed, Jolson continued to study his diagrams as he popped his meds into his mouth. He swallowed quickly: the Watcher pills were far from an enjoyable flavor. The familiar headache followed for a few minutes; he sat down this time to endure it. You’d think strength medication wouldn’t give you a headache, but I guess it makes everything stronger.
Jolson found he’d dozed off, but only for a minute. He looked up from his chair to find the old mine’s map centered in and doodled on. He smiled and shook his head.
That darn Ashlee! Always drawing and writing on everything. Need to talk to her about that again.
Jolson got up and went back to bed.
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