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9.

There was nobody outside of Sarah’s room waiting for her when she finally got up, but the hallways were unusually crowded for the morning. The corridors always had somebody walking down them, they weren’t exactly empty, and everybody in the city always had a job to do and a place to be so traffic ran about three to four people every minute. It wasn’t unusual to stop and talk to the familiar faces, and on the Moon everybody was a familiar face.

Today however, the corridors were filled with people she’d never ever, ever seen out at this time. Sybil Lars, for instance, a woman who worked the evening shift in Maintenance usually would never be up at this time. And she wasn’t the only one. Richard Shift, Jeanne Hanna, and the peculiar named Marble Acreage all were out and about.

The aggregated gray jump suits parted for her as she walked toward the cafeteria and the people in them glanced at her and mumbled to each other, always low enough that she couldn’t quite catch what they were saying.

When she got to the Cafeteria she saw the news ticker that ran over the serving area proclaiming “Presidential Address 12:00.” The whole area had the feel of anticipation and as she walked by the narrow black tables, she saw her cousin Alex, notable for his bright yellow hair, weaving in-between people and cutting through the spaces between tables, heading straight for her. She tried to divert, but ran into a small group of teenage girls (Angie, Roberta, and Chesca) who looked determined to keep her in place, and pretended to be obtuse about her hand gestures to move.

“Alex!” she said when she could no longer ignore him. “How are you?”

The girls put on a show of not listening.

“I’m good,” he said. Light haired, freckled, bright blue eyes, and an expressive open face, he was what might be considered hunky. He looked like a bad propaganda poster from Nazi Germany; square-jawed, muscular. “How’s it going?”

“Well enough,” she said. “Today is crazy. Why is everybody up so early?”

“The situation,” he said, nodding seriously.

“The,” she paused. “The situation?”

“Yeah,” he said. His voice dropped to a whisper and all the girls leaned toward them in a we're-not-committed way as if that would hide their intentions. “You know-- with America?”

“There is no situation with America,” Sarah said loudly, pointedly looking around to the girls.

“There’s not?” Angie said, completely unabashed at being addressed so. “My mother, who’s in Operations says--.”

“I know where your mother works,” Sarah said flatly. “Now, off you go. I wouldn’t want you to be late for class. Again.”

The girls looked mortified. They quickly headed toward the exit, soon disappearing among the crowd, who watched them go and then slowly and unskillfully turned their barely hidden attention back to Sarah.

“So,” Alex said, slowing the word down. “What is the president’s speech about then?”

“Something else,” Sarah said. “I can’t talk about it yet.”

But the matter was not resolved when she finally picked up her breakfast. The cafeteria staff mobbed her en masse asking her all sorts of things about drafts, American weapon technology, and tactical situations. One man, the old and always unhelpful Dr. Rimersburg, asked her what she was doing to resolve the situation diplomatically. He seemed to think she’d fired the neutron gun herself.

She was soon surrounded by her fellow citizens. Less shy now, they kept asking her questions throughout dinner until, exasperated, she stood up on the table and said,

“Calm down everybody! I don’t know any more than you do what the president is going to say. Please, let me eat so I can go find out!”

They all shifted nervously, until Alex said, “Yeah, okay. Let the lady eat.”

Nodding to him, she stepped down, missed the seat and fell onto her arm. There was an audible pop and the bone went through the skin. A textbook compound fracture.

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