Two large metal doors slid to the side, grinding their way into slots in the walls. On the other side, Ryan saw a couple military guards trying to stop Mrs. Stewart, his social studies teacher. It was strange, but not. He was used to seeing Mrs. Stewart yell, but it was usually directed at him, or Theo. Also, she seemed even more exasperated than usual.
Mrs. Stewart turned immediately to her husband as soon as the doors opened. It took Ryan a moment to even remember that the general was her husband. Even though they had the same last name and all, they were part of two different worlds. He only saw the general when he was assigned his monthly military detail. He saw Mrs. Stewart five days a week, third period, when he wasn’t topside fighting aliens.
“What’s the meaning of this, Charlene?” the general asked.
Theo looked his way. His friend’s expression mirrored what he knew must be on his face. Mrs. Stewart having a first name was a radical concept.
“Melvin Stewart. You think I wouldn’t notice you stealing two of my students?”
Ryan had a nearly uncontrollable urge to laugh. The general was being treated to exactly the same scolding he enjoyed once or twice a week. Biting the tip of his tongue, he managed to control himself.
“It’s not stealing,” General Stewart said. “It’s a matter of security.”
“Well then as a duly elected representative of the enclave council, I should have a right to know.”
Mrs. Stewart wasn’t just a social teacher. She was also a politician. Running a small underground city took a lot of planning. A six member council did most of it. Mrs. Stewart had been on the council longer than Ryan had been alive. At least he thought so. He’d know for sure if he actually paid attention in her class.
“You know we can’t always go through the council,” the general said. “This is time sensitive.”
“The law is clear,” Mrs. Stewart said. “They’ve reached their allotted time. They aren’t soldiers anymore, at least not until next month.”
Neither Stewart looked ready to give in. As the silence dragged on, Ryan and Theo started shifting from foot to foot. Finally the general spoke.
“You’re really not going to give up on this?”
Mrs. Stewart arched one eyebrow. Very slowly.
“Alright. Soldiers, you’re dismissed.”
“Thank you, dear.” Mrs. Stewart’s voice was so sweet it sounded like a different person was talking. “Don’t be late for dinner.”
The general gave Ryan and Theo a withering glare.
“Today’s events are strictly classified, like any topside operation.”
Ryan wasn’t sure if the general was more worried about word getting out of a nearby alien army, or that he’d been yelled at by his wife. General Stewart’s eyes stayed on him until he gulped. Satisfied that he’d scared his two soldiers into silence, the general turned and walked toward command. His polished shoes clicked on the stone floor.
Mrs. Stewart turned to her two students.
“Mr. Pile, Mr. Gates, hurry up and get dressed for school. You’re missing roll call standing around here. If I don’t hear that you made it to class by the middle of first period, you’ll answer to me.”
Ryan checked the time and started running.