Preparation and Decisions

Marten had not yet told the children exactly where the entrance to the tunnel was, but said he would when they were ready to leave. He told them since they were going to be carrying out the mission they would make all the preparation and plans and when they were ready he would tell them where the entrance was.

He did tell them the tunnel was approximately ninety miles long and that it would take them at least three days to make the trip. "It is cold in the tunnel," he said, "but not freezing cold."

"And remember," he added, "you have to make the trip both ways, so you'll be gone a minimum of six days to a week."

Since they were no longer going to school they had to plan when and where to meet. They decided that Lester's place was probably the best and planned their first meeting for that afternoon.

Lester asked Jasmine to come to his house in the Morning to be with him when he talked to his mother. When Jasmine arrived, Lester and his mother were in the kitchen.

"Oh, Hello, Jasmine," Lester's mother said when she came in. "I understand you and Lester have something you want to talk to me about."

Jasmine really did like Lester's mother. She liked Mrs. Moore's no-nonsense approach to everything. She couldn't have been kinder, but she was completely without sentimentality.

"Yes we do," Lester said. "You know Marten Grandon, Mom?"

"I do know him, but I haven't seen him since Stuart died. How do you know his first name?"

"He told us," Jasmine said. "I've known him since I was a little girl, and Eddy has too. Recently, we all, including Yuwon, started visited Marten. Do you know Yuwon, Mrs. Moore?"

"I know who she is. I know she's in your class and Lester says she's beautiful, but I've never met her."

"Yeah, Lester's in love with her but won't admit it," she winked. "Doesn't matter, Eddy's already latched onto her, so Lester's stuck with me. She really is beautiful and we all love her. She'll be here later this afternoon when the others come for our meeting. Our visits with Marten have mostly been about Yuwon's aunt, ToyLin."

Lester and Jasmine looked at each other, trying to decide how to continue.

"Tell her," Jasmine said.

"Alright," Lester said. "Mom, we know about you and dad being Nochose, about your fake choice so you could work with the underground. Jasmine and I will never make the choice either. We are already Nochose. But we have made another choice that will affect you and some others."

"Well I always knew you would never choose to be what they call an adult. Franklin is going to fake it, because he wants to help me. He knows he doesn't have to, but it's what he wants. Claims it's just so he can inherit the business."

"Jasmine," Mrs Moore said to her, "I know you well enough to know you're not doing this for Lester. How long have you been sure?"

"There was never a time when I wasn't sure, Mrs. Moore, long before I met Lester."

"Call me Mom, or Terry, Jasmine. I think you are both too young, but then, you are sure more mature then most of those that are supposed to be adults."

"We are too young," Jasmine said. "Too young to have to make these decisions, but we do have to and we will." Then behind her hand in a mock whisper, "If he asks me to marry him I'll so no because we're too young," then plainly, "but I love him and I won't let him do anything foolish."

"I know you won't Jasmine. Now what is the other choice that you have made that might affect me?"

"Yuwon's aunt ToyLin has burbera."

"Oh," Mrs. Moore said. "I thought that disease had been eradicated."

"No it's not eradicated. It's just isolated to two continents. Thessaline, or what ToyLin calls rootaba, is the only drug that can control burbera. When the drug was forbidden those with burbera all died, except a few, like ToyLin who had their own source of thessaline.

"ToyLin's husband was her source of thessaline, and when he died, she lost her means of controlling her burbera.

"Is ToyLin dying, then?" Mrs. Moore asked.

"Yes, without thessaline, she will, but there is still one source for thessaline, ChildIsle."

Mrs. Moore's eyes got big. "ChildIsle. I haven't heard that for years. If your father hadn't actually been there I might believe it was just a myth."

"Dad was there!?" Lester exclaimed.

"You said you knew we worked with the underground. Most of those we helped went to ChildIsle."

"How did he..." Lester paused. "Did he use the tunnel?"

"He didn't call it that. He called it 'Nochose road' but I know it was under the ground and took a week or more each time. He would never tell me where it was because he thought it would be dangerous for me to know and, since I wasn't going, I didn't need to know."

Lester looked at Jasmine who shook her head yes. "That's where we are going, Mom. That's the decision we made. We're going to ChildIsle to get thessaline for ToyLin."

Mrs. Moore just looked at Lester then suddenly asked, "Why would you do this for ToyLin?"

"Because she's a Nochose. She and her husband were Marten's friends on Lechakotet years ago. Now her husband has died, but she has become reacquainted with Marten. Dad used to bring other Nochose to the Island. We can't take ToyLin to the Island, but we can bring a little of the Island to her. I want you to meet ToyLin and Marten again. I know it's been so long since you've had any other normal company like them."

"I have you and Jasmine and Franklin," she said.

"You have Franklin," Lester said.

"Then you're not coming back?" she said without emotion.

"I don't know. We'll be missing for at least a week and I have no idea what the Forbidder's agents might do about that. There is always the possibility we will be caught. We'll come back if we can, of course, to bring the thessaline for ToyLin, and will stay here, if we can. We might have to make secret visits or something. I'm not going to promise what I can't possibly be certain of. That's why we had to talk to you."

Mrs. Moore looked at Lester and Jasmine with a tenderness Jasmine had never seen before.

"You know I wouldn't stop you, Lester. You and Jasmine have my blessing, if you'll pardon the expression." Then turning to Jasmine she said, "And you have to promise to take care of him, Darlin'."

"I will Mrs. ... I will Mom."

"Mrs. Moore hugged them both," then excused herself.

Yuwon left her house at the same time she usually would for school the next morning and met Eddy on Mr. Grandon's porch, where they waited. When they were sure Yuwon's parents and other adults had left for work they went back to Yuwon's house and directly to ToyLin's room.

ToyLin seemed happy and delighted to see them which pleased Yuwon and Eddy. One never new when one of her painful spells would come on.

Yuwon and Eddy explained everything that had happened since Yuwon visited with Mr. Grandon with ToyLin. "But you mustn't," ToyLin protested. "You mustn't take such risk for me."

"It's not for you, ToyLin, it's for us, for all of us. None of us are going to make a choice on 'decision day' and we'll be taken away. If we don't do this we'll only be putting off the inevitable, and at least there is a chance we'll find a way to avoid that.

"When we get back with the thessaline you will be better, and Marten will be happy the same way he's made us happy."

"I'm going to miss you, Yuwon. You're the only one I have left to talk to."

"We're not leaving you alone, ToyLin. You have Marten, and we're going to introduce you to Lester's mother who is also Nochose. We don't intend to stay away, but we know we may not have any choice. We'd rather stay away then be taken away," Yuwon said.

That afternoon, Eddy and Yuwon joined Lester and Jasmine at Lester's house. Mrs. Moore was expecting them and chose to play hostess supplying refreshments.

"We'll have to bring enough with us for at least seven days," Eddy said.

"Couldn't we re-supply when we get to the Island?" Lester suggested. "It would mean carrying half as much."

"I wish Marten was here," Jasmine said. "He could answer some of these questions."

Mrs. Moore said, "I don't know if it means anything, but Stuart always brought enough supplies to last seven or eight days when he made the journey to ChildIsle, then always brought half of it back."

"That's probably the right answer then," Yuwon suggested.

It was Eddy who asked the question no one had been thinking about. "Who are we going to tell?"

"What do you mean?" Lester asked.

"We're suddenly going to disappear. We have parents and friends who are not going to know what's happened to us. Then there are the Forbidders' agents. I know I'm going to tell Veronica and that's going to be a problem, because she's going to want to come with us," he said.

"What about your parents?" Yuwon asked.

"I'm just going to leave a note. They would never understand but I don't want them to think I was killed or something," he said. "Terry's just too young and I'm afraid Susan is ready to make the choice," he said.

"Marten said, it's our mission. We're supposed to plan it and make it work. I love your geeky sister a lot," Jasmine said, "and I'd be delighted to have her come.

"Besides, I have the same problem. I could never explain it to my Pop or Aunt, so won't bother. But I will tell Anthony and he's going to want to come too. He's not much of an adventurer, but he's really smart and hates religion even more than I do," Jasmine said.

"Looks like there are going to be six of us," Lester said.

Everyone knew both Veronica and Anthony and were quite happy they might be going with them, if that's what they chose.

Before they could plan any more they decided they needed to be certain how many were going. In the meantime Eddy and Yuwon would begin working on what they would need for supplies, Lester and Jasmine would keep everyone informed of what each was doing. They wanted to have as much of the plan in place before they went back to Marten's.

Both Anthony and Veronica were going the moment they were told about the mission to ChildIsle. Neither of them were usually very adventurous like Jasmine and Eddy, but they both liked discovering things, Anthony mostly in books of math, science, and especially history; that is, real history, not what they taught in the schools. Veronica did her discovery working with her chemicals in her own lab in the cellar of their home. That's why Jasmine referred to her as, "your geeky sister."

For the next few days, Eddy and Anthony work on determining what supplies they would need for eight days, Jasmine was busy riding her bike carrying messages to the others who were busy acquiring the food, and tools, and other things they thought would be needed. As they accumulated their supplies they were stored in a special bin in the barn at Lester's.

When they were nearing completion of their preparation, Jasmine called on Marten to set up a time for them all to meet at his home. After Jasmine told him about the addition members, Mr. Grandon suggested Jasmine should ask ToyLin and Mrs. Moore to also come.

"That's a lot of people, Marten," she said look around his cluttered living room.

"There'll be plenty of room, Darlin'," he said chuckling. "It'll be cosy!"

"You mean crowded," Jasmine said.

"I'm going to miss you, Jasmine," he said, and hugged her, something he hadn't done since she was a little girl.