Planet Earth Protectors, The River's End

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21 HIDEOUT PLAN

“What is this place?” Terah asked, inspecting the underground hallway beneath Marney’s kitchen up and down.

“My dad built this when we were kids. He used it as a cellar to store food and seeds,” Marney replied. “He also happened to include a tunnel that runs about a quarter kilometer north of the house. The hallway is right behind you, actually.”

Teplan and Terah spun around to have their eyes settle on the outlines of a long hallway dotted with boxes resting on the floor along one side.

“Wow, that’s awesome!” Teplan said.

“And a bit scary-looking if you ask me,” Terah added.

“As you can see, I’ve updated it quite a bit by putting in sensor lighting, state-of-the-art silent generators, and a computer station just up ahead there.”

“Yes, Marney has made this passage pretty high-tech,” Ian confirmed, having helped with much of the installations, including the security cameras out front of the house.

Terah eye-balled Teplan. What in the world is going on?

This morning they went to spend some time by the river, throw some skipping stones, and enjoy the outdoors. Now they were rushing down a small underground hallway below Marney’s property while being hunted by scary men in big black trucks.

“Let’s get to the computer station; I need to see what’s going on,” Marney suggested, leading them down the hallway as the sensors illuminated the way.

“So, what happened today? How’d you two end up in this mess?” Ian couldn’t resist asking any longer.

Teplan felt a sudden sense of relief at being able to tell their story. Glancing at Terah whose face showed a small gentle smile, Teplan relayed the events of the day.

“We went to the river earlier in the afternoon and found that part of the riverbank was like, leaking this gross sludge into the river. So, we walked in the direction of the sludge and away from the river. We ended up crossing a huge, disgusting-smelling field with a massive sprinkler that sprayed brown stuff all over the place. The spray looked like the same stuff that was leaking into the river. Then we came to a big metal barn. And then, a car came around the building and pulled up almost right in front of us. So, we thought we’d take a video. And we recorded two men swapping a briefcase full of money for a piece of paper. Then, we got out of there and ended up running into Marney on her farm.”

“And we have the video here,” Terah added.

“Can we see it?” Ian asked.

Teplan took his camera out of his backpack and Ian took his laptop out of his bag. He connected the two devices and the four of them watched the video.

“This is some footage!” Ian stammered, and then mumbled to himself, “No audio though…”

Teplan was not sure if he should be excited or scared. Terah knew with certainty which one she was.

“First of all, this here is a GOVERNMENT FIELD ANALYST!” he said, tapping the screen. “His job is to test the soil. It needs to meet certain agronomical standards. Basically, the soil needs to be unpolluted. If it’s clean, the Field Analyst gives the pig farms their monthly Clean Soil Certificate. Without the certificate, a pig farm is not legally eligible to operate. It’s like their license.”

All four of them stood in a semi-circle around the computer screen. Teplan glanced up and down the darkened hallway and was still unable to see the other end. The unlit portions at either end of them seemingly trapped them in the middle.

“This video is the first step in shutting down this pig farm though,” Ian declared. “We still need physical proof, too…” he mumbled to himself. “Hey, can I copy this and send it to some people who’ll know what to do with it?”

“Sure. So, these guys are breaking the law and we got it on tape?” Terah asked, noticing that the hallway absorbed sound easily and made the acoustics in the hallway very dull.

Marney jumped in before Ian could respond, “Yes, that’s right. If this video helps confirm that the pig factory bought a Clean Soil Certificate, they’ll be out of business for buying illegal soil certificates as well as having unfit soil. That’s why they’re so eager to catch you two; you have proof.”

Teplan’s and Terah faces crinkled.

Ian copied the video to his computer and emailed it to his work.

Terah and Teplan looked at Marney and remembered that she was also a pig farmer and almost as if they had asked the question, Marney spoke up, “Yes, I’m a pig farmer, but my farm does not pollute. I care for my pigs. I earn my CSC every month. What they’re doing is wrong.”

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