by Peter C. Conrad
Paul wasn’t sure what was going on as he looked over and saw Jenny in a white toga with a drawstring around her waist and sandals. He looked down and noticed that he was wearing the same kind of clothes.
“Release!” he heard a whooshing sound and then a thud as the long arm of a catapult launched a huge rock. He watched with Jenny as it flew over the high walls. There was a moment of silence as he breathed in the salty air of the sea that lay just on the other side of the walls. Several other catapults released their stones and they whooshed over the walls as well.
“It hit!” they heard a man call down from the top of the wall.
“One quarter measure to the right,” said an old man with a long beard and white toga to the men operating the catapult.
They moved the machine as a younger man standing beside him yelled out. “One quarter measure to the right!”
The groups of man operating the other catapults did as they were told and quickly started to reload their machines.
“He must be Archimedes,” said Paul as he pointed at the tall thin old man with the white hair and beard who was telling the others what to do. Jenny and Paul rushed toward him yelling.
“Archimedes! Sir …” said Paul.
“Children? What are children doing here?”
“Sir we need to talk,” continued Paul.
“Take them away!” he said and turned his back.
“Children,” said a man standing nearby. The two turned, unsure and looked at him.
“This is no place for children,” he said as he stepped close to them. Jenny jumped back in fear when she saw the soldier dressed in a uniform. “Or should I say, collectors?” he continued more quietly. Paul took another look at the calm sure face of the man.
“We have to …” said Paul quickly.
“Take these children away!” said Archimedes.
Two men that had been bringing stones to the catapults turned and looked at them. Jenny’s eyes bulged as Paul looked at her. The two men were moving quickly toward them. Paul’s heart was pounding faster than he thought possible. He looked around and nodded his head toward the buildings. Jenny turned and started to run ahead of Paul. In a moment they ducked behind the wagon and looked at where the men had been.
Paul looked at the field book and wondered if it was too soon to open it to the green ribbon. Maybe, he thought, I should look at what was written on the page marked by the yellow ribbon. No, that was where he was supposed to look if they were lost. The two men were only a few steps away from them now. Paul shook Jenny’s shoulder and she looked scared.
“Run for the buildings!” he called. Jenny jumped up from behind the wagon and ran to the side of the building faster than Paul was expecting. He jumped up and ran after her. They stopped and looked back to see the two men laugh and shack their heads. They turned and walked back to the catapults.
“I can see why they want us kids to be collectors,” said Jenny.
“What?” asked Paul.
“If we were adults they would still be coming after us,” said Jenny with a smile of relief.
“I guess so,” said Paul.
“Here you are,” said the young soldier they just met. Jenny jumped away as if she was ready to run off again. Paul grabbed her arm and then he stared at the approaching stranger. He heart was pounding faster than before.