A Lucky Hunch
I’m amazed that Kate and the two security guys just let me go after that. I suppose that they’ll know exactly where I’m going and what I’m up to from the surveillance cameras that are positioned wherever I go in this place. I assume that virtually every room I go into must be monitored too.
This place seems to run on biometrics and although I’m not entirely sure what that means, I suspect that everything I do here is directly tracked back to me. Which means that I can’t really get away with anything. The best bet, as far as I can tell at present, is to carry on exploring and get a feel for this place. Really, we’re all waiting for that mission announcement which must still be a few hours away. Plenty of time to have a good snoop around.
First though, I decide to head directly for the bathroom and shower areas because I want to get a look at my neck. I’m not really sure what happened to me in the MedLab earlier, I assume I was just checked over to make sure everything was fine.
That reminds me of another unusual thing that happened earlier. How come the darkness didn’t have any impact on me? I was in the entrance area at the same time as Dad, David and Harriet, and the bunker staff from the cottage area were also coming below ground at that time. So why are they in the glass pods and I’m not? I’m feeling totally fine now. I’m almost embarrassed to admit that after the temporary discomfort of being all alone in that corridor for so many hours, and having stuffed myself with food, I’m back to 100 percent Dan. If they have put one of those weird, glowing things into my neck, I certainly can’t detect it. Neither does it seem to be making any impact on me. I can’t feel it pulsating or vibrating in any way, so I assume I don’t have one. I enter the bathroom area and head straight for a mirror.
The light is unusual below ground, you can’t quite catch the full light that you would if the area had a window. I inspect my neck closely, on both sides, but I can see and feel nothing. I’m reasonably sure I’m clear. I see a mirror that is lit better, so I go over to it and check again. Everything is fine. Whatever Kate and the security guys have going on, I seem to be well clear of it. I reckon it’s probably just something bunker related. A communication device or something like that. But I resolve to check out everybody that I encounter from now on to see if they also have one of these devices fitted.
Satisfied that all is as it should be, I leave the bathroom area and start to walk along the corridor once again. It’s very quiet here, the main hub at present must be in the Control Room, which I’m guessing has changed quite a lot since I last saw it. I’d expect that to be a Red Zone area and although, in theory, I’m allowed in there, I decide that the best strategy is to explore as many Green Zone areas as I can and just to take a mental note of anything unusual that is Red Zone.
There are two levels to the bunker; we explored them both thoroughly when I was here with the family. That was only a day ago, but so much has happened since then. I haven’t really had time to think about what’s going on outside. It’s easy to forget down here, with no windows or view of the world beyond these thick walls. It’s a strange sensation; it really does feel that outside doesn’t exist anymore.
I’d really like to know what’s being done about Mum. I was so distracted by trying to take care of my own interests in my last exchange with Kate that I didn’t push that point.
It’s good to know that she’s okay, but I picture her locked outside the blast doors and hope that she’s really alright. She’ll probably end up in one of those pods before I get to see her, but at least if she winds up like Dad, David and Harriet, I’ll know that she’s safe. And who was that who was with her? I only caught a glimpse. Whoever it was, they were my sort of age and my sort of height. I’m doubting my judgement now. It can’t have been Nat – that would be ridiculous. They certainly had the same look and hair colouring though.
So many questions, so few answers. There’s nothing I can do to progress things right now, so I decide to head for Level 2. When we toured the bunker earlier, we bypassed the lift. It had looked pretty basic at that time but now, like everything else in this transformed bunker, it’s definitely something that I want to try.
As I approach the lift, a member of the bunker staff gets in ahead of me.
‘Just hold the doors please!’ I shout, catching the lift before the doors close. I expect to see only two floor options in the lift, but there are four. Well, I say four, but there are also two unusually labelled buttons above the marker for Level 1. ‘It must go up to the cottage,’ I think to myself, ‘but why two buttons?’
‘Where do the other floors lead to?’ I ask my companion in the lift.
‘They’re redundant,’ she replies. ‘There are only the two levels in this place, the rest are there in case they extend the bunker in future.’
She can see that I’m curious, so she presses buttons 3 and 4. Nothing happens. No lights, no noises, nothing at all.
‘How about those two?’ I ask, pointing at the unusual symbols above the button marked ‘1’. ‘Nothing again,’ she replies.
She presses both of them. Individually and then together. She must have kids in her life beyond the bunker; she’s very patient. They must be young kids because she’s very ‘show and tell’.
‘See,’ she says. Again nothing. She presses the button for Level 2 and we begin our descent. I had been thinking that maybe it was just a simple case of a broken lift. But no, those buttons are not for use.
The lift arrives on Level 2, the doors open and the lady steps out, giving me a smile as she does so. I notice a faint, red pulsating light in her neck. It is very faint this time, I’d never have noticed it if I hadn’t known to look carefully. ‘Must just be something to do with all the people here,’ I think to myself, resolving to ask Kate next time I see her.
I’m about to step out of the lift to begin my exploration of Level 2 when an attack of inquisitiveness makes me step back inside. I’ve never been one of those people who just accepts things at face value. Ask Mum; she’ll tell you.
For instance, when she told me at age five not to touch the kettle because she’d just boiled it, what do you think I did? I opened the lid and touched the water with my finger of course! And when Mum asked me not to touch the kitchen blender when I was thirteen because the lid wasn’t on, what do you think I did? Well I pressed the button of course! And created a massive mess of blended strawberries and bananas. So, after the kind lady tells me that the extra lift buttons don’t work and even goes so far as to demonstrate – what do you think I do? I need to prove it to myself of course. Why would anybody add extra buttons if they weren’t needed?
Everything has been designed very carefully in this place, I can’t imagine anybody leaving a few spares around in case they’d forgotten anything. So, I decide to put it to the test. I press the weird symbols first. The first button, then the second button, then both of them together.
My heart gives a small jump. There is a glimmer of something when I touch the buttons together: a momentary jolt, but it stalls. One of the buttons is illuminated. I try again. Same again, a small jolt, but no movement. You have to press both buttons at once to get that though. One of the buttons remains illuminated.
‘Okay, move on, Dan,’ I think to myself. I press the third button.
When the woman had done it earlier, there was nothing. No sound, light or movement. But when I press the third button there is an instant response and the lift starts to move down to the next level.
When the lady and the youngster re-entered the cottage, he’d immediately spotted the mother. He could guess what was happening outside, he’d prepared for it of course, but he didn’t think that it was going to play out like this. In this place. And with these people involved. How did they link up with this? He didn’t know yet, but he’d keep close because it was unlikely to end well. And after losing her child in that way, didn’t she deserve to have someone like him looking out for her? Where did the kid come from? That might cause a problem later, but first things first.
The sirens were sounding; the first release must have begun. She was making her way to the bunker, the same as everybody else. That’s where he needed to be too. He followed at a distance, an expert at not being seen, but was quick to realize that they were not going to make it to the bunker doors in time.
He knew that when the first release was completed they would not be able to see a thing. So, she was doing the best thing, the most sensible strategy was to wait by those doors. She was making good decisions under stress. Sooner or later they’d be spotted and he’d be able to get in. He’d just pretend to be bunker staff, nobody would know. He could patch in clearance levels when he got inside; should be simple enough.
So, as the woman and the child sat closely together on the left-hand side of the bunker doors, they were unaware that only a few feet away from them, standing in total silence and completely unknown to them, was the man who would be forced to shoot one of them in the next thirty-six hours.
Beyond The Blast Doors
There were two people beyond the blast doors. That’s what the monitor indicated. It identified them both as human. It would not make any sense to open the doors to the bunker cat in a situation like this, so it was important to know who – or what – was out there.
One female – age thirty-seven and one male – age forty-eight. The female was sitting with an arm positioned as if she had it wrapped around somebody. Unusual. It must have been hard to hold it out like that, but there appeared to be nobody else there.
The woman and the man could not be connected. He was standing at a distance from her. They didn’t appear to be talking or linked in any way. He was keeping his distance. Having disabled the surveillance in this area, he would be able to open the doors to let the two people in.
Although he wouldn’t question where the information came from, he knew that the woman had to be retrieved safely and concealed in the bunker. She was crucial to what was about to happen.
The man was useful too, he would serve as a cover for James. They would want to know why he didn’t follow protocol. James would hand over the man and make him available for BioFiltration. He’d just be a member of the cottage staff who came here when the sirens went off.
Lucky – or unlucky – depending how you looked at it. That would act as a cover for the woman. He’d be able to get her safely in the lift before he distracted everybody in the Control Room with the man’s arrival.
She’d be going to a place where they wouldn’t find her. Somewhere that he didn’t even know existed in the bunker at that time. He’d be guided there via the blue device in his neck.
This woman would soon be able to play out her part in this, under cover and out of sight.