I’m pretty stunned when the lift starts to move downwards. I’m nervous that moving to Level 3 may have alerted Kate and her team in the Control Room. I don’t want to get into any more trouble so, rather ridiculously, I press the button for Level 2 again, as if it’s going to conceal what I have just done.
I step out into Level 2 and just wait in the corridor. I assume that I’ll be joined at any moment by Kate and her security team. They must know what just happened. But nobody comes. I walk up and down the corridor and nip into the loos for something to do. A few minutes later I emerge. Nobody comes. They can’t have known what I just did.
I head back for the lift, feeling a little more daring now. I press the button for Level 3. Down it goes again. The doors open. The corridor is similar in size and layout to the ones on Levels 1 and 2, but it is coloured differently and is long and curved, rather than dead straight. There is a thick, red stripe going along each side of the wall. It looks more serious here, I think that the red line leads somewhere.
The doors close, and I decide to try Level 4. I press the button. Once again, I go down a level. The doors open, and this corridor looks different as well. The corridors are black this time, but they still have those thick red stripes running along them. Both corridors are completely silent, there are no bunker staff there. I’m beginning to wonder if the lady was telling the truth earlier. Or to be more precise, if she was telling me what she believed to be the truth. I’m not sure what to do. I feel like somebody who just got away with something they’re not supposed to do. I expect to hear alert sirens or something similar. But there are no sounds and nobody comes. Kate and her security team are nowhere to be seen.
Regardless of that, there can only be so long until they realize that I’m not showing up on any of the cameras on Levels 1 or 2. For a moment I feel completely stuck. I’m desperate to explore these two new levels, but I really don’t want to get any more negative attention from Kate. Every part of me wants to stay here, but I can’t risk getting into any more trouble. Dad, Mum, David and Harriet are relying on me. I’m the only one who can look out for them at the moment. So, I press the button for Level 2 and decide to stick to my original plan.
Rather annoyingly, the lift heads for Level 1. Somebody must have called the lift before I pressed the button. For a place that’s so hi-tech, you’d think that they’d be able to sort the lifts out. It turns out to be a lucky break though. The lift arrives at Level 1 and the doors open automatically. A man gets in, presumably the chap who called the lift in the first place. But it’s not him who catches my eye. It’s the man who’s walking intently along the corridor towards the exit who now has my complete attention. I haven’t seen him before and he looks just the same as everybody else down here.
Except for one thing that’s distinctive. There is one of those faint lights in his neck. It’s pulsating furiously, but you’d still have to be looking carefully to notice it. However, there’s something very interesting and different about this one. The faint light in this man’s neck is glowing blue.
She had not known Roachie prior to the mission taking place as he was much more experienced in Army life than she was. After completing her basic training, and what seemed to be a very large number of psychometric and aptitude tests, she was summoned to a meeting at a barracks that she’d never heard of before, let alone been to. She called it a barracks, but the soldiers that this place housed wore a uniform that she’d never seen previously, certainly not Army, Navy or Air Force – or even SAS come to that – but definitely military in nature.
You get used to doing what you’re told in the Army so she didn’t question it when she was asked to sign an E-Notice. She’d already signed the Official Secrets Act as a standard part of her military life, but she’d never had to sign an E-Notice before nor had she ever heard of one. Rather than reading the text thoroughly, she’d skimmed it, just to get a sense of what she was doing. But really, did she have much choice in the matter? She trusted the Army; they had her best interests and the interests of the country at heart, right?
There were sentences referring to ‘injections and implants’, all pretty standard practice in Army life, where you may get posted anywhere in the world and have to take your ‘shots’ to protect you from whatever nasties were out there. She’d never seen this before in any of the documents that she’d signed during her short military career. In outlining the types of threat that she might encounter – including via air, sea and land – this E-Notice made mention of ‘off world’ threats. She just assumed that this was one of those legalese ‘cover all’ statements. Like ‘Acts of God’ in the home insurance policy. It’s the sort of statement that the lawyers can use to wheedle their way out of anything. ‘Could apply to meteorites and bits of fallen space stations, I guess,’ she thought, and moved on, without further reading, to the signature area.
Besides, as a young nineteen-year-old hungry for adventure, why wouldn’t she be up for this mission? It was an opportunity to play at being James Bond, a bit of espionage. For some reason, she and this other guy had been selected entirely on the basis of their psychometric profiles. A random pairing of no significance, or so it had seemed at the time.
Of course, they had to be trained to a certain level of military competency, but it was their minds that were being sought for this particular job. It was a safe mission, they’d been assured of that from the start. A one percent casualty risk, apparently. Some boffin would have modelled it on a computer somewhere and come up with that figure. In military terms, that risk is fine. In fact, in a simple office risk assessment, that’s probably okay. No more than a knocked over hot coffee or a trip over a waste paper bin. Annoying, painful for a short while, but not in need of a hospital visit. With both of them in hospital only forty-eight hours later, one of them on life support, that particular boffin might have wanted to double-check that figure of one percent.
It had been interesting to hear the objections and concerns that people had when they were going to become a part of a very unique operation. It never failed to fascinate him; human beings are such complex, yet predictable, things. They just wanted to know that their families would be fine and that the outcome would be good. They had been chosen specifically on the basis of detailed psychometric testing. This testing process had been pioneered many years earlier, and had been proven to work time and time again in live simulations. In all respects these were just average people. Of course, they had certain basic parameters of health, fitness and intelligence. But these were not the defining qualities for selection.
Every person selected for service in the bunker had been specially screened to ensure that they would act in exactly the same way in a simulation process. There were key indicators in their personality profiles which ensured that with 99.9 percent accuracy, in moments of stress, they would behave the way that they needed to. And most importantly, they had a predisposition to accept the concept of ‘the greater good.’ Not everybody got that one. If you had to die to protect a person that you don’t know, to do something that would help other people, would you sacrifice your life? Many people say ‘no’ without hesitation. Others say ‘yes’ but simulations show that they won’t follow through. There is another profile group which would only do so with further qualification and much more information. But in the blink of an eye, faced with sudden and overwhelming information confirming that you must give your life for the good of others, would you do it?
It turned out that you can select a specific group who will say ‘yes’ without hesitation, because in an instant, they can see the logic of one death to save many lives. It takes a very unique mix of empathy, intelligence, bravery, logic, decision-making … he’d isolated over fifty-seven key factors in this process. But he needed to be sure – with 99.9 percent accuracy – that when these people who’d been gathered in the bunker learned the terrible truth that they would make the right decisions for the greater good. The future of all humanity.