I’ve just noticed a weird thing about this bunker. There are no plug sockets. I know that’s an unusual thing to be noticing right now, but really? Surely somebody has to vacuum this corridor. So where are the plugs? I don’t have a charging lead with me anyway, but I would really like to see the end of that video message from Dad.
Something strange is happening as well. And I don’t just mean this entire darkness, bunker and ‘family put to sleep’ thing. I mean it’s happening to me. Ever since I left that guy, James, at the door, I’ve been feeling different. It’s the opposite of what happened after Nat died. As if the Bluetooth on my phone has just discovered another device. I haven’t felt like this since, well, Nat died. I’ve got so used to living without that sensation of connection over the years, that it feels really unusual to be getting this now. But it feels great, it makes me feel, for want of a better word, complete. This is how I’m supposed to feel all of the time. It must be this place, maybe something to do with the treatment they gave me in the MedLab.
Whatever it is, I’m feeling sharper, more awake and alert than I have since I can remember. I need to take some action – and fast. It must be approaching 20.00 hours, I’d like to make as much progress as I can before that full mission briefing. I have a feeling that things will change around here when that happens. I suspect at the very least there will be much more purpose to what’s going on in this bunker.
Although the descent of the darkness has been frightening enough, I’ve a nasty feeling that it’s just the beginning of something much bigger. I’m also very concerned that I’m living on borrowed time at the moment. I still don’t understand why I have access to this bunker; it has to be a mistake or an error. Let’s face it, where tech is involved, it wouldn’t be the first time!
Yet what was it that Dad had said in the video? Dan, there’s something special about you that makes you really important in all this. And why was Doctor Pierce there with him? So many questions, no chance of any answers yet. The next best thing is to do what Dad had said – go to Level 3 – then to catch up with Mum’s pal James to see what he can tell me. He should be clear of the MedLab by this stage, and I need to speak with him alone. I need to know if he managed to make contact with Mum. Whatever happened, she wasn’t in the entrance area when I returned, so maybe it didn’t work out.
I head off down the corridor to make for the lift. There are a few people going in and out of it when I finally arrive, so I wait for it to clear, then make my own way in. I don’t want anybody to see me pressing the button for Level 3. That’s my little secret for now. The lift descends and the doors open. I’m greeted for the second time by the thick red stripe running along each side of the wall. There is nobody to be seen in this area, no sign of activity. The best course of action seems to be to follow that red line along the curved corridor, to see where it takes me. The layout of this level is completely different to the areas above me.
The upper two levels, although they have been transformed, maintain the essential structure and layout of the original Cold War bunker. So the rooms are the same size and same position, but they’ve had the most amazing makeover in the world. This level looks as if it has been built and designed separately. Maybe it was added after the initial bunker was built. Perhaps it has been here all the time. It is much bigger than the two upper levels. What is immediately clear to me is that this area is deserted. If there is anybody down here, I can’t hear them, that’s for sure. The other big difference on this level is that there are no Green or Red Zone areas. We appear to have moved through the colour palette once again. The areas here are Blue Zone and Purple Zone.
I come to the first of the doorways off this long corridor and place my hand on the entry panel. So far this has worked for me in Green and Red Zones – I’m nervous, but I need to try my luck here too. The door slides open. Incredible. And there are no alarms. Why can I do this? I’m stunned by what I see. This is an underground barracks of some sort. It’s meant to house a lot of people, and it’s divided into self-contained areas of twelve beds. It’s sleeping quarters, bathrooms and showers for a lot of people, maybe a thousand at a rough guess. Twelve beds, four bathrooms, two large shower areas per dozen people. This is no Paradise Hotel. I’d guess this is military if all these people are housed together like this. It’s battery farming for humans. There’s a sense of waiting in this room – of expectation.
Whatever its intended use, it is not needed right now. I exit this huge area and re-enter the corridor. I make my way to the door opposite. Once again, it opens for me, even though this is marked as a Purple Zone. The door opens. I seem to have complete access to this place. Except for those strangely marked buttons in the lift: they give me a jolt of activity, but they don’t actually take me anywhere; they won’t activate for me.
If I was surprised by that last room, I’m shocked by this one. It is full of what is quite obviously weaponry. The like of which I’ve never seen before. This is really hi-tech kit, recognizable for what it is, but not like anything I’ve ever seen on TV – except in sci-fi films perhaps. And the military uniforms are light and metallic, they look more suitable for use in space than on a battlefield. Once again, there is no sign of activity or usage here. Just a sense that this equipment is being stored. Ready at a moment’s notice to be deployed. For something that might happen in the future.
That seems to be all there is on this level: just two very large areas, military in nature I’d say, but presently unused. I’m about to make my way back to the lift, when I notice that there is a final door, right at the end of the long corridor. I half expect it to be a broom cupboard, it’s tucked so far out of the way. It’s another Purple Zone area. I place my hand on the access pad. The door slides open.
I walk into a massive operations centre, packed with screens, terminals, displays and workstations. It is far more portentous that the one on the floor above me, whatever goes on here, it’s the full works. It is powered up, and on the massive screen that is the focus of this room is a computer-generated 3D image of the Earth. At a rough guess I’d say that this is monitoring the spread of the darkness across the planet surface. We appear to be at 96 percent coverage according to the stats on the screen. It’s pretty easy to assess what’s going on here.
Each of the workstations has a nameplate on it: Jones, Swift, Lucas, Taylor and so on. But it’s the raised workstation at the front on this room that particularly catches my attention. This work area has its own zone colour. This time it’s Black Zone. There is an access pad on the desk, so I place my hand on it. I think that the workstation is about to leap into life, then it stalls. A bright red laser-like light is released from the pad and it appears to scan my eyes. I blink in surprise at first, then it resets and tries again. This time I keep still and the scan is complete.
The entire workstation is powered up in an instant. Once again I seem to have gained access to a new zone area without any trouble. If this is a technical error, somebody in IT is in for a big dressing down. It’s not the tech that draws my attention, even though it is quite astounding stuff. It’s the nameplate on this particular workstation that I notice. This must be where the ‘boss’ sits. It’s raised up and has a lot more technical apparatus than any of the other workstations. But it is that name which warrants most attention here. It reads ‘Dr Harold Pierce’.
James was escorted to the MedLab by the security team and scanned for injuries. The doctor noted the metal plates in his head with great medical interest. ‘How did you get those?’ she asked, mostly in conversation, because she could see exactly where they’d come from on the medical records, which were currently displaying on her screen.
‘It’s a long story!’ laughed James, and he let her get on with her tests.
‘No concussion at least,’ the doctor announced. ‘I suggest that you rest here until the mission briefing at 20.00 hours and if you’re feeling okay by then, you’re clear to return to your workstation.’
‘No problem,’ said James. It was the perfect solution. With clearance to be away from his station, that should give him time to catch up with Amy and find out what was going on. After all these years, why should they have been brought together once again – and in this place? There was no way this could be a coincidence and he needed to find out why, as soon as possible. Especially as they’d both seen equipment like this before. It was very similar to the room where they’d shot each other all those years ago.
Although he’d never actually been inside this place, he knew the drill already. With the alarms now sounding throughout the bunker, he’d be able to slip in unnoticed during the confusion that followed.
This bunker was standard procedure for The Consortium, with its Green, Red, Blue, Purple and Black Zones. Green Zone was available to everybody who had biometrics clearance for Consortium buildings. That included him, fortunately, which meant that ducking into one of the first rooms that he encountered resulted in his grabbing a uniform and name badge. Red Zone was management level, he should be able to access those areas too. Nothing too secure at Red Zone level, just MedLab facilities, Control Room areas, Stasis Rooms and some limited weaponry where it was required. Blue was military operations only. He’d had Blue Zone access previously, but it tended to be mission dependent, the sort of access given to serving troops on a particular assignment. Purple Zone was well out of his clearance level – at that stage you were dealing with some serious issues.
If there were Troopers involved, something really nasty was going on. And then there was Black Zone access. He’d never even got a sniff of that, it was security clearance at the very highest rank. Even Global leaders within The Consortium didn’t get that. Black Zone access was in the hands of a very small group of designated people in whose charge rested massive power and responsibility. It was probably in those Black Zone areas that the answer to this mystery lay.
He quickly changed into a uniform so that he blended in. He had sufficient access to this place to be able to make his way around without any trouble, but he was going to need to find a way to get into other zone areas. If he could get to the child, it was his guess that that problems would be solved. Instant access to all areas. As he opened the door, he quickly ducked back into the room again to avoid the security team who were escorting the man he’d just seen at the bunker entrance. He’d caught his name badge as they passed: ‘James’. Judging from the colour of that man’s uniform, he was Control Room staff which meant that there would probably be an unmanned terminal available in that area.
If he could access the internal mainframe, he’d be able to get an idea of where the heart of this place was. Once he’d located and accessed the Black Zone, the chances were that the answers he was seeking would be found there.
If anybody had actually been able to monitor the cameras in the long entrance corridor, the bunker would have looked like the most insecure facility that you could possibly imagine. But if nobody is expecting anything to happen, then nobody is looking for it. This was a routine operation, there were no security issues anticipated. It was James who’d marked the perimeters clear, James who’d disabled the cameras, and James who’d opened the bunker door. Nobody else was any the wiser. So Amy and her young companion, following only minutes behind the armed man who’d just sneaked by them at the bunker entrance, managed to exit from the long corridor just in time to avoid Kate and the security team.
It had been a real ‘skin of the teeth’ moment, though. As they’d reached the end of the corridor, they’d tried to duck into the first door that they came across. Amy had pushed it, tried sliding it and then realized that entry must be given via the pad to the side of the door. At first she pressed it, then she pushed it, then she thumped it. The door didn’t open. The sound of footsteps could be heard approaching along the corridor. Her young companion touched the pad and the door slid open.
They got in just in time to avoid a determined-looking Kate and her security team. Amy was desperate to talk to her new companion, but knew that they’d need a plan first. They had to try and blend in, in some way, but everybody else here was dressed in a uniform. They were in civilian clothing; that didn’t seem to be a good bet for going unnoticed in this place.
The room they’d entered was a dormitory, so it was lined with beds, small wardrobes and bedside storage tables. Pretty sparse really. It was a good bet that there would be some clothing in here, so she started to search frantically, looking for one of the grey uniforms that James had been wearing. Frustrated, she found an orange uniform first, but that’s what the security staff wore. That was perhaps not the best thing for to her to wear right now. More searching and finally success. She found a grey uniform and the sizing was good. She got changed as quickly as she could and turned to the child to see if they’d be lucky enough to find a second uniform. But her young companion had gone.