The other four and I had spent two weeks at a pre-clearance facility; despite the fact that they'd run extensive background checks on every candidate at each stage of the process we'd still needed to go through rigorous training and instruction regarding how to behave, what we were and weren't allowed to do, and how to interact with the Infected when we did finally get to interview them.
I was shaken out of my reverie as the SUV finally came to a stop and I refocused from the middle distance back onto what was actually going on outside the window; we'd reached the final checkpoint and our driver was talking to an armed guard while two others inspected our vehicle. After a few minutes we were given the all clear and the gates opened; we drove through slowly and the others leaned over to look outside as well.
It was big. Really big. I could see a dozen separate buildings from where we were idling and I knew that others stretched back for miles. Armed military personnel were everywhere; it seemed like there were three or more for every scientist and doctor and technician on site.
We were driven slowly through the central campus until we finally rolled to a stop outside a long, low building that had less security but still looked intimidatingly defended.
Unsure of how to proceed, the other students and I remained where we were, not even daring to remove our seatbelts until the driver got out and opened the door on the far side of the SUV. Haltingly, we slid outside as well.
It was early June and the sun was shining but I still couldn't repress the shiver than ran up my spine as goose pimples erupted along my arms; there was something incredibly creepy and uncomfortable about the whole situation. Not for the first time, I regretted even submitting myself for this thing.
The door of the building we'd parked in front of opened and a severe-looking woman in her late forties and wearing military khakis emerged, striding towards us purposefully. She introduced herself as Major Tremblay and led us inside; we went through the motions of having our biometrics measured and logged; irises, fingerprints, facial recognition. Our bags were taken, searched, and returned, and eventually the Major led us past the security station and further into the building, down hallways and up stairs until eventually we reached the dormitories. The rooms were simple: single bed, desk, wardrobe, each walled off from the others around a central communal area.
She left us with instructions not to wander without supervision; that somebody would be along in an hour to escort us to dinner; that work would start the following morning.
Once she'd closed the dormitory door behind her we all sort of stood around in the communal area with our bags awkwardly, glancing at one another and not really saying anything. Eventually, Renee shrugged, leaned down to pick up her duffel, and disappeared into her room, closing the door behind her. Wordlessly, we followed suit.
I woke up early the following morning; my room didn't have a window but a cursory glance at my watch told me it was just after sunrise, and I swung my legs over the side of my bunk, rubbing my eyes tiredly. I hadn't gotten much sleep. I was nervous and anxious and felt a tight ball of something in the pit of my stomach. I'm not sure how I was supposed to feel, having achieved this, having gotten to come here and be a part of this. Many of my classmates had been incredibly jealous; my professors had been excited; my mom had been... Well, I couldn't think about that now. I just felt kind of... Sick.
I splashed some water on my face at the sink beside my bed and glanced in the mirror; my dark hair was messy, my eyes looked sunken and tired. I looked dead. I looked like them.
Not long after I'd gotten dressed, the door to the communal area outside opened and somebody started knocking on the bedroom doors; I opened mine and emerged to see the others doing likewise as three lower-ranking soldiers in khakis stood to attention in the centre of the room. They called out our names and one of them took Renee and Felix; Chris and Kristen went with another; I followed the third. He led me back through the building the way we'd come the previous day, past the security station inside the main door, and bundled me into a Jeep, silently driving me through the campus towards the Biotech buildings.