The Chair - Part 3

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Miranda led Damien over towards the fields behind the far side of "town." They walked into an extra wide row between the crops, some distance into the field before a large metal hatch appeared in a gap in the crops. Right now, the hatch sat wide open. AJ thought that, when closed, it would almost disappear from sight- except by air. And not many people were flying anymore. It was the perfect camouflage.

As he descended the stairs into the bunker complex, rows and rows of pictures lined the stairwell as the traveled.

"Who are all these people?" AJ asked.

"Heroes," Miranda answered, "our heroes. The ones we've lost."

"Oh," AJ responded, "I'm sorry."

"Don't be," Miranda continued, "we venerate them. We mourn, of course, but in the end, they died to help save us all."

Miranda led him several levels deep in the bunker. It seemed to be alive with movement. Even the walls seemed to move and breathe.

People were walking in every direction. Everyone clearly had a goal or destination. They moved together, in one direction, or turned left and right through traffic. Like a flock of birds or school of fish, AJ was mesmerized as he tried to keep up with Miranda.

At the end of the hall, there was a different door. This one was big and thick. AJ could tell that even from the outside. Miranda had to swipe a card, enter a code, and scan her fingerprint to get the door to move. AJ was sure he had arrived.

"We'll get you in the system soon enough," Miranda said, "but we work in partner shifts anyway so until then, just don't be late or you'll get locked out."

"Sure," AJ said, only half listening and trying to take it all in.

Inside the doorway was a decontamination room. There were lockers and bio-hazard suits. Miranda walked up to a particular locker and opened it. She started to change immediately. AJ was just standing inside the closed doorway.

"Oh," Miranda laughed, "sorry. I just go on autopilot. You've worked bio-hazard level 4 before right?"

"Yea," AJ stumbled.

"Right," Miranda continued, "So grab a locker without a name tag, get changed, we'll do a check, and then dive in."

AJ did as he was told. After twenty minutes of preparation, they were looking each other over for issues. Satisfied, Miranda walked over to the inner chamber.

She opened the outer door and AJ followed her in through the protocols. Only one door opened at a time. Close and lock, then proceed. They reached the final door.

"Welcome," she said, "to the Vault."

She coded into the door and as the door swung open, AJ's mouth hung open. He couldn't move, say anything, he even caught his breath.

Inside, AJ saw one of the most advanced facilities he had ever seen. He took a visual inventory and realized that he did not even recognize some of the machines.

"Crazy huh?" Miranda asked, interrupting his thoughts.

"Yea," AJ managed.

"Don't worry," Miranda said, "we all have that reaction at first."

AJ wandered over to several whiteboards against a wall. He examined the notations and notes. After a while, he tapped on a particular numbered specimen.

"Where is this specimen?" AJ asked.

"Diving in already?" Miranda chuckled.

"I miss the lab," AJ said, "I miss feeling like I was making a difference. You're going to have to drag me out of here.

Almost 12 hours later, AJ was dragging himself down a hallway following signs marked "Mess

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Almost 12 hours later, AJ was dragging himself down a hallway following signs marked "Mess." He was exhausted.

He gathered some food and scanned the seating for a place to rest. He saw Damien's big mug smiling from across the room. He headed directly over to him.

"You look exhausted," Damien said.

"I am, man," AJ answered, "but it's that good kind of tired."

"I hear you," Damien said, stretching his arms, "a good day's work can feel great."

"And a day without running," AJ added.

"Yea," Damien smiled.

"But," AJ dropped his voice, "this place is the real deal. They're working on a cure."

"Seriously?" Damien asked, "what did you see?"

"They're close," AJ said, "they don't even realize how close they are."

"That's amazing!" Damien exclaimed a little too loudly. He drew attention from the neighboring tables.

"Sorry," he said to no one in particular.

"Six weeks," AJ said, "tops."

"Well I guess we got here just in time," Damien answered.

"So we're staying," AJ asked him.

"Where else do we have to go, man?" Damien answered, "This place seems as good as any and better than most. And we can make a real difference here."

"I agree," AJ smiled, "100%."

"Great," Damien smiled as well.

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