No noise seemed to come from Tobi’s mouth as he froze with a look of horror on his face. Time seemed to slow as I turned, bracing myself for the fatal bite of a zombie. However, as I faced the other direction, I felt myself bubbling with nervous laughter, almost giggling hysterically. In the corner, still slightly in shadow, were three mannequins. I guess, from Tobi’s perspective, they would appear to look like zombies.
“Why are you laughing t-they’re going to eat us,” he cried out loudly.
“Look, little bear,” I shone the torchlight into the shadows, which illuminated the mannequins. I turned back to my friend to find him flushed and looking embarrassed.
“Oops,” He muttered weakly.
“I am so going to tell your sister,” I laughed at him. He looked at me; his eyes glinted with mischief then gave me a sinister grin.
“You do, and I’ll tell her about the time you pissed your pants in the cinema,” I stared at him, my jaw-dropping.
“Try me,” He returned seriously though I knew better to push my luck.
“Come on kiddo, let’s get back upstairs,”
“I’m almost twelve, I’m not a kid,” he snapped back, pouting. He’s a conniving little so and so, one moment he’s angelic, then the next he’s the devil. The boy was usually fairly good around me, but sometimes that devil emerges.
“I’m sorry; I tend to do that with Matty,”
“It’s a bit patronising, we’ve been friends for so long yet you’ve never treated me like a kid brother,” he returned.
“Using the big boy words now,” I teased him and got one of his little bear growls.
“You’re so annoying,” he growled.
“Yep, and that’s why you love me,” I returned, fluttering my eyelashes at him.
“Whatever, idiot,” he smiled and lazily punched me as I led us back out into the corridor. I closed the door behind us looking down the hall. In the harsh lights, I noticed the floor was dark grey-blue tiles with faux artworks to brighten the underground base. We laughed at each other as we reached the door, but the door refused to open when I grabbed the handle.
“What did you do now?” he asked.
“I didn’t do anything,” I replied, noticing the key card entrance at the side of the door. A lightbulb went off in my head, so I pulled the card from underneath my shirt and swiped it. The lights cycled through red, yellow, then green. The door clicked open; I held the door for him, but he saluted me teasingly. I pushed him onto the stairs.
“So… got a girlfriend yet, Sparky?” I taunted him. He stopped a couple of steps up and turned back to me, looking annoyed.
“Do not call me Sparky,”
“No problem, little bear,” I returned, smiling sweetly. Tobi huffed and started back up the stairs, so I ended up following his skinny-jeaned butt, “Why are you wearing girl’s clothes?”
“I’m not,” he huffed.
“Aren’t skinny jeans girl’s clothes?” I asked a little surprised.
“No, all the guys are wearing them, though you have to have the correct figure for them,” he returned, sounding more mature than his years. He was undoubtedly pulling off the jeans as they seemed to hug his hips.
“Erm, OK,” was my only reply.
“Have you done any more airsoft lately?”
“Actually no, the last team event was in August,” I returned, “How’s the scout’s going?”
“Great, we went proper camping last month, not like the camp at the Junior Ambassador program,” he answered as we stepped back onto the second floor, “How old do you have to be to join the Airsoft team?”
“Thirteen, we’ve been through this. You know I’d love to have you come with me,” I said softly.
“I know,” he sighed wistfully, “I’m not even old enough to join the Explorer scouts, I can’t wait to be a teen,”
“Don’t be in a hurry to grow up; you’re great as you are now,” I stopped him just outside of the admin room, where I could hear talking.
“Thanks,” he touched the back of my hand. I thought, for a moment, he was going to take my hand. Instead, he turned and walked through the door. I followed to find the admin room, now brightly lit. It held a dozen cubicles and the usual administrative tech. Matty was standing close to Mac while Larry was in conversation with Tom. Both of them kept sneaking glances at Mac now and then. I noticed all the bags had been bought in and dumped in a circle.
“God said, Let there be light, and there was light,” I joked as we moved further inside the room. Tobi’s laugh floated back to me as I looked around with a grin.
“Walker, what the hell is going on? Why am I stuck with a bunch of babies and a couple of faggots,” Larry demanded, face red with anger.
“Watch your language, before I sew you mouth shut,” Mac, her own eyes blazing, rounded on the two boys before they had time to answer. Larry’s face was a picture; his mouth hung open with shock, his eyes seemed to bulge out of their sockets, “Now, what the hell is your problem?”
“I, erm… I…,” he spluttered.
“Good, that’s what I thought,” Mac returned with a tone of finality. Tom snickered and earned himself a sharp tap in the ribs by Larry. Mac, meanwhile, turned back towards me, finding her brothers close by my side, “Do you know where we are?”
“If I could hazard a guess, I would say we are in a Command Bunker, by the looks of it. In emergencies, including War and Diseases, heads of state and significant people would come here,”
“Someone missed the memo,” Tom muttered and earned a glare from Mac.
“I would say the place looks like it’s been decommissioned,” I continued, ignoring Tom, as I looked around at the fairly new computers in the cubicles.
“Decommissioned?” Nate asked.
“It means they have closed down the base,” Matty rolled his eyes in answer and pointed to me, “Not only is he a geek, but he’s a conspiracy nut,”
“Have you all done history?” I asked the teens, completely ignoring my brother. I got varying degrees of answers, but most seemed to be positive, “So you’ve read about the conflicts in Syria and the posturing from the U.S.A., Russia and North Korea?”
“It’s not like I listened in History class,” Mac answered some of the other teens agreeing with her.
“I know North Korea was testing missiles, and then Russia and America were calling each other names not long after someone was poisoned in England. Didn’t everyone think there was going to be a new Cold War?” Nate answered.
“Exactly, erm, Nate, I remember you from the Junior Ambassador Program,”
“Erm, yea, so my name is Nate Williams. I’m thirteen,” he replied, introducing himself like we were in a new school.
“I think everyone is from the Junior Ambassador Camp recently, if you don’t know me, then my name is Alex, and I’m fifteen,” I introduced myself to them and added, “This is my little bother, sorry I meant brother, Matty,”
“I’m old enough to tell them my name,” he snapped at me, sticking his tongue out to Mac’s amusement and making her laugh out loud.
“Well, I’m Mac, and I’m fifteen,” she interrupted us before it turned into a fully-fledged fight. She was wearing her usual attire of a miniskirt and lettermen jacket she had taken from some American. I had noticed both Larry and Tom perving on her chest a few times.
“I’m Tobi, I’m twelve,” my other best friend introduced himself.
“You’re not twelve yet, Sparky,” Mac quickly reminded him. I loved how these two fought like cat and dog, but they would usually do anything for each other.
“It’s only three weeks to go,” he responded, his cheeks were flushed with embarrassment, so I tried not to laugh at his discomfort, “You promised you would not call me that,”
“That still makes you eleven and when did I ever make that promise?” she returned, sticking her tongue out, before realising where she was. It was my turn to laugh out loud, knowing that these two mirrored Matty and me.
“So, erm, Kelly, you’re next?” I looked at the tall Indian girl, the one I had seen teaching last week. She was about the same height as me and was wearing colourful clothes, usually found in somewhere like India.
“I’m Kelly Parker. I’m fourteen,” she gave me a big smile, and then I remember she seemed rather pleased to see me last week.
“Why are we acting like we’re in school when we’ve been stuck down a damned hole?” Larry demanded again, butting into the introductions.
“Because for the next six months, we are going to be getting very familiar with each other,” I returned with a wolfish grin. I had no idea where I was getting the courage from. The six-foot English lad had a farmers build. I knew he helped a lot on his dad’s farm, which meant he was broad-shouldered and was very muscular.
“Six months?” he stared at me as I heard whispering coming from the side, I noticed Tom was muttering quietly to the wild-haired girl who had been fighting with Izzy. I’m sure her name was Amy or Amanda or something like that.
“For whatever reason, our folks decided to dump the twenty of us down here,” I shrugged, “So we’re all going to have to get along,”
“So… we are stuck down here,” Mac reiterated, watching me carefully.
“If what my dad said was correct, then this bunker has an external lock, which has been set for six months,” I told them, “So whatever is happening or going to happen, is at least expected to last the next six months,”
“How do you know?” one of the younger girls asked, I recognised Talia, Tobi’s friend, looking at me plaintively.
“I don’t know for sure, but it seems obvious from my dad’s comments and what he told us,” I admitted.
“So what is this place? You never actually finished,” Tobi redirected everyone’s attention, I gave him a small smile in thanks.
“Between 2015 and 2020, tensions between Russia and the U.S.A. were the highest since the first Cold War. In Syria, a proxy war had begun with America and the U.K. helping rebel forces while Russia backed the Syrian government. As tension grew, many nations including ours, began updating and building new bunkers if the war of words escalated,” I enlightened the group, “This must have been one of the newer bunkers. Several websites postulated this was why the mountain had been fenced off,”
“How do you know this?” I heard Noah ask.
“I, erm, I’m a bit of a conspiracy theorist,” I admitted, rubbing my neck in embarrassment. I did not want to admit that in front of him. I bet I looked like a total geek. I looked around the room, trying to change the subject when I noticed the bags dumped on the floor, “Did everyone have one duffel bag and one backpack?”
“Yes, though the duffel bags were already packed,” Mac confirmed, also getting nods from the rest of the group.
“But you were allowed to have one backpack of entertainment?”
“We packed that ourselves, though I was told not to bring anything electronic like phones and tablets,” Izzy, the cookery girl, spoke up for the first time.
“What are we going do without Instagram and WhatsApp?” asked Scarecrow girl, with a hint of a whine.
“I’m pretty sure you’ll not need them down here,” Mac replied with a derisive snort.
“Mum said the same to me,” Matty looked at me.
“So… no electronics then,” I spoke, thinking out loud, “Can everyone check their duffel bags?”
For the next few minutes, there was rustling as the others all began looking through their duffel bags. I also noticed that all our names were sown onto our bags. I pulled mine towards me and started checking through it. I found my favourite jacket and some clothes that I had not seen in a while. I heard comments such as: ‘That’s my favourite dress’ or ‘I haven’t seen this top in ages’. It seems like everyone had bags full of clothes they favoured and had not seen in some time. I put my clothes away and looked around the admin room: it had several cubicles, each with their own computer. On the wall was a floor plan to Level Two, indicating the fire escape and showing some control room.
“So what’s next, Oh, Great One?” Larry’s sarcastic voice interrupted my thoughts. I reckon I am going to end up killing him before the end of the six months.
“Well seeing as this is our new home, we are going to have to explore. If we are here for the next six months then we will have to find somewhere to sleep, eat, and not to mention bathe and check out stores,” I told them thinking on my feet, “So from what Tobi and I saw earlier on, there are six floors to explore. Floor One is engineering, so that will need careful checking out. That leaves the other five floors to explore, including this one. However, someone will have to stay and look after the youngsters,”
“What do you mean by youngsters?” Matty demanded interrupting me and giving me a glare.
“Well, the three little ones can’t exactly go wandering by themselves yet, can they?” I fired back at him. I looked over the three youngsters; the two twins and another girl were huddled together in the group’s centre.
“I’ll stay with them,” a young voice spoke up. I looked at the youngest of the Knight clan, George.
“I was hoping you would stay with them, but I need someone over thirteen as well,” I told him softly and got a frown from Larry.
“I’ll do it,” two voices spoke up at once. Both Kelly and another girl at the Junior Ambassador Program had spoken up at once.
“I was teaching them while at Camp, anyway,” Kelly explained.
“I’m fairly good with children, I have a dozen or so nieces and nephews,” said the younger girl, probably about twelve, offered, “I’m Sarah by the way,”
“Thank you, ladies, now that leaves the rest of us. Tobi and I will take the sixth floor if Mac checks out the fifth floor with Matty and Ben. Nate, Simon and…?” I looked at the young Asian lad that looked a bit like Simon.
“I’m Luca, Simon is my brother,” the boy added as if we did not see the resemblance. He appeared to be about ten years old.
“All right, Larry will you take Level Three with…?” I indicated the scarecrow looking girl.
“I’m Amanda,” she introduced herself with a nasal voice.
“OK, Tali will you check Level One as you have expertise in computing?” I asked her and got a nod, “Now, I need someone else to go with her?”
“I know a bit of something about engineering,” Tom spoke up, surprising Larry and me.
“Do you mind taking Level One?”
“It would be interesting to look around,” he returned.
“Now that leaves Noah and Izzy, taking on this level,” I finished and looked them all over, “Has everyone got watches?”
“Who are you?” The Queen of Sheba?” Larry finally barked, getting over his earlier embarrassment.
“No, I’m not! But someone has to get us organised or would you like to sleep down here on the floor?” I returned patiently, then turned to everyone else, “It’s almost 3 pm, so if we meet again at 5 pm here and see what everyone has found, does that sound good?”
“I’m only doing it because I want to,” Larry whined, sounding more like a five-year-old than a fifteen-year-old. Everyone else nodded back to me, while Tom rolled his eyes at his friend.
“Good man,” I replied cheerfully giving him a grin and almost gave him the thumbs up. I heard a couple of sniggers but tried not to taunt him further.
“I have some radios,” Tobi spoke up sheepishly, pulling out several radios from his backpack. He kept one for himself and handed out the others to each of the teams and finally handed one of them Kelly, who gave him a small smile. Tobi passed me ours. It was quite a nice small Walkie Talkie in camouflage I also noticed the name Retevis on the front, probably the maker.
“You come prepared,” I laughed, and the others joined in, he blushed, but his sister shook her head at me. I gave her a questioning look. I’d known them for a long time. However, Mac seemed to be giving me some curious looks. As I tried to puzzle it out, the others left so I quickly grabbed Tobi and held him back, “When we were looking earlier, I saw a sign for a Biodome on Level Four, I want to check it out,”
“That sounds good,” he nodded his agreement, but instead of following the route we did earlier, we went right towards the door. There was a corridor, which took us around and past several offices. Then, we met up with the main junction where we found a sign for the Education Block and two washrooms. We also come to an elevator, so I looked at Tobi.
“Want to check it out, Sparkplug?” I asked him and got an instant groan.
“Sparkplug?” he returned, sounding exasperated.
“Well, your sister calls you Sparky so I thought it would be a step up from that,” I told him, “I’ve never heard her call you that when I’ve been over,”
“Because I won’t let her call me that in front of you,” he replied, not thinking about it as we entered the large elevator. I noticed his eyes widen as he realised he had let something slip.
“Why is that?” I asked, pressing the button for Level Four.
“I, erm, didn’t want you to think I was uncool,” he stuttered. I’m pretty sure he was lying about something, but I let it drop.
“How long have we been friends?” I asked him.
“But I’m still a kid while you’re a teenager, I thought you might, like, drop me,” he looked down admitting the truth.
“Dude, you’re my best friend, just because you are a few years younger than me it doesn’t mean I’m just gonna drop you,” I told him, giving him a hug, “Besides, if I dropped you, Mac would hate me and then I would have no friends,”
“As if! You’re well popular,” he spoke into my shirt as the door pinged open.
“Come on,” I told him, and he smiled as we emerged into a brightly lit area that looked almost outside. But ignoring it, I turned towards the stairs and quickly passed through finding a corridor in the standard military grey. Single doors pulled closed on either side of the hall, which led to a set of sliding airlock-style doors. I pulled them open and instantly released a wave of heat, similar to a swimming pool. We passed through the second set of doors into, what I thought, was a jungle.
Lush vegetation grew on either side of the path. However, everything seemed to have a blue-ish tint to it. I looked up and found we were stood in a giant bubble, which appeared to be under some kind of lake. A great glass dome let in all the light and shielded us from the lake and most likely satellites. As I looked up, I realised the thundering noise I had heard for the last few minutes was coming from inside the dome and not my head.
“Wow, this is amazing,” Tobi voiced his awe as we followed the path, emerging from the vegetation and onto a small hill. I had to agree with him as my jaw dropped at the view in front of us. To our right, and the focal point was a giant waterfall that fell gracefully into a large lagoon, which had a beach. Our path led us down to the beach, where a small river led to a large farmed area. Little green plants were in dark brown furrows with what appeared to be showerheads above them. Another section appeared beyond that, with different looking plants.
“Ben’s going to love it in here,” Tobi commented.
“What do you mean?” I asked as he pointed to the little field I had been looking at.
“That’s agriculture at its best. Whoever started this place, started farming so we wouldn’t need outside plants,” Tobi explained.
“So why will Ben like this?” I asked, curious.
“He’s very much into this sort of thing; he’s a genius when it comes to farming. He tells his dad what crops to plant and has his own little greenhouse where he tries different experiments,”
“He’s only 9!” I asked and got a nod, “So, will we have fresh food?”
“Maybe not meat, but plenty of green, I count at least five ‘fields’, probably carrots, potatoes, tomatoes, etc.” He shrugged his shoulders. I took a sidelong look at him.
“Are you sure you’re not a computer, maybe D.A.R.Y.L?” I asked him, this time it was him that gave me a confused look.
“Like a hundred years ago there was this film called D.A.R.Y.L, this ten-year-old kid was a robot created by the government,” I told him, “We had to watch it in class,”
“Nope, I’m entirely human,” he laughed.
“That water looks clear,” I commented and then started down until I stood on the beach. The lagoon was massive, perhaps the size of a swimming pool but rounded and unpredictable. The waterfall dropping down was powerful, but you could swim underneath it. I kept getting glimpses of what could be a cave or cavern behind the waterfall.
“Come with me,” I grabbed Tobi’s hand, so he followed, unresisting, as I ploughed around the edge of the lagoon until we reached the rock formation. I looked up at the flat surface, realising that there was no other wave into the cave or cavern unless we swam.
“You’re looking at the cave, right?” Tobi questioned, and I realised I was still holding his hand, so I let it go. He was practically a brother to me anyway.
“Yeah, but I don’t think we’re gonna get in there without swimming,” I finally answered his question.
“We can always explore it later, there are no cameras in here,” he replied, so I gave him a questioning look, “I’ve been noticing a lot of cameras around the building, but there are none in here. There are two aimed outside of the door to see people coming in.
“Hmm, OK, I think we should keep the cave quiet for the moment,” I told him exchanging glances. He nodded his head as I took a look at my watch, nearly half an hour had gone, “Let’s go and explore the top floor and report back to the others,”
We took one last look around and made our way back up to the door. Once we left the Biodome, the corridor seemed artic in comparison to the tropical heat. I led the way through the familiar-looking corridors; this time, we decided to take the stairs up. However, by the time we had reached the top floor, my legs were killing me, and Tobi was puffing.
“Remind me why we decided to take the stairs up?” I asked him rhetorically but got a shrug. The column continued into the room, but the stairs finished in the circular corridor, with doors either side. We turned to our left, intending to go out of the door, but a swipe-card mechanism stopped us.
“Do you have a key?” Tobi asked, wondering how we were supposed to get through. I pulled the lanyard from around my neck and swept the magnetic strip through. The light cycled through red, yellow then green and with a click I heard the door unlock. I pushed through to find myself in an open area, made of the same linoleum from the floors below. Opposite us was a set of double doors. Sharing a look, we pushed through and found what appeared to be a posh canteen. The seats were all made of leather.
“Must be for command and V.I.P.s,” I suggested, “But… where’s the kitchen?”
“That’s why they had a lock on the door,” Tobi spoke out loud.
“Well, this is private, so the V.I.P.s don’t get disturbed,” I agreed, but I also thought command must have rooms up here too. I noticed a second pair of double doors opposite that seemed to be allowing blinding light in, a third pair of doors were also coming off this wall. I took a look and found the kitchen across the hallway. I turned around to find Tobi through the double doors, bathed in natural light.
“Holy shit!” He uttered. I looked over his shoulders and had to agree. There was a wide-open space, with some furniture and a cosy seating area. But I was astonished to find myself looking out of a sheer wall of glass, which looked down the side of the mountain. The walls were raised on either side of the room; close to the glass was what appeared to be a waist-high black-out glass — probably some sort of balcony, where the V.I.P.’s could look down on the common area below.
“Let’s take a look at the rooms,” I told Tobi, so we followed the corridor to the left and found four or five steps up to a door. The door was unlocked. However, I did notice the card swipe machine next to the door and a small keypad just beneath the handle. We were in a light and airy corridor that was in an L shape. We entered the living area virtually straight ahead, light flooding in from floor-to-ceiling doors that led out to the balcony. The open-plan room was a kitchen, dinner and living area with a large T.V. I instead went to the balcony doors and stepped out and immediately felt cool air cross my forehead. There must be some kind of vent, I thought.
“Come and take a look at this,” Tobi called, so I followed his voice into the main bedroom, which had a king-sized bed and floating side tables. It also had a wardrobe, a set of draws with a T.V. on it and a computer and a desk. I poked my head into the other room to find a large en-suite with a Jacuzzi bath, shower and all the amenities.
“Wow, the veeps would have lived life in luxury,” I commented.
“This is my room,” Tobi shouted, acting more like a child as I heard him giggle.
“Not if I get it first,” I returned and crossed the room, grabbing him around the waist and tickling Tobi. His laughter flooded the room though he cried out for help as we both fell on the bed. I moved off him and offered him my hand, “Let’s finish looking around,”
“Sure,” he replied, giving me an expression of confusion but took my hand anyway. I pulled him off the bed. We moved on to continue exploring the rest of the apartment. There was a second bathroom with just a single shower, but with double sinks. We also found two further bedrooms, both of which had a single bed, wardrobe and set of draws.
Another five apartments were identical in shape and size, except four of them did not have balconies and did not seem as nice as the first one. On the opposite side of the level was another sheet of glass whereas the first one curved, this one was straight. I also found a conference room with a desk and cupboards looking down onto the mountain’s lakeside. I did notice that each of the apartments had a phone hardwired in the living area and usually a second one in the main bedroom.
“We should have enough rooms in the V.I.P. area for all of us to live in,” Tobi spoke as we finished our inspection.
“I’m not sure, there is twenty of us and about eighteen rooms so a few might have to share,” I quickly did the maths, “However, I have the first apartment, the others can fight for the rest,”
“I think Mac and I will have the other apartment opposite,” Tobi returned as we emerged from the conference room.
“Let’s get back to the others,” I told him and turned left, coming at the stairs from the other side. However, there was a concrete wall, “That’s strange!”
“We’ll have to go around the other way,” Tobi suggested.
“Sure,” we made our way back around to the main door and back onto the staircase. I was about to descend when I noticed a sign directing us to the ‘Observation Tower’. I traded looks with Tobi, who shrugged. We went through the door, which had no lock when another door presented itself. I immediately tried to open it but found it locked.
“It’s got a card entry,” Tobi looked at me patiently as I felt my cheeks going red. I had not noticed the swipe card mechanism by the side of the door. I grabbed the lanyard and swiped the card down, once again the lights cycled through, the door clicked open. I tentatively pushed forward and found myself in a small box room with a narrow staircase spiralling upwards.
The stairs were tighter than the other stairs and Tobi could only follow me up single file. Once I reached the top, I found myself in a lookout tower. The tower was circular with windows, so fresh breeze flowed through. A railing surrounded the stairs, leaving only the entrance and narrow walkway going 360°. While I went one way, Tobi went the other side where we looked out upon the surrounding countryside. We were on top of the mountain that was banned to locals though now I knew why; a massive underground base had been built inside it. I could see the town in the distance and some movement, but not a lot.
“Alex, come here,” Tobi called out excitedly. I moved to his side and stood behind him; there was just enough room if he flattened himself against the wall. I was distracted as roaring broke my thoughts and centred them on the R.A.F. jet screaming overhead. However, seconds behind it was what can only be described as an alien vessel. It was a sleek, black coloured, and weaved about with fantastic agility as it followed the human jet.
“Wow,” I spoke without realising it. Tobi and I watched the two fighter planes dog fight; then the alien vessel seemed to get a lock because the jet exploded before us. We watched as the pilot ejected, but the alien strafed the man. I assumed he had been killed instantly. But we didn’t have time to digest what had happened before a massive boom echoed across the sky. In the fading light, we saw a genuinely spectacular explosion. It almost appeared on the edge of space. I didn’t know what to think or even say, so I put my arms around Tobi and held him, to comfort the boy and myself.