I woke up stiff the next morning, my back hurting from the night on the couch. I got up checking on Tobi, who was still snoring peacefully. I dressed then tried to wake Tobi before leaving the apartment, taking my morning things with me. After a quick face wash and teeth clean, I grabbed a cup of tea and slid into the Operations Room moments later. Grabbing one of the headsets, I slipped a battery into place, taking a seat on the computer designated U.K. mainland on the European Division bank of computers. In the last three weeks, we had got connected to the Satellites via Cheyenne Mountain. On the T.V. bank, a large map of the world showed tiny red dots. These, we believed, were where the aliens were. I began monitoring different frequencies for anyone, looking for Kelvedon Hatch.
“So how do we catch a saboteur?” I mused out loud as a voice cut through my thoughts, bringing me back to the present.
“This is Kelvedon Hatch, is there anyone out there?”
“I’m reading you loud and clear, this is Fort Walker, I mean Site T,” I stumbled.
“Fantastic, we’ve been trying to contact you for the last four days, my name is Corporal Strange,” she responded, “Can you give me your verification?”
“Sure, it’s Tango Slash Alpha Romeo Charlie Five Niner Niner dash Four Eight,” I confirmed, “I’m Alex Walker, the commander here,”
“Great, verification accepted. I know my superiors are keen to speak to you, so hold the line a few minutes,” the sergeant explained. I waited for about five minutes for someone to come on.
“Am I speaking to Alex Walker?” a gruff voice came across the line.
“Yes, Sir,” I instantly knew an officer when he spoke.
“I am General Sir Richard Forsyth,” he introduced himself and my jaw dropped, I expected a captain or a major but not a general, “I am the Base Commander at Kelvedon; the government’s main bunker. We thought we had lost you, we’ve been trying to get in contact since The Event,”
“I apologise, sir, we only come to the Operations Room for a few hours a day, and there are not many of us,”
“I knew your father,” the general said abruptly. I slumped into my chair. Trying not to think of the implications as the general continued, “This line is secure, and I’m currently sitting in the Watch Commanders office, so anything said will remain between us,”
“How did you know my father?” I asked curiously.
“I worked in intelligence with him, your father was a great man,” General Forsyth spoke with admiration, “He was also the one that came up with the idea of Operation Growth, do you remember taking part in the Junior Ambassador Program?”
“I filled in a form and went to the Camp a few months ago,” I answered cautiously, I didn’t want him to know about my suspicions.
“Your father and his partner Colonel Jack Philips reasoned that in the event of an emergency, such as a nuclear or natural disaster, etc. our children would be the ones to take up the mantle. Operation Growth was to pick up a couple of hundred children that would be the future of the next generation. The Junior Ambassador Program was to be the training ground for the future children,” He explained. My brain was going a thousand miles a minute. It explained a lot, but not why we had such young children in the group.
“Colonel Jack Philips, did he have two children?” I asked.
“Your dad told me you were quick, yes he had a set of twins, a boy and girl,” Forsyth laughed. It clicked into place; Colonel Philips had got his two young children in on the first wave.
“I’m nothing special,” I countered.
“We wanted ordinary children, but those that had a set of skills, not those that were too intelligent or too simple,” Forsyth returned, “Your father fought tooth and nail to have his own children put on the list now you have become the de-facto leader,”
“No one else would lead,” I shrugged in answer.
“Operation Growth was not supposed to happen so soon. However, Site T is not merely a decommissioned base, it was built specifically with children and later adults in mind,” Forsyth revealed, which did utterly stunned me.
“This base was specifically made for us?” I asked dumbfounded.
“Yes, boy,” Forsyth returned, “Obviously we hoped there would never be any disasters and your training would be used to make you the leaders of the next generation, but then aliens attacked, we had to move swiftly,”
“That’s why no VIP’s were coming to the base,” I mused to myself, “We have four young people fewer than 9, which have not got any skills,”
“Well, the initial number was sixteen, the start of Operation Growth,”
“Excuse me?” I asked, confused.
“You might have guessed there were more than twenty people at the Junior Ambassador Program Camp,” Forsythe suggested, “Because when the lockdown ends you are going to have to search for more people on a list we have, that are part of the Program,”
“If we are to survive this, you must all work together and build a new society,”
“Are you not going to lead?” I asked, suddenly unsure of myself.
“We are fighting the aliens at every turn, but the military has suffered some devastating defeats, we have no control over the air. We’re barely controlling the ground. I don’t know how long we, here at the base, would hold on for if we get attacked,” Forsyth’s bottom lined it, “However; we do have some of your recruits here. A week before your lockdown down ends I will send them and a convoy up to the Mountain,”
“OK,” I returned, not sure what to say.
“I will send that promised list over today,” General Forsyth vowed, then added, “But I want to keep in contact every other day,”
“I’m sure we can arrange that,” I returned, “So what is the situation, like with the aliens?”
“London has been completely wiped off the map, as has most of the government,” He reported, “We contacted a group claiming to have a new government and Prime Minister, but we are hearing about other survivor camps and reports of intern camps,”
“The aliens seem to be holding our people, mainly women and children, prisoner. But we have had word our own people are acting as guards and wardens,” I gasped loudly.
“Coerced?” I asked the general thinking of our own saboteur.
“Not as far as I can tell,” Forsyth replied, then hesitated a moment, “Before the attack we were getting reports of vicious attacks by humans, it seems some sort of virus was released. Our scientists believe the virus that was released by the aliens have turned some people into zombies. One of those reports concerns you,”
“We had contact with a man, who was deranged,” I replied slowly, “He was infected with this so-called virus?”
“We had managed to cover it up, but they are dangerous,” He returned, “We have also got intelligence that gangs and warlords are emerging from the darkness, taking over towns and attacking people,”
“This is becoming some sort of movie, I must be asleep,” I laughed.
“I’m sorry son, just be careful when you eventually leave the base and arm up,” the general advised.
“I had better sign off; you have left me a lot to think about,”
“We will talk soon,” he replied to me, so I disconnected with Kelvedon Hatch. I took the headset off, staring at the screens. I was surprised by what I had heard and unsure of how to deal with it. I looked at my watch, seeing it was nearly time for breakfast. I put everything away, slowly walking back up to the sixth floor. My mind was going a million miles a minute. I was looking at everything in a different light. When I unlocked the door and stepped through, I could hear chatter and laughter. I pushed through to the canteen taking my seat automatically, Simon putting a plate in front of me. On autopilot, I ate barely listening to the conversation around me.
“Alex, Lexi, wake up,” Matty nudged me until I stared at him.
“What?” I demanded sharply glaring at him.
“We’ve been trying to talk to you for the past 10 minutes, no need to bite my head off,” Matty huffed.
“I’m sorry,” my voice softened taking a look at Mac, who had a strange grin on her face, “Just have a lot on my mind right now, what were you saying?”
“Tobi was in your bed this morning,” Matty repeated taking me by surprise.
“Yeah, he fell asleep on the couch so I moved him onto my bed so he’d be more comfortable, I ended up sleeping on the couch,” I returned casually toying with my food.
“You could have put him in my bed,” Matty insisted.
“I didn’t really think of that,” I answered, taking a quick look at Tobi, who had a slight grin on his face. I left the remainder of my food sitting back, stretching my legs out.
“All right, can we go swimming after breakfast?” Matty asked, the matter forgotten about, but the gleam in Mac’s eye told me she had not forgotten.
“As long as you take someone with you,” I responded.
“I’ll take Ben and Luca with me,” he agreed.
“No, I meant an older teen. Maybe Kelly or Sarah,”
“Fine, what are you doing?”
“I’ve got a meeting with Mac and the usual crowd,” I told him, “But we’ll probably be down after. However I want you to give it a half-hour before you swim,”
“You still believe in that old wives tale?” Matty interjected sounding like dad.
“Whether it’s true or not, I’ve told you to wait half an hour, so that’s what you’ll be doing,” I snapped looking over to where Kelly and Sarah were sat, “Can you take Matty swimming?”
“Sure, I’ve got nothing planned for this morning,” Kelly shrugged.
“Make sure he waits for a half-hour before he and his friends swim,” I ordered.
“I’m old enough to go alone,” Matty snapped before pushing away from the table in a huff leaving Mac, Tobi and I to stare at him. I shook my head before getting up, heading over to Noah.
“We’re having a meeting this morning, I’d like for you to come along,” I suggested getting a look from Nate.
Ten minutes later, Simon and Luca had cleared away all the plates. Everyone else had decided to head down into the lagoon. The senior team was due to meet me in the conference room so I tidied up my apartment slightly. When I reached the conference room; Larry, Tom, Mac, Nate and Noah were already sat at the table.
“Sorry, I’m late,” I apologised.
“Why is Noah here? What’s going on?” Larry asked first as I slumped down into one of the chairs and looked them all over.
“I made contact with Kelvedon hatch, this morning,” I revealed to them, “That’s the government emergency bunker, it must have been retrofitted about the same time this one was designed,”
“Oh my god,” Mac stared at me, with a shocked look similar to the rest.
“They revealed a lot of information, I was quite surprised to learn,” I explained, “I spoke to a General Forsythe. Some of the theories I had been considering were confirmed,”
“What theories were those?” Noah looked at me with interest, like he had been pondering about things, too.
“We’ve explored every inch of the Mountain and know no one else is with us, but things are not quite adding up,”
“Like what?” Larry asked.
“For example, I have dossiers for each of the twenty children and youths in the Mountain, how would they know to do that unless it was pre-planned?” I asked them, “Also once the survey of items was done, there seemed to be an awful lot of children’s clothes,”
“So what does it mean?” Nate asked this time.
“It seems the Junior Ambassador Program was the brainchild of my father and was a joint government-military to make sure there would be a future of mankind in the case of disaster be it natural or man-made,” I revealed finding myself staring into the shocked faces of everyone except Noah, he seemed intrigued as though his own theories were correct, “This bunker was not merely decommissioned, it was designed and built specifically with that operation in mind,”
“This was set up from the start?” Tom was the first to speak after several moments of shock.
“Well, from what I understand, the government were not planning on sending us down here so soon. I think we were expected to have at least a year’s training before we were introduced to the Mountain,”
“So we were the first twenty down here?” Mac asked cautiously.
“Yes, I believe we were the ‘vanguard’ so to speak,” I explained, “You remember the people from the camp, there were more than fifty there. I have been informed that there is about 100 or so,”
“100?” Larry repeated.
“Yes, we’ve been tasked with finding them and getting them safely into the Mountain,” I clarified our orders, “When our doors eventually open, there should already be a convoy from Kelvedon Hatch with our first batch. We are centrally located, so it might be easier to locate them,”
“We’re going to be taking more people in?” Larry asked though his face had a look of disgust on it, I understood why he was not happy. He had only just got used to us and was trying to be pleasant.
“As I said, at least a hundred when we eventually find them,” I responded, “We’ve got several dorms on the fifth floor so we should have the bed space, but we’ll need to get the showers working up here,”
“We’ll have to get more provisions,” Mac suggested.
“When the lockdown is complete, we’ll start sending parties out to bring food in,” I agreed, “Mac, I want you to be my second-in-command and take over should something happen to me,”
“I’m the next oldest, I should be second,” Larry protested.
“I don’t want to offend you Larry, but we’ve only just started getting on. I have known Mac forever, I trust her with my life,” I explained, trying not to upset the apple cart, “Besides I have another job for you when we eventually start bringing in animals, I’d like for you to be the head of the Veterinary Department,”
“I can definitely do that,” Larry seemed to perk up grinning back happily, a world away from the moody teenager he had been just over a month ago.
“Nate you’ll take the Head of Security,” the boy nodded at me, but he had been acting in that capacity for a while, “Tom, I’d like for you to be Head of Engineering,”
“I can do that, but I don’t know everything,” he replied humbly, which gave me a newfound respect for the boy I knew as Larry’s lackey.
“There is a stack of books in the library. I think there is an internal database on the computer system. Some of the new folk might be mechanically inclined, but I would like you to head up the department,” I told Tom, getting a genuine smile in return, “Mac, you’re medically trained, correct?”
“A little bit,” she answered, sounding unsure.
“We all know you’re not a doctor, but you’ve had more training than the rest of us,” I returned, “Would you take charge of the Medical bay?”
“I can do that,” she nodded a bit more firmly.
“Simon will be in charge of catering with Lucas as his aide, while Tobi shall be in charge of communications with the help of Talia. I want Matty to be in charge of stores with Izzy helping him out,” I explained my plan to the rest of them, “Larry, do you think Ben would be happy if I put him charge of the agriculture?”
“He’s young, but he’s been working on the farm since a toddler and knows what he’s doing,” Larry admitted.
“Kelly will be the teacher and babysitter if we have any younger ones come in. Sarah and Amanda will head up the research department, but can aide Mac for the moment,” I continued.
“So what will you be doing?” Larry asked.
“Besides running the whole thing, I will be in charge of the recon teams and sending out scouts, mapping the area,” I explained my role, “But for the moment I want to start training people on weapons, while I have little experience I believe Noah has a lot more experience than I,”
“Really?” Larry looked over at the boy, who had sat quietly through our discussion. All eyes had turned onto him.
“What makes you think that?” Noah asked a glint in his eye. I’m sure there was more to him than meets the eye, he sat at the edge of the crowd and did not get involved unless he had to or someone was being bullied.
“I’ve seen your file, your father was not merely military, but Special Forces,” I replied, looking him in the eye.
“No one is supposed to know, his job is top secret,” Noah answered.
“Well, I want you on the recon team, your skills more than make up for it,”
“I can agree to that,” he nodded his assent.
“Where are we going to train people on weapons?” Nate asked eagerly.
“We’ll set up a shooting range in the Mech Bay,” I answered, looking at Tom.
“It’s big enough, so we should be able to get a shooting range in there,” he agreed.
“Might I make a suggestion,” Noah put forward, “If we have silent weapons like Crossbows and bows, we train on them too,”
“Why?” Mac asked curiously
“Well, you don’t want to alert others to our presence,” he explained. I thought it over, it made sense.
“We’ll see what we can do,” I replied. I decided to leave the ‘zombies’ until nearer the time the doors opened, “Let’s get everything ready on the departments so when we get the doors open and receive visitors, we’ll be ready for them,”
“We have five months, so I think we’ll be ready,”
“We’ll have the Head of the ‘Departments’ meet once a month, then once a week a month before we open up, so everyone is ready,” I suggested.
“Sounds good,” Tom suggested.
“OK then, go and have fun,” I grinned at them, knowing they all wanted to go swimming. The rest of them shuffled out, allowing me to stretch my back realising we had been talking for nearly an hour. I heard the others talking as I made my way back into my apartment, I rarely locked my door as I wanted to feel that everyone was welcome. I changed into some swimming shorts with a t-shirt, before locking up my handgun in the safe in the bedside cabinet. I was just taking off the wrist computer when it beeped.
“You have a message,” I heard Daisy’s smooth mechanical voice.
“What do you mean message?” I asked.
“There was a scheduled email that was timed for today,” I stood there in shock for a few moments before switching on the computer and checking the internal email system. It had a letter, but also a large attachment. I realised the sender was my father, so with a shaking hand clicked on it.
You are probably wondering why you were chosen to enter the Mountain and why you are the natural leader. You should receive this email three weeks before you’re first Christmas, whether you have been in the Mountain a week or several months.
I fought to get you into the program, you are a natural-born leader, and I have no doubt you will be the one to lead all the others in the new world, whatever disaster has fallen upon us. I hope I will see you again one day but know that I loved you very much.
The important information in the email is the dossier for every child or youth that was a part of the Junior Ambassador Program, after the initial twenty. You shall have a variety of talents that will help you build a better future for yourselves.
Your loving father.
P.S. I know there will not be much under the Mountain and if you are still on lockdown, you won’t have much for Christmas. The team and I set up unique presents for the first twenty for your first Christmas; they should be in the Armoury marked as Christmas Special.
I sat back, tears dripping from my eyes as I thought about my father. Obviously, he thought better of me that I had ever known. I downloaded the attachments and decided I had better check out the Christmas presents. I pulled on some joggers over my shorts, then grabbing a bag, stuffing a towel and robe inside. Heading out of the apartment, I met up with Mac, who was wearing a bathing suit and some shorts over the top.
“Have you got a minute before you head down?” I asked her.
“Sure, what’s going on?” she asked curiously.
“It’s less than three weeks until Christmas. I want to give them some sense of normalcy, I’ve discovered whoever was in charge gave us Christmas presents for our first Christmas,”
“Very thoughtful of them” Mac replied a tad sarcastically. Her eyes had narrowed, which meant she was annoyed with something.
“What’s the matter?”
“I’d rather be with my parents,” she burst out, “rather than having my first sodding Christmas locked under a mountain,”
“I think we all would, as much as I disliked my parents for interfering with my life I miss them so much, I don’t even know if they are dead,” I released some of the thoughts that had been swirling around my head the last week.
“I didn’t know, you seemed so at ease with being a ‘leader’,” Mac stared at me, shocked. I barked out laughter.
“I’m so worried right now, what if someone gets really hurt under here? Who is the saboteur? Am I really doing that well? God, I could go on for hours with worries, I’m up late at night thinking and then in my office early hours of the morning,” I replied my shoulders slumping as the fatigue finally hit.
“I’ve been so selfish, you’ve been trying to look after us, and no one is looking after you,”
“It’s not like that, and you’re not selfish. Don’t worry about me, I’ll be fine,” I tried to reassure Mac, I didn’t want her to be upset over my worries.
“Actually, you can’t shoulder all the burdens. We all need to work together to keep us alive,” she answered with a maturity I had not seen before.
“Did that come from your psychology degree?” I joked. She stared at me for a second before laughing.
“Yeah, right next to the mechanical one I own,” she grinned back, “Seriously though we need to work together,”
“I feel better talking with you now, we’ll just have to chat more often,” I suggested, feeling a bit of pressure being lifted from my shoulders.
“Even if I have to schedule regular chats,” She said sternly then broke down laughing again.
“Come on then, let’s take a look at those presents.” I recommended then as I moved off she followed me, so I stopped to look at her, “You’re not going down like that, are you?
“What do you mean?” she asked, confused. I looked at her wearing shorts and a bikini bathing suit, her midriff completely bear.
“It’s like you are walking around in just a bra,”
“Oh,” she eyes lit up as she finally cottoned on, then she looked at me slyly, “Maybe I want to stand around half naked for all the boys,”
“Really? You haven’t got a lot of choices, Larry, Tom, Noah?” I raised an eyebrow.
“That sounds like the start of a bad joke,” we grinned at each other, “OK; I’ll go put on a t-shirt,”
“Wouldn’t want the precious princess to get cold,” I offered as she headed towards the apartment. I got the middle finger in return as she slipped through her door. A couple of minutes later she returned wearing a t-shirt with an obscene message on it. She gave me a sweet look, so I just rolled my eyes at her and led her down the stairs. We stopped in the locker room to put our washing gear away and then left with only our towels.
We chatted on the way down to the first floor about nothing consequential just aimlessly talking about people we knew at school. It was a little cooler down on the first level, so Mac gave me a thankful nod as we made our way into the storeroom with the Armoury.
“I was so glad to get out of here when List King and Queen were down here,” Mac commented.
“Were they really that bad?” I asked, looking at the shelves; everything had been put back neatly and sorted into their corresponding places.
“Yes,” she replied exasperated, “No offence, but your brother is more anal than a guy with OCD,”
“Ha, I know what you mean. The DVD’s at home are alphabetically arranged. All the books had to be arranged in order too,” I told her laughing as I picked up a clipboard hanging next to the door. Several sheets of paper and the items were arranged alphabetically, with how much quantity of each item and where each item was. For example:
“What do the numbers stand for?” I asked.
“The location! Room 2, Bank 4, Shelf 3, area b,” She explained taking me to the fourth bank along, then counted up the bank to the third shelf up and moving along to the second position where a box marked gloves stood.
“That’s interesting,” I murmured astounded at the system they had created. I went through the manifest and found ‘Christmas Tree’ on 2, 5, 5, F. I turned around to the largest shelf on the storeroom wall. I looked up at the topmost shelves or the fifth shelf and worked my way across to find the box marked with Christmas tree next to a box marked with Christmas decorations. It was pretty high up, so I looked up and down trying to work out how I would get up there when Mac arrived with some sturdy steps on a pair of wheels.
“This will help,” she smirked at me.
“Do you reckon we should let the kids decorate?” I asked her as I positioned the stairs beginning to pass down boxes.
“I’m sure they would love that, don’t tell Sparkplug I told you, but he still believes in Santa Claus,” Mac gave a little laugh.
“At Twelve, Tobi still believes?” I asked, not sure I had heard right.
“Yeah, he might act like a grown-up, but sometimes he’s still a little kid,”
“Sometimes you just have to be,” I replied as I passed the last box down moving back down the ladder. Mac had placed the boxes at the doors to the storeroom, ready to go back upstairs.
“How are we going to get all this stuff upstairs?” Mac questioned, looking at the three boxes.
“There must be a loader or something to take boxes, especially food boxes up to the VIP canteen or even the normal canteen,” I answered after thinking about it, “Now shall we take a look at the presents?”
“Sure,” Mac followed me around to the Armoury, where I unlocked the doors and entered. She gasped as she took in all the weapons, “Who has access to this room?”
“Myself and Nate,” I returned.
“Good, are you carrying a weapon?” she asked patiently, but had a glint in her eye.
“Yes, since we discovered there was a saboteur,” I answered truthfully, “Why?”
“Because I don’t want any of the younger kids getting a hold of any of these weapons,” she snapped. I nodded towards her, seeing Mac’s reasoning. I left her to look around, taking one side of the Armoury. I found some clothes here; tactical vests and bags. Intrigued, I took a closer look at the bags and saw they looked a bit oily. I was hit by the realisation these were waterproof bags. Anything inside, be it clothes or equipment was kept dry when the soldier was being inserted via the water.
“I found them,” I heard Mac call rushing to her side where she had found a couple of large boxes, which had been sealed but had the promised ‘Christmas Special’ on its side. We dragged them out into the storeroom locking the Armoury behind us. We both stared down at the boxes before Mac took out a multitool from her pocket unsealing the boxes, one at a time. I looked at the first one pulling out a box wrapped in green paper. It had a label that read ‘To Ben, from Santa’ on it. Each of the presents was labelled up to be received by one of the twenty occupants of the Mountain. There was a long thin box for Tobi and a smaller one too. I noticed everyone had one large present and two smaller presents, varying in sizes.
“Are we going to leave them down here?” I wondered aloud.
“I think that’s the best thing to do,” Mac answered surprising me.
“Sorry I was talking to myself,” she just laughed at me and the claw marks on the ceiling. Within minutes we were packed up and locked away again so the others couldn’t get a hold of them, “Let’s go swimming with the others,”
An hour later, I was lazily swimming around the lagoon on my own, everyone else had gone leaving me to the peace and quiet of the waterfall. It must be nearing lunch, I thought, just as my stomach rumbled making itself known. I laughed to myself, deciding to get out. Drying myself off, I put the towel around my waist, making my way through the chilled corridors to the locker room. The room was steamy with the use of showers. Several of the showers were still running when I entered though I was surprised to find Larry, Tom and Noah still there.
“When did you start using the main showers?” I asked curiously.
“Well we’re all in this together, right?” Larry shrugged.
“We are,” I replied. Beginning to wash my back, I turned to the others.
“What’s going to happen to us?” I knew the question would come inevitably though I was surprised it was from Tom.
“I don’t know, is the simple answer, we try our hardest to survive and grow up to bring humanity back,”
“Are we going to attack the aliens?” Larry asked a bit bloodthirsty.
“Do you think we can attack them?” I returned his question.
“Maybe, one day,” he replied sullenly.
“I think we need to stay under the radar,” Noah told him though I agreed, “We find our supplies and the people we’re supposed to be helping, but hide from the aliens,”