“I can’t believe it has been five years already,” I spoke to the headstone protruding from the dirt. Moss and dirt covered the headstone and I simply gazed at the grassy terrain before the stone in sorrow. The icy cold wind of budding winter blew several petals off the flowers I planted by my former mentor’s grave, whisking past my head with each large gust of wind.
I began working for the government almost six years ago, fresh out of high school. I was scouted by a secret organization within the government specializing in technological development, who picked the best and brightest to work on technology that would be an iatrical part of life years from now. Some projects in development included the underwater colony known as Unovia, space craft that can travel at or surpassing light speed, and even a collection of satellites and outposts across the world able to completely control the weather. I, however, was no great scientist. I was hired as a test subject and security guard for the organization, my mastery of the fighting arts and tone body made me a durable and reliable ally for the organization to use.
My mentor, Julia Fredrickson, was six years older than I was and had amazing combat skill. She trained me and helped me improve my skills in combat, as well as my skills in life itself. For nine months, we worked together, every day was exciting and I learned something new. Out of nowhere, she suddenly failed to show up to work, that day lead to a week and that week to a year. Now, five years later, no one had heard a single work from Ms. Fredrickson. After a few months, they held a service for her, her family believing her dead. I continued to come back, once on her birthday, once on the anniversary of her disappearance and whenever I needed support or guidance. For some reason, it felt better talking to an empty tomb, maybe it was just the thought she might be listening that helped me move forward.
“We should get going hun,” I felt a tug on my right arm, my wife trying to pull me away from the grave. She was a wonderful woman, tall, long blonde curly hair, bright hazel eyes and she always wore the most beautiful of dresses. She and I only recently got married, after dating for over five years, you would think it be sooner. I had only met the woman when Ms. Fredrickson was still my mentor, she always cared so much about how my life was going and how I was doing with my now-wife Lauren. She would give me advice on dates and how fast to pace the relationship, pieces of wisdom I still relied on.
“Of course dear,” I muttered as I slowly turned away from the grave. I followed my wife to the hovercraft and she drove me to work. Lauren was one of the scientists with the organization, her projects were top secret so they must have been even more important than even the ones I knew about. The organization was located underground in a large base beneath the outskirts of Las Vegas, most of the desert surroundings actually housed hundreds of people working on amazing technology that would change the world. There was an abandoned-looking building with a key code device along a dirt road to the northwest of Las Vegas, it was one of the four entrances to the organization’s underground facility and protected with intense safety measures. Lauren had to scan her code, scan her eye and then do a fingerprint scan before finally being allowed to enter the base. If an unauthorized guest rides with authorized personnel without prior permission, they would be killed on the spot, which I wish I could say never happens, but some new recruits are simply stupid.
Once everything was green-lit, the road beneath us began sinking and the hovercraft was brought underground on a large platform covered in desert sand, blending it in with the surrounding gravel above. The garage was massive, if every person working for the organization parked in this garage, there would still be over a hundred parking spots remaining, same with the other two locations. The third of four entrances was made for government-approved vehicles transferring supplies requested by the scientists, often requiring massive vehicles that could not fit through a normal entrance. The garage itself was no different than a regular garage you would see anywhere, there were a few doors scattered around the perimeter made to cancel noise so as not to hear the incredibly loud sounds coming from the inside.
“I will see you after work Tom,” Lauren kissed me goodbye as she put on her hardhat and earplugs, “Love you.”
I, however, walked to the far east corner of the garage and met with Seth, one of my security guards who watched monitors and ensures there are no intruders. He was snacking on some chips and slurping a soda when I arrived, which he often did. I replayed some footage to double check Seth’s work before moving on to another member of my team. They continued as I met one person after another, ensuring they safely handled their duties and nothing was out of line. Before I knew it, lunch arrived and a large alarm sounded. There were two lunch shifts, my wife and I happened to be on different ones. I used the time to catch up with some of the coworkers I had become greatly acquainted with.
The lunch room was packed and getting food before the hour break was over, was surprisingly difficult. The front of the cafeteria housed the food, culinary chefs were hired specifically to make food for the people working here, but they were obviously not permitted outside their assigned posts. The line wrapped around the perimeter of the room counter-clockwise and I was always one of the last to arrive, my duties keeping me outside the main work area mostly. I sat at a table in the far back left end of the room, deciding to much on a quick snack from a vending machine rather than wait in line for real food. Fifteen minutes passed before the first of my two acquaintances arrived.
Ludenheim Zuneburg, was a German scientist who emigrated to America. He was a master of mechanical engineering and was the lead scientist for the hyper drive project. Ludenheim was a tall and skinny man, pale skin, hazy blue eyes and messy blonde hair. He spoke in a thick German accent and was difficult to understand at times, but he was a nice person and slowly became a close friend of mine. At nearly sixty, he had spent most of his life devoted to pushing the limits of travel, inventing the hovercraft when he was only twenty. The man was smart and a bit of a jokester, but he was earnest and I admired him greatly.
“Hey Luden,” I smiled as he sat down, “How was your weekend?”
“It was not much of a weekend,” his eyes looked heavy and dry, as though he had not gotten sleep in days, “Project is difficult, need more supplies to test new engine.”
“Gosh, how many hours did you put in?” I studied him, worried he was going to collapse.
“Forty-eight,” he muttered, “It has been long week, need go home and get rest.”
“You really shouldn’t spend so much time on it, it isn’t due for another decade,” I reminded him, “We can’t exactly rush these inventions.”
“I know,” he sighed, “I was on verge of breakthrough, perhaps found the answer. Must know.”
“As lively as ever are we Luden ol’ buddy,” my second friend, Eric Stockfeld sat down next to Ludenheim, a dastardly grin plastered across his face, “You look like you just got hit by a train, those wrinkles don’t look too good when you get no rest.”
“Shut up,” Ludenheim shrugged him off and dug into his food.
Eric Stockfeld was a member of a top-secret project, much like my wife, but his field was significantly different. He was well-versed in quantum physics and the study of the universe, but that was all I knew about his background. He lived in California for most of his life and married an extremely attractive California girl who works as a model around the world. The two of them are quite the power couple, and it honestly goes straight to his head, giving him an ego that metaphorically extends through the very reaches of the universe. He was a tall good-looking guy with brown hair, green eyes and a moderate physique.
“What about you Tom?” he smiled, knowing my answer would only lead to his bragging, “How was your weekend? You don’t look nearly as tired as Luden does.”
“It was alright,” I replied, “Nothing really special. My wife and I watched a movie last night, but she has been really busy with her project.”
“Well my weekend was fantastic,” he puffed his chest, “I went to Brazil with my hot wife and we had all sorts of fun. It was honestly amazing.”
“I’m glad,” I spoke with little enthusiasm, my lack of interest in Eric’s life was quite apparent, “How is the project you’re working on?”
“It’s still in the early development phase,” Eric shrugged, “It’s been five years since the last project was scrapped and we still haven’t really come up with any better plans.”
“Five years, right,” my mind drifted back to my mentor and her disappearance five years ago. It was after her disappearance that three projects were shut down, but there was no way to know if they were connected, especially since they were all top-secret, “I just want to know what happened to her that day, something just doesn’t seem right.”
“I wish I had something for you,” Eric sighed heavily, “I’ve told you a million times, but there isn’t any information I can give you on my project or any others, not to mention management said she died on an overseas assignment. The plane crashed into the ocean and she was never found Tom. You really have to move on.”
“I know,” I shook my head begrudgingly, “That is what she would want me to do too, but I just can’t help this painful feeling in my stomach, like I’m close to a lead.”
“So, the Super Bowl was on last night,” Eric changed the subject, “What did you think?”
“It was alright, it must have been difficult to play, both teams only scored a handful of points,” I nodded, “They were talking about its history, and I found it so weird that it used to be played in February.”
“Yeah, I guess, the world has grown darker and colder after the war,” Eric nodded, “I wouldn’t know though, I was too young when it ended. They say there used to be four distinct seasons, but now it is just cold winter and mild summer, with nothing in between. I guess, the only safe time to play outdoors at all is those couple months where the cold is not so numbing.”
“Was there any timetable on that weather device being worked on?” I asked, curious as to how they were going to fix the crisis.
“Rumor is that something failed,” Ludenheim spoke up, “The expectant start date was pushed back three years because of it. They say satellite was knocked around too, making it difficult to fix.”
“Each year gets colder, there has to be something we can do,” I muttered dejectedly.
“On the bright side,” Eric once again tried to change the somber mood, “Unovia is almost complete. They have made sure the dome encasing the city is completely safe from major attacks, it can even take an impact from a ballistic missile without budging. The air needed is channeled in through several tubes connecting to the surface. It will be an amazing place to live and hold many new job opportunities for the people all over the world. I hear that Unovia might even be approved as the world’s first peace colony, giving direct supervision of its development to the United Nations.”
“It wasn’t expected to be completed for another four years,” I replied, shocked, “This is a major step forward, if we can make this peace colony work, perhaps the world will become more peaceful as well.”
“It will also be a big profit for the United States considering we will be the only country who can supply reasonable transportation to and from Unovia,” Eric added excitedly, “With the hovercraft doing so well, new vehicles are in development that can survive the intense pressure of the water as well as fly into the air if need be. It will also house a large filtering unit, clearing out filth and debris from the ocean to help clean and preserve a clearer blue so that in only ten years, people can see the sky from beneath the sea.”
“I’m kind of jealous,” I chuckled half-heartedly, “I wish I had the talent and smarts to help the world like you two do.”
“You have plenty talent,” Luden spoke forcefully within a moment after I finished speaking, “You are leader, protector of our projects. Without you, we would not be safe. You have intense martial arts training; you are very talent and smart.”
“He’s right Tom,” Eric agreed, “You could easily beat either of us in a fist fight. Hell, if I had a gun and you fought with nothing, you would still find a way to beat me. Protecting the secrecy and integrity of this place is a big responsibility and not one to be taken lightly. You’re kind of like our knight or our prince you could say.”
“Knight? Prince?” I chuckled in amusement, “Now you’re just being sappy.”
“Mister White!” I heard a shout come from the doors exiting the cafeteria. Two large men with black glasses I had never seen before toured in the doorway, “Where are you Mister White? You are expected to follow us immediately.”
“You know them?” Eric looked as confused as I was.
“Can I help you?” I stood up, the cafeteria had become dead silent as the two men walked over to me.
“You need to come with us sir,” the larger of the two stepped forward, but he only motioned toward the door. I put up no resistance as I followed the smaller man while being tailed by the larger men.
I figured I was in trouble. Perhaps someone came in who was not supposed to or these two men were even trying to kidnap me, but I wanted to be certain about their intent before making a move. The building was four very large stories below the surface of the Earth, each floor leading further and further below. The height of each floor was about the size of your average rocket hanger, and the width was about the size of Manhattan. Incredibly large and complex machines required a lot of space and machines to construct, meaning each station building only one piece of technology took up as much space as a football stadium, maybe more. The two men led me to an elevator, instead of taking a small transport hovercraft, we walked the entire way, cutting through about thirty minutes of time. Once inside the elevator, I was squished between the two burley guys, the taller one pulled out a key and inserted it below the four button options. Once turned, the seal on a fifth button was unlocked and we descended to the fifth floor where I was escorted through smaller, narrower halls.
The fifth floor was just like a regular building, the ceiling was a few metres off the ground and the halls were large enough to fit two, maybe three, people. The walls were covered in white tiles, as well as the floor and ceiling, several tiles along the ceiling lit up to guide all who wandered the halls. The men stood in front and behind me once more as we walked through several winding hallways, making so many turns, I had no idea where the exit was from where I ended up. At the end of the hallway I was lead down, there was a single door, a dead end other than that single space.
“Enter,” the man in front of me stepped to the side as he opened the door, “Please sit on the chair provided, my master will come in a moment.”
“Of course,” I muttered. I was not scared of the men, I had enough skill and knowledge of martial arts that I could beat even well-trained body guards with relative ease, but the situation made me uneasy. Who was this master they spoke of? How did a fifth floor even exist? And, as soon as I entered the room, I only had more questions.
The room was littered with dust and cluttered with miscellaneous materials, but I knew that there was some sort of device attached to the single chair, not a speck of dust upon it. The black chair was like a recliner, it had arm rests and extended far enough down to where my legs rested neatly against it. Around it was a large egg-shaped metallic barrier, allowing only enough room for me to walk inside and sit upon the chair, with all the dust, I failed to make out anything above my head. The device was attached through over a dozen wires out the top to a computer-like device within my view. The computer was completely shut down, but it was clear that the black box sitting across the room was designed as a computer.
“Comfortable?” I had not even noticed the door to the room open as a woman walked inside, “I see you have found the seat.”
“What is this place?” I got straight to the point, “If you needed me to test another one of your devices, you could have just told me. As part of the contract that I signed, I could not refuse.”
“Oh dear, you misunderstand,” I had been so caught up in curiosity and confusion that I failed to even take in the lovely woman’s appearance. She was stunning, wavy amber brown hair, emerald green eyes, coated in just the right amount of makeup and wearing a gorgeous blue and silver one-piece dress to match her dazzling silver high heels. While lovely, I began trying to recall having seen her before, handling every single entrance into the facility, I should have known she worked here, but her face seemed unable to register a response, “I am not here to ask you to test any device. Certainly not this one, for it is off limits.”
“Why have you brought me here then? And who are you?” I demanded a response, leaning forward in the chair.
“I am Elizabeth McAdams III,” she smiled, “Granddaughter of this organizations founder, Elizabeth McAdams.”
“With all due respect ma’am, how did you get down here without my detection? I worked those cameras and double check everyone’s entrances into the facility, I should have known you were here,” I explained to her, obviously confused.
“That is because I live here,” she answered, “I have not known outside these walls aside from videos and photographs. My father installed the most advanced air-filtering system in the world on this floor only to ensure that my delicate situation was handled. If I were to go outside, I would likely die from the cold or the polluted air. With each generation, people become more adapted to the changing environment above, but I am unable to breath air with as much dust and grime. Are you satisfied now?”
“I’m sorry,” I felt bad for interrogating her, my confusion and worry got the better of me, if I failed to do my job and an intruder got inside the building, I would have been executed without hesitation.
“No need,” she waved her hand, “I understand where you come from. Now, straight to business. My father, the former President of this organization has perished and I am taking over effective immediately.”
“He died?” I stood up in my chair in shock.
Dorado McAdams was a kind-hearted man, his intelligence was unlike anyone’s, helping in every single project being developed. He was a larger man, his work often had him sitting at a desk and his poor eating and exercise habits caused him to need a wheelchair no more than six months ago. However, he never once brought his daughter along with him, nor did he mention having any children. As I descended back into my chair, I wondered if what the woman was saying could be believed. What if she was a spy and killed the organization’s President? Would his daughter truly be next in line for the Presidency? I became skeptical of the woman, but her story would explain why she had never appeared on monitors before.
“He had a heart attack,” she shook her head, her eyes becoming moist and irritated, “It was just last night.”
“I’m so sorry,” if this was acting, she was doing a good job.
“My father and I had plans in place in case something like this happened and the other members of our organizations’ cabinet have already met with me,” she wiped the tears from her eyes and continued, a look of determination on her face, “With a new leader comes a change in policy and I need to inform you about something I was not ok with.”
“Did I do something wrong?” my worry and pride immediately jumped to conclusions, fearing that I failed to do my duties correctly.
“No, my father did and it involves your mentor Ms. Fredrickson,” she stood up, “I’d like for you to wait here a moment. I’ll return with some documents that I’ll have you look at.”
As soon as she left the room I leaned back in my chair, my mind overflowed with theories on what could have happened to my mentor. My theory was confirmed true, something happened to her and it involved the President of this company. But, what could it have been? Then, I began to question Elizabeth’s intentions. She walked into the room after me and intended to talk about this situation, yet she failed to bring the materials she needed to have the conversation. Something just was not right.
Cuffs sprung out from the chair and locked my hands and legs in place. My mind had been so busy trying to figure out what was going on, I failed to pay attention to my surroundings, something I was normally very in tune with. The large metallic egg moved and closed me in, releasing dust particles into the air. Wait, dust? I thought Elizabeth could not inhale dust without suffocating. A large black object was lowered from the ceiling and more dust came tumbling down. I coughed, shooing it away and as I did, a cuff attached to a mechanical arm sprung out from the head of the chair and attached to my neck, tugging me into a locked position. I struggled against the bindings and the computer turned on. Could it be remote access?
“Hey, open this door,” one of Elizabeth’s guards banged on the door with incredible force. The door had not seemed very strong, but it failed to budge against the man’s constant pounding. An alarm rang loudly throughout the room, the red lights coming from three locations on the upper part of the walls were dimmed by the immense amount of dust, but they still blinded me if I looked directly at them. I continued to budge, trying to escape as a loud buzzing sound came from the device attached to my head.
WARNING: DEVICE ACTIVE! WARNING: DO NOT ENTER ROOM! WARNING: DEVICE ACTIVE
The sirens wailed and the buzzing grew louder, my body felt like it was on fire and my vision began to blur. I could hear Elizabeth shouting outside the door and her two bodyguards arguing with her, but my ability to make out those words had become dulled as each phrase seemed to blend together. In one instance, everything seemed intense, the alarm’s noise, the noise coming from the device on my head, the strain from tugging against the cuffs, the banging on the door, the brightness of the screen and sirens, and the desire to know what was going on. Everything came flooding to me all at once, everything seemed to be registering in my head, and in another instance, everything was dark. No sounds, no feelings, just eternal empty darkness.