Doc tapped in her code, trying to hustle in the survivors from number five. They were greeted by a medical team, the shrinker, warm food and a hot shower. All were required in case they were contaminated or worse, crazy. Doc and Xayres went through the door on the far wall that led directly to the council quarters and only Doc returned to resume her work.
D walked through the quarantine area. What she saw was haphazardly thrown together, but given this was a unique circumstance, it was necessary. Wandering through almost as if she was floating, like a ghost, running through slides without being able to communicate with anyone. She tried to memorize each face, only a few hundred faces from a compound that once held thousands. The thought filled her with despair.
She heard it everywhere she went. People helping people. Calling them all lucky. Her disdain for the word only surprised her a little. She remembered the last time she heard that word…lucky. The explosion in Wing C rocked the foundation of not only the bunker but its peoples. This word was used in conversations with her for weeks, if not months afterward.
Her loss was great that day. And there was that word. Everyone presumed and told her she should feel lucky. They were all lucky the explosion had been mostly contained and did little damage. The death toll was low and that should make them feel lucky. She was lucky she wasn’t in her quarters that day. She was lucky to be alive. But lucky was not how she felt. Luck didn’t exist. Her being away from home was probability and circumstance.
Circumstance had taken her to another pod that day. And somehow she knew if she left her bunk, her quarters, her parents, it would not be here when she was done. It looked strange, reliving those days, watching it all happen in convenient flashes in her mind’s eye. A cry from a small child ripped her back into the present.
Today, she knew all these refugees felt the same way. Still stuck a surreal haze. Not recovered from the shock. Dealing with the loss. No, none of these people were lucky and she understood it more than most.
She didn’t remember submitting her order or how she even arrived in the mess hall. She just remembered the word. It bounced around in her brain, dancing with memories she didn’t want to see, mixing with the current situation. And there it was again, the despair. Vaguely aware of her surroundings, she ate the food in front of her because it was routine. There were stares and whispers and blatant pointing of fingers, but no one approached her. No matter what the gossip mill was churning out, she was someone that everyone left alone. She preferred it that way.
Still in a daze, she managed to make her way to her quarters. All she felt was despair and exhaustion. All of them knew she was pushing herself too hard.
“Maybe they’ll let me sleep it off for three days.” she mumbled.
Every muscle in her body screamed for rest. Someone else can go out to pick up the traitors and their guards, she thought.
Pushing her pack to her feet and sliding toward bed, she slipped out of her camo and dropped onto the mattress. Night clothes were too tedious an option in her current state.
Closing her eyes and breathing deep, she took in the peace and calm her quarters instilled. Unlike many of her counterparts, she didn’t waste space or time on unnecessary things. She had a chair at a desk. Others spruced up with color. She loved the original gray. All she needed was her training gear, her coffee machine and her bed.
Her thoughts shifted to her latest mission, but she couldn’t focus on the details. It felt like hours before her mind succumbed to the idea of sleep, but it was only seconds, minutes at best. She felt her body start to drift.
“Didn’t need the strip tease, but thanks.”
The words bounced around in her head and for a moment, she thought she was dreaming. Some of her dreams felt this real. Then she heard it. Xayres’ chuckle. Her body filled with anger and it drove her upright, but her eyes were still too blurry to confirm or deny what her mind had already feared. She hated appearing this vulnerable.
“Hey! I have my own room as a perk of my program! And you’re uninvited!” She choked, not realizing her mouth was this dry.
“Well, I guess that perk is a thing of the past.” Xayres shrugged as he leaned back, resting his head on his arms. “So I guess you’ll have to learn to clean up after yourself.”
He eyed her clothes on the floor, agilely sliding his foot under them and tossing them to her bed. She scowled, looking up at him. He had a strange look on his face. He eyed her up and down, taking in her dark skin and her slender toned frame.
“Why did they put you in here?” She hadn’t meant to whine, but it just came out, too tired to maintain the control she exercised in public daily. “I don’t have patience for this.” D released an exasperated sigh cupping her forehead in her hands.
“Perhaps they decided we’re a good match. You know…genetics and all that. Or maybe they have no other option but to bunk everybody with the influx of people. Or perhaps when they offered me my own lavish quarters as a council member, the youngest one ever for you information, I rejected their offer and insisted on being in here with you. Let’s see if you can guess.” Answered Xayres, chuckling and grinning from ear to ear.
“First, this bunker hasn’t done genetic matching for at least two generations. Second, what the hell would make you want to bunk with me?” D grimaced at her own whiny tone again.
Xayres was only shocked momentarily, but it didn’t keep his teasing at bay.
“Remember, I asked if I could study you? A request you denied while we were topside. Now you have no choice but to allow me to spend time with you.” He paused for a response but was not satisfied with her silence. He hoped she would at least look at him, but her head stayed perched in her hands.
“Besides, I need information on those conversations you’ve been eavesdropping on.” He paused again, waiting for her usual snarky come back, but she managed to disappoint him again. “So, you guys don’t do genetic matching anymore? Hmmmm…you must have started with a larger population than we did then.”
“We’re also in a better location. We can afford to go topside for escapists which always brings us different DNA.” Her reply expressed her annoyance and exhaustion.
He ignored the signs, “So, you’re not a product of genetic combining?”
“Nope, I am a product of my environment.” She sighed. “Aren’t you tired? The way you’re verbally running in circles is making me physically dizzy. Your brain is not somewhere I would ever want to be.”
“Actually, I genetically predisposed not to sleep.” He laughed uncontrollably, clapping his knee and rocking back and forth at the force of it.
D seethed at his arrogance. She never wished more for her throwing knives so she could kill him silently.
“I am probably more tired than I realize. All that adrenaline being in new surroundings with strangers and all that. So much to learn about the way you operate and how things are done here. A whole new archive to study. A new section of our history to learn. It’s invigorating. Isn’t that feeling why you go outside?” His excitement boiled over.
“I go outside so I don’t go crazy.” She replied, lying back down.
“There’s more to you than what’s on the surface. You keep it hidden well.” Xayres said.
D was beginning to regret not fetching her night clothes. The chill of the bunk permeated her skin. Making exaggerated motions to cover herself with the blanket, she heaved a sigh and flopped back down on her pillow again.
“If you snore, I’ll smother you in your sleep.” She flipped over so her back faced the other bunk.
“Well, I guess that conversation is over.” Xayres mumbled, still smiling.