Chapter 19: New life, new responsabilities
Although some rules had been bent or already disregarded since the IAEA meeting in Vienna almost a month earlier, the member states were pleased with the process. It was with this thought in mind that Eirik awoke in his room. He got up and, as soon as he stepped off the bed, the blanket and pillows vanished.
He looked around and felt happy to have made the right decision of telling his government all he knew about the Facility—well, not all exactly. In the past three years, he had seen and learned a lot. So some of the rooms he had kept for himself, knowing that they would be discovered sooner or later, but at the moment, he did want some leverage. He received a list of the new people arriving this week and the ones that they were planning to recruit. This meant that most were recruited, but just didn’t know it yet. He also laughed at their pedigree. All seemed geniuses and highly educated except for one. The age average had also lowered rather drastically. This was great, he thought. Just last night, he had discussed this very fact with Jack, saying that at thirty-eight, he had not been the youngest in a crowd in a long time. Opening the file of one of the recruits who had not yet been recruited, he saw the comments leaping out of the screen at him: “Accused of software piracy, overturned; theft, credit card fraud, computer hacking; all overturned. Investigated for bank fraud, selling of stolen goods, phone fraud; investigation abandoned.” Eirik thought, as he lingered on the photo section of the file, that this guy seemed to be a lifelong criminal, a short life though it was. To his credit, he seemed to be able to dodge the legal bullets rather well.
He got dressed, peed and ignored the diet-recommended menu and replicated a banana instead. He ate the original one while placing the newly created one in the basket. He would have more food and a drink at the cafeteria later, but for now he was enjoying a quiet time alone. His quarters were one of the few rooms that were equipped with a double-size replicator. It was the largest he had found. Also, it was located between a large equipment storage room and the elevator, which made it convenient. Whoever had built the place had one thing in common with the humans of our time; they understood the meaning of location, location, location.
Another thing that often crossed his mind these days was how he appreciated most of his time alone in the Facility. He was still glad to be a part of the project and to have a key role in the team that was assigned to catalogue and study the Facility’s rooms and equipment, though he missed the day when he and Jack were alone too and the kings of their little world. Maybe the statement was true after all; Better be first in hell than second in heaven, he thought as he made his way to Jack’s quarters.
They both had contracts with the newly formed organization. They were also well paid and exempt of tax, for doing what they were happy to do for free a few months earlier.
The cafeteria was a few floors down from Jack’s quarters and the fast elevator ride gave just enough time for them to exchange in private the true status of things. Eirik had discovered these spacious dining areas a few years after their first weekend in the Facility. There were many of these scattered throughout the complex, but this one was selected for its proximity to the only exit. They had, on average, more than sixty chairs and eight tables, but the main feature was a large number of replicators averaging ten or so, on each opposing wall. All of them were capable of replicating anything one would place on their shelves, from food to liquid, and even small complex inanimate objects. The only things it refused to replicate, even for Eirik, were living organisms like plants, meats and fishes. Eirik had tried almost everything on the Builders menu and assigned them names to the best of his ability, considering that most of the food and liquid had no reference in the world of today. He assumed the molecular structure of some of those fruits and vegetables were added to the database before the plants and trees that produced them became extinct, or they came from other places on Earth he knew nothing about. To his relief, everything was eatable, not accounting for taste of course. He noted over the years that the food he liked the most, mainly sweet food or liquid, was not often displayed on his toilet menu or After Pee Menu (APM), which the newcomers with replicators in their rooms had started calling the holographic menus. He also noticed that some of the food had even disappeared from the APM altogether after a while, at least for him. Although he found this frustrating at first, he learned to appreciate that the Facility tried to keep its inhabitants in good health and, truth be told, he could always use the replicator when he wanted chocolate.
At any rate, he would soon find out as samples of various foods were being analyzed in an advanced lab assembled in the Brown Section. The results were supposed to be made available the next day. The lab results would be returning the data sheet listing protein, lipid and other values that would tell no more to him than Einstein’s mathematical formulas. Hopefully, someone would soon make a comprehensive report, and then he would find out whether the system was actually making sure he had a proper diet or just refused to hand up the good stuff to unconsciously train him like a Rhesus Monkey.
These results should also make possible, in theory, to determine who the Builders were. Again, in that case, the saying was true; tell me what you eat and I will tell you who you are.
When they entered the cafeteria, the commander of the expedition, which Eirik liked to call him, was already there to see how the staff had grown. The Council had said that they would hire about one hundred people in the next few months. Sixty more people to go, he thought. Some of his new duties were to welcome the new employees and tell them how to run the showers, replicators, and how to eat at the cafeteria. These first few minutes of the briefing always resulted in people laughing and telling him that he was nuts or at least that’s what they were thinking, some louder than others. After explaining to the new recruits that they didn’t need toilet paper, it really sent them over the edge. But after they had spent a few hours in the Facility and witnessed firsthand what Eirik had told them, their laughter died out and was replaced by admiration for both Eirik and the underground complex.
Jack, for his part, trained the new recruits on the security protocols for the Facility and for the outside when they were travelling to the surrounding villages. Here, curiosity was the enemy and a loose tongue was the staff’s greatest weakness. In addition, until the tunnel was completed, he would have to teach scuba diving.
In the mind of most people, they were both as famous as Yuri Gagarin or Chuck Yeager. At that, Jack had replied that his name would likely never appear in the history books, at least so long as the project remained secret. Eirik often imagined that he would most likely have a star on the wall at the entrance of the Facility like those of fallen CIA agents. The star would be placed on the wall and below the year of their death.
As he sat for breakfast with Jack and Maurice, a linguist and a new recruit who he had only briefed a week before; they were discussing the personnel and the list of new recruits to arrive in the weeks to come. Maurice, who had just retired from the UN Secretariat in New York as an interpreter, pointed out that the Facility had almost felt to him like a retirement home. Of course knowledge and experience come with age he said, but new blood and fresh ideas were important, too. Jack’s remark to this was that at least the demographic of the UN had been respected by having people from all ethnic groups and, with three new females coming, it would make it about a third for the woman, not exactly half, but a start.
Eirik felt rather satisfied with the food this morning. The new chef had obviously adapted lots of dishes that could easily be replicated and eaten either hot or cold. Ready to start, he waved everyone goodbye and made his way to the Command Centre. His duty today would consist of taking groups around the Facility and opening doors for them. Although technically he felt no more than a doorman, the people didn’t see it that way. He was the one the Facility seemed to trust and who had access to places most only dreamt of.