Chapter 56: Just Nick

In Kinshasa, a dapper gentleman in a three-piece suit walked down the aisle as he made his way to the front of the plane to disembark.  It had been a relatively unremarkable direct flight from Paris and he took the opportunity to get some well-deserved rest in the course of the near eight-hour journey.  The Air France stewardess near the doorway gave him a warm smile and bade him off with a refined “Thank you for flying with us” compliment, to which he gave a curt nod and replied in kind.  It was apparent to the stewardess that he was not French; the accent was too casual and he had not replied formally.  It made no difference for him, though; it was the manner of his people to be friendly with everyone and he respected her in his own fashion.

Like the men of his generation, he had traded his hard and square briefcase for a soft leather laptop case, which housed not only his laptop, but also a row of three large Iridium satellite phones.  They caught the interest of the customs agent until he explained that it was the reason for his travels to Africa, to sell these phones to local companies and hopefully get many more orders.  The guard zipped up the leather case and no longer gave it a second thought.  The gentleman then proceeded to exit customs after his luggage had been deposited, scanned and retaken on the other side of the long x-ray machine.  The two baggage x-ray screeners barely looked at the yellow, blue and red shapes that appeared on their screens.  Nothing looked dangerous from their end and the man was most likely a posh businessman in his thirties from the United States or from somewhere in Europe.  Experience had taught them that those types rarely, if ever they did, caused any problem or tried to smuggle anything in or out of their country.

As he exited what had passed for an airport terminal, he was loudly greeted by several taxi drivers, all claiming to be cheap and safe.  Interestingly, all of them declared that they were the only ones speaking English and that they knew the best hotels for foreigners like him.  He looked around and forged ahead, while the more persistent ones blocked his way and harangued him with their well-rehearsed sales pitches.  He wondered how many were actual taxi drivers and how many were there to drive tourists to their employers’ hotels, and how many were just faking it so that they can take some unwary tourist to a secluded place to rob them of their luggage and leave them there with their dicks in the wind.  It didn’t take long for him to be liberated from these circling vultures by an African man dressed in long white pants and a grey shirt, who was raising a sign with the name “Nick Fisher” written on it.

As the gentleman approached, the African man lowered his sign.  “You are Mr. Fisher?” he asked with a heavy French accent, distorted slightly by his large lower lip that hanged loosely down as he spoke.

“You are sent by the embassy?” answered Fisher.

“Yes, sir, I have been instructed to bring you a car.  Since you are in a hurry, I will take a taxi back,” replied the man, handing him the keys.  “The papers are in the door, but the car has diplomatic plates.  So no cops will stop you and no one at the checkpoints with search the truck.”

The two men shook hands and the African discarded his sign and walked to the taxi drivers, who were now busy with the economy class passengers of the Air France flight, as they had finally picked up their luggage and exited the building.

Fisher walked to the small parking lot and pressed the lock button a few times, until he heard the horn and saw a ten-year-old silver GMC Jimmy, the headlights flashing.  The SUV seemed to have been washed this very morning and parked in the VIP section.  He placed his luggage in the back and the rest on the passenger seat, and then started the engine.  The gas tank was full, but that wouldn’t matter, he thought.  He paid the parking attendant and headed north, through the city’s crowded streets.  At the first red light, he took the time to open his leather case, grabbed the first satellite phone, started to loosen the centre screw that held the back cover in place, and extracted a small device from it.  A coloured holographic interface opened at once and he pressed the first of six buttons as he pointed the device toward the floor.  In front of the passenger seat, a brief shimmering curtain of lights glowed for an instant and another device appeared.  That newly materialized device was quite larger than the one it had been stored in.

Before he had time to bend down and take the item that had been newly formed on the floor, the light changed and the car behind him was already honking.  It took a group of men crossing the street at a forty-five degree angle for him to stop again and pick up the new device, which was primarily a wide and extremely thin screen.  He activated the device and made a few selections on its touchscreen interface, which culminated in a real-time topographic map of the immediate area as viewed from a global positioning satellite that is orbiting kilometres above the Earth.  He placed his thumb and index finger on the screen and moved them towards each other, thus effectively zooming the view out as translucent blue dots started to register into view.  It was not as easy to read as the Streets and Trips program people were using at home, with the road in white and the rest in beige, but at least this map contained real-time images.  He then transferred the data to his ocular implant and willed his brain to zoom closer to have a better view.  He could now see three groups:  A massive group of more than a thousand dots less than two hundred metres from the exit of the African Station, one at about twenty kilometres west, and a few more moving north toward him.  That last group was a few hours away, depending on traffic conditions.  These were the dots he was interested in.  As he focused on that set and zoomed in further, he saw that the dots showed to be inside two SUVs with large sunroofs.  He could have used his implant to request the vehicle to be identified and displayed alongside the road information, but there would still be time for that later.  He thanked the traffic for allowing him to prepare and then took a left turn to join the national road, a dirt track leading south out of the city.  It would be a convenient route as he projected that he would then be in an intercepting course with his targets, which were highlighted and labelled up to the exact distance and coordinates through a heads-up display which was projected in front of his eyes.

He soon arrived at the first checkpoint, the first of many.  This one was manned by armed teenagers looking for some bribes, and he knew that his diplomatic truck, his affluent demeanor and pale complexion would increase the fees.  He stopped, opened his window, and smiled politely at the young teenager whom he observed as clearly unable to stand fully erect as the weight of his dilapidated assault rifle pressed down on his thin body.  Fisher didn’t need his implant to identify the type of weapon, as almost anyone on Earth would have recognized the popular AK-47.   He also didn’t require Builders’ technology to know that although rusted, the weapon would still fire.  The only useful piece of information displayed in front of his eyes was the fact that the rifle was loaded and that the safety was off.  The situation was not tense, however, and the kid had just asked him for an amount equivalent to three US dollars, which he paid without giving a second thought.  The amount was roughly less than half the price of most toll roads in Europe and was more or less reasonable.  Fisher just hoped that the money would be used for food and not to buy guns.  The DRC was in that regard the same as any developing country—where parents send their children in the street to beg.  Some beg nicely and some rudely, like in the slum areas of Manila or New Delhi, where “You rich, you give me money” was the general way kids approached foreigners.   In Congo, it was as a form of toll for roads manned by kids, although it was always difficult to judge if giving money would help or would only show to their parents or handlers that business was good and therefore should be continued.

He remembered that the four-wheel drive is a must on these roads and although he would have preferred a Hummer or a Jeep, the GMC was doing fine, not to mention that it had air conditioning, which provided a modicum of comfort for him.  He checked his digital map and noted that the dots he was driving toward were approaching slowly after they stopped for a few minutes, and had now resumed their driving.  Fisher tried to recall the part of the road his targets were on.  He could see, using his implant, that the first vehicle had four occupants and a dog, and the second one had five, including a woman.  The device, using its density sensors, thermal and infrared, had not been able to list all the weapons, but that was not too much of a problem for him.  He knew one important fact:  That the six mercenaries that he had been observing had orders to protect their three passengers, and that was good news.  Fisher knew by experience that their attention would be divided between protecting their hostages and saving their own ass.

After an hour of driving, he still could see that the two-vehicle convoy were still far away, as their position was being triangulated on the map generated in front of his eyes.  Fisher understood his implant features well as a user, along with the rest of the equipment he had so expertly hidden from the customs agent a few hours earlier.  He often wondered how everything worked, but even after decades since the discovery of these technologies, not many understood exactly how most of these equipment worked and very few could repair them, if damaged.  The best explanation he received from Sears during a casual dinner was that before you can understand the way things work, you have to be able to take them completely apart and understand what each component does.  Sears’s explanation had made him feel like a horse-drawn carriage builder seeing a car for the first time.  He could recognize the wheels, the seats and the frame, and the steering mechanism to a degree, but nothing else made sense, especially the most important components like the engine and the transmission.  From that day forth, Fisher had decided that, for his own sanity, he would become the best in using these magical tools and would just accept the fact that, like a car, it was going forward without a horse.  After all, how many people in the world drove cars without basic understanding of their inner workings?  He supposed almost everyone with a new car on a three-year lease, with bumper-to-bumper coverage and roadside assistance.

An hour-and-a-half later, the two-vehicle convoy still maintained a good distance of about fifty metres apart, a proper distance to stop without hitting the car in front if they made a sudden stop.  Or maybe to let a shepherd and his sheep pass?  No, the proper distance was for the dirty bombs on the side of the road, the kind made using the local resources or perhaps bought in Russia with the profit made with gold or diamonds, from former KGB officers who were all too happy to sell their Motherland, one RGD-5 grenade at a time.  The second driver didn’t have the time to brush that thought aside because it was then that the first Rover slowly stopped and managed to clear the road, placing all four wheels on the softer grass on the right side of the pavement, before the engine died completely.  Almost at the same time, the voice of the passenger in the disabled vehicle was heard through his shoulder handset.

“We are dead in the water here.  There is no power at all.”

“Could be an EMP?!” proposed the driver of the second Rover.  “We were warned about that type of attack among others.”

“Our radios are working, so not likely an electro-magnetic pulse.”

“Right,” replied the front passenger of the second Rover. “I’ll walk to you.  The rest will remain with our guest.  Be careful stepping off.”

Not seeing any other options, the driver and the front passenger of the broken truck stepped off their vehicle in the midday sun, leaving two men with Jack at the back.  They were soon joined by the front passenger of the second Rover, which remained parked in the middle of the deserted road.  They all congregated in front of the now open hood.  Jack, from the back seat in the first truck, could see them through the opening between the bottom of the open hood and the top of the dashboard; touching cables, checking the battery and opening the fuse box.  A few seconds passed before he heard a few clunking noises on the hood and saw his people turning and falling to the ground.  The soldiers in the second car had not heard anything, but were now looking at the black-suited body of one of their fellow comrades now lying on the ground, his arms and legs spread on the light, silvery road.  The image of the man reminded Celina of a painting from Leonardo Da Vinci she had seen in Italy a decade earlier.

The driver of the second car and his colleague at the back were not yet panicking, thanks to the bulletproof windows and padding of their armoured vehicle, but were unsure what to do next.  Going forward meant driving over the bodies of their fallen comrades and leaving the disabled vehicle meant abandoning the equipment they were tasked to retrieve.  If their leader had not been lying sprawled face down in the dirt, he would have certainly regretted his decision to store the entire Castaway’s gear in only one truck.

“Rover one, this is two.  Can you grab the padded case and make your way to our vehicle?” asked the driver of the rear Land Rover.

“Negative Two, the case is under all the gear.  I can’t reach it from inside.  Approach to provide cover,” ordered the one remaining soldier on the back seat and carefully looked around for the shooter, before opening the door with his MP-5 in hand.

The second Rover had approached and stopped in front of them, the fallen man and the angled truck used to cover and protect the left passenger door.  The door opened and the soldier got out, cross-stepping to the back of his truck.  Placing his hand on the handle to open the hatch, he could see one soldier on the right of Jack with his window open and sub-machine gun sweeping the area in an attempt to cover him.  As the hatch clicked open, the driver of the second Rover drove his full open palm on the middle of the steering wheel.  The noise of the horn made the soldier jump and turn toward the left to look at the driver, who was pointing right with both hands, but it was already too late and the man fell to the ground.

His fellow soldier had seen the gunman appear and had opened fire, and was still firing when the soldier at the back of the truck hit the ground. With a hand on the clip and the gunman still approaching his position, he opened the door and went for his side arm.  He felt his thumb unclipping the attachment and grabbing the gun when a sharp pain in an arm made him lose balance and he collapsed in a pile by the rear tire.

Seeing that the situation was now hopeless, the driver gunned the Rover in reverse, covering the area with a cloud of fine powder.  It took a second for the four wheels to grip the road.  Before it had time to accelerate, it stopped dead.  The dashboard went dark and the truck drifted backward for a few metres on its own inertia, and stopped.  Like caged animals, the two remaining soldiers looked at each other and it was enough for them to understand what the other one was thinking. They both chambered a round in their submachine guns and made a dash for the left side of the car, which would afford them enough cover for the gun exchange that would soon follow.

The driver was now safely behind the left front wheel, offering no targets.  After a few seconds, he called for his passenger and received no reply.  He then looked under the high-bodied truck and saw the black legs and boots of his fellow soldier on the ground and he now knew that he was the last man standing in his team.  Turning his body toward the right and looking from the front of the truck, still protected in part by the large steel push bar-style bumper, he could see his enemy in the open, walking slowly toward his vehicle less than ten metres away.  It was a lone assailant, a man dressed in black pants and a white short-sleeved polo shirt with the black strap of his holster visible across his chest, and he was approaching his position. Seeing this man approach without a care in the world chilled his blood despite the scorching heat of the midday.  Oh shit were the last words he allowed to say to himself before he abruptly stood up and started shooting wildly at the nonchalant man who was pacing softly on the grass, observing and evaluating him, like a golfer approaching his ball and figuring out his next move.

The driver opened fire and the man stopped walking, surprised, even though he was expecting it.  The bullet impacted with such force that the tungsten rounds exploded like glass on the invisible barrier in front of him.  Each impact created a small circle of expanding ripples until the bolt on his assault rifle snapped open, indicating that the entire magazine was empty and that it was time to reload.  As the last bullets in the forty-round clip were spent, the driver understood that more bullets wouldn’t make a lot of difference.  Just like the Persians at the Battle of Thermopylae must have felt when all their weapons failed to penetrate the large rounded bronze shields of King Leonidas and his three hundred, the driver, in an act of desperation, threw his weapon on the ground and took a couple of steps back, hands in the air. He was rewarded by a shot in the head for his trouble.

In the second Rover, Eirik was also throwing out something:  The rest of the contents of his gut, for a second time.  As he tried to keep his eyes on the scene, he was reminded of a bad western movie he had once fell asleep watching, where the main characters had been ambushed and rescued, only to be ambushed again twenty movie minutes later.  He had found that plot totally stupid then and now that he was living it, it made him feel even more ridiculous.  As their new nemesis approached, Celina opened the door, only to be stopped by Eirik’s handcuffed hands.  But she pulled away and raised her hands as much as her restrain would allow.  She was shaking because of the adrenaline pumped in her bloodstream.  Fisher approached her calmly, his gun nowhere to be seen, as he visibly made elaborate finger gestures with his right hand.  She was still shaking by the time he reached her, and he showed her the tool that he was holding between his thumb and forefinger to reassure her.  He curled the rest of his fingers around the handle and pressed on the device with his thumb, and a five-inch, flat bluish blade formed at the end of it.  Celina didn’t manage to find the words and simply smiled as she recognized the Builders’ laser knife, as Eirik had named it, and offered her hands to have him cut the plastic handcuffs and set her free.

“You are welcome, Celina,” replied Fisher, flipping the knife in his hand and offering the handle to her.  “I think it is best that you cut your friend free.  I’m afraid he will pass out if I approach him.”

When she had freed Eirik, she helped him sit in the door frame, as he was unwilling to test if his legs were still working.  Eirik stared at Celina as she made her way to Jack’s vehicle and freed him.  Fisher already opened the back of the truck to the great excitement of Philie, who adopted him at once. He noticed several items from where the dog was stored and took out two backpacks, emptying out the contents of each after checking it for any Builders’ equipment.  He took the bags and turned to face Celina and the others.

“We need to hurry.  I would rather not be here if more vehicles arrive.  Please help me transfer all your gear to my truck,” he urged.

“Who are you?” asked Jack, grabbing his gun from one of the case while looking at Fisher for any reaction, and saw none.

“We’ll have hours for proper introductions,” he answered as he handed him the two backpacks.  “Put that in my truck, please.”

“Where is your truck?” asked Celina who was looking for one since he had first mentioned it.

“Oh, yeah, that would help,” was his smug reply and threw her the knife handle, which now displayed a single blue square labelled Cloak:  Active.  Before her mind managed to understand that the knife had now changed into a remote control of some sort, she noticed that one of the soldiers who lay at her feet was still breathing and slowly turning on his side.

“He’s not dead!” she exclaimed as she took a few startled sidesteps and turned to look at Fisher.

“Of course, not...  what do you think I am, a barbarian?” replied Fisher, genuinely insulted by the implication.  “These are non-lethal rounds, much like the tranquilizer darts used on animals.  ”

“Where is that damn truck!” yelled Jack, about twenty metres from them, his hands full with their backpacks and equipment.

Fisher paid no heed to Jack’s wailing as he fixed his gaze on Celina and then on the heavily sedated mercenary at her feet.  “We’ve distracted ourselves long enough.  Celina, can you press the Cloak button please?”  Celina hesitated for a moment as she stared blankly at the device that she has in hand.  When she finally managed to get back to her senses and did as she was told, the truck appeared out of thin air, parked on the long grass one metre from the side of the road.

Eirik, who had experimented the most with that technology inside the Facility, was the first to speak.  “That’s, that’s eh, no human technology,” he said, as he approached Fisher.  “How did you get it out of the Facility?”

“Of course, it is man-made.  It wasn’t made recently, but it’s not alien if that’s what you mean,” answered Fisher, ignoring the second part on purpose but felt he should have been told a little more about them and was now wondering what Eirik had done in there for three years. “Look, it is what you called Builders’ technology.  Anyway, we don’t have time, let’s go.”

“What about these guys?  Should we take their weapons away before they wake up?” asked Jack.

“Don’t you go put your fingerprints all over those!  Besides, they won’t wake up until I press a few more buttons.  Someone recall the howling machine, please,” asked Fisher, looking at the dog that had started on the trail of some animal, totally oblivious of what had just happened.

It took a minute for everyone, including Philie, to be seated in the GMC Jimmy and for Fisher to turn around and head for Kinshasa.

“I have never seen you before, but you know us and you can take stuff out?  How come you have Builders’ equipment?” Eirik asked again, no longer frightened and now sitting like a kid at the edge of the backseat, his head between the front bucket seats and looking at Fisher’s profile, trying to analyze the man.

Fisher knew the answers and he had prepared for it during the twenty-five hours of flight and while waiting in the lounges for the connecting flights from Alert, Canada all the way to Kinshasa via Toronto and Paris.  He couldn’t expose the Inuit Station to them.  It was not their way, especially not to Jack Tomas whom he knew to be at level thirty-seven, according to their method of calculation.  He estimated at least two days of travel to return to Europe, at least, where he would part ways with them, so not saying anything was not an option either.

“My name is Nickolas.  You can call me Nick.  To answer your question, you are not the first one to have set foot in your Facility, as you call it,” answered Fisher.  “Others have been there long before you.”

“How do you call it then?” asked Celina, amazed at the statement and feeling some attraction to the cute young man, not looking at Eirik for fear that he would see her blush.

“The Norwegian Station and of course, here it was called the Afro-Station,” added Fisher. “And like you, we have managed to take equipment out of here at one point,” said Fisher, knowing that his last statement was a big fat lie.

“How did you discover it?” asked Jack.

“I don’t know, never been there,” which was true.  “But look, I’m not at liberty to discuss more on that subject and I will add that my people have a deal for you, a very good one, but it can’t be discussed at this time.”  And especially not in front of someone as low level as you!

“But how did you manage to conceal the truck?  Is it based on the same technology as with the device I used to hide the dog?” Eirik continued, as if he had not heard the statement Fisher had just made.

“Mr. Olsen, maybe I didn’t make myself clear.  I didn’t mean that I wasn’t at liberty to talk about the Norwegian Station, I meant about the entire thing,” he replied, noticing the annoyance in Celina’s face.  Of course she wanted to know the answers, but all in the right time and not in the middle of a warzone, she thought.  “Here is the deal:  When you return to Norway, you will be debriefed and asked to tell them about what happened here.  You can say whatever you want, but you can’t mention my name, even though all you know is Nick, and don’t tell them how I rescued you either.”

“We don’t even have to tell them we were captured in the first place,” proposed Eirik.

“They will know.” said Jack and Celina together to Fisher’s satisfaction.  It was nice to see that some of them paid attention to what he was saying.

“You bet they will.  Do you think that these people just happened to be in Africa for a safari?  They will report that they grabbed you and then, oh fuck!  A little siesta and then you were gone!” offered Fisher laughing, the realization that he had completed his mission successfully finally dawning on him.

“What, I’m not sure I follow,” wondered Jack.  “The last guy emptied an entire fucking clip at you and it had the same effect as if he was shooting blanks.  I saw the whole thing in the mirror and I also saw your bullet hit him squarely between the eyes, the blood splashing like it’s from a shaken soda can.”

“The rounds that I was shooting were designed for animal relocation by the Builders.  They are a combination of a lot of things and have the features of a lot of equipment.  Other than the possible blunt force trauma that a target may incur upon impact, nanites or bionanotechnological machines—if you want to call it that—deploy within milliseconds and automatically generate an electric shock that stuns the animal or person.  Then the nanites look for a point of entry, such as skin pores or orifices, anything, so artificial body armour is of no use, in the case of humans, or even natural body armour, such as the scutes for turtles and crocodilians.  Then, they enter the bloodstream and put the target animal to sleep for hours until they are rendered inert by remote control or a preprogrammed duration.  The same device is used to replicate these nanites in the field and change their settings, but before they are dissolved in the body, they erase the short-term memory of the animal for comfort.  Finally, when the nanites are disabled or stop functioning completely, they are discarded with the urine as soon as the animal wakes up,” Fisher told his guests, “In the case of humans, it means you can shoot someone and he will forget you completely, because the impact damage caused by the round is also repaired.  Neat, eh?”

“But why erase the memories?” asked Jack.

“For the same reasons the Builders made the cloak I used to hide the truck and why the Stations are underground:  To make sure that all activities will have the least impact as possible on nature,” replied Fisher, again surprised that after three years, they still had not managed to understand that.

“You mean that they willingly sacrificed themselves for the animals and plants on Earth?” asked Eirik who, up to this point, have had that hypothesis questioned and ridiculed.

“Wow!  That devotion to nature makes the Druidic society and the tree huggers look like a logging company on a rampage,” added Celina, understanding the sacrifice but unable to see herself living in the Facility forever.  “At least they could have made the place more joyful.”

“I know I have said too much already, but wait until you return and can read all the stuff in your language.  You will see that you can do a lot to change your environment, trust me,” offered Fisher, knowing that he had something more powerful than a device to help wipe their memory clean and make them forget that conversation.  Although he had realized that he ventured off topic, because it was hard not to be excited about these things, now it was time to go back to business.  “Okay, back to the deal.  They will ask you for sure what happened.  You can tell them everything if you can’t lie.  With all the cars and weapons exchanged, sold, stolen or blown to pieces in this country, when it is time for them to investigate, if they do, everything will be long gone.  Say what you want, but never tell them that I rescued you or even anything related to the Builders’ tech that you’ve witnessed when I rescued you.  Take a look at this...” He zoomed his map to reveal the three groups of blue points again.

It took a second for Celina to understand everything at once and point to each group in turn.  “Holy shit!  That one on the right is the mother lode, all the containers we have buried, that’s the communication device we buried as a decoy and that’s us,” she explained pointing at each groups in turn, feeling that they had lost the battle before the war even started.  It’s like they had robbed a bank and the police had just shown them the map where the money was hidden.

“So, everyone can see where all the stuff is? That’s how you tracked us down?” Jack now asked, shaking a little.

“Yep,” confirmed Fisher. “But I was sure Steven and Chrissy had explained to you the way these things worked?”

“You know them?” asked Celina, surprised to hear familiar names used in the proper context.

“I know a lot about what is going on at the Norwegian Station and that they are working on the access system and know how that device works,” acknowledge Fisher.  “Here, they say, a picture is worth a thousand words,” and he shut the screen off and motioned for Jack to open it.

Jack, not wanting to be ridiculed by his inability to open yet another device, lowered his head, but then realized upon examining it that this is one gadget that he could use.  The map settings remained the same, but to the Castaways’ surprise, only two dots remained; the buried FastCom and the glasses he had on him.

“You see, the mapping system can detect Builders’ tech, but it can only see the devices that are at the same level or lower than the user of the map,” Fisher told them.

“So, if Steven or Chrissy had activated all these devices, none of us would be able to see them?” asked Celina.

“There are some exceptions, I think,” Fisher concurred.  “But essentially, that’s how it works.  The only reason why I can see them all is because I’m at the same level as Steven and Chrissy.”

“So, we don’t tell about you and you don’t tell about us, is that the way it works?” asked Celina, pretty sure she had guessed right.

“Correct,” answered Fisher.  He would have to explain further, but not now and not with the same crowd.

Secured in the knowledge that they wouldn’t expose any information, Fisher ventured to discuss a little more about what he knew of the technology and the Builders, mainly information he figured they would learn upon returning to Norway.  Obviously, he had not discussed the Inuit Station, and when he was asked if there were others, he expertly lied.

They soon arrived at the UN compound, a large area surrounded by a four–metre-high concrete wall with only one access, comprised of large brown metal doors for vehicles and a small metal sliding door for personnel and guests.  The security booth protruded from the wall and surrounded by a three-sided bay window composed of a metal frame and glass, which appeared to Jack to be bulletproof.

Behind the guard on the opposite wall was another metal door, which was also designed to slide into the wall in order to seal the compound in case of an attack or a siege.  Jack was noting all these in his mind as the large door opened to let the vehicle inside and a guard, using a mirror at the end of a pole, looked under the vehicle for explosives or refugees.  They passed through a metal detector and Jack was required to surrender his gun and explained himself.  After that, they were issued badges and escorted to the waiting hall.

Inside, they were introduced to the Chief of Mission and led to an area where they could take a shower and groom themselves.  Eirik, who had never been more than two days without shaving, felt the itchiness of his long beard going with each stroke of the blade and the frigid blast of the air conditioner touching his bare skin.

They all thanked Fisher and Celina went as far as giving him a long hug, feeling herself growing apart from Eirik at each passing moment.  As much as she liked Eirik physically, not to mention his confidence and good leadership skills inside the Facility, the experience they had in the ordeal had turned that infatuation to apathy, receding even further to a point where she started wondering how she had found him attractive in the first place.  If it was not for Jack and her, she guessed he would have been dead by now, and that was a huge turn off.  It took a few more seconds before she pulled away from the young looking, calm and confident man and then left with the others to the nursing office for a general check-up. She wondered if she would have the chance to see him again.

All were declared in perfect health to the surprise of the nurse and doctor, who were informed earlier that they just spent a week in the jungle and one of them had a broken arm.  But they didn’t find anything broken during their visual inspection and dismissed it as a wrong diagnosis.  Nonetheless, the Castaways were recommended to seek medical attention on their return to Norway.

The next morning, they were all taken to the airport where Fisher had in the end decided to return home directly on his own and he left forty minutes earlier on a flight to New York, and the three Castaways with their dog returned to Oslo via London, knowing that they still had two days of traveling to do.