Have you ever heard about the cataclysm that shook Earth into chaos? Probably not, because you haven't gotten to that point in time yet.
Let's just day, don't build a moon and set it into orbit with the original, it gets jealous.
When the self-created Moon, we call it the Lunar Project, crashed into Earth, it tore holes in our atmosphere and let in tons of UV-rays that pretty much scorched Earth into a desert, most of every living thing died that day.
Except me, and my people in the bunker. The bunker I've been stuck in all my life, granted I'm only seventeen, but I haven't once experienced the rays of sunlight hitting direct sun or breathing in fresh air that hasn't gone through eight filters and a purifier.
My life is focused on school, and my tasks. Never have I once had any free will to do whatever I want for the day, otherwise the bunker would fail. Or so says Prexy Arik, he's our government leader.
He supposedly knew what was best for us all, we was nominated as Prexy for twenty-nine years. So he must, or that's what we thought.
My brother organized a group to rebel and break out of the Bunker, the “Renegades”. He broke out of the Bunker and went to live on Earth.
That's what started this whole propaganda, the Prexy tasked three teams to find them and test Earths surface for life stability. I ended up volunteering for the team, I was his little guinea pig. Along with everyone else with me.
The only thing is, I wasn't here to run on his wheel. I had my own plans.
109th year after the Cataclysm
2nd month of the Dry Season
23rd day of the 2nd month
When I woke up this morning, I did not expect to be locked in the Airlocked vault with a group of rebels. I was just trying to stick to my routine, not be apart of some defying act against the Prexy.
Well, I'm not apart of it, I'm just a witness hiding behind some rusty, old shipment containers.
The guards were already down for the count, the rebels had thought this through thoroughly, they must have been planning this for awhile. But what does attacking the Airlock guards going to do for them?
“Open the Vault doors, Garret!” Yelled one of them, my heart pounded against my ribs, what are they doing?
They can't open the Vault! It's going to kill them, it's going to kill me!
“On the count of three."
I peaked around the crate, Garret had his hand on the lever, the key in the lock.
Don't do this. Don't do this.
Don't do it. Don't do it.
“STOP!” I walk around the corner, sticking my hands up in the air as their unauthorized guns pointed towards my chest. What was I doing?
“You can't open the doors.”
“And why not?” Replied the one who yelled at Garret, I recognized him, Calix. Why didn't I recognize his voice. He's my own brother.
People say we look like twins, even though he's five years older. We have the same dark brown hair, same bluish-green eyes, same sharp features. Both of us look like what are father looked like, yet Calix was quite more handsome than anyone else in the bunker (I did not inherit most of those looks). Which at some points was a blessing, but also a curse because people want to use you to get close to him.
“Calix, what are you doing?” I lower my arms, yet his gun still aims at my chest which hurt.
“Doing what I think is right, Claire." He steps closer, his pistol level with his outstretched arms, “You really expect me to stay here, underground like cowards?”
“We're not cowards, the Earth is unsafe for any form of life!” I respond, “The repair team reported it as unsafe, hardly any life can grow out there.”
“How do you know they aren't lying?” He spoke, “Dad died because he knew something about the outside and the Prexy killed him!”
“Prexy Arik did not kill dad!” My voice cracked, unhappy that Calix brought up the mention of our father so freely, it's been two years but it still stung.
“You don't know that, there's a lot about this place you don't know.” He started walking back and gestured for Garret to open the vault, “I'm willing to risk myself for the truth, are you?”
The blaring of the Vault sirens went off, something that only happened whenever the outside of the shelter needed repairs.
“You'll regret it, Calix.” I sigh, looking down at the ground, preparing to die the second those doors open and the Earths unsafe atmosphere floods the airlock, it's not like I'll have a chance on escaping now.
“I don't think so.” I look up and get a dashing smile that would convince most any girl, “Please, Claire. Come with me.”
I stare at him blankly, taking a step back, “I can't.”
And with that, the doors opened. I took in a deep breath and ran away from the vault doors. Pounding on the one into the rest of the bunker, hoping someone will see -or hear- me.
My lungs stung from holding my breath, there was a shuffling of feet and then it was silence. I didn't dare open my eyes, I just kept pounding the door while holding my breath. Not wanting to die yet.
I can't die.
I won't die.
Calix might die, but not me.
I slid against the door, my eyes opening and looking around wearily.
I saw a blurry Calix, he was looking down at me. Remorse in his eyes, disappointment. Before he could change his mind, he took a few steps back before fully turning and running out the large bunker doors. I watched him leave, tempted to follow him. He was my older brother, he always watched out for me. But something kept me back, I can't leave yet.
When watching Calix disappear, I could see out the bunker, it was incredibly bright. And green?
I tried taking a deep breath, I couldn't hold my breath any longer without collapsing, but a rasp of coughs hit me when I did. This air was different, it was cleaner and so different it was hard to adjust too. It tasted fresh, and clear. Not like the stuff from the vents.
Right when I thought I was getting the hang of this air, my vision went dark and I collapsed to my side, unconscious.
“Claire!” My eyes shot open, quickly I squint them. Blaring white lights were above me, so bright that they sparked a headache.
“WheramIwhathapped.” I sputter quickly, not focused on how understandable it was.
“The Med bay, you were passed out in the airlock.”
I know that voice, I slowly lift an eyelid and look to my side, my mom was sitting on a chair next to me. Tired and anxious.
“Where's Calix?” I ask, the events of the past couple hours rushed back. My eyes starting to water, not quite sure if it's my emotions or the bright light.
“He's…” My mom stared ahead, pulling at her pale brown hair, strands of grey running through her locks like threads of silver, her green eyes having heavy bags underneath, “He left, Claire.”
I close my eyes again as her quavering voice confirmed what I hoped to be a terrible nightmare.
My chest constricted as if someone placed a concrete block on me. Why didn't I try harder to get him to stay? He wouldn't have listened, like always, but maybe that one time.
“They're calling them the Renegades, the fifty-nine that ran away.” Doctor Harrison replied, walking up to her with a holographic screen that illuminated his face a ghostly blue glow, “You're brother is a traitor.”
“He's not a traitor.” I whisper as I sit up, then changed the subject so I didn't have to worry about Calix, “Why are we still alive? The Atmosphere isn't safe, the radiation from the Ultraviolet rays and Nuclear bombs should still be in the air, poisoning it. Right?"
“I cannot deny or confirm anything right now, Ms. Montley.” I looked at my Mom, but she just looked down, pained by her lost son to stand to anybody's help, “I can though, confirm that you are not ready to sit up.”
I scowled at him and defyingly pushed the white sheets back and let my bare feet meet the cool metal floor. I hated being here, every month we have to come in for an appointment to monitor everyone's health. Lets just say, it's very thorough.
“Ms. Montley, I highly suggest you sit back down. The Pre-” Doctor Harrison was cut off when the sliding doors opened and Arik, the Prexy of our nation, walked in, “Prexy in Med."
Everyone turned to face him, all giving him a respectful nod. All but me, and he knew that. He was staring directly at me, walking directly to me. Every other day I'm just another mouth to feed, I'm just a person in the crowd, so why is he paying attention to me now?
“Ms. Claire.” He addressed me, his voice thick and commanding, he was one of the only people in this Bomb Shelter that didn't have worn clothing, privileged, “Shouldn't you be resting, Doctors orders.”
He shared a look with Harrison before turning back to me, pulling my feet back onto the bed but refusing to lay down.
“What do you need, Prexy Arik?” I say properly as I fold my hands on the med gown I was changed into.
His eyes slitted as he continued, “I heard about your brother, Calix. Unfortunate, isn't it.”
I nod as I look down sympathetically, I know he doesn't truly mean it but I go along with it, “Yes, very. He is a hard worker and dedicated to his tasks.”
“Yes, and one of those tasks happened to be a self instructed one.” The Prexy's voice turned colder, as if he was breathing in liquid nitrogen, “And that self instructed task had consequences, we lost ninety-eight citizens, and supplies they stole to survive. These acts has also spread fear through the Bunker, we've had to tell parents that their children are traitors and thieves.”
“But they aren't, they're on the surface and surviving, I know it! Besides, if it wasn't safe, they'd have died the second the air entered their lungs” I growl. If they died, they wouldn't have made it much farther and if they died, why didn't she, “I'm alive, so they must be. How do you think people will believe you, I am proof that it's safe to be-"
“Quiet Ms. Montley!” Boomed the Prexy, “The reason you aren't dead is because you were farther away from the Vault doors and we were able to treat you as soon as we got to you. They are alive because they stole a huge supply of gas masks and weapons.”
“What about the guards, there were nine of them.”
“We were able to treat them and save their lungs from collapsing." Doctor Harrison replied, the tablet in his hand still lighting his face.
I didn't believe them, we would've been dead within two minutes if it was toxic air.
“You're lying.” I say, “The air is safe, isn't it?”
The harsh look I got answered my question, “Bring her to your office, Harrison. Me and Ms. Montley need to talk in private.”
He gestured to the nurses and patients around them, some being the guards, who were pretending not to listen but obviously were.
Why did the Prexy need to talk to me alone? Was he too scared word might get out about his little lie and that it might actually be safe to live outside, and not within these concrete and metal walls? Must be, otherwise he wouldn't be so anxious to talk to a commoner in his Bunker. But why would he want us to stay inside?
What could possibly be out there that is so wrong?
“What do you want?” I ask as the doors close behind us, leaving us alone in Doctor Harrison's office that contained a desk with holographic screens with a wall of medical supplied behind. It looked cold, even felt cold.
“You called me a liar.” Arik said, “And you're right.”
There was a long pause. I fiddled with the bracelet around my wrist as I waited for him to continue, there had to be more to this.
“I lie because I need to protect everyone in here, if disorder spreads through the Bunker, we'll all die," Arik moved to Doctor Harrison's chair and sat down, rubbing his temples, “There's a lot you don't understand Ms. Montley, I've been the Prexy for twenty-nine years so I know what is best for the people here. You've lived under my rule for seventeen years, you have no idea how to rule.”
“How do you know that?” I ask, bringing my eyes to meet his, “I've never had the chance to lead. Maybe if you-"
“No Claire, you have been assigned your schedule and must stick to that. Everyone has a part here.” His voice was firm, his stare cold.
“What does this have to do with the Renegades?” There was a touch of venom in my last word, “And Earth's conditions?”
Arik let out a sigh, leaning back in the chair, “I have a deal for you.”
“Why would you have a deal with me?” I ask suspiciously, “I could betray you anytime.”
“And I could kill you and say it was the outside air just as quickly.” He stood back up, straightening his pristine jacket, “If you don't tell anyone about what you saw outside, and say you blacked out the second the doors opened because of the toxicity levels in the air,”
I nodded, listening intently.
“Then you will get updates on the Renegades, on your brother.”
“I am sending out three teams to retrieve them. Two-hundred and twenty-five people total.”
I stared at him wide eyed, “How are you going to hide the fact that two-hundred and twenty-five people went missing?”
“I have decided to tell them that we are sending out one group at a time, testing the air levels and searching for their lost love ones.”
“They won't like it.”
“I know, but I am the Prexy. They will listen.”
I doubt that, “Who are you sending out?”
“Do we have a deal, Ms. Montley?” He stuck out his hand towards me, I hesitated, eventually taking his hand. I am alright sacrificing the lives of two-hundred and twenty-five if he is offering to save my brother.
He is going to save Calix.
109th year after the Cataclysm
2nd month of the Dry Season
31th day of the 2nd Month
It's only been eight days, but not having my brother home after our tasks was depressing. Me and Mom didn't have his sarcastic charisma at meal time or when we would sit down and watch old sitcoms (Years back when they could film them). Occasionally Calix would disappear for a full night, but we always saw him the next day. There was nowhere to truly hide in the Bunker, everything led to the same place.
We never asked where Calix went but we had assumptions, and little love notes slipped under our compartment door that were instantly discarded in the burner. (Waist of paper, if you ask me.)
To replace his lonely spot, Mom invited over another single-mother and her daughter, Rennette. A dark skinned, long curly haired, sixteen-year-old. The most fascinating part was her eyes, it was odd for a dark skinned to have any other color than dark, but she had big amber eyes that reminded me of the color of a jar of marmalade. A treat we get only on holidays.
I assumed Mom didn't want to feel deflated and sorrowful by the absence of Calix so she tried to forget about it by inviting friends over. It's the longest we've all gone without seeing him, we've always just been there.
Me and Rennette have been friends for years (twelve to be exact), only because we see each other often. If it weren't for family connections, we wouldn't even try to stand each other, Rennette's a total Frackface. She's a know-it-all, and she claimed I was too harsh and reasoning.
We actually despised each other but never said anything about it, terrified our mothers would act out against us, so we stuck to silent disliking.
“How are things going with taking up your brothers tasks?” Rennette asked, poking around my room which only contained a bunkbed, a nightstand, a dresser built into the wall, and a shelf.
I ended up having to cover for my brothers absence, which wasn't bad except I didn't know how to do his job. He worked in the monitor station and covered eight to twelve p.m. shifts. It probably wouldn't be so hard, but all the buttons and screens can be overwhelming, especially with the activity before nine-thirty o'clock at night (Curfew) was impeccable.
“It's fine.” I answer as if reading monologue I prepared earlier just for this occasion, “How's the horticulture Station?”
The Horticulture is where we grow all our produce. We have them stacked over each other, the bottom of each planter having a florescent light to help the crops grow. It was a large section of our Bunker, one not many see. I was only allowed to see it when my dad had to fix the humidity dial, that was nine years ago.
“It's fine," She let out a hefty sigh as she plopped down on my bed, bouncing up and down to test how firm it was, “You know, my mattress is at least five times better than this… board.”
I slit my eyes, but replied as kindly as I could, “I know. You've told me that every time you come in here.”
“Have I?” She looked up and tapped her pointy chin with her finger.
“Yes.” I gritted, “You have.”
We stared at the ground awkwardly, I was counting down the minutes before Rennette's mom would stop yapping on in the dining room and decide it was late enough to go home. I'm sure Rennette was doing the same.
“So… Are you going to the ceremony tomorrow?” I asked, trying to break the uncomfortable silence that was accompanied by the humming of the vents keeping this place full with breathable air. Air that felt stuffy and dry compared to the stuff outside.
“Of course I am.” She snorted, picking at her worn clothing, a long sleeve shirt with holes down the sleeves and hems, and a pair of baggy trousers, “It's the first group we're sending outside to explore since the cataclysm, which by the way was one-hundred-and-nine years ago.”
I scowl, which she doesn't see. I was hoping she wouldn't go, that means I'll be forced to hang out with her.
“Do you know who volunteered?” I asked, remembering the Prexy asking people to volunteer before he had to pick randomly.
“I know a few,” Rennette said smugly, her pudgy nose high in the air, “but it's a secret so I can't tell you.”
I really didn't care.
“Fine, if you really want to know….” She paused and looked around, as if searching for cameras listening to their conversation, which would be nothing worth boring yourself for, “I volunteered.”
“You?” I stifled a laugh.
“Yes!” She said matter-of-factly as her lips curved upwards in disgust of my reaction.
It really was funny if you thought about it, Rennette, someone who would only get her hands dirty in the Horticulture. Everything else was to far below her, she had to be pristine and perfect, pretty. Sometimes I thought she only talked to me because I was Calix's sister.
It's annoying, but I was used to it.
“Do you not think I can do it?” She asked, crossing her arms over her chest.
“No, I don't.” I reply truthfully.
“And why not?”
“Because you're you.”
“You know, I thought you might support me Claire.” She growled, standing up, “After all that I did for you!”
“Like what?” I ask as she walks up to me, being three inches shorter than me (Even though I was 5'5."), trying her best to look down at me.
She scrunched her nose at me, refusing to give me an answer.
“Rennette, we're leaving!”
Just on cue.
Rennette stalked out of my room, you could almost say it was sulking. What did Rennette want my support for, she doesn't like me, non the less like my opinions. Come to think of it, I doubt she has any friends, friends weren't hard to make but some people were hard to get along with. She qualified excellently.
I almost felt bad for her, I could be the only person in the Bunker that she talked too. I could be the only person she is willing to talk too without giving them a load of crap. Though, I did say almost, didn't I?
The all gathered in the center of the bunker, people watched from the bumpy balcony resembling hallways that went up all eleven layers, looking ahead at the holographic image of Prexy Arik. A blue glitchy projection that filled the empty space that looked all the way up to a foggy glass that is impossible to look through.
The glass being there to prevent Bunker Fever, a sickness where you don't get enough sun and nourishment and clean air, symptoms being high temperature, coughing, vomiting and gas. A terrible disease that happened constantly before the repair team (Including my Dad at the time) added a window to let in some natural light. I luckily, have only had it once when I was really little. It also gives us a good sense on time.
I watched the Prexy from the fourth floor, the residence floor. My arms pressed closely to my chest, sleeves pulled over my fists and my weight all on one leg.
“Good morning everyone, I have great news. All our volunteers have gone through training and have qualified to set foot outside and search for the Renegades.”
I flinched, the word stung.
“To celebrate this momentous occasion,” He paused and lifted his arms, “I have decided to break open a resource package and renew your spirits. We will provide catering and drinks, all you have to do is come and support these volunteers and their bravery.”
The people in the bunker cheered, I didn't. We were going to be opening a resource package, we're limited on how many we have. We've only got ninety-four left and we use at least two a season, I know because it is my job to keep track of our storage.
This was a bad idea.
“Before we get to our celebration, I would like to thank all our volunteers,” Replacing his blue hologram were faces of the volunteers with their names underneath, “It takes bravery and courage to face a world we know little about, and to test the air to see if it is safe and find these Renegades…”
I watched as Rennette Young's face appeared, getting her five seconds of fame, of heroism.
The Prexy appeared after all the faced disappeared, finishing his big speech before sending people to drink their fears away and send out these people, “And bring them home to be sentenced for their crimes. Let's raise a toast!”
The crowd cheered as I stood there, numb. That wasn't the deal, I kept quiet and he would save my brother.
I barely get out a sentence which no one could even hear over the clinking of glasses, “What the…?”