BELOW

I should be having breakfast right now but instead, I stare at the empty side of the room. It feels so cold without her things. A bare mattress, steel frame, and a simple empty wardrobe surrounded by stone walls. All of which are devoid of the slightest hint of colour or life. This tiny space used to feel like a sanctuary, but now it resembles a prison cell. I didn’t sleep a wink last night. The silence was deafening. How I yearned to hear her familiar breathing. It was our first night apart since birth. Actually, since we shared a womb, longer than that. I wonder how she slept last night. Jay was always a good sleeper, unlike me whose mind never seems to shut off. She is far stronger and more independent than I am. The separation will be no sweat for her. 

 

I’m still laying in bed when the door slides open. An elderly man stands there surprised by my presence. I think of this as our space and he feels like an intruder. I know instantly though, that he is here to take over Jay’s spot. I knew that I wouldn’t remain here alone as an empty bed can never stay open for long down here. I am considered a “single” now as I have no family left, so I figured I would be moved. There are not many double rooms so they will often go to a pair of family members, like Jay and I. It seems in this instance two singles will be sharing. 

 

My new bunkmate has white wispy hair and kind blue eyes. His face is creased around the eyes and lips and his skin looks slightly weathered. He is old enough that he was probably exposed to sunlight in his younger years. He is carrying a small sack of items and is dressed like everyone else here, in dull grey lightweight basics. I bet he snores, I think annoyed and he scans the room with surprise. 

 

“I’m sorry, I didn’t think anyone would still be in here at this time,” he says. 

“Yeah well, I was just getting up” I lie, sitting up.

“This is a bit awkward. I’ve never shared a room with a stranger before, never mind a young lady. What an odd pairing they’ve done. You would think they’d consider these things.”

“They don’t care about those kinds of things. It was probably the easiest to arrange at the time. I’ve never shared a room with a stranger either. What sleep schedule are you on?”

“Third.”

“Oh. Yeah. Me too.”

“Ah right. Sorry. I guess we’ll be here at the same time then?”

“Yup,” I reply, not even trying to hide my disappointment. 

“Well, I suppose you should at least know a bit about me. I’m Griffin. I was a history professor.”

“A history professor? How did you end up down here?”

“My wife was the Essential. She refused to come without me, so here I am.”

“She got a plus one? She must have been a level two at least.” 

“A one actually. She was a scientist. Best known for developing our current system of desalination” he explains. 

“Your wife is Jan Adrian? She’s amazing!” I pause realising what I had just said. “Was amazing. Oh crap. I’m sorry.”

 

He just gives a sad nod as he puts down his things on Jay’s wardrobe. His wardrobe, I should say. Dr Adrian only just passed, which explains his room change. She was a hero and we were all saddened at the news. I feel a pang of guilt over my coldness. 

 

“I’m Riki,” I finally offer “my sister left yesterday. To go on the latest mission above ground.”

“Oh Riki, I’m sorry. I hope she returns soon.” 

“No, it’s fine. She’s strong. Nothing like me. She’ll be back for sure.”

“I’m sure she will too. But you are strong too, in your own way.” 

I only respond with a scoff. This old man has no clue what he’s talking about. He doesn’t know me or my Jay. 

“Do you have any other family here?” he adds. 

“No. We came down with our parents but they left for the Mars Colony. ”

“That was about 5 years ago, wasn’t it? How old were you?” 

“We were 12” 

“Ah. In my day you wouldn’t be able to leave children that young, but it’s all so different now. Everyone grows up so fast. They must have been very important to get a spot in the colony.”

 

I nod but add nothing more and instead finally excuse myself. I don’t like talking about them. They were important. My father was the CEO of the leading solar power provider and my mother a brilliant engineer for the same company. Jay inherited my father's confidence and leadership abilities and I followed in my mother’s footsteps, although I will never be of her calibre. When they were offered the spot there was never any question of them staying behind with us. They would have been crazy not to go, but it hurt nonetheless. It still hurts. I cried for days and Jay never left my side, but we were considered grown by that age and needed to get on with things. We’ve had no communication since. The last thing my mother told us was to stick together and look after each other. I could tell by the way she looked Jay straight in the eyes when saying it what she really meant. Jay should look after me, and she followed those instructions right until yesterday. 

 

                                                                                  *   *   *   *   *

 

The next morning I managed to get down to the cafeteria just in time to get a meal. It’s breakfast for me, but dinner for others. It’s most efficient for everyone to work and sleep in different shifts. It’s all the same type of food every meal anyway. Most of the people have cleared out by now as it’s almost an hour into mealtime. I’m fine with that. Jay and I always sat together at meals. We’ve always stuck together despite our very different roles. Jay had plenty of friends at work but outside of that, she was kind enough to spend all her time with me, who only had her. 

 

As I sit I get my first alert of the day. My watch gives a sharp buzz and reads C-58, R-0431. The C is the code, which I know by heart and the R is which room. It’s a maintenance code for excessive power consumption. It’s a one-person job, two tops so the team can easily handle it without me. I’m a mediocre worker and my lateness this morning will likely not inconvenience anyone. 

 

I poke at my food, a flat oval of questionable texture and colour. It is very bland, just a mix of whatever we can successfully grow down here at the time. They are slightly better now that the genetics team managed to get the hens laying eggs. This was the first time most people here had eaten any animal protein. We were wary at first, but now are glad for it. Today though I have no appetite. 

 

As I am walking down the corridor to the office I pass the junction where Jay and I would part ways. She would head towards the lifts and go up to the military base just above us. I would always worry about her when she went up. I shouldn’t have really. She was safe in the guard post. These days there are so few left out there. I’m glad she didn’t have to work at the start when they still outnumbered us. 

 

“Are you seriously coming in here almost an hour late?”

It’s my boss. She’s disliked by the whole department. She’s on the committee though so we are careful to not let her know how violently she is disliked. 

“I’m sorry. Jay left yesterday and it’s been hard on me.” I explain. 

She scoffs at me. “What kind of excuse is that? You are all so spoiled these days. When we first came down there was so much work to do. We all worked 12-hour shifts every day to get this place running.”

I’ve never been reprimanded before, as there’s never been a need, but she works this fact into every lecture she’s given me. It’s true, things are much easier now. When people first came down the bunker wasn’t ready, but the conditions outside changed so suddenly they didn’t have a choice. I was obviously too young to be put to work so I missed out on the hard days. Big deal, get over it. Besides, her calling me spoiled is rich. Her job is cruisy. She was the CEO of a major airline company. Do we use air travel now? No. Does she have any technical skills that make her fit to run an engineering department? No. Does she make everyone’s lives miserable for the sake of it? Yes. 


 

                                                                                  *   *   *   *   *

 

By dinner time I feel exhausted. The lack of sleep last night and feeling sick with worry about Jay have caught up with me, not to mention dealing with Griffin and my boss. I tried to watch a movie during recreation time but gave up halfway through. A love story that takes place on an enormous boat. It was obviously going to end up happy. Dreading another interaction with Griffin, I think that if I get to the room first I can pretend to be asleep and avoid any more conversation. When I arrive, he is already lying in his bed staring up at the ceiling. Damn. 

 

He looks up at me and presses his watch. I realize he is listening to something through implanted headphones. He apologetically explains “I like to get into bed early. I don’t sleep much but the old bones need to lie down at the end of the day. There is not a single comfortable chair in this whole place.” 

“I normally am up much later. I was just tired” 

“Of course you are. All that worry about your sister. Well, you just put out the lights whenever you need, I don’t need them.” 

 

I shuffle around, in and out of the room getting ready for the night. As I’m in the washroom I contemplate not going back but instead hanging out in a recreation area until he’s asleep. I’m being such a jerk though. He just lost his wife. Maybe he doesn’t want to be alone, even if it’s just me. 

 

Finally, I return to the room, lie in bed and switch off the lights with my watch. This leaves us in the kind of darkness you can only get underground. I can hear a man talking faintly and realize that it’s the recording he is listening to, quite loudly. With the implant, you normally can’t hear someone else’s media. He must have poor hearing due to his age and probably uses the implant as an amplifier which is why he hears me fine. 

 

I hear the recording go silent and he speaks to me.

“Are you able to hear that?”

“Hmm? No, I don’t hear anything.” 

The recording starts again but much softer.

I loudly say “You can turn it back up, it’s fine”.

“Oh, but I thought that you couldn’t hear it.”. 

“Well ok. I can. It’s fine though.”

“It’s quite all right, I think I’m about ready to be alone with my thoughts,” he says and the voice disappears. 

 

I wish he would continue listening. It feels strange laying here in the dark, both of us awake and not saying anything. I don’t want to make conversation but I can’t help myself. I have to break the uncomfortable silence. 

 

“What is it that you do all day anyway?” I ask.

“I record lectures. For future generations” 

“But.. for what purpose?”. 

“I know it doesn’t seem like a useful thing to do now. But I have to hope that in the future things will be different and people will want to learn about our past. I want to give them that from the perspective of someone that lived through the shift. I think it’s important if we want to rebuild and have better success rather than ending up here again. Besides, it’s all I can do.” 

“Was history a normal subject to learn? Before.”

“Yes, it was one of the basics. I guess we had the time to spare, not like now. By the time I was fully qualified most of the unnecessary departments closed down. I managed to do private lessons online for those that were interested. As things got worse though, my students dropped. I just keep on recording anyway.”

“Were things very different then. When you grew up?” I ask with real curiosity.

“Very different, yet very much the same. Things change quickly yet some things never seem to. But I had some real luxuries when I was young. I got to play in maintained outdoor spaces as a child, had the luxury to worry about things that didn’t matter and most of all had a real love story with Jan.” 

 

My mind races in the short pause. Why would worrying about things be a luxury? Why would anyone worry about something that didn’t matter? Did Griffin and Jan have an actual love story? Like the movies? Surely it’s not what Griffin means. I have my doubts that that kind of thing ever happened in real life nevermind when Griffin met Jan, much later then these movies were written. I can not imagine that Jan and Griffin ever stood on a beach watching the sunset holding each other and speaking sweet nothings. Anyway, it would be much less romantic now that the oceans are long dead. Before I can comment, he continues. 

 

“We always think we have it worse than any other generation though, don’t we? In the 20th century, they had to worry about nukes and basic human rights. In the 21st century, it was corruption in politics. In the 22nd century, it was doing anything possible to try to stop this runaway train when it was already too late. The 23rd century, well I don’t need to tell you.” he says trailing off. 

“Yeah. Rebuilding. What about the 24th then?” I ask hoping he’ll have something positive to say about our future. 

“Well, obviously I hope our attempts are successful. That we can finally learn from our mistakes, but that never seems to be the case. What I really want is for us to return to a place where there is more to life than survival and people will want to watch lectures from some boring old fart.”

 

I chuckle a bit. I wonder if he actually believes that there is any possibility of that. From a scientific perspective, it isn’t really feasible. Things will continue to get worse outside and it will take tens of thousands of years for the environment to recover. As long as we are down here the best we can hope is to sustain our current population until we can live on the surface and grow our numbers once again. Griffin isn’t a scientist but Jan was and she must have told him this. I’m about to ask him more, but I fall asleep with my thoughts instead. 


 

                                                                                  *   *   *   *   *

 

The dim glow wakes me the next morning. It is an artificial light that comes on gradually starting at the end of our scheduled sleep time. At this point, I can tell approximately what time it is based on the brightness. I confirm the time with my watch and realize I’ve had a longer sleep since.. I don’t even know when. I’m all alone which isn’t surprising. There is some comfort of seeing signs of life on that side of the room and the loneliness isn’t as overwhelming as it was yesterday morning. There’s even an artifact on the wardrobe that I recognize from movies as an actual physical copy of a book. He really does live in the past, I think. I guess it’s not a bad way to live. I get ready for the day and head down to breakfast. 

 

I get on with my day as normal. Having finally had a good sleep and with my first full day without Jay behind me, I feel slightly better than I did yesterday. After an uneventful day, I’m about to indulge in some recreation time. My plan was to head to the virtual reality centre and visit Hawaii for the evening and explore the lush palms and even dive into an ocean full of tropical fish. Before I get there I get an alert on my watch. C-8, R-0042, B-83. I instantly know what this means. The code is for a room change and the added B field denotes my new bed. This is exactly what I expected to happen yesterday. I just thought with Griffin moving in that I could keep my old room a bit longer, but this makes more sense than I would now be put in one of the large dormitories with the other singles. 

 

When I arrive at my old room I see two teenage boys, similar in appearance, waiting outside holding onto duffel bags. They are chatting excitedly until they see me approach and instantly look down at the floor, shuffling their feet. I’m sure they are very pleased with their new assignment but do not want to face the person they are taking it from. I go in without a word to them and the first thing I notice is that Griffin’s side is already vacated. He must have received the message before I did. It takes no longer than a couple of minutes to pack my meagre belongings. The boys hurry in as soon as I am a few steps out the door. 

 

I go down the lifts several flights and find my new room. The room feels claustrophobic despite its size. There are rows of bunk beds making up 100 beds with little space in between. About a third are occupied by those on sleep shift 2.  In the large dormitories, the lights stay on dim so people can come in and out. It’s going to take some getting used to as I’ve gotten accustomed to total darkness. 

 

After finding my bed, a top bunk in the middle of the room which seems like the worst possible position, I put my things into my assigned trunk under the bottom bed and get out of there as quickly as possible. I need the distraction of recreation time more than ever right now. I head back up the lifts to the media floor, where most people spend their recreation hours. I look down the rows of cubes for a green light indicating an empty space. I catch someone exiting one instead and I hurry over and grab it. I put on the goggles which instantly do an eye scan and log me into my home screen. On my home page, I see a new selection has been added to my personal itinerary today. The title is “The Perfect Storm”. I see the author’s name, Griffin Adrian. I never knew he had the same last name as Jan. As old fashioned as marriage is, sharing a name is positively archaic. 

 

The fact that his file is here is confusing at first. Then I realise he must have sent me his lectures. It’s an odd thing to do. I barely know him and practically told him I thought the idea of them was a waste of time. Maybe he picked up on the curiosity I felt. I certainly don’t need to be in the cube for this. If I was just going to watch something I would have gone to the library, in a smaller seated area. I figure I’ll stay and just take a quick peek at the first and then do my holiday as planned. Besides, after today it would nice to see a familiar face before going back to the room of strangers. I stare at the first title “The agriculture catalyst” and the video begins. 

 

Griffin looks younger, happier and is speaking animatedly at the camera. After a short introduction, pictures and slides fill the screen as he talks over them. He starts over 20,000 years ago after humans started using tools and learned to grow crops and domesticate animals. It was the first time we had a surplus of resources which lead to a divide in class. He explains this was the start of a long path of people wanting more and more. I can almost hear Jay’s voice in my head saying “Who cares?! This is completely irrelevant to now.” Yet the talk is very engaging and I find myself enthralled. It’s obvious that this is his life’s passion and his enthusiasm is contagious. It’s the kind of thing I was always curious about but with Jay around, I never could really get into it. 

 

I never do get to Hawaii that night, and I finish two more lectures and head to bed late. 

 

                                                                                  *   *   *   *   *

Over the next few weeks, I watch the whole series. It’s about all the factors that forced us underground. What I had been told before leading me to believe our fate was inevitable, but Griffin is pretty set on the fact that it all could have been avoided. He talks about corruption, greed, apathy and ignorance as to the human drivers and the role that corporations and politics played in the matter.  Despite all the distractions of issues which I’m sure seemed really important at the time, so many dire warnings from scientists were ignored again and again. Those that wanted for nothing to change had too loud a voice fueled by bottomless pockets. Thanks to social media an anti-science movement developed. It helped people that wanted to continue to ignore the issue, even with all the evidence working against them. 

 

Out of the many points Griffin makes, though, he seems to really focus on the idea of us not looking out for society as a whole. Rather the rich decided what was best for their interests and used their power and influence to make it so to the detriment of everyone else. Starting early on Kings would live a life of excess while their subjects would starve. Large rich countries would spend billions exploring space for the sake of curiosity while the poor would go without basic needs. It started to impact the world when corporations made bad choices for the environment, over and over, to increase their profits. This escalated to letting third world countries get wiped out from drought and famine when the climate got too hostile. The divide continued when only those with the means could reproduce as natural births became extremely rare and the demand for the procedures drove the cost sky-high. 

 

Griffin explained this all in a way that leads me to realise how this all relates to today. Even though my generation was all born into well off families the divide came again. The bunker was selective, but not only for the most useful. Our complete lack of resources should have finally been the great equalizer but it’s just so ingrained into us that our status was the key to certain privileges that things continued as they always had. The committee making all decisions for our future is not made of who would be best for the job. Every member is known as the richest during their time above, even though money has no use anymore. 

 

All the best scientists, architects and engineers are right here. This may be the best chance for survival of this base but with a small added risk we could have spread out and got the other bunkers up and running saving countless more lives. Think of what we could accomplish with more bunkers, working on solutions all as equals in this new world. We could finally have a better civilization. One where we learn about our past and make a new course. Yet they felt that our needs are the most important. We are not expanding our base, but instead, we improve it. Now that we have shorter workdays we take recreation time rather than trying to help others. Lastly, our military risk their lives not to help those suffering, but to keep them away. We are only about the needs of the few and the few are the ones deemed to be important for reasons that no longer make sense. 

 

As soon as I finish the series I want to tell Griffin and talk to him about all the ideas flooding through my head. I want to rant about the injustice of it all and talk about what solutions there might be. The past several weeks have been lonely for me. I still miss Jay terribly and have yet to make a single friend in the bunker. I have been keeping an eye out for him ever since we were separated but I haven’t seen him once. It’s not surprising given the size of the place. He may have been moved to a different sleep schedule which would prevent us from ever crossing paths. 

 

                                                                                  *   *   *   *   *

 

Months pass by slowly. I’m not as much a loner as I once was. It’s amazing how easy it was once I let my guard down. I never would have if Jay was still around as there was no need. I’ve started eating meals with one of my bunkmates, a boy named Curt. He’s a single like me, let down here as he was top of his class for agricultural studies. I’ve even started chatting with a girl from work called Delia. She’s the daughter of a high ranking committee member but is surprisingly not stuck up about it. Things are starting to not suck when I get a message on my watch. Another room change, a higher level, where the smaller rooms are. It could only mean one thing.

 

My lungs burn as I race down the hallway. The oxygen levels are not high enough for this level of exertion but I don’t care. As I reach the door I see her. She looks tired, with more colour to her skin and her buzz cut looking quite shaggy. Before she can even turn my way I pounce, clenching her so hard she lets out a squeak. 

 

“Ok, ok! Ease up Riki I can hardly breathe.”

I let her go slightly and then I pull her in again. 

“Jesus girl, chill out. I missed you too.”

“I missed you so so much Jay.”

“You survived though I see.”

“Ha! You were the one risking it all out there.”

“Yeah, but we both know my chances out there were better than yours, even safely down here.”

We both have a good laugh.

“Tell me everything! How was the mission? Is it awful out there?” I ask impatiently.

“It’s hell on earth.”

“Are there many people left?”

“Hardly. Some small groups. Those not taken by the elements were taken by each other. But you don’t want to hear all that, trust me. How have you been?”

I start going a mile a minute. I tell her about Griffin, Curt, and Delia. I tell her about the lectures I watch and urge her to watch them as well so we can talk about it. 

“Urgh, sis, come on. I’ve been on a mission for months. All I want is to spend a week in the virtual world.”

“I know, I thought it would boring too but it’s not. It’s made we rethink the way we do things here. It’s all pretty cruel isn’t it, us down here -”

“Don’t you start again. This is just like when we came down. You wouldn’t shut up about it.”

“Yeah, it was awful! All those people were so desperate to come in. That mother that thrust her baby into my arms and begged me to take her. I still think about it.”

“She was insane! I took care of it for you though so why obsess over it?” I remember how Jay grabbed the baby out of my arms shoved it back to the mother. 

“She was desperate, not insane. We should have tried to help.”

“We were eight for god’s sake!” 

“I know! The adults weren’t doing anything. How could they just turn their backs?”

“They knew what was important. That we survive. Sacrifices had to be made.”

“Yes, I know, but-”

“We’ve known for decades that we are the only intelligent life in the universe. Think about the void that would be left if we didn’t make it.”

“Maybe there was a better way-”

“Riki. I’m tired. I really want to chat with you but not about this. I’m going to take a long shower, deal with this mop on my head, and then hit the media room. We can talk later but please, not about this nonsense.”

With that, she was gone.

 

                                                                                  *   *   *   *   *

 

Things with Jay were slightly more tense than I would have hoped. I gave her space and we were all too polite, avoiding any more serious talks. The next morning we headed down to breakfast together and found a seat. Curt joins soon after and suddenly Jay is back to her old self, chatty away with him as if I’m not there.

 

“I work in the agriculture department on D level,” he tells her.

“Oh, so do I have you to thank for the addition of the eggs to these patties? They’re much better now.”

“Ha, no, I don’t deal with the chickens. More of a crop guy.”

“Are we going to get to eat the chickens eventually?” She rubs her hands together.

I jump in “Why on earth would you want to eat chickens?”

She rolls her eyes at me. “People used to eat chickens all the time.”

“Yeah, but they take up so many resources. It’s not efficient.”

“Where is it that you think the eggs come from a darling child?”

My cheeks burn hot. I hate her talking to me like this in front of Curt. 

“It’s actually a great sign that we have the chickens now,” Curt explains. “It means we are doing well enough to not have to be completely efficient.”

“What about all the people starving outside? Why should we get luxuries instead of trying to help them? We could be feeding them instead of chickens.” I ask Curt, but of course, Jay answers instead.

“Not this again. Sorry about my sister Curt. She doesn’t get it. It’s all about the bunker Riki. That’s our main concern.”

“Well, that’s just cruel!”

“Well, it’s a cruel world these days little sis. We have to ensure the bunker thrives to keep a viable human population alive.”

“First off, I’m not your little sis. We’re the same damn age. Second, I thought it was about surviving, not thriving. When did the goals change?”

“When we could afford to live better, of course.”

“Don’t you see! This is the way it’s always been. If we have more than we need we should help more people, not improve our quality of life.”

“So what would you have us do? Send food outside to people that most likely won’t survive the elements anyway?”

“No, invite them down!”

“Listen to yourself! We only have so much space. Every bed is accounted for.”

“And every bed sits open two-thirds of the day. We sleep in shifts so we can share.”

“You really want someone else sleeping in your bed when you’re working.”

“Yes, if it means saving a life! When did you get so cold Jay?”

I jolt from the bang vibrate in my ears. Jay's hand is flat on the table and she has a look unlike anything I’ve seen on her.

“You need to grow the hell up. You don’t know what it’s like out there. What people have become. You get to stay safe down here in the bunker and you should be damn glad for it.”

With that, she gets up and turns away. I call after her “Well they would have become that way because of us! Because of our cruelty!” but she keeps on walking.

I sit back down and stare at my food. After a few moments, I realise Curt is still there. I glance over and see his mouth slightly ajar. 

“Are you guys always like that?” he finally asks.

“No. Never,” I tell him. “But I’ve never stood up to her before.”

 

                                                                                  *   *   *   *   *

 

The interaction with Jay has me completely shook. I feel enraged not just at her, but at what has just come up. Griffin was right. We are just reliving the past. Giving ourselves luxuries instead of helping others. I realise that I need to talk to him. I just need to know what he is doing. That he’s getting the information in his lectures to others. 

 

I arrive at work and walk over to Delia’s desk.

“Hey… Oh. What’s happened to you?” she asks.

I realise I’ve been fighting back tears and probably look it.

“Just a bit of an argument with my sister.”

“Jay’s back? Oh, that’s great! Or, maybe not great? What’s going on?”

“It’s not important. Look, I was wondering if you could help me. I want to find someone in the bunker.”

“I could find that on my dad’s computer.”

“Would he be ok with that?”

She leans in and whispers as if letting me in a secret. “I use it all the time. I’ll pop in at lunch. Tell me what you need.”

 

My plan is to find Griffin’s new room assignment and pop by before his sleep shift starts as I know he goes to bed early. He’s probably got a nice small room with a more age-appropriate roommate. It makes sense, he deserves that. I’m thinking about all the things I want to tell him and find out from him. 

 

When Delia come in after lunch she has an odd look on her face. 

“Did you find him?” I ask eagerly.

“I’m afraid not. It seems he isn’t with us anymore.”

My heart sinks “Griffin died?”

“No, no. He was asked to leave.”

“Leave? The bunker? That doesn’t make sense.”

“Apparently because he was a plus-one when Jan died that status could be revoked.”

“When did this happen?”

“Months ago.”

“So he is dead.”

 

                                                                                  *   *   *   *   *

 

I sit on the information for days. Jay and I hardly speak now. She’s started eating her meals with her workmates while I sit with Curt. The distance between Jay and I have pushed my friendship with him closer. I’m able to talk to him about things I could never tell Jay. This includes the lectures and Griffin’s eviction. He has been surprisingly sympathetic. 

 

“It just isn’t fair,” I tell him over dinner. “He was old. He wouldn’t have taken up room much longer and we could have easily afforded to keep him. Why should he have to go while I get to stay? I’m not particularly useful.”

“Your parents were super-elite though.”

“So why not kick us out when they left? Like they did with Griffin.”

“You know elite members and essentials are different.”

“But why? At least they have important skills. Like you.”

“You have engineering skills,” he says.

“Big whoop. Me and thousands of others. I’m not particularly good at it. Besides, I was a kid. They had to spend time and resources training me. I couldn’t even help with the set up when it was really needed. I’m totally unnecessary in every way. Nothing would change if I were gone.”

“At least it’s something. Griffin wasn’t contributing to the running of the bunker. He could have picked up some skills to help.”

“He thought it was important what he was doing. Maybe it was too. Super important. Besides, his wife did more for the bunker than any ten of us.”

“Yeah, but now she’s gone.”

“Well, maybe she wouldn’t have been able to do so much without him,” I mumble, poking at my patty.

“How do you mean?”

“He made it sound like they really loved each other. Maybe the love and support he gave her helped her be so amazing.”

“Wow, Riki. Such a romantic, I’m surprised.”

“Shush.” I press a finger to my lips and feel my face redden. In a mock whisper, I add “Don’t you dare tell anyone.” 

He chuckles. “I can kind of see the bunkers view though, as cold as it is. Everyone needs to contribute.”

“I don’t know. I think his teachings could really help us be better in the future. If anyone would listen.”

“Can you send them to me?”

“Really?” I drop my fork and smile. “You’ll watch them?”

“I mean I’d better at this point. You won’t stop talking about them.”

“I’ll send them. Now that he’s gone it’s all that’s left of him. The more people that watch them the better. Otherwise, everyone will be just like Jay, with her blind allegiance. They have to see how we are already going down the same path that got us here. I’ve got to get people watching them.”

 

As Griffin would say, it’s all I can do.

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