Eight other bunkers had been identified over the preceding year. Many of them had lost significantly more people than we had. One had a large surplus of female personnel. I overheard Braintree and Donovan commenting at one point, “They are so desperate for our single men to show up it sounds like every woman over there is on the verge of her biological clock exploding.” Pigs. Unfortunately I had become fond of those particular two pigs. Even though I rarely left Level 5 they kept me in touch with what was going on, often telling me things that never came up in the committee meetings which helped me understand some of the undercurrents I often felt. It didn’t stop me from wanting to brain them on occasion however and that was one of them.
Another bunker had lost their entire contingent of medical staff in an explosion when an oxygen tank ignited. Each bunker had their own set of stories and were eager for the possibility of filling the gaps in their personnel and supplies so they tallied up their needs and capacities. Arrangements were made to divide up the personnel and supplies of Bunker Gamma.
The very idea of the division caused a very emotional reaction in the population. Our bunker was like a small town and had developed a small town mentality. Change was going to be difficult and fears was rampant. Families were kept together but the departments, who had become like families, were ripped apart. However it was the only choice left if we were to maximize not only our personnel’s’ survival rate but survival of all the bunkers as a larger survival group.
Repairs on the bunker were no longer attempted; we rerouted all time and resources into what had to be done. What should have taken months was condensed into weeks. We shut down and mothballed the bunker, our home of nearly 18 months. We also spent many sleepless nights outfitting transportation vehicles to cross the inhospitable landscape. Routes had to be evaluated and the remaining supplies equitably divided. Salvage items finally went into personal luggage. It should have taken months to accomplish but we didn’t have it; the lowest levels of the bunker were already flooded.
The first convoy to head out included a lot of the invisible Level 1’s. Their destination was the furthest bunker which rumor had located in the Rockies. It was all very hush-hush; the world may have changed but the basic nature of the politician apparently never does.
The next three convoys all left the same day, all heading different directions, the fifth convoy and the largest left the next day and a good thing too as we lost one of the biggest generators and we were forced to shut down most of the power to all the levels. It’s amazing how much heat 770 some odd bodies generate. It was getting cold in the bunker and we couldn’t even afford to run an extra electric blanket at that point.
The sixth and seventh convoys advanced their departure dates and after they left it was like living in a mausoleum. As an irony, the remaining personnel moved into Level 5 as the rest of the bunker was closed down and for the first time in almost two years I was free to walk where ever I pleased. Chandler … now Capt. Chandler … gave me the full tour; it wasn’t near as impressive as I had built it up to be in my imagination.
We were laughing over the whole ridiculousness of the situation as we investigated the men’s bathroom in Level 1 quarters. Suddenly her radio crackled, “Chandler! I need you up in the labs now! Greeley’s fli … BANG! BANG! BANG!!!” The radio went silent and we were already running, forced to use the stairs as the elevators had no power.
It was restrained chaos when we got there with nearly everyone left crowding the space. Donovan was laid out and being worked on by the two medics we had remaining, one of them Laine Marshall. The Major was as emotional as I had ever seen her as she stood over Dr. Greeley’s quickly cooling corpse. She looked like she wanted to kick it. Two security personnel, one of them Donovan’s superior whom I’d only ever seen from a distance, explained to Chandler that Dr. Greeley had begun to act odd the day before, arguing – for the umpteenth time – that leaving the bunker was foolhardy if not suicidal.
Then word came that he was refusing to leave and was barricading himself in his lab and Donovan and Major Harper had been called to calm him down and then talk some sense into him. Greeley must have taken the gun recently because none had ever come up missing during the frequent inventories that were still habit from when suicides had been such a problem. He aimed for the Major but Donovan took the bullets and then fired once hitting Greeley in the chest.
Donovan was messed up. One bullet skimmed his ribs, one went through the meaty part of his left bicep, but the worst was the one that lodged against his left thigh bone. They nearly lost him twice operating to remove that one. The bullet had hit nothing vital, the problem is all shock and blood loss.
Is. He’s not dead, not yet. The day before set to be the absolute last day that the final convoy was to evacuate the bunker the Major brought together the remaining personnel, only twenty-one of us if you counted an unconscious Donovan, and explained things.
We couldn’t wait any longer. We were already way behind schedule. We had no choice but to leave if we were to take advantage of the relatively clear weather patterns while they were there to take advantage of. The problem was that Donovan was in no shape to travel. He had miraculously improved from critical to serious but even with that there was no way to accommodate him; no room, no supplies, no way. The choices were to leave him here where he would surely parish painfully with no one to take care of him, try to take him and watch him die just as painfully and jeopardize twenty other lives, or help him to fall on a metaphorical sword and shoot him full of tranquilizers to the point his heart and lungs would cease to function and be able to put him to rest before we left.
No one wanted to decide. No matter which choice was made it was tantamount to murder. And after so much death had visited the Earth to willingly cause it was untenable.
For me the decision turned out to be simple; it took more effort to convince them than it took for me to choose it.
“Major, there’s a fourth option.”