Ribbons of red, orange and yellow sunlight melt together as the sun rises beautifully over Sicily. You smile thinking how peaceful it is to be out on the Mediterranean Sea with a cup of Italian coffee without a care in the world. You think about the concerns you had when you had started the cruise. Who would have believed a cruise ship dry docked in the middle of the desert would have ever brought you the Caribbean and Mediterranean Seas. This trip was more than wonderful. It was perfect! Even if the ship couldn't travel thousands of miles in one night, fly, or somehow magically grant you your every hearts desire, the chance to escape the daily grind of your life was more than satisfying.
"Ladies and Gentlemen," the sound of Dalton's voice over the loud speaker interrupts your thoughts. "Good morning. As you may have already noticed, Tasha and I have not ordered for our ship to move."
Your heart jumps. You had been so caught up in the beauty of your surroundings that you had never noticed the ship never moved. Feelings of dread form in your mind. Oh, no. Maybe the ship broke and you're stranded in the Mediterranean Sea. Halfway around the world where you don't even speak the language!
As if Dalton could read your mind, he continues. "Do not fear, everyone. The ship is in perfect working condition. Our new destination cannot be reached by boat but we must transport you there via our teleporation machine."
Transport? Are we on the USS Enterprise now?
"We have been granted permission by the authorities to tour a secret facility. As such I cannot give you the location nor the details. At 9am you are all to report to the lowest level of the ship. Tasha and members of her ROTC squad will meet you down below. Once everyone has gathered she will instruct you then accompany you to the facility using our transporter. Oh, and one more thing. Um, well, I don't want to mention it but Tasha said you might need to know. We've never actually been able to transport something to another location without it blowing up on the other end. But Tasha assures me she has it all fixed. Uh, well, alright I'll see you on the other side."
The boat grows silent.
The glass elevator doors open with a hiss in to a large, open cafeteria. Standing towards the middle, amongst the rows and rows of empty tables, is a woman. Her eyes stare ahead at nothing as she mumbles something to herself. We exit the elevator, looking at the surroundings in boredom and disappointment, after all, who wants to tour a cafeteria? The woman finally takes notice of us and approaches, her black curly hair bounces to and fro. She stops in front of the ground, whips her hair to the side and pushes her black rimmed glasses up her nose. Her purple bangs slide from behind her ear, swinging back and forth in front of her face.
"Hi there!" Her toothy smile almost touches her ears. "Welcome to HQ, my name is Dixie and I will be taking you through the living sector of the compound." She motions towards an opening in the far wall. "Please, follow me."
Dixie turns around and leads us on. "We are roughly 3000 feet below the surface of the earth. HQ was built in 1989 under the guidance of Thomas, as well as the funding and care of the U.S. government. In those days, the compound was nothing more than a single floor of concrete and cinder block. Since then, two more floors, a gymnasium and a housing district have been added. Today's tour will be centered around our park."
We mumble and whisper to ourselves. Dixie stops in front of a very long, very wide hallway and motions for us to quiet down.
"I know you were told..."
"You were promised a tour of the entire compound. Well, I'm sorry, but at the moment you do not have clearance."
We continue our mumbling and grumbling on as we approach a large, metal set of double doors at end of the hallway. They look like something from a spaceship - large and wide, the doors meet vertically at the center of the hall. Dixie presses a code into the security keypad on the wall, humming along to the beeps of each key press. The doors respond with a click and there’s a long drawn out hiss as they are pulled into the walls by hydraulics.
"The issue is being resolved at this very moment, until then we will take a walk through the park."
A lush field of green grass welcomes us from the other side of the opening. Shades of yellows, blues, reds and pinks blossom from the flowers above the grass line. Tall, broad trees shoot up into the cloudy sky. We make our way in and so begins the tour.
Skipping as slowly as she can, Dixie stays slightly ahead of the pack. "By now you have noticed the sky. It’s computer generated, but from this distance you can’t tell. All the plant-life: trees, grass, flowers, all of it is very much real. The scientists on the research floor developed a spray that circumvents the need for photosynthesis. The plants still release oxygen into the air, giving us the air we are breathing now."
We give no indication that we heard, much less cared for the information - mostly because we don't. Dixie ignores their disinterest and general attitudes, smiling the entire time. We continue our walk down a paved path surrounded by foliage, listening to the sound of birds singing and the rustling of the leaves. The path is partially shaded from the noonday sun. Beams of sunlight break through the treetops and touch down on to the ground in a scattered fashion. The occasional jogger drifts off the path to make way for us.
Dixie turns around and walks backwards, addressing all of us. "Another feature of this park is it's psychological effects on the employees. As you know, very few of us are allowed, or even willing to go above ground. Part of the reason our employees are so eager to stay is that they still get to enjoy the benefits of living topside, but without all the potential violence that one would experience elsewhere. Without this park and its illusion of open space, our employees would most likely require psychiatric treatment, like those who have had prolonged exposure to confined, isolated spaces."
"As a matter of fact I do have a doctorate in psychology and anthropology as well. I'm happy to show you the studies if you'd care to read them."
The tour circles around and heads back to the main entrance. The remainder of the tour is spent with Dixie listening to us complain about having to visit an underground park and not seeing any of the weapons or defensive equipment that is made a level above. She says nothing – pretending to ignore every word of it.
"There you have it, ze park! Please follow me to Thomas's office. He wanted to personally thank you folks for coming by. He wanted to run this tour himself, but things are quite busy for him these days."
We make our way to a wooden door several feet down from the elevator. Strange symbols are etched into the door frame that none of us recognize and don't ask about - we won't get a straight answer anyways. Dixie contemplates using the security pad next to the door, but then decides to simply knock. She raps out "shave and a haircut" on the door and backs up. The door clicks and out walks an older man with dusted gray hair. He stands a couple inches shorter than Dixie, with his arms to his sides.
"Hello everyone, my name is Thomas. Welcome to HQ, I trust Dixie has been a worthy hostess and tour guide for such a prestigious group?"
"Of course, boss." Dixie does a curtsey and enters Thomas's office.
He clasps his hands in front of him. "Excellent. I'm sorry that I couldn't have guided you myself, but I have had business to attend to that couldn't be postponed."
"Yes. I understand you want to see the rest of the facility. The clearance has been granted. I will let you get back to your tour in a moment, but there is one thing I need to state before I do that - something rather important that all of you need to be aware of. So please, I need your full attention."
Thomas looks over the group, waiting for everyone to look his way. He raises his hands in to the air and claps once. A ripple of air extends from Thomas's body and through ours. A rush of confusion and dizziness hits us all at once. You try to shake it off, but can't.
"Come on out Dixie."
The door creeks open.
"All right folks, here's the plan." Everyone looks to Thomas for answers, for some reason you are very willing to listen and do as he says. "In two hours you will call, text, email and tweet everyone you know and tell them that this place is fantastic and they should all buy in to it. None of you needs to come for a second visit because we were more than willing to show you everything. Now, if you can please go to the elevator, Dixie will be there momentarily to escort you to your vehicles."
We shuffle to the elevator and waits in silence for our next instruction.
"Thanks, get them out of here before that spell wears off. I don't want them getting confused and accidentally breaking it."
"No 'prob boss."
Author Nick Forristal holds a B.S. in Psychology. He is thirty years old, is married, and has a 1 1/2 year old son. He thinks he probably drinks much caffeine. He can be found at the following links.
amazon author page http://www.amazon.com/Nicholas-Forristal/e/B0084MVBEU