I wake up sweating. I had a nightmare; one in which I was being tortured by our government. I also had a stamp on my wrist which read 'deployed.'
After I had seen my file, I could do nothing else but to run away. I couldn't care if the Invigilators saw us. I just had to leave. Max came behind me, trying to grab me by the shoulder, but he couldn't. I'm still unsure if it's because I was running too fast or he realised it was futile to try and stop me. Fortunately, there was no sign of police, but I could not have cared less at that moment. All that was on my mind was the word 'deployed', and unfortunately this morning, it still is. Many questions are running through my mind: 'What does it mean?' 'Why?' and on top of everything 'Why me?' Perhaps we are being put in a different section, hence 'deployed'. But still, wouldn't there be a bad reason for that to happen? Maybe I have infracted the law in some way that I'm unaware of. Or perhaps I'm just making a big deal out of it and it's a simple procedure with no consequences. Still, why don't I have a good feeling about it?
I read my timetable, printed, and carefully put inside an envelope inside my mailbox. Today, I must report to Base 1. I have never been there since that is where the government carries out all its functions. They remain down below as if they were hellish demons, in order to maintain all their projects in absolute secrecy. No civilian is allowed to step below Base 3 which makes it impossible to wander down there "by accident" and, despite my unsatisfiable curiosity, I have never even attempted to step near Base 3 or its surroundings. Today, however, as the lift takes me to the depths of our spaceship, I can't help but wonder what is really going on. The elevator is rapidly moving, finally opening its doors to a cold, yet vastly decorated floor.
As soon as I step down, I read 'Base 1' in massive letters right in the middle of the wall I have in front. There is also a large, Victorian-like sofa with a beautiful golden flower print over a turquoise blue background. I can't help but approach it to touch the cloth. It's soft, and, to my surprise, velvety. I think about sitting down on it but I decide not to. For all I know, sitting somewhere uninvited on government premises might be a punishable crime. I turn over and I see two Invigilators. Despite their armour and neutral uniforms for both sexes, I can tell they are women. One of them takes her mask off and offers me her hand, something which I find truly strange. Invigilators have never made any other contact with civilians unless some form of torturous activity is involved.
"I'm Emma. Welcome to Base 1." I'm still reluctant to shake her hand, but I do so anyway. I don't wish to be on bad terms with any members of the police corps.
I thank her quietly, while the other lady simply stares at me, her mask also resting on her hand.
"This is my colleague, Lara." Lara simply nods her head, as a sign that she has acknowledged me. Again, a very odd thing."You're here for something very special, you'll soon see. For now, come with us. We'll take you to the cantine."
"Cantine?" I think. I haven't eaten, that's true. But it's strange how they are considering my hunger at this moment. I have a feeling that this is a trap. A criminal set to die always had a last meal before he was murdered. Is this what they're doing?
I continue questioning every minor detail, such as the fact that I'm walking behind them rather than in front. They don't seem to be worried that I could easily run away if I wanted, though that's probably not a smart decision. We finally reach a massive glass window, although the texture of the frame seems to be incredibly thick, capable of resisting any bullet. I wonder how heavy it is. The door opens quite smoothly and, to my surprise, this next hallway looks very homely. There are paintings on the walls, the floors are decorated with carpets and there are lamps and vases everywhere. There is a lingering lavender smell which makes the air feel like I'm somehow back on Earth, laying on the grass in Central Park, contemplating the clouds and making up new animals and objects from their shape. Emma presses several buttons on the panel and a metallic door opens, revealing a massive dining room with wooden tables and leather chairs with some velvet ornaments. There are plenty of young individuals, my age, as well as an incredible display of the most delicious and colourful foods, which I have not seen since 'the End'. And there, in one of the corners, sits Max, with plenty of croissants and pastries on his plate. He's devouring them so anxiously that he has not noticed I've entered the room.
"Bon Appétit" says the Invigilator, while she attempts to impersonate the poshest French accent without much success.
"Merci" I say, to which she smiles, somewhat surprised. In this spaceship, civilians are so lifeless and similar that any sign of individualism is rather striking. I'm guessing speaking French fluently is a particularity that not many seem to be capable of. I turn around and hear the door close behind me. Many people are chatting with each other in a way I had never thought possible. Laughter, even a single grimace was impossible to see in the above floors. What is this place and who are these people? I reach Max's table and sit in front of him. He finally looks up and, once he's recognized me, he escapes the trance in which he had immersed himself into and smile at me, revealing a bunch of bread pieces he was chewing.
"I... I'm okay I guess," I can't help grabbing some bread and dipping it into some very appetising looking jam.
"Oh, come on. Here!" he says dumping a croissant on my plate and serving me some warm foods onto another. "Eat something different."
I laugh and taste the meat, vegetables and other condiments he's given me. My mouth is struck by a thousand flavours which combine so well together, that for a minute I enter that same food trance, even closing my eyes. Max snaps his fingers on my face and makes me come back to reality.
"I feel like something's up. Two Invigilators came to me and one of them even told me his name and then shook my hand. I'm shook."
I laugh again and roll my eyes.
"Wow, what a pun, dork! Yeah, that happened to me too. But it was two women. One told me her name was Emma and the other was Lara. Emma shook my hand." I add a pause, swallow a piece of chocolate cake and say: "I'm shook."
The rest of the meal, Max and I talk endlessly, laughing at silly jokes and making awful puns which do nothing else but choke on our delicious foods. We finally decide to stop eating, for our stomachs are completely full, to the point where even moving has become impossible. I look around the room and notice the same, with a few people still munching here and there, but most have ceased to continue eating. Someone suddenly enters the room, making everyone go completely quiet, and I know why. Our President has entered the room, with around a dozen Invigilators behind him, pointing their weapons at us.