Daniela was pissed off. She was just getting to know Nathan and now here she was, waiting around on her own in the main bar again. It was bad enough that they pulled her out but now they had all gone off and left her there. She drummed her fingers against the bar and checked her watch. She’d been sitting here for 10 minutes. She was done. She got up and started to make her way back to the room, hopefully Nathan would still be there and she could actually salvage some of what was left of her day.
Daniela felt a shiver go down her spine at the sound of that sing song voice. She turned round to see her smiling at her, Katie at her side, face ashen and gaunt.
“I’m so sorry to keep you waiting, Katie here was just being briefed on what is about to occur. The fault is mine, I had assumed she had already been told.”
Katie nodded to Daniela, but didn’t open her mouth. She seemed cold and looked terrible, her eyes appeared to be red.
“Is everything okay?” Daniela asked, eyeing Katie wearily.
“Everything is as it should be Ms Davids, I assure you.” The woman answered. “We just need your help on a few things, if you wouldn’t mind.”
“What kind of help?” Daniela asked.
“We are in possession of some of your software Ms Davids, we were hoping that you would help us in operating it.”
Daniela did a double take. Her software was here? Why the hell would they have that kind of technology at a bar?
“Which software are you talking about?” Daniela asked.
Katie spoke this time. “Stylo 1.”
Daniela let out a laugh. “Why the hell would you have Stylo 1 here?”
“I think this conversation is best explained if we show it to you.” The woman said. “This way please.”
Daniela followed Katie and the ever peppy woman across the room to a large metal wall on the far end. As they approached, there appeared to be a keypad entrance panel. The woman typed in a number and the wall slid open slightly with a click. They walked through the entrance, Daniela checking behind her to see if anyone had noticed the secret door. There didn’t appear to be many people in the room anymore, and those that were didn’t even bat an eyelid at the change in door. Her eyes eventually fell on only one other set of eyes staring at her; the barman from before, the one that Christiana had introduced as Jason. His face was grim and he was absentmindedly cleaning a glass with a dish cloth but he kept his eyes on her, unflinching. She gave him a nod but he didn’t respond, instead, he looked away and walked around the bar until he was out of sight. Daniela felt a chill run down her for some unknown reason.
She turned and walked into the entrance. There was a metal circular staircase in front of her, leading to a trapdoor in the ceiling. She followed Michelle and Katie up the stairs and through the trapdoor. It was from this point on that her world changed forever. The room that she had walked into was a giant bubble shape with cement floor and a glass dome that went from the floor all the way round. Daniela could see a 360 degree view of the outside of the building and what she saw was chaos.
The first thing that she really focused on was the sheer amount of fire everywhere. It looked as if the entire outside was aflame. Daniela couldn’t quite work out what would cause that amount of fire. It was ridiculous. On first glance, it looked like that was all there was, but on closer inspection you could see the vague objects of buildings, cars, and road signs. All of this however, paled in significance next to the third thing that Daniela spotted; some of the objects were moving. Not because they were falling or being pushed, no, these objects were running. Masses of people, one after the other were running in haphazard directions, trying desperately to get away from the fire but who all seemed to be unable to do so. Daniela stumbled backwards as she realised that she was witnessed live people on fire.
“What the hell?” She gasped.
“Is this her?” A voice came up behind her.
“Yes ma’am,” Katie said, her voice thick with emotion.
Daniela wanted to pay attention to what was happening, she knew that she was needed for some reason, but she couldn’t physically take her eyes off of the disaster around her. It was so horrific and she couldn’t quite compute what she was seeing.
“Daniela Davids.” The voice said. “I need your attention.”
“Is this real?” Daniela asked, hoping and praying that it was some form of projection on the inside of the glass.
“I’m afraid it is,” the voice said. “We have a window of opportunity to keep everyone inside this building alive however, but in order to do this, we need your help.”
She heard the words, but again they wouldn’t sink in. She caught sight of a woman screaming in pain, clutching her baby to her chest and running from the fire, but it seemed that wherever she went, the fire followed her, it was as if the air itself was the thing on fire.
A hand was on her face and she was forced to look away and straight into the eyes of the woman trying to talk her.
“My name is Kelly Mayhew and I'm sorry, but we really don’t have any time for you to deal with this. I’m sorry to ask, but I’m going to have to insist that whatever meltdown or emotional response you are working yourself up to having right now, is put on hold. I need your full attention. The lives of everyone in this building rely on it.”
Daniela could do nothing but nod. She was already void of emotion, the thing she witnessed was so large that she couldn’t quite work out how to get an emotion to fit it. In fact, she was pretty certain that she was dreaming.
“It’s best if you don’t look outside.” Katie offered. “Just look Kelly straight in the eye. Look at her only as she takes you through what they need.”
Daniela nodded again. She took a deep breath and did as she was told, staring directly into Kelly’s eyes, avoiding the moving images either side of her and trying her hardest not to focus on the screams and other horrifying noises that were all around her. She homed in on Kelly, shutting out everything else. When Kelly began to speak, she was able to focus.
“The world is ending.” Kelly said. “A meteor has collided with our earth’s atmosphere and although there has been no impact of rock on earth, it carries a strong and harmful chemical that has now intoxicated our oxygen. Debris from the meteor has been entering our atmosphere for the past 8 months, lasting damage however has been at a minimal.
“The earth outside this building is no longer habitable. People will eventually be unable to breathe in the air around them and they will die. We are the hope for the future, however we need to protect the building that we are in. There are outside forces that could threaten our secure air. We need Stylo 1 to help prevent this.”
Daniela couldn’t even muster a nod to that piece of information. She thought there couldn’t be anything bigger than what she had seen outside of this room but she was wrong, this was too much. World ending? People dying? She briefly considered focusing on the fact that they had been chosen and not others. What was special about them? However, that opened up a whole can of worms about those who were not in this building and Daniela couldn’t physically let herself think about that. She needed time however, time to process this information because at the moment it was just floating about randomly in her head in a stagnant state that wasn’t serving any purpose.
She could start with Stylo 1. This was her ticket to salvation. She knew exactly why it was suddenly integral to the continuing survival of everyone. She knew that they had built it. It was how she had met Katie. The army had commissioned her to work closely with Daniela in the construction and testing of Stylo 1, ensuring it’s effective nature. However, this was three years ago. Katie had occasionally asked her the odd question regarding it throughout their friendship but she had not been in the same room as the one they had made for over three years.
She had made improvements on the model of course, and those improvements were then sent to the Army as part of their original agreement. She also had her own version of Stylo 1 (or Stylo 26, as it was more accurately now) and due to this, she knew the system inside out. She had made, birthed and grown this piece of machinery, she realised that there was no way that they were going to enter into a post apocalyptic world with her Stylo and not have her sat behind the machine keeping it going. Her brain had meant that she had been selected for survival, it was never her intention when she built it but it was the reason she was in the room. And as for the others? No she wasn’t going to think about it, there were too many bad avenues to process and she needed to stay focused for what was at hand. It was pretty clear that what was at hand was quite literally the end of the world. Suddenly her head felt light, she stumbled backwards once more and was held up by strong muscly arms.
“Careful there.” She knew the voice, it was Nathan. She turned to look at him. Why was he here? She closed her eyes again, blocking out that thought process too, it wasn’t productive to think about that too much right now.
“Daniela?” Kelly said. “Are you alright?”
She didn’t answer. She couldn’t. It was all too much.
“Daniela, we need your cooperation in this matter. There are strong forces carrying even stronger risks on the safety of this building. We need your help with Stylo 1 to keep them at bay.”
Daniela nodded once more. It was all she could give.
“That’s good enough for me.” Kelly said and nodded to some people around her, they had built themselves quite an audience in the duration of Kelly’s explanation. “Get the pods ready, let’s take Daniela to see Stylo.”
Daniela was carried forward by Nathan and another man, she could walk but her legs felt a little like jelly.
“It’s going to be okay.” Nathan whispered in Daniela’s ear. “Just keep breathing.”
Daniela couldn’t make sense of this. Keep breathing? What else was she going to do? She wished people would stop talking to her, it was just adding more and more information on the damn in her mind that was scarily close to breaking.
She was guided to the centre of the room. It was open plan and her baby sat in the middle. She briefly wondered how she had not noticed it before but then caught a glimpse of a man burning to death and remembered she was distracted. She stood in front of the console, a tirade of touch screen equipment, all suited and booted with the best her mind had to offer, and that, apparently, was a lot.
“You will control the machine from here, make sure that no bugs or errors occur.” Kelly said. “Katie tells me that you work with your own version of this machine on a daily basis. Of course, we know that we can trust you to work this better than anyone else.”
More words. It was getting harder and harder to keep them all tightly held in her head.
“We have been training a core group of soldiers in the usage of Stylo and they have been it’s Walkers for over two years now.”
She shouldn’t be surprised at this. She should be excited at the thought. She had only used walkers for mundane tasks, today she would get to see walkers use it in only the way she dreamt it would be used. She wasn’t. She was just trying to stop a headache that was starting to take over.
“We have two of our finest soldiers here to lead the Walkers, they are the most trained and skilled Walkers we have.” Kelly said. “Might I introduce you to Connor Mayhew and Duncan Jennings.”
Kelly was now standing next to Connor, she recognised him from earlier. The one with the girlfriend. The guy next to him though wasn’t Duncan, it was Nathan. Wasn’t it? Unless... suddenly it made sense, all the evasive actions from Katie, the over exaggeration from everyone at the mention of the name Nathan. Everyone at that table knew who he really was and she was the only one who didn’t. She felt the damn explode around her ears and she stormed towards Nathan AKA Duncan Jennings.
“You lying bastard,” she said as she pushed him hard, causing him to stumble back. “You told me you liked me, that you were a decent wealthy man. You were lying the whole sodding time, making me the butt of everyone’s jokes.”
Daniela’s voice was raising with every word, Duncan just stared at her with a permanent shocked look on his expression. She shoved him again.
“You are a pig and a womaniser and a... a... bastard! A massive and pricky looking lying bastard!”
She gave him one last shove and he stumbled back onto the glass wall. Daniela could feel the heat emanating from it. She balled her hands into fists, unsure what she was going to do. Suddenly there were hands on her, pulling her back. Duncan didn’t fight back, he didn’t even answer. He just continued to stare at her with a completely perplexed look on his face.
“Daniela! Do you think now is the right time to be discussing this?” Katie’s voice rang through Daniela’s ears, just as she started seeing red. She turned on Katie.
“You! You are just as much a liar as he is! You were pretending as well! I feel like I don’t even know you.”
“Enough!” Kelly shouted over the din. “We are running dangerously short of time Daniela, are you prepared to work on this or do we need to use one of our own people?”
“Is that an option?” Daniela asked.
“Not the best one,” Kelly answered, but if you’re not going to cooperate then you’ll leave us with no option.”
Daniela took a deep breath, pushing Duncan/Nathan and Katie out of her mind, once more focusing on the problem at hand. She thought of someone else operating her baby for something as important as this. It made her cringe.
“I’m in.” She said. “Where are the pods?”