by Jonny Capps
Even after eradication, humanity hasn't changed.
| The doors on either side of the common room lead into a circular hallway. Claire already knew that, since she had seen and memorized the map. |
She found her bedroom, clearly marked with her full name and title, adjacent to Joshua Stein on one side and a short hallway, leading to the medical bay, on the other. Claire resisted the urge to resent whomever had designed this complex for simply assuming that she would be the medical professional here, and placing her so close to the bay. The placement made logical sense, since the entire reason that she was in this project was for her medical prowess. Still, it would have been nice to pick her own bedroom.
Opening the door revealed a comfortably large room, more the size of a studio apartment than a bedroom. Claire looked over the area and quickly cataloged the inventory. This was quite obviously a room, designed for her, since everything about it seemed to have programmed to make her feel comfortably at home, from the bright, energetic colors, to the slightly exaggerated natural lighting, to the shelf of Steven King novels on the bookcase. Taking a deep breath, Claire closed the door to the hallway, shed the awful robe which had made her feel exposed, no matter how she sat, and walked toward the washroom. The glass door slid open politely, welcoming her to the room. As she entered the tiled room, she paused, frowned, and decided to test a theory.
“Play soft jazz music,” she commanded the atmosphere.
The air was quickly filled with the sounds of upright bass and saxophone. Claire smiled as she walked toward bathtub. Maybe this place wouldn't be that bad. After all, everything looks better when one is listening to jazz music.
It's strange, how something can appear so exotic and innovative in one's mind, but when it actually occurs, it just seems oblique and surreal. Claire thought about that extensively as she bathed. The situation which she had presented with at the initial meeting had seemed decent enough, a logical approach to upcoming tragedy, a “break glass in case of emergency” reaction. Now that it had actually happened, the idea of six people (there had to be other people, elsewhere in the world, they wouldn't have placed the entire fate of the planet in the hands of six people) rebuilding the world seemed insurmountable, nigh impossible. Claire was wondering how she had ever thought this was a good plan, and something that she wanted to be involved with. She was already starting to miss the world that she had left behind.
Scrub the centuries off of her legs: she would never be able to walk to the old fashioned coffee house on the corner of her street again. No more croissants, no more single-origin Brazilian Peaberry, no more cute, college boy with a wide-smile and cheerful demeanor to serve her. There was likely coffee in Syracuse, but somehow, it didn't feel the same.
Run shampoo and conditioner through her hair: she would never address a room of anxious med school students again. There would never be another annoying coed, asking her redundant questions which were clearly covered in the syllabus. She would never have the satisfaction of helping a struggling student finally grasp the concepts that they were having trouble with. There would never be a “less attractive than they thought they were” kid, seeking to avoid a failing grade by seducing her. Mikhail might flirt with her sometimes, but it wouldn't feel the same.
Rinse the soap off of her torso: she would never get to feed or pet her dog again. That was something that Syracuse could never replicate.
Stepping from the shower, she allowed the heated air to dry her off, as she stood in front of the full length mirror and examined her body. Claire allowed herself to smile at a random, slightly shallow thought: for being over 500 years old, she looked damn good. Yes, getting lost in nostalgia was a logical occurrence, psychologically speaking. Still, maybe it was time to live in the moment. After all, she was building a new world.
Opening her closet, Claire found a wide variety of clothing, ranging from formal to casual. After slipping into panties and a surprisingly comfortable bra, she chose to wear a pair of jeans and a comfortable t-shirt. There was no need to explore the classier elements of her new wardrobe. She wasn't really in the mood, anyway.
The door slid open, as she expected it to. Claire walked out, turning down the hall in order to return to the common room.
“Archimedes, are you there?”
“Of course I'm here; where else would I be? How can I help --”
“Shh, listen, if I ask you something, could you possibly keep it between us?”
“My programing stipulates that I reveal perceived threats to the entire group. As long as what you ask from me doesn't pose a threat to the safety of the unit, or any of the individual member of said unit, I see no reason to expose our conversational topics. Although, I must admit that you asking me to keep this conversation private does kind of send up some red flag.”
“Don't worry about that, I'm not going to ask you anything compromising. I just want to get some information without causing too much panic or having to deal with interruptions, justifications, or distraction.”
“I suppose that's logical, as well as consistent with both your station and personality template.”
“Wait, what? My personality template? What does that even – you know what, it doesn't matter. You said that it's been five hundred years since the bomb dropped right? How has the base been operating at full power this entire time?”
“Well, for the first three-hundred years, the base only required auxiliary power, since it's only purpose was to keep six of you safe and comfortable. After that, the solar panels turned back on, and began to collect energy from the sun, which was remarkably undamaged by the war. I was activated a hundred years ago, and I have been maintaining the base and it's operations since then.”
“Yeah, okay, that sounds reasonable. Are we six the only people in this operation?”
“How could The Illuminati have expected six people to repurpose the entire world? They may be a disturbing and chauvinistic organization, but they're not illogical. Besides, that would be asking quite a bit from Dr. Roux and Dr. St. Crow.”
“Well, you didn't mention any other structures! What was I supposed to think?”
“Are you holding me responsible for your own assumptions?”
“All right, that's a fair point, but it still would have been polite to volunteer that information. How many people are members of this project?”
“Are you fucking kidding me?”
“I don't make the rules, I just play by them.”
Derrin walked back into the common room, dressed in a plain gray t-shirt underneath a tweed blazer, khaki pants, and penny loafers. Business casual had seemed appropriate for the moment. Derrin had been confused by the selections in his wardrobe, especially the choice of exotic, island patterns. They were things that he would have worn, of course, but only on rare occasions. It seemed odd that The Illuminati would supply him with those, since they weren't exactly clothing choices that he would have missed. He chose not to think too deeply about it, though; there were plenty of other things to contemplate.
As he reentered the room, he saw that Joshua was there, still clothed in his robe. Tenzin St. Crow and Bartholomew Fredrix were also there, in their robes, talking to Archimedes. Josh looked up as he entered and nodded an acknowledgment. Making his way to the seating area, Derrin sat down in one of the chairs. Bart looked to him with a soft smile.
“Quite a predicament we've gotten ourselves into, huh?” he asked, nonchalantly.
Derrin laughed despite himself. “That's a bit of an understatement,” he replied.
“Humanity has finally accomplished what it's been attempting to do since the beginning of time,” Tenzin debated with Archimedes. “We've managed to destroy ourselves.”
“On the bright side,” Josh interjected “there's probably peace in the Middle East now.”
Tenzin slowly turned her head toward him, revealing her signature no-nonsense look, which seemed to be a mix of apathy, annoyance, and pity. Derrin had been privy to this look once or twice himself. He and Bart used to joke that, if you stared at it too long, you would either turn to stone or burst into flame, depending on what she desired. It was easy to underestimate Tenzin at first. She looked more like a petite Asian model than a world-renowned scientist, with her fit, athletic body, her dark, silken, hair, and her bottomless, almond, eyes. A brief, three-minute conversation with her would reveal that she was not a woman to be trifled with, and that she was way out of anyone's league, intellectually speaking. That was probably why she rarely bothered to have conversations with people, keeping her thoughts mostly to herself.
“Would you also like to comment on how India no longer has a housing problem?” Tenzin asked Josh, daring him to continue with his casual outlook.
Josh dropped his eyes, and opened his mouth to respond, but closed it again when no comment came.
“Dr. St. Crow, may I suggest that you relax a bit?” Archimedes advised her, to the surprise of everyone present. Tenzin returned a surprised look to Archimedes, raising her eyebrows curiously.
“Humanity has been massacred, yes,” Archimedes continued. “There's nothing that any of us can do about that now, except rebuild. While the situation is extremely dire, each individual will react to the situation differently. Humor is an almost exclusively human trait, so therefore, there is not enough of it in the world at the moment. While Mr. Stein's joke may have been in poor taste, it was made in good fun, in order to add levity to a bad situation.”
“I'm Jewish,” Josh muttered meekly. “The Middle East and bad jokes are kind of my thing.”
Tenzin nodded to Josh, which was the closest thing to n apology that Derrin had ever seen from her. He was impressed. Granted, Archimedes was still a condescending asshole, but he was probably the only one among them that could approach situations rationally.
Mikhail entered the room then, dressed in a fashionable suit, his hair flowing and bouncing with reckless abandonment. It was not clear as to whom he was attempting to impress, or if this was simply his everyday swagger, but the smell of expensive cologne created an envelope of aroma around him. He smiled confidently as he approached the couches, sliding down next to Josh. Derrin almost expected him to wink at Tenzin, since he had been less than subtle about his attraction to her, but he restrained himself. Mikhail didn't seem to notice any of them, actually, being content to simply allow the others to notice him.
“So, vat are we all talking about?” Mikhail asked, attempting to become relevant in the conversation.
“You, mostly,” Josh quickly quipped “and that overpowering scent that you're wearing. What is it: Odor de Sex Machine?”
Derrin and Bart both chuckled, and Derrin noticed a slight snicker from Tenzin. Mikhail took it in stride, snickering and placing his arm around Josh's shoulders once more. “I'm just attempting to bring style back to the planet. I would acknowledge your objection, but it means very little, coming from a man in a bathrobe.”
“I haven't really seen the point in changing,” Josh replied as he stood up, shrugging off Mikhail's arm in the process. “The point of this operation is to revive the world, right? Since I'm the reconnaissance operative, I thought that gathering information was probably a higher priority than impressing you guys with my stylistic clothing choices.”
“What have you learned?” Tenzin asked, turning to Josh with renewed interest.
Josh shrugged. “Not much, to be honest,” he admitted. “I'm going to explore the base a little, get changed, and I'll meet you all back here a little later.”
Josh proceeded to the door, passing Claire in the process. Derrin restrained the smile which instinctively pried at the corners of his lips whenever he saw her. It was only natural that he should be drawn to her companionship, but he didn't want to seem to eager. She walked to the couch where he was sitting, and placed herself beside him. Bart nodded to her.
“Good morning, Dr. Roux,” he greeted her with an ironic brightness. “It's a great day to be alive, isn't it?”
Claire laughed generously at the joke. “That it is, Dr. Fredrix,” she replied, her fingers once again digging into Derrin's mid-thigh. “It's a beautiful, new day for the planet Earth.”
Archimedes actually smiled at the humor. Derrin wondered how long it would be before that joke became the new “how was traffic”.