“Mike, your alarm is going off.”
“I got it.”
It was already 6am and my head was clear. I had a great night and it was going to be a beautiful day. We had so much experience in hotels that we had developed home and hotel routines. We would bring our Keurig and make coffee just like we did at home. The light was still low as I finally got out of bed and made my way to the kitchen. For a moderately price hotel it was very well done. The kitchen was almost as good as ours at home. I made my coffee and did my 15 minutes of meditation on the balcony. Starting the day off right was essential and I listened to Miles Davies “kind of blue” daily. I had been doing that for over a decade and every time I did it sounded so fresh.
The warmth of the rising sun was therapeutic and reminded me of my childhood. The tranquility did not last.
My morning meditation was over, but the best part of the day was just beginning. The early morning belonged to me and the girls. Sharon was never a morning person. Breakfast, music and dancing. We had a great time no matter where we woke up. We home schooled and I was the music teacher. I never thought my music lessons would be of any use, but the girls loved my teaching. I suspect they just wanted to hang out with daddy without interruption. This was another wonderful morning. I was going to miss this time. I usually was called promptly at 801 am seven days a week. This had been ongoing for about 4 years. It was now 830am and no call. I knew what that meant. I got our stuff together them roused her. We were checked out at by 0905 and on the road. The drive upstate was very pleasant. We had spent our honeymoon here and we knew the back roads well. Upstate NY was some of the most beautiful country around. After 4 hours of a very pleasant scenic drive we arrived at our first stop. The diner was in the middle of nowhere, but there was only one parking spot available and we parked.
“It is lunch time ladies.”
“Daddy I want pancakes with blueberries.”
“what do you want dear”
“I want eggs.”
“Is that it?”
“I said eggs dad.”
“Okay, okay, eggs it is.”
“So ladies when we get inside I want you to sit quietly. What will happen if we are not quiet?”
In unison they both said,”we will be put on time out”
Sharon was now fully awake and we went into the diner. This was the diner where we had our first breakfast as a married couple. We had not been back since them, but it looked as if nothing had changed. As we ordered, I looked around and noticed that my entire team was there. It seems we all had our families with us. Each table had 4 people, spouse and 2 children. This was the first time in 4 years we had all been in the same place outside of our lab. None of us had ever knowingly meet spouses or children. This was as it was to be. The kids and spouses were blissfully unaware of the situation.
Breakfast for lunch was wonderful. The scrambled eggs were as great as I had remembered. The girls cleaned their plates and wanted more. We obliged and ordered more. Slowly the diner emptied and I settle the bill and we were on our way. The roads became smaller and more narrow and soon we were deep in the forest. Three hours after leaving the diner we arrived. We were the last to arrive at what looked like a small bed and breakfast. I left the family in the car and went inside. There she was again, Jenny. The entire team was present, the families had been introduced and the spouses and kids where in the large conference room chatting. I got my girls and introduced them to the other families. The girls found there corner and were lost in conversation by the time I left the room.
The team meet in the smaller room. Jenny and her team were also present. Jenny asked me to start. I walked back to my car to retrieve my thumb drive. I was not very security aware, but all my computers where encrypted thanks to I.T. I took a seat in the car and thought about what I was about to do. Lives were about to change forever. No matter what the team members decided their life as they knew it was over. I looked at the pictures of my brothers and regained my strength. I walked up the stairs with renewed confidence. As I entered the conference room I noticed how small the room was. I took the chair at the head of the table and turned on my phone. We recorded all meetings on a secure device and this was my secure device for audio recording. I opened my water bottle and took a sip.
“I have known all of you for about 4 years and we have become a family. I lost my siblings in the Pale Wars and you have been my family. I want to thank you all for the friendship and the excellent work you all have done. Now, why are we here? We are about to change the planet as we know it. This group was envisioned and established many years ago. Five years ago I was charged with picking the members of this team. You are the best. I cannot tell exactly what will happen from here on but I can tell you what we have achieved. We have been given permission and funding to build out our AI solution.” Before I could finish there was applause. We had indeed worked hard on solving many challenges. The AI prototype in simulations had completed all tasks assigned and was up and running for 6 mouths without any down time. I was about to explain the entire program as I knew it but Jenny and her people promptly took over the meeting. Jenny stood and began to speak from the back of the room.
“Ladies and gentlemen, ‘the Consortium’ is very thankful and pleased with your work. My team is here to assist you in refining a working prototype. We do recognize that your system has been extensively tested and what you built is already purpose ready.”
I was tempted to interject but did not. My team did not know it yet but their lives where about to change forever. Another member of Jenny’s team stood and introduced himself.
“Hey guys congrats. I am very pleased to have the privilege to work with you. I will be responsible for making sure you have all the resources needed to complete this phase of your work.”
Jenny chimed in again. “You have all followed the instructions well and have come with your families and we are happy to have you. My team has spent the last 3 years making sure you will have a great place to live and work. Any questions.”
The room was strangely quiet. Jenny continued.
“At this moment your families are being shown to their new accommodations. Thanks for your cooperation.”
There were murmurs and Jenny reminded us all that we did signed a contract.
Jenny and her team left the room and the questions started. I tried my best to answer the questions but I did not have all the answers. “Guys remember the Pale Wars, we all did what was necessary to win. Now we are doing what is needed to never go back to that place.” The thought of the Pale War was enough to have everyone forget their questions. The trauma was so deep that this many years later we were still trapped by the emotions. We dispersed and found our accommodations.
As I walked out of the conference room it suddenly hit me. Where are going to live? Just then I heard the characteristic chime of an elevator. Underground housing does make sense. I found the elevator. George, my #2, and I entered. He pushed down. George and I knew most of the details and as we talked we were both excited and terrified. We were mostly worried about our kids. The ride down was longer than we anticipated and so was disconcerting. Once the elevator doors opened we could feel the change in temperature. Their was a grand hall with kids running everywhere and a few spouses chatting in one corner. The children had just meet but were behaving as if they had known each other for all their lives.
“Good thing they are all about the same age.” George said what I was thinking.
“I wonder if this was the plan.” George looked at me as if to say, yes it was.
I had known George long enough to understand that he would not raise an issue unless he had good reason to.
I did not have any insight but it seem too much like a coincident.
“At least the kids will be happy while we work.”
I saw the girls playing but did not see Sharon. I looked around and there she was in the middle of the group of spouses. I am going to have questions to answer. She walked over to me and gave me a big huge.
“Thanks for keeping us safe.” I was lost.
“What did they tell you guys.”
“They told us that you guys are working on a project that was going to be in the running for the Noble Peace prize next year.”
I was quit disappointed that they had once again constrained me to not being able to fully discuss my work with my wife. Unfortunately this was what I signed up for. The Nubian Core was no longer supposed to exist. They were officially disbanded after the war. The truth is always more colorful than fiction. The newspapers had reported that the core was still active, but no serious person believed. We were alive and more active than before. We had become a deep black program.
“Sharon do you want to show me where we will be staying.”
The walk was not as long as I would have expected but it was more pleasant too. As we approached there was a faint beam of red light that scanned us. The scanning was almost instantaneously followed by the opening of a door.
“This is our place. It is much smaller than we are used to but it will do.”
Sharon was must more pleasant about this whole situation than I had anticipated. The fact that our life had been up rooted did not seem to bother her. I was bewildered, but was sure the spouses were not told the real story.
“When I was in my meeting who spoke with you guys.”
“There was a very lovely older lady. She runs the inn and she explained it all.”
“So you are okay with the arrangement?”
“Why would I not be? It is just a work retreat.”
There it was, she thought this was just going to be a short-term stay.
I was not sure what was discussed but she did not have the full picture. I tried not to look disappointed, but I was. I was looking forward to discussing my work and why I was involved. I could no longer do that, not yet anyway.
“So when are we going fishing?”
She grew up in the country and missed going fishing regularly and I had promised her to make time. Now that we were in the country she was calling me out on that promise.
“Okay sweetie, we will go fishing.”
“Just us okay?”
“Who are we going to leave the kids with?”
“I have it arranged, don’t worry.”
“Since you have thought it through when are we going?”
“Well, tomorrow morning would be great.”
I felt as if I had walked right into it. I did not like the idea of fishing.
“I am sure you have arranged for us to have supplies?”
“It has all been taken care of. We just need to get there.”
“Thanks for the arrangement.”
We had finished the tour before I had noticed.
Friday was always a rest day and this Friday was not going to be different. This could not have been planned any better. The irony was not lost on me. This likely would be the last rest Friday for a longtime to come. We decided to walk the grounds with the kids.
The walk back to the main hall was much faster than coming downing. The passageway was well-lit and I could see more security measures. The cameras were very small and I noticed them as something that was designed by my team. Our work was classified but surprisingly ubiquitous. None of us had gotten public credit for our work. We all took the money instead. In the war we were encouraged to single out our team members and praise them for their work. Since the war praise was replaced by cash. We all had enough money to live comfortably. Strangely, I missed the old days. The competition was fierce, friendly and the products were saving our soldiers. We would have worked for food only, and we mostly did.