Author: Jae Miles, Staff Writer

Dawn breaks as we head uphill, the path laid on top of the trench that covers the power cables. Passing through the bulwark, the noise of the chillers drowns out all natural sounds.
Patrick gestures to the viewport. I pull the lever that works the wipers. We peer through.
The valley below is covered in snow, dead trees sticking through the drifts. At the cliff end, great doors can be seen above the remains of the old landslide that obstructed them. I can feel the cold through the transparent pane.
I look to Patrick.
“Don’t they suspect?”
He nods.
“I’d be a fool if I thought there aren’t people in there asking questions. But, so far, we’ve detected no activity that indicates attempts to open the doors or to tunnel out.”
“It’s been twenty-eight years. How long before their predictive models disagree with what we’re showing them?”
“Most were in the forty-year range. Many of the counter-arguments would’ve fallen by the wayside when ‘Nuclear Summer’ or similar changes hadn’t occurred after five years. As for what they’re thinking now, nobody out here knows.”
I step back and take a seat. These duties might be tedious, but everyone agrees they’re essential.
“Patrick, how many bunkers are there?”
“Thirty-five remain under management. The Integration Commission decides if and when they will be approached. Sadly, the six major ones will never be breached. Those inside are considered irredeemable.”
“What about others?”
“We’ve brought seventeen back into the world. Most were astonished at the subterfuge, but on seeing the result have agreed to participate.”
“Most? What happened to those who disagreed?”
Patrick frowns.
“We offered them a chance to transfer to one of the isolationist communities. There are three bunkers that contain voluntary withdrawals: those in Kentucky and Siberia are full. The latest, and biggest, is in the Taklamakan Desert.”
“Weren’t there some disturbances?”
“Yes. Texas and England. In both cases, lethal force was used. A lot of us aren’t happy about that. The next time we’ve resolved to do better.”
“Will the isolationists ever be released?”
“I suspect a couple of generations will be needed before negotiations can start.”
“What about nukes?”
Patrick grins.
“Full of questions this morning, aren’t you? The last unsealed stockpile is somewhere in what was Wyoming. I’m told research is ‘ongoing’. I’m also told that research may have to be forcibly stopped. Old greeds are surfacing.”
“Warminds? Nationalism?”
“Many people still remember how it was. Most don’t care. A few do, and some care too much. The switching out of nuclear warheads was a clandestine international initiative, the start of the nationless world. When the warminds pressed the buttons, enough first wave tactical nukes remained to drive them underground, convinced that ushering in the end of the world to stop people from thinking differently was reasonable. Luckily, all the strategic warheads fired had been swapped to conventional explosives. They made a mess, but nothing toxic.”
“That’s when United World stepped in and set up the cold zones about each bunker?”
“They didn’t openly declare themselves until the bunkers were secure, and after the hold-outs had been dealt with, but yes.”
I look at the man I chose to be my father figure. His eyes have narrowed.
“You’re not convinced United World is the solution, are you?”
Patrick smiles.
“There are signs of totalitarianism within the hierarchy. Too many older folk with lying smiles. I want to start something to set things right. Work out how to stop history repeating itself.”
“Not I. ‘We’.”
He smiles, then nods.
“Alright, then. Welcome to the beginning of a fresh start.”

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