Under Normal Circumstances

Chapter Four

Under normal circumstances, I’m generally already a pretty curious person.  I’m constantly always looking stuff up on Wikipedia (Jimmy Wales is one of my all-time heroes and on my personal Mount Rushmore) and I’ll always follow wherever my curiosity leads me.  I simply just need to know.  I’m one of those people.

So, being in China, in the most mysterious environment ever –that is, some secret Chinese Communist Party-backed laboratory in the middle of literally nowhere– of course I’m going to follow the exotic, genetically-altered Asian beauty to see whatever she’s wanting to show us.  Life is rife with moments when you’ll need to make tough, difficult choices that take weeks of deliberation.  This isn’t one of them.  This is a total no-brainer.

“Lead the way,” I say to Shu, standing up from my barstool.  I stretch my arms above me for a minute and it feels good to finally be back on my feet with free range of motion.  Homo sapiens had not evolved over 300,000 years and stumbled out of Africa in a drunken stupor to spend most our waking hours sitting on our asses.  We’re just not anatomically built for it; but in a cruel twist of fate, nowadays that’s all we mostly do. It’s a genuine tragedy.

Shu leads the way and everyone follows.  Apparently, we’re all curious people.  We shuffle after Shu out of the faculty-esque lounge like kindergarteners on a class field trip, turn the corner in the hall, and then begin descending down several flights of steps deeper and deeper into the bowels of Building 11.

Of course, we’re headed to the basement.  It’s always the basement.  Every time.

At the bottom once the stairwell ends, Vanessa walks up to the front of our little group and scans her palm against a semi-translucent glass security plate next to a ginormous titanium, concrete door.  Looking around me, I feel like we’re about to enter some sort of super-secure secret bunker, the kind of installations typically reserved for presidents, dictators, or mega-rich billionaires paranoid about zombie apocalypses.

“You guys really watch a lot of American action movies,” Coleman says from somewhere behind me, clearly admiring our surroundings.  “I do like the décor though.”

“This facility’s built to withstand nuclear war,” says Alan.  “You’re about to see why.”

After a moment, the security scanner beeps, apparently satisfied with Vanessa’s handprint.  Two dozen giant steel tumblers grind and unlatch as the massive vault-like blast door unlocks and slowly swings open.  We all step through.


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