Two large metal doors beckoned her. Entire generations had lived and died under an artificial light. Mostly forgotten stories were told of what it was like outside the protective confines of bunkers. A nuclear war in September of 1983 had driven their ancestors underground with the promise of eventually being able to return to the surface.
Asis bit her lip and threw a lock of hair that had escaped from the long braid that hung down her back. She knew that it was forbidden for anyone but scientists to approach those doors. It had been a game, growing up, to see who could get the closest without being caught. She had always been among the adventurous ones of her class. Now, she stood twenty paces away from the iron doors and had the government’s blessings to go further.
Asis smiled as she dawned the white sanitary-government issued protective clothing, complete with protective boots, gloves, and respirators. She had been dreaming of this moment since she was a child...and now, everything was surreal to Asis. The hood was pulled over her head, and with the help of her assistant, Asis secured it with a pair of goggles and the respirator. The boots were heavy and stiff feeling—she hated having them on her normally bare feet.
“Asis?” A young assistant spoke up. “The rest of your team is ready, if you are.”
Asis gave the young man a thumbs-up and then experimentally wiggled her fingers, testing the leather’s limits. Her eyes were drawn back to the doors.
Respirator in place, she keyed the microphone. “All right team, let’s get this party started.”
Her co-leader and the rest of the team all nodded and gave a thumbs-up. All was ready. They had trained and developed the technology just for this moment. Asis swallowed and grinned underneath the respirator as she slowly began to move towards the doors.
A robotic voice echoed through the now silent bucker. “Doors opening in t-minus, five, four, three, two, one...”
The doors slowly swung open, just enough for Asis and her team to slowly step out, eyes refocusing from the bright iridescent artificial lights to the natural lighting from the sun.
“Everyone okay?” she asked. A series of nods caused Asis to nod and finally take note of her surroundings.
What the histories spoke of as grass grew underneath their feet and she smiled as she studied how the plant returned to its original position once she lifted her foot again.
“Devyn, what are the radiation readings?” she asked, turning to gaze at her long-time friend.
He studied the instrument in his hands carefully for a long moment as it beeped, crackled, and squealed before dinging with a read out. “Nearly normal, Asis.”
She grinned widely, knelt, began to loosen the leather ties of the boots, and took off the boots and socks.
“Asis! We don’t know...”
“Oh, its soft.” She whispered, wiggling her toes in the grass as Devyn continued with his reports. “Oxygen levels are normal and according to our instruments, everything is as normal as we could ask...”
That was enough for Asis. She was pulling off the gloves, goggles, and respirator rapidly. Before anyone on the team could say a word, she had gone as far as shedding the protective clothing. She smiled and turned to gaze at her team.
“Go ahead, get out of the protective gear,” she ordered. That’s all it took. Pieces of equipment fell to the ground and soft murmurs of excitement filled the air.
Five sets of toes experimentally curled into the grass. Before four sets of eyes turned to her. She could see the question lingering in each one. What now?
Asis turned and studied the overgrown landscape that surrounded the entrance to their home. “We go forward, see what is left on the surface, and figure out how to survive out here.”
“And how do we keep in contact with Base?”
“Bring our radios with us. Our charge is to go out and re-explore these lands.”
The decision was made, opposite of what her original orders were. Asis knew that unless they came back with an amazing find, she was destined to wander the surface alone with her small team. She could only pray that they would find something that would prove to the government that surface life was viable.
Now came the hard part, finding that proof and surviving.
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