Robin checked the placement of the explosive charge one last time. It wasn’t that she had less trust in her team than she did anyone else, but Robin hadn’t risen to her leadership role at such a young age by trusting people. She trusted no one. At least no one other than Helena Hunt.
Satisfied that the charge would be enough to blast the door open without destroying everything inside, Robin followed the thin wires around the earthen berm to the backside of the building. The other four members of her team watched as she carefully pulled the battery out of her front shirt pocket and removed the protective cover. Batteries were a very precious commodity. Maybe we will find some more inside, Robin thought as she held the bare end of one wire tightly to the negative post on top of the small battery. The blast that went off the instant she touched the other bare wire to the positive post didn’t seem as loud as it should have been. Before investigating though, Robin replaced the cover on the battery and put it back in her pocket, securely stashing it away behind the patch with the three black crosses.
It was a relief to see that the steel door had indeed been blown open with minimal damage. As a matter of fact, the only visible damage, other than the twisted metal door, was to the brass sign embedded in the concrete at the entrance to this bunker-like underground building. The date at the bottom of the plaque, 2025, was all that was still legible. Built clear back in twenty twenty-five? Robin thought. God, that was twelve years before I was even born. She didn’t give much thought to the rest of the plaque that had been destroyed by the blast. The part that had the three letters, CDC, at the top.
“Get the coolers,” Robin ordered her team. Probably more abruptly than she should have. After all, these women were soldiers, all members of the New Army Of God. They all wore the same uniform as she did, with the same insignia, a single patch with three black crosses. This was no slave labor salvage crew. One of those slave labor crews had found this place outside the old city of Memphis and reported it back to Fort Campbell. Which was why Robin was now stepping through the partially opened door into what looked like a dark underground cave. She was thinking it might be a wasted mission as she let her eyes adjust to the dim light coming through the partially opened door. She wished she could have gone with the rest of Helena’s troops to someplace called Brookfield in the old state of Missouri. Robin was a firm believer in New Dixie. She enjoyed nothing more than raiding places that had yet to be assimilated, places where the others, those that weren’t white, were still free. Being a free person of color was against New Dixie’s laws and against the will of God. Absolute rule by God’s pure white race was simply the way the world was meant to be.
Robin could see well enough to take a few more careful steps into the darkness. She seemed to be walking downhill into a dark tunnel. Just as she was about to reach the limits of the available natural light, she was momentarily blinded by artificial light flooding the entrance tunnel and the vast room beyond. There were no motion sensors in Fort Campbell. It was almost like magic, the way the lights in the lab came on all by themselves.
Helena was right! But then, when had Helena ever been wrong? Robin remembered the look on Helena’s face when she first heard of this place. Helena became interested as soon as the salvage crew described finding a huge solar array behind an underground building, a building they couldn’t break into. When the salvage crew’s nearly illiterate leader described the sign with the letters CDC, Helena was downright excited.
Robin knew that Helena wanted to come herself, and she would have if the raid on Brookfield wasn’t imminent. As Robin walked into the underground lab and heard the sounds of her team coming through the tunnel behind her, she felt immense pride that Helena had trusted her with this vital mission. Seeing all the vials and racks of test tubes in the refrigerated glass-fronted cases, Robin knew missing the initial raid on Brookfield was worth it. Besides, if they hurried, she would complete this mission to collect drugs and medicines and still be able to get to Brookfield in time to get in on some of the action.
“Okay,” she told her team, “everything in these refrigerated cases must be loaded in the coolers as carefully and quickly as you can. We need to make sure everything is kept cold. Do not leave these cases or our coolers open any longer than absolutely necessary. And remember, this is not a normal salvage operation. Everything in these refrigerated cases is as precious and rare as anything ever brought back to New Dixie. If Helena is right, and we know she is, these drugs and medicines will save countless lives.”
Robin walked away as her team started carefully packing the coolers. She was thinking about the route she should take back to Fort Campbell and how fast she could get there and then on to Missouri. Maybe she could still make it in time to get in on some of the initial fighting. Her thoughts were interrupted by the sound of glass breaking on the concrete floor. She turned to see all four members of her team staring down at the broken test tube and spilled liquid on the floor. All four of them had the same look of fear on their faces as they watched her walk over to the broken glass. Robin knew as she bent down and picked up the biggest piece of the broken glass, the one that had the paper label holding it intact, that none of them would confess to dropping the test tube. Her anger faded a little. It wouldn’t do any good to try to punish the whole group. Besides, it was only one small vial out of so many others.
“Get back to work,” she ordered the team. “Let’s finish this up.”
Robin turned the piece of glass in her hand so she could read the label. The writing on the label didn’t make any sense at all. Probably not even important, she thought as she looked at the single letter followed by a series of numbers: V1-203601/10.