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Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Bunker ACL61

A note before we begin:

Written as a prequel to my piece, "White Noise," "Bunker ACL61" takes place three generations before "White Noise." In terms of time line, this puts it fifteen years (or about one generation) after the destruction of human society as we know it.


Bunker ACL61

“Shut the hatch! Shut it!” Jack yells, diving through the hatch and rolling across the hangar floor. The MPs on guard hit the controls, the hatch slams, and as the heavy locks clang into place Jack lets out a victorious whoop and a shout of laughter. “Take that, ya nasty surface rats!” Exuberant, he jumps to his feet and throws his fist into the air. The MPs join in his laughter, their own adrenaline pumping from the brush with disaster. A baby coos happily, picking up on the excitement, and the hangar echoes with exclamations of Jack’s heroism. He beams, throwing his arm around Lindsey as his eyes scan the room for Jessica.

“Sergeant Mullen!” He whirls; Top Brass. Five of the highest officers in the bunker are standing stiffly in front of the elevator. Corporal Lindsey Hayes shrinks back, disappearing into the crowd. Jack doesn’t mind; the Brass mean business this time, he can tell, and he doesn’t want her taking a fall with him. He finally spots Jessica, Lieutenant Donohue, across the hangar, away from the crowd. She’s leaning casually against her mech, Genesis, and she’s watching him. He tears his eyes away, snaps to attention, and salutes the officers on deck.


“You’re wanted in the Commander’s office, Sergeant.”

“Yes, Sir!”

“Sergeant… what are you holding?”

Jack looks down, bouncing his arm slightly. The baby coos again, content despite his sharp movements to come to attention. “This, gentlemen, is the fruit of my mission.”


“Damn it, Jack, you can’t keep doing this!”

“With all due respect, Sir, I do what’s right.”

“The hell you do! You do what feeds your ego most, and I’ve had enough of it in my bunker!”


“Shut your mouth, and pay attention! This is your last chance, you hear me? You either conform to the regulations of this bunker or you’re out on the surface.”


“Is that clear, Sergeant?”

A stiff salute. “Yes, Sir!”



“What, Mullen?”

“What about the baby?”

The Commander sighs. “Every child is a commodity; she’ll be raised here, of course. You are to be commended for bringing her down alive.”

“Raised by whom, Sir?”

“Not you, that’s for sure. Now you’re really dismissed, Mullen. Get out of my office before you piss me off.”


“You know, one of these days he’s actually going to kick you out.”

Jack starts, still jumpy from his surface-fueled adrenaline high, but relaxes as Jessica falls into step beside him.

“He can’t kick me out—I’m too much fun. What would y’all do for entertainment without me?” He flashes her a charming smile, which she ignores with the ease of long practice.

Shaking her head long-sufferingly, she murmurs, “He’ll find a way to get by, I’m sure.” They reach the hatch to ascend to living quarters, and Jack hesitates before entering.

“Jessica…” He starts, suddenly serious. She watches him warily, her eyebrows drawn together in a frown. “You’re right about me—as long as I flaunt the Command this way, I’m a liability. But I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to stop; I can’t close my eyes to what’s happening up on the surface. But that girl I brought down today—she’s got a chance to learn from the best.”

Jessica leans away from him. “Don’t ask me, Jack; you know I can’t. Even if I wanted her, I’m just an Lt. It’s taboo.” And that’s the end of it, they both know she doesn’t need to add. Taboos are laws; defiance is heresy.

But she’s talking to Jack, and Jack is a born heretic. They both know, too, where it’s going to get him. “You’re going to be someone, Jess. Everyone knows it. Once you make Captain, you can take her. CO’ll give you Captain if you ask him for it.”

Jessica steps forward, pressing him back against the bulkhead. “What is this girl to you?” She asks boldly, invading his space, pushing at him.

He matches her stare for stare. “She’s hope.”


“Captain Donohue?” The Bunker Commander looks her over consideringly. “I have no doubt who put you up to this, Lieutenant.” He sighs, then reaches to pour himself a drink. “Still, it has a certain ring to it.” He looks up at Jessica, standing at attention in front of his desk, and his eyes narrow. “Now what I can’t figure out is why you’ll risk your career for this idiot boy.”

She just meets his eyes, silent, lips pressed tightly together to hide their sudden quiver. But he sees it in her chin, the sudden tightness around her eyes. He understands all that she can’t say. He knows that she is in love with Jack, maybe even understands how long she’s wanted him. And he knows just as certainly that as an officer, she will never be permitted to be with a sergeant, let alone breed with him. Taboos are laws; defiance is heresy.

The Commander drains his drink in a single gulp and stands up. “Lieutenant Donohue, you are hereby granted the rank of Captain, by the authority of Bunker Commander Stephen Hall of Bunker ACL61.” Jessica salutes, expecting a dismissal, but the Commander isn’t finished. “Your promotion in rank comes encumbered with increased duty and responsibility. It is now your primary charge to ensure the behavior of Sergeant Jack Mullen. So long as Sergeant Mullen conducts himself in a manner befitting an NCO of Bunker ACL61, you retain your rank, and all the privileges that come with it. Should Sergeant Mullen behave otherwise, it is your solemn duty to carry out his sentence before he can bring further harm to the Bunker.” He pauses a moment to allow his meaning to sink in. “Am I understood, Captain?”

Jessica swallows hard. “Yes, Sir.”


Jack sprints towards the access hatch, ignoring the MPs who’ve spotted him. He knows, as always, that he can make it out before the security lockdown. As he goes, he catches sight of Jessica watching him. She’s sitting at Genesis’s feet, playing with baby Hope. He winks, flashing her his charming grin.

Jessica watches Jack make his break for the hatch. She’s been keeping him by, warning him to be careful, but she knows him. She knew it would come to this. She holds Hope close for a moment, feeling the little girl’s sweet breath stir the hair at the nape of her neck. Then, setting the baby down, she stands, taking careful aim. Jack has always made it clear that his priority is the children he saves from the surface. Jessica only has one option.

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