GTR, Genetic Triage and Reclamation, was a part of the underground city that people generally avoided unless they worked there. It was also one of the newer areas. It had been dug in the decades after the destruction of the Hedron. Like the living quarters, it’d been carved out of the rock surrounding the old bunker and warren of tunnels that made up the heart of the city.
Over the years, the quarters had been lived in and personalized, but GTR still had the same pristine, unfinished look. The normally quiet hallway leading in was filled with the sound of the twenty-four pairs of feet. Ryan, Theo, and the rest of Mrs. Stewart’s class were on a field trip.
The class had broken up into three distinct groups on the walk over. Ryan was in the largest group, those walking silently and occasionally glancing nervously around. All the military kids were like that. They’d never been down here, but they knew what it represented. The rich kids, the exempt kids, were talking amongst themselves. They were trying a little too hard to be unaffected though, you could hear it in their voices. The third group was a party of one. Mrs. Stewart walked in silence and, at least on the outside, didn’t seem nervous at all.
The class stopped in front of a set of double doors. On a nearby wall, there was a painting of a double helix and the letters GTR. Mrs. Stewart stood to one side and gestured for the class to go in. There was a lot of shifting feet. No one wanted to be the first one inside. Ryan thought about being the first, but his legs didn’t want to start moving. Ryan was just about to force one foot off the ground when Theo stepped forward.
Ryan was relieved it didn’t have to be him, but he knew he’d missed a chance to look good in front of his classmates. Theo pushed on the door, exaggerating his movements and pretending to be confused before pulling it open.
After the featureless gray stone in the hall, the pale green walls looked strange. The rest of the room wasn’t fitting into Ryan’s expectations either. It was empty except for a dozen or so chairs along the walls and a desk near a door leading deeper in. A secretary was busy typing something on a computer at the desk. He glanced up when the class started to file in and then went back to typing.
The situation was so completely normal, it was disturbing. Mrs. Stewart pushed her way through the students and went up to the desk.
“Is now a good time for a visit?” Mrs. Stewart asked.
“Yes, I believe it is.” The secretary’s face was heavy with wrinkles and his hair was gray.
A bloodcurdling scream came from the other side of the door. Neither the old man nor Mrs. Stewart reacted. The whole class flinched.
“Are you sure?” Mrs. Stewart asked. “Because we can come back.”
“It’s as good a time as any.”
Mrs. Stewart motioned for the class to continue on. Theo didn’t look like he wanted to lead the way this time.