Flashing red lights greeted Pamela as she woke from Stasis again. Something mechanical in the Vault Complex had gone wrong enough to need repair. It was the only reason that the system had to wake her.
The only reason that those in the Cryo-vaults needed her at all.
Pamela rose from her bunk and sat in the automated medical chair. If she did not do so promptly, the system would declare her dead and shut off the power to her survival suite, leaving her to slowly perish from starvation and dehydration.
She knew three other techies had failed before she woke up. She had to police one body and cannibalise three bays before she began her long work.
The chair recognised her as human and alive, and ran through a series of randomised questions to make certain she was also competent. She had to pass these tests to live, so she kept her smart-alek side tightly tamped down.
After a mandatory meal of chemical glop, Pamela retrieved her tools from their stasis locker. Hiho, hiho...
The error the system lead her to didn't exist. Everything seemed to be functioning perfectly. Pamela checked the diagnostics. They were doing fine as well.
But something, somewhere, was going as agley as the best-laid plans of Mice and Men. Pamela snarled curses to herself and ran manual diagnostics on each and every system. Even getting into the air vents to check for blockages. It took a subjective forever, which would inevitably turn up on her automated performance review. Nothing at all seemed wrong with the system. All functioning within tolerance parameters. All noted and logged.
Finally, as a very last resort, Pamela checked every single suite and bay in the entire subterranean complex. All the spare technicians were fine. Slumbering in wait for Pamela's ultimate, inevitable failure and demise. All the medics were fine, too. Waiting for any sign that their services were needed. All the cleaners were waiting for the day that the Clients would need them. Likewise, the cooks, the hunters, the gardeners, and sundry service staff. And, of course, the Clients.
Alive and well and... Wait!
Someone had left graffito.
An incomprehensible sigil and a definite arrow.
Pamela realised with belated alarm that the entire complex lacked a security system. Of course, it didn't need one. Everyone who knew about its construction were either Clientele, Service Staff, or routinely disposed of once the Vault had been completed. The seeds of Humanity, stored in cryo-suspension like the very similar seed vault in Norway. Waiting for the day when the beleaguered planet was once again ready for colonisation.
Nobody should even know it was there.
Nobody should have survived to invade.
Pamela wasn't cleared to wake up any of the bodyguards. They were for Clients only. And she was at enough risk for taking weeks to do her job. Therefore, she made sure she had a really heavy wrench as well as her Mag-lite before she followed the arrows.
She also made note of it in her log. "Intruder detected" may well be her last words.
Whoever it was had come down by one of the least-necessary air vents. The reserve-reserve spares that were there in case of unforeseen tectonic interference. And even then, there were so many filters and processors that it amazed Pamela to even think about how anyone could have gained egress.
She logged her discovery, of course, and followed the arrows to wherever this intruder may have wandered.
The trail lead to one of the Clientele's vaults. Past where hundreds of the well-to-do still waited in cryo-suspension. Up through previously-sealed revival suites. Alarms had been disabled, but not in a way that would set off any of the reserve alarms.
This must have been what woke her. Any disruption in the circuits of the Vault Complex would wake up a techie to attend to it. The only problem was that Pamela lacked the authority to be present in these suites at all. If she repaired the alarms, she was as good as dead.
If she didn't repair the alarms, she was as good as dead.
Her options were, according to protocol, alert a superior techie and risk termination... find the intruder and risk attack, or repair the alarms to such an extent that they would alert Security and the security people would then apprehend the intruder. The only problem with that was that Pamela would also face slow death for technically failing at her job.
She decided to take her chances with the intruder. Every other option seemed to lead to her inevitable death. At least this option lead her to a chance of not dying.
Pamela decided she would devote her last days to a mega-log about everything that was wrong with the system as the Clients had installed it. Starting with how "not dying" was insufficient reward to stick to the rules. But then, "not dying" was how they'd sold this job to her in the first place. One big chance at surviving humanity's self-inflicted apocalypse.
The stair all the way down into another Cryo-vault had a sigil pointing to a service hatch. Good. Now she knew where they went. But she still had a duty to manually check every last cryostasis chamber in the Vault. The Manual explicitly stated that Client deaths in suspension were punishable by execution of culpable staff.
It took her the better part of two hours to check them all. Two hours for the intruder to pull who-knew-what. Pamela ran back up to chase the intruder. Scanning all the walls and doors for any sign of where they went. Any chance to catch up.
Whoever they were, they were not interested in the Treasure Vaults. Pity. If they had tried to mess with access to there, they would soon find themselves in mortal trouble. The Clients guarded their material wealth better than they guarded themselves.
The trail lead all the way back to the Staff Vaults. Where technicians and experts and helpers of all sorts waited for the appropriate time.
There were more empty bays than when she'd left.
Pamela checked around frantically for signs of death. For signs of struggle. For signs of any reason why so many should be gone without a trace.
Not even the corpse disposal system showed signs of activity.
They couldn't just vanish.
They definitely couldn't evaporate.
In desperation, Pamela crawled into the security system to find out why it was not recording anything. And got the shock of her life when she heard another, unauthorised, human voice.
"Please leave that be?"
Pamela cursed and rubbed where she'd knocked her head. "What the flying hell?" she croaked. Her voice was so unused to service that it bubbled and rasped.
"Hi," smiled the girl in practical coveralls. "I'm Astra. I'm here to rescue you."
"The surface is habitable?" she rasped. Pamela cleared her throat. "Why haven't the systems started revivification?"
A grin. "You know why everyone is down here, right? Catastrophic Climate Change and that?"
"Yeah. It's why I took this damn job."
"Without your Clients in charge, the remaining population swapped to green power and did all the other stuff to repair the damage," said Astra. "Including making certain that the Clients never came back to mess things up again."
"What?" Sudden panic. "They killed everyone who worked on this place. How-? They're going to kill you when they wake up."
"They're not going to be able to reach." Astra helped Pamela out of the service vent and began walking with her towards the exit Pamela had assumed was sealed. Where all the missing people were working to clear the dead-fall. Including some friends from the medical wing.
"What the shit?" Pamela blurted.
"It's a jail break," grinned Doctor Shanique. "We're getting all the 'disposable' people out of here and shipping the Clients and their treasures to a new world."
"They would have wanted it this way," said a maid, still in her very sexist uniform. It was filthy with dust.
"And they'll survive?" asked Pamela. She joined in with the work. It was, after all, better than dying.
"We'll make sure they have everything they need," said Astra. "Including instructions. Whether they survive is up to them."
Pamela grinned like a shark. Those words were exactly what They told her when they sealed her in.
Remember this post? Well I made sure I finished the story!