As the minibus pulled up to the camp gates the protestors outside started to shout and wave their banners. One particularly angry looking man threw a bottle at the bus. It shattered against the window leaving a splash of yellow to dribble down onto the paintwork. Rachel turned away from them, hiding behind her hair as it fell forwards to veil her face. Across the isle from her, a slim faced woman laughed shortly and turned to watch the scene outside as it unfolded with familiar inevitability.
“Why do you have to watch them like that, Sue?” asked a skinny, agitated man sitting 3 rows back. “You know it only antagonises them and now they have your laughing mug on record. Facebook’s gonna love you.”
“Oh, Jim come on! If we have to work in this damn prison we might as well have some fun.” The slim faced woman grinned at him, “Besides, they don’t even know what they’re protesting against – they think we’re part of the space programme, for fuck’s sake. They’re clueless now; but once they find out what we’re really doing here, we’ll be heroes – you’ll see.”
“You sure? You think that messing about with the genetics of deep sea bacteria to let it live in the air is gonna make us heroes with this lot?” Jim snorted and returned to his magazine as the van passed the security guards and rolled on, into the relative safety of the camp.
As they neared a second check point, the minibus passengers rifled through bags and pockets to find security passes, which were duly examined by a youngish man with a biggish rifle. While he worked his way around the inside, two more soldiers used a telescopic mirror and an enthusiastic dog to search the outside. Eventually all three men were satisfied and the minibus was allowed to move on, into the heart of the base. They passed a number of squat, concrete buildings and one or two neat, cordoned spots of grass. Rather than relieving the formal severity of the surroundings, however, the patches of lawn somehow served to enhance it. Finally, they came to a halt beside yet another featureless grey box, and disembarked to begin their journey to the centre of the earth. A mere 21 storeys below ground, they eventually reached the lab and began preparing for the day’s work.
As soon as she had finished pulling on her lab-coat, Rachel was approached by a cheerful older man who immediately began outlining the tasks he had for her that day. Smiling wearily at him, Rachel reminded him that her work was at a very crucial stage. He simply laughed and replied that her work was always at a crucial stage. Today he needed her to baby-sit the latest government minister to develop a keen interest in their project. She sighed, tossing her head back and slumping her shoulders forward at the same time like an overdramatic teenager. Then she stomped away from him, not quite joking in her complaints about this latest waste of her precious time.