Jack Johnsten, owner of Johnsten Construction, biggest construction company in the county, brought his 4x4 to a sharp halt at the newest of his construction sites. It was at the end of a long dirt track through endless woods and consisted of a concrete framed steel door in a mountainside and a whole bunch of his best workers standing around doing nothing. And doing nothing was something Jack Johnsten did not like his workers doing, not on company time. No sirree.
"Hey, Charlie, what the hell's goin' on. You should have started by now!"
Charlie Williams, his site foreman hurried up. "Sorry boss, but we can't get started till the army carries out its final inspection on the bunker, and the guy's who's supposed to be doing it just got hauled off to hospital, they're sending a replacement a.s.a.p. but he ain't turned up yet"
"Jesus Christ, Charlie! Mr Olafson is paying us plenty to turn this place into his own private hideaway. But if I have to hand over money to a load of construction workers who are doin' nothin' then we are going to be in big trouble. AND there's a penalty clause if we don't finish on time. Now get the boys moving, just tell then to stay away from anything weird till the army guy shows up".
Charlie looked doubtful at the wisdom of this course of action, but he knew better than to argue with the boss and hurried back to the trucks where the workers were lounging around in the early morning sunshine. "C'mon guys, we gotta make a start, inspection or no inspection, just don't touch nothing dangerous OK?"
Jack watched as the men started to unload gear from the trucks and follow Charlie through the big steel door into the dark interior. A bright yellow light flickered on illuminating the drab gray walls as they got to work. Once he had satisfied himself that everything was under way he clambered back into his 4x4 and drove off. Just as he got to the main road he saw a police car pull up and a cop climb out to wave him down. "Shit, now what?" he thought.
"Excuse me sir" asked the cop as Jack leaned out, "but just what is going on up there?"
"The old army bunker, it just got sold off to some guy with more money than brains who wants to turn it into some kinda hideaway. He's paying me a load of cash to do it, so I ain't complaining. And if you see some army boy wandering around looking lost, tell him he's late for his inspection, so we started without him" Jack angrily put the 4x4 into gear and roared off.
The cop looked at his buddy, "Short tempered guy, ain't he. I think we'll need to take a look up there later". His buddy laughed, "Yeah, but not until I've eaten". They climbed back into the car and drove off down the road to Sarah's Diner, a favorite stop with all the local cops. Sarah herself was long gone, her son, old Fred, ran the place now.
Back at the site Charlie was poring over the plans. He looked up at Dave, his top man and pointed to a small square on the chart "Get down to this part, right at the back, see if it's OK to start on it, and take Billy with you, show him what to do" Dave was a big, blonde, burly hunk of a guy, only just turned 30 but with a wealth of experience on every construction site you could name - except bunkers. He motioned Billy to follow him. Billy was the new boy, a lanky, good natured kid with long, straight light-brown hair tied back, fresh from High School and keen to please everybody. The two of them ambled along following the instructions Charlie had given them until they came to a small side door. "This must be it" said Dave. He opened the door and turned on the small switch just inside. An old, bare electric bulb flickered on, then off again with a sharp flash. "Shit, the lights gone" He opened the door as wide as possible to let light from the corridor spill into the small room. A few old wooden crates lay scattered around. "Guess we'd better clear this junk out first". He lifted up the nearest crate, it splinted, spilling some rotting fatigues onto the concrete floor. He muttered some obscenity under his breath and started to collect the stuff. Billy hurried into the room and gingerly lifted some more old crates, moving them into the corridor. Right at the back was a small crate that seemed pretty much intact. He lifted it up, but as he did so a slat cracked and a small canister dropped out. He muttered the same obscenity he had heard Dave use and left it as he carried the crate back out into the corridor. "What you got there?" asked Dave, "Dunno, some kind of canisters". Dave looked doubtful. "OK, better leave them alone, just in case".
Billy lowered the crate carefully to the floor. By now he was breathing heavily with the effort of lugging all the junk about so when he went back into the small store-room he didn't hear the faint hiss of escaping gas from the dropped canister. He stood and wiped the sweat from his brow and rubbed his damp hand on his dirty denim jeans. "Sure is hot in here" he thought. He shook his head, "Heat's making me dizzy". He shook his head again, and passed out right where he stood.
Dave heard the thump. "Jeez, Billy's dropped something again" he thought as he piled up the junk in the corridor ready for transporting to the outdoor trash pile. After a while he noticed that things were a bit quiet.
"Billy, you OK?". He listened, and heard nothing. "Billy, stop fooling around" Again, nothing. Annoyed at Billy's antics he marched into the store-room. Billy was lying flat out on the floor. Dave hurried over, Billy's pulse was OK, in fact he seemed fine, except that he was sleeping soundly, and no amount of shaking would wake him. "Hey Billy, you knocked yourself out or something?" Dave shouted as he knelt by the kid. He noticed how hot the room now seemed, and a wave of dizziness swept across him. He put his hand to his head, and suddenly Billy's body was rushing towards him. He was unconscious even as his head hit Billy's chest..
Charlie looked around. Everything was going fine. Over a dozen workmen were busy, hauling and hammering away. By now the main entrance was pretty much clear and everyone had moved into the interior of the sprawling bunker. Charlie inspected the walls near the main door. "Yup, guess we can start painting that real soon" he muttered to himself. "Jack's been over-reacting as usual, we'll have this job finished in plenty of time". He turned around and noticed that it was kinda quiet now. In fact all he could hear were a few muffled thuds. Then silence.
"Hey guys, you taking an early break?" he roared and strode down to the rear of the bunker. He stopped short. All around were the sprawled bodies of his boys, lying on the floor, on top of each other, over crates, everywhere. He looked in amazement, raised his hand to his head, and went down himself.
The bunker was now as quiet as the grave, though if anyone had been awake to listen, they might had heard a faint hiss in a small store-room where a big blonde hunk lay asleep with his head on a kid's chest.
Over at Sarah's Diner, the two cops had finished breakfast and were heading back to the car. "May as well check out that bunker place now, Steve", said one. "OK" answered his partner. "Hey, did you know there was a bunker up there?"
"Nope, all that area was army land, though they pulled out years ago. So it's no suprise they had a bunker slap bang in the middle of it. I hear they're selling a lot of those old cold war sites now. I guess all those generals back at the Pentagon need the money." He laughed.
They continued to discuss the bunker as Steve drove up the road and onto the dirt track. As he pulled up outside the half open steel door he noticed how deserted the site seemed. "Guess they're all inside, how big do you reckon that place is anyway?". His partner shrugged. "Dunno, some of them go on for miles. Let's go look" being cops they were both inquisitive by nature and the chance to check out an old cold war bunker before it got turned into a rich mans plaything was too good a chance to miss. They entered and looked around, "Real quiet ain't it?" said Steve. "Hey, anyone home?" The moved cautiously down the main tunnel. "Kinda hot in here" he muttered. They turned a corner and saw bodies strewn around like the aftermath of a frat house beer drinking competition.
"Shit, lets get outta here", they spun round and raced up the corridor. Steve stumbled, breathing heavily, and passed out on the floor. His partner turned "Steve!" then he swayed and crumpled where he stood.
Back at Sarah's Diner, old Fred was giving directions to a smartly dressed soldier. "Don't you army boys ecer remember where you left anythin'?" he wheezed with a smile. Captain Brad Salter smiled back. "Well we pulled out of here some time ago and the maps are kinda old, and I'm already late so I don't want to risk getting lost". He drained the coffee he had ordered and, with a wave, strode back to his car. Carefully following Fred's instructions he found the dirt track and headed up towards the mountain. On arrival he noted the cop car.
Brad headed for the door and looked inside. It was real quiet, too quiet. Already he felt something was wrong. Cautiously he walked down the main tunnel. Then, in the distance, he spotted two cops stretched out on the concrete. Instrinctively he spun around and raced back to the door. Gasping for air, he launched himself out into the sunlight. "Shit, what have we left in there?" He hurried to his car and wrenched open the trunk. He slapped a gas mask on and grabbed a detector.
Carefully he explored the bunker. Using the detector he quickly located the main concentration of neural gas in a small store room, a small canister gently hissing in the corner. He adjusted the valve and the hissing stopped. He had already recognised the canister for what it was, a harmless but fast acting knock-out gas developed during the cold war, but never used because it was only effective in closed spaces. He looked about. "These guys are gonna be out for hours, and they are gonna have some real bad headaches when they do wake up." He put the half-empty canister back into the crate with the others and looked around.
A big, blond guy lay stretched out across a fresh faced kid. Brad knelt down and touched the kid's face. "H'm, one cute lil' puppy" His other hand rested on the big guys chest, "And one big dawg." He readjusted the two sleeping forms into a more comfortable position and moved off down the corridor. Everywhere he looked he saw construction workers, big, small, tall, short, all in dirty denims and heavy boots, tools belts and big, big muscles. As he reached each one he carefully adjusted the sleeping form just as his medical training had taught him, though he did it a lot more slowly and carefully than was strictly necessary, and he seemed to check out each hunk very thoroughly indeed. He finished off with the two cops, carefully opening their shirts to ease their breathing, and allowing enough room for his exploring hands to slip inside.
It was well over two hours before groaning alerted Brad to the fact that the first of his charges was coming round. During that time he had attended to his patients assiduously, definitely above and beyond the call of duty.
Once they were fully awake the cops went off to report in while Brad confronted Charlie. Billy was hauled up, ashen faced and trembling to admit he had dropped the canister. Just then Jack strode in, "Charlie, what happened? Everyone OK?".
Before Charlie could answer Brad sounded off "They sure are, no thanks to you! You know the rules, construction work doesn't start until after the inspection" Jack opened his mouth to reply but Brad was too quick "And I don't care what penalty clause you signed up for, you could have killed every one of these guys". Jack's mouth closed sharply. Brad continued, "Now, I'm gonna check out the rest of this site and you are gonna keep your guys ouside until I've finished. Seeing that no-one actually got hurt I'm not gonna take this any further, but I can't say the same for those cops!"
Jack hurried outside and meekly approached the cops. They were leaning on their squad car and both had a serious pounding in their heads so they were in no mood to let Mr Jack Big-Shot Johnsten off the hook. In fact it took a lot of pleading and the donation of a large sum of money to the local cops benevolent fund to calm them down. Fortunately they had been waiting for their heads to clear before reporting in so it was a much relieved Jack Johnsten who finally drove away having giving all his boys the rest of the day off.
Brad watched the last vehicle leave. He had already secured the box of neural gas canisters in his trunk. He was gonna see if there were any more lying around, all overlooked and forgotten by the army bureaucracy. And the next time he found himself near a barracks full of sleeping soldiers, well who knows what might happen?