Friday, May 19, 2023

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: March 16, 2399

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The building has been inspected, at least with a cursory glance. They didn’t hire a professional to go through the entire thing, and check or mold, or whatever it is they do. All the doors are open now, though, which will allow drones to go through, should Leona deem there to be some need for that. While she’s been dealing with other things, Mateo has been in charge of helping the volunteers check the rooms, and now it’s time to go in the opposite direction. A building this tall has to have a deep foundation, and there should be space down there too. It may not be furnished, or even clean, but there will be potential in it. The elevator turns out to be large enough for all of the now two dozen volunteers, so he invites everyone to join, including the kids. It’ll be a little adventure.
When the doors open, they find themselves in a wide expanse, which may cover the entirety of the building in the first two dimensions. There is nothing here but support columns. It’s made of concrete, but really clean and unused. Maybe this is meant to be used for offices. Underground, though? That seems unnecessarily cruel, especially since there should be plenty of space in the common areas on the bottom floors above the surface. “Come on,” Mateo says. “There’s nothing to see here. Let’s keep going down.”
They go down one story. This one is just as expansive, but it looks different. It’s filled with stuff. As they step onto the floor, and spread out, they find compartments that mirror the kind of rooms up above. Each room is equipped with four bunk beds, and is separated from its neighbors by only half walls. Metal bars come up and go across, suggesting that a modest amount of privacy can be created from curtains. There are rows and rows and rows of these bunks. “What are they for?” a teenager asks.
“Emergency shelter, in case of a tornado?” someone else suggests.
“Look at this sign,” one of them says. “ROOM CAPACITY: 34,768.”
“Okay,” Mateo says, stepping back towards the elevator. “Let’s try one more.”
They get back in, and go down one more story. It’s the same, doubling their current known underground capacity. Mateo looks over at the buttons. There are twelve stories total, numbered zero through negative eleven. “Who here is good at math?” he asks the group.
A girl snakes her way forward.
“Assuming that every floor is just like this one, subtracting that first one that was empty, how many people can fit in the shelter?”
She takes a moment to perform the calculations. “It would fit 382,448 people.”
Mateo shakes his head. I was kind of worried about that. “That’s not much more than half of the population that can fit above. That doesn’t sound like a great shelter.”
“Well, we don’t know what we’re looking at here,” a man pointed out. “The other floors could be bigger, or maybe they can’t make an elevator this big that goes down as many floors as there are, and we’re expected to get off, and get on another one.”
They keep riding the elevator down, stepping out for a moment just to check that it’s equipped with all the same stuff. Floor Negative-10 is different. It’s just a giant open area, like the first sublevel. There’s only one more to check now, and while this is all rather exciting, they don’t expect anything different. They would all be wrong. “I recognize this,” Mateo says. “This is a fusion reactor...a big one.”

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