Jimi Jones didn't normally dream, particularly dreams as vivid as this. In his imagination, he assumed, Trisha Botherington had rescued him whilst expressing a desire to do pretty much the same thing he wanted to do with her, once they'd sorted out the whole thing about a government-sanctioned mass murder at VastTel. He just couldn't be that lucky, could he?
'Quick,' she said, as she pulled him through the panic room doors that she had managed to jimmy open with a lever that she had in her handbag. She could see he was short of air. He looked pale, even though there was no trace of English blood in his family. To be on the safe side, she took a deep breath, smacked her lips onto his and pushed some air down into his lungs. There was movement in his trousers. It was a sure sign that his body was behaving normally.
Would Trisha still want him if he turned grey and his flesh turned putrid?
In this dream, Jones and Botherington stumbled over the bodies lying motionless on the floor outside the panic room. These must be the angry, marauding customers, he thought. Why were they on the floor? Had they died? Were they just tired after too much marauding?
It occurred to him that if this was a dream, anything could happen. Maybe they were just playing dead, ready to grab him by the ankles, pull him down and devour him in a cannibalistic frenzy.
Then he saw something that convinced him he was in a dream. A nightmare, in fact. Zombies! A small group of pale creatures, their faces grey and lifeless, moving across the room towards him. And Botherington was pulling him straight towards them. He feared the worst. He was about to become one of the undead. Would Trisha still want him if he turned grey and his flesh turned putrid?
But they changed direction and headed to the lifts. It was then he recognised one or two of them. They weren't zombies. It was the IT team, who had come down for their injection of caffeine. They'd obviously seen all the dead bodies and were scampering back to their own den on the 4th floor. They didn't like to be out in public at the best of times, but this was all clearly too confronting for them. There was also sunlight shining in at the far end of the atrium, and they tried to avoid daylight.
'Quick,' said Botherington, trying to pull him along faster. He was tripping over his own feet as they headed across the floor. She was desperately trying to carry some of his weight, his arm wrapped around her shoulder.
'We've got to get back to fresh air,' she said.
At the far end, in front of the revolving doors to the building, a huge steel barrier had shut across the whole front end of the VastTel atrium.
'They wanted you all to suffocate in here...'
'My god!' he said. The first words Botherington had heard him say. He'd never seen it before. Perhaps, like the panic room, it had been created for emergencies, to stop angry customers from getting in and taking over the building. This time, it just hadn't been lowered in time. Hundreds had already managed to break in. Then he remembered.
'The Redundancy Program,' he gasped.
'I know,' said Botherington.
'The government wanted to kill everyone in VastTel.'
'I know. And they wanted you all to suffocate in here,' said Botherington. 'I just came from a very interesting meeting with the prime minister.'
Alvin Duff had confessed it all to her, and her first thoughts had been of the impressive young man she had seen finding his stride at the VastTel senior team meeting.