The tunnel seemed to go on forever. They followed it underground, until they came to a large bunker type room. He could see corridors and rooms leading off it, but this room was full of make shift camp beds and people in medic's uniforms darting back and forth, checking on the people in the beds.
None of them were wearing masks, and he wondered why the girl hadn't taken hers off yet.
Brandon went to move forward, only to have her arm reach out, hand landing on his chest. She shook her head.
One of the medics spotted them and crossed over.
"Candice Shelly," the girl said.
"Brandon..." He had no idea what his name was in this place, his surname anyway. He assumed it was the same, but he didn't think that could be right, not when he didn't seem to be a man in his forties.
"He needs to be checked for head injuries," the girl said, as the medic wrote down his name.
"Can't remember your surname?" the medic muttered. "No worries, man, it's more common than you think. And it doesn't always mean something serious. Right, Candice, Mark is in One, he'll check you over. Brandon and...what's this kid's name?"
"Danny," Brandon replied, glad he now had a real excuse for the lack of a surname. "I...I heard him crying. I don't know his surname. He was asking for his mum."
"Well, if she's been found, she'll be here." The medic smiled, a generic smile that looked like it was supposed to be reassuring. "Neither of you can take the masks off until you've been checked over, okay? So wait for one of us to tell you it's okay. Mel! Get over here!" The last part was thrown over his shoulder, as Candice gave Brandon one last nod, before heading off. They were joined by a different woman, young, maybe mid-twenties. She smiled happily before cooing over Danny.
She took the boy out of his arms, smiling gently at him before walking to one of the tunnels, disappearing from sight with the kid. His arms felt strangely empty, falling limply to his sides as he stared at where she had gone.
"He'll be fine," the guy said, before glancing around the room. "Now, let's see...tell you what, Charlie's in Three. I'll take you there now."
Brandon just nodded, before following the guy towards one of the rooms. The door had a large three plastered on the front, and the guy knocked. A deep voice called, "Come in." The guy smiled – again, that strange supposed to be reassuring smile – at him before opening the door.
He ushered Brandon in.
Charlie was in his mid-forties, with streaks of grey in his otherwise dark brown hair. He gave Brandon a quick nod before standing and holding out his hand.
"Charlie Steak," he announced, clasping both of Brandon's hands in his as they shook.
"Charlie, this is Brandon. Candice found him out in the city ruins. Possible head trauma – can't remember his surname."
Charlie nodded, letting go of Brandon's hands and gesturing to a chair. The guy ducked his head and backed out, shutting the door tightly.
He could see that they had tried to make the room look like a doctor's office. A few basic instruments were littered around the place, and the chairs were arranged as they would be in any GP's.
"These tests shouldn't take long," Charlie told him, standing and moving to the side of the room. He opened a makeshift chest of drawers, taking out a needle. "Just need to check your blood, okay?"
"So, tell me what you remember."
"Err, I was sitting in a flat...my flat," he corrected, as Charlie pulled his chair closer and turned Brandon's arm over. "Just, you know, on my computer. I looked out the window and saw...well, an explosion, I guess. The room twisted and..." He took a sharp intake of breath, as the needle pierced his skin. "When I woke, I was wearing this mask and I could hear a kid crying. I could kind of see out but not much..."
He nodded, watching as blood filled the syringe. Charlie – he didn't know whether he had a PhD or not, but part of him so desperately wanted to call the man 'doctor' – studied the blood, nodding slowly.
"Next thing I know, the rubble is disappearing and Candice is standing there, helping me out." He shrugged, as Charlie turned his back to him and did something with the syringe. "She got me out, I went looking for the kid."
"Did you find him?"
"Yeah. He's with...Mel, I think."
"She'll look after him. Well, blood looks fine." He reached for a stethoscope sitting on the drawers, and attached it to his ears.
"Don't you need to test that or something?"
"You'd think so, wouldn't you?" He smiled gently at Brandon, before shaking his head. "It will be tested, though with the technology we currently have it is unlikely anything will even be found. The main, well, infection, for lack of a better word, that we are worried about shows quite clearly in blood, even without a microscope."
"What would have happened, if my blood had shown it?"
"Quarantine, with the others. Now, let's check the rest of you."
He conducted a few simple tests, before giving Brandon a clean bill of health. "Well, lad, you seem fine."
"The medics will keep an eye on you in the main room, for that possible head trauma. Though the shock of what's happened is enough to affect your memory, even without any actual injury, so don't worry about that."
"You can take the mask off now, if you like."
"Do...does Candice often go to the ruins?"
"Yes. There may still be survivors."
"Does she have to do this every time?"
"We have to be careful. We have a number of vulnerable people down here, and important people...the medics, for one. Any infection would be devastating."
"I'm sure they'll let you know if there's any news." Charlie smiled at him, as Brandon reached up and unclasped the mask from his head. As it dropped, Charlie let out a low whistle. "Bloody hell. Maybe it's a good thing you can't remember your surname...do you remember anything from before the blast?" Charlie inched forward, and Brandon found himself edging back, suddenly scared by the look of amazement on the 'doctor's' face.
Charlie laughed. "Well...Candice will know more about it than I do. Go speak to her. Just set yourself up on one of the camp beds for now. We'll get you sorted soon enough." He was grinning, as Brandon stood and went to leave the room.
His heart thumped, and he remembered one other thing. "Do you have a mirror?"
Charlie shook his head. "We've got a few bathrooms and shower stalls set up around the place. They have mirrors."
"Okay, err, thanks."
"No problem. My pleasure."
The strange drawl now in his voice did nothing to ease Brandon, as he left the room and stepped into the main hall. Everyone was bustling around, and he finally took note of the others hanging around. His mind flashed back to the sirens, the bunker, the children crying and the women trying to shush them.
The majority of people in the room were women; some with kids, some without. Those with tried to keep the children entertained. He saw a few teenagers, too, milling around in groups and looking bored. A few glanced towards him, and a few turned quickly back to their companions, their faces taking on a distinctively excited expression.
He lifted a hand to his face, wondering if maybe there was a scar or something there he didn't know about. Candice wasn't anywhere to be seen, so Brandon headed for one of the spare camp beds and sat down, still glancing uneasily around the room.
One of the medics approached, a huge smile on his face. "Hey, I'm Lucas, pleasure to meet you, sir."
Lucas held his hand out, and Brandon took it, shaking it slowly. "Err, yeah, nice to meet you, Lucas."
"So, Candice brought you in, right?"
He nodded. "Wow. Okay, cool. Mel asked me to tell you the kid is doing fine. No infection, the mask stopped anything getting in. She's going to check with the people running the missing people list, see if anyone's looking for him."
"Right. Great. So, what about me?"
"I'll be keeping an eye on you, for now. Just give me a shout if you feel light headed or anything, or dizzy. You know, not right. I'll, well, I'll go check with Charlie in case there's anything else, but I'll be back soon enough."
Lucas – still with a huge grin on his face – darted off.
Brandon lay on the bed, staring at the ceiling as he tried to wrap his mind around what the hell was going on. They were acting like he was some sort of celebrity, someone to be revered...
He shook his head.
Maybe they were just glad to have found a survivor.
But what Charlie had said, and the fact that they were acting so different only after he had taken the mask off...
"So, you don't remember who you are?"
He sat up, glad to have someone vaguely familiar around. She was standing beside his bed, and as he felt his mouth run dry and his pulse race.
No, no, not now...
But nothing happened.
Instead, he found himself staring at the woman. Her hair was crimson, rather than just red, framing a pale face and green eyes. Her frame was slim, and he had to draw his eyes away from her boobs. Brandon gulped. It wasn't until he focused on her face again that he noticed the scar running from under her right eye, trailing down her neck until they disappeared beneath her t-shirt.
"No, apparently not." He threw his legs over the side of the camp bed, dipping his head as he tried to avoid staring. "But it seems everyone else knows."
To his surprise, she sat beside him. "Does the name Lancelot ring any bells?"
He shook his head. "Only as the dude who stole King Arthur's girlfriend."
She smiled. "Didn't peg you as a guy with a sense of humour. It's your surname."
"Oh. Well, suppose it's pretty cool. Brandon Lancelot. Yeah, I like it."
"You started Camelot Exiles. You really have no idea?"
"You don't sound that bothered by it."
"Well...I guess I'm not."
She sighed. "We'll need to try to contact the country's main bunker. That's where you should be."
Candice nodded, then frowned. "It's where all the 'important' people are. Politicians and celebrities and businessmen...they must have had some advance warning."
"Maybe they don't like me."
She scoffed. "I doubt that. There's no way they'd leave out the man who almost single handily helped end the recession."
"How old am I?"
She laughed, revealing slightly stained teeth. He guessed dental hygiene wasn't a huge priority with everything else going on. "Shit, you really don't know anything, do you?"
"Here's the kicker; you're one of the richest men in the world, Camelot Exiles is the biggest company except for, you know, Apple and Microsoft, and you're only twenty-six." She nudged him. "And with a degree, too. You basically blew those other wonder kids out the water."
He laughed, before running a hand through his hair. He liked being Brandon Lancelot. Now he knew why he was receiving the strange stares from everyone, he didn't mind. Even with everything going on outside...
Why couldn't they have sent him back just a few months before?
Candice's smile had disappeared from her lips, and when he glanced at her, it was to find her staring hard at him. "You really don't remember any of this?"
She put a hand on his shoulder. "Maybe that's a good thing. You must have had one hell of a life before..." She trailed off, before standing. "I should go. They may need me. You going to be all right, Mr Lancelot?"
"No worries." She winked at him, before turning and moving off to where a group of medics were gathered near one of the doors leading off. Brandon sank back onto the bed, trying to piece together what she had told him.
Among everything, there was one question pushing at his mind; who really was Brandon Lancelot?