He already felt caught up in it, keeping things from his family, from his secretary—even from Mick, his only real friend on the Hill. He had wandered with innocence and naïveté into this web, and now every move would wrap him tighter. Each lie would stick to the others, until one day he would find himself in a tight little cocoon, trapped and suffocating from the thousands of little fibs that living and working in that cursed swamp of a city seemed to require every man to ooze.


2110 • Silo 1

The Book of the Order lay open on his desk, the pages curling up from a spine stitched to last. Troy studied the upcoming procedure once again, his first official act as head of Operation Fifty, and it brought to mind a ribbon-cutting ceremony, a grand display where the man with the shears took credit for the hard work of others.

The Order, he had decided, was more recipe book than operations manual. The shrinks who wrote it had accounted for everything. And like the field of psychology, or any field that involved human nature, the things that made no sense usually served some deeper purpose.

It made Troy wonder what his purpose was. How necessary was his position? He had studied for a much different job, had been promoted at the last minute, and somehow that made him feel arbitrary. Anyone could be slotted into his place.

Of course, even if his office was mostly titular in nature, perhaps it served some symbolic purpose. Maybe he wasn’t there to lead so much as to provide an illusion to the others that they were being led.

This was a terrifying thought. Troy imagined the great ship he was helming, this long night shift of six months duration, all of humanity crammed onboard. He could spin the spoked wheel and feel that the linkage to the rudder had been lost. But his job was to turn it nonetheless, to gaze over the bow and pretend that all was in hand as the swell and foam of human nature tossed them to and fro. The deckhands, seeing him at the helm, could then coil lines and trim sheets and sleep soundly in their bunks.

Troy skipped back two paragraphs in the Order. His eyes had looked at every word, but none of them had registered. Everything about his new life made him prone to distraction, made him think too much. It had all been perfectly arranged, but for what? Maximum apathy?

Glancing up, he could see Victor sitting at his desk in the psych office across the hall. It would be easy enough to walk over there and ask. They, more than anyone else, had designed this place. He could ask them how they did it, how they managed to make everyone feel so empty inside.

Sheltering the women and the children played some part. Troy was sure of that. The women and children of his silo had been gifted with the long sleep, had been whisked into lifeboats while the men stayed and took shifts steering that gutted wreckage off the icebergs. It removed the passion from the plans, forestalled the chance that the men might fight among themselves.

Troy wondered if two bull elk had ever butted heads without a doe watching from a grassy rise. What would be the point?

And then there was the routine, the mind-numbing routine. It was a castration of thought. Like the daily grind of an office worker who drooled at the clock, punched out, watched TV until sleep overtook him, slapped an alarm three times, did it again. It was made worse by the absence of weekends. There were no free days. It was six months on and decades off. It made him envious of the rest of the facility, all the other silos, where hallways must echo with the laughter of children, the voices of women, the passion and happiness missing from this singular bunker at the heart of it all.

Checking the clock on his computer, Troy saw that it was time to go. He closed his copy of the Order and locked it away in his desk. As he headed for the communications room, he considered the office building analogy and realized it didn’t quite cover it. There was something else. The word that summed up the place was on the tip of his tongue. He tried to puzzle it out as he shuffled down the hall.

It had something to do with the stupor he saw everywhere, with the daily pills in the little plastic cups, the dozens of communal rooms with movies playing in loops on flat-panel TVs, dozens of unblinking eyes in comfortable chairs, staring.

No one was truly awake. Not really. It was just different types of sleep. And by the time Troy got to the end of the hallway, he had his finger on it. He remembered who designed this place, who had really laid out the plans. It was the shrinks. They had built a goddamn insane asylum. The world wasn’t being steered by a rudderless captain—it was being run from a loony bin! The entire world and everyone in it.

As he entered the comm room, Troy wasn’t sure if he should laugh or cry at the realization. Then he remembered how the world was run before, and that nothing had really changed. He chuckled sadly.

A pair of heads turned from the radio stations as he walked in, frowns and lowered brows. Troy pulled himself together. This wasn’t an asylum, he lied to himself. This was an office. It was a job. Everything was all right. He just had to keep his shit together. He was there to cut a ribbon.

Saul, one of the lead radio techs, took off his headset and rose to greet him. Troy vaguely knew Saul; they lived on the same executive wing and saw each other in the gym from time to time. While they shook hands, Saul’s wide and handsome face tickled some deeper memory, an itch Troy had learned to ignore. Maybe this was someone he knew from his orientation, from before his long sleep.

Saul introduced him to the other tech, who waved and kept his headset on. The name would probably fade immediately. It didn’t matter. An extra headset was pulled from a rack. Troy accepted it and lowered it around his neck, keeping the muffs off his ears so he could still hear. Saul found the silvery jack at the end of the headset and ran his fingers across a wide array of empty receptacles. The layout and the room reminded Troy of ancient photographs of phone operators back before they were replaced with computers and automated voices.

The mental image of a bygone day mixed and fizzed with his nerves and the shivers brought on by the pills, and Troy felt a sudden bout of giggles bubble beneath the surface. The laughter nearly burst out of him, but he managed to hold it together. It probably wouldn’t be a good sign for the head of overall operations to lurch into hysterics when he was about to gauge the fitness of a future silo head.

“—and you’ll just run through the set questions,” Saul was telling him. He held out a plastic card to Troy, who was pretty sure he didn’t need it but took it anyway. He’d been memorizing the routine for most of the day. Besides, he was quite sure it didn’t matter what he said. Like the phone operators of old, the task of gauging fitness was better left to the machines and the computers, all the sensors in some distant headset.

“Okay. There’s the call.” Saul pointed to a single flashing light on a panel studded with flashing lights. The entire room was full of flashing lights. Troy was surprised any sort of alert stood out to these men. They reminded him of those expert astronomers who could glance up at the night sky and spot a distant supernova, could see a new pinprick that was out of place among all the others.

“I’m patching you through,” Saul said.

Troy adjusted the muffs around his ears as the tech made the connection. He heard a few beeps before the line clicked over. Someone was breathing on the other side. Troy reminded himself that this young man would be far more nervous than he was. After all, he had to answer the questions—Troy simply had to ask them.

He glanced down at the card in his hand, his mind suddenly blank, thankful that he’d been given the thing.

“Name?” he asked the young man.

“Marcus Dent, sir.”

There was a quiet confidence in the voice, the sound of a chest thrust out with pride, a young man proudly reporting for duty. Troy remembered feeling that once, a long time ago. And then he thought of the world Marcus Dent had been born into, a legacy he would only ever know from books.

“Tell me about your training,” Troy said, reading the lines. He tried to keep his voice even, deep, full of command. Saul made a hoop with his finger and thumb, letting him know he was getting good data from the boy’s headset. Troy wondered if his was similarly equipped. Could anyone in that room—or any other room—tell how nervous he was?

“Well, sir, I shadowed under Deputy Willis before transferring to IT Security. That was a year ago. I’ve been studying the Order for six weeks. I feel ready, sir.”

Shadowing. Troy forgot it was called that. He had meant to bring the latest vocabulary card with him.

“What is your primary duty to the...silo?” He had nearly said facility.

“To maintain the Order, sir.”

“And what do you protect above all?”

He kept his voice flat. The best readings would come from not imparting too much emotion into the man being measured.

“Life and Legacy,” Marcus recited.

Troy had a difficult time seeing the next question. It was obscured by an unexpected blur of tears. His hand trembled. He lowered the shaking card to his side before anyone noticed.

“And what does it take to protect the things we hold dear?” he asked. His voice sounded like someone else’s. He ground his teeth together to keep them from chattering. Something was wrong with him. Powerfully wrong.

“Sacrifice,” Marcus said, steady as a rock.

Troy blinked rapidly to clear his vision, and Saul held up his hand to let him know he could continue, that the measures were coming through. Now they needed baselines so the biometrics could tease out the boy’s sincerity toward the first questions. In the old days, this was when they asked your name on a lie detector to establish a normal response. Troy’s palms felt sweaty thinking of someone hooking him up to a machine and asking him his name.

“Tell me, Marcus, do you have a girlfriend?”

He didn’t know why that was the first thing that came to mind. Maybe it was the envy that other silos didn’t freeze their women, didn’t freeze anyone at all. Nobody in the comm room seemed to react or care. The formal portion of the test was over.

“Oh, yessir,” Marcus said, and Troy heard the boy’s breathing change, could imagine his body relaxing. “We’ve applied to be married, sir. Just waiting to hear back.”

“Well, I don’t think you’ll have to wait too much longer. What’s her name?”

“Melanie, sir. She works here in IT.”

“That’s great.” Troy wiped at his eyes. The shivers passed. Saul waved his finger in a circle over his head, letting him know he could wrap it up. They had enough.

“Marcus Dent,” he said, “welcome to Operation Fifty of the World Order.”

“Thank you, sir.” The young man’s voice dripped with pride.

There was a pause, then the sound of a deep breath taken and held.

“Sir? Is it okay if I ask a question?”

Troy looked to the others. There were shrugs and not much else. He considered the role this young man had just assumed, remembered feeling daunted in his last job, that mix of fear, eagerness, and confusion.

“Sure, son. One question.” He figured he was in charge. He could make a few rules of his own.

Marcus cleared his throat. Troy pictured him and the current head of the silo sitting in a room together, master studying student.

“I lost my grandmother a few years ago,” Marcus said. “She used to let slip little things about the world before. Not in a forbidden way, but just as a product of her dementia. The doctors said she was resistant to her medication.”

Troy didn’t like the sound of this, that third-generation survivors were gleaning anything about the past. Marcus may be newly cleared for such things, but others weren’t.

“What’s your question?” Troy asked.

“The Legacy, sir. I’ve done some reading in it as well, not neglecting my studies of the Order and the Pact, of course, and there’s something I have to know.”

Another deep breath.

“Is everything in the Legacy true?”

Troy thought about this. He considered the great collection of books that contained the world’s history, a carefully edited history. In his mind, he could see the leather spines and the gilded pages, the rows and rows of books they had been shown during their orientation.

He nodded and found himself once again needing to wipe his eyes.

“Yes,” he told Marcus, his voice dry and flat. “It’s true.”

Someone in the room sniffled. Troy knew the ceremony had gone on long enough. The muffs were hot against his skin.

“Everything in there is absolutely true,” he said.

Which was partially correct. He didn’t add that not every true thing was written in the Legacy. Much was left out. And there were other things he suspected that none of them knew, things that had been wiped clean, had been edited out of books and brains alike.

The Legacy was the truth allowed, he wanted to say, the truth that was carried in all the silos for future generations. But the lies, he thought to himself, were what they carried there in Silo 1, in that drug-hazed asylum charged insanely with humanity’s survival.


2049 • Fulton County, Georgia

The front-end loader let out a throaty blat as it struggled up the hill. When it reached the top, a charcoal geyser of relief streamed from its exhaust pipe, a load of dirt avalanched out of its toothy bucket, and Donald saw that the loader wasn’t rumbling up the hill so much as creating it.

Hills of fresh dirt were taking shape like this as far as he could see. Heavy machinery skittered like an infestation of ants, each one carrying a mouthful of dirt at a time and beeping to one another in audible pheromones as they occasionally backed up. Their tracks crisscrossed through the soil in a knot of furrows, angry engines whining, smokestacks belching.

Between the hills—through temporary gaps left open like an ordered maze—burdened dump trucks carried soil and rock from the cavernous pits being hollowed from the earth. These gaps, Donald knew from the topo plans, would one day be pushed closed, leaving little more than a shallow crease where each hill met its neighbor.