"It was kind of you to lie about Jameson's tour," Kelly said as soon as they stepped out of the main room. The narrow hallway made it so the two had to walk single file with Dale in back.
"I didn't lie," He began to say, but when Kelly glanced backwards with a smirk on her face, he went straight to the truth. "Ok. It was just a white lie, though. I thought it would help us get along better."
"You don't have to explain yourself to me. I was trying to give you a compliment. I don't know if I've ever met anyone who's nice enough to befriend Jameson. It's a good quality to have."
Dale was a little surprised at Kelly's words. He waited several moments before replying. "Oh. Well, um, thanks. I appreciate that."
Kelly didn't respond. The corridor ended at a set of stairs which she promptly started up. Dale paused for a second to more fully examine the area. The steps appeared to be made of the same concrete as the floor of the rest of the bunker. The smooth walls were unadorned just as the hallway had been. Dale found it odd that there wasn't even a handrail.
He then realized that Kelly had paused after several steps and turned to stare at him. "Coming?" she asked.
"Yeah, sorry." Dale began up the stairs. "I just got distracted looking at everything."
Kelly laughed. "As if there's much to look at it. You can be honest. I won't judge you."
"I am being honest."
"Ok. Whatever you say." She winked and then continued moving upwards.
After several minutes of thinking, Dale realized that Kelly most likely thought he had been watching her. His face immediately flushed red, making him grateful Kelly was in the lead. After several more hallways, turns, and stairs, they eventually reached a set of steps in which a small girl stood just a few steps high.
"Finally," Jazia said as Kelly and Dale approached her. She looked to her niece as she came to stop just at the foot of the stairs. "Can you wait here for a bit and take Dale back once he's been introduced? I've got some business with the boss that will delay me after his meeting."
The woman quietly agreed before motioning for Dale to move ahead of her.
"Thanks," Dale said while sliding past her in the narrow hallway. Kelly's only response was a knowing smile.
Jazia led Dale up the stairs in silence. He was learning to adjust to the lack of conversation around the bunker. She stopped a few steps away from a sleek door at the top of the staircase.
"Ok. Time for a short list of don'ts before you head in to see the boss," Jazia whispered, leaning close to Dale's ear. The separation of several steps helped decrease the significant height difference between the two.
She grabbed his shoulder and pulled herself a little closer. "First off," she began in an even quieter voice than before. "don't mention her hair."
"What?" Dale asked.
Jazia placed her other hand over his mouth. "Quiet! Just listen. No questions. It'll all make sense after the meeting."
Dale gave a small nod, and she removed her hand.
"Rule number two: don't ask her any personal questions. It's fine if you need clarification on job-related things, but don't venture beyond that. Got it?"
Jazia paused, waiting for Dale to acknowledge he understood. He already felt uncomfortable with this new job, but this was only making his anxiety worse. He forced his feelings of discomfort away and nodded.
"Great. The final rule tends to be the hardest to remember. Let her sit down first, even if she motions for you to sit. This is the most important rule if you like your life. Do you understand all three rules?"
Without saying a word, Dale once again nodded. The directions only made him more nervous. He was starting to think he may have gotten in over his head.
Jazia smiled. "Great. Now it's time for the real test. You go in alone. Hopefully you'll come back out with your mind intact."
She patted his shoulder and motioned him forward. Dale gulped nervously. He ascended the last few stairs quietly. The only sounds were his footsteps, his pounding heart, and the hum of industrial lights above him.
He stopped on the small landing in front of the door. Before reaching for the handle Dale wiped his sweaty hands on his jeans. Taking a deep breath, he opened the door and stepped inside.