Reid caught the faint, sweet smell of peaches, stepping into the lobby of Dawson’s Plant. The smell of Soil. The scent always made Reid think of home. He was not sure why, of all things, it smelled like peaches. But it wasn’t the worst scent for it, he thought. In his surreal state, even the lobby’s light grey cinder block walls seemed shiny and cheerful. The matching grey concrete floor gleamed with the reflection of the fluorescent lights. The group of Residents patiently waited for their guided tour.
As Reid waited, he studied the framed smiling faces of the current Red Key workers mounted around the lobby. Their names were etched on brass plaques below each framed photo. The photos were shiny and new, though the frames showed signs of age and wear. Reid was thrilled to think of his own photo hanging on this wall.
As he studied the last frame, it rattled subtly against the wall. He raised his eyebrows and looked at Paul, who returned a skeptical look, putting out his hands as if to balance.
Before long, a young woman quickly approached the group. She wore the Plant’s iconic tan scrubs with frizzled blond hair and square thick rimmed glasses.
“Don’t worry about those little quakes! They happen all the time, and you’ll get used to them in time. In case you missed it, there is a large volcano behind this building structure. It is dormant and studied very closely, I assure you!”
“I… am reassured.” Paul signed to Reid, slowly nodding agreement with eyes wide.
“Welcome to your first day of Green Key Orientation!” The young woman signed quickly in bubbly excitement. “I’m Olivia. I’ll be your Waiter during your Green Key. You guys can just leave your things here by the door, and I’ll give you a quick tour!”
Paul and Reid looked at each other as they placed their bags near the entrance. “She certainly is exuberant.” Paul signed flatly, with a smirk.
“Can you blame her? She’s still not as excited as I am! I can’t believe we’re here!” Reid replied earnestly. Olivia began to lead the Residents along the well maintained halls.
Olivia continued, “This is where it all began! You all know the story. Richard Dawson and James Wilson searched the world over for new, marketable products for James’ company. Anything to monopolize and expand their fortunes. James had always been an independently wealthy entrepreneur and world explorer. He financed their exploration. Together they explored every continent from obscure forests, to the top of mountains, sampling new plant life and formulating new concoctions. Richard Dawson meticulously and tirelessly experimented, and eventually, they arrived here. Deep in a cavern within this inactive volcanic mountain, they found it! Dawson’s Oil, or Soil as we now call it.”
Olivia kept Reid’s familiar old childhood story lively, even though she had probably said it a million times before. She chattered along as they walked, greeting current Residents warmly as she proudly retold her account of everyone’s heroes.
“James, however, fell ill soon after their work began and passed away. With the weight of James’ loss heavy on his mind, Dawson pressed on with their dream to make a better world. With the support of the Haven community, and funds left to him by James, he built this complex and spread his precious Soil across the world…” To have been here during those early days, working away… I wonder if they knew how far their efforts would take them! Reid thought in excitement.
“The Green Key level of the complex is where we find ourselves currently. It is divided into three sections. Quarters and Rec Room are to the right, down the hall. The center of the floor is the dining hall, library, and work stations. To the left, is the shipping dock. Daily assignments will be issued by the designated Waiters, Miles and myself, during breakfast in the Dining Hall. With your comprehensive academic educations, you are all coming here with the same versatile skill sets. As you were not specialized in collegiate studies, you each can perform any job at the Plant. Everyone gets orientation shifts on each section for a week at a time. After which, you will rotate according to daily assignments.” She continued with the particulars of daily life, and Reid’s mind ran ahead to the Red Key. I want it so badly! I am determined to have one of my own. After all, the Red Key is what I came here to do. To work beside Dawson, helping Him bear the weight of the world!
“Sorry about all the boring parts of the tour. I’m sure you are all excited to get through your Green Key and start moving on up the ladder here at the Plant! Well, few know this, but we are currently in a state of expansion, so we are always looking for volunteers ready to give their all! As you get comfortable here, and feel ready to climb the ladder, just let me know. I’ll get your name on the list. As positions become available in Yellow Key, we promote by seniority, then order of submission!”
Reid’s ecstatic expression was met by Paul’s usual cool smirk. It was all just too fantastic! Reid thought about their joint decision to try to work at the Plant together. And now they were here! Reid was free to put his name on a list to commit to Yellow Key! It was all too much to take in at once!
“Just remember, you also have the option to turn in your Green Key. If you feel like this is not for you, you are free to leave at any time and pursue standard collegiate studies. Just know, once you commit to Yellow Key, there is no longer an option to leave. Just like the Contract, everything here is completely voluntary. So just be positive this is what you want to do with your life, which is a pretty admirable choice to make, I think! Grab your things and we’ll get you settled into your Quarters. Let’s get into Plant life!” Olivia said the last with a giggle as the tour concluded near the entrance of the building.