Last week we announced that Cyber Dawn (A Ben Raine Novel Book 1) by M.L. Adams is our Kids Corner Book of the Week and the sponsor of our student reviews and of thousands of great bargains in the Kids Book category:
Ben survived cancer. That was the easy part.After losing his leg to cancer and spending six years as a prototype in a top-secret cybernetic research program, seventeen-year-old Ben Raine is ready for a normal life. Now a junior in high school, it seems as though normal is just what he’s going to get. He’s met new friends, made the varsity football team, and even scored a date with the school’s head cheerleader. But just as life is starting to look up, Ben hears four words that will change everything —
You never had cancer.
Determined to find out why, Ben hires Sarah — a classmate who moonlights as a hacker — to help him hunt down the truth. But when they get too close, they soon find themselves on the run from the police, the FBI, and a team of ruthless assassins. Caught in the middle of a murderous conspiracy, Ben and Sarah tap into the one thing that may save them — Ben’s cybernetic brain. But will it give them the advantage they need? Or cost them both their lives?
And here, for your reading pleasure, is our free excerpt:
The eleven-year-old boy stared wide-eyed at the sleek silver and black cybernetic leg. He’d seen mock-ups of course. Even tried on a few as they worked to get the sizing just right.
This is the real thing, he thought. That’s my new leg.
His heart raced at the thought of being whole again.
He tore his eyes away and looked around the surgical room. The stainless steel furniture, bright lights, and adults wearing hospital scrubs, all reminded him of his last surgery. It even smelled the same – like when his house was freshly cleaned. But to the boy, it felt different. The last time he’d been in a room just like it, they had taken his leg to keep a cancerous tumor from spreading. Something the oncologist called a synovial sarcoma. Now, they were giving him a leg back.
An even better one.
He gazed down at the end of the bed and stared at the single hump his left foot formed under the sheets. When he’d woken up from his last surgery, groggy and disoriented from the anesthesia, his eyes tried to focus on his missing foot. His brain told him it was there. He could still feel it as part of his body. But his eyes saw something different. Where there should be two humps, there was only one.
Later, the doctors told him the sensation he felt – of his leg being there when it wasn’t – was called phantom pain. For the life of him, he couldn’t figure out the phantom part. The pain sure felt real enough.
He pushed the memory to the back of his mind and stared at the ceiling. He wouldn’t look down again until after the surgery. Not until there were two humps.
“Okay, it’s time,” said a nurse from somewhere off to his right. “You’re already an old pro at this. Should be a piece of cake.”
She pulled a piece of surgical tubing tight around his arm. She then tapped the skin with the back of her fingers and inserted the needle. The prick used to hurt, but now it barely registered.
“You’ll feel a warm sensation flow into your arm and then throughout your body,” she said. “When I tell you, start counting back from one hundred.”
He closed his eyes and took a deep breath.
A few moments later, he felt the warm liquid flow into his veins. At the nurse’s prompt, he began to count backwards.
“100 … 99 … 98 … 97 … 96 … ”
Six years later
The CyberLife Industries Non-Disclosure Agreement I signed contains a long list of forbidden activities. Near the top, just under you will NOT attempt to access or otherwise modify your cybernetic system, are the words: you will NOT participate in contact sports. Of course, the second my parents hopped on a plane to Europe for two months, I forged the permission slip to try out for my high school football team.
For exactly forty days, it was the best decision of my life. I made the team, started three games at wide receiver, and met a ton of new friends. I even scored a date with the head of the cheerleading squad. For the first time in six years, life was normal. Instead of a lab rat, I felt like an actual teenager.
That was all before the helmet-on-helmet hit.
The medic at the game on Friday night diagnosed me with a concussion. But I knew better. I knew right away what it was. The hit screwed up my neural cybernetic augment.
* * *
By early Monday morning, the headache was so bad I called Megan, my cybernetic systems technician. Not surprisingly, she totally freaked out. After a half-dozen or so expletives, she demanded I meet her right away.
For almost three hours, I’d been lying on a cold, stainless steel surgical table in a secret underground laboratory at the CyberLife headquarters. Normally I didn’t mind our early morning appointments. Three hours was a lot of time for a nap or, in extreme cases, to cram for an exam or finish a homework assignment. With a midterm starting in less than an hour, I actually needed to study. My headache wouldn’t allow it.
I looked over at Megan. She sat at the lab’s lone workstation, hunched over a laptop. Her fingers moved rapidly, filling the otherwise quiet space with the sound of clattering keys. A light blue CyberLife lab coat covered her slender body. Her long, blond hair was pulled up in a ponytail and her blue eyes sparkled from the light of the laptop screen. Despite the boredom, and the pain, I smiled to myself. Even mad, she sure is easy to look at, I thought.
Megan tried to hide it, but I knew she was watching me in her peripheral vision. I could feel the anger flowing from her eyes. Anger because I disobeyed her direct orders. Anger because I woke her up at three in the morning. But most of all, anger because I let her down.
“Megan, how much longer?” I asked.
Without answering, she stood and walked in my direction. She stopped at the bank of diagnostic monitors sitting on a wheeled cart near my table. The monitors, connected wirelessly to my various cybernetic components, displayed the status of my heart rate, blood pressure, and other vital systems – human and cybernetic. Placing both hands on the cart’s handle, she began to push it back toward her workstation.
“Almost done?” I asked.
With a heavy sigh, Megan stopped the cart and turned to face me. “Benjamin, you do realize I’m in the process of repairing your brain?”
I swallowed hard.
“Keep distracting me,” she said as she pointed at one of the monitors. “And I might accidentally make this little zero here a one. The next thing you know, Ben’s taking first-grade math again.”
“And that’s a downgrade?” I laughed. “You know I suck at math.”
Megan opened her mouth to respond, but instead shook her head and stormed back to her workstation.
“I’m sorry,” I muttered.
I spent the next ten minutes looking around the small laboratory in an attempt to focus on something – anything really – other than the pain in my head. Up until earlier that day, I thought I had been in every lab at CyberLife. Both at the headquarters in Brookwood, Colorado, where I’d spent all morning, and the secret research campus in the mountains west of town, where I spent most of my teenage years. However, this one was new and, in my opinion, barely qualified as a lab. It was dimly lit, had no heat, and was four stories underground. The only furniture was Megan’s workstation and my cold, stainless steel, surgical table. The room seemed more like a medieval dungeon than a place where she should be performing high-tech surgery on my brain.
“Why are we down here?” I asked, determined to strike up a conversation. “Is this even a lab?”
Megan walked over and set her laptop down on the table next to me. “If you must know,” she said. “We’re down here because my idiot teenage patient decided to play football, got himself smacked in the head, and just about scrambled the cybernetic augment attached to his brain.”
I sat still, suddenly wishing I’d kept my mouth shut.
“And, so Dr. Merrick doesn’t find out,” she continued. “I decided we should meet down here this morning instead of in my office, which is two doors down from his.”
Megan folded her arms across her chest and arched an eyebrow. “Make sense?”
I nodded slowly. “Yeah, makes sense.”
“Good.” She turned back to her laptop. “Now shut up so I can finish.”
“Any idea how much longer?”
Megan sighed and shook her head. “You’re impossible Benjamin.”
“I have a math mid-term at eight.”
She glanced at her watch and resumed the rapid fire typing. “Lucky for you, I’ve figured out the problem. Just need to upload a new software build.”
I groaned. New software meant new bugs. The last thing I needed was a system malfunction during mid-term exam week. Then again, being virtually stabbed in the foot every minute during an exam would do little to help either. Instead of arguing, I lay back down on the table. Wearing only my boxers and socks, the cold metal surface sent a shiver up my spine.
“You look cold,” she said. “Want to borrow my coat? I just need to tweak a few more things before we get started with the upload.”
“You read my mind,” I said. “It’s freezing in here.”
Megan slipped off her lab coat and placed it over my legs. She wore a tight, light blue sweater and khaki pants. The outfit provided enough of a distraction that I didn’t notice her hands slide under the coat. She wrapped her ice cold fingers around my bare leg.
I shot forward and tried to push, pull, and claw her hands off me. It was no use. I had learned long ago that the cute, blue-eyed blonde was freakishly strong.
“Your hands are freezing!”
Her grip tightened. “Oh, they are? I had no idea.”
I tried to punch her shoulder, but she dodged out of the way, and I almost fell off the table.
“Not funny Megan!”
“Oh, don’t be such a big baby.” She let go and tucked her lab coat tight around my legs. “There, is that better?”
“Gee, thanks,” I grumbled. “You cheated and tweaked the temperature sensors in my leg, didn’t you?”
“Maybe.” Her grin widened.
I shook my head and cursed the CyberLife engineers who had made my leg so damn realistic. Not only was it nearly impossible to detect visually, its lifelike synthetic skin could sense touch as well as a range of temperatures and relay the associated sensation to my brain.
“How’s your head?”
Several moments later, I let out a deep sigh of relief. The headache was gone. Cute, strong, and ridiculously good at her job, I thought. “Thanks Megan. You’re the best.”
“No problem,” she answered. “And while I question that your brain is still intact and functioning correctly, my tests revealed no major damage.”
“So what happened?”
With a shrug, she said, “I think the impact occurred just as your augment was feeding stored Cytoxinol into your system. The process was interrupted, and a software bug kept it from starting again. The lack of Cytoxinol caused your headache. To be honest, I’m surprised it didn’t result in more problems. You were lucky.”
I whistled softly. Cytoxinol was a CyberLife-manufactured drug I took daily. I didn’t know the details, only that it somehow kept my body and my cybernetic system in balance.
“What if I didn’t call you to get it fixed?” I asked.
“You’d have been dead in two days.”
My mouth fell open as I waited for the punch line. When one didn’t come, I said, “Dead?”
“I’m serious Ben,” Megan replied. “You’re taking Cytoxinol for a reason. Without it, your cybernetic augments would poison you.”
I let out a deep breath. Joining the football team now seemed like a pretty dumb idea.
Megan squeezed my arm. “Now you know why I was so angry?”
“Am angry. Don’t push your luck.” She reached into her pocket and pulled out a black data cable. “Since you’re in a hurry, I’ll use the wire. It transfers data a hundred times faster.”
Before I could protest, she bent down and slipped her hands up my boxer shorts. I tensed, both because I expected her hands to be cold and because she had her fingers wrapped around my upper thigh.
“Easy there Benjamin,” she said.
“Geez Megan, a little notice next time?”
“Oh, like you’re not used to it,” she joked. “I’ve been putting my hands in your pants for three years.”
My face flushed red. “Megan, seriously?”
She laughed, tucked her fingers under the synthetic skin, and rolled it down past my knee. My cybernetic leg’s rigid titanium alloy shell and flexible Kevlar fabric muscles made it look like something out of a science fiction movie. Even now, six years later, I had to look twice to convince my brain it really was my leg.
After plugging in the cable and entering a series of commands on her laptop, Megan sat on the corner of the table and crossed her arms.
“Okay Benjamin, you’ve got ten minutes,” she said, a serious look on her face. “Start talking.”
“Talk?” I replied tentatively.
She scowled and leaned in close. In a voice barely above a whisper, she said, “Tell me why, of all the things you could possibly do, you decided to join the football team? Not the golf team. Not the debate team or the chess team. The full-contactfootball team.”
At that moment, I realized the true downside to the sparse, underground lab.
Nowhere to run. Nowhere to hide.
For a half-minute, we stared at each other in silence. My brain ran through every possible excuse in the book. But there was no fooling Megan. She was too smart and knew me too well. Telling the truth was my only option.
“You know I’ve always loved football,” I said. “When the doctors first told me that they would have to amputate my leg, my first question was whether or not I’d still be able to play.”
“Ben, I know,” Megan interjected. “We’ve discussed this.”
I pressed on. “I wanted to see what it was like at the tryouts. I didn’t realize so many people would be there. Classmates, coaches, teachers, and cheerleaders – even some parents. I didn’t want to embarrass myself or let anyone down. When it was my turn, instead of playing terrible, I did the best I could. The crowd cheered me. The other players patted me on the back. It felt … great.”
I paused to let my words sink in, then continued. “Before I knew what I’d done, I was on the team. I got caught in the moment, I guess. It’s hard enough being the new kid in school. Before I tried out, I had like, two friends. Being on the team made me popular. Everyone knew who I was. I even got a date with Katherine Nickel.”
Megan’s eyes lit up, and I instantly regretted my words. She had spent two years pestering me about dating. Before she could probe further, I hurried on. “I guess I got tired of being told what I couldn’t do. By CyberLife. My parents. Even … you.”
It took every ounce of willpower I had to hold Megan’s gaze. She stared back, eyes unblinking. I knew my words stung. A moment later, she stood and walked to her workstation. She reached into her bag and returned holding a thick stack of paper. Without seeing the cover, I knew what it was. What I didn’t know, however, was why in the world she carried a copy in her bag.
“I know about the NDA,” I said.
Megan shook her head as she flipped through the document. “No Ben, I don’t think you do.” She stopped on the list of banned activities and turned the stack so I could see them. Not that I needed to. I’d been forced to initial each one.
She then flipped to the end and pointed at a set of signatures. “That’s my signature Ben – the one right next to yours. I agreed to be responsible for you. If I hadn’t signed this thing, Merrick wouldn’t have let you go. Trust me.”
I frowned at the mention of Dr. Merrick, the CEO and founder of CyberLife Industries. He had spent billions of dollars of his own money building the company and its related research programs. There was a time when I looked up to him as a father figure. We had spent thousands and thousands of hours together perfecting my cybernetic system. Now, I assumed that time had passed. I had not seen or heard from him in more than six months. Not since being discharged from the company’s secret research campus.
“I told him we couldn’t keep a teenage boy cooped up on a campus hidden in the mountains,” Megan continued. “Not forever anyway. So he agreed. But only on the condition that you agreed as well.”
“Come on, Merrick loves me,” I said.
“He doesn’t love you that much Ben,” Megan countered. “Do you know how much trouble you’ll be in if he finds out you played football? That you risked disclosing your technology to the public? Your cybernetics are so classified …”
“Yeah, I know,” I interrupted. “Tell-somebody-and-black-clad-commandos-show-up-at-your-door-and-disappear-you classified.”
“You don’t need to worry about it. I got kicked off the team.”
“Why … did you get kicked off?”
“They scanned me for a concussion and found my augment.”
Megan’s blue eyes turned to ice, a sharp contrast to her brightening red cheeks.” Tell me it wasn’t a visual scan of some sort,” she said, voice shaking. “Tell me they didn’t do an MRI or CT scan.”
“It wasn’t,” I answered quickly, realizing her fear. An MRI or CT scan would reveal my cybernetic augments. “Just some handheld scanner thing. They use it to check for concussions. It must have picked up my brain implant.”
Megan let out a deep breath. “What did you tell them?”
I shrugged. “That I had a vision upgrade. Just like half the kids in school.”
“They believed you?”
“Of course. Why wouldn’t they?”
The truth was, the medics and football coaches could have figured out I was lying. CyberLife didn’t sell any visual augments that didn’t have a small black data port on the temple of either eye. Thankfully, they didn’t dig deeper. And neither did Megan.
“They kicked you off the team for that?” She asked.
“Because I didn’t disclose it earlier, my name wasn’t on the registry.”
“They have a registry?”
“Yeah. Ever since those kids got caught cheating with the hacked eye augments, they require every student with any kind of prosthetic or cybernetic augment to register before joining a school-sanctioned activity.”
“Sounds pretty Orwellian,” she said.
I nodded, careful not to take the bait. Megan could argue for hours about privacy and the government’s handling of cybernetic augments. There were rumors of a national registry, something that really pressed her buttons. Right now, I just needed to get to class.
Megan sat next to me on the table and put her arm around my shoulder. “Ben, those augments your classmates have – eyes, hands, whatever – are toys compared to yours. We sell them at the mall. I know it’s hard not being able to tell your friends. And I know you’ve always wanted to play football. But that NDA exists for a good reason. It’s not only to protect CyberLife, but to protect you as well.”
I sighed and stared down at the floor. When I made the decision to join the team, I justified it with all sorts of reasons.
I’ve been through hell. I deserve to be a regular teenager.
Football has been my dream since I was two.
All my friends get to do whatever they want, why can’t I?
Now, however, the magnitude of that single decision pressed down on my shoulders like a ton of steel. If surviving cancer had taught me one thing, it was perspective. I may not have everything I want, but at least I’m alive.
“I’m sorry Megan,” I said. “It was a stupid thing to do.”
“It’s okay knucklehead,” she replied, reaching out and messing my hair. “But if you do it again, that cold hands trick will be the least of your worries. I’ll program your brain so you automatically drool any time you’re around Katherine Nickel.”
We shared a laugh before she turned and eyed her laptop. “This update is taking longer than I thought,” she said. “No way it’s going to finish before you need to leave.”
“No problem,” I said. After three plus hours, I was ready to get out of there. “We can finish next Monday.”
“I’m out of town rest of this week and next.”
“Oh right, forgot. Another tech then?”
She shook her head. “You know I don’t trust anyone else to mess around with my favorite teenage cyborg. Besides …”
Suddenly, her voice was drowned out as a loud siren pierced the air.
I covered my ears and scanned the room for the source of the noise. Above the lab’s only exit, a red light flashed in unison with the siren. I turned to Megan and yelled. “Fire alarm?”
She ignored me.
After hurriedly typing a series of commands on her laptop and disconnecting the cable from my knee, she slammed the lid shut and ran across the room to her workstation. With one hand, she tossed papers and notebooks into her bag. With the other, she grabbed my pants and shirt from a nearby chair and tossed them in my direction. “Get dressed,” she yelled over the alarm.
I didn’t protest. If it was a fire alarm, the last thing I wanted was to stand around the parking lot in my underwear. I rolled my synthetic skin back into place and quickly dressed. As I finished with my shoes, Megan ran back and grabbed me by the arm.
“We have to leave. Now.”
She half-dragged me through the lab’s double doors, and we sped down a long, empty hallway. Every twenty feet, a strobe light flashed. To my relief, the audible alarms rang in the rooms only, and not in the confined space of the hallway. At a T-junction, we turned left and raced to the elevator door. As we approached, a light above the door flashed on. Megan abruptly stopped, whirled around, and pulled me in the opposite direction.
“Megan, the elevator is that way,” I called, glancing over my shoulder.
Instead of a reply, she squeezed my arm tight and pulled harder. We stopped at a blue metal door with a sign that read STAIRS. Right, I thought. In case of fire, use the stairs.
She pushed the door open, stopped on the small landing, and motioned for me to remain quiet. Still holding the door partially open, I heard the elevator chime from down the hall. Then the loud stomping of boots. I peered out and was surprised to see two black-clad CyberLife guards running down the corridor, assault rifles at the ready. Before I could tell Megan, she yanked my arm and ran up the stairs.
After four flights, we stopped at the main floor landing. Megan headed straight for the door and suddenly froze. I noticed a half-second late and bumped into her. She turned and scowled. “Quiet,” she said through clenched teeth.
“Sorry,” I whispered.
She pulled me to the side, away from the small, square, glass window in the door. The sounds of heavy boots flew past. Somewhere below, a door slammed shut. More boots hit the stairs.
The entire situation grew stranger by the minute. I had been in plenty of fire drills on the CyberLife research campus and even one at school. The first rule was always, stay calm and head to the nearest exit. We didn’t seem to be doing either.
“Megan …” I said.
“Let’s go,” she whispered. “And stay close.”
I followed her into the hallway. Sneaking around a secure CyberLife building wasn’t exactly new to me. I had, on numerous occasions while living on the research campus, done the same thing. It was one of my favorite ways to pass the time. But never had I done it with a CyberLife employee. Especially not one like Megan, who had always been a stickler for the rules, and even carried my NDA around in her bag.
We stopped in front of a locked door. Above the lock, there was a small, gray pad with a red LED on it. Megan pulled a lanyard out of her lab coat and pressed an ID card against the pad. The red LED turned green, and the door clicked open. I followed her through and shut the door behind me.
In sharp contrast to the “lab” in the basement, the room we entered was the typical CyberLife laboratory – gleaming white walls, white tile floor, and stainless steel furniture. We weaved around various metal tables full of high-tech equipment until we reached another door on the far side of the room.
After a short pause to catch our breath, Megan stood and used her hands to smooth out her lab coat. She pushed strands of stray blond hair behind her ears, turned to me, and smiled.
I shrugged, still not sure what I should be ready for. Or what in the hell we were doing.
“Just act normal if you see anyone,” she said. “Let me do the talking.”
With another swipe of her card, she opened the door. We stepped out into the cool morning air and onto a concrete path. After taking a moment to get my bearings, I instinctively turned left toward the main gate and the visitor parking lot. Megan went right. I jogged a few steps to catch up.
“Megan, what’s going on?” I finally asked.
“Sorry for the excitement,” she said. “I just had to get you out of there or you’d never make your exam. If we’d gone through the main building security station, they wouldn’t have let you leave.”
“Why not?” I asked.
“Fire drill. Until the head count is finished, no one leaves.”
“I guess that makes sense,” I replied, not convinced. It seemed like an awful lot of effort just to make a mid-term exam on time.
“So, about your system update,” she said, changing the subject. “I need to finish that.”
“When you get back?”
“You know me Ben. I’ll go crazy on vacation knowing I left something unfinished.”
I laughed. A few months after we’d met, Megan had gone home to Ohio for the holidays. She called, texted and emailed me a hundred times to make sure everything was okay.
“Maybe you could come over after school,” she said. “Probably won’t take more than an hour or two.”
Returning to CyberLife after school was the last thing I wanted to do. Even if it meant seeing Megan. I needed to study for my Tuesday mid-terms and, if I failed to avoid the football team during the day, tend to a few bruises. “Sure, why not,” I replied half-heartedly.
“Great. I’ll text you my address.”
Confused, I stopped and looked at her. “Your … address?”
She grinned. “Sure. But don’t be all weird about it. I’m not hitting on you.”
“Uh, hitting on me … what … Megan,” I said, fumbling my words.
Real smooth Ben.
She punched me lightly on the shoulder. “Just teasing. I’ll order a pizza. It’ll be fun.”
A million questions formed in my mind, including how she could justify connecting to my system at home after just giving me her NDA speech. But in the end, it didn’t matter. Megan could invite me over for a root canal and I’d still be happy about it.
“Okay,” I said with a shrug, trying to act like it was no big deal. In my chest, my heart pounded. “I could be there around four.”
“Great, it’s a date,” she said.
We walked for a half-minute in silence before Megan spoke again. “Hey, this Katherine Nickel isn’t going to be jealous, is she?”
I groaned. “No.”
“That didn’t take long Benjamin,” she said. “You’ve only been in school for two months.”
“Yeah, I guess.”
“So when’s the date?”
“But you said …”
“Was supposed to be Saturday night,” I replied. “The homecoming dance.”
After a pause, Megan said, “Ah, because of the game?”
“Yeah. Bad for her reputation I guess.”
Megan gently rubbed my back as we walked. “Sorry to hear that Benjamin. Her loss though, right?”
I shrugged. Katherine had no shortage of guys lining up to date her. She probably had a new date to the dance ten seconds after she dumped me, I thought.
It wasn’t until we rounded the back corner of the CyberLife headquarters building that I realized where we were headed. Twenty yards away was the rear pedestrian gate, guarded by a man wearing black body armor. Over his shoulder, I could see the gate was closed and locked down.
Before I could warn Megan, she called to the guard. “Hey, Scott!”
“Hi, Ms. Reynolds,” the guard replied as we walked up. “What are you doing back here? This gate is closed.”
She nodded in my direction. “We were outside experimenting with some changes to his system. When the alarm went off, we couldn’t get back into the building. Ben needs to leave, so we came here.”
“Unfortunately,” Scott said. “I can’t let him leave.”
Megan tilted her head, smiled, and tucked a loose strand of hair over her ear. “Oh, come on Scott. He’s got an exam in like twenty minutes. You don’t want him to fail math class, do you?”
I’d seen Megan turn on the charm many times over the years – head tilt and hair tuck being her best move. It never failed.
This time included.
The guard glanced at me. I shrugged, doing my best to play along.
“All right Megan, he can go,” the guard said. “But I’ll have to manually scan him. This gate’s automated system isn’t online yet today.” He nodded in the direction of the walk-through scanning station built into the brick wall.
“No problem,” I said.
The rear exit, like every exit at the CyberLife headquarters, was protected by a sophisticated scanning system designed to check for data storage devices. Merrick was fanatical about data security, to the point where he didn’t allow unauthorized storage devices to enter or exit the building. I’d been scanned more times than I could count.
Scott pulled a small, handheld scanner off his belt and approached. After running it over my front and back, he said. “All right, he’s good.”
The guard stepped back into the small guardhouse. The gate swung open.
“Four o’clock?” Megan whispered to me.
“Sounds good,” I replied. “See you then.”
I walked through the exit and began to jog toward the main visitor parking lot. Three minutes later, as I climbed into my Jeep and started it up, I noticed something odd about the front of the building. There weren’t any employees standing around waiting to be let back in.