The toll booth was really an information booth. Once again staffed by two people in woodlands camo utilities and the armband. I rolled up and was greeted with a smile and "How can I help you?"
"Wheres the nearest bathroom?"
"That would be at the Citizen Location building. That would be your first left as you continue on. Anything else sir?"
"The get a Zone pass building."
"That would be the last building off of Freedom Road. Here's a map and some information for you." The woman handed me a brochure and said "Anything else?"
"No ma'am. I'm set."
"Thank you and remember America is only as strong as its people!"
I pulled away shaking my head. This was weirdness on a scale and level that was completely different from what I was used to.
"She was nice." This was from Zane.
"Yeah. She was."
I made the turn and parked in a big and busy parking lot. My first thought was how the hell are they paying for the gas? Of course. They had Zone passes and got the special price. It occurred to me I should have come here first and drained some tanks. Screw paying a premium for regular.
"Can we hurry?"
"Sure Zane." I told Woof to stay and we hurried towards the main door. The lobby area had a row of tables manned with more woodland wearing auxiliaries with computers and in/out boxes. They were working computers too. I knew that because there were people sitting on the other side of the tables listening or talking. One couple was crying. The man holding his woman as she sobbed into his shoulder. A man at the next table over was grinning and saying loudly over and over "I knew it! I knew it!:
They had regular Army working security here too. They were geared up and had their serious faces on. I drew them like a magnet as soon as I cleared the doors. They weren't subtle about it either.
"Hold it right there sir."
I stopped and looked at them. "Yes?"
"Check the weapons or clear the area immediately."
I did the calculations. This was going to be dicey but I could do it. My body was already adjusting. Time was slowing down. Everything was sharp and focused. The soldier who had done the talking was just beginning to process the change in my body language when Zane said "I got to go!"
I froze, took a deep breath and shut it down. "No problem. Wheres the men's room?"
"Down the hall and to your right."
"Zane. I'll wait for you outside."
He was off like a kid on a mission. I watched him go and smiled at the two soldiers. They didn't smile back. I heard their safeties click off, shook my head, and walked back out the door.
Outside it was still threatening to rain. Off to my right was a covered picnic area. It had probably been built for the employees of the building I had just walked out of. Even from here I could tell what it was being used for now. A memorial. People had worn a path in the grass to it and I could see a group of four standing off to one side. I watched as a woman, she had been kneeling, slowly got back on her feet with the assistance of two of the males. She had placed a stuffed turtle on the edge. Yet another camo wearing woman was standing to one side of them. Close enough to be there but far away enough not to intrude.