“You will be divided into work squads.” Britain barked, he’d given this speech a thousand times.

“Each squad will be composed of two welders, two drillers, two joiners, one foreman and a collector.”

“Your squad will be your new family. You will spend every waking moment with them. You will eat when they eat, shit when they shit and sleep when they sleep.”

“They will be your family but you cannot love them like family, nor can you ever befriend them.” He paused, gauging their reaction. His words did not appear to have made any impact.

“You cannot befriend them,” He continued “Because many of them will die.”

“Death will be your friend on the gateway. You will see members of your squad burned alive, this I promise you. Watching a person being boiled alive is not something you will soon forget.”

This provoked the reaction he had hoped for. A few of the recruits were looking around them in wide-eyed panic. They hadn’t been told this, they had been told this would be standard civil engineering work, doing their bit for the Northland survival project.

Britain let them stew for a moment, savouring their fear.

“Oh, pull yourselves together,” he snapped. “I’m just yankin’ yer chains. This work hasn’t been life threatening for decades.”

Their relief was palpable. It washed over him in a wave of whispered gratitude. He chuckled to himself.

They were assembled in an open square, formed by the prefabricated barracks on the western side of the large steel structure that formed the northern end of the gateway. The barracks were situated roughly a mile away from the leading edge of the firewall on the boundary where it was still safe to be in the open, exposed to the sky.

The Gateway itself towered above them, its iron hide glowing a dull rusty sheen that could melt lead. Britain began pairing the recruits off into their work squads. He was careful to ensure that no squad had more than one girl in it. No sense hobbling the squads needlessly, they could take on collector duties.