Ariel closed the control room door behind her, sat on the chair, and coasted over to the computer. Files flew over to the strip, but the deletion rate from the hard drives was increasing. Another three minutes, and the strip would be full. Time was tight, but she could wait another three minutes. Something told her the data would be more than worth it. She swung around on the chair, forcing herself to be patient. Nerves jangled by the discoveries she’d made, mind teeming with questions, answers forming and breaking down as she tried to make connections, her gaze bounced around the room. Her attention landed on the far wall and she tilted her head to one side, considering.

Ariel pushed up from the chair and wandered over to the wall. She tapped on it with a fingertip, then flattened her hand on the cool metal surface. She skimmed her fingers over it as she walked alongside, then stopped and stared at the small metal casing tucked into the angle of the wall. She looked from the casing to the paneling and back.

She reached out and flicked the button.

Hydraulics hissed as the paneling disengaged from the floor. Ariel stepped back. The metal began to rise, revealing a crenelated bottom edge that had locked into holes set deep into the floor. It cleared the ground, bringing the bottom edge of a window into view. Whatever lay behind that locked door needed to be behind a blast door, too. Because that, she realized, was what was lifting in front of her.

Two feet clear.

A sharp streak of foreboding shot down her spine, and she reached out to hit the button again but her hand hovered, suspended in the air, not quite making contact.
Three feet off the ground.

The glass window glittered. The lights were on, their harsh glow spilling out over her. She was lit up from the waist down. Unable to take the suspense, she crouched and peered under the toothed edge of the blast door as it continued its slow lift.
The shock of what was revealed severed her balance and drove her to her knees. Time stretched, thin and high, as she struggled to make sense of what she was seeing.


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