“So what do we do?” Joe asked.
Lila shrugged. “We push it back into normal mode. I want to be gone long before this whole thing gets discovered. I mean someone’s gonna show up when there’s no boom. But I also don’t want something really bad to happen because the procedure wasn’t done right. I had a year internship at San Onofre nuclear power plant before they decommissioned it. I know that even though shutdown is automated, there are certain functions that need to be shepherded.”
Lila pointed to a section on the instrument panel. “This area shows the reactor targets: the pressure, temperatures and flow rate.” She tapped another section. “Over here is the manual override, which is basically what we did to stop the self destruct sequence.”
She shook her head. “There’s a whole series of procedures to follow and if it’s an emergency shutdown, at some point you hit this SCRAM button,” she pointed to the button in the middle. “This will shove the control rods into the reactor in four seconds.”
Clicking through the computer menu options, Lila mumbled, “Okay, where’s the ‘return to normal’ sequence in all this.” She raised her head to look over at Ian. “You’ve been awfully quiet.”
“I figure, unless I can add something good to the situation to keep quiet,” Ian said.
“Good policy, “ Lila approved. “Wait, I think… yeah, this is it.” She quickly punched in a set of instructions. “I’m just guessing on most of this, but what else is new.”
For several minutes Lila peered closely at the control panel, watching the reactor target gauge to make sure levels didn’t rise dangerously. She breathed a sigh of relief. “I think it’s done. Yay, us,” she said tiredly, the previous adrenaline rushes leaving her drained and shaky now the crisis seemed to be over.
At that moment they heard the outer door’s deadbolt turn. The three of them froze, their eyes meeting before they frantically looked around the room for a place to take cover. There was nothing, not even a table under which to hide.
“Shit,” Lila mouthed silently.
Joe motioned toward the inner door and punched his hand into his fist indicating they should take out whomever it was before that person could raise the alarm. He moved up to stand next to the side where the door opened, taking up an attack position and resting his hand on the door handle. Ian and Lila hung back, letting Joe take the lead on beating up the unfortunate individual on the other side of the door.
As soon as the door handle started to move downward, Joe yanked the door inward as hard as he could with his left hand, pulling the other person’s head into his right fist. Lila winced as the person went down with a muffled grunt. Joe dragged the body completely across the threshold. “Let’s go,” he said in a low voice.
Ian and Lila followed him out the door, nearly stumbling across the person lying prone on the floor. They rapidly exited the outer door and edged their way beneath the tarp to the other side of the RV, feeling their way carefully to their original entrance point and keeping the flashlight off to avoid giving away their position.
Lila slid down the RV’s cold metal surface to lie flat on the frozen ground, peering out from under the canvas covering. Seeing no one outside, she tugged on Ian’s pant leg to let him know it was safe to exit.
She slid out from under the tarp, followed shortly by Ian and Joe, and they took off in headlong rush to the Lada guided only by the tiny sliver of moonlight illuminating their path.
They reached the Lada in record time, piling in as soon as the doors were unlocked. Joe revved up the engine and they bumped their way down the road.
No one said anything for several minutes as they tried to catch their breath.
Lila leaned her head against the back seat and yawned hugely. “I gotta say, Joe, you give a hell of a tour.”
Joe grinned. “I do, don’t I?”
Ian tapped the door handle. “So where are we headed?”
“Back to the airport. I’ve got a charter plane on standby. Figured we might need a quick pickup.”
“Let’s just hope there’s not a welcoming committee to greet us,” Lila said grimly.