They scarcely breathed as the door budged ever so slightly. Lila studied Joe as he placed his eye against the miniscule crack. He scrutinized the area for a moment before slowly widening the gap and cautiously walking into the control room. No one appeared to be inside.
Water abruptly gurgled through pipes directly over their heads startling everyone.
Scanning the instruments for clues, Lila observed a dial on the control panel that roughly translated to coolant cycle. The countdown clock had restarted only seconds ago, so she estimated that could have been the sound that they heard.
She breathed out in relief, thinking that she had never been so frightened of rushing water.
Ian motioned for her to come closer to where he was. On the panel in front of him another countdown clock ran. This one said САМОУНИЧМОЖЕНИЕ [SELF DESTRUCT].
“Shit,” said Lila worriedly. “This is no good.”
“No kidding,” Ian agreed sarcastically.
“Actually it wouldn’t matter except that, as you can see, the light is flashing and it appears to be counting down,” she pointed out.
“Never a good sign,” Ian murmured. “So what do we do?”
“We’ve got to stop it,” Lila said determinedly.
Joe walked up behind them and they nearly jumped out of their skins as he breathed down their necks. “What’s up?” he asked quietly.
“’Houston, we have a problem,’” Ian announced quietly.
“This mining town, Karalveem, is about to go nuclear,” replied Lila tensely. “Some nutjob wants to put the Romanovs or Soviets back in power, and decided to make a big point of it.”
Joe screwed up his face in concern. “How long do we have?”
Lila eyed the control panel. “Half an hour, give or take twenty seconds.”
The three of them looked at each other. Ian was the first to break the silence. “So how are we supposed to stop this?”
“There must be a way,” Lila mused, “or I wouldn’t have been sent here.” She quickly began scanning each of the instrument panels.
“Joe, your Russian is almost as good as mine. Look for something that looks like a set of instructions for this thing.” She gestured at the control panel.
“My Russian is every bit as good as yours,” Joe teased, trying to break the tension as he methodically pulled open drawers and searched around the seating area. He tried to wrench open a locked drawer. “Ian, can you open this?”
Ian quickly performed his patented unlocking maneuver and Lila rushed over to see what was in the drawer. A log sat on top with a series of codes written on it.