B.A.T. M.Y.S.T.E.R.Y – Better Armed Thinking Must Yet Solve This Enigma Rooted Yonder

Disclaimer: All characters and settings are entirely original, with any similarities to any person or characters from other works coincidental.

This is page 4. Page 3 can be found here and page 5 can be found here.


– Part 31 –

At this point she felt deeply uneasy and would have preferred to go outside and try to catch one of the bats that had disappeared into the forest, but the secret to their plight must be found here.

She was glad that there was someone with her, so she didn't feel like it was just her versus whatever bizarreness this was. Woman against building, as there was not a single person in sight. There were however plenty of signs this hadn't been the case for long yet. Not only was the filler in cracks still astonishingly clean, as if it had only been inserted a few days ago, or maybe a week at most. And nothing had gathered even just a bit of dust yet. Items, bags, papers spread randomly across the floor and the tables lining the wall, as if left in a great hurry, all looked like they had been laying there for just a day.

Other indicators that everyone here had left very suddenly were the many open doors. Some even still had their keys sticking in the keyholes. The more Şakan walked through this strange place, the more questions appeared in her mind, all vying for attention, and the curiosity they evoked was even strong enough to keep any anxiety and fear she had at bay, for now. It led her to look into the next open room.

But before she could enter, she noticed something holding her back. Not a thought, or a worry. No, it was someone's arm. Başanon's. She looked around, annoyed, and stared into his face that contrived itself to have a mock-serious expression.

"Careful! What if there are monsters behind that door? You know... like under your bed? Or like in the river!"

– "Get off me, man." she said, wrestling herself free. "We have science to do and on our side. We can deal with everything. We dealt with the river monster, we can deal with a room monster." she said, in the most earnest tone he had ever heard. His expression shattered and he convulsed with laughter a moment later.

Despite everything, Şakan smiled a bit. There was no one quite like him. Now for the door. She swung it open and an odd smell immediately forced itself on her. Strangely familiar, she still took a moment to place it. Day old pasta and lamb meat! There it was on a table next to her, half-eaten. It still looked good, in fact after not eating for hours during that long trek it seemed downright appetizing. She probably shouldn't have ignored her stomach, and all the rumbling that she was only now noticing.

Once she was back, she could eat all she wanted. That's what she promised herself. Hopefully the nausea she was starting to become aware of had passed by then now. Until then she couldn't risk anything now, time was of the essence and so was caution.

The half-eaten food, next to cutlery, napkins, newspapers gave the room a special kind of atmosphere. Cozy was not the word to describe it. But with these signs of normal activities it felt lived in, less hostile and eerie than the corridor she was in before. In some strange way she was reminded of the university cafeteria she had often visited, except this one appeared a lot smaller. It also lacked a salad bar, which given the location wasn't surprising, but made her glad she never had to eat here. She always relished the simple pleasure of a celery salad with carrots and missed nothing more at the moment.

Still lost in thought, she looked around the place until some more posters at the walls caught her attention and brought her back from her vegetable-filled dreaming. The writing was so large and and plain it seemed to be screaming at her. "FEAR IS THE ENEMY OF PROGRESS". Apparently safety reminders. Below the large heading she read how anxious people were not at the right place here. She huffed, as if she had been personally slighted. A lot of great scientists were bundles of anxiety, she thought indignated. But the poster was clearly of a different mind, the text continued in a chastizing tone and at the end there was a graphic image of a man looking around worried being stabbed from behind. Her nausea briefly got worse at the image.

– Part 32 –

Quickly averting her eyes, she noticed another poster saying "NEVER STOP, THE UNIVERSE CAN'T WAIT". The poster was equal parts inspiring and unsettling, alleviating and causing the feelings it was warning against. This one she liked much more. It felt like something she could agree with, maybe even write herself.

Başanon stepped up to her and laughed.

"It feels like they made this more for themselves, whoever designed this." he said. "As if trying to subdue their own feelings of unease."

He truly understood her, like no one else, she thought. She smiled.

And he chuckled heartily.

"Weird people, huh? They should get their own issues solved before they act all big and mighty and give motivational speeches, right?"

He turned to Şakan, but she looked shaken, and seemed to look for something to grab for support.

"E-everything alright? Is this place getting to you?" He asked, his smile wiped away, corners of his mouth sunk and eyebrows furrowed. Nausea was welling up inside him and he noticed a certain dizziness that made it hard to focus.

Şakan, despite feeling like she had just been punched into the gut, just said "No, no, it's alright. I feel a bit ...dizzy- and maybe, a bit unwell? But I will manage! Don't worry."

But she worried about him. He appeared to be doing worse than last night at the river, and it was getting to her more than any of the symptoms she was experiencing. This place, despite all the signs of human activity, felt increasingly hostile, and it managed to do so in an eerily otherworldly and insidious way. There was no sense of immediate threat, no obvious danger in any particular direction, and yet there was an underlying sense of a terrifying invisible opponent. Even if this was just their own anxiety, it was certainly a new peak.

What did they even know about radioactivity? It was so poorly understood, so little research had been done yet. At least that she knew about. A lot of it was top secret and never saw the daylight. Despite the light shining so brightly in the rooms here it felt like she was operating in near-total darkness. And this was dangerous for any scientist.

– Part 33 –

They needed to leave as soon as possible. But she felt torn, she wanted nothing less than just abandon their mission on what was hopefully the last stretch.

"Hey, I know you don't want to hear motivational advice from people who still have their own problems to deal with... but just for the sake of old times, let's finish what we started and prove everyone wrong who said no one would ever be able to figure out the truth behind the 'Bat Mystery'!" she said, her voice filled with conviction, but already sounding unusually weak, lacking the strength that had been so apparent just shortly ago.

Başanon eyes went wide for a moment in realization. "Oh, oh. I'm sorry, I didn't mean to put you down. I just wanted to, well..." He struggled to find the words to say.

"It's fine, I hoped- knew you didn't mean it like that." she said. "But now let's get out of here and see if we can figure out what happened here. Whatever happened to the humans might have been what affected the bats as well, only that they might have been hiding and sleeping while the personnel fled whatever ... whatever calamity had been unleashed here."

They walked back into the hallway, and now Başanon noticed something on the ground he had missed earlier. A tubular canister made of metal was laying there, its yellow lid opened revealing the emptiness inside. It seemed so entirely out of place here that he picked it up, and rotated it in his hands to look for some clues as to what it might have contained. But all he could find were some scribbles on it that he couldn't decipher. Şakan, peering over his shoulder, recalled them. She tried to quickly pull out her phrasebook, although with her movements having become so lethargic it took her a solid minute this time, and then another two or three just to leaf through it.

"Smoke!" she exclaimed.

– "Huh?" Başanon responded, looking around anxiously. "Where?"

"Probably in that ... thing you're holding." She struggled to recall the right word, feeling her mental capacity worryingly diminished.

Başanon gave her a quizzical look, not sure whether he misheard or something was wrong with his eyes.

"I mean, previously, of course." she quickly added. "Because, it says 'smoke' on there."

– "Do you think that..."

"That where there's smoke there's not always fire? ... Yeah." She slowly looked around. "It... would explain why there's so much soot, but no fire damage here, right? These also look like the things I saw outside on the roof of the building."

– "But who would..." Başanon was deep in thought. Combined with the posters on the wall he felt like he could almost catch the meaning of what had been happening here, having spent so many hours alone in libraries while Şakan was busy socializing and getting funds for experiments, but in the end it still just about eluded him. It frustrated him to no end, and together with his lightheadedness he felt he might develop a headache soon.

"We also have to figure out what kind of things they did here... apparently with radioactivity. Is... this some kind of research site?" Getting the words out now felt increasingly difficult, with him stopping to draw a breath after every couple of words.

"Why the secrecy? Why ... keep it hidden from sight and put it into such a remote, hard to reach location?" If he had felt better he might have pretended to get angry at whoever ran this place.

– "I guess we have no choice but to keep moving." Şakan said, feeling herself getting short-breathed, too. "We can only hope for the best now, sooner or later something will have to come up."

Despite all the pain, they decided to push onwards. They were just too far gone to now return anyway. In fact, would they even be able to find their way back? They had no way to communicate with their guides and only a vague promise they would come looking for them after a few hours. But how would they even find them here? Despair began to set in Şakan again, the impact of her earlier motivational speech already fading away. Lost and so weakened, this might be the last thing... she tried to push the thought away, not entirely successfully. It continued to eat away at her, and it seemed all she could do was to try to distract her by focus on her task.

The passion in her might have reduced from a large burning fire to a small candle, but it was still there. Even if the walls almost seemed to be closing in sometimes, and with the nausea and dizziness it was starting to get difficult to even take a proper look around.

– Part 34 –

They walked past the imperial flags, reminding her of the time at the military base. It felt so long ago now that she was excited to see the jungle and was enthusiastic about her mission, and it took almost all her remaining willpower to not become bitter. She always knew it was going to be difficult, yet she still wished she could have those more careless moments back. Or even better, go back to the smaller expeditions she did back home.

At the end of the mostly barren hallway, save for its cryptic and inappropriately triumphant posters, photos and flags, they saw a large and thick sliding door made of concrete. Next to it was a table with books that seemed to record people leaving and entering as well as activities and "incidents". Coffee mugs were carelessly put on top, one lying broken on the floor, next to some pencils and pens. A large red sirene was mounted above the table. But the most conspicuous features were large cracks on the wall, spreading to the ceiling, even larger than the ones she had seen near the entrance. More subtly, she noticed rust on the metallic doorframe, which had eaten through it in a number of places. On the other side of the door, some protective suits had been hung up.

It was as if they were reaching the deepest pit of the concrete cavern. A shiver passed over her, and she had to suppress the urge to puke. The door had no handles, but there was a large lever next to it that was currently sitting at a position labelled "CLOSED". Başanon didn't wait for long and pushed it down. Maybe she would have made a witty remark at how quick to act he was, especially with opening doors, but she already lacked the energy for that.

The red sirene now started flashing and a wailing sound could be heard. As the door slowly slid to the side, with similar creaking and rumbling sound as the one they had already stepped through, a blast of what felt even worse dry heat engulfed them immediately. It was unlike anything she had experienced before and felt like she was standing in the midday sun in the middle of a desert, having not drunk anything for hours. Her voice was becoming so hoarse it was almost impossible to get a single word out, and she crouched on the floor, involuntarily closing her eyes.

She held the geiger counter to her ear. Its individual clicks had now merged into a single continuous sound, like a small wooden stick being dragged alongside the bars of a grate. It made her hair stand on end all over her body, and shivers passed through her near constantly.

When she opened her eyes, she looked to Başanon. He was desperately fidgeting with the bottle he had retrieved from their supply bag, After some long moments he finally had managed to open it but his eyes squinched as his face convulsed, and he seemed ready to spit it all out.

With the raspiest voice she had ever heard, so quiet that it was barely audible with the sirene still wailing, he said:

"What happened to... to the water? It's all tasting metallic now.." He tried a dried mango slice, and his eyes shot wide open. "Wait, the fruit, too? What's going on here?"

– "This place is, uh..." Şakan left the beginning of the sentence dangle in the air as she found herself unable to describe what she felt. "... for lack of a better and more scientific word, cursed. It might be the radioactivity, but I hadn't heard of it affecting the taste of food."

"Yeah, I thought it was meant to be imperceptible?" Başanon got out before falling into a fit of coughing. As he was gasping for air between coughs he looked almost pitiable. It was tugging at her heart, but she had to ignore it. They needed to hurry up, as any moment spent here seemed to bring them closer to having to spend eternity here, never seeing sunlight again.

– Part 35 –

She was about to reply, but she could now only get dry coughs out, too, each of them scraping her throat and leaving her more exhausted and short-breathed. Every attempt to actually enunciate a word was futile. For a moment she wasn't sure what to do, even just thinking was becoming difficult. Her thoughts were no longer racing, it now was more like she had to push a boulder up a hill to finish one.

Eventually, one of the thoughts had reached the top and she slowly took a step towards him, and whisper into his ear:

"We need to put on these protective suits here. Otherwise I can feel we won't last for long."

– "Dang it, why didn't we think of that before?" he whispered between short breaths, before the nausea got too much and he vomited into a bin that was placed next to the table.

Şanan wasted no time saying anything and quickly handed him one of the suits. They put them on and felt slightly better, as if they had moved from the bare midday sun towards a more shadowy place.

Now ready to enter what might also be termed the vault of the building, they stepped inside, and the siren turned silent once the door had closed behind them. A slow, painful look around revealed that they had evidently stepped into a different world altogether. Eerily quiet except for the continuous sound of the geiger counter, she and Başanon found themselves in a large, tall, windowless room, the roof with a circular, closed opening resembling a gigantic camera shutter, and the concrete walls covered in thick steel plates. On three sides they were lined with a huge amount of aluminium tubes, levers as well as gauges, all being twisted, dented or otherwise damaged. It was a bit like the machine room of a ship that had suffered a massive attack and now lay quiet. But there were no engines. Instead, the midst of the room was a hole with a kind of steel vessel in it, surrounded by various bits of debris and gravel and with a huge block of concrete on top of it.

Their dizziness and nausea getting worse again, they both walked up to it and saw a sign on it with "DO NOT REMOVE. REMAINS OF NB-01" A photo below seemed to show the inside of the same vessel, a mess of partially melted metal sheets and rods and some unidentifiable glassy mass.

She didn't really know what kind of machine this was that seemed to have failed so badly. It wasn't even sitting properly in its place, as if it had been dislocated. Looking instinctively towards the ceiling she noticed the ceiling, several meters above her, had cracks as well, next to what seemed like an opening that resembled a gigantic closed lens of a photocamera. Just what happened in here?

When she looked down again, she realized she no longer had anyone at her side. A momentary bout of anxiety was assuaged once she saw Başanon standing in front of another concrete door, which could this time simply be opened with a doorhandle. She followed him slowly into a room that looked like it would have housed the captain if this site was a ship. Closing the thick door behind them they found themselves in the dark until they found a switch that illuminated the room again and made the posters on the wall visible.

One of them had "Chain reactions" as its heading, and showed how a single case of nuclear fission of uranium atoms can produce a long self-propagating chain of fissions, unleashing incredible amounts of energy in the process, some of it in the form of radioactivity. It was hanging behind a desk that had as its most striking object a modern noiseless teletypewriter with shift keys and the ability to receive and send messages via waves from the ether.

Energy, information, death, waves transport it all. Şakan thought. They sure can do a lot, Probably more than we could imagine right now.

– Part 36 –

She looked at some of the papers on the desk. "Military applications" was one of them titled.

What use could the military have for radioactivity? She furrowed her brow. The thought seemed to hang around in the air for a moment, her mind still being slow to find any connection.

While she was focused on reading, Başanon was feeling the walls, as if trying to find some kind of secret door. And he very slightly smiled when he he noticed some gaps on both sides of a map of the surrounding jungle hanging opposite the door they had walked in. But he couldn't find a way to get in. There was no handle, lever or even keyhole to be seen or felt.

Şakan heard some grunting from behind and turned around to see her travel companion struggling to open the door. Next to the desk there was another door, which he was clearly ignoring, as if such an obvious sight could not possibly be of any interest to him.

She sighed and turned back to the papers, shuffling through them. At the bottom of the small stack was a small note. "Door code" is what it said at the top, and below a seemingly random string of numbers and letters had been scribbled down.

Where would I even enter this code? The door has no discernible features... Her thought slowly went from possibility to possibility, just as her eyes slowly moved around the room, before finally settling on the typewriter again for a moment. She was about to look back to Başanon again, who was still pitifully wearing himself out, when she realized the keys corresponding to the letters and numbers on the scrap of paper had their label worn out a bit more than the other ones.

A thought finally had completed a trip around her mind and overtook her. She tried hitting the keys in the order they appear on the code. At first, she heard nothing except for the unusually quiet sound of the keyboard, but almost as soon as she had finished the sequence, a rumbling sound could be heard, and the door with the map on it rapidly swung open to the side, with Başanon dodging it with a jump at the last moment, awkwardly falling to the ground with a groan. Şakan couldn't see the humor in it this time, looking at him like that just filled her with concern now.

Were they really going to make it?

She tried to shake the thought off her mind, but it clung to her like a bur, never letting loose. It was making it hard for her to focus. She looked to Başanon, whose expression was uncharacteristically tired and serious. She could her him panting quietly. But at least he was still holding on. For now. She decided to enter first and so leave him a moment to rest and gather his breath.

The light shining in from the room she had been in was barely sufficient to make apparent what this secret chamber contained, making her regret once more to not have a flashlight with her.

Carefully, she took the first step inside and looked around. She really couldn't see much, but right next to the door there seemed to be some metal shelf, very sturdily integrated into the floor, but empty. Following it along she could feel it seemed to bend around in the middle of the room, and then encompass a huge, upright tube with a rounded top. It stood there, half shrouded in darkness, with the odd support construction.

Başanon was groping around the walls on the other side of the room, with a pencil he had picked up outside, just in case there was something that he shouldn't accidentally touch with his bare hands. Once he was opposite the door he had come in from, with the odd tube-like object between him and it, his pencil suddenly seemed to hit something soft that yielded on touch. Two things in fact.

"Oh, this ... must be another lightswitch?" he mumbled, mind still clouded and nausea returning. Wishing he could just be laying in bed now for the next... week, he pushed them both, but the room stayed dark.


Instead he heard a whizzing sound, accompanied by an odd, surprisingly loud vibration and other noises. He slowly looked around, trying to locate the sound.

"Başanon! Behind you!" Şakan exclaimed.

– Part 37 –

He turned around as rapidly as his deteriotating mental state and exhausted body allowed, and found himself facing bright, even blinding lights. Briefly, he feared it was coming from something closing in on him, like a train emerging from a tunnel. But his mind was too slow to react, and when his eyes had adjusted to the brightness, he realized he was just looking at the large chamber again they had been in before. The vault. The near unbearable midday heat. And the gigantic shutter had opened.

But above all, once he looked back towards where he had come from, he realized the lights had also finally revealed the secrets of the tiny room they had been standing in.

A giant mortar shell turned out to be the centerpiece of the room, standing upright, mounted to a metal scaffolding. NB-02 was written on it in large letters. He breathed slowly. It wasn't exactly what he expected. He saw Şakan gasp, too, unable to make out any sounds due to his growing dizziness and the noise around him. Evidently she also didn't think the "future" the workers here had been working on would center around what seemed to be a huge bomb.

When he turned his eyes towards the door, they seemed to get stuck halfway on the wall behind the shell. It was a map of the northern part of the island, with staggering amounts of detail. Every little creek seemed to have been drawn. Every town was marked down. And the military base was encircled in red, with a thick line leading to what appeared to be their current location, which had concentric circles emanating from a big X.

He was still studying them when he heard a scream loud enough to cut through everything else coming from right besides him, quickly turning into a series of horrible dry coughs. Şakan was standing next to him. Her eyes were transfixed at the ceiling above the map, where she saw a dead bat hanging from a pipe, with a metal pole sticking out from its chest, as if it had been impaled there. It was the grizzliest sight they had encountered here yet.

But there was something worse yet. Right below the animal carcass he caught a glimpse of the title of the map. "Range predictions of NB-02". Şakan saw him turn pale as chalk and when she looked in the same direction felt her face lose all color, too.

"This can't be true" she whispered to herself. But it was undeniably in front of her face. The truth of what this research site really was. And now it became clear what had happened to the bats of the jungle all too well, too.

She felt her legs grow weak, all the effort into holding herself together in this hostile environment becoming too much for her to handle, and gradually slipping her grip.

She looked to Başanon who abruptly tore off the map and went back to the room with the desk and other posters. He collected them all, heavily panting and with painstakingly slow movements. This made her remember the papers she had been reading on the desk. These needed to be secured as well. To show the truth to everyone at home –

– Part 38 –

Her thoughts got cut off with another fit of coughing and nausea. She wouldn't be able to keep this up for long, that's for sure, but at least they could leave this place now, right? One more time she tried to gather all strength to not collapse, just so she could bring justice to the bats... and the island which had welcomed them and been so quick to help them on their quest. It was truly a marvelous place, and the thought of what might have been done to it, or might still be planned, from one of her beloved imperial scientific research sites no less, disturbed her quickly. The bats were really all that were keeping her going at this point.

She had just finished collecting all the papers when Başanon, apparently increasingly dizzy, seemed to be losing his sense of balance for a moment and while reaching for something to hold on to accidentally twisted some kind of dial of a machine on the desk. To their surprise, it started playing inappropriately cheery music from home before announcing itself as "Imperial Colonial Service Broadcast". Şakan stepped to the device and turned one of the knobs, but in her clouded state of mind it was a different one.

However, it did quiet the music at least. Instead, they heard a lot of static now, from which gradually a distorted voice emerged. "Come in, NBS, over!"

It was only then that Şakan realized that there was a microphone connected to the device next to it. Not thinking about it, she grabbed it and replied. "NBS here. Go ahead" she said, recalling some basic radio phrases from recent novels.

"Balaks, is that you? Get out of there immediately. You're in big danger. Over" The voice seemed to have a slightly exasperated sound, but it was hard to tell through the static.

– "...Roger that" Şakan said, hesitating. Who was this person calling them? Could it really be...?

Her thoughts were interrupted by what sounded like a gigantic teawhistle approaching them, only to burst into an earth-shattering sound that reverberated across the entire building, seemed to twist her stomach around and sent her ears ringing. Around her, walls were dangerously shaking, parts of the concrete crumbling and coming down.

When she looked back into the vault, things were similar. It increasingly looked like the concrete walls and roof were about to collapse entirely and risked burying them both if they stayed here any longer. She leapt towards the door they had come from but stopped when she realized it had been dislodged and so had been rendered impossible to open. On top of that, thick smoke was coming from under it, and through the gaps between it and the doorway she could see flames quickly growing.

There was no question about it, their escape route had been cut off, and the only thing they could hope for now was to find another way out. No easy feat in their current state. Groggily, with maybe her last bit of energy she dragged herself back to the room with the communication device. Başanon was still standing there, evidently trying to use it to get some words out. But all she could hear was static. In her frustration she hit the device twice, pushing it across the desk. The static got louder for a moment, and she let out a groan.

"Thagha take it" she said.

– "Şakan? Are you still there?" came a response, somewhat unexpectedly. "You must be stuck there then. Wait there, I'll come."

Come? How? How would anyone be able to enter this building now? As she felt herself getting light-headed, she really regretted not having prepared better for this trip. Then again, everything had happened so fast and who could have foreseen all of this...

– Part 39 –

She looked through the open door to the bomb again. This thing was really meant to destroy everything she had grown to like so much? Everything people here held dear, down to their entire livelihood and even their lives? And for what? Just some nebulous promise of a better future. As far as she was concerned, this was a rather bleak one. A big rant about her disillusionment with the empire and what had turned out to be a ruthless military-science complex was about to come out of her mouth when she heard a plane approaching. It sounded oddly familiar, and quickly became obnoxiously loud, as if they were standing near an airfield with a plane taking off.

Was it really coming in their direction? What was going on? Başanon didn't think much and just went back to the vault, curiosity and desperation even overcoming the desire to avoid the room that had given them so much paint. To try to see if he could make out anything through the opening that he had unknowingly revealed earlier, see if there was some hope to hold on to.

The sound in the vault was almost deafening, and despite the opening clearly being large enough that a person could probably get through it, it was also located high enough in the room that it only revealed a small part of the now quickly darkening sky. Wind was starting to come through it, blowing on his protective suit, and the noise was now almost deafening. After a moment of waiting, he was joined by Şakan who also directed her attention to the top of the vault, still clutching the papers she had collected.

Then, a blur of red briefly appeared on the sky. After the blink of an eye it was gone, but another white-red blur gradually seemed to move towards the dome covering the room, like a colored feather floating towards the ground.

Some moments later Şakan felt she could recognize fabric fluttering in the wind, being held by arms that belonged to a body clad almost entirely in red. She squinted. That shape, those colors... they did seem familiar. But in her current state of mind every thought felt like a heavy burden so she didn't dwell on it.

It took about a minute before the figure had gotten close enough that it dawned on her that it really was who she had thought she had heard through the device earlier. It was hard to believe then who they had inadvertently re-established contact with, it was even harder to believe now that the same person was currently gliding through the air with the help of what might as well be some white bedsheet like some kind of minor deity descending from the sky. Huuva was honestly the most incredible person she had ever met.

Then his gracious arrival was marred by him landing somewhat awkwardly at the edge of the opening, slipping and then falling through it, with the fabric and the threads connecting it to Huuva getting tangled and stuck at the edge.

If she had any energy left, Şakan would have chuckled at the sight. Now she was just able to show some concern on her face. But Huuva just pulled out a knife and cut through two threads that had wrapped themselves around some protruding metal which allowed him to pull the fabric through the hole in the dome. The landing on the ground was less than graceful, too. He didn't flutter to the ground, and more had a slowed fall. Both Balaks tried to catch him, but their lack of strength made them all tumble to the ground once Huuva's descent had reached its end.

Şakan felt her head even more spinning than before, but was relieved to notice she was uninjured, and that Başanon and Huuva were uninjured too. Huuva quickly jumped to his feet, helped the Balaks get up, and, seeing the smoke coming from below the main door, leaped for the smaller room the Balaks had earlier heard his voice in. Once they had all been gathered in there, he looked weirdly unconcerned.

"I knew you would need saving." he exclaimed, instead of a greeting, barely hiding a smirk. His voice was punctuated by another teawhistle sound in the distance, followed by several explosions. It made making out his words a tough effort.

"I'm sorry I wasn't here earlier. But it wasn't like I could deter you and not cause suspicion in you, or the other people at the base."

Şakan just stared at him, feeling at a loss for words.

– Part 40 –

"Don't worry, I can get you out of here. I know this place from my flights in this area, it has at least two exits. And I presume the second one can be reached from this control room."

He pointed to the third door, that had previously been ignored by the two scientists. "Did you try that one yet?"

Başanon was about to say something, but instead fell to his knees, coughing and wheezing. Wordlessly, Huuva picked him up and carried him on his back. Şakan felt little better, but tried to keep herself together. Just a bit more, she thought. We are going to make it. We have to. We are three. We are determined. It has to be our destiny, what Thagha had foreseen for us.

Huuva tried opening the door, but found it locked. And worse, he found it to have no keyhole, similar to the other door leading to the room. And now matter how he pulled and pushed, the door absolutely wouldn't budge. Despite everything, Şakan found herself smiling weakly. It reminded her of how Başanon earlier tried and failed to open the door until she figured out she needed to enter a code.

Actually, now that she thought about it, why wouldn't it be similar with this door? But then what code would it be? If it's not the same code as on the paper, then could it not be any other combination? They definitely didn't have time tp keep trying different ones. But if it was the same code, then why was this door still locked?

She had to think about it logically, as much as it hurt to do so right now. She tried to muster up her last energy reserves and went deep into her pained mind. Trying to attain a state of meditative mindfulness was so ingrained into her mind from her upbringing she could do it even under the most adverse conditions. In fact, it quickly succeeded in calming her down somewhat.

And so she began to tried to gather the facts. What did she know for sure? First, she had searched the room and only found a single stack of papers. Only one page had a code written on it. Nothing else indicated a second code either. Now, obviously such a code could have been written on a paper that no longer was in the room, or simply not have been written down at all.

But there was an issue with that. The teletypewriter appeared to be the only way of entering a code, and as she had noticed earlier, it was evident only specific letters were used very commonly. The amount of wear on the labels of certain keys matched exactly the amount of times they were used in the one code she knew. It was therefore unlikely that another code was used, unless it was very similar to this one. But overly similary codes can easily cause confusion and mix-ups, which is why they are typically avoided.

In other words, there was only one code. As for why the door was still locked, it could very well be that only one door could open at a time, as a kind of safeguard. People entering the room would so not be able to pass easily into the part of this building that needed to be kept safe and guarded at all costs.

Page 5, the final page