As Carter reached for the rusted handle on the big metal door he felt a hand grabbing his shoulder from behind.
“Are you stupid or something?” Coat was speaking to him. “There could be something on the other side of the door.” She pushed him to one side making his back face the wall as she positioned herself that way too on the opposing end. Holding the gun in her hand steady, her eyes were fixated on the door. “I want you to open that door as quickly as possible. If there’s anything on the other side, there’s going to be a hole right in the middle of its head.” She twisted her wrist, her finger on the trigger of the greyish black handgun.
“Okay.” Carter reached for the handle once more and could feel a pulse on the other end. It was warm and it felt like a heart beating in a slow and steady rhythm. His palm started to sweat as he tightened his grip around the handle.
“Also.” Coat startled him with her sudden interruption, and he almost jumped in fright. “Draw your damn gun.” She sounded mildly irritated by his lack of common sense. “If I can’t handle whatever that’s on the other side, you need to protect Carla.” She paused for a second and added “And me, if I’m still breathing.”
Carter nodded at this, the blood that was once drained from his pale cheeks now rushed back and made him look as red as a tomato from the embarrassment. Slowly, he reached for the gun holstered in his back pocket and held it to the side of his head near his ear. He turned to Coat for approval. She merely just shook her head in what seemed like disappointment.
“Just open the damn thing.” Coat was now trying to control herself from losing her temper. Carla was holding on to Coat’s waist as the group prepared to enter the room. She turned to her and pushed her to the side of the wall as well. “Not now. Just stay like this for a while.” She instructed the little girl who obediently followed her words.
Carter laid his hand on the handle once again, only to feel the grainy rusted surface of metal sliding across his delicate palm and fingers. He tightened his grip on the handle and in one fell swoop, pushed it downwards until it clicked. Using his entire bodyweight, he pushed hard onto the metal door and it swung open violently. The bolts holding the door together screeched loudly and menacingly as rusted metal rubbed against rusted metal. With a loud thud, the door smashed open and a faint yellow glow filled the hallway in a warm shade of orange similar to that of a midsummer’s dusk.
Quickly to her feet, Coat twisted her body to face the open doorway with both her hands on the gun. Pointing it dead ahead, she made sure that whatever that was standing in front of the doorway would be in her line of sight. Squeezing the trigger tightly, she aimed with her right eye and steadied her breathing. Her heart almost stopped for a second as her breathing went dead with the intense amount of focus she had in her mind. Her eyes glimmered in a hazel brown hue as she went into a crouch position to further steady her entire body.
What her sights caught on the opposing end however was unsurprising to say the least. A huge screen stood before her as she continued to hold her breath deeply. Her chest puffed up underneath the thick brown coat as she surveyed the surroundings. She stood up once again and moved slowly outwards, setting her feet one after the other in a slow and silent motion. Hunching downwards, she walked out into the open and swung left to right and then back left again. Releasing a large breath of air, she turned to Carter and nodded.
“Coast is clear.” Her posture went upright again. Stretching her body, Coat could feel some muscles aching in her back. Massaging her neck with her free hand, she loosened any stiffness on both the neck and shoulder areas and proceeded to fling her long blonde hair backwards. It had been a long time since she had carried out such a procedure and the effects of it were clearly showing.
“Amazing!” Carter spoke in absolute glee as he came running up to her. “You looked like a real cop for a moment!”
“That’s cause I’m a real cop, you dimwit.” Coat grunted and then realized suddenly she had spouted out something very unnecessary. “God damn it.”
“Wow! You’re a cop!?” Carla ran up to her as well. “That’s so cool! My dad’s a cop too!”
Carter had a look of surprise on him. “Aren’t you a little too young to be a cop?” He asked. “I mean, how old are you? Sixteen?”
Coat merely sighed at this. “No. I’m not.” She shook her head. “I’m older than I look. Trust me.”
“You sure you aren’t pulling my leg?” Carter laughed it off as he holstered his gun back into his back pocket.
Coat thought for a moment before replying. “Well, maybe I am.”
“Word play isn’t going to cover up your little hic-up there you know?”
“Whatever.” Coat merely rolled her eyes. “Let’s just get moving.”
Carter chuckled and then turned to Carla who was now clamping on to his waist tightly. “You doing alright there buddy?” Carla nodded. “Good. Well, let’s see what this place is all about then.” His eyes gazed across the room, taking in all the sights and sounds of the tiny space.
“A surveillance room?” The first words escaped Carter’s lips as he looked across the room. Monitors practically spanned across half the walls of the room. All of which sat in front of a greyish blue background of a wall. A long panel sat underneath the monitors at hip height atop a row of greyish white stainless steel cupboards. It was fitted with long rows of buttons and switches in various colors and designs, most of which were grey and black with an occasional red, blue and green sprinkled throughout the panel. Abbreviations sat neatly underneath each button, all of which were complete gibberish to Carter.
As Carter grazed his fingers across the panel, his vision pranced through the various color coded buttons, knobs, switches and sliders. Each button must have held a significant purpose to the machine sitting directly in front of them but it wouldn’t even matter if they didn’t turn the entire system on first. “Start switch, start switch, start switch….” He hummed quietly to himself as he looked for a button with a ‘turn on’ symbol pasted on it. Just as his eyes were about to reach the end of the panel, the various buttons and LED lights on the board burst into fantastic colors of red, blue and green as the lights moved from one end of the panel to the other. The giant monitor in front of him flickered to life in a shade of blue and in bold black letters, a small phrase appeared. It read:
“Vostron System Initializing…”
An empty grey colored loading bar was placed neatly under the words, it was beginning to fill with a greenish yellow electronic hue. Carter almost jumped at this, causing Carla to jerk backwards and land on her backside.
“Looks like it doesn’t have a start switch.” Coat walked out from a corner. She was straightening out her heavy coat as she strutted towards him. “Just needed to plug in the cord for the system to turn on.”
“Perfect.” Carter muttered as his eyes followed the bar from left to right. It was loading slow and steadily as if paced into a waltzing rhythm.
“Well, looks like we didn’t get such a bad deal out of the four choices.” Coat commented as she picked Carla up from the floor. She was nearly in tears but held it back well enough to prevent herself from making a scene. “It’s a pretty safe room for Carla to be in that’s for sure.”
“Welcome.” An electronic voice greeted them. “Vostron has initialized.” It sounded mechanical. “Please input the key code to access admin privileges within the system.” An empty box with a flickering cursor hung in the middle of the screen alone.
Carter and Coat looked at each other for a second. It was as if they were searching for answers from each other but then telepathically knew that neither of them had a clue to what the key code was at all. They merely shook their heads with clueless disappointment.
“Well, back to more searching then.”
Carter walked around the room hoping to find a stray note with the key code written out clearly for them but it wasn’t always as easy as it seemed. As with Sherlock Holmes and Watson, clues would turn up in the most unexpected places and to believe that, was slander. Puzzles in real life didn’t solve themselves by coincidence, often sheer persistence and deliberation was needed to crack a code, something like filling in an income statement and balance sheet. You never get it right the first time, but after looking through and doing some rubber duck debugging, the numbers would start to tie nicely and one by one each problem would be resolved.
Searching for a code on the other hand was rather like finding a needle in a hay stack. It was similar to a game of hide and seek. The objective of the person hiding would be to avoid detection from his fellow peers. As such, nobody in their right minds would pick a spot easy enough to be seen and eventually caught. The same logic could be applied to the code they were finding. The answer wouldn’t just pop up unless it was hidden deliberately within the room, of which could be the case, judging from the circumstances. More often than not however, as with any good hide and seek player, they would choose to hide in a different room, most probably as far away as possible from their opposing counterparts. The real question to ask therefor would be:
“Does Romanos want us to find the password in the first place?” Carter spoke in monologue out loud.
Coat turned to him. “We’re working on that assumption.” She coughed. “What are you suggesting?”
“Well.” Carter thought about the ‘hide and seek’ analogy once more before making his statements clear. “Why would he want us a find a code for? As in, what would be the purpose of that?”
Coat merely scoffed. “Are you for real?” She questioned. “It’s kind of obvious what this is for isn’t it? He wants us to solve it.”
“No.” Carter responded. “Look at it this way.” He opened his mouth then closed it again as he wrestled with the words and questions in his mind. “Firstly, what kind of password are we looking for?”
“I mean, what kind of input is there to the system.”
“I mean, like a keyboard. You need a keyboard to type in the password don’t you?”
“That’s right.” Coat thought for a moment. “But there isn’t a keyboard on the panel.”
“So. I mean. That indicates that either the password is input by using these buttons here.” Carter walked to the panel and started pushing random buttons. No letters were appearing on the screen at all. “Or its input remotely from a different panel somewhere else.”
“Point taken.” Coat thought about what Carter had said for a while. “Next to which, it’s for activating admin rights to the system. It wouldn’t make a lot of sense for him to give us administrative rights to a system he is using to watch us run around with would it?”
“That’s right.” Carter agreed. “So, does that mean there’s a different way to escape this cell of a room?”
Coat was silent as she thought about the circumstances of the situation. “For now, if our assumption is right, that’s the way its leaning.” She nodded. “So what are we looking for then?”
Carter turned to the panel again. “Admin rights. Admin rights. Admin rights.” He thought about it for a moment and then an idea struck. “Hey Coat, I think I got it.”
Searching through the buttons in the panel, his eyes flickered with enthusiasm as if he had found the needle in the haystack. Coat could feel his excitement from a mile away as she followed him through the various knobs and switches on the panel. Carter stopped at one spot near the end of the board.
“This one.” He punched the button with his thumb, hoping it would trigger a response.
And it did.
“Nostrov initializing. Logging into guest account. Hold on while the system gets ready. This will only take a moment.” A machine like voice responded.
Coat smiled at this. “You’re not too bad.” She looked pleasantly surprised. “Maybe I’m not paired up with the stupidest of the lot after all.”
Carter squinted at her when she made the point. “Just warning you. I’m a lot smarter than I look.” He grinned.
“So, what button triggered the response?” Coat inquired, her face was one of genuine interest. “And how did you even know?”
Carter chuckled, he could feel the spot light shining on him. “You know how when your PC goes into boot mode? And how you get out of it to return to the main screen of your operating system?” He was feeling very proud of himself “Well, I applied the same logic here.”
Carter pointed to a slightly larger red button in the corner and completed his sentence.
“I pressed ‘Cancel’.”
Written By HoiHoiSoi
Enjoying The Story So Far? Vote For Us On Web Fiction Guide!