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You take a deep breath. The cold air in your lungs seems to sap more strength from you, but you force yourself to ignore the sensation.
“I’m going to try to reach that panel we saw earlier. It looked like it would open up that door. Maybe.”
“What should I do?” says Kim.
“Honestly, I think two of us will just get in each other’s way. Conserve your energy.”
She grunts. Maybe it could be a laugh. “I could go for a nap about now.”
“Maybe don’t conserve that much.”
You focus on where you remember the panel to be. Again, you’re going to have to do some climbing on a surface which wasn’t meant for that. This time, you’ll do it in the dark. The wall is smooth, but by spreading your body flat against it, you have enough friction to go up without sliding down.
It takes a stupid amount of time, but you do manage to get to the panel. “Found it!”
“Does it open the door?”
“I don’t know yet. There’s a bunch of things here, and I don’t know what does what.”
You can hear the tension in Kim’s voice. “If you’re waiting for me to come up with a better plan than pushing buttons randomly…”
You press down the bumps along the surface of the panel. Some of them are static, but some things move. From behind the doorway, you hear mechanical sounds. It reminds you of the heat kicking on when you mess with a thermostat, only louder.
It’s almost loud enough to drown out the screams.
“Did you hear –” Kim stops when the loudest sound yet reaches your ears. Not a whirr, not a buzz. This is definitely a clunk, a deafening clunk made by something that really shouldn’t break being demolished.
And then the door opens.
Even considering how long you’ve been in complete darkness, the light is insanely bright. Your eyes are burning, and, too late, you realize it’s not only your eyes.
Vague shapes behind the light seem to move. You can make out their screams, but only barely over your own.
Perhaps there was another way. A way in which you could have learned what, and who, was beyond this door without also unleashing this torrent of burning energy. Perhaps you could have pieced together the mystery if you’d taken a different path. But the time for perhaps is gone from you now. You have one final thought, and it’s likely that Kim has it too.
At least you won’t die from the cold.