His underwater “space odyssey” didn’t last long, though, and after a couple of minutes, the cave narrowed and turned into a man-made tunnel with concrete walls which formed an arched ceiling. The tunnel ascended gradually, and after another few yards, Kobra had emerged in front of something which looked like metal steps, leading to a door.
He pulled himself up, grabbing the railing and stepping on the corroded metal. The ladder seemed solid, and he reached the door safely.
This is “the back door”, he thought, observing the thick, once painted in khaki, green metal. From here, the lab’s staff could escape, using a mini-submarine for ten, twelve people like these daft Plexiglas things they use here to show tourists the underwater world of the bay. You can even swim out by yourself, if you’re a good swimmer and can use an aqualung.
Despite the corroded metal and faded paint, the door looked inaccessible, and Kobra didn’t have any special equipment to open it or cut through. He hadn’t noticed any hint of a handle or a lock either. Indeed, why do you need an outside handle on the door which serves as an escape route?
There should be something. Some kind of a hidden mechanism. The bluish light of his torch glided around the door in a fruitless attempt to open it. I can’t believe I’ve made it all this way here just to get stuck in front of the door. It won’t stop me. Kobra gritted his teeth.
His gloved fist banged at the wall in helpless anger.
What is it? He frowned, touching the cold, moist concrete.
The wall’s surface looked smooth, but… He had knocked at the wall again, and the muffled sound of a cavity replied to him.
‘It’s a void,’ Kobra whispered to himself.
He pulled out a hunting knife he took from the boat and made a couple of powerful knocks with its heavy handle. The wall’s plastering had broken and opened to reveal a square niche, carved in the thick mass of concrete. The beam of his torch illuminated the void, revealing the long metal lever.
Kobra needed all his efforts to push it down, and finally, the gnashing sound of the sliding door echoed around the cave. Despite all his titanic efforts, the lever seemed stuck halfway down, and so did the door.
The gap looked big enough for him to squeeze through, and he took the first, uncertain steps into the darkness.
His torch illuminated the corridor with bare walls and no other doors. The debris of plastering and bars of the reinforcement were sticking out of the ceiling and hinting at an attempt to destroy this place.
Kobra moved slowly and carefully, not only because of his fear to tear his diving suit, but also because his flippers made his walk awkward and clumsy.
The corridor wasn’t long and opened to a much larger space which looked like a laboratory.
The same mess of debris, pieces of glass and plastic, broken furniture and old-fashioned, bulky computer monitors on working desks, all covered in dust—that was all that was left of the top secret project. Kobra squatted in front of a half-burned hard drive.
It seemed like the staff had left these premises in a hurry, destroying and burning everything that they couldn’t take with them.
Kobra shook his head in deep regret, observing the leftovers of computers, equipment, and furniture. Everything which could’ve given at least some clues about what was going on in this lab had been either destroyed by the staff or by the time, moist, and the war.
On the opposite side of the room, he noticed another metal door which was partly opened. The gap was too narrow for him. He tried to push it aside a bit more or find a similar opening lever like on the first door but struggled. The door was stuck completely.
He pushed one shoulder inside, trying to film as much inside as possible. The cold beam of his torch snatched a control panel with an endless amount of buttons, scales, and mini-screens.
This is a control room.
He made an effort to move his arm slightly to illuminate the opposite wall, but his flippers slipped on a wet floor, he lost his balance, and fell back in the lab’s room.
He stretched his empty hand instinctively to protect himself from the fall, but it was too late, and he ended up on the slippery concrete. He sat up, trying to find something to hold on to, and only then noticed a piece of white plastic which stuck to his glove. Taking a closer look, he realised it was a negative of a photo in a plastic frame. A tiny hint from the ‘70s and ‘80s, a piece of a much bigger puzzle which supposed to be classified and hidden here, in these mountains forever…
Kobra squinted, examining this piece of film under the unstable light of the torch.
The photo depicted a group of vertical objects which looked like stalagmites with polished sides. Their shape reminded him of slender spindles used for making woollen threads. It was impossible to distinguish their real size. The only thing Kobra could bet on was the fact that this photo was taken somewhere in a dark, enclosed space.
Another cave? He arched his eyebrows, putting his finding in the hidden pocket of his suit.
He took a few last photos of the lab, when his camera beeped, asking for charging, and he decided it was enough material for the next ten broadcasts.
He shot the last final look at this space, sighed, and headed back to the exit.
The trip back in the dark and silent underwater “cosmos” was quick and easy, and soon, he reached the surface.
He pulled the mask off, observing the surroundings. His boat remained where he moored it. The full moon, bright and cold, came out of the light clouds, illuminating his way out of this rocky mini-fjord.
Kobra reached his boat, changed back into his clothes, switched his camera off, and navigated slowly between the rocks to the “corner” of the cliff.
After a few minutes, the boat made the final careful turn to the open waters of the bay and…he froze on the spot.
It had appeared from nowhere, a boat much bigger than his, some kind of a hovercraft with a fan on its stern. The vessel moved fast, and Kobra needed to turn back to the cliff to avoid the collision. Instead of slowing down, it seemed like the hovercraft picked up speed and was racing to catch up with him.
Kobra made a semi-loop, revved the engine, and headed to the bay. And then…he didn’t even realise what had happened. A gunshot ripped off the sleepy waters of the bay, and then another one and again.
‘Jesus Christ!’ Kobra screamed, shouting down the buzz of bullets. ‘Who the fuck are you?’
He turned around. A tall dark figure, dressed in all black, stood on the aft, and then a second one joined it. He could distinguish the third one on the stern, navigating the vessel.
The gunfire made him flattened to the bottom of his boat. He was squeezing everything possible out of its powerful but still tiny engine.
‘What the fuck?’ he couldn’t stop screaming.
The salted waves were hitting his vulnerable vessel with vengeance. The gunfire didn’t allow him to navigate, and he lost his way completely.
The sound of a helicopter interrupted the chase for a moment.
It sounds like the coast guard. A slight wave of hope hit his mind.
The next moment, he heard the bullet pierced the thick material of his boat, the vessel went out of control, swirled like in a maelstrom, and threw itself to one of the massive rocks, sticking out of the waves.
Kobra hit the stone. And then…there was just nothingness.
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