The steps were steep and longer than the ones they had come down to get into the generator hall. They let out into a small unlit corridor with a single doorway off to the left. At the far end of the corridor more steps upwards.
A quick check of the doorway showed that the room beyond may once have been a laboratory of some kind but was now just a pile of decaying wood and broken glass covered in centuries of dust and rust.
The second tier of steps was shorter, but just as steep as the first. At the top they were met by a pair of swing doors. Doors that had been repaired and rehung, more evidence of ‘them’.
The party stopped in front of the swing doors.
“Is that…?” Bodil began.
What they were all looking at was a very faded sign still screwed to one of the doors. Although it had lost all its colour and faded to an indistinct light grey shape on just a slightly darker grey background all three pairs of eyes had no trouble putting the pieces together and coming up with what the sign had originally looked like seven hundred years ago and what similar signs still looked like today. A black trefoil on a bright yellow background.
“Yup.” Ellie supplied. “Here there be radiation.”
Everyone immediately went for whatever piece of jewellery carried their radiation indicators. Originally, way back when, everyone needed to know if they were approaching a bubble of left over radiation. Over the years, these indicator devices quickly went from a clunky wristwatch kind of affair that rudely beeped at you to a colourful wrist band that warmed up and changed colours that glowed in the presence of radiation. White was ‘good to go, have a nice day’. Yellow was ‘hey, just so you know, this is slightly above background radiation levels’. Orange was ‘you maybe want to think about picking another route’. Red was ‘okay, you’re taking damage so get your ass out of here’. Purple was ‘you’re going to die in a couple of hours unless you get some serious medical help’. Black was ‘get yourself into the position you want them to find your body in’. Seriously, that’s how they were advertised. Eventually you could buy these things as all kinds of jewellery, hence the contortions everyone was going through to find their indicators. Soon, two pendants and a nipple piercing were all seen to be glowing a nice reassuring white. There was a quite ripple of relieved laughter. Then they all looked at each other.
“Do we go on?” It was Bodil.
Ellie was looking hard at the doors. Simple wood wouldn’t stop hard radiation so if it was safe here it was going to be just as safe on the other side of the doors. But she was making a mental note to pack something more business-like than a ‘RainbowRad’ on future expeditions. She turned back to Bodil and smiled.
“Well, I do, and that means Gregor will.” There was an accompanying ‘try and stop me’ grunt from Gregor. “But I can’t ask you to walk into a likely radiation zone Professor Hill so if you want to stay here or go and join Ranger Weis and Mister Hobbes then that’s fine.”
Bodil folded her arms.
“Do either of you even know what a seven hundred year old reactor looked like?”
Gregor shook his head. Ellie tried her best.
“Only from theoretical diagrams of the process. Reactor vessel, fuel cells, control rods… erm, coolant pumps?”
Bodil rolled her eyes.
“I actually saw one once, in Iceland. Some kind of LifeNet research facility near Reykjavik.” Bodil waited for Ellie to say something but Ellie just looked up at her so had time to focus on her own face reflected in Ellie’s shiny black glasses. The silence became uncomfortable. “Sooo… can I come?”
“Of course you can professor, I’ll be glad of your expertise. I’ve never been to Iceland, you’ll have to tell me all about it sometime.”
“Sure, I’ll be glad to.” But she was already talking to Ellie’s back.
Ellie took a breath and pushed through the double doors, closely followed by Gregor and, bringing up the rear, a slightly miffed archaeology professor.
There was nothing exciting beyond the doors, just another set of the same doors a few metres further on. But at least the lights were on. These doors, too, bore the same faded radiation sign. Uneasy glances at their RainbowRads still reassured them before they continued through into yet another section of corridor, again only a few metres long. Everyone now stopped dead as, one after the other, the three RainbowRads turned from white to yellow. The probable cause being the large circular steel door that filled the wall at the far end.
Bodil and Gregor looked at Ellie. Ellie took a step forward but that was as far as she got because Gregor’s fingers curled over her shoulder and stopped her dead.
“Stay here Miss. I’ll see if it’s safe.”
Gregor tugged on his pendant, snapping the chain effortlessly. Holding it out in front of him like a talisman, Gregor moved slowly down the corridor. He was almost at the great steel door before the glowing yellow bauble turned to orange. He stopped.
“Greggie. Don’t go any further.”
Gregor half turned and looked over his shoulder.
“I wasn’t going to.” He pointed to his left. “Maybe we don’t have to. There is another doorway. I can see lights on a panel.” Gregor, still holding out the pendant, very slowly made his way over to the left hand wall and disappeared through the open doorway.
Bodil and Ellie strained to hear what Gregor was doing. Half a minute passed before the giant’s head poked around the doorway.
“It’s okay Miss. My pendant has stayed orange. This is a control room. There’s also this window where you can see through to what’s behind the big door.”
Ellie and Bodil set off together. The opportunity to see what lay beyond that imposing door was stronger than the RainbowRad’s insipid warning to find a new route.