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Isaac reached the end. The final room. He shined his light inside, and...
Just a large empty space. Isaac's heart fell through his stomach. He would have to go back the way he came....
He'd never make it in time.
Sammy broke in. "Talk to me.... We're mighty nervous on this end."
"Just hang tight, Sammy."
Isaac turned around, and as he did, he saw it: one room on his left... a space that he had passed by without realizing, not seeing it on the other side of the passage.
He rushed to the final room, and there, inside, were row upon row of highly unstable deuterium charges.
Atop each charge was a small black antenna with a blinking red light on top. What he didn't see was the transmitter. Where, exactly, was the countdown being initiated?
As long as he disconnected the cords from the blasting caps, it wouldn't matter. Unfortunately, there were at least 30 of the damned things to blaze through.
Nothin' to it but to do it.
"I found the stash. I'm gonna do what I gotta do... but I need quiet."
Isaac heard Sammy swallow hard. "You got it, boss." The line went dead.
Isaac set to work, grateful that he had already removed the auto-loader to free his right hand. He didn't have time to remove the assembly from his left, so he had to perform the entire operation one-handed. Delicately, gingerly, he set about disconnecting detonation cords from blasting caps, knowing full well that it was all or nothing: even if he disconnected every single one except the last, the detonation of that one would be enough to blow the others, and that'd be it. The fat lady would be singing her ass off.
He marked how long it took him to disarm one: ten seconds, roughly.
It was going to be close, but he could make it. He would make it. It took nerves of steel and the steady hand of a surgeon, but Isaac worked his way through....
One by one. No need to rush....
Three quarters of the way. The end was in sight.
Five charges left. No worries. More than a moment to spare. It had been a long while since Isaac had experienced time's passage this way, measuring his life in the space between microseconds.
He thought of Shila. He thought of the KM who had died on the table. He thought of Sammy and his six kids.
The final charge was next. This was it. Isaac reached out...
... and felt an impact on his right side. It was like being struck by a maglev train at full speed.