"Underneath the console – you know the code El. That will open the hidden space and inside will be the key." Michael's voice echoed in her mind as she recalled his quick instructions. She'd been happily packing for her visit to the Unity base before he'd burst through her door and started yammering a mile a minute about aliens and nuclear weapons. "If the worst happens, you have to get to Mars and then Dmitri will help you find the key. You're the last hope..."
"But what will happen Michael? The key for what?" Eloise had asked him a dozen times and still, even now as she stood there reaching into the tiny compartment, she wasn't one hundred percent sure. She shook the memories from her mind – had it all happened only a few weeks ago? She looked askance at Dmitri and he nodded once more, his helmet obscuring his facial expression. He, and he alone, knew what she was about to do and had been guiding her here all along.
Her gloved fingers brushed along the edge of the thin plastic device and she grabbed it, pulling it from it's hiding space. Dmitri only glanced at her briefly, preferring to keep his eyes on Alex to ensure he didn't interfere while Eloise silently prayed that he would do just that. Looking down at the plastic in her hand, she took several steadying breaths before turning it over. Along the back she saw a miniscule line, a split in the plastic where she was to crack it open as it was only a cover, shielding and protecting the string of characters inside.
Though the crack sounded damnably loud to her ears, neither Dmitri nor Alex seemed to have heard it. She slipped the thin card inside from it's sheath and held it up for a second before turning her attention back to the console. "I think I found it!" Alex shouted, causing them all to jump. In a moment, all the consoles had come to life and Alex began to scoot out from his spot on the floor. Dmitri turned toward her and motioned quickly to the card.
"No more time ma'am" he whispered, moving silently but quickly to where Alex was laying.
"Right then." Eloise muttered. She couldn't spare any more time for thoughts or second guessing. There were three codes on the card – all would be necessary to complete her task as she understood. She bent in front of the computer and typed in the first of the three but paused as soon as it came time to press the final key. Behind her, Dmitri was trying to keep Alex's attention but he turned her direction expectantly. She closed her eyes and pressed the button.
Every screen in the room lit up with images of the Earth. Glaring red dots were scattered across the map at the core of at least a dozen major cities. "What's that?" Alex grabbed the console and pulled himself up, the black box he'd been searching for still clutched in his hands. He looked over toward Eloise and frowned. "What is it? What did you bring up?"
She couldn't stomach to look at him and turned back toward the screen in front of her. Once again the cursor was blinking expectantly, though it gave no actual instructions. She looked down at the card in her hand and began to punch in the next set of characters. This time she didn't hesitate over the final keystroke for she feared if she did she wouldn't be able to finish.
"Warning: Planetary Protection System activated. Accessing systems." The computer's voice cut out a few times, probably a result of the assault but its warning rang clear enough throughout the command unit