Artemus tried to pick the lock on the safe but it was soundproof and it prevented him from listening for clicks while turning the lock. The lock was a dial combination lock and and thus extremely difficult to pick even with tools, but without tools and soundproof lock rendered it impossible.
The second room had much lesser mysteries; it had only the locked safe and a chest with a passcode keyboard on it. The team searched around for more clues while Jayce brought Artemus back to the radio.
"There must be something in this." he said. Radio connection was completely blocked in the secret base and they had no chance of connecting it to any frequency channel. However something else caught Jayce's eyes. Inside of the radio was a cassette tape. He pointed it out to Artemus.
"Arty, look at that. It's a cassette tape."
"A what tape?" Artemus was confused. Cassette tapes had not been used for about a century and most people of the Year 2136 would be unable to recognize or use it. Jayce explained to him its function to record audio in tapes and ability to be played by certain devices. Of course, such technology was considered to be ancient, considering most had an audio recorder that could be edited and erased on the spot if needed.
However Jayce convinced him that it was a long living piece of technology that had been around since the 20th Century, which meant it would have been used for keeping clues as the secret base's technology were mostly from the 20th to 21st Century.
Jayce gathered the rest of the team around the radio before he played the audio tape.
"Keep your ears ready." Jayce pressed the 'Play' button on the radio. There was a brief silence before it came the first sound.
They were caught off guard. They had expected a proper voice note or riddle of some sort, but has unprepared for beeps. However they kept their ears open as they listened to the entire audio tape.
BEEP BEEEP. BEEP. BEEP BEEEP BEEP. BEEP BEEEP BEEEP BEEEP.
Jayce and Artemus stared at each other blankly as their jaws dropped gradually. The team looked around at the rest utterly confused. Before they could try for a replay, the radio player sparked and it powered down. It malfunctioned and was theorized by Ornelas that it was due to prolonged inactivity.
"Great... a useless message. Time wasted." Ling sighed while walking back to the second room.
"Good. The average intelligence of the room just increased." Artemus commented once Ling stepped out of the first room. Even Ornelas could not help chuckling a little.
"Morse code." Jayce said to himself, but at a volume loud enough for the rest to hear.
"I think I've heard of that before. It hasn't been used for quite a while, has it?" Ornelas questioned. Jayce shook his head but went on to state how since most of the secret base uses past technology, this was no surprise. Jayce remembered something and he went searching around on the floor. Moments later he fished out papers he tossed earlier from the first loose chest in the room and flipped through them.
He got to the page with the Morse codes and placed them on the table. It was filled with translations but dots and dashes the team didn't understand:
A (.-) B(-...) C(-.-.)
and the list went on. Jayce had been using Morse codes to transfer messages with accomplices to pull off scams and tricks and thus was experienced in it. However his time in jail had also caused him to partially forget some translations but nevertheless, his ear for Morse code remained sharp.
"Short beep is a dot. Long beep is a dash." Jayce explained as he closed his eyes and focused hard. Rissa started asking about how they were going to translate as they radio had now marred, but Artemus stopped her. The rest of the team watched on as Jayce, in his focus, reached out for a pen on the table and started scribbling.
An extremely sharp memory was one of the skills he made use of for scams and fraud, but now for survival. He slowly wrote out the message based on his memory as an impressed Viper observed.
.- . .-. .-
Jayce placed down his pen and open his eyes, now relaxed. They referred to the papers and managed to translate:
A E R J
Clues connected and Artemus rushed over to the chest with the passcode and typed in the translation. The chest clicked open and inside of it were two rulers and yet another radio, with a different cassette tape. Jayce took the rulers to examine while Ornelas connected the radio to the power outlet and waited for the team to ready themselves for the audio tape.
They now gathered themselves for the second audio tape while clutching the Morse code translation note. However what played was unexpectedly not a Morse code audio recording, but yet another riddle.
WATERLESS RIVERS, SANDLESS DESERTS, TREELESS FORESTS, BUILDINGLESS CITIES, ROCKLESS MOUNTAINS
The team was left baffled - this riddle came all too abrupt and without the company of clues. At the same time, Artemus noticed something that escaped the thoughts of the others.
"English, yet again. This makes no sense. Why would a secret base in Japan use English riddles?" he queried. The brains now split into half to ponder over both puzzles as this unusual phenomenon of English usage might lead to an important discovery or clue. Jayce stared motionless at the rules while sitting in front of the locked safe, with the gears turning in his mind almost audible.
"What has rivers without water? Deserts without sands? This makes no sense..." Ornelas said to Rissa. Military training in the 22nd Century was highly advanced and detailed, but it did not include training of riddle and puzzle solving. Only one in the team was thought to have an analytical mind brilliant enough as heads slowly turned one by one to Jayce, who was now apparently staring into blank space.
Most of Viper tried not to interrupt his chain of thoughts but Ling stomped heavily over and shook his shoulders.
"Well yes, genius crook? Any ideas on the riddle?"
"Sod off, bitch. When you speak you lower the IQ of the entire country." Jayce retorted without turning. His concentration on the rulers grew stronger by the second before it hit Artemus.
"You've already solved the riddle, haven't you? You're thinking about something else." he claimed. Jayce slowly spiraled around and held up the rulers.
"The answer. A map. Rulers are for measuring coordinates on the map. But what coordinates?" he announced to the team. Ornelas quickly turned to dig up the world map from the riddle chest. As Jayce thought on, Artemus' inner bulb was lit and he solved his own puzzle.
"Guys. Think about this. The secret data room probably maintained secret foreign relations with other countries, right? What if this secret base wasn't even for the Japanese military itself, but for a covert alliance between countries? Usage of English would then make sense as it's the universal language." Artemus guessed.
It was one conspiracy theory that had sounded ridiculous yet it answered all the questions in their mind. Ornelas, having personal friendships with the higher-ups in the military, had refused to believe this.
"No. Why would they send us here then? To risk us discovering their secret alliance? What's the point of this mission then?"
"To kill us off." Jayce said the words that the team did not want to hear, but knew was the likely truth.
"We served our purpose after acquiring the Japanese military plans, god knows what they were for. They didn't send us here to clear the Beasts, they sent us here to be cleared by the Beasts. And trapped." Jayce sat down full of despair, but it was Rissa's turn to have a moment of Sherlock Holmes.
"A E R J! If our theory is correct, it could be an acronym for the covert alliance! J would then stand for Japan!" Rissa exclaimed. Hope struck the hearts of the members and they all stood up with will. They looked around the world map and had assumed that the nations involved would be a powerhouse in their own continent, even after The Fever. The suspects concluded were then America, England, Russia and Japan.
Ling used the rulers and pinpointed the coordinates in Japanese and translated it for them. With eight sets of digits in order, the next step was easy. The dial combination lock on the safe was the clear question the coordinates were the answer to. The safe clicked open and the team prayed that its contents were the key to escape.
Much to their astonishment, its content revealed to be a bunch of electronic explosives.
"The door!" Artemus yelled.
The team worked together and tied the explosives around the weak spots of the door all that was left was to detonate it. Every loose puzzle piece had now pieced together one by one as Jayce retrieved the remote control from the riddle chest.
Viper steered clear of the door as Ornelas pressed the button on the remote control and detonated it. The explosives destroyed the door with a deafening explosion and the path to freedom was finally unblocked.
The explosion had not only opened up their chances of escape, but also caught the attention of Beasts in this final stretch of the base. The familiar cries sounded down the hallway as each Viper member drew their weapons.
"We're getting out of here. Ain't no Beast gonna stop us. Ready, Viper?" Ornelas regained his confidence and captaincy.
"Yes sir!" the team said in unison.
The road of escape was now free and one last battle stood waiting.
END OF CHAPTER 7