The building where they're doing the brain scans isn't that far from campus, so it's not hard for Margaret to show up a few minutes early. She brought some homework to work on if they're not ready for her yet, but it turns out she's too excited (and maybe also nervous) to focus on Engineering Systems Design right now. She double checks the room number in the recruitment email and knocks.
"Alright. There's a chance I might break it worse, but I guess it's already unusable. I can narrate what I'm doing if you'll be able to hear me from there; I don't know what kind of intercom this place has."
"Not much, unfortunately. You'll be on your own out there."
"Okay. I'll do my best." She turns to leave the escape vessel and go looking for the engine room. It would have been good to have Catherine and her up-to-date knowledge in her ear to run things past, but she's done pretty well at avoiding surprises from the (non-sentient) hardware around here so far. (She tries not to think about what that means for the last eighty years' rate of technological progress. It's all moot now anyway.)
The corridor winds on, through a galley oriented for two different directions of down and abandoned mess tables and the floating detritus of life, from clothes to empty bottles and cans, through to some kind of command center. A message plays on repeat, spurred by whatever caused the crash. "Attention crew, this is your captain speaking. The final efforts to stop the comet have, officially, failed. Impact is...imminent." Nothing immediately stands out as the "unlock lifeboats" button, though.
If she were an escape vessel control panel, where would she hide . . . . Margaret starts cleaning the algae off consoles, figuring out what each one was for (or trying to) before moving on, working her way from one end to the other. Except after about two consoles she switches to looking for the speaker that's repeating that message so she can disable it.
By the door leading into the next corridor, on the other side of the ship, there's a panel hidden under some stairs--a stack of servers and a flickering display screen. It's overgrown with structure gel polyps and a large bulb, covering portions of the glowing lights--the only set of controls that still look active. Through the algea, Margaret can read __MAGE __ONTR__, and elsewhere beyond some of the tentacables, __ENCY IN__COM___. More is hard to make out beyond the overgrowth, and the large WAU energy bulb covering much of the front of the still-active console.
She's pretty stuck on the first one, but that second one is probably "Emergency Intercom". If she clears away some of the obstruction she might find the switch to stop that awful constantly repeating message. Actually maybe she should "eat" first, just in case she damages the bulb trying to get at the panel. Who knows when she'll get the chance again, after all.
There's the flickering, electric rush in her senses as her body does...whatever it does to the bulb. As it dies down, some of the lights flicker out on the console, and the recording dies out in a few last fragments..."officially...failed....failed....failed." The ship is left alone, and chooses that moment to give a slight groan as some deep-ocean current shakes it on its pylon. Clearing away some of the algea, it looks like the bulb was growing over some kind of emergency power hookup, next to a switch that's labeled "lifeboat release," but it looks like the switch has been forced by the tentacables erupting from its housing from "RELEASE" or "OFF" to "LOCK".
Okay so the electricity she just ate was doing things, which she should have expected but did not because she's an idiot, but the thing it was doing was specifically the thing she wanted to stop, because she's an idiot who was due for some good luck. She yanks the tentacables out of the way; they leave a disgusting residue like something between pus and duct tape goo. But at least now she can flip the switch to . . . hmm, OFF or RELEASE?
If OFF doesn't do what she wants it's more likely to leave the escape vessel still stuck, but in that case she can come back here, and if RELEASE is wrong it's more likely to be wrong in the "actively flinging the lifeboat away from the ship" way. She pushes the switch through the goo to OFF.
The switch clicks into place, but there's no immediate sign of change otherwise.
That is, in a sense, exactly what she was hoping for, in that any change visible from here would probably have been bad news. Next step, heading back to see whether she and Catherine can undock the escape vessel now.
"I found a switch that said it was the lifeboat release and I changed it from 'lock' to 'off', but I might need to go back and change it to 'release'. If it works at all, that is; the WAU was all over it."
"The WAU is here? Strange. I'm not seeing any change. You might need to check something in the power room first, maybe the WAU broke something there that's still not realizing this is an emergency."
"Okay, I'll go check." She hasn't found the power room yet, but there was a door on the other side of the control room that she hasn't been through yet.
The door at the other side of the bridge leads up a set of stairs to another control room, this one looking like it's only for use in this orientation, maybe for cargo control or something, and then aft to a cargo hold and what looks to finally be the power room. A catwalk (with a ladder leading above it) leads between large structures which are labeled as "reactors". Massive conduits mix with WAU tentacables inches in diameter, one plugged right into a bulb growing in the center of each of the reactors.
She is not going to interact with the bulbs this time, and is instead going to be silently grateful that she learned that particular lesson on something other than a probably-damaged reactor. The control panels claim they're online and stable, and it seems all too possible that the WAU is keeping them that way. Is there anything on these panels that looks like it has to do with either lifeboats or the declaration of a state of emergency?
Nothing immediately stands out--the catwalk ends in a hatch which looks like it might lead out the side of the ship, but while the first door opens, the door from the anteroom before the outer hull is stuck. There doesn't seem to be any direct panels for controls up on these catwalks, and the depths of the engine space lie below in the dim dark.
Margaret turns on her headlamp and leans over the railing, but nothing down there looks promising either in itself or as a way to get back up here. If she cut her way out the outer door, she could potentially get to the outside of the escape vessel and go at whatever is holding it in directly. But getting the door open and then navigating the outside of the hull sounds less like a plan A and more like a plan C, so before going straight to that she tries plan B: she heads back to the submersible the way she came, but instead of entering it, she opens the wall panels around the door and tries to get to the mechanism that way.
The panels come loose with a clank as Margaret sets to work on them with a screwdriver and more than a little brute force. Behind it are a tangle of wires and a smaller bundle of hoses. Some are bundled, and look more like data or digital controls, while others are larger and look like power cables. "Hello?" cries Catherine from inside the sub. "Margaret?"
Oh dear, that was probably a scary noise out of context. "I'm here! Sorry, I'm just trying to find the lock/unlock signal at this end."
"Oh. You didn't find anything in the power room?"
"I'm afraid not. More WAU on the reactors and a bunch of consoles that don't do what we want."
"On the reactors? It must be siphoning off power, might even be stabilizing the ship. I wonder if ripping it off could create a real emergency."
"Yeah, I thought of that too. Don't worry, I stayed well away from them, and it seemed stable at least on the scale of minutes to hours."
"Right, it's probably all that's holding this place together. If you pull it, the whole thing could go up!"