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Aug 01, 2021 9:48 PM
Soma but with a Margaret
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The chip slides loose as easily as Catherine's did. Like Catherine's, there's a few spots of structure gel on it, but the more delicate connectors where it fit into the slot seem clean and intact.

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Okay. Good. That's good. She pockets Robin, hoping the saltwater doesn't mess up the contacts, and gets moving again. There's something else on the seabed on the other side of the sub, with a light shining on it; what is that? (Please don't let it be another sad person who needs help.)

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On the other side of the submersible, there's a line of what almost look like plastic or metal storage bins embedded in a line in the seabed, half buried by silt, but each marked with an upright placard saying "ETERNITY AMONG THE STARS". On the lamppost nearby, there's a comm panel with a flashing "Buffer ready" message.

 

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It looks like . . . a graveyard? But why that inscription--

Oh.

They must have had so much faith in Catherine, she thinks, to kill themselves in the belief that the Ark would be enough. She must have been so trusted.

She listens to the data buffer.

 

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There's a crackle in Margaret's head as the recording starts, and then a vaguely familiar voice. "Is this thing on?"

"Go ahead, John," a second voice says.
"Listen up! All members of staff, the Ark project has caused a lot of arguments the last few months. I'm not going to pretend I understand what the hell Sarang talked about, and how his Continuity suddenly makes sense to kill yourself. For the love of fucking God, or whatever you think is important, don't. Kill. Yourself. This place is miserable enough. Don't force your friends to clean up your blood."

There's a pause, then the guy--who Margaret recognizes suddenly as the security guy telling field service technicians to break into any place their omnitools won't let them go--adds, "Rest in peace, all of you."

"All right, everyone, show's over. Get back to work," the second voice adds, and then the recording shuts off.

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Margaret doesn't know what to say to that. She understands the suicides and she understands the need not to be surrounded by a steadily dwindling number of suicidal people talking nonsense. Everyone was trying their best--before the comet everyone was trying their best, and they still died, and after that the survivors kept on trying their best, and things kept getting worse, and now it's down to--what, five people that she knows about, plus everyone in the Ark? Still trying to build the best life they can out of scraps that crumble in their hands. 

Fuck this.

But she can't quit, not really. She has just enough hope--for herself, for the Ark, for Catherine and Robin and Carl and Amy--that dying would be more like failing than like escaping. So she turns toward the doors of Theta and starts looking for a way to keep going forward.

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On the right side of the massive pressure doors, there's what looks like a manual control panel under a cover. It's like the door needs to be reset, or the hydraulics pressurized, or something--yank this thing out, twist it, and shove it back in, and then the red light turns green and the big manual handle consents to move.

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She watches the door heave itself open and takes a look around. Yup, the submersible will definitely fit in here; it's enormous. Once the door is done opening, she goes back to where Catherine is waiting. "I got the door open; you should be able to get us into Theta pretty easily now."

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"Great!" Catherine says. After a moment, hatch slides closed and the engine whines to life. The escape vessel jerks and jostles as Catherine swings it around, and presumably (given no windows) backs it into the bay. It sets down onto the metal pressure lock floor with a massive dull clank. "All right, Margaret, go trigger the cycle, and we'll be all set to get the DUNBAT."

After a moment, the hatch pops open, just clearing a railing around the inside of the massive pressure lock chamber. The room-sized lock is like a giant version of the ones she's been using so far: bigger pipes, a bigger sump space, and a bigger fall of seaweed and moss on the sidewalls, but still a "SWIPE OMNITOOL TO ACTIVATE" on the railing near the nose of the sub.

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"Looks like it needs an omnitool to cycle it. I should get that broken second one working so I don't need to keep, uh, messing with you every time I need to swipe one for something. Do you mind?" It seems pretty clear that Catherine won't mind, since she wants the lock cycled too, but not asking would be about a hundred times more awkward.

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"Nope, the sooner we're in, the better. There's probably a way to get it working in the Tech Depot down in the lab levels, if not an entire spare working Omnitool around someplace," Catherine says.

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"Okay. I'll see you at the Tech Depot or the DUNBAT, depending on what has a terminal." And she unplugs Catherine and swipes her omnitool on the lock controls.

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The loud klaxon of all of Pathos-II's pressure locks seems appropriate for once here, as the massive doors slam shut, leaving the room in barely-lit darkness for a moment, then the rush of massive pumps and rushing air. As the water level comes down, Margaret can't help but think of swimming pools she's been in that are smaller than the massive draining cavern. Thirty seconds later, the last of the water is draining out of the bottom and the last drips are overflowing the door sill of the escape vessel, leaving a few inches of water in the bottom of the tiny ship. The massive interior doors slide open. Inside, there's a cargo receiving area, with stairs up half a level to catwalks on either side. Ahead, there's a big set of sealed doors into "THETA LABORATORY", and off to the right is another the same size into "MACHINE HANGAR". On the right, there's two doors off the catwalk, one looking like it goes also into the Machine Hangar, the other with a glass window into some kind of overlooking space. There's two doors on the left side Margaret can't read the labels of from the ground level. It looks like there may be some issue with the power or systems--none of the door locks are showing anything, not a "locked" red, not the "ready" yellow, not an "open" green.

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Can she get into the THETA LABORATORY or does the lack of light mean it's defaulting to locked?

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It looks like the massive LABORATORY doors are closed--they and the Machine Hangar doors are oversize, nearly as large as the doors Catherine just used to bring the sub into the facility's pressure lock.

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Then she's going to need to get the power on in here. She goes up to the catwalks and explores them for any sign of what's gone wrong in here, and also for any sign of the WAU.

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There's plenty of signs of the WAU, from the tiny little boxes marked WAU with slick graphics that look to be original to sprouting tentacables and growths on the wall near the sealed door to what a smaller label indicates is "Server Access" on the left side, just past "Research Ares and Living Quarters Access". There's no immediate sign of trouble in the "Control Room" on the right side visible through the partially-cracked glass, and even the fire extinguishers are still in their racks on the walls, along with a few "Caution, Slippery When Wet" signs scattered on the floor of the cargo bay.

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When a hunt through the accessible spaces fails to turn up a way to get the power back on, she takes one of the fire extinguishers and smashes the cracked glass of the control room the rest of the way. 

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The glass shatters with a crash and a tinkle, and Margaret's able to gain access through the looking glass...



Inside there's a variety of inert control consoles, including one labeled Machine Hangar Control with an omnitool dock, just in front of a window in the left wall into a dark space with some kind of hardware hanging from the ceiling of it.

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Hmm, plug in Catherine to give her an update but risk having to unplug her again in a minute, or not that? She'd probably want to be plugged in even momentarily, in Catherine's place. But first she wants to examine the hanging hardware and anything she can see through that window.

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Even with the flashlight of her suit pressed against the glass, Margaret's cameras can't make out much more than the shapes in the gloom. There's certainly something almost the size of the emergency vessel hanging in the hangar, and some kind of control console on the floor in front of it, but nothing much else is visible.

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Oh good that's probably the DUNBAT they're looking for. Do any of the consoles suggest a way into the Tech Depot?

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There's no sign of a map in the control room--well, there is, it's just an ocean chart of the area around Pathos-II, and then of Pathos-II in the context of the Atlantic as a whole.

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That's cool and she might need to know where exactly they are at some point but she doesn't need to know now. She tables getting into the Tech Depot for the moment and plugs Catherine in at the dock.

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"See you there," Catherine says. "Wait, we're here? We're here! There's going to be nothing stopping us once we have the DUNBAT."

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