Okay, so I can top the “climbing around in vents” thing. Today, Dr. Cranor needed to route some more juice to her primary science array and apparently the only way to do this was to go switch some power relays around. You’d think that this would be a job for an electrician and she’d call maintenance, but they were in yet another forgotten corner of the facility that no one bothered to maintain.
Apparently back in the 50s and 60s, Federated Para Sciences was a lot bigger than it is now. Downsizing started in the 70s and continued through the 80s and 90s, and then the 21st century and its austerity measures really took a cleaver to things. Every time a program’s funding was cut and the payroll was slashed, they just closed off parts of the plant and regrouped.
But the infrastructure that runs everything still runs everywhere, which means there are fuses that have blown and circuit breakers that have broken in forgotten corridors. That brings me to my task for today, which was basically to go and clear the breakers for the rest of the lines that are supposed to be delivering current to Dr. Cranor’s lab, and to shut down any lights or machinery that might have been running off those lines all these decades later.
That’s already kind of a crazy situation, right? But if you think about it—and if you understand how huge this place is and how much huger the budget for the kinds of things they do here would have been during the hottest part of the cold war—it kind of makes sense.
The really crazy part is what I had to go through to do it. I mentioned that they closed off parts of the facility, right? This wasn’t an office suite I could break into through the vents. Nope. I had to climb down into a maintenance tunnel, which, incidentally had water in the bottom up to my knees, because when I say “maintenance tunnel”, I mean “water pipe”.
It was well big enough for me to stand up in, which would have been comforting except that I was thinking about how much water a pipe that size is designed to channel. Then I had to go around in the pipe until I was on the other side of the obstructed corridor, and climb up through a hatch on the other side.
Of course, being that the pipe was more than big enough for me to stand up in, there would have been no way for me to reach the hatch on the other side. Or the hatch I’d gone down through, for that matter. When Dr. Cranor was briefing me on this, she had a solution ready. According to the plans she had, there’s an emergency safety valve inside the pipe that will divert water from wherever the pipe is meant to be divert water from. Opening this valve would flood the pipes, allowing me to swim up to the open hatch, which in her words would be easy enough to see since it would be the only source of light in the flooded tunnel.
I may only be a grade 3 research associate, but I figured out a better solution: I brought a ladder. Laying my hands on it was no easy matter. Dr. Cranor had no idea where to get one (and she seemed annoyed that I wanted one, given that she considered her pipe-flooding plan adequate), and all the maintenance personnel that I asked seemed kind of suspicious. I guess maybe they were concerned I wouldn’t bring it back when I was done? But then, I remembered that I’d seen a ladder sitting with a bunch of tools in the abandoned office… so maybe the maintenance people had good reason to worry about their department’s inventory walking off, but still, I had my ladder. And if I need a pipe wrench or a crowbar or a utility knife, I know where to get them.
I used the ladder to climb down into the pipe, I used the ladder to climb back up the other side, and then after I’d found her relays, I repeated the process. I was pretty proud of myself, considering that I still spent my day knee-deep in the dark, splashing around in water that’s probably tainted with heavy metals and who knows what else and then stumbling around blindly (seriously, I need to figure out how to requisition a better flashlight) trying to follow written directions based on sixty year old plans. No one’s phonepad shows the disused sections because no one’s supposed to be there, and Dr. Cranor considers her ancient maps to precious to be trusted to me.
I did get her power flowing. I can’t say that I did much to take care of whatever else might be drawing on those same lines. The lights had all long since burned out, and while I could hear some mechanical humming and a loud, rhythmic clanking at one point, I didn’t see any big conveniently labeled switch that said “Turn Everything In This Section Off Without Fucking Up Anybody’s Magnetic Containment Field Seven Levels Up” so I decided to leave well enough alone.
Plus, it was just spooky in there. The dark, the noise… to tell you the truth, I’m not sure everything I heard there was mechanical.