With weapons cocked, Gregor and Weis cautiously led everyone back the way they had come and in the direction from where the new light source seemed strongest. They rounded the last corner into the concourse and stopped. With the new, but still dim, lighting they were now able to take in the whole of the concourse. Both men surveyed the space along the barrels of their weapons before Weis finally announced it clear from any threat, or ‘seems safe-ish’ as he put it.
Still keeping an eye on the gloomy shadows, they five slowly walked back to where they had been sitting eating just a few minutes ago. As they got closer in the lessening gloom they could see that two large and hitherto unnoticed doors had opened up directly opposite the stone steps they had used to get up onto the concourse.
Very slowly now, with Gregor and Weis still on point duty, they edged into the full brightness of the light spilling through the doorway. Disappointingly, all that faced them was another set of stone steps going down into the fully illuminated depths of whatever waited for them. They came to a halt.
While Little and Large continued to cover the top of the steps, ready for anything nasty to come flying, leaping or even slithering at them, Bodil, Ellie and Hobbes stepped out from behind Weis and Gregor.
Ellie stepped forward to stand next to her bodyguard. Still staring ahead she stage whispered out of the side of her mouth.
“You make a lousy window, Gregor.”
Also still staring ahead, Gregor copied Ellie’s whisper.
“Sorry Miss. Would you like to ride on my shoulders… again?”
The suppressed chuckles of the others relieved the tension.
“So, are we going down?” Bodil asked no one in particular.
“It’s why we’re here Professor.” Ellie answered. “Greggie, Ranger, after you please.”
Weis checked the safety was off.
“I always thought ‘going into the light’ was supposed to be a bad idea.”
The steps led down to a stained and cracked concrete floor. Bodil nudged Ellie as the ‘fire main’ came into view. No longer painted red it, and the other, smaller cables that accompanied it, also showed much less signs of age. Descending the last step, the party found themselves in a short corridor with a doorway leading off on both sides and ahead opening up into a much larger chamber. Just before the cluster of cables they had been following reached the doorway on the left they sloped suddenly downwards and disappeared below ground level.
Gregor and Weis each checked a doorway, stepping over the collapsed remains of the wooden doors to do so.
“Clear.” Then. “Clear” from the other side and the two men reappeared. “Office.” Gregor reported. “Fuck knows.” Weis muttered, imitating Gregor. “Shelves and shit.” and then adding a belated “Pardon my language.”
With Gregor and Weis now sticking to their own side of the corridor the party edged forward to the end and then stopped.
The roof and most of the far wall of the chamber was natural rock, indicating that this cave had been here long before man had decided to fancy it up with his concrete and tiles. About half of the overhead lights in the chamber had failed at some point in the seventy years since anyone had been here, leaving the chamber ominously dim and full of shadows.
Directly in front of them, a couple of metres away, was a bigger, taller, cleaner version of the switch room panel they had just seen. Arranged in a large semicircle, the large panel had many more dials and meters though. Interestingly, some of the lights were still on.
Although some of the panel had collapsed, some of the collapsed sections had been rebuilt or even replaced entirely and it was mainly these newer panels that showed signs of life.
Despite a warning from Gregor, Ellie moved closer to get a better view. This prompted some rapid hand gesturing from Gregor to Weis resulting in the pair taking up sentry positions either end of the curved electrical control apparatus. This, in turn, left Bodil and Hobbes standing in the middle of the entrance to the corridor wondering what they should do. They decided to go and stand with Ellie in the comforting embrace of the dial covered semicircle.
“This is a distribution board.” Ellie said as they joined her. “It’s like the one we have for the estate but this is much bigger.”
Ellie concentrated on the live parts of the panel, scraping years of dust off the dials and cleaning some of the engraved brass labels with a wet thumb.
“Okay. On the input side we have zilch, which means that whatever is warming our cable up is coming from here and not to here.”
She pointed to one of the little labels. “On the output side though, we have ‘M Stn’ which I guess is for where we are. Barely drawing any amps though.” She pointed to another label. “Then there’s ‘W Cst’ which is connected but not drawing anything at all.” The finger moved again. “And the last one is just ‘F’ and that one is sucking up a shitload of amps.” She turned to the two archaeologists. “So, any ideas what ‘W Cst’ or ‘F’ might mean?” The looks on their faces told her the answer. “Well then, that’s something we are going to have to find out.”
The three of them joined Gregor, and Ellie peered around the bulk of her bodyguard.
“Anything out there we need to worry about?”
Without looking at her Gregor shook his head slowly.
“Nothing moving Miss.” He raised his voice. “Weis? Anything?”
“Bugger all, mate.”
As one they moved around the edges of the panels and took in what else was in the chamber.
What else was in the chamber were three enormous, rusted, partially collapsed and obviously dead generators.
Bodil went up to one of them and looked back down its length.
“Steam turbine driven. Pre Fall technology.”
Ellie continued looking around as she thought aloud.
“Not our power source then. So I wonder what is?”
Gregor tapped her on the shoulder and then pointed off to the far right corner of the chamber. Ellie looked, but one of the generator shells was in her way. Accompanied by Gregor she moved to see around it.
What Gregor had seen with his considerable height advantage was a badly lit set of steps leading upwards into the square hole of a passage. Ellie called it to everyone’s attention and they clustered together at the base of the steps.
“Ranger? I’d like you and Mister Hobbes to wait here and make sure nothing sneaks up behind us while we go and have a looksee.”
Hobbes looked happy enough with the arrangement but Weis was less sure.
“Okay Miss Troy. As you wish.” He paused for a second. “But, just for the record, I’m advising you that going into an unknown situation without sufficient back up,” He indicated his rifle. “Is unwise.”
Ellie and Weis shared a look.
“Noted for the record Specialist Weis.”
Wondering what all that had been about, Bodil followed Ellie and Gregor up the steps.