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 semicircle, the large panel had many more dials and meters though. Interestingly, some of the lights were still on.
Although a few panels had collapsed, several 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 poorly 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 look-see."
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 backup," He indicated his rifle.
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.
The steps were steep and longer than the ones they had come down to get into the generator hall. They let out into a small unlit corridor with a single doorway off to the left.
At the far end of the passage more steps upwards.
A quick check of the doorway showed that the room beyond may once have been a laboratory of some kind but was now just a pile of decaying wood and broken glass covered in centuries of dust
The second tier of steps was shorter but just as steep as the first. At the top, they were met by a pair of swing doors. Doors that had been repaired and rehung, more evidence of 'them'.
The party stopped in front of the swing doors.
"Is that...?" Bodil began.
What they were all looking at was a very faded sign still screwed to one of the doors.
Although it had lost all its colour and faded to an indistinct light grey shape on just a slightly darker grey background,
all three pairs of eyes had no trouble putting the pieces together and coming up with what the sign had originally looked like seven hundred years ago and what similar signs still looked
like today. A black trefoil on a bright yellow background.
"Yup." Ellie supplied. "Here, there be radiation. My guess is the reactor that boiled the water for those gennies down there."
Everyone immediately went for whatever piece of jewellery carried their radiation indicators.
Originally, way back when in the time of The Province,
everyone needed to know if they were approaching a bubble of leftover radiation and so rather bulky but efficient indicator devices were available.
Over the years, these indicator devices quickly went from a clunky wristwatch kind of affair, which rudely beeped at you,
to a colourful wrist band that warmed up and changed colours that glowed in the presence of radiation. White was 'good to go, have a nice day'.
Yellow was 'hey just so you know, this is slightly above background radiation levels.' Orange was 'you maybe want to think about picking another route'.
Red was 'okay, you're taking damage so get your ass out of here'. Purple was 'you're going to die in a couple of hours unless you get some serious medical help'.
Black was 'get yourself into the position you want them to find your body in'. Seriously, that's how they were advertised.
Eventually, you could buy these things as all kinds of jewellery; hence the contortions everyone was going through to find their indicators.
Soon, two pendants and a nipple piercing were all seen to be glowing a nice reassuring white. There was a quiet ripple of relieved laughter. Then they all looked at each other.
"Do we go on?" It was Bodil.
Ellie was looking hard at the doors. Simple wood wouldn't stop hard radiation, so if it was safe here, it was going to be just as safe on the other side of the doors.
But she was making a mental note to pack something more business-like than a 'RainbowRad' on future expeditions. She turned back to Bodil and smiled.
"Well, I do, and that means Gregor will." There was an accompanying 'try and stop me' grunt from Gregor.
"But I can't ask you to walk into a likely radiation zone Professor Hill so if you want to stay here or go and join Ranger Weis and Mister Hobbes then that's fine."
Bodil folded her arms.
"Do either of you even know what a seven-hundred-year-old reactor looked like?"
Gregor shook his head. Ellie tried her best.
"Only from theoretical diagrams of the process. Reactor vessel, fuel cells, control rods... erm, coolant pumps?"
Bodil rolled her eyes.
"I actually saw one once, in Iceland. Some kind of LifeNet research facility near Reykjavik.
" Bodil waited for Ellie to say something, but Ellie just looked up at her so she had time to focus on her own face reflected in Ellie's shiny black glasses. The silence became uncomfortable.
"Sooo... can I come?"
"Of course you can professor, I'll be glad of your expertise. I've never been to Iceland; you'll have to tell me all about it sometime."
"Sure, I'll be glad to." But she was already talking to Ellie's back.
Ellie took a breath and pushed through the double doors, closely followed by Gregor and, bringing up the rear, a slightly miffed archaeology professor.