The reactor room hummed with the core's energy, humid and warm it was, the moisture having nowhere to escape. Much akin to a sauna, in contrast with the core's blue light.http://chemistry.oregonstate.edu/nuclear/pics/Reactor.jpg
They scouted cautiously, while Autumn worked at the reactor's console. By pure luck or smart construction, the emergency had unlocked the overrides - the ship's designer was well aware that out on the fringe, people with access codes sometimes died.
Jerome and Quan assessed their surroundings carefully. Here, at the ship's stern, there were the holds, the engines, the reactor room, and connections to the front of the ship, to its five floors. A few choice choke points were available - for example, the airlock they had passed that separated the ship's prow from the potentially dangerous cargo and from results of reactor problems.
Curiously, they peeked into the open cargo hold. The cavernous structure was under emergency lighting, the lights glimmering dimply as the backup source slowly failed. What they could make out were four huge silos and a water tank; rows of cages, pried open from the outside; a wrecked loader exoskeleton, and a row of eighteen stasis cells. The first thirteen had failed entirely, holding mechanisms and life support silent. The locks on the last four were still engaged according to the blinking lights, but otherwise they were silent, ominous metal caskets. One stasis cell still worked, apparently still connected to the reactor.
Irregular biological shapes could be seen clinging to the rafters and stuck in corners, eerily still and calm.
They examined the other holds - one held freezers, still online, the rows of freezer doors stretching into the dark distance. Another was a colonist compartment with habitats, entirely silent. It was as if they just waited to be unloaded on a lush world, to house families on the frontier.
The fourth was empty, save containers and salvage equipment - perhaps intended to house loot from the Desdemona? Certainly, the catastrophe had occurred prior to any salvage.
They even passed the airlock that connected the Lilarcor to the ancient cruiser; it was locked, the docking gear stuck. They gazed out, and could make out at least five suits in the gloom, motionless. The salvage party did not manage to get back home. Whether it was the better option, they dared not to say.
They came back to Autumn, who was relieved to find that the reactor as such worked, though set to minimum level by a lack of demand. The lines to much of the ship were dead, the analytical computer chirping away connection error messages like a depressed chipmunk.Navigation offline.
Landing gear offline.
Emergency shuttles launch disabled, locked by "The Red Viking". Power to pod bay nominal.
Life support nominal.
Inertia compensation offline.
Central control offline.
Power supply to cargo hold one partially offline.
Strange how the reactor worked, but so many connections to independent systems had failed? Even from the backup batteries?
At least the screen also provided her with a comprehensive overview of where the power lines had failed. A dozen freaking places, in key places. That would take some work!
Having been confronted with the dangers of the ship, Sunny stayed back with Autumn instead of scouting, and had a chance to examine the cocoons, or whatever they were. She had expected some aliens inside; alas, they held parts of human bodies: one half a torso with the head and one arm still attached, one a liver and kidneys, one a spine and pelvis. Alas, the last, best concealed blister right next to a thermal exhaust port held a complete human, a young female - tall, muscular, raven-haired - in deep slumber, her minute movements betraying that she was still alive.