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In Star Wars: The Force Awakens,

after escaping confinement, Rey sneaks around Starkiller Base. At one point, she climbs down a wall and pulls a handle down, causing part of the wall to slide out and allowing her to hide.

What exactly was that and what was its function?

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    A way for her to get out of her situation without alerting the guards to her presence. Probably some standardized coolant cell or battery or something, and she figured it would have an access tunnel somewhere on the inside. She was hanging onto the side of a wall with Stormtroopers up above who were looking for her. Cinematically it's probably just a way to tell the audience "okay, she's safe now, and will reappear somewhere else in the base in one of the next scenes". – TylerH Jan 11 '16 at 22:30
  • Didn't they have EXACTLY same type of things on Death Star? – DVK-on-Ahch-To Jan 11 '16 at 22:31
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    According to the Amazing Cross-Sections book, it's a "plot containment area". That's where they store the extra plot until needed. – Valorum Jan 11 '16 at 22:49
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It was a "service hatch"

WIDE SHOT as Rey holds on carefully as the guards walk off, not seeing her over the edge, a death drop below her.

But then she SEES SOMETHING and has a brainstorm. She strenuously cross-climbs to an invisible SERVICE HATCH, which She opens, and climbs INSIDE THE WALL, closing the hatch behind her.

Working her way sideways, hand over hand, while methodically locating shallow footholds, she made it across to a service hatch slotted into the wall of the atrium. It opened, silently and without the need to enter a code, at her touch. While still yawning to depths unknown beneath her, the inner workings of the base that she was able to reach through the hatch provided access to better handholds. If she was lucky and didn’t lose her sense of direction, much less her grip, she felt she might be able to work her way across to the corresponding service area that ran underneath the TIE fighter hangar, avoiding the guards above. Then she would have to find a way to access the hangar deck itself and without drawing any attention. Assuming she could do so, she could try to steal a fighter.

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    I must honestly admit that I liked the "answer" in the comment far better. – DVK-on-Ahch-To Jan 12 '16 at 4:26

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