thanks for everyone who contributed to this moment of mirroring a 4MB flash volume over a 9600b serial cable to interlink running on dosbox
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The key was finding a line in the flash filesystem's autoexec that dropped into maintenance mode if it finds a certain file on the ramdisk. However, the flash is read-only. So how do we get the file to the ramdisk after a reboot? And there's the fun twist-- as long as power is maintained, the ramdisk *persists across reboots*! Not at all what we'd expect from a modern system but completely sensible for the time. So touch the file, reboot, and there we go.

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