Tiptoe fell into place behind Jigsaw as they pushed forwards through the darkness. The glowing fungus that grew near the entrance didn’t extend into the tunnel, so the only light came from Jigsaw’s horn. Tiptoe tried to glance over her shoulder but winced at the pain in her wings. Jigsaw stopped and turn to face her.
“Are you alright?” He asked.
“Yeah, I’m okay. Let’s just keep going.”
The tunnel curved upwards as the ponies walked on. As they moved on, the walls slowly became more and more smooth. The rough surface of the floor became more and more regular.
“Are these stairs?” Asked Tiptoe.
“I don’t know. How could there be? Nopony could ever have been here before.” Jigsaw replied.
However, as they walked further, it became clear that they were stairs. The walls were tiled, too. The air also got warmer the farther they climbed. It was no longer the cold, damp air they had been used to breathing for the last few hours- it was hot and dry.
“Jigsaw? I think we might be getting close to the surface.” Tiptoe said, her hair bristling at the thought. Nopony ever went to the surface- not ever.
“We can’t be that close. If we were, we’d be dead by now, wouldn’t we? And besides, our tribe must have been here at some point. How else do you explain the stairs?” Jigsaw said. He wasn’t entirely convinced, though. His job involved going through some of the oldest areas in the entire complex, and none of the places he’d ever been to ever went this far out.
Suddenly, the stairs ended with a large slab of metal blocking the entrance to what seemed to be a stone room cut into the wall. There was a small circle of silvery metal near the iron slab of the doorway.
“Jigsaw, have you ever seen anything like this before?” Tiptoe asked, inching away from the imposing slab of metal.
“No, not out this far. Tiptoe... I think these might be ruins of the old world.”
Tiptoe reared back in alarm. “Ruins of the old world? That’s forbidden, Jigsaw! Ruins of the old world are insanely dangerous! They always lead to the surface!”
Jigsaw gulped and said, “I’m not exactly thrilled about the prospect, but look. We’re at the same level as whatever is behind this door, and we’re not dead, are we? If the sun could shine through up here, it would be just as hot on this side of the door.”
Tiptoe backed down. “Alright. I’ll trust you. But if we open the door and we’re outside, I totally told you so.”
Jigsaw rolled is eyes and turned to look intensely at the locking mechanism next to the door. The plate of metal was surrounded by intricate etchings in the metal that didn’t seem to have faded with time. Jigsaw looked intently at the marks but couldn’t seem to make sense of them. He focused and touched the tip of his horn to the metal.
Instantly, he could sense the inner workings of the mechanism. The etchings on the lock were magical- and the method of opening relatively easy. Jigsaw inserted his horn into the lock and the room lit up. Locking mechanisms that hadn’t budged for thousands of years began grinding out of place. Bolts slid and came undone. The door slowly creaked open, making a horrible grinding noise. Blue light shot through the etchings on the door and up channels in the wall into reservoirs in the ceiling, lighting up the underground space.
Tiptoe looked in with a mixture of fear and wonder. Children in their tribe were raised on stories of the outside world before the Great Cataclysm. They say that ponies could walk the surface freely and that plants even grew up there. Of course, any pony now knew that would be a death sentence. Nothing could survive exposure to the sun, not even for a second. It had been like that for as long as anyone could remember. However, the ruins of the old world still existed, here and there- but almost always it was far too dangerous to explore. The buildings were usually very close to the surface, or filled with monsters. Ponies had since learned to stay keep their distance, no matter the treasures that may lay within.
“Jigsaw, what is this place?” Tiptoe asked walking forward in awe behind Jigsaw. The room was enormous, though many parts of it seemed to have fallen in on themselves. To their right lay a large rectangular device that rested on tracks.
“I haven’t the slightest idea, but look up there. I think there’s writing. Can you read any of the old language?”
“Only what they taught me in training. Shouldn’t you know more than I do? You are the head of the water department.”
Jigsaw chuckled. “Doesn’t mean I paid attention in class. Do you think you could try to read it?”
Tiptoe smiled. Jigsaw rarely laughed, and when he did, it was usually a good sign. It helped to put her at ease. “I can try.”
She stared at the faded sign hanging on the opposite wall for several minutes and muttered to herself. Eventually she said “I can’t be sure, but it says something to effect of ‘Fillydelphia Public Transportation’... something. I can’t figure out the last word.”
“Network.” Jigsaw said. “That one I can recognize. So, this place was some kind of transportation network for the old world? But... The door...” Jigsaw paused, apparently lost in thought. Tiptoe imagined she could see the gears on his flank turning. Then, he looked up at her and smiled. “Do you realize what this means? This is working old world technology! And more than that, it’s safe! Do you realize what this could mean if we could get it back to the tribe? The scientific value of this facility is... I don’t even know! Priceless!” Jigsaw’s entire body appeared to shift. Most of the time in the tunnel and the cave, he has simply walked along in silence, his head down, but now, he held his head high. He was in his element.
He had been fascinated by technology ever since he was just a foal. Unfortunately for him, the pickings were slim in the tribe- the only technology available was either old world tech that had been salvaged and heavily modified or improvised from materials on hand centuries ago. Jigsaw didn’t mind, however. He simply invented. Before he had even reached adulthood, he had built a water-clock that also purified sediment- something invaluable in the caves. This had caught the attention of the tribunal, which had put him in the water management department- quite prestigious for such a young pony.
He quickly climbed through the ranks due to his brilliant sense of machinery- he simply seemed to understand subtleties that other ponies didn’t. It wasn’t all fun and games, though. He had had several run-ins with terrible creatures, and sometimes all the people under his command didn’t make it out with him. Over time, he turned from a happy, upbeat young unicorn to a cold and sarcastic head of water management.
“Jigsaw...” Tiptoe said, walking along side him. “This is great, and everything, but if we can’t get back to the tribe, it doesn’t really matter, does it?”
Jigsaw turned to Tiptoe and stared at her quizzically, as if he had forgotten that she was there. Then his eyes seemed to get wide and he broke out in the largest smile she had ever seen. He pointed over her shoulder with his horn.
“How about we take that?”
He was pointing at the subway car.
“Jigsaw, you’re insane! That... thing... must have been here since the cataclysm! There’s no way it works, and even if it did, we have no idea where it would take us! Not back to the tribe, that’s for sure!”
Jigsaw seemed to find the younger pony’s incredulity amusing. He raised an eyelash and gave Tiptoe a playful smile.
“You doubt the mighty Jigsaw?”
Tiptoe just stared back, her face unchanged.
The smile fell of Jigsaw’s face.
“Okay, look. It’s the same choice that we had at the door. We can either keep going, or stay here and starve to death. And I can get the car going. I know I can.”
Tiptoe sighed. “If my wings weren’t so sore, I’d slap you right now.” She smiled in spite of herself.
Jigsaw chuckled and said “Oh, Tiptoe, what would I do without you?”
“You would have drowned. Or been eaten by a sea serpent,” Tiptoe thought. She followed Jigsaw anyway.
Jigsaw pried the door open and walked inside the ancient compartment. Faded advertisements lined the ceiling of the car. Jigsaw felt like a foal in a sugarcube store- the wealth of knowledge in this room was almost unthinkable!
He trotted into the driver’s area and looked at the console. It seemed to be mostly intact- a couple of the buttons had fallen off, but mostly alright otherwise. He touched his horn to the console. Instantly, the layout of the car appeared apparent to him- and there were a lot of problems. Rusted over gears, unconnected wires, bolts having been disintegrated over the march of the interregnum since the Great Cataclysm.
“Looks like I’ve got my work cut out for me here.” Jigsaw muttered to himself.
Tiptoe gasped in wonder as the entire car appeared to be encased in a swirling ball of blue light. She looked in to see Jigsaw’s horn was spewing off a brighter blue light than she had ever seen. Inside the car, time itself seemed to be moving backwards. Tears in the fabric on the chairs restitched itself, the metal seemed to regain its luster, the cracks in the glass healed. Metal objects from around the station flew up and appeared to bend themselves into complicated shapes, then fly under the carriage to attach themselves to some unknown mechanism.
The blue light faded from Jigsaw’s horn, and he collapsed and slumped forwards on to the control panel. Tiptoe ran up to him.
“Jigsaw! Jigsaw are you okay?”
His eyes fluttered open. “I’m fine, I just did a rather large spell there. I might be out of it for a while.”
Tiptoe looked around the compartment. Lights were flicking on and some large mechanism was whirring into life. With a jerk and a screech, the car began to move forwards.
“You can do all that, but you can’t fix my sprained wing?” She said, laughing.
“Machines are easier than ponies. Now, if you don’t mind, I’d like to rest for a while.”
Tiptoe led him over to one of the rows of seats, which he promptly climbed upon and fell asleep. Tiptoe climbed onto the row next to him and closed her eyes, too.