Chapter 5: Ghost’s in the machine
The ponies stood looking out of a gaping hole where a room had once been. Across from them they could see where the exit door from the room still remained.
“…and there’s no other way round?” Rainbow asked continuing their conversation.
“Not according to the map, the first generator should be just down the hall beyond that” Twilight indicated the half open door across the void.
“Well it’s no problem for me and Fluttershy, but the rest of you? Unless you could teleport over there” Rainbow said, stating something Twilight already knew.
“There’s no way I can teleport here, it takes a vast amount of magic to just teleport myself! Let alone anypony else” Twilight answered. She would have been exasperated at having to repeat her explanations if Rainbow hadn’t been such a good friend. “Rainbow, could you fly over there and see is there’s anything we could use as a bridge? A long panel or possibly a length of cable?” she asked.
“Can do Twi” Rainbow Dash saluted Twilight then jumped into the void. At the apex of her leap she unfurled her wings and soared over the rest of the gap.
‘Always the show off’ Twilight thought to herself smiling.
Rainbow dash alighted on the corridor floor just beyond the gap between the sliding doors on the far side of the void. The hall was dark other than the dim red light spilling from the open doors along it. Rainbow proceeded along the hall with caution, starting at the slightest sound more often than not from her own hooves. Halfway along the corridor a new sound suddenly met her ears. The noise was of an electronic system sparking from a dark alcove a few feet ahead, she could see an intermittent red beam emanating from the alcove as well. It had started flickering as she had approached. Rainbow stopped dead in her tracks, terrifying thoughts of what could be in that alcove flashing across her mind.
Suddenly a broken voice sounded from the alcove “hello…*bzzt*…s anyo… *fzzt* …there?” what could be heard of the voice through the broken system was childlike friendly and slightly robotic. The friendliness of the voice did nothing to calm Rainbow’s rapidly beating heart and just made the sound even creepier and out of place. Rainbow flattened herself to the wall breathing heavily. The voice had sent a chill up her spine, something else was in here with her! Something hiding in the darkness, waiting for her! There was loud bang and shower of sparks from the alcove and the proximity activated laser failed for the last time.
Rainbow waited pressed to the wall for several moments before she picked up enough courage to investigate the alcove, imagining all sorts of terrible creatures that could be lurking there, waiting for her. Poking her head around the corner she saw what was there. What she saw was remarkably similar to the probe that had hit her from through the portal back in Equestria, only it was much bigger and more elongated. The device was on its side leaning against the alcove, had it been upright it would have been Rainbows height. It was white with a single black eye in the centre of an elongated egg shaped section; it was supported on three black spindly legs and was now silent and motionless though there was some smoke still rising from it. Rainbow gingerly poked it with a hoof and apart from rocking slightly it remained motionless.
‘It’s just a broken machine’ Rainbow told herself ‘a broken machine that had one burst of life left’ she almost laughed at herself, she had been afraid of little more than a box on legs. She left the machine where it lay and continued on down the corridor towards the first doorway. Though she didn’t know it, it would not be the last time she encountered one of those machines.
On the other side of the gap Twilight was pacing up and down the corridor while the other ponies sat.
“What could be taking her so long” Twilight said sounding worried.
“She probably just can’t find anything yet, don’t worry sugercube, RD knows how to handle herself.” Applejack tried to comfort the pacing unicorn but with little effect.
“Yes, I’m sure there’s nothing to worry about darling” Rarity stated “Dash knows a thing or two”
“Or three!” Pinkie added, trying in her own way to be helpful.
“I’m sure she’s ok” Fluttershy said softly.
The first few rooms Rainbow checked contained nothing of any value; it was not until the fourth that she found what she had been seeking. A long, thick cable that had fallen off a large machine. Rainbow dragged the cable behind her and headed for the door.
Twilight was relieved to see the figure of Rainbow Dash appear at the opening across the void, it had been almost half an hour since they had last seen her and even the other ponies had started to get worried.
“Hey Rainbow are you ok? It’s been ages” Twilight called across the gap.
“I ran in to some kind of talking machine that scared me half to death but it broke before I got that near” Rainbow shouted back.
“It’s probably something we should expect around a place like this” Twilight responded. “Before we were frozen I heard some of the machines talk, they must have been very sophisticated in their day some incredible advances. They seemed to have had some kind of advanced artificial intelligence. They may even have been close to sentient but after two centuries anything that complex would be damaged with just the ghost of life left.” Twilight explained, trying to reassure the others and herself.
“Ghost’s in the machine” Pinkie said ominously.
“Pinkie! That’s not helping” Applejack scolded the pink mare.
“Did you find something we can use?” Twilight asked getting back to the task at hoof.
In answer Rainbow picked up one end of the cable in her mouth and flew over to the other side of the gap, she tied the end onto a support just beneath the pony’s door. She had already secured the other end while Twilight was talking. “You’ll have to balance across but me and Fluttershy can fly above each of you and hold you up”
In truth Twilight hated the idea but it was their only option so she did not voice her objections. “Ok, I’ll go first then”
Once all the ponies had crossed the gap they continued on down the hall Rainbow had previously searched, stopping only so Twilight could examine the strange machine Rainbow had spoken about.
The entrance to the reactor room lay at the very end of the hall. The room was large and filled with all sorts of machinery all covered in rust and debris, and had obviously not seen use in decades. The main part of the machine was shaped like a giant metal doughnut; it lay on its side in the centre of the room. There was some kind of vine growing across one corner centred around a light fixture that Twilight assumed must have been lit until they drained the last of the backup power. Most of the walls were covered with controls and displays, all of which were blank. At one end of the room was an open metal cabinet with all sorts of tools and other objects spilling out.
One object in particular caught twilight’s eye, it was a book, or rather what remained of one. Twilight rushed over to have a look and despite the extensive damage the title was still legible ‘Aperture Science fusion powered nuclear reactor maintenance manual’. Twilight could not believe their luck; they had found the very thing they would need to be able to fix the reactors! She then realised that it was not luck, but common sense that these biped creatures had kept a book like this in here, there would probably be a copy of it in every reactor room so that in case of a problem they would be able to refer to it without having to go too far.
“What is it Twi?” Applejack asked seeing the grin appearing on her friends face.
“It’s a book that should have everything we need to fix the reactor!” Twilight answered still grinning “just give me a while here and I’ll see what we can do” Twilight opened the book and started reading, occasionally putting it down to go check part of the machine. After about an hour she shut the book and broke the silence “ok then, I know how it should work, let’s see what it is doing”
The other ponies looked up; they had been lying down talking quietly amongst themselves for the past hour while Twilight read.
“Anything we can do Twi?” Applejack asked getting to her hooves.
“Could you go and watch the main display and tell me if anything happens?” Twilight asked, indicating one of the screens.
“Sure can do Twi” Applejack walked towards the display.
Twilight moved over to a control panel and started manipulating controls “Rainbow, could you pull that lever?” she called over her shoulder.
“Can do” Rainbow answered running over to the control.
The machine started to emit a growing whirring, coming back to life just before a grinding sound from one section signalled its shutdown again.
“Did you get anything on the screen Applejack?” Twilight called over the dying noise.
“It said ‘error code 113-b’ does that mean anything sugercube?” Applejack replied.
Twilight wandered over to a removable panel in the machine and telekinetically moved it out of her way; she disappeared into the hole for a good few minutes before backing out with a satisfied look on her face. “That should do it. Ok then, it’s going to take all of us to start this thing properly according to the book so, Rainbow you stay over there and pull that lever again when the indicator above lights up. Applejack you tell me if anything comes up on that display. Rarity, can you go over there and turn that handle when I say” Twilight indicated a valve attached to a circular machine. “Pinkie, I need you to flip each of those switches in sequence when Rarity has opened the valve” she tapped on a panel with a row of switches. “And Fluttershy, I need you to press that big red button up there” she indicated the button, out of reach without the use of wings.
Each pony moved into position as Twilight re-read a passage from the book. “Ok then everypony, I think I’ve got this. On three. One… two… three!” Twilight manipulated the control panel in front of her and after a moment the machine could be heard starting. Fluttershy pressed her button. “Ok Rarity, now!” Twilight called across the noise of the machine. Rarity turned the valve handle, allowing the pressure to build in the machine; Pinkie ran her hoof down the row of switched flicking each one. Several indicator needles moved from their rests for the first time in decades and started rising. “Rainbow, the lever!” Twilight called out. Rainbow pulled her lever and lights all over the facility flickered into life, many exploding in showers of sparks. Terminals in control panels and on desks across the complex burst into life running system checks. Far off in the Gate room one glass tube filled up to the top with a green liquid.
A male robotic voice rang out across the reactor chamber, above the sound of the machine. A voice the ponies hadn’t heard for over two hundred years “Aperture science Fusion reactor 11b operational. Aperture science facility main power levels at three point three three per cent”
“We did it!” Twilight said smiling, “we should just need to fix three more and at this rate we’ll be done in no time”.
Far off in the centre of the facility, as the ponies celebrated, something stirred from a century long slumber. In the gloom of the room a small red light blinked into life on the back of the machine suspended from the roof. The light spread out as other indicators came on along the machine, when the lights reached the eye in the front of the machine it started glowing yellow. GLaDOS span on her bearings as the lights in the room flickered into life. As her systems ran their various start up checks a bank of monitors burst into life at first all showed nothing but static but as power flowed throughout the facility. Slowly one by one the static was replaced by the feeds of the facility’s hundreds of security cameras.
“Backup power zero per cent, and reactor 11b repaired? Someone is in my facility” GLaDOS’s robotic voice rang out in the empty central room. The last of the monitors display cleared and showed the ponies congratulating Twilight on repairing the reactor. GLaDOS was slightly surprised by the sight of the ponies and this was not an emotion she was used to. Even after all these years she had suspected the intruder to have been Chell. She searched her database a full three times before she found what she was looking for, a report from the days when humans had run the facility.
“So these brightly pigmented creatures are from a different universe. I have little scientific data on this species, intolerable! There is only one thing to be done.” If GLaDOS had had a face she would have grinned. “Let the equine testing commence. For science.”