• Published 27th Nov 2011
  • 14,443 Views, 278 Comments

The Dread Chitin - Karazor

Dimension travelling with Twilight Sparkle and Rainbow Dash

  • ...

Chapter 3

Chapter 3

After Twilight dropped off to sleep, Rainbow Dash spent a few moments trying to tear up one of the remaining chair cushions in an attempt to make a bandage, but whatever they were made out of was unbelievably tough and despite her efforts stubbornly refused to tear. Rainbow gnawed on her lip some more (I'm gonna chew my lip off at this rate!) but there wasn't much more she could do at this point. She wasn't bleeding as badly as she had been, but she thought she'd lost a lot of blood by now, and the way that it kept dripping off her forehoof was getting really distracting. Plus, it was making a heck of a mess on the floor. Not to mention it was going to be a nightmare to get out of her feathers.

Trying to ignore the leaking blood (at least it wasn't hurting as much anymore) and cramping wing, Rainbow refilled her mug and sat down in the doorway, watching the badlands to make sure nothing was creeping up on her and her sleeping friend. She made sure to locate the large red button that the metal thing had told her would shut the door, in case she needed it, and spent a couple of moments peering at the small collection of buttons underneath it, each embossed with a number. She had no idea what those were supposed to do, so she decided not to mess with them. Instead she sat sipping at the mug of water, (which was easier said than done; her hooves had a little trouble gripping the smooth, uniformly curved surface) her fatigue finally catching up to her now that she wasn't terrified or fighting for her life and making her a bit wobbly. She wanted to do something, to get out and find out where they were, or find something they could eat, but a combination of growing weariness and an awareness of her own… currently reduced abilities kept her in place.

She'd been sitting there for about ten minutes, as far as she could tell, watching the badlands and listening to Twilight snore softly, when she thought she saw something move at the base of the nearest hill. Her head spun a bit as she heaved herself to her feet. She nearly stepped out to look, but a moment of thought made her reconsider; she'd be leaving Twilight helpless, and if something charged the door, she could always close it. Instead, she stood just inside the doorframe, trying to spot the motion again, poised to rear up and hit the door button if she had to.

After only a few moments, a familiar bipedal figure stood up from where it had apparently frozen in place while coming around the hill, turned around and started loping toward the door. Looking closer, Rainbow realized why it had been so hard to spot until it had moved; it had changed color to perfectly match the badland rocks! Even as she watched, its reddish-brown mottled surface faded into the smooth, nonreflective black she'd seen before. She hurriedly backpedaled out of the doorway, but the metal thing stopped just before stepping in. Spinning around, it tucked the long, sticklike object it still carried into its shoulder, pointing the tube end at the horizon and slowly sweeping it around. Evidently satisfied that nothing was following it, the creature lowered its… whatever it was carrying, stepped inside, and quickly pressed a couple of buttons with embossed numbers that caused the heavy-looking door to swing soundlessly shut and the red light over the inner door to turn green.

"Hey, metalhead, this place safe?" Rainbow asked.

"Yes," the metal figure answered tersely, doing something complicated-looking with the implement in its hands. It pulled a couple of levers, flipped up the top of the object, and removed the large box attached to the middle, which Rainbow could now see was filled with short, thick, pointed sticks of polished brass. Setting both the mysterious tool and the box it had removed from it on one of the room's storage racks, it paced smoothly into a corner. This close, and with no wind to interfere with her hearing, Rainbow noticed that the creature made an odd, quiet, mechanical whining noise with each motion. Even though it stepped lightly, the deep, heavy thud she heard with each footstep sounded like it weighed a lot.

"Um, hey, listen, I got sliced pretty bad back there," Rainbow began, trying to be as diplomatic as possible as the metal creature stopped in the corner and turned smoothly to face away from the wall. "And I really do appreciate your help, but I could really, really use a bandage or something. Do you have…?" She was interrupted by a series of clicks coming from its arms and legs, and sharp hiss emanating from the neck and chest of the creature. Did you just interrupt me again, you gigantic jerk? As she was about to verbally tear a strip off of the biped, she was stunned to see its head fold up and back, and its chest fold open. Inside, she saw its actual face for the first time.

Woah. I was sure that it was made of metal! That's some kind of suit? That's… actually kind of awesome.

Underneath the metal mask, the creature had a flat, soft-skinned face, with a small nose that seemed like an absentminded addition. It didn't have a proper forelock or mane, instead it had short, light brown hair covering the top of its head and wrapping around its jaw, chin and mouth. The hair thinned around its cheeks and jaw line, and got thicker around its chin. Save for dark eyebrows, it had no hair on its forehead or nose at all, or around its eyes, and Rainbow wondered if the patchy hair meant that it was sick. Its small eyes were set below the bony ridge its eyebrows sat upon, and they were an odd color Rainbow hadn't seen before; a sort of greenish blue. It had what looked like a couple of really ugly scars, too, one across its forehead and one slicing through the hair on its face from just below its left eye down to its neck. Its face, framed by large, shell-like ears, was oddly immobile, and she couldn't read its expression.

The creature inside the suit wriggled slightly, and Rainbow realized it was struggling to get out.

"Hey, do you need help?" It didn't respond. Of course, Rainbow thought grumpily. Fine, if you don't want help, I'm not gonna help you. After a few moments of struggling, it managed to free an arm, and reached up to grab the heavy bar the pegasus had noticed earlier. Thus anchored, it was able to free its other arm and pull itself out of the suit, which continued to stand in place like a hollow statue. The actual creature swung forward on the bar, landing heavily in front of the empty metal suit.

Outside of its metal shell, the creature was much less imposing. It was much less bulky, for one thing, with an almost wiry build. Its arms were shorter than they had been in the suit, and Rainbow realized that its hands would actually rest in the suit's forearms. The hands drew her attention; its fingers were long and flexible, much more so than Spike's. The left one was encased in fabric, but the right one was bare and hairless, and she wondered if the thing had any hair at all below the neck. The creature was wearing a kind of one-piece dark green article of clothing over its entire body, so it was kind of hard to tell. Its clothing was slightly rumpled and covered with pockets, and though it looked clean she could smell a faint trace of sweat.

The biped stepped forward silently, kneeling next to Dash. Unnerved, she shied back a pace and turned to face it, but it when it leaned to the side, craning its neck, she realized it was trying to examine her injury. Up close, she noticed deep bags under its eyes, and wondered if that was the same indicator of fatigue in whatever its species was as it would have been on a pony. It reached a hand forward slowly, easing the wrist of her wing away from the wound. Blood poured out again, and she clamped her wing back down with a hiss of indrawn breath.

The creature had apparently seen what it needed to, as it nodded and straightened abruptly, turning toward the inner door. The door whisked aside as the creature approached, and it briskly walked out, the door shutting again soundlessly behind it.

"Hey… hey! Where are you going? Dang it, would you talk to me for just a second?" Dash yelled at the creature's back before the door shut. She hesitated for a moment, torn between following the biped to try and get… well, more than one word out of it, and staying with the slumbering Twilight. Glancing at the outside door, Rainbow saw that it now sported a red light where the green one had been before, and when she shoved at it, it didn't move at all. Hopefully, that meant it was locked, which would mean Twilight should be safe even without Dash watching her.

Trotting up to the inner door, Dash wondered what the biped had done to get it to open, but as it turned out she didn't need to do anything. At her approach, the door moved silently out of her way just as it had for the biped earlier, withdrawing into the wall. She found herself in a short hallway, with a series of signs in front of her pointing in various directions and several doors, and no sign of the biped. The hall bent at a right angle on each end, leading deeper into the mountain. The signs were clearly readable, pointing to locations like "Mess Hall," "Engineering," "Infirmary," "Armory," and a number of others.

"Hey! Where'd you go?" she shouted, but only echoes and silence answered.

Well, maybe the infirmary would have something she could use to patch herself up. Dash turned to follow the arrow on the sign, when the label on one of the nearby doors caught her attention. "Commander's Office."

Dash was torn. On the one hoof, she needed to get her bleeding stopped, and hopefully clean some of the caked blood from her coat and feathers. On the other, she kind of wanted to see if she could corner the stranger and strangle some words out of it or something, and someplace labeled "Commander's Office" seemed like a decent place to start looking.

Irritation won out over self-preservation this time, as happened to Dash occasionally, and she walked up to the door, which slid obediently out of the way just as the last one had. Inside, the room was dimly lit and almost as Spartan as the first room she'd entered. A small desk sat in the middle, with charts and maps hanging on the wall. An odd, flat glass screen, like an empty picture frame, sat on the desk, but that wasn't what caught the pegasus's attention. Sitting on the side of the desk, under a small electric lamp, was a badly battered, dusty notebook. She noticed it because it was out of place; this place seemed all gleaming metal and glass, and here sat a humble-looking, battered, thick little book.

Dash wasn't a particularly big reader. She always kept herself current on developments in weather alteration and planning, as well as devouring every volume she'd ever found on aerodynamics, but aside from her particular interests she didn't read much. The little notebook intrigued her, though, so she hopped up on the desk chair, blew a layer of dust off of the book, and flipped the cover open. And besides, if I can't find the thing, and it won't let me ask for a bucking bandage, then at least I can bleed all over its nice neat office and chair! The vindictive thought ran through her mind as she bent over to read the first page.

It was written in an astonishingly neat style, much more readable than Spike's typical attempts. The letters were small, blocky, and precise, and Rainbow found herself wondering if Twilight would try to recruit the thing as her scribe. Once she woke up, of course, and assuming their "host" was the one who had written it.

Expedition Journal of Duran Thirk, Entry One:

Well, it seems my colleagues were correct. The artifact did indeed have an anti-tampering mechanism built in. Should I see them again, I shall savor the taste of crow. Or perhaps it was just unstable and blew up when I tried to test it, which honestly seems more likely. I shall continue to maintain that the paranoid security precautions insisted upon by procedure are completely unnecessary, though I must ruefully admit that my current circumstance would probably shoot my own argument in the foot.

That's a weird phrase, Dash thought to herself, sprouting plants in your foot? She continued to read.

Regardless, the chaotic Rift generated by the artifact seems to have deposited me… elsewhere. Here, specifically, wherever "here" might be. The handful of pieces of monitoring equipment pulled through the vortex with me detects nothing; no thaumic signatures, no radio frequency emissions, no act

Expedition Journal of Duran Thirk, Entry Two:

My previous entry was rudely interrupted by the arrival of a veritable horde of nasty, furry, toothy little things. While I was able to improvise a club from part of a lab bench that followed me through the rift and thus drive them off, I find myself a bit gnawed, and I do hope they weren't carrying anything nasty. I realize that a proper scientist would jot down some kind of phylogenic notes or whatnot, but I am an arcane engineer, not a biologist! I've no idea what the cursed things were! Nor do I know what the much, much larger creature that showed up shortly thereafter was, save that it was also unpleasantly toothy and that it didn't run as fast as I do! My current resources are thus: One (1) slightly battered bench leg, now lightly stained with small-furry-toothy-thing blood. One (1) thaumic resonator. Now broken and thoroughly useless, thanks to Mr. Big And Toothy. One (1) radio receiver. Working, though likely never again to play the sweet, sweet songs of Deiranys. Two (2) halfcoins that I'd intended to use for my midday beverage. Also now useless. One (1) high-page-count lab notebook that you, hypothetical reader, doubtless already realize I have. Four (4) pencils, unbroken. Six (6) ink pens, two each of red, green, and black. All full. Assorted (several) pieces of metal debris I may be able to transmute into a knife. And one (1) high-quality engineer brain, flush with the eagerness of youth, somewhat underutilized and underappreciated! (If I cannot praise myself in my own journal, dear hypothetical reader, I despair for the fate of the world… whichever one I'm in!) As to where I am, I suspect that the wild Rift tossed me to a world somewhat beyond the normally-travelled boundaries of the Imperium. As I am an arcane engineer, not a Rift theorist nor a Rift manipulator, I shall be entirely unable to return the way I arrived. My best option appears to be simply surviving; if I am fortunate, an explorer vessel will happen upon this world sometime within my lifespan.

I… do hope I am fortunate. Hopefully, I shall be able to hold myself together whilst I wait. I shall further endeavor to keep a log of my adventure (Ha! Imagine! Me, on an adventure! How my colleagues will laugh!) Either I shall be recovered, in which case I can publish this and become fabulously wealthy, (and then I will assuredly be the one laughing!) or I shall die out here. In the latter case, perhaps someone, similarly marooned, will find this log, and perhaps it will help them survive and avoid whatever mistake proves to be my last.

Rainbow reached the end of the first page. Was this… this wordy, quirky fellow the same individual as the sullen, taciturn creature she'd encountered? Worse, she hadn't even considered the idea that she and Twilight might have been wound up in an entirely different world than Equestria. She'd have to ask her host if it'd seen anypony in the time he'd been here. The thought led her to wonder whether she preferred to think that the nameless biped was a later version of this Duran Thirk, or whether Duran had died somewhere, and the creature that had rescued her and Twilight had simply found the journal and decided to keep it.

Hesitantly, she flipped to the back of the book, but the last page was blank. She flipped back through the pages, finding the last entry. The small, blunt nub of a pencil fell out of the book where it had been tucked at the end of the text.

The contrast was unsettling. Where before the writing had been almost painfully neat and legible, here it scrawled and looped, with many letters overrunning one another and with the spaces between words proving hard to see. Rainbow scanned the page until she found the beginning of the final entry, hoping it would give her a clue as to whether Duran was still alive or not.

Journal of Duran Thirk. Entry whatever, ? days after previous entry

I don't think there's any point to my keeping this anymore. I don't know how long I've been here, now. Years, certainly, but how many? I've to date found no one living, only hordes of voracious predatory beasts, though this base proves that someone else was here before me. I can't praise them enough; finding this place has kept me alive. I also can't curse them enough; finding this place has kept me alive. What little of their personal records I've been able to access tells me they were stranded here, same as me, though I have no idea what happened to them. The stuff they left behind is amazing; weapons, armor, tools, even vehicles, though those don't work. And none of it magical! I can use it all without drawing the beasts! I was even able to replace my lost arm with an artificial one. Not that it helps much. I think I messed up when I installed it; it just doesn't seem to work right. This place is eating me piece by piece, my arm is just the largest one so far. In the quiet, in this empty base, I can feel my mind slipping away; it runs to happier places sometimes. Sometimes, I even see Lyssa alive again. With no one real to talk to, it's been harder and harder to bring it back. I'd hoped that writing this, addressing it to some hypothetical reader in the future, would help me keep myself sane, but I don't think it's working. I find myself talking to people that aren't there. Two days ago, I realized I'd made and set out five meals on the table in the mess, and I have no idea who I thought the other four were for. I'm running out of pages, anyway. No one's ever going to read this. I'm going to die here. Alone.

This is my final entry. I'm not dead yet, though. I'll keep living through sheer stubborn meanness. I'll be damned if this place will kill me without a fight. If someone is actually reading this, get yourself off of this hell-world any way you can.

Oh, merciful Celestia. Maybe it was the same individual. Rainbow shuddered at the thought of being stranded on a hostile world for long enough to start talking to ponies that weren't there. Years? She started flipping pages, glancing at the header for each entry. The more recent ones all had "?" as the time interval, but the older ones had numbers. Three days since previous entry… seven days since previous entry… five days since previous entry… some of them were only a line or two; there was a lot of time represented here, and she noticed then that the office had been dusted, save for a the journal itself. In fact, it looked like someone had carefully dusted around the journal, as if they didn't want to disturb it. As if they didn't want to remember, maybe? Dash wondered. She noticed she was having trouble thinking of the biped as an "it" now, having read its (his, maybe?) thoughts. The voice had sounded masculine, sure, but so had Fluttershy's that one time, and the yellow pegasus mare was pretty definitely not male.

Eh, heck with it. He's gonna be a 'he' as far as I'm concerned 'till I find out otherwise. If I'm wrong it'll be embarrassing, but I'll live.

Rainbow heard footsteps out in the hall. Somewhat guiltily, she got down off the now-bloodstained chair and went out the door. The door opened soundlessly as they seemed to always do, and she stepped out into the hall. She saw the biped walking briskly back to the anteroom where Twilight was still sleeping, a flat case held in one hand and a cylinder that looked vaguely like a hypodermic without the needle in the other. Rainbow didn't say anything, wondering what the stuff he was carrying was for, and just followed along quietly in his wake. The biped stepped into the anteroom and stopped short. Rainbow, following quietly behind him, saw him look at Twilight still sleeping on the pile of cushions, look around the room, then look at the things he was carrying with an air of confusion.

(Two days ago, I realized I'd made and set out five meals on the table in the mess, and I have no idea who I thought the other four were for.)

"Hey," Dash said, through a throat that was suddenly constricted.

Duran (she no longer doubted that was his name) turned around, catching sight of her. He looked at her, and then looked down at the things in his hands again. A slight smile marred the immobile mask of his face, and he gestured for her to go past him.