• Published 14th Apr 2017
  • 2,749 Views, 135 Comments

To Outlast - Camolot the Creator

Matt has always wished to visit the world of Equestria. He finally makes it, only to find an empty world barren of life. What happened? Where is everypony?

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VI: Pitch

I froze there for a moment, staring, sparks of fear, confusion and panic circulating in my head. Some part of me noticed that, incredibly fortunately, that the creature was not looking in my direction. Instead, it was sniffing the ground, tracing its way about the center yard of the small base, seeming to be searching for something. If I could step back into the building, I would be able to work my way towards the back of the building and back to one of the offices. They hadn't been much, but they'd had steel doors at least, and that would serve well with a proper barricade-

All thought froze in place as the door, which I'd forgotten in my panicked reaction, bounced against the concrete wall with the same loud bang that it had made when it had hit that same wall before. I went ridged as the wolf's head snapped towards me, black eyes like swirling tar in its socket as it drew its lips back from its teeth in a snarl... and looked straight through me.

My panic, which had caused me to bring up the barrel of the rifle to at least get a few shots off to perhaps discourage the beast or at least wound it, faded slightly as I realized that it had looked at me and moved on, not even appearing to note my presence. It approached a few steps, sniffed the air, then made a huffing sound and turned away without even sparing me a glance. It appeared to not even acknowledge my presence outside of the loud sound.

As it turned from me, slowly and carefully reached out and took the handle of the door, slowly swinging it shut and latching it in place. I locked it for good measure, then collapsed with my back to it, sucking down breath after breath as I held the assault rifle close, eyes wide. What in the seven hells had that been? What was it even doing here? Had it followed the sound of the door slamming against the outside wall, or had it somehow smelled me? No, some part of me said, it hadn't been that last one. After all, had it been attracted by scent, then it surely would have seen me and made a beeline for me. Without the pressing threat being right in front of me, it occurred to me that part of my fear had been the fact that the creature, whatever it had been, felt fundamentally wrong.

It hadn't moved as an animal would. It had been gaunt thin, unnaturally so, with ribs showing on its black fur, which had appeared more like a poor mimicry than a true coat. Indeed, from what little I'd seen, its movements had been stilted and unnaturally stiff, as if it had only seen a wolf move a few times before and was poorly imitating it from memory.

I sat there for a moment, back against the door to the building, rifle in hand. My breathing slowed, little by little, as nothing slammed into the steel shield that was between me and the courtyard. Eventually, ever so carefully, I braced myself against the surface and pushed myself up to the window set in the door, peeking over the edge of the frame.

The wolf had apparently lost interest in the noise. I noted that it appeared to be sniffing around the edges of the trapped jeep, investigating the black smear marks there. After a moment, it seemed to dismiss them and, with a snuff and a shuffle, move away and towards the entrance. I watched as it made its way through and out of sight.

I stayed there for a while longer, watching carefully out the window for any sign of the thing, waiting as the minutes ticked by. Five, ten, fifteen... surely it was gone now? My gaze went down to the slightly rusted door handle, swallowing and realizing that my mouth was suddenly very dry. My left hand came up, the right taking the grip of the rifle in hand and pressing the cushioned stock in close to my shoulder, finger wrapped around the trigger. I pushed the door open just enough to get the barrel of the rifle through, then switched my left hand back to the slightly recessed grip along the bottom of the heat guard, pushing the door open with the rifle itself.

The courtyard was empty as it had been when I arrived, no sign of the mystery creature remaining and no indicator that it had ever been here left behind. Regardless, I kept the rifle shouldered and ready until I reached the maintenance bay door and sealed it behind me: finally feeling at least a little safe from whatever that had been, I lowered the rifle again with a shuddering breath. My legs shook and wobbled slightly, feeling almost like rubber, but I shook my head fiercely and stood straight. I still wasn't safe, not here- from what I'd seen, I'd say that one of those... things... had burst through the door of the security post that guarded the entrance of the compound with ease. The door to the maintenance area was a lot more robust than that door, being made of steel, but I was unwilling to take chances. This meant that I needed to get that door open, if only so I could take shelter behind it when I closed it again.

I slung the rifle over my shoulder and flicked my phone's light on again, quickly passing through the bay without sparing it another glance. The door to the security room swung open easily at my touch, and I made to go to the computer... then paused as something occurred to me. Obviously, if I kept using my phone as a light, I couldn't properly wield the rifle: however, this was a military base from the looks of things, so they'd most likely have some weapons attachments scattered about. Finding one that even WORKED would be a bit of a long shot, but I wasn't exactly in a time crunch, so I might as well.

Phone in hand, I opened the doors to the smaller rooms and began poking around. Most of the lockers were filled with the same sort of things that littered the desks in the administrative areas: souvenirs, mementos, little bits and bobs and knick knacks. A letter from a family member, a good luck charm, a rifle round with a pattern engraved on it. All of these people, ponies, griffons, and all the rest... they were gone. Vanished, or dead. I wavered slightly as a vision of the bottom of the trench flickered through my mind, swallowing deeply. Hopefully, I could keep the same from happening to me.

After some searching, I finally hit a success. A large locker opened up to reveal a collection of weapons, some pistols, two rifles and a number of attachments that looked to be compatible with either. Lasers, rangefinders, holographic sights- ah! Taclights! I reached in and pulled one out, blinking in slight surprise at the small contacts that adorned the spot where it had rested, and made to close the locker. My hand grasped the handle, then hesitated a moment as I rethought. Quickly, I reached in, grabbing a single pistol and a holster for it, then taking another taclight for it and sliding the locker shut.

I moved to a nearby steel table, grimacing at the mound of dust that had collected on it. After a moment of thinking, I retrieved a nearby tarp which was thankfully intact and made something of a makeshift tablecloth out of it, placing the pistol and second taclight down on the slightly shiny surface, along with my still-on phone. Now, it was time to take a closer look at the light.

The thing was a steel box, rectangular, with an obvious slot for the rails on a weapon. A quick release button adorned the side, as well as two different switches- curious. On the end that was meant to point down the weapon were not one, but two indents that contained bulbs, most likely controlled separately by the two switches. One appeared to be some manner of LED, something strangely recognizable here, but the other looked to be a tiny shard of crystal that glimmered and sparkled ever so slightly in the meager light given off by my phone's flash. As I ran my hands across the side, my fingertips suddenly dragged across a seam in the side opposite the switches. Turning it over and looking closer, I realized that it appeared to be a small hatch, with some indents in the steel providing grip.

I made a faint humming sound. Obviously, this was the battery hatch. Most likely, it would be a good idea to check the condition of the batteries, in order to make sure that they hadn't moldered in the time this place had been abandoned. Pressing my fingers into it, I slid it to the side, blinking in surprise as the object that it hid and contained was revealed.

A square block of crystal, clear as glass, fitted into a tiny frame with a number of wires leading off of it. Looking closer, I realized that the positive and negative wires each burrowed into an opposite side of the rectangular prism, attached to contacts that went deeper into the crystal. The most surprising thing, however, was how it glowed a soft shade of luminescent blue, rather like a glowstick. I poked it a couple times, pulling back with a jerk both times, but thankfully it did nothing more than keep glowing in that same shade and luminescence. Opening the other light, I confirmed that it was exactly the same: a small rectangular prism of crystal, wires leading out of it, glowing a soft blue. Obviously, this was the Equestrian answer to batteries.

I inhaled a breath, leaning back as I eyed the two little glowing things. Computers, high-resolution screens, operating systems that were highly advanced, automatic cartridge-based, mass-manufactured weapons, an obvious electrical grid... the more that I discovered about this Equestria, the less it resembled the one in the show, the one I knew. That had been an Equestria of peace and love and Harmony... this had been an Equestria of war and strife, but also of frankly incredible scientific advancement. From what I'd seen and what was here, they had been around the level of the early to mid thousands by the... well, the end, and all the way from more or less a Victorian level of advancement, much faster than how we humans had managed to do it. Of course, they'd had the advantage of magic the entire time, and obviously access to crystalline elements that were not present on Earth that had obviously sped their rate of advancement.

I inhaled sharply as I realized what this called to mind. A different Equestria, an alternate one that we'd once been shown back when Starlight had interfered with time and Twilight had had to chase her through a number of different and distinct timelines. Specifically, however, I was thinking of one with a Rainbow Dash that had a bionic wing, that had seen Equestria in a war bad enough to turn it militarized and industrialized... the war with the Crystal Empire. The war with Sombra.

Except, in the end... Equestria hadn't been losing. It'd been something of a stalemate, from what we'd seen in the show, perhaps Equestria's newly-advanced tech giving them the edge against Sombra's forces and logistics, both of which were about a thousand years out of date. Here, however, they'd fought a war and, from every indication I could find, they'd lost. But what, or who, had they fought against? I'd seen the wolf outside. Perhaps that had been a henchman of the villain? If that was the case, why wasn't I seeing a version of the Crystal Empire, with pony slaves in chains lined up everywhere and doing things? Where were they all?

I splayed my hands across the tarp, staring at the glowing crystal intently. Whatever answers I wanted, there was a very good chance they were just beyond that door. I was armed, I had the passkeys, I was ready as I was ever going to be... now was my chance to answer some of my questions, find out why I'd been sent here.

In a few quick movements, I slotted a light onto both weapons and clipped the pistol's holster at my waist. I flicked one switch on the light, frowning and flicking it back as it did nothing, then tried the other. A cone of light poured out of the thing, much brighter than my phone's little lamp. I shut off my phone, taking the rifle in two hands and making my way back to the door to the little locker room, pushing it wide open.

The taps of my shoes on concrete echoed slightly through the space, puffs of dust left floating in my wake as I moved with purpose to the computer desk. A quick flick of the mouse woke the machine from sleep, showing the very same screen that I'd left it on before I had gone searching for the admin card. I confirmed Gilded's password, filling out the second line and hitting enter. Another small window came up, this one with an animation that showed ID cards being swiped through a simplified reader.

I brought up Gilded's ID first, seeing as it had been the first password of the two that had needed to be entered, and swiped it, waiting a moment before switching to the next. However, the machine showed no response to the card being swiped, not even to deny it or read out an error. I turned the card this way and that, but it wasn't bent and the magnetic strip seemed relatively intact, which was almost miraculous considering where it had been. Alright then, I thought, no faults with the card must mean there's something wrong with the reader.

And it turned out that there was. Just picking the thing up and turning it on its side produced a plume of falling dust that had caught in the groove that the cards were supposed to slide through. I reeled back in surprise, dropping the device and taking a number of steps back, shocked at the sheer volume of it. I waited for a moment for the dust to settle again, then stepped forward and, much more carefully this time, proceeded to knock some of the dust out of the thing.

A small pile quickly formed atop the already-present layer of dust coating parts of the desk, but thankfully the clouds of dust weren't as bad as they'd been before. Hoping that I'd removed enough of the grime from the thing that it would now function as intended, I placed the scanner back down next to the monitor and swiped Gilded's card once again. I waited a tense moment, staring at a small indicator box next to the name in the window, breathing a sigh of relief as it lit up green. Really, I was thankful that I hadn't had to track down some sort of supplies room for a replacement scanner. Honestly, it was impressive and a mark of exceptional design and manufacturing that any of this stuff worked at all.

With both cards swiped, the lockdown lifted, previously red areas on the digital map flashing green before returning to the same neutral white as the rest of the compound. I hovered the mouse over the part of the map that was a representation of the blast door behind me, a softly glowing box that opened up a small window, with two simple commands: open, and close. I hovered the cursor over the 'open' button and clicked once.

I jumped about two feet as a low grumble started, resonating throughout the silent hall and security booth. Spinning and pointing the rifle with its flashlight behind me, I watched as the heavy hazard-lining-adorned bulkhead retracted into the ceiling until it sat near flush. At that moment, the rumbling ceased, everything returning to silence in the absence of the work of the machinery that had filled it but a moment before. I found myself almost wanting to start the closing process and open the door again just to dispel the silence, but I shook off the odd urge and shouldered my rifle, making my way towards the black maw that led deeper into the compound.

Really, I just hoped that there wouldn't be any spiders.

Author's Note:

Depression and anxiety are just amazing, especially when they entirely kill your desire and intention to write. Well, this is up now, so that's better.