• Published 14th Apr 2017
  • 2,747 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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VII: Deepened

I licked my lips nervously as I stared down the black, gaping maw of the passageway. The beam of the light attached to the rifle didn't reach all the way down, not completely, but I could make out what appeared to be a T-junction much farther down, with coloured lines painted on the walls. I was vaguely reminded of Stargate SG-1, where the Cheyenne Mountain base had a number of painted lines that acted as guides to various locations within the base. Hopefully, one would lead somewhere where I could get some answers.

I stepped over the threshold of the thick blast door, sparing a glance at the walls before focusing on the left hand side. There, black against the gray of the concrete, was a hinged panel with a symbol of a hoofprint and a claw. Push to open, maybe? Would be handy for a species without opposable thumbs, or fingers in general. Keeping my right hand on the rifle's grip, I pressed my left palm on the center of the panel, quickly jerking it away as the thing clicked and swung outwards. There, behind it, was a simplistic control panel, obviously for emergencies, with close and open buttons.

Having confirmed what it was, I made to move on... and paused. Visions of the tar wolf that had been outside, and the black markings around the wall that the jeep had slammed into, flashed through my mind. I hesitated a moment longer, then shouldered the rifle and thumbed the 'close' button. My hands went to my ears as the same grinding noise from before resounded through the hallway as the thick steel door dropped shut behind me. I watched it come down, the flashlight reflecting off the near-white of the ceiling and acting almost like an area lamp, and noted that as soon as it was all the way down, a series of loud clicks and clacks followed. Most likely, this was a number of steel hooks and bars securing the door in place, and producing a seal.

My eyes widened and I stood straighter at that thought. Ponderously, I sniffed the air... thankfully, it still smelled clean. Examining the walls, I found a small, rectangular vent near the ceiling. Putting my hand in front of it, I felt slightly cooler air flowing through and out into the hallway, with similar vents near the ceiling drawing air in. Obviously, the continued power supply- whatever it was- allowed the ventilation, circulation and filtration systems to continue working. In fact, looking around, I noticed something that I hadn't before: this side of the barrier was completely pristine, lacking any of the dust that had settled in thick layers just on the other side of the thick door. If I would have had to guess, I would have said that the filtration had pulled the dust out of the air before it had ever had a chance to settle... which made sense, given that this was something of a military installation. Pulling the rifle down from my shoulder, I pointed it down the hallway and continued forward.

Doors off to either side tempted me to explore, but I ignored them for the moment, in favour of the end of the hall where I could just make out a series of signs matched up with the colours of the stripes that lead deeper into the compound. However, I played the light across the signs on the doors as I passed them, if only to sate my curiosity.

Interestingly, the first door was tagged as the entrance to the 'incursion suppression weapon & armaments storage'. It was odd that they'd have an armory right here, right next to the entrance to the rest of the compound... I would have thought that they'd have them deeper in, to make getting to the serious weapons and ammunition more difficult for invaders over the standard issue armaments in the lockers in the front. And yet, here it was, sitting here. Out of curiosity, I checked the door, finding it locked with a card reader. I poked it a little, then shook my head. There'd be plenty of time to search this room later, when I'd found some answers in this place...

The other doors were less interesting. Office supplies, a janitorial area, a meeting room, and a briefing room formed the remainder of them, the briefing room taking the space of two rooms. I ducked into the meeting and briefing rooms briefly, hoping for some sort of paperwork that I could perhaps form a paper trail with, or at least find some orders that might shed some light on whatever war had led to this, but... nothing.

Once, some time ago, it was obvious that the meeting table and the lectern in the briefing room had been covered in papers. What was left, however, had faded to the point of illegibility... odd. Extremely odd. I abandoned a final sheaf of papers where they had lain with a weary sigh, abandoning my search for the moment. After all, there had been computers up front and in the guard post: that meant that, most likely, there were computers deeper in that I could access that might give me more pieces of the puzzle that was this world.

I came to the end of the hallway at last, staring up at the rainbow assortment of coloured signs, attached to the blank concrete in a column that reached nearly from the ceiling to the floor. Many of these were not exactly interesting, but there were a few that were: administrative, castle entrance and central operations, to name a few. All of these pointed to the left.

I supposed that this was as good a start as any. Following the coloured lines to the left, I turned a corner that the hallway went through... and halted in the tracks. There, blocking the entire passageway, with every single line leading straight into it, was a huge slab of the same crystalline material that the castle above was made out of. I stopped there for a moment, eye twitching slightly, then marched up and kicked the thing, for all the good it did me. This was twice now that answers had apparently been just within my reach, and twice that said answers had been blocked off by the stupid castle. Deep breaths, there was still one other way.

I turned from the blockage, making my way back to the junction and the second set of signs, these pointing right down the other direction of the corridor. One of them read 'Central Core', which was... surprisingly vague. A small scrawling beneath the name on the sign revealed that it was a highly classified area, and that only high-ranked individuals or those with specific permissions were permitted to enter.

I nodded to myself. It did sound like a place that would be worth a visit: hopefully, it was some sort of documentation storage server, from which I could retrieve some files that would shed at least a little light on the situation in Equestria before everything happened.

The hallway leading to the place indicated by the sign was... odd. Doors into barracks filled either side of the hall, and the entire thing narrowed down to several smaller doors, creating what looked to be defensive choke points complete with thick blast doors much like the one guarding the entrance. It looked as if this entire place had been designed to be defended at a moment's notice, with this passage in particular something that modern military tacticians had nightmares about. Obviously, whatever this 'Central Core' was, it was incredibly important to the base and they were determined to defend it at any cost.

Thankfully, however, it appeared that nothing had gotten past the main door to test the mettle of the defenders inside the base itself: no skeletons dotted the halls, no wreckage of the death of organic beings, and there were none of the strange black marks anywhere. All of the doors were intact, though many of them stood slightly open... I shivered. If one of these doors suddenly slammed on its own, I'd probably have a heart attack and just drop dead right here.

Finally the passage terminated in a pair of elevator doors, one button at about waist height installed in the wall next to a card reader. I thought for a moment, then slipped out the site admin's card and swiped it through. There was a momentary pause, during which I held my breath, letting it go in a sigh of relief as the reader and the button turned green. I pressed the 'call' button... and proceeded to jump about two feet as, instantly, the doors slid open with a ding. I pointed the rifle through the entrance, but for all intents and purposes it seemed to be a regular elevator car, if a bit utilitarian in its interior design. Interestingly enough, while the rest of the compound had been in complete darkness with no lights to speak of, the interior of the car was lit with four lights set into the ceiling.

I swallowed a little and stepped in, turning to the control panel, flicking off the flashlight and shouldering the rifle as I did. There were five buttons on the panel: a top level, three subbasements, and one ominously labelled with a simple 'Core'. I considered the other three briefly, but... I had time for them later, whatever they were. The 'Core' button clicked quietly as I pushed it in, the elevator doors sliding shut and the slightest jerk traveling through the car as it began its descent. Surprisingly enough, it was almost entirely smooth all the way down, the car quiet but for a very faint humming that must have been the sounds of the electric drive motor at the top of the shaft echoing down. It was quiet enough to almost be unnerving, and I shifted uneasily as I watched the display tick down the floors that I'd passed.

It was a definite relief, then, when the display read 'CORE' in large, blocky red letters, and the car slowed to a halt. There was another ding, and the doors slid open, meager light spilling from the car and into the space beyond without enough intensity to really make anything visible on the other side. Like the upper floors, the lights in this area were entirely off, leaving the entire place a pitch black beyond the small bit of light cast through the elevator doors. A flick turned my flashlight back on, the higher intensity beam of light cutting through the dark, which almost seemed to have a different... texture? I wasn't sure how to put it, but it felt different than the darkness that had shrouded the upper floors. There it had felt just empty, here it felt almost... foreboding.

I swallowed again, adjusting my grip on the rifle and almost compulsively checking the chamber for a round. The little action calmed me a little, enough to steady the little shake in my hands and allow me to continue forward and into the dark. The bright circle that shown from the taclight played across what appeared to be lab equipment of many descriptions: tables covered in microscopes, test tubes, centrifuges, computer equipment... in the center of the room was a series of tanks, filled to the brim with a blue liquid that filtered the light as it passed through it. Tubes hung from the roof of each tank, limp in the still fluid. I shivered and moved on.

Lights like stars teased in the dark, machines left running for all this time revealed as my light played across them. Some machines looked like something you'd find in a laboratory on Earth, edges and steel and screens, others closer to amalgamations of crystal and wire that loomed in the dark like predatory creatures. It felt like something was stalking me, always just out of sight of my light, hiding, moving, watching...

It was with incredible relief that I came upon the other end of the lab. Double doors, thick steel and reinforced glass, sealed with another keycard lock. My admin card opened this one easily enough as well, and I ducked through the doors, pushing them shut behind me with a sigh. That done, and feeling much better for being away from that room, I turned to face this new one.

It was much smaller than the lab room, about a twenty foot cube. Looking up and behind me, I realized that there was an observation deck set farther up the wall, above the doors that I'd just entered through. The glass was clean, like everything else in here, and sparkled dimly in the light from my rifle. I turned from the back in a circle, playing the beam across the inside of the room and the objects there.

Banks of machines, humming to themselves softly in the dark and covered with blinking lights, lined the walls of the room. Screens slept, their power buttons glowing softly, dimming and brightening in a precise pattern. Wires strapped together into bundles by metal binders patterned with black and yellow hazard striping criss-crossed the floor, connecting various banks of machines together. The most impressive thing, however, was in the center of the room.

A long, hard-edged rectangular block, almost like a coffin, lay in the middle of the various machines and wires. Thick cables, the thickest I'd seen thus far, were hooked into various ports in the thing, glowing a faint blue and pulsating lightly, almost as if they were alive. My footsteps were muffled as I carefully stepped among the various bundles of wire, rifle in hand, eyes fixed curiously on this one object. It almost seemed to draw me towards it now that I'd seen it, like a magnet draws metal, a force that gently urged me closer and closer to it.

A window was set in what would be the lid, staring down into the thing, covering the entire length of the top. I placed my hand on the cold steel, rifle falling to my side as I looked in, and was met with frosted glass, utterly opaque, but glowing with a soft white light. I frowned. Why put frosted glass into something that was clearly meant to give someone a direct view into the interior of the object? I glanced up and down the length of the thing, my eyes fixing upon a small glow to one side of it. I set down the rifle where the light splashed across the thing's siz, leaning against the side of the block, and stepped over to it.

There was a small panel here, little buttons and a readout screen glowing in the darkness, labels highlighted and shining dimly with reflected light from the flashlight. I ran my thumb across a small series of letters, raised just so they poked up from the steel, mouthing them to myself.

CORE MAIN STASIS CHAMBER MK VII

Stasis? I felt a flutter of hope in my chest. Maybe this meant it was some sort of stasis tube, perhaps something experimental that had been left over from tech development from before the ending of... whatever had happened. Maybe it was in use! Maybe some scientist, pony, griffon or otherwise, had made it work when this facility had fallen and the lower compound was sealed. Maybe they had been trapped in the tube, awaiting someone to revive them... my hope was edged with desperation.

There had to be someone, right?

I flicked my eyes over the screen, fingers poking it and finding that it was a touch screen that scrolled down. Most of them I didn't understand, things that directed this or that function of the tube itself, but three of them I did understand. the first was a simple yes or no indicator, red or green, indicating whether the tube was occupied... that flutter grew stronger as my gaze followed the letters of the word 'OCCUPIED', followed by the words 'ACTIVE' and 'STATUS: GREEN'. The second was a control for the opacity of the main viewport, a simple slider with tic marks down its length. My finger hovered over this a moment, before I decided to scroll down, which brought me to the final, third option.

OOCUPANT RELEASE PROTOCOL START

Another slider, much like the old IPhone unlocks, a series of arrows pulsing and showing the direction a circular slider would be dragged to initiate it. I reached out my index finger and pressed the slider, dragging it halfway across the screen... then stopped.

This thing had been sealed for a long time, definitely since this compound had fallen. There could be a scientist in there, or a civilian... but there could also be a guard that might come out confused and ready to fight anything that moved. Worst of all, someone might have locked one of those tar wolves in here or something. I had just been through a laboratory, a laboratory with tanks that had almost looked to be for organic specimens... perhaps this was where they kept the one they experimented on. I released the slider, allowing it to return to its default spot: I had no intention of releasing whatever was in this tube until I knew for certain who, or WHAT, they were, and what I might have to deal with when the tube unsealed and they woke up. Besides, it wasn't like checking would hurt anything... I'd just have a look first.

I scrolled the menu back up to the opacity slider and pushed it with my index finger, dragging it across the screen. Instantly, the window began to clear, and I glanced up and through at the occupant.

The first thing that I saw was blue fur, a darker blue that was clear even now, the window clearing from the center and rippling outward. Wings... a sight of relief and a jump of hope in me. So, either a griffon or a pegasus then, but... which one? One I knew? The faintest hint of a main as the clarity spread further, a light blue colour... and then it cleared completely, revealing the occupant.

A horn.

A Cutie Mark in the shape of a moon on a pitch black background.

A face, relaxed in sleep, strands of her mane straying down in front of her closed eyes.

There, in the stasis tube, in the center of an abandoned laboratory deep underneath a military compound constructed underneath Twilight Sparkle's castle... was Princess Luna.

Author's Note:

Bam.
Surprise, another chapter! Next chapter: we speak with her! Aren't you all excited?

I tried not to end it with a cryptic cliffhanger, but it slipped out anyway despite my best efforts. Forgive me?