• Published 14th Apr 2017
  • 2,748 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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VIII: Release

I placed my hands flat, palm down, on the now-clear observation window, looking down on the alicorn within. One of the four princesses, the ruler of the night, sister to Celestia... and, somehow, she had ended up here. No regalia, her mane and tail the light blue that they were in the pilot's second part, that of 'depowered' Luna. She almost looked like she was sleeping, eyes closed and face relaxed, mane spread across the padded bottom of the capsule, hooves spread out just so and wings limp.

I drew back, pacing back and forth next to the stasis tube. I now had two choices: I could release her, perhaps find some answers for all of this and gain a companion- and that companion would be Luna! Or, I could leave her here, in this stasis tube... I grimaced. No, it didn't sit right with me to leave her here. If something happened to me, she'd never be released: I hadn't seen any sort of auto-release mechanic in the options of the stasis pod, and even if there had been, I couldn't just leave her here in good conscience.

My mind flashed back to the tar wolf that had been in the courtyard. There were dangers in this world, and who was to say that one of them wouldn't find their way in and decide to attack Luna while she lay in state? There were no defenses in place for this room or the lab, and I certainly couldn't guard her all the time... no, the best option was to activate the release and hope for the best. I'd wanted answers, and here was my best chance for them: I wasn't going to let it pass me by. Besides, though I didn't really want to admit it to myself... I was alone, and a little scared, in a world that was both dangerous and run-down. Having someone- somepony- to watch my back would be... appreciated.

I stepped back over to the screen, scrolling down the list of options to the release. My finger hovered over the little slider, hesitating: did I really want to do this? Was this like that one movie where a man awakens from stasis alone on a colony ship, then decides to sabotage the pod of another person and wake them up? Was this a moral choice?

I shook my head. Most likely, I could just put her straight back into stasis, if she really wanted, though I hoped she didn't. I slid the slider all the way to the right, the screen dimming a bit as a dialogue box came up.

RELEASE COMMAND ENTERED. ARE YOU CERTAIN? SIDE EFFECTS MAY INCLUDE: DROWSINESS, DIZZINESS, VERTIGO AND MILD TEMPORARY AMNESIA. WARNING: DISCONNECTING CORE FROM GRID MAY CAUSE POWER FLUCTUATIONS

CONTINUE/ABORT

I blinked at the little box as I read through it. The rest of them I could understand, as it had to be hard on the mind to spend any amount of time in stasis of any kind, but amnesia? Mild, to be sure, but still amnesia. I closed my fingers into a fist as I considered, then sighed. It didn't matter if there was a little bit of amnesia, it didn't change what I needed to do. With that, I pressed the CONTINUE button.

The pod hissed, releasing twin shafts of steam, the window flashing back to opaque. I stepped back, surprised, as the lid jerked upwards with a louder hiss, then hinged up from the back, revealing Princess Luna in her entirety, peacefully laying on the padded cushions that covered the inside of the pod. I jumped once again as, suddenly, the banks of machines around me started switching on and coming to life. I winced, eyes squinted shut, as the lights in the room came on, blinding compared to the complete darkness that I'd been in just a moment previously. A large screen farther up the wall came on, warming up a moment before displaying something, a series out numbers.

6:23:59:59

There was one more category, but the numbers ticked down too fast to accurately tell. The next-to-last ticked down, once per second. I swallowed as I realized what it was: a timer. If my guess was correct, it was reading six days, twenty-three hours, fifty-nine minutes and counting until... until what? Something. Something that I wasn't exactly eager to see.

A shifting noise brought my attention back to the pod, and the Princess. Her hooves shifted slightly on the cushions, brushing against the cloth and making the faint sound that had drawn my attention. She brought them up to her head, curling around herself with a groan and a small shiver, her unpinned wing shifting to cover her head and shade her from the light. Smaller sounds, muffled by her wing, drifted up. I realized that she was mumbling, and I stepped closer to hear.

"Sister... it's too early, turn off the sun... gotta sleep longer, big event today..."

She seemed to be drifting off again. Considering the state that the warning had said she'd be in, I wasn't so certain that that was a good idea, so I stepped closer to shake her back awake, and then promptly stopped in my tracks. This was the princess of the night. Luna. Flesh and blood, right here in front of me, real as I was... I felt the niggling roots of panic rising in my mind. Before, it hadn't been real, almost like a surreal dream. Now, however, I wasn't so certain.

With a vigorous shake, I banished those thoughts, at least for the time being. Right now, I needed to focus. I had somebody else that would be relying on me... at least, for the moment. I had a sneaking suspicion that once Luna had recovered from stasis sickness, she'd be perfectly capable of taking care of herself. At least, I hoped. Before I could actually think it through and have a proper crisis about it, I went ahead and put my had on her back.

Her fur was soft, rather like silk, and it gave a little. It wasn't wiry, but thinner and finer, creating a slightly springy bed of night-blue fur. Gently, I shook her a little, ready to pull back if her response to my jostling was less than positive.

"Your highness..." I swallowed. Was that the correct way to refer to her? I wasn't sure, but I had to call her something, and that seemed to be my best option for the moment. "You need to get up. Sorry to tell you this, but... I kinda really, REALLY need you up. Right now."

She groaned, making a weak motion to try and shake off my hand. "Serg'nt, that you...? Close the curtains, if you will, my head feels like t'was dipped in sister's sun..."

"Uh, princess, I don't want to alarm you, but... there's this big, ominous countdown timer on a big screen on the wall over there, and I'm a bit worried about-"

I didn't get to finish. At my words, Luna raised her head and glanced over at me. Her eyes widened, and she quickly flicked her eyes and head back and forth, absorbing the area and sparing a glance for the timer on one wall. I saw the moment she shifted from 'slightly tired and barely awake' to 'self-defense', a hardening of the eyes and expression as she leaped down from the pod. She stumbled as her hooves made contact with the tiled floor, nearly falling over as she did. I went to help her up, only to end up backing away with my hands up, the rifle that I'd leaned against the tube held securely in her telekinesis and pointed straight at me. As I backed away, she brought the cushioned stock of the rifle against her shoulder, eyes roving around the room but always keeping me in her peripheral vision.

"What... where... who are...?" Her head swiveled back and forth, occasionally halted by a wince or a moment of what looked to be sickness. In spite of her physical reactions, the barrel of the rifle didn't waver from my center mass, something that was making me increasingly anxious as the seconds passed.

"Your majesty, you were in stasis, in that tube. I have no idea why, I don't exactly know what this place is, beyond the fact that it's some sort of military base..."

She fixed her eyes on me in a glare, though her focus wavered for a second corresponding with another wince.

"Enough. I can't expect more than falsehoods from you... our sister will clear this up, surely." She twitched the rifle's barrel towards the door. "Move."

I hesitated a moment, hands still up, eyes flicking over her and the rifle. She was confused, panicked and scared, most likely missing a chunk of her memories, which would freak her out even more. She'd dropped straight into fight or flight, and given a mare of her age and experience, that meant going straight into keeping an iron tight grip on the nearest weapon and pacifying anything that looked vaguely like a threat. Unfortunately, until I could prove that I didn't have any untoward intentions to her satisfaction or her memory hole was filled in, she most likely wouldn't hesitate to disable me in one of a number of ways, which included varying amounts of pain.

I slumped a little as I came to the conclusion that I just didn't have a choice. For the moment, I'd have to play along, and hope that something on the way either jogged her memory or proved how desperate a situation we were in. I turned, keeping my hands up, to find that the doors were being held wide open by blue magic. I stepped through, making sure that my motions were slow with the least amount of suddenness as possible. I didn't need to spook her any more than she already was. She followed swiftly behind, clearing the corners with a quick flick of her gaze and the rifle barrel, so quickly that by the time I'd glanced back she was already returning the rifle's focus to me. Even if I'd run, I didn't doubt that I wouldn't have made it five steps before I'd been perforated. Considering the fact that she had apparently switched to full auto based on the positioning of the safety lever, I had no doubt that I would have been swiss cheese in moments should I have made a threatening move.

We made our way back through the lab, now well-lit and markedly less sinister than it had been when I had come through here previously alone. The blue liquid in the tanks now swirled gently, and some of the equipment now hummed gently to itself, reactivated from untold time lying here inactive. Our passage through the lab was uneventful, though the Princess stopped once or twice to lean against the equipment during a particularly bad spell of vertigo, always keeping the weapon trained on me. And then we came to the elevator.

The two of us exchanged a look, mine more than a little scared and hers calculating. After a moment, she waved me into the elevator, following directly behind me and pushing me into the corner with the control panel, taking the opposite corner herself. The button for the ground floor depressed itself with a flare of blue, and we began moving upwards. After a few tense seconds, a quiet ding sounded and the doors of the elevator slid open again, leading straight into the hallway that I'd first entered through. I hadn't imagined that I'd be passing through the second time at gunpoint. Inevitably, the corridor dead-ended in the thick blast door that blocked the exit. Luna paused here, examining the door itself and sparing a glance for the controls. Whatever thoughts she was having she kept to herself, but the controls glowed for a moment with that self-same blue aura, the open button toggling and the door shuddering and grinding into the ceiling again as it opened.

I was thinking about how to explain things in such a way as to convince her when she saw the state of the base when Luna let out a startled noise. My head snapped up from where my gaze had drifted to the floor, and saw that, right there on the other side of the door, was the tar wolf that had been sniffing around the courtyard. The 'fur' on its back rippled as it growled, focused entirely on Luna: the sound was unearthly, like glass in a garbage disposal, and it made all of the hair on my neck stand up straight. The thing crouched, looking ready to pounce, and I stumbled back. Something dug into my side as I did so: of course! The handgun!

I didn't really think about what I did, I just did it. A glance out of the corner of my eye, made in those precious few seconds as the wolf coiled like a spring, revealed that she was frozen in shock and staring straight at the thing, rifle barrel dipped towards the ground. I yanked open the holster for the pistol, dragging it out and pointing it one-handed at the thing, squeezing the trigger as rapidly as I could manage.

Some of the rounds sparked against the concrete behind it as I missed in my panic and lack of aim, but most of the magazing hit home, eliciting splashes of black fluid as they struck the creature's false hide. The thing shrieked in pain and surprise, a sound almost akin to that of a jet engine, nearly tumbling as it lost all that coiled energy. Thankfully, that noise must have been enough to snap Luna out of her daze, because a staccato burst of assault rifle fire sounded from behind me. The shriek turned instantly into a gurgle, the wolf knocked straight over by the punch of the larger, faster rounds and slamming into the ground. It remained there, twitching, making little noises of what I assumed to be pain through its gurgles and rasping gasps.

Luna trotted past me, rifle steady even as her wide eyes trailed over the body of the thing. Dully, I realized that I was still pointing the handgun at the wolf and squeezing the trigger, again and again, making little clicks as the magazine had already run dry. I tried to make myself stop, put the gun away, but it dropped out of my hand instead and clacked against the concrete floor, making Luna glance back in my direction for a moment, then turn her attention back to the creature.

It was still rasping, making a sound closer to an empty garbage disposal now. She approached it, briefly pointing the rifle left and right around the corners before focusing the sights back on it as she came closer and closer. The thing seemed to realize that she was coming when she was a few steps away, suddenly tensing up and making what would have been a lunge if its body had still functioned, but it had been filled with holes and its black fluid was leaking across the concrete floor, and so the leap was more of a violent twitch. Luna gazed at it a second more, eyes filled with confusion and some small amount of fear that I could see even from here.

She remained like that for a few minutes, watching the tar wolf die, the gun inbetween them never wavering from the center of its head. It growled and gurgled and made all manner of noises that made me hug myself and shake, but she just stood there. Staring at it.

The noise was like a sudden fireworks display in a desensitization chamber, loud and bright after I'd been focused on nothing but the noises of the wolf. Luna's three round burst sheared straight through the skull of the black thing, accompanied by a bright muzzle flash that left an afterimage in my eyes. The wolf shuddered one last time, then melted into the same black goo that had been leaking out of the holes in its body. Much of it evaporated into something that looked like shadow before it even had the chance to touch the ground, leaving the few bullets that had been caught in its body to clatter against the floor or plop into one of the smaller puddles of more stubborn stuff that had managed to stick around.

Luna stared for a moment longer at the puddles, then seemed to slowly shake herself awake. The rifle pointed left and right again, but it seemed more like automatic action than conscious choice, as she retreated backwards behind the steel ring along the walls that marked where the blast door came down. The close button was pressed with her aura, and I had enough sense left in me to kick the pistol back onto the inside of the door and pull back beyond the hazard markings that surrounded the door, hugging myself as I watched it close.

The resounding sound of the seals and locks engaging in the foot-thick steel made both of us relax a little. I giggled to myself, suddenly feeling giddy as the adrenaline faded a little and left behind a sort of manic euphoria, and I watched Luna nearly fall against a wall, the rifle's barrel dipping to touch the floor. We stayed like that for a long minute, me staring at the door and giggling quietly to myself and her, breathing heavily, eyes wide, staring at the floor in front of her in abject shock.

Eventually, my shivering faded as the last of the fear and giddiness slowly left my system, leaving me feeling drained and exhausted. Right then, I didn't care about the wolf, the timer, Luna, anything. All I could think of was those barracks beds that I had passed on my way to the elevator, and how good one would feel right now. My movements slow and deliberate, I turned back to the corridor, still hugging myself tightly, and made my way back towards the barracks room. A sound and a glance revealed Luna glancing up, rifle barrel scraping against the floor as she did. After a moment, she followed along, but the rifle was no longer at the ready and she almost seemed to be staring at it with the same shock with which she'd been regarding the floor.

I turned down the corridor to my right, dragging my feet across the concrete, making a scrifff, scrifff, scrifff sound as the soles of my shoes scraped against the abrasive surface. I managed to make it to the first door, opening it and swinging it open and stepping inside. Two beds decorated the opposite walls, and I had eyes only for them, sitting gingerly on the right one and looking back, making eye contact with Luna as she entered the room as well.

She leaned the rifle against one corner of the room, so gently it surprised me, and practically dragged herself up onto the bed. She took a moment arranging herself in a sitting position facing me, then raised her head to make eye contact with me. In that moment, we both grimaced in unison as we realized in tandem that we'd have to talk about what had just happened, a flicker of amusement dancing through me at our unified dread.