• Published 6th Apr 2013
  • 4,850 Views, 186 Comments

The Seventh - Arvaus



An impossible creature finds herself in a world which already knows everything about her. Slowly, she learns about the true nature of her own reality, her world's place in the cosmos, and herself.

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1 - Breaking Through

Aaron cycled hurriedly down the department’s driveway, instinctively weaving between the innumerable bumps and potholes with the skill that only years of practice can bring. He had meant to be in the lab half an hour ago, but once again he had managed to sleep through his alarm. Still, the experiments rarely started on time, and he saw no reason why they would manage to do so today.

Narrowly avoiding crashing into one of his old lecturers, he jumped off his bike and stumbled to a halt by the bike sheds. He rammed it into one of the metal stands and loosely wrapped his lock around the front wheel, then headed down towards the side entrance.

The inside of the building was air-conditioned at all times; anywhere with this many machines and computers running continuously had to be in order to avoid things melting. Nonetheless, the fatigue from the ride over had just started to hit, so Aaron pulled his hoodie off and stuffed it into his backpack.

He waved to a group of other postgrads as he passed them in the corridor, and as usual none of them made any comment about the stylised unicorn pattern on his shirt. Not living in America had a number of distinct advantages, and one of them was that very few people recognised or cared about My Little Pony merchandise.

When he got to the stairs, he headed down to the basement and pulled out his keycard. He waved it in front of the reader and pushed open the door into the lab.

“Hey, Aaron’s here!” another student called as he walked in. “We can get started now!”

“Morning, Sam,” he replied. “I take it we’re still waiting?”

“Geoff’s in there right now getting the covers back on. We’ve been realigning the mirrors since eight.”

“Thanks to your wonderful supervisor deciding he needed to recalibrate the lasers last night!” Geoff called from the next room. “I’m going to have some words with him about time management when he gets in.”

That sounds about right, Aaron thought to himself. “I’ll go get set up then,” he said. “Glad I didn’t miss the big show.”

He walked through to the computer room where his terminal was and threw his bag down on the desk. He logged in and opened up his emails, glancing through the list to make sure there wasn’t anything important. Then, looking over his shoulder to check that no-one could see his screen, he opened up Twitter to check if anything interesting had happened overnight.

~ ~ ~

A quarter of an hour later, a buzzer sounded in the other room, and Aaron locked his computer and went through. Geoff was just closing and locking the door to the spectrometer room. It was a heavy reinforced door, standard for the basement labs, not that they were expecting anything dangerous to happen.

The lab itself was a mess, as it always was. The various workbenches around the room were covered in notepads and numerous pieces of machinery in different states of disrepair. Moving a box of transistors out of the way, Aaron carefully extracted his lab notebook from one of the piles and made his way over to the control console.

“Right,” Sam said, standing up from behind the console, holding a clipboard in his hand. “Chamber sealed, emergency cutoffs tested, everything’s ready. Beginning test-run seven, with projected peak power of... ninety kilowatts. And when this baby hits eighty-eight, you’re going to see some serious—”

“Monitoring microphones are active.”

“Thanks Geoff.”

“Let’s hope not,” Aaron laughed. “I had plans to live through the day.”

“Why must you always ruin my hopes and dreams?” Sam sneered dryly. “Well, I guess we might as well get going.” He sat down at the control desk and turned the ignition key.

Aaron walked over to the monitor bank to have a look at the remote camera feeds. He was really only here out of curiosity; his job was to process the data that came out at the end, so he didn’t actually have anything to do with the actual running of the machine.

Technically their machine hadn’t actually produced any data at all yet. They were building an entirely new design of spectrometer, which would one day actually be able to capture real-time footage of molecules moving in a material. It was fascinating work, and numerous papers about the potential uses had been published already, but there was a lot of work between here and there. Right now, they were still in the process of ‘stimulating stable harmonic waves in a coherent proton beam’, according to his thesis title. Needless to say, this was not a simple task.

“Are we getting any echoes this time?” he asked.

“No, the beam looks stable at the moment,” Sam replied. “Take a look.”

Aaron leaned over sam’s shoulder and looked at the narrow peak on the oscilloscope’s screen. “Still a bit broader than we’d like,” he commented.

“It’s getting better, though,” Sam replied.

Aaron turned back to the camera feeds. The monitoring windows on the spectrometer were starting to glow a warm orange as the machine’s interior heated up.

“Wait a minute,” Sam said, confused. “We’re getting splitting now.”

“I bet it’s interference from the mains again,” Aaron said. “I’ll go check the cables.”

“No, I double checked this morning,” Geoff said, getting up from behind his desk and walking over.

“And it doesn’t look like mains signal,” Sam continued. “I’m seeing... a six-fold splitting. That’s weird.”

“It still looks stable, though,” Aaron said. “Geoff, do you think we should shut down...”

He stopped when he noticed that one of the camera feeds was showing static. He reflexively tapped the screen with his finger, but it stayed blank. A moment later, the other cameras also shut off.

He nudged Sam’s back. “Better disconnect. Something’s not—”

Suddenly there was a huge explosion in the spectrometer room, shaking the heavy door on its hinges. The power went, and everything in the room shut off, the continual hum of cooling fans being replaced by the deafening blare of the emergency alarms and the roar of the sprinkler system. A few seconds later, they faded as well, as the emergency generators gave up.

The three of them stared at the door in shocked silence. The only sound in the room was the occasional clatter of something falling off a shelf in the next room. Cautiously, Geoff began to approach the door.

“Shouldn’t we evacuate?” Sam asked.

“Probably,” Geoff replied absent-mindedly. “There’s no way we were using enough power to cause an explosion like that.”

He leaned his head up against the door. His expression grew even more perplexed as he listened, then he pulled his head away and looked back at the others. “It sounds like there’s something moving in there!”

Aaron and Sam exchanged confused glances. The lab was completely sealed; even the small windows, which were now the only light source in the room, were sealed shut. It was almost impossible for an animal to have got into the lab, let alone survived that explosion.

Aaron was about to go over to the door himself, when there was another loud bang. The animal, or whatever it was, had thrown itself hard against the door from the other side, visibly denting the thick metal. The three of them jumped and stared at the damaged door in shock. Through the gaps that had formed along the bottom of the door, Aaron could clearly see that there was something moving in the next room, but he couldn’t make out what it was. It must have been enormous though.

“Shouldn’t we evacuate?” Sam asked again.

Geoff nodded dumbly in response, but the three of them continued to stand there, watching the door intently, unable to persuade themselves to move.

Suddenly, a brilliant yellow aura, bright as the sun, surrounded the doors, flooding the room with light. Aaron stood mesmerised for a moment, then he saw that the doors were starting to buckle outwards, and dived behind one of the workbenches.

An instant later, there was a massive outburst from behind the doors, and they flew off their hinges, flying clear across the room and impacting against the wall next to him. Aaron stared at the heavy sheets of metal as they tipped over and fell to the floor with a loud crash. He sat still, catatonic with shock.

Then, through the confusion, something wormed its way into Aaron’s mind and drew his thoughts back. He could hear a voice. It was saying — no, shouting — something. He tried to place it, but couldn’t think of anyone he knew who sounded like that. It sounded strangely familiar, though.

His ears were ringing, but words started to filter through to his brain.

“Where am I? What have you done? I demand an explanation!”

The voice continued, clearly confused and angry, but met with only shocked silence. Aaron tried to make himself small, terrified by the power in the voice. Then something clicked in the back of Aaron’s mind, his brain trying to persuade him of where he recognised the voice from. Numbly, he stood up and turned to face the source. When he saw the figure before him, his mind shut down, giving up any hope of clinging to sanity.