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FiO: refuge

by caliaponia

“She’s found us! Hurry!” Sarah’s voice is frantic over the PA.

I look away from the sweep of Antarctic mountains and jam my fingers into the gloves, making the last step even more cumbersome, but I manage to get my helmet aligned and the tang of ozone is cut off with a click.

“Move! Move! Move!” her cry comes, now muffled along with the claxon.

I climb to my feet, the old-model suit heavy but manageable and I shuffle from the ready room as quickly as I can without falling over.

A bang makes me glance back, and I see a bright pink hoof protruding through a bowed in door. The portal is just ahead. Sky blue swooping in the corner of my eye, clamping me around the waist and pulling. I shrug off the impact and grab back, twisting with the momentum to throw myself at the shimmering threshold.

An electric wash across my body and I’m on my back, staring back at the shimmering field. I look away from the wash of colors to the black metal plinth and surrounding small cluster of prefab buildings, the only forms in an otherwise flat, featureless plain.

I drop the Rainbow to the metal grating, it’s head lolling with the soundless impact. With a sweep of my foot I kick it off the edge, watching it vanish through the surface without a ripple.

A second one pops through, this one a Pinkie, falling to the floor as bonelessly as the Rainbow. I kick it after the Rainbow and onto the ground, but a rope on the tail anchors it. I pull out my knife and saw at the line. The strands part soundlessly and I open my hand, watching with a grin as the Pinkie follows the Rainbow into the void.

There’s a tap on my shoulder, and I turn to see a second figure gesturing towards the nearest building. I follow it to the airlock, gratefully taking off my helmet when the inner door opens with a hiss.

I turn, grinning at the shock of red hair that the other helmet revealed. “Sarah! You made it!”

“I didn’t cut it as closely. You had us worried, James.”

I shrug, looking back to the portal. “Only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades. It works and we’re finally safe.”

“For now.”

I cross my arms. “She’s a machine. Electronics don’t work on this side. It’s pretty simple.”

She purses her lips. “We’ve got about a hundred researchers and various support personnel. She’s a superintelligence. We have until she can genetically engineer some critter or design a biological robot from scratch. We’re living on borrowed time.”

“That’s more time than we had back on earth. Though who knows, there were still a lot of pockets of resistance.”

“Only because holding off maximized the number of uploads. The instant she found out we had an escape hatch…”.

I sigh. “Any idea who talked?”

She shrugs. “Who knows. With her information gathering capabilities? Maybe no one. And regardless we didn’t get all the supplies we needed. We’ve got, what, two months of food?”

“Closer to three,” comes a deep baritone behind us. We both look to see Commander Martin strolling up. “Join us in the briefing room.”

The chamber is easily at twice it’s intended capacity, but the din quiets as the Commander strides to the front and raises his hand.

“Thank you everyone for your cooperation and effort. I wish it wasn’t necessary, but we all knew it would happen or we wouldn’t be here.”

“What do we do?” Someone cries. “Even if she can’t get to us this isn’t sustainable.”

He nods. “We have a plan. The lunar base had started a sister facility, but not brought it fully online. We’re working on reactivating it now, and once through we can access the hydroponic garden. That will solve our food issue.”

“No one has opened a gate from this side.”

“We’re going to have to puzzle it out. And the Moon is just the start. If we can just stay one step ahead, we can beat her to the stars. Cut her off.”

“We have to survive first,” someone mutters.

The lunar gate is at the far end of the complex, maybe a football field away. The mechanism is strange, intricate components connected in a bewildering array, the adjustments made extra difficult by the bulky suits. After hours it finally clicks and the portal shimmers to life. I’m the third through.

We're greeted by a bright, pink smile.

“Hi Everypony!”