A daring explorer and his Dive Partner decide to go Derelict Diving at an otherwise unremarkable abandoned facility in the middle of the desert. Little does he know there are dangers beyond his ken lurking far below, a remnant of a time when the Far Lands were still new and exciting.
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Was it a Bad Idea™ to explore the husk of a top-secret laboratory-slash-bunker?
Derelict-Diving was bad enough on the best of days. This was the height of recklessness.
Old, abandoned facilities like this one dotted the landscape. They were relics of a bygone age, when the Far Lands were new and exciting. Back then, anyone and everyone with a bit of capital to spare was fervently researching ways to exploit what they had to offer.
Most were harmless. Now that the Incursion had been stopped dead in its tracks, they were little more than crumbling reminders of the world as it once was.
Safer, however, didn’t mean safe. There were strange things in the facilities—dangerous things—that had been left behind in the mad dash for safety when the Incursion started.
To make matters worse, decades of secrecy and paranoia meant no one knew what was out there. People had ideas, but speculation was a poor substitute for fact.
There were many unknowns. Too many, if his Dive partner, Echo, was to be believed.
It wasn’t that Atom didn’t recognize the risks. He did. He would have loved to spend weeks doing research, scouting out the location, and putting together supplies and redundancies but he didn’t have that luxury.
He’d be damned if he let anyone steal what was potentially the biggest debut Dive from right under his nose. They would just have to make do.
All they had was a single survey drone, their rover, and the clothes on their back. The supplies they had were scant, and he was being generous. It was all they’d managed to scrounge together before departing for the site with a growing cloud of dust and sand in their wake.
This was risky. It was potentially the most reckless thing he’d ever done. But it was exciting, too. They were heading into the dark unknown, and that way lay adventure.
Gravel crunched under rover’s tires as they pulled up to the coordinates. It was so far out of the way, not even service roads came up to the site.
Any other transport would have struggled to climb the steep hill. The rover was old and cobbled together from spare parts but she was trustworthy and well-suited to this kind of rugged thing.
"You sure you still want to do this?"
Atom chuckled as he swung the passenger side door open and hopped out. His boots kicked up a bit of dust when he landed.
Echo leaned over the passenger seat. "Last, last, last, last chance to back out. I mean, look at this dump. It’s not like anyone’s going to just come out here."
"I don’t want to chance it," said Atom, casting a glance at their surroundings. "Bag, please."
"You’re the boss! Jeez. I’m never going to get used to that." Echo tossed the backpack out of the rover with a grunt.
Atom caught it with a solid thump. He gave it a once-over before slinging it over his shoulders. "Thanks."
Echo popped the glove compartment and tossed a small canvas pouch at Atom. It contained a few metallic discs that jangled as Atom shook it.
"I took the liberty of doing a little research while you were out on your supply run," said Echo. "There’s not much but pretty much everyone agrees most of the facility’s underground."
Atom cast a glance at the small, relatively nondescript white building at the top of the hill. It didn’t take a genius to figure that out.
Echo patted the dashboard and said, "We’ve got a good, strong antenna on Bessy here but you’re probably gonna want to breadcrumb a couple relays. We might not need it but better safe than sorry."
Atom looked thoughtfully at the canvas bag. Fair enough. "Fingers crossed there’s no EM interference down there," he said.
Echo scoffed. "Yeah. Hopefully not. Antenna array is definitely not strong enough for that."
Maybe Atom shouldn’t have jinxed it. EM interference wasn’t fatal to success but it was a major pain in the ass.
Information was the key to a successful Dive. Some of it came from prep but a lot of it came from onsite exploration with survey drones.
The problem was mass. No survey drone could support the kind of power needed to perform comprehensive analysis of survey data.
That particular sort of computational power was heavy and bulky despite modern advancements in computing. It had to stay on the rover.
All the computing power in the world meant shit if Atom couldn’t access it, though, and that was the problem with EM interference. All but the most powerful antenna array could punch through EM interference and relays would do practically nothing to help.
Atom shrugged. Nothing to do about it now but hope. He sighed, hefted his backpack, and steeled himself. Glancing back into the cab of the rover, he said, "Alright. Wish me luck. I’m heading in."
"Don’t break a leg." Echo chortled. "Make sure you come back. Nothing in there worth dying over."
Atom rolled his eyes. "I know." The metal frame of the rover rocked as he shut the passenger side door. "Anyway, I’m heading off. Next time you see me, hopefully we’ll be a couple orders of magnitude richer."
Atom’s earpiece crackled. "How’s it look up there?"
"It’s a desert," he observed.
"Gee. How do you figure? I could have sworn it was a swamp," said Echo.
About the only exciting thing Atom could see from on top of the hill was a landing pad off to the side. Nature had gone a long way to reclaiming the spot and he’d almost missed the large square of tarmac when he came up.
The asphalt was sun-bleached to the point it almost blended with the surrounding dirt. Very little remained of the big "H," too, the paint likely to have been scoured off by sand and dust over the years.
"There really isn’t much up here," said Atom.
Innocuous as the small, squat building might have seemed, it was still hard to miss. It was the only pristine white thing for miles around.
Considering how long it had been since the facility was abandoned, it was quite impressive that the siding was still holding up as well as it was. Whoever the manufacturer might have been clearly did a good job if the stark white paneling wasn’t so much as scratched.
Truth be told, if Atom and Echo were so inclined, they could have stripped the outside of the building and made off with a pretty penny. They didn’t have the equipment, though, and besides, Atom was in it for the adventure and the chance to make a world-changing discovery.
"It’s a desert. That’s a good thing. Would still like to see, though," said Echo.
Atom rolled his eyes. He slung his backpack off his shoulder and rummaged inside. He retrieved a small rectangle of metal about two inches thick and set it on the ground. He pressed a button on the upper right hand corner and watched as it unfolded into a fully-functional survey drone.
"Drone’s deployed. Go ahead and see how it runs. I’ll check the door," he said.
"Roger," said Echo.
The drone took off with a quiet whir. The six propellers kicked up no small amount of dust as it rose into the air.
Atom ignored the drone as it made a few laps around the building. He came up to the front door of the facility which was, annoyingly, tightly-shut.
He would have been mildly more annoyed if it turned out there was a biometric lock on the door. Fortunately, the lock was a combo keypad and magnetic strip reader. He made short work of the lock and had the door open before Echo was done his pre-flight checks.
Mercifully, it didn’t take much longer before Echo’s voice filtered into Atom’s ear. "Systems nominal. You’re free to Dive whenever you want."
Atom took a deep breath. Time to see if this place was worth all the trouble.
The good news about being on emergency backup power in a hermetically sealed facility was that Atom didn’t have to worry about running out of air to breathe. The bad news was that the elevator in the back of the building wasn’t operational.
A crowbar had made short work of the elevator doors. The carriage had required something more… intense.
As Atom clicked off his plasma cutter, the last little bit of metal keeping the square he’d cut out of the floor attached, gave way. It clanged cacophonously as it fell, banging against the walls of the elevator shaft until it got stuck on a ledge just about at the far end of what Atom could see in the dim light.
Echo’s voice crackled in his ear as the drone dove into the hole in the floor. "Time to work for my dinner."
"Mhm. My treat if you find something good," said Atom. He reached under the hole in the floor and attached a hook to the bottom of the elevator carriage so he could abseil down while Echo scouted ahead.
Echo cheered. "Woo! I’ll hold you to that." The drone did a little flip as Atom lowered himself into the elevator shaft.
It was a long way down.
"Good news, bad news, boss," said Echo.
Atom was staring at the drone, which was hovering on idle a few storeys down, right by the elevator door to the first basement floor. He could hazard a guess what the bad news was. "EM interference?"
"Seems like it. I’m still connected to the drone but it’s tenuous."
Atom grimaced. Oh, well. Nothing to do about it but deal. "Did you get a scan, at least?"
"Yep. Not much but enough to tell you that there’s stairs down from the first basement floor."
It was a minor consolation. Atom had wondered, in the last couple hundred feet of abseil, if these people had forgotten stairs were a thing.
For the major inconvenience that the EM interference was, Echo still sounded somewhat chipper. It was encouraging.
"And—this is the good news—it looks like the interference field is generated rather than natural. There’s something powerful in there, which means…"
Atom nodded. "Which means something valuable," he said.
That was exciting.
Echo chuckled. "Yup. Anyway, I think you’re just about at the edge of the field so I’ll hand off control of the drone."
"Thanks," said Atom. If he kept the drone close by, he should be able to at least scout ahead with it, if not perform any of the more advanced functions.
"Take care," said Echo.
"I will. See you on the other side."
It didn’t take a genius to figure out something had gone wrong in the basement of the facility. Since a rope harness around his waist didn’t provide much leverage, Atom had to resort to more unsubtle means of ingress.
The rope harness swung him violently from side to side. The dollop of explosive putty he’d wedged into the seam between the elevator doors had done its job and blown them wide open.
The smoke hadn’t even cleared and already he smelled what lay on the first basement floor. It wasn’t vile, repugnant, or disgusting in any way. It was just… surprising.
Kicking off the main elevator cable, Atom swung over and landed just beyond the elevator doors. He wrinkled his nose. The peculiar odor was even stronger, here.
The air was thick with the acrid scent of rubber.
Atom stood by the elevator shaft for a minute as he sent the drone ahead to reconnoiter. The dim yellow of the sodium emergency lamps cast everything in stark monotone, which wasn’t great when the drone happened upon some sort of black liquid pooling on the floor and dripping down the walls down a nearby corridor.
The liquid had the apparent viscosity of oil. It was lustrous in the yellow light, as well, but he knew by now that blood could look much the same in the right lighting.
A brief flash of the onboard light showed that the liquid wasn’t blood. It was a minor relief.
Atom recalled the drone. It was next to useless in the interference field. Scarcely twenty feet away and the control signal integrity was hovering dangerously close to the lower nominal operation threshold. Any further and he ran the risk of losing control.
He turned the corner into the hallway the drone had scouted. He took a reflexive step back as a fat glob dribbled from the ceiling onto the floor in front of him.
The scent of rubber hit him full in the face but part of him refused to believe the black fluid was liquid rubber. It wasn’t the right viscosity, and indeed, it proved to be slippery when he nudged the edge of the newly-formed puddle with his boot.
Movement in the periphery of his vision caught his attention but when he looked, there was nothing. Just to be safe, he set the drone on patrol mode as he retrieved a small sampler tube from his backpack.
Whatever the fluid was, it was sure to be valuable for research purposes. The strange thing was that the liquid became a lot more viscous when he crouched down to scoop some of it into the tube.
Atom pulled back and watched as the puddle turned fluid again. He got up and nudged it with his boot. It flowed like oil and felt like it, too.
The conclusion was inescapable: whatever the substance was, it reacted to the proximity of exposed flesh.
He didn’t get an opportunity to mull over his thoughts when a loud crash behind him startled him. A piece of the ceiling had fallen, but it didn’t look like there was anything there apart from the shadows hiding between the pools of dim yellow light.
A flicker of movement in the corner of Atom’s eye, followed by the indignant screech of the drone’s proximity alarm, was all the warning he got before a web of thick rubber shot out from one of those shadows.
Instincts honed by hundreds of hours of simulator training kicked into high gear. A moment earlier, and he would have suffered the same fate as the drone, ensnared in a thick lattice of the strange rubber-like substance.
Something prowled out of the shadow. Four-pawed, elegant, and predatory. It had a tail that swayed gently behind it as it approached and it looked pissed.
The intelligent thing to do would have been to run back to the elevator shaft. The wise part of Atom immediately shot down the idea because, hello, there was an angry extradimensional rubber-beast in the way.
Atom shouldered past a set of double doors and emerged into what appeared to be a small cafeteria. It was a straight shot down the middle to another set of doors but before he could take another step, the room heaved.
He stumbled as the ground lurched and flailed to keep his balance. The floor tiles buckled and broke. Rubber rushed out from between them, coating the floor in a thin layer that came up to Atom’s ankles.
Panic froze the breath in his lungs. This wasn’t supposed to happen. He could feel the bile in the back of his throat and the hammering of his heart in his chest.
The pure animal instinct to flee was overwhelming but it was too late.
He tried to move but his legs refused to obey him. The rubber around his boots had set solid, like concrete, keeping him firmly in place.
The room heaved again. This time, the very fabric of reality strained under the load.
The walls crumbled, seeping liquid rubber from the cracks. Bits of the ceiling rained down and sank into the pool of liquid rubber that covered the floor. The largest chunks, though, hung suspended from the ceiling on glossy rubber tendrils.
The pool of liquid rubber gurgled. The middle bulged upward into a dome half as tall as Atom before popping like a bubble and sending ripples through the pool.
Out of the dome emerged the creature that had been stalking him. It barked a hacking, malevolent laugh as an unnaturally-long and sinuous tongue snaked out of its maw.
It took its time as it approached, something predatory in the way it prowled. It padded around Atom, tongue flicking out to taste the air around him.
He flinched the one time the tongue came too close for comfort and left a dollop of liquid rubber on his elbow. It was the strangest, most unsettling thing. The rubber squirmed on his skin like it was alive.
Fortunately, the wriggling piece of rubber dislodged itself and fell into the pool of rubber at his feet.
A chill ran down Atom’s spine. He realized he couldn’t see the beast anywhere. He couldn’t hear it, either. And yet, he could feel its presence, all the same.
He looked over his shoulder. Big mistake. He saw it just in time to watch its front paws leave the ground as it launched itself at him.
Atom felt claws tear into the fabric of his backpack. Before its weight could drag him backward, he wriggled out of the pack’s shoulder straps.
Just in time.
The backpack slipped off Atom’s shoulders. The metal zipper tags jangled as the creature viciously shook it from side to side.
The bag landed with a wet schlorp on the liquid rubber when the creature tossed it away. It sank slowly, impossibly into what should have been a shallow pool no more than an inch or so in depth.
Atom swallowed audibly. The creature laughed again, sending a chill down his spine. It prowled around to stand in front of him and cackled, crouching as its body wound up to pounce.
All Atom could do was brace himself as the creature launched itself at him. He expected its outstretched claws to rake into his flesh but they didn’t. They tore his clothes to shreds but where they touched his body they melted onto his skin.
The creature’s front paws sank into his torso, spreading over his body like a second skin. Its hind feet landed on his legs and did much the same, seeping under the tattered shreds of his pants.
The rubber tingled against Atom’s skin. It was warm, too. Unnaturally so. Like it was a living thing.
The scent of the rubber was thick in the air and intoxicating. It filled his lungs and made his head spin. It filled him with a strange sort of heat, and before he even knew it, he was erect and straining in what remained of his underwear.
The creature’s head remained. It hung in front of Atom’s face. It was so close that he would have felt its hot breath on his lips if not for the fact that it didn’t breathe.
Atom felt the rubber wrap around the back of his body. It crept over his ass, flinging tendrils across his skin that teased his ass cheeks apart.
He shivered as he felt the first of the tendrils rub over his asshole. They were slick, he found, and hot to the touch. He couldn’t help but moan as they slipped into him with ease, tugging to stretch his hole open.
The creature’s tail snaked around his thigh and up along his taint. It brushed against his hole as the tendrils worked him loose. He could feel it rubbing the blunt head over his pucker, leaking some sort of oily substance that made his entrance twitch.
Atom gasped as the tail pushed inside him. It was big. Thick. It filled him in a way he’d never been filled before and it just kept going. It surged into his guts, flooding his insides with the same intense, tingling heat he felt on his skin.
At the same time, the rubber reached his groin. It caressed his balls with a strange, silky, warmth that made his cock twitch. It surged up his shaft, sheathing him in a gently-pulsing envelope of rubber.
It actually felt good until the rubber reached the tip of his cock. He squirmed as tendrils entered his piss-slit, and wriggled into his urethra and from there into whatever tubes it could find.
The rubber slid under Atom’s gloves and covered his hands. It encased his fingers in a pair of useless rubber mitts, bursting through and shredding the leather in the process.
The same happened to his feet as the rubber slipped into his boots and destroyed them from within. Before long, the only part of him that remained free of the rubber was his head.
That, it seemed, was what the creature had been waiting for.
The creature’s tongue shot out, choking the alarmed squeak that would have spilled out of Atom as it slid down his throat. Atom’s eyes bulged as he watched the thick tendril wedge his jaw open and push into his stomach.
It was the last thing he saw as the creature’s maw enveloped his face. It settled on his head as a tight rubber hood, erasing his distinguishing features and covering the last bits of exposed flesh that remained.
Atom gurgled as tendrils slid into his nose. He squirmed as he felt others wriggle into his ears.
The tube in his throat muffled his moan as he felt tendrils massaging his brain. His fear faded away, along with any desire to struggle or resist.
His thoughts fizzled into pleasant static. His body went limp. The solid cement-like rubber around his ankles subsided as his legs gave way under him.
Atom slumped to the floor, caressed by warm rubber as his thoughts fizzled into pleasant static. Little by little, rubber subsumed his mind, seeping into the folds and coating every last neuron until it had stifled all that remained of his will.
The pleasure he felt as the sleeve around his cock snuffed out any lingering dregs of resistance. It pulsed and squeezed his length, stroking and teasing him to the very edge of orgasm and no further.
He reached between his legs to rub himself, only to find that the rubber over his crotch had swollen into a smooth, round bulge that made it all but impossible. The featureless rubber mitts that encased his hands only added to the frustration as they slipped off the mound.
Atom whined. He wanted to cum. Needed to cum.
It was the only thing he could think of.
The creature cackled to itself as it slinked off the body of its most recent victim. It shivered as it relished the exquisite frustration it could feel through the bond. Nothing tasted better.
It left the new rubber drone where it lay. One of the other drones would soon come to retrieve it, anyway.
The creature inspected the facility as it put itself back together. The liquid, living rubber that formed its main body retreated back into the cracks in the walls, floor, and ceiling. Before long, the cafeteria looked as untouched as it had when the new drone first stumbled into it.
Quietly, the creature slipped out and into the labyrinthine hallways of the facility. They had patched themselves up, as well. Everything had returned to its proper place.
Perfect for the next adventurous soul that would dare disturb its home.
Not that it could complain. Fresh meat was the best meat, after all. And if it wasn’t mistaken, this newest toy had a friend.