Outpost Athenaeum

The restricted outpost which my personal Backrooms author, Saffron, calls home.

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UNCB DATABASE

Restricted Area

▸⠀Outpost Athenaeum


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Flora in sepiatone.

These healthy plants are naturally tinted yellow.

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UNCB DATABASE

Restricted Area


Information in this article may be purposely falsified for security.

Foreword

I may not be able to tell you where Athenaeum is, but it would be my absolute pleasure to tell you about this quaint, idyllic diamond in the rough.

Restricted areas, as you know, are protected by obscurity. Telling someone "it's somewhere in The Halls" isn't much to go off of, and we like it that way. Certain things are left as best-kept secrets, and Athenaeum is one such place. It is fragile and precious — a tiny oasis of hope nestled in an endless miasma of hallways and death — and if you tell everyone where to find it, someone is going to ruin it. That's a guarantee. That's just how it goes.

One of the greatest obstacles of life in the Backrooms is food production. A simple handful of seeds is equal to the lives of hundreds of individuals. Athenaeum, then, is a failsafe for millions. There is no greater treasure to thriving human society than agriculture — making this outpost the crown jewel of the Halls. Other levels may offer reliable sources of food akin to Almond Fields' endless fields of almond grain or the exotic fish of The Flooded City, (despite housing danger in other forms), yet the issue of sustaining populations always comes down to logistic obstacles. We simply cant get the resources from those levels anywhere.

By being inside the Halls we keep the future of the Halls alive. No more, no less.


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Hydroponics and greenhouses.

These rundown systems were here long before us.

Description

Nestled within the familiar wallpaper and carpet of the Halls lies a cluster of rooms accoutred in a theme of delicate greenhouse circuitry, lighting, plumbing, and pumps which had been left to overgrow and entropy for an unknown amount of time.

Within these familiar rooms stand metal racks housing rows upon rows of hydroponic growing stations, as well as cabinets full of labelled seeds in glass jars and finely tuned equipment for measuring PH, thermometers, and measuring beakers for fertilizers and plant food. It was a well-stocked and incredibly advanced facility that existed with surprisingly little point of reference as to why or how it came to be. It stuck out like a sore thumb as if placed into the Halls by an act of God, defiant against reason.

At the point of its discovery Athenaeum was entirely vacant of citizens or operational staff… save for, well, the bones of whoever had come across it last. Three skeletons remained to look over the facility as time took its toll on the greenhouses; which had exploded into uncontrolled growth and housed mammoth-sized plants whose roots were thick, gnarled, proud tubers choking the overrun and hardly functioning waterways.

▸⠀Occupancy — An Unexpected Friend

As we settled into the outpost we were trimming back overgrowth, hacking at root systems, clearing out cobwebs, and trying to identify the identities of the three leftover bodies.

The carpet was moist and suffered from molding after being abandoned into disarray for so long, so we tore it up in huge, damp swaths. Same with the familiar wallpaper and water-damaged drywall; covering the gaps of wooden beams with cloth and plastic. We composted the trimmed plants for new rich soil and the bodies we broke down into ornaments. The skulls of those old occupants now watch the common entrance of the outpost — we believed it would be agreeable to their memory to adorn the doorway with them. Within just a few days it was feeling like home. By the end of our intrusion, a visitor might actually forget they were inside the Halls with the changes we made.

The husks of these old inhabitants had been here long enough for nearly everything to have decomposed save for the plastics and metals in their pockets and adorning their bodies; a ring, a necklace, and on each of them a laminated identification card in a language no one came close to recognizing. Not much to go off of, and no real means to dig any deeper.

There were living quarters here as well, more than enough needed to house the handful of us who stumbled upon the outpost. Metal framed beds with crinkly, hard plastic mattresses that prevented moisture from damaging them but make you wake up in puddles of sweat nearly every evening. Plumbing that runs through recyclers, turning waste to compost and drinkable water. Whoever built this place had resources akin to what I pictured NASA would have back on earth — capable of shooting millions of dollars worth of cutting-edge technology into space to sustain the lives of a handful of people within the harshest environment imaginable. How this was built into the desert of the Halls may forever be a mystery to me.

▸⠀Agriculture

"Man, despite his artistic pretensions, his sophistication, and his many accomplishments — owes his existence to a six-inch layer of topsoil and the fact it rains."

— Paul Harvey, 'So God Made a Farmer'

Once settled and brought into a state of operation, Athenaeum realized it had a prime directive: mass seed cultivation and the production of preserved goods. There are dozens of strains and species here, some edible, others more utilitarian in nature, but all of them useful. We grow berries, tubers, and plants from baseline which seem to have adapted to the Backrooms through a change of color. Some of them we recognized, many we did not. A lot of the plants we named ourselves, although we were able to find documentation — not in English, but with enough diagrams to understand — of others which were invaluable for optimizing their growth.

Many common plants and seeds you see in your communities come right from here! You'll recognize some of these frequent exports by name, so here is some information about them you may not have known about before, in the collapsible below.

Localized Farming:

Soil can be made out of nearly anything if you give it time. Rip up and shred carpet into clumps of fluff, soak it and add wallpaper, wood chips, manure from your settlements, and scraps of waste and let it naturally ferment. Plug your nose and till and rotate it occasionally, and let it rot and stew and continue adding to it for weeks. Decomposition will break your experiment down into soil — at least nutritious enough for Halls flora. Our seed distribution will get your first crops growing. Plants make more than food and materials: they make compost as well which can restart your cycle of farming again and again.

We cannot produce enough food for everyone here, but as long as our hydroponics are thriving and working efficiently, we can grow and store enough seeds for self-sufficient outposts for generations to come.

▸⠀Porters and Distribution

We distribute the seeds and preserved goods of Athenaeum via porter crews we cannot disclose the names of, along paths we cannot disclose the locations of, to our neighbouring settlements we cannot identify. The strength of the UNCB relies on some things to remain secret. The lives of many depend on our full obscuration of these details.

It's amusing, though. Certain aspects of the geography of the Halls lend themselves to be quite handy for Porters. Moving product by foot is incredibly easy when traversing a completely flat plane from one area to the next. Cargo caravans can use wheels and carts for the reliable movement of products. The job of a Porter is so simple, even, that many families we engage with live nomadically; Porting as a means to survive and keeping barter and trade alive among the society of the Halls. Distance becomes nothing more than a matter of planning. Faraway settlements request larger shipments since their deliveries are less frequent, our nearer neighbours can ask for more casual deliveries.

When possible, we send Porters along delivery routes that string along several settlements and have them reach them out of order; detouring for security or taking purposefully convoluted trips. When the cargo you are moving is food, the length of a trip does not matter. Five days or five months… bring enough for the journey and no distance is too great.

These people wander the Halls professionally — a lonely job — but Porters are prepared for the dangers of limspace and carry what they need to reach their destinations.


Community

Residents with relevant articles:
⠀▸⠀Saffron
⠀▸⠀Maria

The outpost is home to twenty-seven permanent residents, with a handful of temporary citizens who visit occasionally when required for harvest and inspection. Over time the facilities of the outpost have been expanded from their original forgotten and overgrown state into a bustling community with a multitude of services:

Secondary Directives:

Outpost Athenaeum is a storage location for physical copies of archived documents when applicable, and through trade has acquired a sizable collection of real paper books. The outpost has colloquially become known as the United Library within its local sector.

With the large volume of Porters frequenting this outpost for trade, this outpost has taken to mapping the hallways by collaborating routes between Porters. In this way systems for mapping — and subsequently ciphers for these maps — have been developed to provide secure routes between colonies. Porterspeak allows professional and trusted travellers to read landmarks and travel documents that would be nonsense to common wanderers: a system that was coined and refined here. Official UNCB maps with restricted areas obscured have been developed in these ways and uploaded to the Archives thanks to the efforts of Athenaeum.


Should the worst come to pass, Athenaeum shall remain. If all else should fall, Athenaeum will stand, deeply rooted and thriving to maintain the presence of humanity within the Halls.



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