Breaking The Ice

"It's quite simple," said Dr. Bright, perusing over a stack of papers as he swung idly by his tail from the ceiling light, "it's in your contract. Item 45-B clearly states that you are responsible for assessing security requirements within the compound, which includes locating and retrieving errant researchers."

"But he's not in the compound," complained Break, becoming ever more frustrated with the conversation. "He fell through some kind of hole in the space-time continuum, which means he's not in this building anymore; he may not even be in this universe."

"Ah," countered Bright, "but the hole is in the compound, is it not? Which means that this falls under the quantum natures of nested variable geometries, which means whatever universe he is in is also in the compound. I'm sorry, Break, but you're not getting out of this one. You're just going to have to go fetch Iceberg from whatever alternate reality he stumbled into."

"I hate Iceberg, and I hate you," she spat back at him, standing and leaving the office.

As Break proceeded down the hallway, Dmitri Strelnikov met her at a cross-section. "Prevyet, Agent Break," the Russian nodded to his second-in-command. "You are appearing to be in something of a hurry."

"More like I'm pissed to high Heaven," she replied.

Dmitri walked with her. "Is there something wrong that I should be told of?"

"No, not really," said Break, "just Bright pulling rank again. Apparently, Iceberg wandered into a dimensional portal of some kind and hasn't been heard from since. There's a Task Force guarding the perimeter of the aperture, and I think Dr. Gerald is working out a way to contain it, but someone's got to go in and get Iceberg back…"

"…and that someone is being you," finished the Russian. Break nodded, and Dmitri sighed. "I am sometimes of the frustration with this Bright doctor. I will go with you into this aperture. I do not wish to lose my second in command."

Break smiled a little at that. "Thanks, Dmitri," she said. Dmitri nodded simply, and the two members of Red Dawn continued together down the hallway.

"It appears to be stable for now," said Dr. Gerald, "whatever that means. It keeps wavering all over the electromagnetic spectrum, but it's something resembling our general concept of 'open' at any rate." He was sitting on the floor, adjusting the dials on a piece of equipment. In front of him, a glowing bubble of not-quite-light pulsed in a slow triform formant, hissing like a snake in a wind tunnel. Several Agents stood ready near him, armed to the teeth, in case anything unfamiliar decided to emerge.

"Try to keep it stable until we get back," offered Break. "I don't want to get stuck in an alternate timeline, or something far worse."

"Da," agreed Dmitri, nodding simply.

Gerald nodded back. "Whenever you're ready."

"Let's get this over with," said Break. The leaders of Red Dawn walked towards the glowing ball, disappearing into it from established reality.

Smoke filled their lungs; Break began to cough and hack, and Dmitri covered his mouth, waving his other hand to fan clear the hazy, hot air. They peered around; the corridor was in flames. Gunfire could be heard from every direction, as well as the screams of men and the sounds of unearthly things breaking free of their cages.

"Mat Boga," yelled Dmitri, "what is this Hell?"

"We must have gone forward in time," called back Break. "This is the same Site we just came from. The layout is identical."

"The future?" exclaimed Dmitri. "What on the Earth has happened to here?"

"I don't know," said Break. "But we can't worry about that now. Our mission is to find Iceberg and bring him back."

Dmitri nodded. "I think it will be of the best time to have at weapons ready," he said, cocking his rifle. "The sounds of war are not mistakable in this place."

"I concur," said Break, readying her pistol. "Let's go."

The made their way down the hall gingerly. At the first turn, they we surprised by a trio of military personnel. The soldiers were wearing unfamiliar uniforms; all grey, save for a single yellow stripe that ran horizontally across the chest and shoulders just below the breastbone. They leveled their rifles at the pair. "Halt!" demanded the commanding officer. "State your identification!"

"Agents Break and Strelnikov," said Break, keeping her pistol trained on the officer. "Who the Hell are you?"

"Drop your weapons or you will be shot," demanded the officer.

"We are the ones being of the SCP Foundation here, comrade," said Dmitri, his rifle keenly trained on the other soldiers. "I think it is you who should have a weapons drop."

"The SCP Foundation?" said the commander, smiling. "I thought we'd killed all of you meddlers by now. This will be a treat."

Before the men had time to react, a feral dog leaped out from behind them, his powerful jaws ripping one of the soldiers spinal columns. The other two spun around in the confusion, which was all the distraction the Red Dawn leaders needed to riddle them with bullets.

Dmitri eyed the dog for a moment, its mouth soaked with fresh blood. "Professor Crow?" he asked, recognizing the canine.

"Bright, actually," replied the dog, a gleaming medallion swinging from its neck. "Follow me, we haven't much time."

"Bright?" said Break, taken aback. "What the Hell are you doing in Kain's body?"

"No time to explain," said Bright. "Suffice it to say he wasn't using it anymore. Now come on!"

The two humans ran down the hallway after the dog, picking off grey-suited soldiers as they charged. In short time they came to a secured door. Bright placed his paw on the DNA scanner, and the secured doors slid open. "Inside, quickly," he said. The three ran for the opening, which closed right behind them.

Inside was Dr. Rights. She spun around, training a flamethrower on the group. "Don't move!" she screamed, her eyes bloodshot, her hair frazzled and stringy.

"Rights," said Bright, "put it down, it's me. I found Break and Strelnikov."

Rights peered at Break intensely, then bursting into maniacal laughter. "No, not Break!" she said, in a demented sing-song voice. "Break died on the mission! We sent her to her doom!"

"That's all changed now," said Bright. "Please, Agatha, I need you to pull it together!"

"Mission," said Break, "what mission?"

Rights was laughing and crying at the same time, completely unable to answer, curling up into a fetal ball on the floor. Bright sighed. "She's useless now. Dmitri, go over to that panel over there, terminal 6. You'll find a standard USB jumpdrive. Take it and guard it with your life. It is absolutely imperative that you get that drive back to the Dr. Bright of the past you just came from."

Dmitri nodded, rushing to the terminal. "Bright, what the Hell is going on here?" demanded Break. "We came through a dimensional hole—"

"—to rescue Iceberg," finished Bright. "Yes, I know that. I am the one who sent you, remember. Iceberg is irrelevent now. If you don't get that information back to the Foundation, then this will happen again, and no one will…" His words were cut off by a blaring alarm on one of the panels. Bright leaped up into a chair, padding the buttons with his paws. "Oh no," he said. "Oh God."

Right was crying inconsolably, thrashing around on the floor in a conniption. "It's the end of everything!" she wailed.

Bright scanned the readouts frantically. "Good mother of… these reading are well above ZK-level crisis. They failed. All of them, they all failed! Able, 228, 682, 079…"

"ZK-level?" said Break, trying to make sense of the unfamiliar readings from over Bright's shoulder. "I've never heard of that."

"End-of-reality scenario," explained Bright. "You know how Hawking says that even if the entire multiverse is destroyed, information always survives? Well, it doesn't this time."

"What caused all this?" demanded Break.

"No time!" said Bright. "Go now! Get to the aperture, if it closes we're all doomed!"

The doors came blasting into the room, and six soldiers charged in, firing. Break and Dmitri dove for cover, taking out two of the invaders as they ran. Bright turned just in time to see the bullets riddling his canine form, and he slumped out of the chair onto the floor, landing next to the frantic Rights. "They killed you," she whispered to his body, overtaken by madness. "Bullet in your brain, just like Gears, just like all the others… dead dog in the street…" It was the last thing she would ever say.

"You heard the dog doctor," said Dmitri to Break, both of them pinned behind a terminal. "I have the jumpdrive. We should be getting gone."

Break nodded. "I'll lay down cover fire. You blitz."

The Red Dawn Agents sprung into action. Break, drawing the other four's attention with her pistol, managed to take one more down before ducking behind the partition again. Dmitri came around the side, rifle ablaze, mowing down the rest as he screamed Russian profanities.

They rushed out of the room. "Head for the anomaly," said Break. "You've got the drive, you're more important. I'll go after Iceberg."

"Are you byezumni?" said Dmitri. "This is the breakdown of reality, Agent Break, and Iceberg is possibly even dead already!"

"Don't force me to disobey an order, Dmitri," said Break.

Dmitri sized her up, squaring his jaw. "I will be writing for you a formal reprimand when you return. Now get you going!"

Break nodded, taking off down the hall. Dmitri headed in the opposite direction, towards the aperture.

She only had to kill one more of the grey-suited troops on her way to Iceberg's office; they appeared to be mostly occupied with more immediate concerns. She could hear the sounds of huge, metal machines in the distance, and automatic machine gun fire, and the screams of men and women dying. Inside the office, Iceberg was sitting under his desk, shaking and muttering.

"Iceberg," said Break, spooking the researcher so badly that he jumped and smacked his head on the underside of the desk. He rubbed his head and cursed his luck, looking up at her.

"Break!" he exclaimed. "If there were ever a moment I were more glad to see you, I'd be hard pressed to name it, but give me a few minutes and I'm sure I'll come up with something."

"Come on," she said, "you can thank me later. Actually, forget I said that; it'll only give you ideas."

"You wound me, princess," said Iceberg, standing up and following her down the corridor back to the aperture. As they ran, the fabric of spacetime began to buckle around them, the sounds of a swirling vortex of non-existence roaring from somewhere in the indiscernible distance.

"The aperture's closing!" screamed Iceberg.

"Dive for it!" yelled Break.

They dove. Iceberg landed on the hard floor, with Break landing squarely in his lap. Dr. Gerald was twiddling dials frantically next to them. "I can't do anything more," he said, frowning, "there it goes!" The bubble imploded in on itself, disappearing from both sight and the machine's readings.

Dmitri walked over to them. "You made it in single piece from looks of it," he said to Break.

"And what a lovely piece it is," said Iceberg, rubbing his hand along Break's arm — the elbow of which rapidly found a landing spot in his ribcage.

"You did good," said Bright. "Damn good. Congratulations."

"I'm so happy you approve," said Break. "So what was on the drive?"

"Above your clearance level," answered Bright.

"Saw that one coming," said Break, sighing. "Well, if there's nothing further, I have to deal with a disciplinary report from Dmitri."

Bright nodded. "Dismissed," he said, simply. Break stood up and left.

Alone in the room, Bright picked up the jumpdrive with his prehensile tail, examining it closely. After a few moments, he picked up a phone receiver.

"Get me 05 Command," he said.

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