Wanderlust: Part 2

URUK PERIOD, c. 4000 BC

He had wandered the deserts of Nod for longer than he could remember, longer than anyone else could remember. Even the vicious Nephilim avoided him, for fear of the repercussions they would suffer if they engaged him in battle. He had suffered the blows of Anat, of Resheph and of Chemosh, and all of those awful destroyers fell before him without his striking a single blow.

He had not eaten for years, maybe decades. Animals even shunned him, and no plants would grow under his feet. He would lament, some days, about not learning the path of the hunter like his brother — his poor, poor brother. It was his anger, his jealousy towards Abel that had lead him to this fate; his was the most heinous of crimes, the first crime. He was the inventor of murder.

Onward he trudged through the deserts, wandering into the land of of the Sabaeans, to Sayhad, having nothing more to do — unable to die, unable to live. Then in the distance he saw a glimmer. An oasis? Perhaps he should avoid it, lest his curse defile the soil. But he had not known water for so long, and his throat was parched, and his body stank.

He moved toward the shining in the horizon. As he came closer, he had to shield his eyes, even in the brightness of the desert sun, for it shone with the light of a thousand thousand suns.

A woman's voice came out of the light. "Cain of Eden, who bears the Oth of wandering, welcome. I have been waiting a long time for you."

"What magic is this?" he asked, unable to see the voice for the light. "Are you of the Nephilim?"

"I am Ashima," the voice called to him, "the three-who-are-as-one, whom your Lord calls Shekhinah."

"I have heard of you in my travels," he said. "In Samaria you are known as Sofia, the wise and fateful."

"Yes. I have predicted that you would come to me, and lo, here you stand."

He regarded her words for a moment. "Why have you brought me here?"

"Your fate is closely tied to the fates of the worlds, Cain of Eden. The evil of your actions has plagued this world, which your Lord created in perfection. You were the first to embrace evil for your own purposes, and so the world will exist in evil as long as you walk its breadth."

"Then my punishment is too great!" he cried. "Terrible enough to by cursed to wander these unfertile lands, but to have the weight of the world's suffering as I do so? How can I endure this?"

"Behold, I will ease your suffering. For there is another world, a world of order which has not been tainted by the evils of man, and from that world I will bring the vessels of your salvation." There was a great noise, like the buzzing of a thousand thousand bees, and he fell before Ashima, his Oth shining from his forehead with a brilliant glow.

When he arose again, Ashima was gone. He looked down at his body. He had changed.


PRESENT DAY

"Do you believe in the Fates?" asked Agent Trevino, stirring her tea.

"Don't be simple, Carolyn," replied Underwood, sipping his coffee. "I believe in statistics and probabilities, but an actual physical representation of coincidence? That's crazy talk."

"That's the thing, Harley," said Trevino, "we work with crazy stuff all the time. Maybe fate is just a kind of mathematics we haven't learned to master yet."

Underwood peered over the table at Trevino. "Where's all of this coming from?"

"Ah, nothing, really," said Trevino. "I've just had Cain on my mind."

"Creepy bastard," remarked Underwood, huffing. "Really sets me off when he pulls loopholes like that out of his ass."

"It's actually kind of weird," said Trevino. "After I had the watch on 808, Von Schnitt had to debrief me personally — you know, he'd already talked to the rest of Tau-3."

Underwood nodded.

"Well, he was a little less formal than he would be with a group," said Trevino. "He told me he'd been talking to Franks and apparently Cain had said something about statistical probabilities and being able to to predict the future."

Underwood hummed. "You remember a few months back, when Steel Doll got out?"

"Of course," said Trevino.

"Well, it's weird you should say that about Cain," said Underwood, "because you know I was pretty good friends with Archie…"

Trevino visibly shuddered. "That poor man."

"Yeah, I know… but my point is, he told me something Cain had said to him once, way back. Something about not worrying what'd happen to him. Then Steel Doll goes on a rampage, right, and Archie comes up with a plan to use Cain's ability against her…" Underwood paused for a moment in reflection. "I mean, maybe it's not prediction, per se. Maybe that was hanging around in Archie's subconscious and he made the prediction come true without realizing it. But you gotta wonder, you know?"

The two Agents were silent for a long time, sipping their respective beverages.


"Hypothetical question," said Von Schnitt, poking his pasta fazul with a fork, "what do you think would happen if we exposed 808 to 217?"

"Well," said Gears, "from a purely scientific viewpoint, I don't see that 808 would have any more biological immunity to the virus than any other organic animal. The interesting question would be whether or not she would retain her abilities once converted to the kinetic-mechanical substrate."

"That's what I'm wondering, as well," said Von Schnitt. He glanced around the canteen surreptitiously; it was fairly full, being that it was lunchtime, and the various conversations created an ambient drone. "Assume for argument's sake that she would. We already know that converted animals can be repaired with equivalent replacement parts from normal machines. We could then develop a sort of failsafe gear, something that would kick in if an emergency situation occurred, stopping the clockworks."

Gears pondered this idea. "An eloquent notion," he admitted. "In fact, if such a stratagem could be put into practice, then it might be suitable to forcibly infect all humanoid SCPs with 217."

Von Schnitt nodded. "I for one would prefer to have automatons that we could stop and start at our pleasure than irreplaceable and grossly unpredictable organics."

As if on cue, space unfolded beside the two doctors at that moment. Through the opening in the air stepped a being that appeared to be constructed entirely of fleshy right angles. Von Schnitt jumped in his seat, but Gears simply turned to see the newcomer.

"Oh," said Von Schnitt, catching his breath, "it's just you. Hello, Stanley." That was the nickname they had given to SCP-299: Stanley Cubic, an awful pun on one of the doctors' favorite film directors.

"Good afternoon to you, doctors," said the dimensional stepper. His voice always seemed to come from behind the veil of reality, with a slight backmasked reverb effect and occasional strange undertones, punctuated by whispers of words unspoken, as if he was speaking two perpendicular sentences at the same time. Stanley walked towards the cafeteria line, politely waiting behind the other patrons for his ration.

"That guy gives me the creeps," whispered Von Schnitt.

"He's an unusual specimen," allowed Gears.

"What's he doing down in the cafeteria?" wondered Von Schnitt. "Last I heard, he was hanging out with the Aborigine."

Gears finished his plate, standing up. "Well, I have work to do. If you would, submit your proposal to me for access to 217 when you have it all worked out."

"Oh, it's not so much a proposal as yet," said Von Schnitt. "Just a preponderance, really."

Gears nodded simply, saying no more as he dropped off his tray and departed the canteen. Von Schnitt sat quietly, watching Stanley progress slowly through the line.


queen's pawn to queen's pawn six.

"Ah," said 488-1, mulling over 177's move, "so that is the gambit, then. I was wondering what your place was in all of this. Good. Very good." He pondered the board for a long moment. "It is not going to work, you know, this business with Cain and Alice. The matrices are coming on too fast. We will all be cogs before the changing of the seasons." He moved his own bishop to block the pawn.

king's knight to queen's knight five.

"What, and have Abel and Cain working together?" 488-1 clucked his teeth in disapproval. "You have clearly gone psychotic, my friend. Nothing short of Armageddon itself is going to make those two forgive one another, and frankly I am not entirely sure about even that." He picked up his queen, advancing her two spaces.

queen to king's rook three.

488-1 stared at the board for some time after the move. "Surely you are not serious."

488 broke through momentarily. "This is boring," he complained. "I wanna play Halo."

"Quiet, whelp," retorted 488-1, "this is vitally important." He looked over the board again, eyebrows furrowing. "No. No, this is too much to bear. I will opt to retire for the time being. We will continue this another time." He stood up from the board, giving it one last glance before shaking his head in disbelief and departing Dr. Calib's office.

"What did it say?" asked 488.

"He said it is the end of everything," replied 488-1.

CONTINUED IN PART 3
RETURN TO PART 1

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