Wanderlust: Part 4

"This is a goddamned debacle, Observer Zero."

The Fishmonger did not seem perturbed in the slightest, smiling warmly at the plasma screen triumvirate of O5-2, O5-4 and O5-11. "On the contrary, sirs, I believe that the cumulative end result will justify my proposition."

"Oh?" piped up O5-11. "Let's just review the situation thus far. SCPs 808 and 299 have gone missing. SCP-108 has wiped out nearly half of MTF Tau-3 before being recaptured, including Agents Ward and Trevino. It's anybody's guess how SCP-219 got nicked for an afternoon's sparring match without anyone noticing. And last but not least, Cain is now refusing to answer any questions in regards to these events. Anything else you'd like to add to the record, or will that be quite enough disasters for one day?"

"I realize how the situation must look from the current viewpoint," nodded Fish, still not breaking his smile, "but we have every reason to believe that Cain is acting in the best interests of the SCP Foundation."

"Why do we have reason to believe that?" asked O5-2.

"His track record is impeccable to date," answered Fish. "All indications are that he is either unwilling or unable to act against us. We should not move so quickly to judge him before we understand the issues at hand."

O5-2 was visibly incredulous. "And until then, you expect us to just sit tight with multiple SCPs running amok? I'm sorry, Observer Zero, but that's just not acceptable. Until Cain decides to open up and talk to us, I'm putting Von Schnitt back in charge of this, with Gears as a liaison."

Fish sighed. "As you wish, sirs."

"This is cozy," whispered Alice, cramped up in the end of the broom closet.

"Best I could do on short notice," replied Stanley, who was faring a little better, but only because he was half-standing outside of three-space. "I'm sorry, but it's been ages since I've done so much stepping in such a short time. I'm out of shape."

"There's a pun in there somewhere," whispered Alice, "but I'm far too polite to search for it." She paused, listening outside the door. "I think they're gone," she said. "Open the door."

Stanley phased out of the closet, unlocking it from the outside to let Alice out. "All clear," he reported.

Alice came back out into the hallway. "I don't even understand what I'm supposed to do here," she said, sneaking down past the office doors. "I don't even want to be here! Why exactly am I helping you guys, anyway? Isn't this, like, the bullet train to getting classified Keter?"

"Look," said Stanley, "I've known Cain for… well, let's just say longer than he'd like you to know. When Cain says that some bad stuff is about to go down, I listen, jack. Now, we've got two basic options here. One is to tuck tail between our legs, head back to Site-17, tell the staff we had a huge lapse of judgment, and hope Cain is wrong. Knowing what you know about the SCP Foundation, are you comfortable with any aspect of that choice?"

Alice sighed. "No."

"Then we go with option two," said Stanley.

They proceeded some meters further before stopping at the entrance to a hallway, down which were a number of armed Agents. On the corner of the wall, there was a sign indicating that the hallway lead to SCP-228's containment cell.

"If they hear us, we'll have to get out of there fast," said Alice.

"Then we'll just have to make sure they don't," said Stanley. "Ready for one more jump?"

Alice nodded. Stanley enveloped her, and the next moment, they were in the cage with the Steel Doll.

"You don't like me very much, do you, Cain?"

"I neither like nor dislike you, Dr. Von Schnitt," replied Cain, sitting calmly in the holding cell.

"I doubt that very much," said Dr. Von Schnitt. He paced on the other side of the containment door. "You've been an exemplary specimen up until now, Cain. It's why we were willing to let you have a go at 808 in the first place. But this? This is nothing short of defiant insolence on your part."

"I have acted entirely in accordance with the SCP Foundation charter," said Cain, "and have assessed and identified a Keter-level threat to the human race, and set into motion a plan to stop it."

"Then tell us where you sent Rubik's Cube and Mona Lisa Overdrive," offered Von Schnitt, grinning sardonically, "so we can send them some assistance. Surely they'll need backup if the threat is as dire as you make it out to be."

"That would be in deference to my defense strategy," said Cain.

"Oh really?" asked Dr. Von Schnitt, audibly incredulous. "And why would that be? Wait, let me guess — it's because the threat comes from the SCP itself, which means that you can't compromise your prodigies by allowing us to know where they are!"

Cain blinked. "That is correct, Doctor."

Von Schnitt laughed. "You can't be serious."

"I am indeed quite serious," said Cain.

"Well, don't keep me in suspense," cajoled Von Schnitt, "what's the threat, then?"

"You are, Dr. Von Schnitt," answered Cain.

"Begin log file," spoke Gears into the microphone. "Authorization has been given by O5-10 for me to execute Dr. Von Schnitt's initial propositions for accelerating the growth of SCP-217. If this experiment is a success, we will have a functional method of fully mechanizing humanoid tissue, which will be instrumental in the future containment of humanoid SCPs. After several tests have been run, we will study the results for viability before moving onto the next phase: decontamination of the viral strain from the end product, leaving only the clockwork mechanism itself."

Gears pressed a few buttons on his remote console, then said into the recorder, "Due to the volatile nature of SCP-224, all experimental procedures will be carried out by remote drones. Initiating control of Remote Unit One." In his screens, he saw three views. On the first one was a sterile operation room with a Class-D subject harnessed to a mobile lab table with tank treads, and beside the table a sort of medical robot with needles protruding from its appendages. The second one showed a containment tube running from the first room to the second one, vacuum-sealed from the rest of the hallway. The third showed the second room, within which sat a grandfather clock. All the speakers on the screens had been muted.

"Administering sample of SCP-217 to subject P-9982," said Gears, controlling the robot that held the syringe full of SCP-217. The jumpsuited man squirmed and mouthed curse words as the needle punctured his skin, flowing the clockwork virus into his bloodstream.

"Injection phase complete," said Gears. "Proceeding to exposure phase. Initiating control of Remote Unit Two." He switched his controls over to the mobile table, carefully piloting it down the quarantined tube with its angry, violated patient on top.

"Test subject now entering audible range of SCP-224," said Gears. "At this point, increased temporal flow should allow the virus to rapidly overtake the subject, causing total viral mutation. Once complete, we will retract the drone and study the results."

The subject writhed for another brief moment. Then, his eyes went round as nickels and in a matter of seconds, his entire body burst into a latticework of gears, cogs, pistons and pulleys, covered in rubber and glass and fine strands of nylon. Where once there laid a man, now only a large windup toy remained.

"Excellent," said Gears. "Preliminary observations indicate that Dr. Von Schnitt's technique is successful. Subject appears to have undergone a complete—"

The mechanical man's forehead suddenly tore, then cracked, and finally burst. From the inside of his skull came forth a strange and unwieldy thing, a snakelike train of worm gears and hypoids that folded into itself like a Klein bottle, its metal body flowing more and more elaborate patterns of clockwork, flowing down all the way to its consumed tail. The Boolean gearshaft hovered inside the time-bubble for a long moment, then seemed to collapse inwards on itself, disappearing from space.

"Oh," said Dr. Gears into the microphone. "There appears to have been a slight anomaly."


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