Wanderlust: Part 5

"First of all," said Alice in a hushed voice to 228, "speak normal English, and second, speak it quietly."

"Of course, enlightening one," said 228, its facial expression never changing — not that it had many options with half its skin torn off. "Your directives are holy and correct."

"And also," added Alice, "don't call me any of that stuff. It's just… just 808, okay?"

"As you instruct, 808," replied 228.

"She gives me the creeps," said Stanley, shivering in four dimensions.

"She's just out of her time," said Alice, sympathetically, watching 228's eyes. "She doesn't belong here. She wants to go home."

"Also," added Stanley, "you give me the creeps when you talk like that. Well, regardless, 228 is the best choice for a bodyguard under the present circumstances, and additionally, Cain says that she's your avatar."

"My avatar?" Alice blinked. "What's that supposed to mean?"

"Search me, Matrix Girl," said Stanley, shrugging in two directions. "You know Cain's no stranger to being cryptic."

Alice nodded. "So, the next step is to get out of here, I assume, and then—"

Her speech was cut off by the bursting of the doors. Three full Task Forces were waiting out in the hall, and Agents began to pour in through the arch like Skittles falling out of a ripped bag. A few of them had some very mean-looking guns.

"Time to go!" yelled Stanley, beginning to envelop the other two. Before he could finish, however, one of those mean-gun-toting Agents fired off an energy discharge. The projectile passed harmlessly through Alice and 228, hitting Stanley squarely. He began to shriek with agony, stumbling around the room blindly, his body bonded to three-space and unable to handle the trauma.

"Tesser is down," yelled the leader of Team Six into his comm unit. "The Lotto Steppers are go! Repeat, Lotto Steppers are go!"

It was the last thing he would ever say, since the next sound was that of an absolutely unfairly fast android ripping most of his skeleton out of his body.

Von Schnitt blinked. "It just disappeared?"

"I believe," answered Gears, "that there was an unforeseen complication between the virus and the temporal acceleration field. Since we have never studied the effects of the gear virus over the course of centuries, it is possible that this outcome is in fact the natural end product of the virus. On the other hand, perhaps this outcome is an anomaly due to some sort of undefinable catalyst between the two SCPs."

"Damn, damn, damn," said Von Schnitt. "This is a fine mess. Have there been any reports yet? Anything to give us a clue where it might have gone?"

"Nothing as yet," said Gears. "I have sent out a missive to the observation points at Sites 2, 18, 27 and 33. Continuous scans are in effect."

Von Schnitt nodded. Before he could say any more, Agent Underwood rushed up to the pair. "Sir," he said, addressing Von Schnitt, "MTFs Tau-8, Theta-9 and Omicron-2 have engaged the rogue SCPs at Site-76."

Von Schnitt peered at Underwood gravely. "Status?"

"SCP-299 has been neutralized," said Underwood. "SCP-808 is essentially cornered inside SCP-228's cage, but SCP-228 is causing extremely heavy casualties in all teams."

"Festering boils," cursed Von Schnitt. "I should have known they'd go for the Steel Doll."

"They're pinned down, sir," said Underwood. "With the teleporter de-polarized, it's only a matter of time and manpower before they're taken down."

"Do you really want to take that chance, Agent?" spat Von Schnitt, "Have you forgotten about the previous incident with SCP-228? We need someone with experience in these matters." He turned around to a control console, punching into the secure communications network. "Get me Omega-7 command."

The acolyte bowed to his Master. "The serpent emerges, Praetor."

Bumaro nodded once to his underling. "Yes," he said, "I know. I can hear his rattling through the winds, making his way to us. The time is quite near. Have you assembled the Inner Chain?"

"Yes, Praetor," answered the acolyte. "They await you in the Casing."

Bumaro stood up, his ceremonial robes flowing to each side of him, adorned along the edges with elaborate patterns of interlocking cogs. "Soon, we shall repair the broken god, and ourselves become like gods. Come, apprentice, and behold the dawning of the new epoch." He strode towards the entrance hall, flanked by four guards. The acolyte followed from a reverent distance.

They descended deep into the depths of the cavernous sanctum, down the spiraling stairways, all the way to the bottom, to the entrance of the Casing. Robert Bumaro had waited a very long time for this moment. He inhaled deeply through his nose, tasting the stale air of the secured sub-basement. Then he unlocked the doors with his gear-key, entering the inner chamber.

Inside were the twelve members of the Inner Chain, chanting the names of the ancient gods over and over: Adion Ma'at. Darcata Ma'at. Eshumyon. Shalyalk. Hadadon. Kothoch. Mot Qyet. Theli Reshpah. Theli Asarga. Theli Enkilil. Theli Namumma. Theli Theli.

"We gather today to welcome the serpent into our Casing," called out Bumaro. "His infinite chains shall be the power of our salvation! We call upon him to enter into our breasts with the ancient names. Theli the Helical. Theli the Moebius. Theli the Destroyer!"

In the center of the room, in the middle of the air, it appeared, writhing and growing and shifting the pistons and cogs of its serpentine body, as it expanded towards the Inner Chain.

"I don't want to be here," sobbed Alice, curled up in the corner of the cage in a fetal ball, the broken and bloody bodies of Agents strewn all around her. "I just want to go home."

228 was holding her own, but another team was closing in behind the previous ones, holding guns that looked quite different from the ones that had taken out Stanley — poor Stanley, writhing in cubic shock on the floor, his body no longer able to handle existence in a mere three dimensions.

Alice knew what the guns were: inverse-Faraday weapons, the kind which had been used on 228 before. She could feel the humming of their life-stealing barrels from the floor. The Agents took up staggered positions as 228 engaged the last of the initial forces, charging up their focus emitters, planning to hit her from multiple vectors for maximum effect.

"No," said Alice, her eyes widening, "you will not hurt my friend!"

Time seemed to slow to a crawl as Alice's mind reached out to the electronic targeting systems in the weapons. They answered her call. Holy is the enlightener. Correct is the enlightener. She must be obeyed.

The energy discharge from the feedback loop of Faraday weapons directed towards their own electronics burned off the faces of the Agents holding the rifles. They howled in pain, their flesh turned to fiery plasma.

They didn't suffer long. The distraction was all that 228 needed to finish her task.

Alice stood up among the dead bodies. She called to one of the Lotto Steppers. I obey, enlightener. Stanley unflattened from three-space, his angles beginning to rotate on their usual axes again, but he was yet unconscious.

"Get Stanley," said Alice to 228, "we're getting out of here."

228 flung the hypercubic man over her shoulder, and the trio hightailed it for the exit, with 228 keeping to a relatively slow pace so that Alice could keep up.

They were perhaps several miles away from Site-76 on the open plains when Alice called out: "Wait, stop, I can't keep up. I'm out of breath."

228 stopped. "Static position is not advised," said the android.

"I know," said Alice, panting, "I know, they'll be after us any minute now, but I just can't go any further…" She wheezed a bit, looking around. "In fact, shouldn't we see something by now? I mean, that can't have been all the Task Forces on base…"

228 lowered Stanley to the ground, scanning the area. "Anomalous readings detected," she said. "Discrepancy of 0.003 percent with comparison of established geographic data."

"Maybe they just cut down a tree or something," offered Alice.

"Incorrect," replied 228. "Distinct atmospheric disturbance present."

Directly in front of 228, the empty sky exploded into a thousand butterflies with black and white wings, and from inside the invisible cloak a rather impractically large sword swung towards the android. She managed to leap back in time to avoid most of the impact, but the end of the blade caught her midsection, ripping the skin open.

Behind the jagged, hooked sword stood a very tall, very imposing, very angry man.

"Recognize designation Zero Seven Six Dash Two," said 228. "Previously terminated. Repeat engagement not advised."


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