Wanderlust: Part 6

At the risk of downplaying the sudden appearance of Able, Alice was having a hell of a time with SCP-408. The butterflies swarmed around her in concert, acting as one, while she swatted and flailed mostly randomly. "Get them off, get them off me! I hate bugs!"

"Unable to comply under present scenario," answered 228, who was quite busy engaging the firstborn and his neverending supply of deadly blades. Not only was 228 a little worse for the wear since her encounter with Cain, but Abel was fanatically determined not to lose to her twice. His attacks came with a speed and vengeance rarely seen even in him.

"Shoo!" yelled Alice, slapping one of the butterflies out of the air. The swarm retracted from her momentarily, as if stunned by the striking of one of its fold. A moment later, where a mass of Lepidoptera had been, there now stood a rather large grizzly bear.

Alice screamed reflexively at the beast — but then stopped. The bear was making menacing gestures, but no sounds. It opened its mouth as if to roar, but then no actual roar came out. Alice came to the swift realization that the illusion was just that of the butterflies changing color, the same way they had changed to match their surroundings while enveloping Abel.

Alice swung a wild 'karate chop' at the bear, and it dissipated with a poof into a scattering of wings. "Ha!" she exclaimed, rather proud of her own cleverness, as the bugs retreated. "Next time I won't be so forgiving," she taunted the insects. "Next time I'll have Raid!"

Meanwhile, Able was pounding down on 228. He had developed a rather novel strategy: he'd begun rapidly pulling weapon after weapon out of his pocket dimension, using them only once to strike before discarding them and immediately producing a new and different one. The technique was fearsomely effective, as the android had only the time to adjust to one tactic before the next one was presented; even her vastly superior processor could not handle the chaos. She had mostly taken a defensive posture now, leading Able away from Alice.

"808," said 228 between leaps and parries, "do not remain. I will engage 076-2 for as long as necessary. You must escape."

"I don't know where I'm supposed to go!" said Alice.

"You are the enlightener," said 228. "You will bring about the—"

An unholy racket, like the tearing of a thousand-yard stalk of broccoli, sounded from 228's body. Sparks and pops surrounded the damage in her midsection, which had been impaled by Able's current sword. She fell back, limp as a ragdoll.

Alice's face fell. "No!" she wailed.

Able pulled his blade out of the android, focusing his attention on Alice. "You've been quite a hassle, little mouse."

"Stay back," said Alice, backing away in fear.

"Or what?" asked Able. "I'm not a cloud of moths, girl, and I won't disappear in a puff if you swat at me. Far the opposite."

Then Alice noticed his collar. She peered at the metal band, flashing on its capabilities in an instant. "I said," she repeated, a bit more confidence in her voice, "stay back."

Able laughed. "You may be a mouse," he said, "but you have the heart of a burly boar." His expression fell again to stoic seriousness. "But you're still just a mouse."

"You know what's funny about mice?" asked Alice. "Sometimes, they eat things. They chew through walls, run around in the rafters, get into the wiring. Sometimes they chew right through the wires, and before you know it, the lights go out."

"I've been threatened by professionals, girl," said Able. "You'll have to do better than that."

"Okay," she said, remembering the Sunday School classes from her childhood, "then how about this one? 'You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord. This day the Lord will hand you over to me, and I will strike you down and cut off your head.'"

Able's eyes were filled with fire, raising his whirling blade of destruction. "There can be only one answer to that!"

"Not today," said Stanley. In a whisper, Alice, 228 and Stanley were all gone, and Abel's sword swing cracked the ground in two where Alice had been standing.

"This is an unprecedented situation," said Dr. Snorlison, addressing the five plasma screens showing O5-2, O5-3, O5-6, O5-10 and O5-12. "We've gotten the same information from no less than twenty-five SCPs, all of which were isolated incidents from one another. SCP-046 has only been showing information on 'the coming age of no-resistance', regardless of information asked from it. SCP-172 only responds to direction with the phrase 'I will walk among the true humans again,' in Russian. Then there's Shaman Xon's recent exposure to SCP-050…"

"We get the picture, Snorlison," said O5-2. "Bottom line: do you believe we are facing a possible XK-class event?"

"The evidence is still inconclusive, sirs," said Snorlison, "but I don't think we can ignore that possibility. There are too many unaccounted synchronicities, and even the circumstantial data strongly implies that at least a CK-class reconfiguration may be in motion."

"Very well," said O5-2. "We will execute defensive strategy P-72-D until more is known about the nature of this threat. Synchronize multi-Site activities with Kain Pathos Crow and Lieutenant Masipag."

"Very good, sirs," said Snorlison. "What are my orders regarding Doctors Gears and Von Schnitt?"

"Keep them under close surveillance," said O5-2, "but do not interfere. Report to the liaison attached to Overseer Eleven once every six hours until further notice, beginning at the next quarter-rotation."

"Aye, sirs," said Snorlison, bowing his head once. The plasma screens went dark.

"I can't go any further," panted Stanley, "I'm exhausted." He unfolded the trio of bodies back into normal space, leaning over as he coughed and wheezed.

"We can't stay in one place too long," protested Alice. "Able will track us."

"I don't think so," said Stanley. "He showed up way too fast, even accounting for the butterfly cloak. I think he had help in getting to us — maybe Iris? She's on the Omega-7 payroll."

"So you were awake when Able showed up," surmised Alice. "How long were you playing possum?"

"Long enough to assess the situation and determine an escape plan," said Stanley, "which is rather the salient point as I see it."

"Wouldn't it have been easier to teleport Able away?" Alice asked, kneeling down beside the inert form of 228. "He's only one guy, after all, contrasted to the two of us."

"Are you out of your mind?" exclaimed Stanley. "He'd rip me to shreds from the inside out. Do you have any idea what dimension those swords come from?"

Alice didn't answer, looking over the broken 228. She was almost completely battered now from the combination of Cain and Abel. "She was my friend," said Alice.

"She's a robot," chastised Stanley, "and furthermore, you really need to stop thinking of machines as people, Alice. It's not healthy."

"Why isn't it?" snapped Alice. "They're made of matter like we are. They run on electromagnetism like we do. They're more like us than some of the other stuff I've seen at the Foundation. Why can't the be people too?"

"Because they don't have sentience," answered Stanley. "Sapience, perhaps, but certainly not sentience. A plant is a living thing. A microbe is, a virus is. But a machine? It doesn't have any inherent self-preservation aside from what its manufacturer programs into it."

"Lemmings jump off of cliffs," retorted Alice. "Babies receive genetic traits from their parents. There are plenty of instances where biological processes have parallels to electronic ones. Where do you draw the line?" She watched the empty eyes of the automaton with sadness. Stanley was silent, breathing deeply.

Alice laid her hand on 228's face, caressing the torn cheek. "She just wants to go home," she said, her eyes dewy with sincerity. Then, the skin where she touched the android began to fold back in place, the hole closing itself up and reforming a smooth patch of synthetic skin.

"Uh," said Alice, backing away a little, "that's… never happened before."

The repairs spread quickly from the face, traveling down the body, fusing broken mechanisms back together, rewiring torn cables, patching cracked circuitry. Within moments, all of 228's damage had been reversed, to the point that even the cracks from when the automaton was originally found had disappeared.

"Alice," asked Stanley, standing guardedly, "what's going on?"

"I…" stammered Alice, "I think I'm healing her."

228 sat up, looking around. "Functionality restored," she said. "Awaiting directives."

"Hot damn," said Stanley, visibly impressed. "I didn't know you could do that."

"Neither did I," said Alice, blinking.

"Looking for something, Doctor?"

Von Schnitt, sitting at a computer terminal, whipped around to meet the eyes of the Fishmonger. "How did you get in here?"

"How do you know Schroedinger's cat is still alive?" replied Fish cryptically. He lazily ran a finger over the monitor, as if checking for dust. "You're not going to be able to get access to the files you want, so I figured I'd save you the frustration."

"I don't know what you're talking about," said Von Schnitt.

"Doctor," sighed Fish, "let's not play these games, please? I was crowbarring the truth out of minds larger than yours back when you still thought the Gom Jabar test in Dune was a pretty nifty idea. You are clearly looking for the Foundation's admission files on SCP-808, in order to deduce some clues about her origins. Also, you are not finding them."

"Assuming you're right," snapped Von Schnitt, visibly annoyed, "how would you know that?"

"Because there aren't any admission files on SCP-808," answered Fish.

"That's impossible," said Von Schnitt. "Every SCP in the database has to have an admission file."

"Nothing is impossible," said Fish, "but some things are highly improbable."

"How can she be in the database if she was never admitted?" asked Von Schnitt.

"Indeed," offered Fish, "how could she?"

The general breach alarm sounded. The two men looked at each other for a short moment, then each logged into a secured terminal. "What's going on?" asked Von Schnitt.

Kain Pathos Crow's dog-face appeared on the screen. "It's Cain," he answered. "He's broken out of his cell and is attempting escape."

"What?" yelled Von Schnitt.

"I know," said Crow, "it's totally inconsistent with his modus operandi, but there's more. Just before he began rampaging, he was recorded on CCTV saying 'a penance must be exacted,' and then… well, it's probably easier to just show you."

"Do you still have him on closed circuit?" asked Fish.

Crow nodded. "Patching you in now."

The screen filled with the security camera image. A solitary figure was berserking through SCP soldiers, snapping the well-armed squadrons one by one like twigs with his bare hands, seemingly powered by pure furious rage. On his forehead, a Sumerian symbol could be clearly identified, and tears were streaming down his face.

Something else was amiss. The figure had normal limbs instead of implants.


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