Wanderlust: Part 9

JANUARY 8, 1997

"Daddy, the mailman's here!"

Kilroy looked up from his ongoing project, a collection of circuit boards he had assembled into a strange diamond-lattice configuration, and smiled. "That'll be UPS, sweetie, not the Post Office," he corrected his daughter. He stood up and came to the door screen door where his daughter was standing, a man in brown shorts and shirt standing on the other side.

"What's the difference?" asked the little girl.

"UPS is a privately owned company," answered Kilroy, opening the door and taking the package from the deliveryman, "whereas the Post Office is a government agency owned by the American citizens."

"Are we American citizens?" she asked.

"Yes, we are," answered Kilroy, signing off for the box and nodding congenially to the deliveryman.

"Then how come we have to pay for stamps if we already own them?"

Kilroy laughed out loud. "It's complicated," he replied. "I'll explain it to you later, after I'm done with my project." She was so amazingly intuitive, his daughter, even at only six years old — the same age as JonBenet Ramsey, murdered only two weeks ago, just as she was in the timeline Kilroy remembered coming from, the one he hoped to return to his rightful place within…

She came by it honestly: Raina was sharp as a tack, and she had passed on so many of her qualities to their daughter. It pained Kilroy to remember Raina. The first two years had been terrific, but after their child was born, something changed. They began to argue more and more, taking radically opposite views on their correct place in this new burgeoning timeline. In 1993, Raina left them, leaving under the cover of darkness without so much as a note. Kilroy didn't bother to report her as missing; how could he? Neither one of them was supposed to be there in the first place.

Kilroy had raised their daughter on his own since then. She had been too young to remember her mother, but when the light hit her features just right, Kilroy could see her mother in her face, and the remembrance gnawed at him with a hollow ache…

The little girl looked up at her father. "How long you gonna be working on it?"

"Not much longer," said Kilroy. "These are the parts I've been waiting for." He opened the package and pulled out the contents: a Pentium-200 MMX microprocessor. "You see, this little guy, and the seven more like him still in the box, has a very special set of instructions I needed to get this to work — a set of instructions that weren't available until this chip was released today."

"Okay," she said, cheerfully. "I'm gonna go play video games. But tell me the moment you're done cause I wanna see it!"

Kilroy chuckled. "Whatever you say, Alice."


PRESENT DAY

"Behold my former assistant," said Kondraki, waving towards the window.

Kain and Snorlison peered through the tempered razor-wire glass. Inside was a creature that looked vaguely like Kondraki's last assistant, a young Asian woman fresh out of police academy — but twisted into something awful and inhuman. The metal beast slithered around the cell on its serpentine tail, occasionally looking towards the group with its dead, determined eyes.

"This is only a taste of what I saw," continued Kondraki. "Entire towns transformed into these things. For now it seems to be contained in a very remote pocket of the midwest, but it's spreading by the hour."

"Good God," said Snorlison, visibly horrified, "what are they?"

"Acolytes of Theli," answered Kondraki. "Seems that Gears' little experiment released a major deity from another dimension, one comprised entirely of kinetic machinery. It's completely overtaken the Church of the Broken God and has been spreading outwards from their original base of operations. We're looking at an XK-Class end-of-the-world scenario, gentlemen, unless something can be done to stop this infestation."

"So we should have Gears taken into custody," said Snorlison.

"No," grunted Kondraki, "that'd be a bad idea. I've got a gut feeling that Gears, like the rest of us, are pawns in a larger game. And I think that game is being played by Von Schnitt."

"You think he's an double Agent?" asked Crow. "Maybe working for the Church of the Broken God?"

"I'd say more like a triple Agent," replied Kondraki. "If he's in league with the Church, then it's only to forward an even more sinister agenda — an elaborate decoy to draw us away from Von Schnitt's real objective."

"And what would that objective be?" asked Snorlison.

"If I knew that," said Kondraki, "I wouldn't have needed to ask for your help."

"It is rather uncharacteristic for you," noted Crow, nodding.

"So what do we do?" asked Snorlison.

"The only thing we can do," replied Kondraki. "We contain it. I'll be heading up the task forces that will be heading into the fire. Kain, your job is to track down Von Schnitt and determine what he's up to. As for you, Snorlison, you get to go find the missing SCPs. If I were you, I start with tracking down Fish. He was the one who first suggested bringing Cain and 808 together, and I get the distinct feeling that he knows more than he's telling, too."

"What do we tell Gears?" asked Kain.

"We tell him the truth," answered Kondraki.


"I killed him," said Cain, quietly, almost reverently — and then, he erupted into maniacal laughter. "I killed him! The hunter has become the hunted, has become the animal, and now we, paradoxically, are above the animals…" His voice trailed off into incoherent muttering, followed by a furious giggling fit.

"Methinks Cain has stepped a bit too far off the deep end," said Stanley, gazing at the naked Sumerian. Cain was in a fetal position, rocking gently, and he began to sob softly to himself.

"Look at him," said Alice. "He's got normal limbs. He's missing his implants."

"Yes!" exclaimed Cain, leaping up suddenly and grabbing Alice by the shoulders. "The man, the magic, the machinery! Then contained the sadness, you see? You understand?" He was grinning like an idiot, and began to laugh again. "Too much feeling, too much passion… oh God, what have I done? My beloved brother, he lies in a pool of blood, and it is by my hand — my hand!" Cain began to cry inconsolably again.

"He can't control his emotions," said Alice. "That's what the implants were for, to keep him sane."

Cain stopped crying, and looked seriously at Alice, speaking in a hushed tone: "The violation. You understand? It was necessary, the penance. I killed my brother. I am the first murderer, the original… do you know what that means? I opened the gateways! It was my sin that broke the barriers between the worlds, that let the madnesses creep into the firmament from beyond… so many universes, so many possibilities!"

"Wait," said Stanley, "you're saying that you are the cause for the SCPs?"

"Yes, yes, yes!" yelled Cain, leaping up again and doing a jig. "I did it! I killed him and released the violence inherent in this world! And it cut more than flesh. A wound that will never heal, a swathe of blood and pain that ripped a hole in the sky itself!" He whirled like a dervish as he screamed the words, eventually collapsing into an exhausted pile.

"His original crime, killing another human, brought something into the world that had never existed before," pondered Alice.

"And once we were over that hump," continued Stanley, "it was easier for other things to cross the barrier into our world."

"I think I'm beginning to understand what's going on," said Alice.

"Oh, you do, you do!" said Cain, rising to his feet again. "Don't you see? You are the Merkaba, the holy chariot, and you will quiet the discord between what is solid and what is light. You must see!" He looked maudlin as he spoke, gazing into Alice's eyes with a fever born of madness and desperation.

"I still don't understand, Cain!" cried Alice. "What am I supposed to do?"

Cain's response, if he had one, was cut short before it began by the most unholy of screams. Cain and Alice turned in unison, and what met their eyes was sheer horror. Able had resurrected himself again, and while their attention was distracted by Cain's frantic rambling, he had managed to sneak up behind Stanley, reaching into the dimensions between his Boolean angles and snapping the space-bender's spinal column. Stanley stumbled awkwardly for a few moments, blood spraying from his wound in four dimensions, and then he fell dead.

"Stanley!" screamed Alice.

Cain leaped up, screaming with the fury of a harpy — but Able, having had all the time he needed to strategically examine the situation, simply delivered a rapid, focused punch to Cain's temple. Cain staggered for a moment, and then fell backward, knocked out. Able, in turn, received the actual damage from the strike, but easily shook off the cranial impact, retaining consciousness.

"It's time to end this, Mouse," he said, glaring at Alice.

"Don't you understand what's going on here?" cried Alice. "Your brother is trying to save the world, and he needs me to do it!"

"That's not my concern," said Able.

"Isn't it?" asked Alice. "It was his transgression against you that opened the doorways to the other worlds, that brought these things into our world. Maybe this is his penance — trying to right the wrong that he's responsible for!"

"Again, not my concern," said Able.

Alice breathed heavily. She knew she was going to die unless she activated Able's kill switch. She knew that there was no way to rationalize with Able. And most of all, she knew that even if she didn't understand why yet, she was the key to all of this.

She reached out with her mind and told the kill switch to do it's job.

Able's collar beeped, and he froze up momentarily. Then, he began to laugh and, reaching up to his neck, ripped the metal band in two. "Nice try," he smiled. "Unbeknownst to you, I took the precaution of borrowing this little trinket before coming after you." He reached down into the neck of his shirt, revealing that underneath he had been wearing a spherical, ornately carved amulet — SCP-427. He chuckled as he stretched, cracking his back. "I'm impressed, mouse. I didn't believe you had the fire within you to actually try to kill me. Now, you will die with my respect, rather than my disdain."

"Repeat engagement not advised," said Dolly, whose right foot appeared rather abruptly in the area of Able's face.

Able stumbled backwards, taken slightly aback by the dimensional-stepping android. "Alright, then," he scowled, his reddening eyes fixated on the Steel Doll, "time for the tiebreaker match." He reached into the dimension of blades, and pulled forth a swirling terror of writhing metal sharpness. "You'd better bring something more to the table this time."

"Observational analysis of pandirectional weaponry upgrade has been deconstructed and acquired," answered Dolly — and she reached into the pocket dimension, pulling out her own sword of equally horrible lethality.

"I just want to go home," lamented Alice, as she cowered away from the conflict.


"There's no point in sneaking up on me," said Fish, not looking up from the terminal he was typing on. "I know you're there, Von Schnitt."

"Of course you do, you creepy bastard," replied Von Schnitt, standing behind him. "You always seem to know what's coming, don't you? That's why you've got your daughter prancing around with Cain out there — because like Cain, you saw all of this coming."

"It's a burden I'm not particularly happy to carry," said Fish, "but one cannot help what one is."

"And that's the crux of it," snarled Von Schnitt. "What you are is something that doesn't belong here, aren't you? Something that's trying to get back where it belongs — to the Libras Centrex, perhaps?"

Fish blinked, straightening up in his chair. "How do you know that name?" he asked, in a low voice.

"Oh, didn't see that coming, did you?" Von Schnitt snickered. "Let's just say I have friends in very high places — higher than you, even, you egomaniacal son of a bitch."

Fish turned around slowly to face Von Schnitt. "I don't know who's feeding you this information, Von Schnitt," said Fish, "but if I were you, I wouldn't do anything rash."

"You mean like blasting you with this?" Von Schnitt whipped a Lotto Stepper around from where it had been slung on his back. "Because, you must be aware by now that you're the reason these things exist. Sure, they've been helpful in other situations, but it's you and your unnerving ability to avoid conflict by being in the right place at the wrong time that made them a necessity."

Fish narrowed his eyes at the doctor. "You're making a huge mistake," he said, grimly.

"Oh, I don't think so," said Von Schnitt, "because between what I've discovered about you and what I've heard from my employer, you're the whole reason the SCP Foundation exists. You covered your tracks very well, of course: forging conflicting documents, back-writing historical entries — and let's not forget your masterpiece, the construction of the SCP database… but it all comes down to you being a man out of time, doesn't it? That's why you're here now, why we're all here now. The SCP Foundation is your personal reinstatement of the war you forged through time, the war that destroyed the timeline you came from and obliterated all the factions involved. You're the last man standing."

"Apparently not," said Fish, "since you've already given away that your employer also knows of these events. Who is pulling your strings, Von Schnitt?"

"Unfortunately, you're never going to find out," he said, leveling the Lotto Stepper at Fish. "Say goodnight, Kilroy."

A flash of sound and motion erupted in the room, but it wasn't the anti-temporal gun firing at Fish. Something had blasted the gun out of Von Schnitt's hands — and in fact, had blasted off his hands, as well. Von Schnitt howled in agony, the cauterized stumps of his wrists still smoldering.

His fear-filled eyes looks up to meet the Egg Walker, its minigun barrel steaming from the shots fired off.

"I can hardly approve of that," said Kain.

CONTINUED IN PART 10
RETURN TO PART 8

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