A Thin Dangerous Line
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This is a thin dangerous line. To die without gaining one's aim is a dog's death and fanaticism. But there is no shame in this. This is the substance of the Way of the Samurai.
— Yamamoto Tsunetomo, Hagakure

If you can read this, you are already dead.

2.10.1.3 — Mission: Intuitive informational entities are frequently sustained only by their singular dedication to personal directives that, left unfinished in life, are impossible to complete in death. The Identity Warrior draws strength from a more sophisticated version of the same idea: dedication to the core missions of Mobile Task Force Omega-Zero and of the Foundation. So long as these objectives remain relevant, the world still has need of the Identity Warrior, and the dedicated Identity Warrior remains bound to the world.

Identity Warfare Training Field Manual-01: Basic Techniques

Manifestation Log — Operation Fisher King

Teams: Wraiths Four, Seven and Nine

Roster:

Briefing:
Foundation Antimemetics Division researcher and containment architect Dr. Bartholomew Hughes went missing in late 2008. Officially he was reported dead, of unknown anomalous causes. Research into the death of Hughes was frustrated by the "contagious murder" phenomenon, in which personnel who were close to understanding what happened to Hughes would also die or go missing. We now recognize this as typical of SCP-3125 attacks on unsecured living memeomes that contained information about itself.

While we can count among us 47 saints who died as a result of the contagious murder of Bart Hughes, in all cases they lost key information related to their recent research to dethreading damage incurred during their transition.

Information regarding Hughes' activities in the period leading up to his disappearance has been nearly entirely expunged from the Foundation with a level of operational secrecy exceeding all known Thaumiel Class projects. Saints who believe they had predeceased contact with him during that period were apparently exposed to extremely effective memetic editing techniques, and even in death are unable to recall many specifics. During that time Hughes lived and worked entirely in memetic isolation chambers and therefore went unobserved by MTF ω-0.

Additionally, significant Foundation resources cannot be accounted for during this period, and even the Level 4 black accountants that report directly to O5 Command appear to be selectively unaware of these discrepancies.

Due to intelligence gathered during Operation Cold City, we have reason to believe that Hughes had developed a plan to oppose the incursion into our noosphere, and that Director Wheeler had learned this in the Site-41 Vegas Room prior to her death and the loss of Site-41.

Composite intelligence from what sources we do have suggests the following:

  • Hughes may be dead, or he may be in hiding.
  • If he is dead, he is not among us.
  • If hiding, he has successfully hidden himself from us, which means he was able to evade SCP-3125 as well.
  • Hughes was aware of SCP-3125 and had constructed the Site-41 Vegas Room in order to safely brief others on what he knew.
  • Our Specter teams' best theoretical reconstructions of what Hughes may have been working on would require a large, multi-year, extremely expensive project.
  • Hughes' disappearance may be a sign that he was moving from a theoretical stage into the construction of a prototype.
  • Personnel who went missing while looking for Hughes may have found him and are currently assisting this project.

Director Wheeler died believing that Hughes had left something for her to use, something that would win this war.

Therefore it has become imperative that Task Force Omega-Zero ("Ará Orún") ascertain the status of Dr. Hughes, determine if he is quick or dead, and attempt to locate him or failing that, his research. To this end, Wraith Teams Four, Seven and Nine are hereby directed to conduct the search for Hughes. Report directly to Manes-1 for this operation.

You have broad discretion to carry out this directive as you see fit, and are expected to thoroughly investigate any avenues you deem appropriate to the fullest extent possible. In the event communication with command is lost due to enemy action you are to continue the search. If you do succeed in your mission, you are to render Hughes any and all support within your capacity while awaiting further instruction.

Team leaders are to coordinate and designate initial target sites. Your manifestation, code named "Operation Fisher King" is prepped and awaiting insertion, on your orders.

Remember: We are the saints who guard,
— Amos Sanchez, Operations Director, MTF ω-0

Ω—Ω


A portion of each floor of the futurist-organic-style cabin spiraled out over open water. On the spacious covered third story deck, Sarah Hughes, Mobile Task Force Tau-5 ("Samsara") commander, sipped her coffee. She looked out through the wire screen onto the pond. There, Chen instructed Onru and Munru on how to fish from a canoe, all three of them laughing in the sun. All the way from the ground floor kitchen she could smell some delicious Kurdish dish that Ghazi was teaching to Irantu. Nanku was sitting on a couch a couple of meters away. The Specialist concentrated intensely as she painted a watercolor duck. Hughes wondered, not for the first time, if this was really any different from having a family.

"Captain Hughes?" asked Nanku, having stood up, suddenly alert.

"Yes, Specialist?"

"Someone is coming."

"Explain" ordered Hughes as they took the stairs to the second floor.

"I believe it is an extrasensory perception, legacy of my cell line. I feel someone searching nearby, and whenever their awareness touches mine I know. There is a mind gazing at us, a mind without body."

"What is it searching for?"

"I think, it is for you, ma'am."

The stairs let out into a landing with a large bay window overlooking the water, framed by the white ultra-toughened alloy walls. Opposite the window, doors led to the three bedrooms and to the bath. Captain Hughes knocked on one of the doors and opened it. "Campos, get your people up and standby for action. I want weapons squad on overwatch on the upper deck as soon as possible."

Sergeant Juan Campos grunted assent. He switched on his bunk lamp and swung his legs onto the floor as she closed the door.

On the ground floor, the spacious living area was empty. Nanku grabbed her massive battle rifle from the weapons rack. Sergeant Irantu stalked out of the kitchen, calm but poised, arms in a guard position and ready for a fight. Right behind him came Sergeant Nazgul Ghazi, who was on a handheld radio and getting reports from the duty watch stations.

Ω—Ω


Specialist Aaron Quinn was on road guard duty watching a car approach that had no business being there. It was a black Ford Explorer, with tinted windows, and it looked like a rental. Quinn flagged it down, and it rolled up to a stop, the window rolled down and he looked in at four people. A young man and woman sat in the back, mid-20s, and an older pair up front, probably in their 50s, all of them white and wearing conservative Sunday church clothes. The woman in the passenger seat smelled of cheap perfume, and the car as a whole smelled like incense.

"Ma'am, this is a restricted area, I am going to have to ask you to return to the guardhouse the way you came."

"Now honey, we don't need to do that, we are exactly where we are supposed to be be."

"Appointed," said the others in unison.

"And you are going to let us slide right on, brother. We bring a message you are to hear," and then she told him.

Ω—Ω

"Report," ordered Hughes.

"Ma'am, we can… sense… an entity is now present," answered by Irantu as he cocked his head to the side, listening for something.

Nanku shook her head. "Two entities."

"Are they hostile?"

"No ma'am, I don't think so," Irantu said as Nanku shook her head again, "They seem to be… trapped?"

There was a loud creaking from the walls. "Not surprising, Sergeant," said Hughes, "my brother designed this house."

Ω—Ω

Manifestation Log: Operation Fisher King (Wraith Team Seven):

Cooper: No use, I can't shift or break any of it. This place is locked down tight.

Desai: And I still can't connect to my anchor.

Cooper: Don't look at me, my best CS is 4.52.

Desai: Yeah, let's take a break and then maybe we can work together and crack a window or something.

Cooper: I'm fairly sure that I could throw a car, and we are struggling to maybe crack a window. This is one hell of a cage.

Desai: Well Hughes was the guy for containment architecture for informational anomalies.

Cooper: Yeah…

Cooper: That's a sobering thought. We are just a couple of informational anomalies now. Santosh, do you ever wonder if you are really Santosh Desai? Or are you just a construct generated from your Dad's memory that filled the void in the noosphere left when you… he… whatever… nuked yourself?

Desai: Ah yes, the copy question. You know, sooner or later every saint asks this.

Cooper: And?

Desai: Well, I definitely remember stuff that only I knew.

Cooper: You think you do anyway, you know as well as I do that expertly constructed memories are indistinguishable from the real thing.

Desai: Ouch. That's something I didn't want to think about.

<manifesting: Irantu>

Cooper: Whoa!

Irantu: Who goes there?

Desai: I feel like I should ask you the same thing. I'm Saint Santosh Desai, Mobile Task Force Omega-Zero ("Ará Orún"), and this is Saint Riley Cooper. How did you get in here?

Irantu: I am Sgt. Irantu of Mobile Task Tau-5 ("Samsara"). This iteration is a neural clone of my most recent backup scan, running in simulation mode.

Desai: Normally you need to be, well, dead to even see this manifestation.

Irantu: I have been dead 47 times. Perhaps that is enough?

Desai: Yeah, I guess you have at that. We are here are on a mission.

Irantu: Can I assist you?

Desai: What do you think, Riley?

Cooper: It's my expert opinion that we are stuck. We might as well tell him why we are here and see if he can help.

Desai: Agreed, he is level three and we aren't getting anywhere otherwise. Sgt. Irantu, I am reading you into the following codenames: SCP-2111, READ THIS, and Operation FISHER KING. Do you acknowledge that you will not share the information you are about to receive with any unauthorized persons, and that you are aware of the penalties for mishandling classified intelligence?

Irantu: Of course.

Desai: Allright, the short version is Cooper and I are ghosts. We died in the line of duty, but never stopped working for the Foundation.

Desai: Our mission is to find Dr. Bart Hughes. Hughes went missing years ago, and all the information about that was so heavily expunged that even we don't have access to it. If Hughes had died we would expect him to be entangled with your CO, his sister, in a way that we could track. If alive, we were hoping she knows something and we have ways of finding that out too. Except we got trapped in this house, which is like a a Farraday cage for free memes like us. Can you help us?

Irantu: Yes, I can, once I reintegrate with my current self-stream.

Desai: Thank you, Sergeant.

Irantu: Cooper, there is no difference.

Cooper: Huh?

Irantu: You wonder if you are a copy or Riley Cooper. There is no difference. I am a copy. I am Irantu. Identity and authenticity are not equivalents.

Cooper: Huh. … I think that helps. Thanks!

<demanifesting: Irantu>

Ω—Ω

On the ground floor, Corporal Zabek disconnected the feed from Irantu's neural shunt. The Sergeant regained consciousness, stood, and quickly opened a window.

"Report" ordered Hughes, "Wait, belay that, there's a vehicle coming."

Outside, the Explorer rolled up the dirt road. Staff Sergeant Arthur Chen, Corporal Munro and Specialist Onru beached the canoe.

"Ma'am," Sergeant Ghazi said, as she readied her carbine, "My road guards just tried to send me something that the coghaz filters killed."

"Understood Sergeant. Order the rest of the watch to keep their distance and report to MTF command if they think we are compromised."

"Roger that."

"Irantu, no time for a prepared defense. Rally your squad, and assault through on my signal."

"Yes, ma'am."

The SUV rolled to a stop in front of the cabin and the passengers got out.

The older woman looked up the walk. Hughes stood behind the partially open airlock door with her sidearm ready and concealed.

"Good morning, honey," the woman said. She smiled broadly and squinted into the light.

"Have you hea__".

Hughes shot her.

Samsara squad's assault was swift and violent. The two other passengers were down almost as a quickly as the woman was. The driver managed to grab the machine pistol from under his seat, but didn't make it any further.

Under cover from the cabin, the four Samsara troopers duck walked through the killing ground. Nanku and Munru sliced the pie from opposite ends of the vehicle, and around the far side.

"Clear!"

"Clear!"

"Wait," said Onru, "There's still something here."

Smoke swiftly spiraled up from the open mouths of the corpses. It formed a cloud of free memes so dense that the three dimensional shadow of the fifth dimensional structure was visible to the naked eye. The cloud hovered for a moment and then descended on the four Samsara troopers.

In the membrane between the dimensions, where information interacts — as the Samsara troopers battled to retain their identity — the tendrils of soul-smoke were being ensnared by Cooper and Desai's outstretched threads. Within the saints' memeomes was information about their enemy and they launched their attack across the bridges formed where memes found their counterparts. Driven by their undying purpose, and armed with the Foundation's extensive documentation of this particular threat, the two saints began to methodically erase the alien information from existence.

The machine gun crew on the upper deck fired a burst of spell-eater rounds into the cloud. The anti-supernatural bullets passed through harmlessly and peppered the car with holes. Then the cloud shot tendrils out, racing with sudden speed towards the house. These stopped flat as though they hit an invisible wall inches from their targets. The smoke hung there for a beat and then began to ooze through the invisible barrier as though by osmosis. Hughes slammed the door shut as she watched the smoke pour mercilessly into the mouths and eyes of the the stunned Samsara troopers, still surrounding the SUV.

Meanwhile, in the noosphere, the invader battled Wraith-7, its complex fractal redundancies allowing it to continue to fight on despite suffering significant damage. As it lost entire chains of intricately structured nonsense, it reflexively attempted to launch counterattacks from the undamaged portion — like a jellyfish uselessly stinging the squid that consumes it. This increased contact only served to hasten its annihilation. The fifth dimensional memetic structure, lacking any meaningful purpose or unifying focus, was soon overwhelmed by its opponents' ceaseless dedication to their mission.

Sarah Hughes watched through the observation port as the smoke thinned, evaporated, and was gone.

With a deep breath, "I am still me," said Nanku.

"As am I," said Onru.

Munru nodded, and Irantu signaled a thumbs up towards the house.

"After we secure the road guard position," he said, "you should roll us back anyway, just to be sure."

Ω—Ω

To: Manes-1
From: Wraith-7
Subject: Field Report: Operation Fisher King (attached)

Summary:
Contact with Captain Sarah Hughes was successful. She believes Bart Hughes is definitely alive and she is confirmed to not be an anchor. She does not know his current whereabouts. Bart Hughes' disappearance was carried out operationally and deliberately with extreme secrecy and voluntary amnesticization protocols. Captain Hughes retains very little useful intelligence on the subject. However, the location of the last place she saw her brother is in a memetic void, strongly indicative that the entire location was subsequently erased. Site-41?

Additionally we encountered and erased an enemy incursion which had penetrated Area-756. There were five Foundation casualties. The four Samsara troopers have, of course, already returned to the quick but we should dispatch a Reaper team for Specialist Aaron Quinn, who has died in the line of duty.

It seems the enemy is also now looking for Hughes. We probably should get there first.

Remember: We are the saints who guard,
— Santosh Desai, Team Leader, Wraith Team Seven.

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