Avian Anthology II
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NOTE: This is the Finale of a 12-Part storyline: Team Bird, Season One.
It is recommended that you first read SCP-3095, and then start from the beginning with SCP-3662.


rating: +71+x

Outskirts of Las Vegas
August 12, 2018
Night

The birds and shark-punchers emerged from the monorail tunnel in broad view of the indigo-tinged sky above Las Vegas. Extant bird-humans, who flocked the air just days ago, now hovered in solitary scatters.

Looking down, Hoygull spotted a familiar sight of damaged buildings and dead humans in various stages of the Avian-ification process.

“Whoa,” SCP-2785 squeaked, “everything's so big, but so broken! It's as broken as… As a broken car!” He still hadn't worked out similes.

“I don't think we have much time,” Hoygull said. “The last humans are entering the portals and disappearing. If we don't get HYPERION off the ground soon, humanity will be lost.”

“We've got to double-time this search, then,” Duck replied.

Luckily, it was much easier searching with wings. The five seabirds set off to the skies, looking for the shed General Tarland described.

Eta4.png

It took an hour of searching to find the shed. It wasn't quite on the outskirts of Vegas; in fact, it was closer to the Las Vegas Strip than not. It had the seven-pronged star and a ladder going down for what seemed like forever.

While Hoygull casually coasted down the access shaft, he did not envy SCP-2785, who had to go down manually. Quinn, carrying Leah, searched for alternative means of descent — a secret passage never fell from style.

The bunker reminded Hoygull of an airplane hangar. Instead of aircraft, however, it held a massive missile — the base of which filled an abundance of floor space, and the tip of which scarcely grazed the ceiling vault. Thick, insulated wiring linked its base to computer equipment, and silver piping snaked between its fuel pumps and the wall. The entire place smelled of gunpowder and gasoline.

Crowl flew up to a computer terminal. He pressed some buttons, found the terminal logged in and diagnostics screen loaded, and turned back. “This thing needs some fuel,” he said. “It'll take all night to fill.”

“Good. We can rest,” Hoygull said. “I know I could use some shut-eye.”

It seemed the bunker was designed to hold soldiers — for a time. Hoygull found a spot in a nearby bunkroom and curled up to sleep atop a pillow.

Eta4.png

Beneath Las Vegas
August 13, 2018
Morning

Hoygull awoke after a decent six-hour snooze and traveled in search of the canteen. Quinn and Leah, propped up at the bunkroom entrance and appearing to have slept in their suits that night, nodded when he passed.

When he reached the canteen, he found Keshrayuth sitting alone, seemingly meditating. She'd stayed up all night doing who-knows-what. Hoygull grabbed a handful of sugar cubes to shake the drowsiness.

Eta4.png

Crowl stirred from his bunk soon after and went back to the same computer. What he saw jolted him wide awake. “Alright, do you all want the good news or the bad news first?”

“The good news, please,” Kesh replied.

“The missile is fueled up and primed to launch when we are ready.”

“And the bad news?” Hoygull asked, not missing a beat.

“It looks like the army of statues from earlier caught up to us. Fortunately, they are still a fair distance away, and I do not think they will be able to bother us before we launch. If we start the process now, we should have plenty of time before they find out.”

“So, let's launch now,” Duck said, standing far behind the three. Hoygull jumped — not expecting her there. “We don't want to cut it any closer than we already are.”

Crowl pecked a few buttons. An androgynous, computerized voice sounded over the bunker.

INITIATING PROJECT: HYPERION LAUNCH SEQUENCE.

OPENING PRIMARY MISSILE EXIT SHAFT.

The ceiling parted, accompanied with the mechanical sound of gears churning. Eventually, the bunker opened to an already-sweltering mid-morning sky. The moon still hung in view, the same as it looked for days.

Hoygull and Kesh scrambled for safety near Duck, well beyond a stripe of warning tape.

INITIATING LAUNCH COUNTDOWN TIMER.

T-MINUS ONE-HUNDRED SECONDS.

Hoygull felt the missile's solitary thruster heat up, and–

He suddenly heard a visceral, ear-splitting sound — but not of the thruster. He looked up toward the moon.

A massive portal had just opened in front of it, and the head of a flaming scarlet bird poked through.

“What's that?” Crowl yelled.

“I…” Hoygull stumbled. “I think we might be dealing with Thoth here!”

SCP-2785 squealed. “I'm getting lots of air-information! But I don't think it means anything. It's just bird calls!”

With all manner of screeching sounds, throngs of bird-humans swarmed the sky. Metal-on-metal clamor overwhelmed even the cacophony of voices — then, something tumbled into the access shaft. Louder than everything else, Thoth shook the world with his presence alone. Quibba jolted awake — he had somehow still been asleep.

“I think this is the end of the line,” Kesh yelled. “I'll barricade the access shaft. Go to the armory and find something to shoot. Quick!”

SEVENTY SECONDS

Kesh flew into a forklift and steered it toward a table near the access shaft.

Hoygull motioned the rest of his team into the armory. He flicked on the light. With a glance, he could see there weren't many explosives inside. Maybe they interfered with the missile's function?

Unsurprisingly, there were no weapons adapted for use by birds. So, they improvised. Hoygull found a double-barrel shotgun he could lift without much effort. Others found scant few grenades.

Just as he loaded two grenades into his shotgun, Hoygull heard that sickening sound of metal against metal. This time, on top of them.

He scampered around. The barricade won't hold!

FORTY-FOUR SECONDS

Kesh had formed a hodgepodge barricade with a few tables, a dysfunctional terminal, and the forklift itself.

A statue managed to slip through regardless. SCP-2785, in his naiveté, ran up to say hello and offer pleasantries. A haymaker knocked his head clean off, and an uppercut crushed his body halfway through the drop ceiling.

TWENTY-NINE SECONDS

Statues burst through the barricade with their raw numbers. They organized a clumsy array and charged. Hoygull aimed the shotgun and, with a kick of recoil, fired two grenades at the mass. A harsh flare-up destroyed three statues and knocked debris into some others, producing a minefield of collateral damage. The rest of the Avian Division launched grenades and employed various forms of firepower — including a mounted Minigun — to push back the hordes. Quinn and Leah jumped in and battled the tide of statues like they were fending off the raging sea.

As Hoygull loaded the shotgun with two more grenades, a statue loomed and knocked him in the gut, hurtling him across the room and onto the floor. Unable to fully recover, Hoygull pried his gun from the floor, shaking. His vision was narrowing but he saw a group of statues rush toward the missile — and fired.

Five indistinct forms detonated.

One flew from the smoke, decrepit, toward Crowl's Minigun and rammed it to splinters. Without a weapon, Crowl was suddenly overwhelmed.

T-MINUS TEN SECONDS.

Hoygull realized he was out of grenades and lay there, feeling useless — though, harmless enough to remain ignored.

Another group approached the missile; he cried a choked call. No! It can't end like this!

Through his dizziness and delirium, he saw Quibba fly toward the group. What is he doing?!

Then he saw the grenades affixed to his vest.

Then he saw the keen look of determination on his face.

Then he saw the uncontrolled nosedive he took into their midst.

Explosions knocked them all away. The automated voice continued, unfazed.

THREE

TWO

ONE

LIFTOFF.

Finally, the propellant ignited, thrusting the missile off the ground. Hoygull's already damaged body slid against the wall. Statues jumped into the air, trying to hinder the missile's launch, but it was too late.

It was not too late, however, for skyward bird-humans to slam their bodies into the missile and ruin its trajectory.

Hoygull's stomach sunk. No… It won't make it!

A bird-human slammed into the missile's nose, nudging it away from the portal. The rest recognized this and barreled toward it in large numbers. The missile now pointed in the wrong direction.

Hoygull felt the disappointment wash over like a wave. After all that's happened!

“Uh, Mister Captain Quinn? That A.E.S.D. you mentioned earlier?” SCP-2785's voice came in a climbing, staticky screech from his disembodied head. “It's giving me one real big lump of air-information!”

“The AEDS is detecting another threat?” Hoygull asked weakly.

Quinn shook his head. “No, Hoygull. Look!” He pointed to the skies. While the paltry remainder of the Avian–Centre alliance gawked at the dimensional rift housing the Avian deity, Quinn's instincts kicked in. He saw a small, red dot rapidly expand. “Robot-boy didn't blunder. He meant what he said.”

Eta4.png

Thoth scrutinized the Earth he had shaped in his image. After millennia of waiting, the blue marble was finally his. Finding competent beings to control — across all manner of dimensions — was no trivial task. Each tool needed the precise motivation and skills required to enact his will. It was straightforward to start with: Coercing the shark-brained Boxers to construct the Avian meme, and tempting the engineer with the promise of saving his daughter. But leaving a breadcrumb trail for the Foundation was significantly more difficult.

Thoth reigned supreme. His freshly formed vassals flooded their new home by the millions. They would make excellent workhorses for the nobles. Their people would till the land, move the stones, erect monuments for the Pharaoh (and, of course, for him).

Not a moment too late, either. Akheilos had found this Earth only moments after Thoth's plan came to fruition, with the mad Boxers in tow. Those fools had weakened the only force left to reckon with! The humans shouldn't complain, at any rate; Thoth had liberated them from an even worse fate. Who knows what savagery Akheilos might have performed on them?

From the blue marble, Thoth saw a mere trinket. He scoffed at the pitiful final act of humankind. This was the best they could do? Some feeble explosive? It might have worked in his weakened state — but this was too little, too late. He watched humanity's last firecracker inch toward him. If he was going to crush their final hope, he was going to indulge in it.

Akheilos swam through the Noosphere as quickly as he could. He had been granted a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity: A chance to kill his nemesis. The bird goddess, Medila, infused herself with him to serve this goal.

A gift.

The whale, Gægr, helped present it. Gægr called upon Medila, and Medila sang a birdsong so grand, it spoke directly to Akheilos' heart. It spoke to him so deeply; it roused a rage within that had been burning for eternity. It reminded him of his people — the loved ones Thoth snatched away.

The blood of the Sacred Ibis was all he'd ever desired. He'd just lost sight of that goal.

Akheilos struggled through the fabric of multiple shifting realities. Worlds ripped at his skin until it burned vibrant white. Thoth, of course, paid no mind. In fact, only three beings noticed him:

The bird, the robot, and the human.

He tumbled into the skies above a squawking Earth.

Eta4.png

The Great Daemon spilled out from the gaping red chasm in the sky. Akheilos was nothing compared to Thoth's size, but the speed and hot-blooded passion from the beast far surpassed Thoth's own. It darted straight toward the Ibis-headed monstrosity; wide-open maw, countless teeth shimmering a brilliant white, speckled with crimson.

Quinn stood there, watching the sky, his jaw agape. “No way…”

“Is WHITE NETHER going to…?” Hoygull started.

In a monumental clash of deities, Akheilos tore into Thoth's eye socket. Thoth screamed and coiled backward, clutching the hole. But Akheilos' grasp was too great. Thoth commanded his fleet of peons to come to his aid, but the daemon's appetite was too voracious. It tore chunk after chunk of Thoth's form, leaving neither bone nor gristle behind.

Bird-humans dropped from the heavens like flies. With the puppet-master busy, the puppets fell limp. Thoth screamed something awful, like a savage animal gurgling out its last cry for help. But Thoth was alone. All of Creation despised him; trickster gods have no place in paradise. The once noble and wise Thoth reduced to nothing more than an undignified slaver, consumed by the one he cheated.

Just as suddenly as the cawing began, the Earth fell silent.

Its revenge completed, and its belly full, Akheilos lay in the skies — in contentment. An eternity of blood debt had been paid in full, and its purpose had been fulfilled. Akheilos faced its oncoming doom, not with fearful eyes, but with a satisfied, toothy grin.

The missile flew away again at top speed, the dent on its carapace compensating for its ill trajectory. It made a magnificent arc before colliding with the Selachian, blossoming into a tremendous green-and-violet explosion that lit up the midday sky.

And before Hoygull passed out, three words cycled through his mind:

We did it


Hoygull woke up sometime later in the infirmary of a Site he didn't recognize. He could see the Foundation Shield on one side of an immaculate room and realized he was lying in a hospital bed. He looked up and saw humans monitoring him on screens and charts and miscellaneous devices…

But they still had their wings? Hoygull cleared his eyes and saw that, yes, they were still part-bird.

The door to the infirmary opened, and Researcher Calvin — liaison to the Avian Division — strode in with purpose. He had undergone the Avian-ification process, yet he seemed… Himself?

Calvin approached Hoygull, leaning over the bed. “You know, I'd like to personally thank you, Frederick,” he said. “Without your valiant efforts, the entire human population would still be lost on SCP-3632. It seems that EOI-121 was completely eradicated. Given that, plus–” Calvin paused to feel his new wings. “The recent modifications to the human condition, I think we really came out better from this. We're still cleaning up the mess, but it would be a lot worse if it weren't for your sacrifices.”

Hoygull began speaking, but then he realized he did not have a translation device, so he remained silent.

“Unfortunately,” Calvin continued, “a sizable portion of humanity perished during the incident, and another is believed trapped on SCP-3632. I'm talking close to a billion. We're… Working on means of getting them back here. Given our new abilities, this should be easier to do than normal.

“At any rate, I wouldn't be standing here — alive — if it weren't for you. I have been authorized by the O5 Command to award you with the Foundation Star.” Calvin reached into his coat pocket and retrieved a golden, star-shaped medallion with a red gem implanted at the center. He attached it to Hoygull's whitecoat.

Calvin stepped back, cleared his throat, and spoke once more. “Oh, and the agents from the Shark Punching Centre left this morning. I don't know if they've gone home or not, but they have their own matters to deal with. They send their farewells to you.”

Calvin turned and left the room.

Hoygull reclined in his hospital bed and leaned into the pillow. Everything was back to normal.

Well, as normal as things could be.


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