Catching Up
rating: +39+x

April 27, 1992

Foundation Medical Center, Site-91. Yorkshire, England.

Rebekah Douglas hurt everywhere. She was laid up in a fairly standard hospital room, the blinds open to let the afternoon sun flood in. Lime green walls and white tiled flooring. There were flowers on the table by her bedside, sent by her boss.

She’d lost seven months to a medically induced coma which had continued long past the point where the doctors had tried to wean her off the anesthetics. She had woken up to medical staff asking her how she was feeling, and all she could do was scream.

“How are you feeling this morning?” Dr. Cooper asked from the doorway to her room.

“I haven’t been sleeping. It still hurts all over.”

“Speaking of, I have your results from the EMG.”

“What does it say?” Rebekah asked, already knowing the answer.

“The results are absolutely normal. But you went through a significantly traumatic event, a psychosomatic response is to be expected. Actually, there’s something else.”

“Oh god, what’s wrong with me?” Her fists clenched under the sheets.

“Nothing, actually. You’re in peak physical condition.”

“Okay?”

“That shouldn’t be the case after a lengthy coma. We exercise our patients, but you haven’t lost any muscle mass to atrophy.”

“So why the hell does it hurt?”

“Everyone experiences trauma differently. And physical discomfort is completely normal.”

So, it’s just in my head. Great. Thanks, doc. Rebekah kept this to herself, but he had heard her screaming at him plenty in the previous weeks. She assumed her first several days out of the coma had been nightmares for the staff. She’d raged, struck out, even bit them. She didn’t feel like herself. She wasn’t sure what “herself” used to feel like. Whatever that thing was, it turned me inside-out.

“There’s no reason to worry about it. I think you need more physical activity, more rest, and more visits with the therapist.”

“No offense, Doc, but have you read through 4712's file?”

“Yes, I was cleared when we started treating you. I needed to know what we were dealing with.”

“So you should know it wasn’t just a simple trauma!”

“I know you and a group of MTF-Beta-777 went into an alternate reality. You ‘read’ a structure there and had what amounts to a psychotic break.”

“All due respect, but bullshit. Something is in that world. All it fucking cares about is eating. It's so big, it's infecting every fucking particle in that reality.”

“I understand, but your tests are normal, Agent Douglas.”

“I don’t care if they’re normal; something tried to eat me from the inside out. It ate those people and made some fucked up ecosystem of overlapping predators from hell. And it tried to do the same to me.”

“You’ve improved; the last month and a half of therapy has calmed you down. You read as mildly anxious now. Which is a huge improvement from waking up screaming and trying to bite the staff.”

“I’m not saying I haven’t improved. I’m saying this thing fucked me up.”

“And that’s why I want you to continue resting, getting exercise and seeing the therapist.”

“Fine.”

“This isn’t about curing something. Recovering from this sort of trauma is about managing expectations, okay? Now, I have to make my rounds, but I’ll check in on you later.” Rebekah didn’t watch him leave. She got out of her bed, tied her lengthy, chestnut brown hair into a ponytail, unrolled a yoga mat, and began her usual routine of poses. Her muscles were tense, her legs shook as she started her first pose. Not with exhaustion, but with aggression and adrenaline.

It’s all just “trauma” to them. I’m not a fucking idiot; I know I’ve been through a lot. But simple trauma doesn’t explain how I feel.

ProjectHeca

July 11, 1991 - Nine months earlier.

Site-91 – Interview Room A. Eckhart House, Yorkshire, England.

She sat across a metal interview table from something that clearly used to be human. This was the second attempt at an interview with Marius Albescu, otherwise known as 4712-A. His skin was red mottled with gray, textured like sandpaper. He was very thin for his height of two meters, weighing maybe 130 kg or more. The day before, despite his build, she’d seen him dent a solidly built metal table with an open palm. Next to his seat, a four-wheeled walker stood. He needed it to walk.

“Good morning,” he said.

“Good morning, Marius. How was your rest? Are your quarters alright?”

“An improvement over my accommodations in the ruins of Site-07, certainly.”

"Right, well, we can certainly do better than a filthy mattress shoved in a corner,” Rebekah said.

“So, Agent Douglas, what did you want to discuss today?”

“Yesterday we were discussing the events that led to the deaths of Foundation personnel. We really need to understand what happened here, Marius.”

He cradled his head in his hands, elbows propped on the table. “The creatures kept attacking, and eventually it seemed to me that they were organized.”

“How so?”

“When the creatures were first encountered they behaved like animals, all instinct. But as the MTF squad was retreating back to Site-07, the creatures started surrounding them and using rough tactics. Once I got involved in the defense, I noticed the creatures didn’t communicate at all. But they worked in tandem,” Marius said.

“Some sort of nonverbal communication, like telepathy?”

“No. I would have sensed that. Instead it was like they were responding to some controlling force. This is why I need to go back to the other side.”

“What are you talking about? What do you have to do with it?”

Marius was silent. He just held his head in his hands.

Rebekah changed tack. “Okay, so instead let’s talk about what happened ultimately.”

“They all died! The creatures broke in and ripped them to pieces in front of me! What more do you need to know?”

“Marius, I’m just trying to understand.”

He shuddered. “You have to understand, it happened decades ago. The things broke through the surface and into the ventilation systems. They were older than the ones I see here, larger vents. We thought the stone and soil the site was buried under would protect us. But they found a way in and half the staff was dead before an alarm could be raised. Those of us left fought them off as best we could… but there wasn’t any end to it. Just wave after wave of them until everyone was dead.”

“But not you?”

“It couldn’t get me, not after I connected to it.”

“It?”

“The thing I could feel behind the creatures’ eyes. The one giving the orders. Making me part of it means it couldn’t get out, and it couldn’t attack me directly. Just screaming.”

“I don’t understand, Marius. What is this thing?”

Marius got up and leaned on his walker. He walked to the door, but was blocked from leaving by an armed containment specialist. Rebekah shook her head and waved the guard off.

ProjectHeca

July 12, 1991

4712 – Alternate Reality. Ruins.

Rebekah stepped away from the MTF squad and clicked her recorder on. “These buildings seem to be in an advanced state of decay. I would assume, based on review of records found in the Site-07 ruins, that these buildings have been here at least a century. Their designs are alien, but the construction seems of a similar level as modern construction back home.”

Captain Zadeh called to Rebekah: “Hey, don’t wander off too far. We know there's some crawlies around.”

Rebekah gave the captain a thumbs up and continued her notes: “I can see a few skeletal remains lying around, but this section of town must have housed thousands. Where are all the bodies?” She clicked “pause” on the recorder and called out to Zadeh.

“Hey, Sahara, I wanna go into one of these residences.” Zadeh nodded and sent over two armed MTF members Rebekah didn’t know well, Gibbs and Waltham. Gibbs was a chiseled jaw type. Waltham had red shoulder length hair tied up under her helmet, and an air of mystery. They both had carbines and charms around their necks. Waltham also had a combat belt slung with various occult paraphernalia that Rebekah didn’t recognize. They both spoke with an English accent.

Waltham was the first to speak: “Agent Douglas, we’re going to check the structure first for hostiles and then for thaumaturgical countermeasures, okay?”

Rebekah nodded and stepped aside. Five minutes later she heard Waltham calling her name from inside the building. Waltham was standing over an altar of some sort, made of bone and sinew, and still wet with blood. Rebekah looked over Waltham’s shoulder. “Has that been used recently?”

“I don’t think so? Nothing in this room indicates recent activity. There’s a layer of dust over everything, including the floor. Look at those footprints you just made.”

“So, why is the blood still wet?”

“Honestly I have no fucking clue, Agent.”

“How did they make this?”

Waltham looked down at the altar. “I think it was grown this way.”

“What the hell does that mean?”

“Do you know what carnomancy is?” Waltham asked.

“No.”

“Meat magic. It’s thaumaturgy that controls the growth of physical organic matter. Often used for transformations, but there are a bunch of ways to make it work.”

“Is this that Sarkic shit?” Rebekah asked.

“I don’t know if this is, but yes they tend to use carnomancy a lot.”

“Well, wouldn’t you know, we have a Karcist back at Site-91. Got some more questions for him now.”

“I don’t know. Wasn’t -A on our side when Site-07 went missing?”

“That’s true, he was. This was probably before he was here. Still, he might know something.”

Rebekah kneeled before the altar to get a better look. It reminded her of a standing drum, but made of bone and meat. Okay, well this is why I’m here…

“Waltham, is this thing active?”

“Residual thaumaturgical corruption, I think your charm should deflect any latent effects.”

“Okay, watch my back.” Rebekah reached out and placed her fingers such that she was not touching the blood. Glad I brought some cleaning alcohol. Who fucking knows what’s on this thing?

The room faded from her view and she was plunged into a dark space. She could almost make out the horizon, but it was as if she were hovering above a mist covered ground. Vertigo kicked in, as she had no idea how high she was. Focusing exercises calmed her nerves and she leaned into the darkness, finding herself lowering into the mist.

NEW

What?

MINE

A creeping cold filled her “body” and she felt overwhelming hunger rip through her. Her vision was filled with the mist, and the moisture invaded her mouth, her ears, her eyes. And then the pain started.

ProjectHeca

April 27, 1992

Foundation Medical Center, Site-91. Yorkshire, England.

The extraction from the alternate reality designated 4712 was a blur in her memory. The doctors had told her that she'd been raving when brought in: pressured speech and significant aggression towards the staff. After a few days, they decided to induce a coma to allow for rapid recovery, in collaboration with thaumaturgic purging. Waltham had visited her often since she woke, apologizing for not sensing whatever had happened to her.

Wasn’t her fault though. That wasn’t thaumaturgy, that was a thing. Otherworldly and vast alien entity that was ravenous in a violently conceptual form. Probably nothing she could have done. I’d blame myself, but Marius was so vague. How was I to know this thing was in everything?

Her body felt stiff while doing yoga. It was like she was just getting used to this body; after having been in another. Like fitting into a new pair of jeans, right off the shelf. Maybe Cooper was right, and she just needed more time. But having lost seven months to the bastard, she didn’t savor spending any more time in recovery. Sweat poured down her back as she stretched, the sunlight coming through the reinforced glass of the medical center. Everything was harder, she was more on edge. Worst of all, she felt ready to maul everyone around her all the time.

Maybe I should talk to Marius, I didn't know it then but he spent forty plus years in the presence of that carnivorous bastard thing in the mist.

“You’re looking better.” A new voice, vaguely Slavic in accent, from the doorway, then corresponding footsteps as someone entered her room.

“Director.” Rebekah didn’t look up from her pose on the mat; she was almost done anyway. Sweat dripping into her eyes, she said, “What brings you to the hall of wonders?”

“Are you almost done with that? Or should I come back?” Director Iona Varga’s tone did not recommend the latter option. Rebekah moved backwards into a crouch, then stood, her olive-bronze skin slick with sweat.

Varga moved with brutal efficiency, each step graceful as a dancer’s but with the coldest of calculus concerning the least amount of energy required. She sat in the visitor’s chair and crossed her legs while balancing three paper files on her knee.

“I’m on medical leave, Iona.”

“I know. However, during your convalescence there have been developments.” Varga tapped the files on her leg.

“Is it about Marius? I assume he’s still in his containment cell.”

“No, 4712-A was relocated back through the gateway and I had it sealed.” Varga tapped her fingers against the files again.

“Why would you send a man back into that hell?”

“Because he requested it,” Varga sighed, but in a capitulating manner. “Also he explained that the only thing keeping the entity on that side of the gate was his continued presence there. I thought it was prudent to take his wishes into account, especially since he believed you would not be its only victim if we did not. I will have the file sent to you for review, after you review these."

“He could have fucking warned me. And what are those?”

Varga handed the files over to Rebekah. “I want you to review them in preparation for an action I hope will be approved in short order. Go over the file on 4612 (which you’re familiar with), 5512, and 5612. Then we’ll discuss.”

“I’m not at my best here. Whatever the hell happened to me in that other reality has really fucked me up.”

“There’s no timeline at this point; I just need you to catch up. 5512 is an investigation by UIU agents into a cult that seems to have connections to whatever 4612-A is. 5612 is a file you weren’t involved in, but it concerns the events you experienced during our investigation into 4612-A.”

"Why do they all end in 12? Isn't that sorta ridiculous?"

"After I reviewed all three files, I had them re-designated to indicate their connections. I don't plan to do it going forward, but these three anomalies signify a unique interconnected series of events."

Rebekah sat down on the edge of the hospital bed. “Why no timeline?”

“I have a plan to put in place, but I need approval first. I’m leaving to seek that approval right after this.”

“Where’re you going?”

“Classified. Sorry.” Oh. In that case better her than me.

Rebekah looked down at the files in her hands and then tossed them onto the bed. “I don’t know what I’m doing here.”

Varga looked surprised at the vulnerability and sat forward in the chair. “What do you mean?”

“I’m not a researcher, Iona. I’m an Israeli girl who found out she was psychic. I’m glad I’ve found a career here, but it’s been a really shit year.”

“What do you want me to say, Rebekah?”

“Being involved with Site-91 has cost me almost a year, so why don’t you start with why I shouldn’t quit?”

Varga crossed her arms and stared at her for at least a full minute. Rebekah met her gaze, taking in the jet-black hair and the pale skin, wondering just how old Varga was. She could have been anywhere between thirty and fifty years old.

Varga sighed and looked away, taking out a small notepad and referring to it as she spoke: “I wanted to discuss this after you reviewed the files, but fine. I’m fairly sure that the cadaver we found underneath this Site was not a solitary anomaly. First of all, there was the visitation by the humanoid that gave you your beauty mark.”

Rebekah rubbed at the dull blemish on her forehead. Like a scar, the fingerprint had faded over the past five years, but she could still see it clearly in the mirror. Six years ago, they’d found the corpse of a giant slug with pseudopods terminating in human-like hands. Site-91 had been established as containment of this cadaver. In researching the events that led to more than twenty occultists being massacred around it in the 1770s, she’d called up a brilliant lightshow revealing what had happened. The slug had a kid, or someone claiming to be its kid, and he didn’t like the dissection of his slug parent, so he killed everyone involved. And the bastard marked me as a warning.

Varga continued: “Moreover, I genuinely think it was a solitary instance of a heretofore unknown species.”

Rebekah startled at that. “Wait, what? There are more giant slugs?”

“I can’t prove it yet. But if you read 5512 and 5612, I think you’ll see what I mean.”

“Why do I get the feeling you’re not done?”

“There’s a small cult modifying humans in ways I don’t understand, led by a man named Marquez. This individual has made contact with at least one entity like the cadaver we discovered during the investigation into 4612.”

Rebekah wiped herself down with a gym towel. “Does this have anything to do with the entity that messed with me in ’86?”

“Possibly, but that’s unclear. This is more than our small Site can accomplish on its own. We need to recruit more bodies, and we need a new research program. Specifically, we need one that focuses on technology or techniques that would be beyond my tool set. Because if I’m right, Marquez and his benefactors are not even close to done interfering.”

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