Middlegame
rating: +19+x

"Hey, Damian?" she asked.

The man who was drifting to sleep next to her stirred.

"Yeah?"

"This isn't going to last, is it? You and I?"

"Given the turnover rate for MTF agents, probably not?"

"Why even bother then?"

Creed chuckled.

"You really hit the heavy stuff right when we're about to crash, huh? Life's short, Bea. I'd rather spend the little time I have with someone who gets me, who I don't have to lie to on a regular basis. Plus, you're cute as hell."

She felt him kiss her cheek.

"Good enough?" he asked.

"Good enough."

She felt the arm he had draped over her tighten its hold slightly. She quietly positioned herself close and drifted off to sleep.


Agent Beatrice Ross sat on a bed within one of the Site-64 personnel dorms, her hands bandaged and covered in a pair of black gloves as she admired a small photograph. It depicted herself and Creed that previous winter, sitting by a fire in a ski lodge, the two dressed in thick sweaters as they smiled for the camera. It was one of the few photos she had of just the two of them together.

"They knew you were a thaumatologist. This was an assassination attempt, Bea."

Creed's words intruded into her mind. She winced and put the picture away. A knock came at the door.

"Open," she called out.

An older woman with brown hair done back in a ponytail, and dressed in the attire of site administration, poked her head into the room. A pair of brown-rimmed glasses covered her blue eyes as she scanned the premises. She gave a sympathetic smile as her gaze met with Ross's.

"Got to love how much we splurge on these dorms." Assistant Director Merlo chuckled. "How are you holding up?"

Ross shrugged.

"I don't mind. Not like I spent a lot of time in my actual apartment anyway."

"Right." Merlo looked at Ross's hands. "I visited Creed today. You're probably the only reason he survived the gunshots. How are your hands?"

Ross briefly frowned. She wiggled the fingers on her hands to demonstrate their functionality.

"Frostbite. Nothing that some periodic treatments won't fix over time," Ross replied. "Did they say how long he's out of commission?"

"The man took three bullets and lost a lot of blood," Merlo chuckled again. "He'll pull through, but it’s safe to say you're going to be in command of Tau-51 for a bit."

Ross nodded, then looked at the ground in silence. Merlo approached and sat next to her on the bed.

"How long?" Merlo asked.

"What?"

"You and Creed. How long?"

"Two years in June. We tried to keep it as quiet as we could." Ross's gaze remained on the floor. "Are you going to lecture me, Sasha?"

"Honestly, who you date is not really my concern at the moment," Merlo shrugged. "What I am worried about is what your next move is going to be."

"I don't have one." Ross sighed. "All the leads are dead. Until Spencer decides getting a warrant for the suspects in Three Ports is worth his time, all we have are three would be assassin corpses and about a megagram of Seance Dust. Not a whole-"

Ross paused. She looked up, eyes wide with an idea.

"Assassin corpses and Seance Dust," she repeated.

Merlo grinned.

"I'll start getting the paperwork drawn up."


=SCP Foundation=

Overwatch HQ

Office of the Overseer Council


Assistant Director Merlo,

Your use of the substance colloquially referred to as 'Seance Dust' for investigatory purposes has been tentatively approved nine to four. I should advise you that this decision comes following a three to one recommendation in support of your plan by the Site-64 Ethics Committee. Given the potential use in the containment of additional threats to consensus normalcy, the Council is currently deliberating possible reclassification of the substance to Thaumiel, which I predict to pass. Be prepared for the associated paperwork on your end.

Good luck.

O5-3


Secure. Contain. Protect.


Agent Ross let out a deep breath and looked at the small vial of electric blue powder in her hands, then to the gurney across the test chamber, upon which a body bag had been neatly placed. Closing her eyes, she pressed the vial to her nostril and inhaled sharply. She felt a small tingle in the back of her throat, but otherwise, the room remained silent.

"H-hello?"

Ross turned to the sound of a deep bass voice. Standing by the gurney was a man dressed in a long dark cloak, his entire form in sepia. On his chest, a large scorch mark was visible where the lightning bolt had struck. His eyes opened wide as he recognized Ross, and immediately reached into the coat's inside pocket.

"Oh fuck, it's you!" he shouted and proceeded to produce a phantom pistol.

"Yeah, that's not going to work, guy," Ross interrupted, watching the man level the weapon and pull the trigger. The gun went off, but no bullet left the barrel. The man let out a yelp, his hand shaking as he attempted to fire again, and again, and again. Eventually, the weapon clicked on empty.

"Are you finished?" Ross asked.

The man answered by letting out an angry yell, and charging at her. Upon making contact, Ross felt her entire body sheath in cold. The man vanished and reappeared at the other end of the room.

"How about now?"

The man looked at Ross, his mouth open in terror.

"What the hell is going on?!? Where am I? What the fuck is this? Who the fuck are you?"

Ross sighed and headed over to the gurney, unzipping the body bag to reveal the corpse inside.

"You're dead, friend," Ross answered, showing the man his own face. "You and your pals attempted to kill me and my commander. Poor decision, really. I'm talking to you through a hit of Seance Dust."

The man looked down at his torso and poked the scorch mark. His eyes widened as his knees gave out. Tears welled in his eyes as he began to tear at the burn.

"No," he muttered. "No. No. No! NO! NO! NO!"

With a deep, guttural cry the man placed his head in his hands.

"Oh god, Donna, I'm so sorry!" he wailed. "I fucked up. I fucked up so bad."

Ross waited silently. After a short time, the man quieted down, his cries of lament turning into periodic sobs.

"What's your name?" she asked, approaching the sepia-toned wreck.

"Piss off, lady." He pulled away.

"Right. Well, Piss Off, we're prepared to offer you a deal. Tell us the name, and address of who hired you to come after my colleague and I, and we'll scribe a letter for you to leave your next of kin. Say some goodbyes."

"Lady, even if I wanted to tell you anything I was geased to hell and back when we took the contract, I can't tell you shit."

Ross blinked.

"Friend." she sighed. "You're dead. You're not bound by that kind of thing anymore. Most people don't account for the person geased to act against them once they stop breathing."

The man fell silent. He sniffled, and then looked up, wiping some tears from his eyes.

"Got something to write with?" he asked.


"Spencer speaking."

UIU Agent Kenneth Spencer made no attempts to hide the disdain in his voice. As soon as the number for Spicy Crust Pizza appeared on his office phone he knew this was not going to be an enjoyable phone call.

"Hey, Ken."

"Sasha. To what do I owe the pleasure?"

"Well, considering you wouldn't give Creed and Ross the time of day, I thought I'd give you a call, old friend."

"Right. Listen, I told both of them before that until Judge Jelen signs the warrant-"

"Creed was shot in Oregon three days ago by a would-be assassin," Merlo interrupted. "Turns out not only did they know he was Foundation, but they were also connected to the Seance Dust supplier. So now not only is an anomalous substance leaving your jurisdiction en masse, but people are dying because you're sitting on the last lead out of spite. You don't like the Foundation, that's fine, Ken. I get that. We're not very likable people. But eventually this bomb is going to blow, and it's going to be a very bad look if you're still sitting on top of it when it does!"

Silence fell over the line. Spencer cleared his throat.

"We're not your errand boys, Merlo." His voice was calm. "I can't vanish into the shadows scot-free if things go belly up. So, if you don't mind I think I'll take a little care before I start raiding random warehouses in the Maxwellist quarter."

"If you don't take action on this, someone will."

Spencer let out an amused snort.

"Threatening to start an occult war because you don’t like due process is not a good look, even for you Sasha."

"Don’t give me that due process excuse again. You’re stalling, and we both know it," Merlo replied. "These people are shooting my agents, Ken. This isn’t a victimless crime anymore. And if they’re willing to target skippers, they probably don’t have any qualms about going after feds either. Pretty soon, it could be you in the crosshairs. Or Thorne."

Silence once again fell over the line.

"Listen." Merlo sighed. "I've got a name, a sketch, and an address for you. All acquired from one of the would-be assassins. They'll arrive via the usual means in a bit. I strongly encourage you to do something with it."

"No promises."

Spencer hung up.


Excerpt From "The Three Portlands Investigator"
April 15th, 2022

M

axwellist Quarter - April 15th, 2022 At approximately 1:00 PM EDT, FBI strike teams engaged on a raid within one of the district's many warehouses, following an anonymous tip suggesting the location served as a site for unregistered Seance Dust manufacturing and distribution…


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