The Bowe Decommission, Part Three
rating: +29+x

Dr. Dan swept back into Mission Control, amazed that he could still sweep. On the wings of a Red Bull. "Update me."

Frewer glanced back at him. "Tav-666 is cleaning up at Site-37 with some help from outer space." Dan winced at every element of that sentence. "I've got Dr. Clef on the line, you want to talk to him?"

"What?" Dan snorted. "No. Never." He walked into the middle of the room, spreading his arms wide. "Put the remaining 19 inventory up there, I wanna see how we're doing."

The big board was soon plastered with dozens of anomalies, arranged by containment class. "Hmm. Not many Keters left, only a few Euclids. Another day or so and we'll lick this thing." He finished stretching, and momentarily lost control of his body. "Whew. Okay. Hit me."

Frewer yawned. "Robot bear in Ho Chi Minh City."

"More like a teddy bear, cybernetics notwithstanding. Georgie Porgie thinks every monster is a murder monster. Call Wilson's."

"Attacks on our field hospital in Eritrea. The CI flattened half a town, and we brought in the locals for treatment and amnestics. Something's been hunting our patrols ever since."

"Something."

Frewer flipped both hands in a gesture that clearly said 'Don't ask me'. "Details are thin. It's red, and it's angry. That's all I've got."

Dan glanced at the board. "Uh-huh. Any of those injured locals a quadriplegic?"

Frewer glanced up at him. "You're creepy. You know that?"

Dan nodded. "Stabilize the patient, put him in a hyperbaric chamber and roll it out into the wilderness. He's 3631-2, and 3631-1 is trying to protect him. Get 'em both in one place and containment'll be a snap." He tried to snap his fingers; he missed.

"Awesome. Next up is Site-77… oh, good god." Frewer looked away from his screen. "Giant… giant spiders. Eeeeugh." He forced himself to look back. "Sorry, sorry. Giant spiders at Site-77. They've overrun the research wing. Oh, god, that's awful."

"Not as awful as you'd think. Those researchers are fine, physically, though they'll probably have nightmares for a while." Dan shook his head. "Is this all they got from Site-37? Jesus. Tell security to use high-frequency emitters, twenty-five-k or higher, to drive the spiders into a cell."

Frewer stared at him.

"They're not really spiders, they're dogs."

The entire shift stared at him.

"Well, okay, spiders that act like dogs."

Silence.

"Fine spiders by dado."

Frewer nudged the man beside him, who began relaying the order.

"What? I had some time left over, and I heard those entries are fun."

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The shuddering mass of ooze stomped blindly up the wide cargo ramp. General George Bowe watched, fascinated. "Remember the plan."

The pilot nodded warily as his cargo plan took on its unlikely passenger. "I drop it on the feeding zone, then lure it to the visitor centre."

"And flush out their last hiding place." Bowe was almost shuddering himself, with anticipation. That wasn't part of the character, however, so he kept it in check.

An anonymous labcoat ran up beside him. "Sir! We've found it."

He was willing to excuse the insolence, this once, because he was in a very good mood. "Well done. Install it in the conference room, and have our religious friends join me. We'll all be on the same page, very soon." He glanced back at up the plane. "All of us."

Isn't it lovely when a plan comes together.

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"Call coming in from 43."

"Christ, I thought we were done with that. Put 'em on."

Dr. Daniil Sokolsky's image appeared on the board. "Finally! We're under attack." He paused. "Sort of."

"Everyone's under attack," Dan sighed. "You were in the queue. But… how are you under attack? You've got those memetic billboards up, and anyway the Bowelition already gave up on you."

There were scattered snickers at the term 'Bowelition', and Dan fought back a smirk.

Sokolsky waved a hand dismissively, nearly striking the webcam. "We think this is a straggler. They crop-dusted the billboards with 3533…" Dan's brain filled in the name, Metaphysiclean! "…so they don't work anymore."

Dan rolled his shoulders. Chemical warfare after all. "Alright, well, describe the anomaly."

This time Sokolsky did strike the webcam. "It's 4119."

Dan blinked. "Miss Dynamite?"

"Yeah. She's dynamiting shit on Highway 21. Took out a retreating Mekhanite convoy — not too upset about that, obviously — but also every drone we've sent after her. We know the containment procedures, we just can't implement them at range!"

Dan thought about that for a second. Just for a second. "Good speakers on those drones?"

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She looked up at the clouds, fighting the urge to look at the sun. Fighting the urge to look down at the trees, at the birds, at any discrete, explodable object. Without her goggles, it was rough going.

She didn't have an overall game plan, except perhaps to make enough noise that someone would finally take notice. She'd been in containment long enough to know that cooperation got you privileges, but only chaos got you change.

The general had confirmed that point for her.

"Thalia Contreras!" She couldn't tell where the voice was coming from; it seemed, in fact, to be coming from every direction at once. She scanned the horizon.

"I'm Dr. Dan. We haven't met."

"Obviously. Or you'd have exploded." There. She spotted the drone, and the drone was suddenly spotted with a viscous, orange fluid, and then even more suddenly the drone was violently gone. Boom.

"I realize you're frustrated," the voice continued from slightly less directions than before. "I've looked over your file, and it hasn't been updated in quite some time." Another one. Boom. "Maybe you'd like to talk about that?"

"Talking never got me anywhere." Now that she knew they were coming from all directions, all she had to do was turn in place. Boom. Boom. Boom.

"It might, if you talk to the right person. A person in the right frame of mind."

"Terrified, you mean?" Boom.

"Conciliatory. How's this strike you: the Foundation has diplomatic relations across multiple alternate universes. What say we try and find the one you come from, maybe let you head back there some day?"

She paused. She could almost hear the drones circling, at extreme range. She wondered if she could just pirouette, once, and take care of them all. But she hesitated. "Why should I believe that? If I've learned one thing about you people, it's that you don't tell the skips anything."

"Well, that's about to change." The voice sounded honest, if distant and tinny. "After what's happened this week, there's really no going back to the way things were."

She considered this for a moment, then sighed. "I don't know where I'm going, anyway." She sat down on the tarmac, and closed her eyes.

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"No time to celebrate. Got something on a subway security camera, in… Tokyo."

Ouch. "Okay, let's see it."

The image that formed on the main screen was… odd. The subway car was empty, save for one solitary man sitting on one of the bucket seats. It looked like someone had sprayed him, and the seat, with a fire extinguisher.

Dan actually gasped. "Motherfucker."

The dust which covered the man was slowly spreading to the other seats. He was breathing, low and slow, and his eyes were shut tight.

"I need access to the subway's… oh, hell. I need access to the subway's PA system. Can you swing that?"

Frewer nodded. "Got it already. Overwatch don't fuck around. Say the word!"

Dan took a deep breath. "Put me on."

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"Harold? Can you hear me?"

Harold Thompson, former SCP Foundation researcher and present marble-themed King Midas, looked blindly up at the subway car ceiling. "Who's… there?" he rasped, a cloud of dust bursting from his cracked lips.

"Harold, please listen closely."

"Don't… you mean… SCP… 28… 60?"

"Real names only, doctor-to-doctor. It's me, Dan."

Thompson coughed, and the seats across the aisle began to turn grey. "Dan? Who…" He coughed again. "Dan who?"

There was a pause. "Dr. Dan," the voice muttered.

Thompson began to laugh; it ended, as it always did, in more coughing. "I thought… we were using… real… names?"

Silence on the PA, for a moment. Then, reluctantly: "Fine. It's Cosmo."

"Cosmo." Thompson nodded, slowly. "I thought… you… were dead."

"And I thought you were in a coma."

"Lots of… coma people… walking around… today." Thompson started chewing the grains between his teeth.

"We're gonna try and get you out of there as soon as possible," said Dan, "but I need you to do something for me."

The middle-aged pseudo-statue uttered a gravelly, choking sound. It might have been a second attempt at laughter. "What… can I do for you… Dr. Dan?"

"Stay in the car. We can remote-close those doors, but you're more than capable of opening them when you hit the next station. Even in your condition."

Thompson nodded, painfully. "That's… what Bowe… wants, right? Concrete… man… goes berserk… in a crowd."

"No, he wants you to want to do that, and he wants me to think you will, so I'll have to play my hand. Shut down the entire Tokyo subway, or quarantine one of the largest cities on earth. Anything to keep that dust from getting out. He wants to use you to prove a point."

Thompson wiped a layer of dust off his face. "And you'd rather… I stayed… put."

"Yes. And I think you will."

Thompson slouched in his seat. "Why."

There was silence in the subway car for a moment.

"You haven't… got… an answer. Maybe… I want… an entire… city… of dust. To keep… me… company. Maybe… I'm going… to make you… kill me."

Another moment of silence.

"You know… what this… is like. The waiting. You… you know. You must."

The PA system finally came back on. "I'll write up a decommissioning order myself, if you stay in that car. If you don't, I'll… well. It won't be worth my time, then, will it?"

Thompson stared unseeingly into space. He blinked, slowly, with great care.

Finally: "I hope… they use… your plan… this time."

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Dan watched as the train was decontaminated. The passengers had been told that the sculpture in the closed-off car was a spontaneous art project, and could not be moved for copyright reasons. It was shaky, as cover stories went, but it held.

"Did you think he was going to walk out of there on you?" Frewer asked.

"No."

"But you had to say what you said, anyway. Just in case."

Dan wrinkled his nose. "We all take bad cop lessons. It's not pretty, but it works."

Frewer nodded, and patted him on the shoulder. "It bugged you, huh? Old softie." He stood up. "Your secret's safe with me, Cosmo."

Safiro sat down in his chair, eyebrow already raised. "Cosmo?"

"Yeah, who's Cosmo?" Sophia Light was standing at the double doors again. Vaux was standing beside her, struggling with a full tray of coffee.

Dan blew out his cheeks. "If that whole tray's for me, I'll tell you."

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General Jack Wilford watched the cargo plane head back towards Site-19. "Almost missed them."

The chopper pilot glanced back at him. "Our stealth tech is good. Maybe too good."

"Why do we even have a plane big enough to carry that thing?" He looked down at the galumphing mass of dirt, uprooted trees, and viscous black sludge which was staggering towards the canyon.

"So we can take it home when it gets out." The pilot frowned. "I hope we've got a second plane that isn't at 19."

"Alright, well, let's track the fucker for a mile or so, then call it in and pick up our passenger."

The pilot nodded. "I hope Dr. Goggles knows what he's doing, this time."

Wilford scowled. "He always knows what he's doing. That's the problem."

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"WHERE?" it wheezed, spitting up gallons of black goop. "WHERE?!"

An excellent question! said the voice in its head. Where, where, where. But where what?

"Where ARE they?! I can't see them! I can't SMELL them!" It snapped its massive jaws, clipping the vast, undulating tongue and drawing a sheet of dark red blood. "I can smell YOU. I can't SEE you, but I can SMELL you. I can't see ANYTHING!"

And I can't smell anything, the voice purred. But I can hear you just fine. You needn't even speak; I know how difficult that is for you. The voice paused. You have marvellous diction, however.

It thrust one gigantic, sopping foot through the roof of a green sedan, clutching at the interior with its claws. It barrelled lopsidedly through the parking lot, wearing the car like a squealing metal shoe. "Shut UP!" it roared, wetly.

Let me take a different tack, then. Something more direct. What are we looking for?

"PEOPLE!"

And why are we looking for them?

It swung its tail in a wide arc, demolishing a row of information stands. "PAIN."

The voice sounded satisfied, smug even. I can get on board with that.

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Vaux stared at the monitor. "What."

"It's… 682," Light said. "And it's wearing 035… as a hat."

Dan felt like singing.

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Go into the building.

It strode through the corrugated awning and the thin, warm-weather walls like they were nothing at all.

There's always humans here. They infest spaces like this.

"They're an infestation," the reptile agreed. Together they smashed their way through a long, glass-ceilinged hallway. There were maps on the walls, and video monitors, and kiosks. It scraped the ragged remains of the car across everything, reducing the room to splinters and pulp.

They're hiding, but they're here. These weak shelters fall apart without the little termites to maintain them.

"Termites," it squealed, putting one foot clean through the cracking floor and tearing up the foundation from above.

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The room was silent. Everyone but Dan was transfixed.

"Wow," Light finally managed.

Dan nodded. "Bowe's getting desperate. This horrible idea was old even back when I was still gainfully employed." He swanned into the middle of the room, arms extended, and turned a pirouette. "682 can regen the ectoplasmic burns, and 035 can give it focus and direction."

"You don't seem particularly upset," said Safiro. She did.

"I'm not. They're headed for nowhere."

"What?" Safiro was staring at him, now. "They're heading… they're heading for our backup base!"

He shook his head. "Who said anything about a backup base?"

Light put one hand on his shoulder, and he stopped spinning. "Are you sure you know what you're doing?"

He grinned at her. "Yes. I'm orchestrating my masterpiece."

He walked over to an unoccupied console, and pressed a button. "Tau-1, this is Dr. Dan."

"Go ahead," Wilford growled.

"Execute Duke Protocol."

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They burst out of the structure in a hail of glass and timber, and were confronted with what should have been an awe-inspiring sight. Neither of them were capable of awe, so instead they looked down at the enormous cleft in the ground with equal parts frustration and surprise.

That, said the voice, is one very large hole.

"Where are the PEOPLE?" the reptile bellowed, its voice echoing across the Grand Canyon. "The FILTHY, STUPID, DISGUSTING PEOPLE?!" It swept at the ground in front of it, tearing great jagged rifts in the rock.

Does it matter? We're free! We can do whatever we want!

"I WANT," it hollered, blood oozing between its teeth, "PAIN!"

"Got your pain right here, you ugly green fuck," a familiar voice boomed from the heavens.

They both looked up — the mask didn't have much choice in the matter — and saw that the new voice had come from a helicopter which they hadn't been able to hear over the lizard's ragged breathing and perpetual low-tone growl.

The helicopter's door was open.

There was a man standing in the open door.

A man surrounded by—

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"What?" Vaux almost shouted. "What?"

"WHAT?!" Light shouted.

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A man surrounded by butterflies, in every colour of the rainbow, fluttering in the downdraft and dancing merrily around him. He had a cruel, severe look on his pinched, bearded face, an old-fashioned camera around his neck and a military cap on his salt-and-pepper mane. He was grinning down at the pair of them with thoroughly manic enthusiasm.

"You ready for round two, dumb and ugly?" He was speaking through a megaphone. "You're dumb, you're ugly. If you can't tell who I'm pointing at, you can draw straws. Or, you could, if you had opposable thumbs like honest, sapient creatures do."

There was a fire burning in the reptile's heart, and two fires burning in its brain. "KILL."

Yes, let's.

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"Please explain," Light breathed.

"What, and take all the fun out of it?" Dan's hands were in his pockets again, and he was rocking back and forth on his heels, smiling serenely.

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The thing it knew as Kondraki, the thing which had dared, which had dared to ride you, okay, I see why that would be upsetting but please let's stay focused! Don't do anything rash.

"GET OUT OF MY THOUGHTS." It leapt into the air and snapped at the chopper, which pulled away from the ledge and hovered over a two-kilometre drop. "GET OFF MY FACE."

"Oh, is that your face?" Kondraki taunted. "I thought it was your back end."

It snapped its head to and fro, searching the landscape. "THERE." It lumbered into motion.

There? There what?

It ran pell-mell back towards the parking lot, picking up speed as it plowed through minivans, trucks and motorcycles. Once it had run far enough, it began making a wide turn.

I don't think I like where this is heading. I don't think I like where we are heading.

"HE DARED."

Yes, but that doesn't mean you need to dare him back!

It was now charging towards the canyon, towards the helicopter, towards a rocky outcropping which could serve as a makeshift…

You can't be serious.

"DIE," it howled, with all the fury of an indestructible hell-beast scorned, and it thrust them both over the edge of the precipice.

Kondraki flipped the megaphone off the tips of his fingers, and it followed them down.

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Dan hadn't often wished he lived in a movie, but he did right now. Time would slow to a crawl, the vignette would be perfectly framed: the gigantic lizard, slathered in dripping black ooze and burgundy blood, leaping into the empty space above the canyon. Its jaws snapping at the helicopter which banked hard away from it, the man with the butterflies waving goodbye with his right hand and making a rude gesture with his left, laughing. Postcard-perfect.

In reality it looked like someone had thrown a gigantic pile of rotten garbage off a cliff. The reptile crashed to the bottom of the ravine with comical speed.

The resolution on the feed wasn't nearly good enough, but Dan imagined, he imagined that the expression on the mask turned from comedy to tragedy just before it hit the ground.

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There was a moment of silence, and then the room exploded.

As Safiro called up the Site-19 tally and checked off the final two major anomalies, as ten researchers and five agents loudly applauded, Sophia Light gave him a warm, appraising look. "408?"

He winked at her. "408."

"I don't get it," said Vaux. His face reflected this statement.

"The butterflies," Light explained. "They're illusionists. They manipulate colour to take any form they want to." She laughed, rolling her eyes. "Damn, you really had me going there, Cosmo."

He sighed. He suddenly felt like he might collapse; the endless moment of crisis had passed, and the past week was suddenly asserting itself.

Something dawned on her. "Wait. Cosmo. Did you… did you redact your last name so people wouldn't know you'd changed your first name?"

He sat down at the SCP-179 console, and laid his head down on it. "Machiavelli got nothing on me." He closed his eyes.

She tapped him on the shoulder. "682's going to wake up any second now. It'll be injured, but it'll be hopping mad."

He rubbed his face into his labcoat sleeve. "It'll knock itself out in about five minutes."

"What? How? Why?"

He smiled, where no-one could see it.

"Because hell is other anomalies."

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This is all your fault.

"SHUT UP!" It launched itself into the canyon wall, dragging two of its broken legs behind it. It smeared its face across the limestone, trying to dislodge the mask. "YOU STUPID, POINTLESS THING! SHUT UP!"

We should've been invincible, you and I! With your brawn, and my brains, the sky was the limit! And you threw us down a hole. You let that idiot human manipulate you!

"SHUT UP!" It reared back and smashed itself into the wall again, and a rain of boulders slammed into its back.

You're as bad as they are.

"SHUT UP!"

You're as stupid as they are.

"SHUT UP!"

You might as well be human, you're so worthless and—

"SHUT UP!" It drove itself into the rocks, thrashing and squealing and trailing blood and black ooze, hammering itself against the immemorial solidity of the Arizonan strata until neither of them could say anything for quite some time.

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"Dan." He was shaking. Someone was shaking him? "Dan."

Someone was shaking him. He woke up. "How… how long…"

"Just a few hours. Sorry."

He pulled himself together, every fibre fighting against the effort. "Uuuuugh." Light and Safiro were standing beside him; he squinted at the latter. "Couldn't sleep?"

She shook her head.

"Me either, apparently."

Light was smiling. "Tau-1 just called in. They're routing us a message from Site-19."

He nodded. "I'm not gonna stand up."

She inclined her head, and Frewer hit a button on his console. The beaming visage of General George Bowe appeared on the centre screen.

Dan waved, and yawned. "This… one of those ominous defeat speeches?" He ran his tongue around the inside of his desert-dry mouth. "Or is it an ominous victory speech?"

"That depends on your perspective." Bowe looked prim, proper and pressed, the very model of a modern army general. "Though I doubt ours are all that different, at this point."

Dan climbed groggily to his feet. "Yeah, we've been through a lot together, you and I."

"Two dead men, having a party." Bowe hadn't shut his mouth since the feed had started, and Dan found himself staring at those unnaturally-white teeth.

"I do feel like death." He looked around the room; no more energy drinks. He sighed, and it felt like half his soul came out with the sound.

Bowe raised both eyebrows. "But I've given you a purpose! I've given you new life."

Dan was still staring at those teeth. Suddenly, he was staring at a dead pixel in the centre of one of them.

A dead pixel? In Site-01?

Bowe shut his mouth with an audible snap. "And now, I'm taking it away. Goodbye, Dr. Dan."

The transmission died.

Frewer spoke first. "Sir, we've got—"

"I know. I know, I know, I know." Dan was having trouble breathing. "I know. Shit. Uh. Shit. Get that chopper back here, I need… I need to go. Call Wilford. Take me to the launch pad." He smacked a palm into his forehead. "No. No time for that." Time's up. His eyes were watering. "Shit shit SHIT SHIT."

"What's going on?" Light tried to put a hand on his shoulder, but he was pacing too quickly for her.

"We don't get dead pixels in Site-01. We don't even use screens that can get dead pixels."

"What are you talking about?"

Safiro cleared her throat. "Site-17 just had a containment breach." She was staring at Dan. "096."

"The fucker," Dan muttered. "Fucked me with my own plan. Is the chopper ready?" He headed for the doors.

A voice came over the radio. Wilford. "We're tracking 096. Get Dr. Dan out, ASAP. As long as he's there, the Council is in danger."

"They're all somewhere else," said Dan. His eyes were darting back and forth. "Can't have O5s where there's an active anomaly."

Light furrowed her brow. "What? What active anomaly? There's no active anomalies allowed at Si—"

"Sir," said Frewer, pointing at the screen. "You're gonna want to see this."

"It's too late. It was always too late." He had one hand on the door handle. "I have to go, now. It'll be here in minutes."

"We're not gonna just let you die," Light whispered. This time she did put one hand on his shoulder. "We'll figure it out."

"I'm already dead," he said. "This is just the burial at s—"

"SIR!" Frewer was shouting. "You are DEFINITELY gonna want to see THIS!"

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The gangly grey streak burst across the American plains, running fit to shame the wind. There was a sonic boom.

It wasn't running THAT fast.

"The breath of shuttered childhood breaks upon the fetid fragments of the fear unspoken in the fragrant watches of the emptiness beside the—"

"MOON"

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They watched in breathless silence as Moon Champion swooped down, cardiovascular steed writhing between his clenched thighs, and snatched the bolting demon from the ground. Both monsters thrashed and kicked and tore at each other as they broke the sound barrier again.

"It has been an honour, a pleasure, a scholar and a gentleman." Moon Champion's voice was so loud, the speakers crackled. "You, sir, are a steely-eyed missile Dan, and I salute you."

Dan almost cried.

The radio crackled again. "Now, why don't I fix your little problem and LIGHT THIS CANDLE?"

Dan did cry.

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"Ascend," Sauelsuesor sang in Moon Champion's heart. "I'm here."

"My lady!"

"My champion," she smiled. He could feel it. The smiling.

He released his thighs and kicked, and the already thoroughly-flattened cow-heart-spider tumbled down into the sky, still gibbering inanely to itself.

The grey beast clawed at his face/mask, it screeched and wailed and tore blindly at him. He gunned the jetpack harder, and hugged it close.

"Honey!" He was almost screaming, as the atmosphere broke around them in liquid flame. "I'm coming home, and I brought dinner!"

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Dan stared at the screen.

"I guess that's a wrap on Moon Champion," Frewer whispered.

Dan dried his face with his labcoat sleeve, then looked at his team through bleary eyes. Light, Vaux, and Safiro were staring at him. He couldn't figure out their expressions. Suddenly, he couldn't figure anything out. How do brains?

He fell back, catching himself on a console. He didn't trust himself to speak.

"Time to clean up," Light said. She turned to Safiro. "Gather your shift. I want everyone in the common room in half an hour, for debriefing."

Dan snapped his fingers, and it worked this time. "One more thing, actually."

Light arched an eyebrow. "What?"

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"This is a waste of time," Bumaro growled.

"We're back in school?" asked Yttoric, arms folded in front of him.

Bowe began to write on the whiteboard. "This is where our disagreements end."

THE CHURCHES MUST PLEDGE ALLEGIANCE TO BOWE

He turned to face them again.

Bumaro nodded. "Creepy."

Ytorric nodded as well. "Yes, very creepy. So what?"

Bowe turned back to the whiteboard. There was a new message below his:

i dont know who that is

He turned to look at the researcher who was standing by the door. "What the hell is this?"

The man looked both terrified and confused. "I don't know!" He shook his head. "Uh… maybe there's more than one anomalous whiteboard?"

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Dan walked over to the whiteboard, uncapped a marker and wrote, slowly and deliberately:

THE SPIES MUST CONFESS

"I'm watching you for O5," Frewer said immediately.

"I'm watching for you General Wilford," said a woman behind him.

"I'm an informant for the Chaos Insurgency," Safiro remarked, and then she actually put both hands over her mouth.

Everyone in the room turned to stare at her in shock. Everyone except for Dr. Dan. "And an excellent informant you were, Kelly. It was like having an inside man at Site-19, I couldn't have asked for more." He capped the marker. "I think you'll find it significantly harder to send messages off-Site now, though."

Light's mouth was moving, but she wasn't saying anything. Dan tapped the whiteboard with the marker. "You wouldn't believe the paperwork it takes to bring an anomaly to Site-01. I give you SCP-2330, the memetic compulsion whiteboard. It wasn't easy smuggling it out during a siege, either, let me tell you." He erased the board completely, scrawled one final message:

THAT'S ALL, FOLKS

and then headed for the door.

The agents moved to restrain an unmoving Safiro, and Light followed Dan in a daze. "Hey, wait up."

"I don't know how much wait-up juice I have left," he said, as they passed through the double doors.

"Are you mad at me?"

He stopped and turned, barely resisting the urge to yawn in her face. "About?"

"You know damn well what about."

He shrugged. "I knew you wouldn't shoot it into the sun. I say you, but I actually mean them. Maybe you would've."

She nodded. "In a heartbeat."

He smiled at her, and began to walk away.

Suddenly, the events of the past hours cascaded over her in a wave of unresolved insanity. "Wait, though. 408 can't actually speak, and I don't think they can hold a megaphone. Can they, Dan?"

He was sweeping down the hall, labcoat billowing behind him.

She ran to catch up. "Dan?! Can they?!"

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