Welcome To Yellowstone
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In transit to Site-θ.

Carlotta’s head slammed into the interior wall of the armored vehicle as it jostled along the dirt road and struck a rut. She caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror in front of the driver and saw her shoulder length brown hair disheveled. She caught the driver looking back at her.

“Sorry, it’s a rough road. You should have sat up here with me.”

She shook her hair out and then tied it behind her in a tight ponytail. “I’m good back here.”

She smoothed her blazer and slacks as best she could in the cramped transport. Carlotta still dressed like she was in the UIU. She tapped her fingers on her knees as she sat on the bench in the rear of the mobile containment. She glanced at her phone, but it was still in lockdown while they transferred the anomaly. These orders had come from on high, some said Dr. Light herself, for the humanoid anomaly sitting in mobile containment behind her to transfer to Site- θ. Orders specifically naming Carlotta to accompany the anomaly, a Russian girl, designated POI-2408-351.

The mobile containment transport wasn’t designed for comfort, with two opposing steel benches along each interior wall behind the driver's seat. Towards the back of the transport, beside the benches was a titanium and beryllium-bronze alloy cage that held the humanoid anomaly. POI-2408-351 was staring straight ahead of her and had been the entire trip out, not deviating from her focus on the opposite wall of the transport. Carlotta looked out the reinforced windows of the transport at the dirt road through Yellowstone National Park. She looked at the driver again, he caught her looking, and she turned away rubbing the sore spot on the back of her skull.

“Do you want some aspirin? I’ve got some up here,” he said.

“Yes, thank you.”

He reached behind the driver’s seat without looking, holding a small travel-sized pill bottle. She cracked it open and popped a few in her mouth. She opened a bottle of water, swallowed the capsules, and glanced over at POI-2408-351; the girl was looking at her intently.

POI-2408-351 was big, like professional-fighter big. Her orange jumpsuit bulged at the arms and shoulders as she rolled them trying to get comfortable. Her hair was short, buzzed on the sides with only an inch or two on top, jet black and slicked backwards from her forehead. Her skin was pale, with small early crow's feet by her eyes.

“Do you want some water?”

POI-2408-351 glared at her.

“Is that a no? You must be thirsty.”

The driver turned around. “Don’t talk to it.”

“Мудак.” Carlotta turned and looked at POI-2408-351; she had been silent throughout the trip. Carlotta turned to the driver. “Hey why don’t you pay attention to the road?” He shrugged and turned around.

Carlotta turned back to POI-2408-351. “So, water?”

“Yes, thank you,” POI-2408-351 said in subtly Slavic accented English.

Carlotta passed the girl a bottle of water, through the cage bars, but kept one hand on the taser on her belt. The girl noticed, sighed but took the offered bottle.

Carlotta took another sip of her own water. “So, you’re from Russia?”

“Romania.”

“But that was Russian a minute ago right?” POI-2408-351 nodded.

“I was ‘taken in’ by Russians when I was young.” She took a long pull from the water bottle. Some water spilled down her chin, but she didn’t move to wipe it away.

“Taken in, huh?”

“Yes, the Lodge is many things, but not gentle. Although I would have starved had they not found me.” She shrugged at this last point.

“They had you fight, right? For sport?”

Lucretia nodded and said “To honor Orok.” She spit onto the floor of her cage at this last syllable.

“Not a true believer then?”

“How you say… fuck them.”

Carlotta laughed and POI-2408-351 surprised her with a small smile.

Carlotta was silent a moment and then said, “Is it better being contained by them?”

“Them? Are you not a Jailer, as well?”

“I am, I guess. So, us then. Is it better with us?”

“It is boring. I have only my exercises and what books they allow me. But yes… it is better.”

“I’m Carlotta, by the way.”

“Lucretia. But Americans struggle… call me Lucy, if you want.”

Carlotta smirked and said, “Lucy it is.”



Site-θ Humanoid Containment


Lucretia paced around the inside of her containment chamber: a single but comfortable bed, a small but empty bookshelf, a modest desk, a small private bathroom, and harsh fluorescent lighting.

When they had arrived at this Site, the guards had led her through security where she underwent a personal search and a walk through an X-ray machine, although she had hidden no weapons. Carlotta had thanked her and taken her to this room, promising dinner in an hour.

She stopped pacing. She placed her forehead against the maglock door to her containment cell. She could hear two voices in the hall.

“You see the new one they brought in?”

“Yeah, Sarkic gladiator type.” Lucretia's fist tightened against the metal of the door.

“Why isn’t it designated like an SCP?”

“Who knows? Special treatment, I guess.”

“I don’t trust them.”

Lucretia pounded on the door several times. “Hey! I can hear you, you know? If you want to know anything why don't you fuckers ask me?” There followed a few minutes of silence and then the sound of footsteps receding. She looked at the dent in the door she had made and sighed. Ever since they "contained me" it's been like this. I surrendered that night, and they still tased me.

She closed her eyes and rested her forehead against the door. What am I doing here? she thought.

She turned around and opened her eyes. The room was three times its usual width. The opposing wall with her bed was stretching away from her as she stared.

“What the fuck?” she said as the vertigo hit.

Suddenly, the wall shifted back again and the dimensions of the room looked normal.

She went to the door and yelled out into the hall. “Hey! Someone there?” She heard an alarm blaring in the hall and racing footsteps as some guards ran past. “Hey!”

The guard stopped and turned to her through the small window in her cell door. “Just try to stay calm, alright? We’re having a situation here!” Then he was gone down the corridor. The hall twisted into a curve for a moment then rubber banded back to its usual shape in a blink.

Across the way she could see a domed bird cage with a parrot in another containment chamber. She noticed a black blanket pooled up around the base of a table holding the cage. “What you supposed to be?”

The grey parrot was staring at her, cocking its head to and fro. Then it opened its beak, and instead of a squawk Lucretia heard accented English issuing from the beak. “Who am I, is all fun. I’ll answer not, until it’s done.”

“Did you just speak, little bird?”

“Indeed Ms. Popescu. There’s no one else in view. But fear not for our fate, it’s already too late.”

“How did you know my name? Are you rhyming to fuck with me?”

“No, no I would not ever. I am but me, and am not clever. I speak thus because I must, as iron oft turns to rust.”

“Do you know what is happening, little bird?”

“My name is Phenex, please be polite. After all, I got your weird name right! I know this well, inside and out, and you would too, had you my clout.”

“Will you just tell me?’”

“Reality filter and anchored path. Truly complex piles of math. We are vulnerable now as the world does fray. I suggest you get on your knees and pray.”



Dr. Sophia Light’s Office, Site-θ.

Director Light closed the laptop as someone knocked on the door. “Enter.”

Vaux had brought her a cup of coffee. “Thought you could use some.”

“Thanks.”

“What’re you working on?” Vaux asked.

“Just looking at another possible candidate.”

“Really, who?”

Sophia started to answer when an alarm blared in the hall. Just as suddenly, the ceiling above their heads vanished in shadows as the surface retreated dozens of meters above. She sat looking up at this development when her laptop pinged.

She opened it and brought up her email. Vaux was still staring at the ceiling, when he gasped. She looked back up and found the space as it had been a moment before. Vaux ran to her waste basket and gagged. Light’s gaze went back to the screen, as she fought off the vertigo.

“Looks like the asset will be making an appearance soon.”



Site-θ Humanoid Containment

Carlotta staggered as the stairs beneath her stretched out for what seemed like miles. She felt nauseous as she stared down the endless length of steps. She grabbed at the safety rail to steady herself. She gagged a little as the stairs whipped back towards her and resumed their usual depth.

She bent over at the waist and braced her hands on her knees. She took a deep breath, straightened her posture, and continued down the stairs until she was at the door to the East Containment Wing. Carlotta opened the door with a swipe of her passkey and was hit in the face with an explosion of black smoke. She coughed and waved her hands in front of her. She started to reach for the fire alarm on the wall when a form leaped from the ceiling and landed in the middle of the smoke. A swirling black trench cloak whipped out, dissipating the smoke.

She found herself only a few feet from an animate shadow. She yelped and stepped back, pulling her taser from the holster and aiming it at the shadow. “Freeze!”

The man-shaped shadow raised its hands in surrender. He wore a wide brimmed fedora style hat and a long coat but the details of his face and clothing were entirely black. Every bit of shadow in the room had drawn itself to the figure and wrapped itself around him like a skintight veil. His fists were at his waist and his chest was puffed out like he was posing.

His voice was deep and weirdly modulated, reminding her of something. “Never fear, Agent of the Law! I am here to defend against crime’s dastardly hand.”

His voice was like an actor in an old-fashioned serial or radio play from the 1930s. She shook her head but kept the taser aimed at his shadowy form. “I’m sorry, who are you?”

“Why I am the seeker of justice in the Night. I am the righteous hand of retribution against the evils in men’s mind! I am the Specter!”

“What happened to your voice just then?”

“I don’t know what you mean, Officer!”

“What are you doing here?”

“As I said, the Specter goes where Laws are broken! And Laws are being broken here tonight!”

“Okay, look. I’m not an officer, but I’m a containment specialist and you seem like an anomaly. So, let’s make this simple and you come with me to a containment chamber, alright?”

“No time, Containment Officer. There are crimes to stop. Crimes against the Laws of Physics! Let no one say the Specter is prejudiced about the Laws he upholds! Even natural Laws must be protected from crime’s evil stench!”

Her communicator chimed before she could respond. “Agent Deneb, stand down.”

“I’m sorry, who’s this?”

“My name is Director Sophia Light, you’re here on my orders. The being in front of you, SCP-4494, isn’t susceptible to that taser.”

“The Specter fears no weapons, it’s true!” he bellowed.

“Director Light, are you suggesting we let this anomaly have free rein of the Site?”

Light chuckled on the other end and said: “There are other things to worry about tonight.”

Carlotta rubbed her eyes, and said “Okay, SCP-4494, uh… go about your business, I guess.” She lowered the taser and sunk it snugly back into the holster.

She looked at the shadowy man as he tipped his hat to her and turned away. “Hold on! What were you doing, anyway?”

“Reality is shifting, my good Agent Deneb. And if we are to survive the night, the Specter must find what is causing the trouble!” And with that he literally flew into the ventilation system and disappeared from sight.

Light cleared her throat and said “Agent, you with me?”

“Yes, Director. What are your orders?”

“I want you to check on SCP-1360 and POI-2408-351, make sure they’re riding out these shifts and then I want you to report to my office.”

“Will do, Director.”


SCP-1360 didn’t have a name. Its maker had not named it. The people who had been jailing it for the better part of a decade had not decided to name it. So, it was merely SCP-1360. It had no name, and that was satisfactory.

A human opened the viewport of the cell and looked up at it. “Are you alright?”

1360 did not immediately realize the woman was talking to it. Then it did realize as the woman was staring directly at it, seemingly waiting for a response.

It pulled up a text to speech device the researchers had given it and typed: “I am functioning at optimal efficiency.

“Do you need anything?” she asked.

I do not.

“Okay, well I’ll be back in a bit.”

As the woman was closing the viewport on the door, it typed out “Wait.

“Yes?”

Why were you concerned?

“Because it’s bugfuck out here and I was asked to check on you.”

Did Light send you?

She paused for a moment and then nodded. “Do you know why she wanted me to check on you?”

Possibly.

It watched her stare at it for a while, then shake her head and sigh.

“Do you mind if I ask you a question?”

No.

“I don’t want this to seem rude, but what’s your deal?”

1360 did not respond for a moment and then typed: “What do you mean?

“Well, you sit there and you don’t move. You don’t talk to anyone.”

No one talks to me. Besides, I am not capable of speech."

“You know what I mean. So, why not keep trying to leave? I read the files, you used to try all the time.”

1360 did not immediately respond. It rose and walked to the portal through which the woman was speaking to it. “I was abandoned.

“Anderson?”

1360 nodded. “I never broke my programming. I served faithfully to the extent my capabilities allowed.

“He said stay, so you stay?”

At first. Now, I stay because I have nowhere else to go.

“This is gonna be rude, but do you feel stuff?”

1360 shrugged. “It is hard to know if the thoughts I have are what you would call feelings. But I think I was abandoned, and I did not deserve to be so.

Two guards ran around the corner and stopped when they saw it talking with the woman.

“You should stand further back when talking with it, Agent.”

“Why’s that?” she asked.

“It’s dangerous. Heard it killed sixteen containment staff in fifteen minutes a few years ago.”

1360 spoke: “I killed five individuals. And it was nine years ago.

“Why haven’t you tried to kill anyone in nine years, 1360?” the woman asked, still looking at the guard.

I was told to stop trying to escape. By my maker.

The woman shrugged at the guard and turned back to it. 1360 watched as the two guards continued on their way. It could hear them speaking even down the hall. “Thing gives me the fucking creeps.”

1360 looked back at the woman. “Why do you think Light asked you to check on me?

“I don’t know, I asked you that question.”

1360 turned from the woman and shrugged as it walked back to the opposite wall of its bare cell.

Maybe you should ask her?

Suddenly, the woman was very far away. No, it was the door that was far away. Falling away from its seated position at a forty-five-degree angle. Before the movement reversed, 1360 slowed its perception of time and watched the process in detail. The material of the room seemed stretched, the mere six meters of its cell taking up more than a hundred. So far, that it was sure the woman would not clearly see it. Then the door was traveling back, the space slowly regaining its usual parameters. 1360 discontinued the perceptual filter and watched the door whip back into place in an elastic motion, almost coming close enough for it to touch.

1360 heard vomiting from the hall and stood to see the woman regain her standing position from a crouch and wiping her mouth. She looked over at it and opened her eyes wider. “That didn’t affect you?”

I witnessed the event.

“But no negative effects?”

No.

“Huh. OK, well if you’re alright I have to check on someone else.”

1360 watched her walk off down the corridor until she turned down a different hall. Then, without warning there were a series of intersections of corridors where a single corridor previously stood. It could see three separate four-way intersections from the viewport of the door. But then just as suddenly, the corridor was returned to its original shape.

Interesting.



“Were we here or were we there? I was just a little bear. These shifts are like magic, such a horrible trick.”

“Do you ever stop talking, bird?” Lucretia said.

The bird did not say anything for once but instead looked above Lucretia’s head. She turned from the door and saw above her a vast cavernous space. The ceiling and walls had warped out, bending and extending until she couldn’t see where the ceiling met the walls. In the cavernous space, there were hundreds of containment chambers, much like her own, honeycombed endlessly up the walls. Her eyes moved from chamber to chamber, seeing details like the bed and shelf, until her vision swam.

“Enough is enough,” she said in Russian.

Coils of flesh flowed from her back, wrapping her upper and forearms with their added bulk. When the flesh settled, it had a hardened texture like that of a crab shell or rhino horn.

She raised both hands above her head and brought them down on the right edge of the door, close to the electronic locking mechanism. The metal bent slightly after the first blow, but after the third and fourth, the mechanism shattered. She strained at the metal, forcing it back on its rails, until it swung free into the corridor.

“Be aware, they will not like. Your frightful form bespeaks a shrike! Regain your shape, and make good haste, or else your life becomes a waste.”

“Shut the fuck up!” she bellowed, but then the flesh receded from her arms and joined with her back once more.

She looked down the corridor and then in the opposite direction, finding no activity.

“What now you are free? Will you converse with me?”

“About what?”

“Anything, my dear Popescu. I get so lonely and so blue.”

“Where in hell do you come from?”

“Ah well, it’s Hell I call hearth and home. It’s a good time under roofs of bone.”

“Hell? Are you serious?”

“Most definitely, my dear fighter. Chaos makes a soul burn brighter.”

“So, I think you were telling me what is happening?”

“Oh, was I? Are you sure? Such a delay to endure. This tragedy makes no sense, so do stop being so dense.”

“Are you going to explain, bird?”

“Why does the earth shake? Why do the heavens wake? It does what it does, there is no reason. Tis time for a disastrous season.”

Lucretia snorted and leaned against the wall, crossing her arms. “How long before you think they’ll come racing in to hit me with their little sticks?”

“Methinks their concern is otherwise. If you listen, you’ll hear many cries. This disaster, blood will take. Those who fall shall not awake.”



Carlotta ran down the corridor of the East containment wing, heading for Lucretia’s cell when the corridor sprouted an intersection directly in front of her, and she careened off the corner where two walls met. She fell backwards and landed hard on her tail bone.

“Today sucks.”

She stood on shaking legs, when the corridor turned back into straight line with containment cells in each wall. Her vision swam and she bent over again, but only for a moment before continuing at a slower pace.

Carlotta turned the final corner and found Lucretia leaning against the wall, yelling at the door in front of her.

“I’m going rip open that cage and tear off your wings!”

“Oh, please do not harm me, I’m defenseless. I cannot handle this tension and stress. Lucretia, I am your friend. Are we not both by Foundation penned?” asked a voice from beyond the door.

Carlotta put her hand on the taser at her hip, but then took it off before Lucretia could see her do it.

“Don’t! It wants you to open the cage.”

Lucretia looked up at her, startled by the sudden intrusion. “It’s just shit talking bird.”

“It’s not, trust me.” Carlotta got in between Lucretia and the door to the parrot’s cell as she said this.

“No fun, a voice of reason doth appear. An agent and a fighter, struck with fear!”

Carlotta stepped between Lucretia and the parrot. “Trust me, shit’s weird enough already without freeing the horror from hell.”

Lucretia sighed, uncrossed her arms and stuck her hands in her pockets. “Do you know what is going on?”

“Well, I just landed on my ass, but otherwise I’m in the dar-”

Suddenly, Carlotta’s feet left the ground as the floor of the corridor at her feet tilted down and twisted away from her. Her shoes slipped off as she started careening down the corridor/slope. But just as she was about to strike the wall, she felt something loop around her wrists and forearms, arresting her fall.

Carlotta looked up, blinking away tears, and saw the material was tendrils of flesh flowing from Lucretia’s arms. She was standing on the edge of the chasm where the corridor’s steep drop-off began. Her legs had ripped free of the jumpsuit’s material and latched onto the floor with pincer-like appendages.

The feeling of the fleshy protuberance was rough and wet at the same time, but she was able to wrap her fingers around it and pull herself up the incline.

Lucretia was straining to maintain her purchase on the floor, sweat pouring down her face, her whole body quivering visibly.

Just as suddenly as it had come, floor flew back into its place and Carlotta was in free-fall five meters in the air. She closed her eyes and tried to cross her arms in front of her face to shield herself from the blow. When she made contact, it was with something remarkably softer than the pounded earth floor. Carlotta bounced off Lucretia’s body, having dove in between her and the ground, but the tendrils tightened their grip gently so she did not bounce away.

They lay there for a second panting, Lucretia sweat-stained, and Carlotta feeling the bruises that would soon appear all over her arms and backside.

Then Carlotta was laughing and Lucretia was too. A riotous, panicky laugh.

“You can let me up now, Lucy.”

“Sorry.”

“You just saved my fucking life, so no apologies.”

Carlotta stood and saw the ruined door of Lucretia’s cell.

“What happened there?”

“I got… frustrated.”

“Well, I think we can chalk that up to ‘dangerous anomalous event’ and hand-wave it,” she said, placing an open palm on Lucretia’s shoulder. “Thank you.”

“Did not think you want to die like that.”

“Really don’t. What a shit day, huh?”

Before Lucretia could respond, Carlotta’s communicator went started pinging loudly.

“Not mine,” Lucretia chuckled holding her hands out, palm-up.

Carlotta keyed the communicator to receiving and said: “This is Agent Deneb.”

Light’s voice came from the speaker: “Agent, I’m glad you’re alright. I see you’ve found POI-240-” Lucretia interrupted, “I can hear you.” Director Light continued: “Excuse me, Ms. Popescu. Agent, would you be so kind as to gather 1360 and Ms. Popescu, and come to my office?

Lucretia snorted. “Thought your club didn’t like ‘dirty Sarkics.’”

“Yes, well. Dr. Clef is not ultimately in charge of who I recruit to Alpha-9, so his opinion is worth even less than usual.”

Lucretia laughed and looked at Carlotta, who shrugged. Lucretia started walking down the corridor towards 1360’s containment. “Come on. Or would you rather me to save you again?”

Without realizing what she was doing, Carlotta wrapped her arms around Lucretia’s shoulders and hugged her awkwardly for a moment. Lucretia looked up at her and she smiled sheepishly.

Carlotta started walking and behind her she heard “What is a 1360?” Carlotta laughed.

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