You Get the Horns
rating: +10+x

“I'm gonna fishtail it.”

The road flew underneath the two men as they advanced on the mission checkpoint. They were going far faster than would have been legal, but they hadn't paid legality any attention for the past few years.

There wasn't a cloud in the sky. Temperature in the low seventies; a beautiful night for slamming pedals down and racing the moon.

The smaller man in the passenger seat looked up from his control console. “No you aren't.”

The huge man gripping the wheel snorted in the way that only large, frustrated animals can.

“Yes, I am. You watch.”

“I won't have to watch. If you even attempt something that stupid, my dozens of broken bones will remind me of it for years.”

“Quit being a baby.”

“Oh? Me, a baby? Maybe you should set aside the theatrics and focus on the mission parameters for once.”

“I will. By fishtailing it. It'll work.”

No, it won't. It travels at an average of 200 miles an hour. Just keeping pace with the thing is going to be hard enough, let alone trying to stay alive while pulling a stunt like that. You just focus on getting alongside and let me handle the rest.”

“I'm one of the best drivers we've got. I can do it.”

“You can't afford any more writeups, LeFleur.”

“And you can't afford to get any uglier, Magnusson, but there you are, lookin' like a dead hog got in a fight with a blender.”

Now who's being a baby?”

“Me. But also you.”

“If I die, I am going to haunt you relentlessly.”

“Shame. Your ghost is gonna see some real messed-up shit.”

LeFleur shifted gears and eased on the accelerator. The titanic vehicle responded with fluid grace, at odds with its size and weight.

The larger man grunted, “Comin' up on the rendezvous. Where is everyone?”

“We're early. Due to your judicious use of 'shortcuts'.”

“No sense outfitting this beast for offroad if you're not gonna use it.”

“Yes, but it hardly seems practical to drive through a forest simply because you can.”

“You worry about the practical. Leave the real work to the big boys.”

Magnusson sighed. “Park at the exit there, we'll wait for everyone else.”

LeFleur eased the machine into the space, and killed the engine.

The big man smoothed his handlebar mustache, then folded his arms across his broad stomach. “Is this gonna work?”

The thin, bald man pushed up his dark glasses. “Do you want the Foundation answer or the engineer's answer?”

“The real answer. I wanna know where we stand.”

Magnusson sighed again, and shook his head. “I really don't know. The science is all predicated upon the assumption that the thing obeys the majority of physical laws. Our armaments could disable a tank. But with the thing teleporting everywhere, and its speed, and the fact that we're not supposed to destroy it, we're walking a very fine line. I don't see it working out well. But I guess we don't have a choice.”

LeFleur grunts. “Snowball's chance in hell, basically.”

“More or less, yes. Fortunately there's no record of aggressive behavior from 3899, so barring any accidents we should come out of it smelling like roses.”

“Something's still got me wondering, though.”

“Yes?”

“Doesn't this thing just show up wherever it wants? At random? How does Command know it's going to be here?”

“Apparently the research team found out that it emits some kind of energy in a given area for a few hours before it appears. Subtle, but enough to track. They picked it up here, so we were scrambled.”

“Huh.”

“I've got it on the monitors here, actually. Some kind of… it doesn't really make sense, it's like gamma radiation, but non-ionizing? It's high energy enough to interact with our detectors but has no effect whatsoever on the excitation of the valence-”

“Cool your jets, Einstein.”

Magnusson scowled. “LeFleur, does being a complete caveman make it difficult to interact with modern society?”

LeFleur sniffed, and was silent for a short moment.

He then replied, “No. And I bet I could beat you up. Just, you know, as a corollary statement. Tangental point. Supporting evidence. Yadda yadda.”

Magnusson said nothing, focusing instead on the screens in front of him.

“Looking a little red in the face there, Johnny. Someone need a diaper change?”

“Hush, LeFleur. Some of us have work to do that involves more brainpower than shoving-”

A blinking light appeared on the console, accompanied by insistent beeping.

Magnusson pressed a button. “Go ahead, Command.”

He listened and nodded as a tinny voice came through his headset. He murmured some affirmatives, and within a moment the call was finished. Magnusson began to go pale rather than flushed.

The small man swallowed and said, “2590's on the loose again. Mission assets are being recalled.”

LeFleur snorted, and turned the key in the ignition, bringing the monstrous diesel engine back to life.

Magnusson continued, “Except for us.”

The big man turned and looked the smaller in the eye. “What?”

“We're not being recalled. We're already on the scene, so Command is giving the order to continue the sortie. Without backup. They'll be providing intelligence and distance support only.”

LeFleur blinked. Then a predator's grin split his features. “Oh really?”

“I don't see what there is to be happy about, Les. This just went from fairly routine to extremely dangerous. If anything, anything goes wrong, we're on our own. Hell, we're lucky that the highway even got closed down at all.”

“Good. Maybe they'll have to come up with a new medal for this one.”

“The eagerness with which you pursue death is disturbing.”

“Your face is disturbing. Let's roll.”

Magnusson sighed, and LeFleur stomped the accelerator. The assault truck lurched forward and hurled itself down the highway.

Road signs and mile markers flew past them. The highway was completely deserted, thanks to the work of the setup crew. There was little more than dry grass, asphalt, and moonlight for miles in every direction, and the sky, infested with stars, yawned darkly above them.

A small, repetitive dinging sound chirped over the roar of the engine. LeFleur frowned.

“Hey. Buckle up for safety, shrimp.”

The bald man rolled his eyes and clicked his seatbelt into place.

“Do we have an ETA?”

“Roughly. According to the readouts, it should be appearing within the next-”

The air shrieked, and was torn in two by an enormous explosion less than forty feet in front of the truck. The shockwave rippled through the cabin and up through the wheels. LeFleur swore and gripped the wheel, steadying the truck against the tremor. A massive plume of thick, charcoal-purple smoke obscured their vision entirely, and was accompanied by a cocktail of smells – exhaust, burning wood, lubricating oil, and blood.

Then the smoke was gone.

Before them was a semi-truck. Once painted black, but now badly rusted in patches, the trailer peppered with dings, scrapes, and dents. Patches of sticky fire burned insistently upon the metal and let loose streamers of the same dense, noxious smoke. Ragged, torn mud flaps, and a rear gate too rusted to be structurally sound. The entire hellish thing looked destined for the scrap heap.

It began to pull ahead of them. It was traveling at more than 180 miles an hour.

LeFleur leaned on the accelerator. The assault truck's masterfully engineered engine and drivetrain drank deep and pounced forward, refusing to allow the thing before them to escape. They matched pace, keeping it three car lengths in front of them while the wind clawed at the vehicle's armored shell outside.

Magnusson hit a switch. A voice came through the cab's speakers, loud, deep, and manic.

-EEEEEEEEEEHAW, BOY! Goddamn I'm comin' in hot! Say hello to that big ol' moon! How you doin' moon, you big beautiful woman?! I'm comin' to get ya! I'm comin' and I want a big ol' kiss when I get there, you saucy girl! You ain't never made time with a man like me, no sir, and I'm gonna tear rubber until I get my chance! You just sit tight and stay beautiful, sugar, daddy's comin'! YEEEEEEEE-

The two operatives looked at one another for a brief moment. LeFleur's mustache twitched at a corner, as if about to break into laughter. Magnusson was not smiling. He broke eye contact with his partner and picked up an archaic-looking corded transciever microphone.

“Night Hauler, are you receiving?”

-EEEEEEEE- oh what?! Hot damn, do I got company on the road tonight?! Well butter my butt and call me Butterbutt! Y'all boys got a damn fine rig there, I tell you what! All that speed! You boys gonna chase the moon with me this beautiful evening?! First one there gets to take their shot, but I'll tell ya right now I brought chocolates for her and I'm faster!

Magnusson huffed a breath, steeling himself. “SCP-3899, we are Agents Magnusson and LeFleur, of Mobile Task Force Rho-66. By the authority of the Foundation, you are hereby ordered to pull over, depower your vehicle, and stand by for apprehension pending further containment. Failure to apply will result in the application of force.”

He released the transmitter button. There was only the faint crackle of background static for several seconds. Before them, the rusted hulk of the truck continued to burn, smoke, and keep its incongruous pace.

Then:

BAHAHAHAHAHAHA, ahahahahaha, ohohoho… MAN! Hoo dawgie, I gotta wipe this tear real quick… You boys just don't know who I am, do ya? I am the NIGHT HAULER! That means I don't stop, ever! Not for you, not for that funny little outfit you're a part of, not for nothin'! You don't wanna breathe the exhaust and live the road life with me, you can just turn tail and go on home! Tonight, this is MY road, and on MY road we ain't got no quit! Go on, apply your 'force'! 'Cause I'll tell you right now son, you ain't got a damn clue what force really is!

Magnusson hung up the microphone, then began to adjust dials and flip switches. A subtle, but insistent electrical hum began to rumble through the steel of the cab.

LeFleur said, “What are you doing?”

“You heard it. Not going to listen. I'm opening fire.”

“I don't think we should do this.”

“No? We have our orders, Les. What do you suggest?”

The muscular operative frowned. “I don't know. It just doesn't feel right to me.”

“Well, fortunately, policy isn't written based on feelings. Reaching maximum charge in three… two… one.”

There was a crackling THWAP as the capacitor rams on the roof fired a harpoon and conducted several hundred thousand volts of electricity into the steel of the truck's trailer. The harpoon cable vaporized under the stress, exploding instantly with a sound like a gunshot. White arcs of electricity flared to life for the briefest of moments, and then the lightning dissipated.

At first, there seemed to be no effect at all. Then, all at once, the flames on the truck winked out. There was no more smoke. 3899 began to slow, moving toward them, and LeFleur eased on the throttle to compensate.

Magnusson smiled, his dark glasses glinting, his teeth exposed in the fearful hope of finding victory against the inexplicable.

Then, caught in the glow of their headlights, a burst of smoke erupted from the sides of the truck's cab, in twin jets through rolled-down windows. The smoke did not fly backward into the night. It drifted against the flow of air, and formed a dark purple clot atop the trailer at the very edge. It coalesced and smoothed, condensing into a shadowy, featureless silhouette with one tip of a boot just over the edge of the trailer, looking straight down at their windshield. The huge truck, now seeming somehow much larger than a normal semi-truck should be, slowed further, bearing down on them. The shadow, in the shape of a stocky, overweight man in a trucker cap, stared, its gaze felt by both men even though it lacked a face at all.

It spoke, but not through the radio. They could hear it anyway, like the howl of an engine just behind their eyes.

“You mess with the bull, you get the horns. But I believe in second chances. Run along now, or watch me get uncivil. I ain't playactin', I ain't yankin' your chain. You play nice now and enjoy the night with me, or you scurry back to the hole you came from. Choose.”

Magnusson began to reach for the console again.

LeFleur grabbed his wrist. “What the hell are you doing?”

“It's j-just trying to scare us. It's never attacked anyone before.”

“You fucking moron, that's because no one's ever attacked it before. We broke the rules and we're fucked. Let's take our chance and get the hell gone. Now.”

Magnusson just smirked, and punched the fire button.

There was a sound of shorting electronics, and several screens went dark, after spitting sparks into the cab.

Above them, the shadow was different. It now leaned with its knuckles on the roof of the trailer, arms overlong, like an ape. Twisting, writhing shapes sprouted from its back and sides, slithering through the air like serpents.

The truck was so large. A truck could never be that huge. It dominated the sky before them. It had to be too big for the road.

Or the Road Hogs were now too small.

The hulking shadow, its titanic claws now gripping the sides of the trailer, its head now split in two to reveal a jagged maw with fire raging in its throat, leaned down just so.

BIG MISTAKE.

LeFleur said it too, at the same time, but with remorse instead of rage.

The shadow exploded, leaving behind a howling inferno. The stars were gone. The moon winked out, taking all grace with it. The sky itself, a wall of soft indigo, was incinerated in an instant and replaced with an endless expanse of churning, molten orange, bruised with hanging clouds of toxic black and purple. In all directions, closing in upon the miserable strip of road that now floated in the burning void, were shrieking, clashing metallic shapes. Huge pistons, grinding gears, pipes, arcing capacitors, churning shafts, melding from all sides to form a cacophony of howling machinery. The machine was the world. The space all around was merely its exhaust. All was noise and heat and light, and anger and joy, hatred and love. The screaming, delightful energy burnt Magnusson's heart to a crisp, and he roiled in the freedom that came with it.

LeFleur continued to drive. His eyes were gone, replaced with ashen pits, from which two plaintive streams of smoke curled. His skin was charred and black.

He said, "Jan, you're a fucking idiot, but I'm gonna miss you."

A voice came from that raging, endless machine bearing down on Magnusson. Each word was an eruption, each syllable an explosion. He could feel the rumble in his bones, could smell burning fuel and taste eager blood. It was so obvious. Nothing had ever been so obvious. And he had never been so wrong.

UNSTOPPABLE. UNBREAKABLE. UNYIELDING. FLY APART WITH ME.

The fire and steel descended, and Jan Magnusson flew apart.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License