A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Manor

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Manor


In transit over the Continental United States

Wednesday morning

"So, is slug."

"How are you just now getting that?" Wilford asked.

"Hey," Lucretia protested. "English is not even second language. Cut me slack."

"It's 'some slack'."

Lucretia huffed, and looked back down at the file on the tablet. "So, is slug, but talks? Why not speak with it in person, or whatever?"

"Lord Blackwood hasn't been incredibly loquacious of late, regrettably," Gat piped in from a few seats ahead, "though I think it would behoove us greatly to chat with him in the immediate future. Failing that, our goal today is to recover his cache of weapons."

They were in the cabin of a Foundation-owned private jet, one apparently capable of much greater speeds than the commercial variety. Light had claimed the flight would only take seven hours, instead of the usual eleven to twelve. Lucretia, Carlotta, Wilford and Gat had boarded at Area-09 in central Nevada, just outside the small reservation community of Duckwater.

Carlotta was napping next to Lucretia, who otherwise would have asked her — friend? Lover? Girlfriend? We should maybe talk about that soon, Lucretia thought — the questions she was peppering Wilford with. "Okay, so slug has many guns. Are they slug size? Slug size guns?"

"Unbelievable though it may sound, the prevailing theory is that Lord Blackwood — the slug in question — was once an English gentleman adventurer in the late 19th century. And before you ask, no, we do not even have the slightest idea how that works," Gat answered.

"I thought you big irrational surreal doctor man."

"Oh, indeed!" Gat beamed at her. "But there is the irrational and the surreal, and then there's the just plain ridiculous, this being the latter more than the former. Although… I would find it interesting to attempt identification of the processes by which the good Lord became sluggified."

Lucretia arched an eyebrow at this last word. Gat shrugged.

"So, file says gun fires syringes, but could hold many. Not like pneumatic gun you use for animals."

"Right," Wilford said, "but there were numerous firearms seized when Blackwood's stash was discovered, so there might be more than one useful item." The general was frowning at Carlotta's sleeping form; the ex-UIU agent had fallen asleep with her head on Lucretia's right left shoulder, draped over the seat divider.

"Hey, hey, you feeling good old blow-hard spirit rearing up, army man? Don't need lecture." Lucretia snapped her finger at him.

"This unprofessional behavior is ridiculous, soldier."

"Is not soldier, army man. Is Sarkic pit fighter turned MTF agent."

"How is it that no one has written up your insubordination? I'm a general in the Mobile Task Forces, and you need to address me as such."

"Why is a general here, anyway?" Carlotta asked, rising from her slumber. "If you're all going to talk so loud, then maybe you can answer some questions."

"I'm here to see this mission completed optimally. No more dead soldiers because Goggles has a point to prove. No more—"

"—dead babies, dead babies, what is even reference to?" Lucretia snarled.

"No, but seriously," Carlotta interrupted, "how often are you in the field, Wilford?"

"More than you'd think, the MTFs aren't a standing army. I often take point during mobilizations involving more than one squad."

"Fine, fine. I'll admit I don't know the first thing about the MTFs in a macro-organizational sense, but I still find it bizarre you didn't just assign some personnel to accompany us."

"I'm not having that man muck up another operation, nor will I allow him to trade lives for expediency's sake. If this somehow isn't clear enough yet: I don't trust him, and neither should you."

"Is good, you care about your people. Don't think isn't appreciated, am too used to superiors trading lives for goals with where I coming from. But this is obsession." Lucretia returned her gaze to the file.

"I. Am. Not. Obsessed."

Gat turned away from the conversation, shrinking into his chair. Lucretia looked up, her eyes widening.

"I think a little introspection is in order, General," Carlotta said.

"Oh, you do, do you? Well, I don't take orders from you."


"And I'm not used to having my priorities questioned by foot soldiers!"

"I'm not your soldier. Neither is Lucy, and obviously neither is Gat."

"Certainly not," Gat agreed.

"Don't you wonder why Director Light named me operational control? I thought it was awkward at the time, but now I'm starting to get a sense of why."

Wilford rose from his seat and headed for the wet bar. "This isn't a military op; we're retrieving some esoteric objects, and returning to base. There's no need for me to be in command."

"That doesn't change the fact that it's uncommonly strange to have a general as a security guard," Gat remarked.

Wilford pointed at him. "The hell is up with you? You've been making sense throughout this conversation. I've been around you enough to know you that doesn't usually happen."

"I make precisely the amount of sense required for any given scene, no more and no less. In any conversation, I strive to input that sliver of knowledge which the moment demands, to elevate those in the dark into the brilliant multi-angled light of understanding. Excelsior."

Wilford paused with a glass of water at his lips, eyes on the errant doctor. He shook his head and sipped, then turned back to Carlotta. "All these questions, Agent Deneb… Do you think I'm a danger to you and your team?"

"Oh, you're dangerous alright, but I don't think you're much of a threat to me and mine." Lucretia laughed, but said nothing; Carlotta slapped her leg, inducing more laughter and sporadic cursing in Russian. Carlotta smirked, but narrowed her eyes at Wilford. "I think you're a danger to Dan. And I won't allow that man to be killed on my watch, not only because he's important to Director Light."

"No matter how annoying Dr. Redacted be," Lucretia added, her eyes looking up from the file and meeting Wilford's.

"Would it help if I promised not to take any action against… him?" Wilford asked.

"Him him, or him him?" Gat called over. "Capitalized or uncapitalized?"

Lucretia interrupted whatever reply that might have earned. "Can trust your word after little stunt with shy guy?"

Wilford stared at her.

"What? You think people don't talk? People love talking."

Wilford downed his water.

"Not like they could prove anything, what with said abomination being burnt up in corona of our local star," Gat said. Wilford turned his eyes back to him; Gat shrunk down in his chair under their weight. "…more like fry guy, am I right?"



Very Early Thursday Morning

Just after midnight, an armored SUV containing Carlotta's half-team drove up a small dirt road in the Yorkshire countryside, headed for Site-91. The security officer who was driving had picked them up at the local airport.

"Look, I'm actually horrified I'm saying this out loud, but are we ther—"

Carlotta was interrupted mid-sentence by her forehead striking the back of the seat in front of her. An explosion lit up the night a few dozen meters in front of the SUV.

"What the fuck is going on?" she shouted.

Wilford opened the front passenger side door and rushed to the rear of the SUV. "Get out and take cover!" he shouted, opening the rear compartment and retrieving an automatic rifle. Lucretia, Carlotta, and Gat clambered over their seats as the driver attempted to radio for backup. He was receiving only static.

Carlotta took an MP-5 from the back of the SUV and handed a sidearm to Gat, who shook his head. "I wouldn't know what to do with it."

Another explosion roared from somewhere on the property. Carlotta and Wilford took opposite sides of the SUV, peering around towards the Site's gate — or more accurately, where the gate was supposed to be.

Instead of the stately entrance to the Eckhart Estate, there was a burning heap of warped wrought iron. The security checkpoint which should have housed no less than two armed guards had collapsed into a heap of stone. No soldiers were present, but a body was visible in front of the wreckage.

"What do you see?" Gat asked.

"Someone hit the gate hard, frontal assault with explosives. At least one casualty on the ground. Hernandez, you getting anyone on that thing?" Wilford called through the SUV's interior. The driver turned around and shook his head. "Okay soldier, get back here. We need to bunker down until reinforcements arrive."

Hernandez grabbed a shotgun from the rear and took out a couple of flak jackets. "Only two."

Wilford pointed to Gat and Carlotta.

Lucretia started to open her mouth, but Wilford beat her to it. "You can damn well protect yourself, Popescu. Agent Deneb and Dr. Gat are the most vulnerable."

"And yourself, General?" Gat asked.

"I'm used to being under fire, Doctor."

"That may be, but I elect to remain. Take the vest, and assess."

"And if whoever did this exfiltrates the same way, and finds you helpless?" Carlotta asked.

"We can stash the vehicle to the side, behind that tree," Wilford interjected. "Anyone in a rush wouldn't stop to check. Hernandez, you're staying here. Keep trying on the radio; if you get anyone, you let them know we're going in."

Hernandez saluted, and led Dr. Gat back to the front of the SUV. Gat reached for his seatbelt, but offered Carlotta his other hand. "Be safe."

Carlotta nodded, closed the door, and watched as Hernandez drove them away.

"What now, operational leader?" Lucretia asked.

"General, here's where you strut your stuff," Carlotta said.

Wilford nodded, and motioned for them to follow as he took shelter behind the property's stone perimeter wall.


Wilford took point, leading the way around the wall and through the ruined gate. Gunshots rang out in the distance from the back side of the old English manor which housed the primary facilities of Site-91.

Movement ahead of them caused the general to motion the two agents down; they crouched behind a low hedge bordering the road.

Multiple pairs of hurried footsteps echoed on the other side of the hedge as several armed men and women advanced towards the gate. Wilford hazarded a glance, then called out "Friendlies!"

A man's voice responded: "Callsign?"

"Alpha-9, Last Hope. Beta niner kappa forty-seven."

"Come out with weapons skyward."

Wilford motioned for the other two to follow and stood up, rifle pointed up and away. The other man was dressed in security armor, a Foundation patch on his shoulder and captain's bars above it.

"General Wilford?"

"Captain Merced. Good to see you. Sitrep?"

"SNAFU, sir, all due respect. Several dozen unknown hostiles breached the gate less than fifteen minutes ago and proceeded up to the main building. We got readings confirming movement through the gate, and were dispatched to secure the situation."

"Where are they?"

"Some tried the main entrance, but it's been fortified and warded. The main force is trying the rear, but that's where the lion's share of our people are holed up and providing resistance. The Director—"

"She can wait, I've got new orders for you. Got a man of yours and a researcher outside the gates and a couple dozen meters to the right, holed up in an armored vehicle. Send a few guards to secure them, while the rest of your squad moves with mine to hit these bastards from behind."

Merced gestured for two of his team to head off towards the gate, then turned to the rest of them: five security personnel, armed for a siege. "This is General Wilford, and we couldn't be any luckier than to have him here with us. Him and his…" Merced looked over his shoulder at Carlotta and Lucretia, "…MTF, will support us while we engage with these hostiles."

The security personnel saluted Wilford and Merced, and turned about. Merced gestured to Wilford. "After you, General."

The nine of them circled the manor and took up positions behind a stone wall overlooking the rear entrance. More than twenty individuals in civilian clothes and armed with rifles, shotguns, and homemade explosives were raising explosive hell. Occasionally, someone within the manor returned fire with expert precision. The civilians were arrayed behind what cover they could find in the courtyard: a fountain, some benches, a low wall, some trees. The courtyard was bordered by an ancient, overgrown hedge maze to the east.

Another explosion boomed from across the courtyard, near an adjacent structure.

"What's in that building?" Carlotta asked.

"Secondary containment," Merced replied. "Anomalous items that don't need much attention, or aren't in rotation for regular research." The forty-something Englishman never took his eyes off the two dozen civilians firing on the manor.

"What the fuck are they looking for?" Carlotta mused.

"Who cares? No offense. How many more?" Lucretia asked.

Merced squinted. "At least another fifteen to twenty, if I was to guess."

"Then let's clear these out before they breach," Wilford snapped. "Merced, you take three and circle around, keep the hedge maze between you and our new friends until I signal."

"What's the signal?"

"Gunfire. Be ready in three minutes. Go."

Merced peeled off with three of his squad and worked his way behind the hedge maze, leaving their sight line. Wilford pointed to the two remaining security personnel. "You two, move halfway between us and the maze, then swing up through them in two minutes. We'll hit them from this direction simultaneously. Move it!"

He turned to Carlotta and Lucretia without checking to make sure his orders were carried out. They were. "You ready for this?"

Lucretia stripped off her jacket and took off her jeans — she was wearing a tank top and running shorts underneath — then re-laced her boots. Her skin rippled and solidified into bone and interlocking plates of carapace, her arms and legs grew three times their normal circumference, and she gained a solid foot over Wilford.

"Ready." Her voice was like rocks grinding together.

Carlotta checked her MP5's magazine, then secured the extra ammunition in the back pocket of her slacks. She nodded.

Wilford checked his watch, and raised the rifle. Just before he fired, he patted Lucretia on the shoulder, and she bounded over the wall. Despite her bulk, there was almost no sound as she pounded the grass towards the nearest hostile.

Wilford took aim, found a civilian near the front of the courtyard raising her arm, saw the petrol bomb, and fired.

A scream so shrill it could've cracked crystal filled the air as glass and burning petrol showered both the hostile and the man crouched next to her. A satisfying boom followed from their cover as another body was flung backwards by the force of another bomb igniting.

Carlotta started firing small bursts into the forwardmost figures, trying not to be distracted by her lover's actions.

Lucretia grabbed a man by the top of his head, wrenching backward and lifting up. Wilford and Carlotta both heard the pop as the man's vertebra sheared free of their moorings. The body fell limp at Lucretia's side, but she had already forgotten it. Another man raised a double-barrelled shotgun as her chest from a meter away; she turned and took the blast to her back, rocking forward a little in response, her tank top shredded and barely holding onto her shoulders, A tendril of muscle, sinew and bone stretched from one shoulder and struck the man in the throat. He made a satisfying wet sound as he collapsed.

Two more fell from Wilford's and Carlotta's marksmanship, but Lucretia faced three who had turned in her direction. She leapt behind a bench as another shotgun blast rang out. Rolling to her feet, she ripped the steel bench from the concrete — it had been riveted down — and flung it chest-level at the group. Before any further shots could be fired, they were on the ground. Only one was still moving.

Lucretia picked up the shotgun and snapped it over her knee, tossing the barrels and stock over her shoulder onto the grass.

The sound of gunfire from the hedge maze signalled that Merced's squad was still seeing action. As if in response, a civilian broke cover and leveled his rifle at Lucretia from several meters away. She dove again, this time feeling a rifled bullet tear a furrow across her upper back, cracking a few plates. Her taloned hands dug trenches in the grass and flung the sod into the man's face. He screamed, dropping the rifle and clutching at his eyes. Lucretia duck walked towards the screaming man and struck him once in the solar plexus, sending him careening to the ground. He gasped for breath as she tossed the rifle away from him.

Carlotta and Wilford struck the final two standing hostiles, and the last of the group threw down their weapons. Merced's voice could be heard across the courtyard: "Hands on your heads and faces in the grass! I don't want to see any fucking eyes up!"

The few that could move got on their knees and obliged, heads bowed. Merced's team swept through, binding wrists with zip ties and retrieving weapons.

Wilford approached the captain. "Find out what's happening at that other building."

"Radio's down, sir. Some sort of jammers."

"What the hell? They're armed with farmer's weapons, where did they get a jammer?" Carlotta asked.

Lucretia walked towards the general, carrying the gasping man by the scruff of his neck and his belt. She tossed him onto the grass. "Tell them what you say to me."

The man groaned, and started to get to his knees. Lucretia pushed on his shoulder with her foot; he fell backwards on the turf, landing on his ass. "No no, don't get up. Just talk."

He coughed and rubbed his chest, then said: "We only want the weapons. Give us the weapons, and we'll leave."

"What weapons?" Wilford asked.

"The English Lord's cache. We know you have them. He said to retrieve the weapons, or be damned."

Carlotta looked sideways at Wilford, who nodded slightly. He leaned in. "Who sent you?"

"The Lord. He has returned. And we must do him this service!"

The middle-aged man started to get up again, but Lucretia yanked him backwards and pinned his arms while Merced zip tied his wrists. Carlotta, Wilford and Lucretia stepped away from the restrained man, who began to wail.

"Do you think…?" Carlotta asked.

"Eldritch messiah being busy boy," Lucretia said.

Wilford nodded, but looked across the courtyard towards the other building. "Anyone notice it's been very quiet in that direction?"

Merced tapped his earpiece and looked distant for a moment. "Major Waltham and her squad have neutralized the splinter group, and we've got security staff searching the grounds for any stragglers from the attack. Director Varga wants to speak with you."

"Ah good, a Romanian! Finally I have intelligent conversation," Lucretia grinned.


Lucretia pulled at the poorly fitting navy-blue work shirt with the Site-91 logo. She'd had trouble fitting it over her shoulders, which forced her to keep the top two buttons undone. It was, admittedly, still better than walking around in a shredded tank top. The three of them sat in visitors' chairs in front of an ancient walnut desk, in an old third-floor library room converted to office use. Bookshelves covered three out of four walls, each neatly organized. The desk was also neat, despite the emergency which had only minutes before been resolved.

A woman in what could be early middle age or her late sixties sat behind the desk, speaking into a phone. "Take the prisoners to the medical center for treatment, make sure they are restrained at all times. Ensure that any emergency calls are routed to our disinformation desks. Yes, I will be unavailable for the next half an hour at minimum. Thank you, Julie." She hung up the phone.

Varga's face was unreadable as she turned to look at the three. Her black hair, shot through with streaks of gray, was pulled back into a ponytail. She was wearing a simple blouse under a simple blazer, and yet she had the air of chancellor or a military commander, demanding deference even in polite contrition. "Apologies. As you can see, it's been an eventful night."

"No apology necessary, Director Varga," said Wilford.

"And these are Agents Deneb and Popescu, I assume?"

"That's correct, Director," said Carlotta.

"I was informed of your coming here less than day ago, to retrieve a crate of anomalous items we haven't even glanced at in nearly twenty years. And on the very same night you are to arrive, this Site is breached by what can only be described as a ragtag militia of civilian assailants. Can one of you explain this to me?"

"Director, have you reviewed the documentation for SCP-093 and SCP-1867?"

"Red Sea Object, and what's the other one?"

"Lord Blackwood, ma'am," Wilford said.

Varga narrowed her eyes at the general, turned to her monitor, typed for a moment and quietly scanned. "The slug. Why is it always slugs around here?" she murmured.

"Sorry?" Lucretia asked.

"Nothing of importance. So, the weapons you've come to claim are some of the items Blackwood had in storage?"

"That's right," Carlotta nodded.

Lucretia looked sideways at the other agent, and then at the general, noticing their ramrod posture. She sat up in her chair. "What is problem? We take guns, you no longer worry."

"The problem, copil, is that I'm of the inclination to think that your arrival had something to do with this attack. Connect the dots for me."

Lucretia huffed at being called a child, but answered directly. "Stupid men come for weapons, so they say. Eldritch Jesus send them. So, if we take, no more attention here."

"If you've read SCP-093," Carlotta began, reciting the lunatic facts from memory, "you know that the society on the other end of those mirror bridges didn't just fall apart. An entity — referred to as Him — inspired that culture to start an endless war, leading to worldwide genocide and a monoculture that worshipped Him like a god. One of the assailants tonight said that 'He' had sent them."

"What is the connection to those weapons?"

"We believe that Blackwood absconded from that dimension with a weapon designed to combat the monstrosities there. One of his own design. He wrote extensively in his journals about it. We need that weapon, hopefully to reproduce it."

"But why now? They've been in storage here for decades."

"During the conflict at Site-19, Bowe made contact with this entity and effectively invited him over for dinner," Wilford said. "I don't know if you've been briefed on the entire situation, but Last Hope and Tau-1, under the leadership of Director Light, are investigating."

"And you need a weapon capable of neutralizing those things."

"Torso monsters. Real shit," Lucretia said.

Varga arched one eyebrow at her fellow Romanian, then met Carlotta's eyes. "Agent, do you know how these civilians could have known we stored the weapons here?"

"No, Director. We thought this was going to be a simple pickup and go."

"Apparently not." Varga stared at her monitor for a moment, then typed in her authorization code.

"Are you giving us, or not?" Lucretia asked.

"Yes. But there's a caveat." Varga picked up her phone.


Later, freshly showered and back on the jet, Lucretia looked over at the new member of their team. He wasn't an impressive-looking man, thin and balding, but he had an air about him which Lucretia couldn't quite place.

He smiled at her and offered his hand. "I'm Rudy."


rating: +56+x

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