Beyond The Depths: For The Present

Series Archive » North Star » Chapter 1 » Beyond The Depths: For The Present

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December, 2001

"Cold?" Black said with a smirk.

Milo shot him a 'what the hell do you think' look as she blew into her cusped hands. White puff billowed out of her mouth as she was forced to breath in the icy air.

"Didn't think it'd be 30 and snowing in fucking Arizona." She replied.

Albany had woken them up early that morning. Everyone assumed he did so because it was Christmas, only for them to find out they were needed south.

Apparently a snow storm had manifested over Phoenix. At first the Foundation assumed the storm itself was the anomaly, then they took a closer look. Using a type of satellite scan Black would never understand, they discovered that the storm was being sustained by an individual.

A reality bender.

The Foundation had tracked them to a suburb on the outskirts of the city. Delta-4 had been tasked with establishing a perimeter and isolating the area. Now Black, Milo, Jaxon, Albany, Brian, and Jenkins stood in the snow, awaiting reinforcements.


"Any word from the bender catchers?" Albany asked the newly promoted Major.

Jaxon raised a radio to her face. "Squad leaders, any sign of Upsilon-6?"

"Negative, Ma'am."


"No Ma'am."

She lowered the device and shrugged. "Last time I checked they were 20 minutes out, haven't got a clue where they are."

"Figures." Albany huffed.

A gust of wind blew against the agents. Milo shivered and pulled the kevlar closer to her face.

"Could be worse." Jaxon said, turning. "You could be stuck in a downed helicopter with the snow 4 feet deep and temperatures in the negative 20s."

Albany laughed. "Christmas of '96, right?"

Jaxon nodded. "Me, James, and a few other agents were called out to North Dakota to deal with an anomalous viral outbreak; right in the middle of the worst blizzard that area had seen in decades too. Our heli ended up crashing somewhere in the countryside."

"Me and Jax were stuck in that freezer box for 6 hours before we got dug out." Albany continued. "We were the only survivors. Had to huddle for warmth."

Bet they both enjoyed that very much.

Black turned to Milo.

"We could huddle like they did." He suggested.

"I'd rather freeze." She replied. Black smirked again. "How aren't you cold?"

"Raised in Delaware." He said, pointing to himself. "This is tropical to me."

"Major." A female said voice said through the radio. "Upsilon-6 has arrived at checkpoint Gamma."

"Copy. On our way." Jaxon replied, turning to the agents. "Jenkins, Brian, you two stay here and keep watch. The rest of you, follow me."

An unmarked, black van greeted the agents as they rounded the sidewalk. Standing out side of it was a man wearing the standard Upsilon-6 uniform.

"In here." He said, pointing to the back of the truck.

Black, Milo, Albany, and Jaxon stepped around the side and peered into the cabin. Three agents were standing over a small table in the center of the truck. On the walls were monitors that displayed various maps of the Phoenix area. One, Black noticed, was a meteorological map.

Two of the agents donned the same attire as the one standing outside the truck. The other, and the one in the middle, was wearing white collar suit with a black jacket.

"Ah, there you are D4. Please step in." The agent in the suit said motioning for them to enter.

"Agent Jaxon." Jaxon said saluting. "I'm the commanding officer for this Delta-4 squad."

"I see that." The agent said, returning the salute. "Agent Ryan."

"So what have you got for us?" Albany asked.

"We've been able to triangulate the exact building the bender is in." One of the Upsilon-6 agents said. They turned and typed something into a keyboard, and one of the monitors switched to an aerial view of a highlighted house.

"Records reveal that there are two people residing within it. Benedict Leon, 34, and his daughter Lora Leon, 6." A picture of a man with short brown hair and a thin line of facial hair appeared on the screen, as well as a picture of a young girl with shoulder length brown hair.

"Six?" Black said. The agents turned to him. "Sorry, it's just… we've never dealt with children before. What do we do with them, just give them amnestics and put them in the foster system?"

"Under normal circumstances, yes." Ryan replied. "However in this case, the child is the reality bender."

What? Black thought. He had assumed that the man was the bender, and given by the looks on some of the other agents, he wasn't alone.

"The kid is the bender?" Jaxon asked.

"Affirmative." Ryan said.

"Alright…" Jaxon started. There something in her voice that made Black believe everything was not alright. "What's the plan?"

"When anomalous children are involved," the Upsilon-6 agent that had yet to speak began, "we usually try to coax the parents or guardians into forfeiting custody to us."

"And that works?" Milo said, skeptically.

The agent shrugged. "Sometimes. More common when the child's abilities can't be controlled."

"Consented containment is always preferred over going in and forcibly extracting the target." Ryan said. "Which is why plan A only includes me."

"What do you mean?" Black asked.

"I'm going to go in, alone, and approach the father. I'll tell him that we know about his daughter's reality bending capabilities, and how much disruption it's causing. Then, I'll offer him the chance to hand her over to the Foundation. If he says yes, I'll take her here, where she will be sedated and transported to a site."

"And if he says no?"

"You guys come in and retrieve her by force."

Black was already feeling uncomfortable with this plan. Containing an adult was one thing, an anomalous kid was another. Even if the op went perfectly, odds are Lora would never see her dad again. Hell, he might be amnestisized and forget he even had a daughter.

Still, Black had been given orders. Like it or not, this would probably be the girl's last Christmas with any of her family.

"Hear me Corporal?" Albany said.

Black blinked. "Huh?"

Albany shook his head. "You, me, and Jax are going to be positioned at the front of the house, ready to go in if things get hairy. Same with the U6 agents, only they'll be around the back. Milo will be on top of a nearby roof with sniper support."

Black nodded in response.

"Alright." Ryan said, slipping a pair of black gloves on his fingers. "Let's get moving."

"Rifle to kill, pistol to stop." Black muttered to himself as he slid a magazine filled with rubber bullets into his sidearm. Holstering the handgun, he looked over at the house they tracked the reality bender to.

The building wasn't anything spectacular. It was a tan color and one story, with a small porch that lead to the front door. To the right of the door was a large window that stretched the length of the wall. The curtains were drawn, so no one was able to see past it. On the other side of the door and further down was another large window, this one they could see through.

Orange tinted lights were softly glowing from the inside of the room, giving it a cozy feeling. Black could see a large Christmas tree on the other side of the window, with two figures moving around in front of it.

"Seems like they're in the middle of opening presents." Jaxon said, looking through a pair of binoculars. Lowering the device, she let out a depressed sigh.

"What's wrong Jax?" Albany asked.

"Oh, I hate missions that include children." She started, still looking towards the house. "It just isn't fair. No child should be forced into this world of anomalies and monsters, and that isn't even including the life of solitary she's going to face wherever she's sent."

"Aye." Albany said. "I agree with you, but it's something that needs to be done."

Jaxon nodded. "I know, just looking around me proves she needs to be contained, but still."

"You know you're making it harder on yourself by calling the bender a 'she.'" Albany replied.

Jaxon turned to him. "James, you know I can't dehumanize skips like you. I mean, I understand why you do it. Hell, I envy your ability to do it, but that just isn't me. When I see a girl, she's a girl to me, no matter what anomalous properties she has." She turned back to the house. "I'll always do what needs to be done, but that doesn't mean I'll enjoy it."

Silence fell over the agents, with the only noise being from the chilly wind blowing through the streets. There wasn't much snow (relatively speaking), maybe an inch and a half at most.

"You guys ready?"

Black turned. Ryan was approaching them, his steps leaving prints in the sidewalk.

"Where'd you go off to?" Albany asked.

"Making sure my squad was in position, and you never answered my question, you ready?"

"Yeah, we're ready." Jaxon replied.

"How about you Agent Milo." Ryan said, raising a finger to his ear. "You ready to catch your first reality bender?"

"Just give the order."

"Alright, if all goes well none of you will need to lift a finger. Stay in position until I DIRECTLY order you to engage, clear?"

"Yes sir." Black said.


Ryan turned and began walking across the street, the vents of his suit waving in the moderate wind.

"So he's just going to, what, waltz in?" Black said.

Jaxon turned to him. "Sounds like suicide, doesn't it? Walking into the house of a bender to ask if they'd like to be contained by the Foundation?"

"Yeah." Black replied. "I feel like there are better ways to go about this."

"Maybe if the father was the bender, we'd take a more gun-ho approach." Albany started. "But since the daughter is the anomaly, we can bet on the father keeping it docile. Like Ryan said in the truck, if we can get Benedict to hand it over quietly, then there's no sense in risking our lives by provoking a confrontation."

"But if it does end in a violent confrontation, Ryan will be at serious risk. Again, being inside the house of a reality bender with nothing but a dinky little handgun."

"Ryan wouldn't be where he is if he was incompetent." Jaxon said. "He's just taking a risk right now."

"More like a gamble." Black retorted. "And I'm not a fan of officers who gambles with lives… no offense."

"None taken." Jaxon and Albany said in unison.

"The only life Ryan's gambling is his own." Jaxon continued. "It would be more dangerous if we all went in with our guns and gadgets. I've dealt with reality benders before, things can get really ugly really fast. If anything, I applaud Ryan for his selflessness." She turned back to the house. "You're 100% right in saying he's taking a huge risk right now, though."

Black let out a sigh, white puffs billowing out of his mouth as he exhaled. Ryan was now up on the porch, closing in on the door. He stopped, adjusted his suit, and knocked on the door.

The movement in the left window stopped, then one of the figures grew in height and made its way out of view. A few second later, the door opened, with Benedict using the door almost as cover.

"Can I help you?" Benedict said into the microphone hidden on Ryan.

"Yes." Ryan said. "I'm Zachery Ryan with the Phoenix Police Department."

"Oh." He replied, straightening. "What do you need?"

"I would like to speak about the weather we're having, as well as your daughter."

Even at this distance, Black could see the color drain from Benedict's face.

"I- I- I- I'm sorry?" He stammered. "What connection would my daughter have to the weather?"

"I never implied they had a connection, only that I wanted to speak about both. But the fact that's what your mind went to means you too know this weather is more than whatever BS channel 7 is spitting."

Black could hear Benedict's breathing quicken through the mic. "W- what do you want?"

"Easy, Mr Leon." Ryan said, raising his hands. "I have no intention of harming you or Lora, I just want to talk."

"I…" Benedict took a long, deep breath. "How much do you know?"

"I know your daughter is responsible for this… unusual… weather pattern. Don't worry, I'm not going to harm her in any way, I just want to talk to you about getting her the help she needs to control her… gift."

Benedict took another breath, then nodded. "Yeah, ok yeah. Um, ok. Can you- can you just give me a second?"

"Absolutely." Ryan replied.

Benedict stepped inside and closed the door. Ryan took a glance back at the agents.

"He was really nervous to see you Ryan." Jaxon said into her radio. "You think he knows we're Foundation?"

"Of course not." He replied. "Finding out someone you didn't tell about your child's abilities KNOWS about you child's abilities would jar anyone."

Benedict appeared in the window to the left, close enough to see. Reaching for either side, he looked cautiously outside, then drew the curtains.

"Shit." Jaxon hissed, reaching again for her radio. "Ryan, he closed the curtains, we can't see anything. If things go south, we won't have sniper support."

Ryan didn't respond.


"Stay on alert, and get ready to rush in. I'm not giving up on this guy just yet, but his caution is a little wo-"

He went silent.

"You there sir?"

"Something just broke. Inside, there was some kind of shattering noise."

"Should we move in?" An Upsilon-6 agent said through the mic.

"Just…" Ryan reached for the knob, but before he could grab it, the door flew open, wide.

Too wide.

"Sorry about that." Benedict said. "Please, come in."

He sidestepped, allowing Ryan to walk by.

"Ah, thank you." He said, stepping inside. The door closed behind him. Now all they could do was listen.

"Sorry about the mess on the floor, my daughter, she uh- she made this thing in art class a few weeks ago, and uh, was carrying it around and dropped it. Shattered everywhere. Fortunately not into any super small shards, but uh, but definitely not fixable."

"So I see. Are you going to clean it up?"

"…Oh yeah, yeah of course, sorry."

A scuffling sound could be heard through the mic.

"Please, have a seat, Mr…"

"Ryan, and thank you."

"I'll just… put these in my pockets for now. Lora will kill me if she found out I tossed these, even if they're just broken pieces of hardened clay." Benedict laughed.

"So what was her art sculpture thing supposed to be."

"…Oh, um, I uh, I have no idea. You know how kids can be, they'll ball up a pile of mud and call it their magnum opus."

"That they will. I have a son, and when he was Lora's age, he would bring home such… bizarre creations he made in school. I can't even recall what they were, it was so strange. But you know what? I kept every last one. Still have some in my office, and I always embarrass him with it whenever he stops by."

Benedict laughed, a little too forcibly.

"Now, Mr Leon, I think it's time we began talking about you daughter and her… gifts."

No sound comes through the radio.

"What is it?" Ryan asks.

"Nothing, I just thought I heard something behind me. Anyways, um, so- so you said you could help?"

"That I did, Mr Leon. The people I represent can help Lora control her abilities."

"But… she can control her abilities."

"What?" Silence filled the room. "She has FULL control of her prope… abilities?"


"That is… odd. Most reality benders aren't able to control themselves at such a young age."

"There are others like her?"

"Oh yes, Mr Leon, lots like her. So, tell me, Lora's making it snow like this… on purpose?"


"Mr Leon?"

"Yeah, sorry, uh, yeah, she's doing this on purpose."

"You are aware of the dangers this weather is causing, do you?"

Benedict took a deep breath. "Look, Lora, she just… just wanted a bit of snow for Christmas, ya know? Tired of hearing 'White Christmas' over the radio only to look outside and seeing dull green. She isn't trying to hurt anyone."

"But she is hurting people, Mr Leon, intentionally or not. Tell me, do you suppose the homeless people in the city are warm enough right now? How do you suppose the drivers are reacting when they hit their brakes, only to slide an extra hundred feet? Phoenix doesn't invest much in snowplows and salt, after all."

Benedict didn't say a word.

"Who else knows about Lora, Mr Leon?"

"No one. Just me, her, and apparently you."

"And why is that? Why haven't you told your friends and family she can do the things she can do?"

"Because they wouldn't believe me."


Not a word.

"Surely believability isn't the only reason, Mr Leon."

"Because if they knew what she could do, they would fear her. They would call her a freak, and outcast her. I don't want that for her."

"Then let me help you, Mr Leon. Let me help Lora. We can provide her with everything she needs. Food, housing, education, but most importantly, the knowledge of when using her powers is appropriate. And maybe one day, she can use her abilities to help people. I promise, our people won't fear her like your family will."

Benedict didn't respond, at least not verbally.

"You seem awfully concerned with what's behind you." Ryan said.

"Oh um, sorry, I keep thinking I heard something in the den. Anyway, um. You know, I'm really, REALLY intrigued by your offer. Could you maybe tell me more about what the Foundation can provide for her?"

This time it was Ryan who didn't respond immediately.

"Mr Leon, how did you know I worked for the Foundation?"

"Wh- what do you me- mean? You told me at the door."

"No… I told you I worked for the Phoenix Police Department."

No one said anything.

"How did you know I was Foundation?"


"What's behind you that's so important."

"I… uh."

A whooshing sound came someplace distance from the mic, followed by footsteps.


The footsteps sped up to the sound of running.

"Fucking sna-" Ryan was cut short by what sounded like flames being ignited. Then there was the thud.

"All agents move in." Jaxon said, reaching for her radio.

"I'll take point." Albany said, sprinting towards the house. Black and Jaxon followed closely.

"Milo, stay up top." Jaxon said as she ran.

"Copy that." She replied.

As they ran, Black was able to hear conversation from Ryan's still working mic.

"I smashed the pottery, just like you asked… oh god… for a second I didn't think it worked and you wouldn't come." Benedict's voice said.

"Yeah, that's a Jailor alright." A male voice started. "Odds are there's an entire task force on their way to take Lora. Where is she?"

"In her room, I told her to pack."

"I'll get her. Do you have any weapons?"

"Yeah, I keep a gun in my room."

"Might want to go grab that." Foot steps could be heard running from the mic, followed by a door opening. "We're going to need to get out of here fast."

"The fireplace should do." A female voice said. "Just give me time to get the Way up and running."

Ways? Jailors? Black thought. I think I know exactly who these voices belong to.

Black, Jaxon, and Albany made their way up the porch. The Colonel, without stopping, rammed his shoulder into the door, busting it down.

Holy shit.

Black looked around the room as they entered. To his right was a couch, coffee table, and a boxy TV that hugged the wall. There was also a recliner chair, which Ryan's motionless body laid at the base of.

Strange, it didn't look like he was dead. Actually, it looked like he had been frozen in time. He was face down, but the position he held made it look like he was trying to stand from the seat. His hand was also reaching for the handgun behind him.

In front of them was an open wall that lead out into a kitchen. Black knew this because of the island in the middle of the room, as well as the counters and dining table hugging the wall. The back door that lead outside was opened, and three Upsilon-6 agents were scanning the kitchen.

"Clear in here." One said.

"Clear." Albany yelled.

The agents made their way to where the rooms intercepted. To the left was the start to a hallway. Black wasn't able to see much due to his angle, though Albany turned the corner and…

Something large hit Albany square in the chest. He grunted and flew backwards a good 7 feet. Black looked down at the object that had shattered on top of the Colonel. It looked like… a slab of raw granite?

"James!" Jaxon yelled, turning to him. She didn't stay distracted long, however, turning back almost immediately.

Albany groaned. He wasn't dead, just hurt.

Black stepped to Jaxon's side and peaked down the hallway. The corridor lead out into some kind of den area, the tree Black had seen before off to the right. Strewn across the floor was ripped paper and empty boxes, and on the furthest end of the wall was a tall fireplace, big enough for a person to walk into.

But there wasn't any fire in it. Instead, a woman was writing something on the edges of the fireplace with a piece of chalk. Holding the woman's hand was Lora, who was clutching a small suitcase close to her side. On either end of the walkthrough was Benedict and a man. In Benedict's hand was a silver pistol, raised at the agents. The man, meanwhile, was holding his hand out and up, like he was grasping something. Floating above his palm was a chunk of the same granite that had hit…

"Woah." Black said, stepping back. The piece of granite flew from the man's hand and towards Black's face. He had barely dodged it.

So that guy uses floating rocks to fight? Primitive, to say the least. But there's no doubt in my mind now who these are.

When Black had looked out into the den, he took note of how the woman and man were dressed. Both were wearing identical pale green jackets with dark khaki pants. Sewn onto the shoulders and back of the jacket was a picture of a snake with its tongue out, and its tail branching out into several different directions.

Serpent's Hand.

"Snakes." Black said to the other agents. "At least one Type Blue."

"We could really use a sniper right now." The Upsilon-6 agent said.

"Can't see anything." Milo retorted.

"Just blind fire." The agent said.

"And risk icing the kid? Rendering this entire operation useless? God, you're dumber than a box of rocks."

Milo had a point. The reason Black had been reluctant to fire when he peaked was because of Lora, who was right in the middle of the crossfire. One stray bullet, rubber or lead, could end her short life. Reality bender or not, Black wasn't about to have the blood of a 6 year old on his hands.

Not everyone was as conscience about the situation as he was, however. One of the Upsilon agents peaked and sprayed a hail of bullets down the hallway.

The man operative yelled as the agent unloaded a volley. Black heard stumbling, rustling, then a clattering.

"I can see." Milo said. The man must've fell back and tore the curtains down. There were a few shots from the den, but the Upsilon agent was already back in the safety of the kitchen. Black decided to risk another peak.

Benedict was still pointing his gun down the hallway. He might have even fired, if a loud whooshing sound didn't catch everyone's attention.

"THE WAY'S OPEN!" The woman operative said. Benedict, as well as everyone within the house, turned to her. Occupying the fireplace was a blue, semi-transparent circling vortex.

Benedict, without thinking, sprinted out of cover and towards the portal. The Upsilon-6 agent didn't waste his opportunity.

Another burst of fire came from Black's right. Benedict yelled and, riddled with bullets, fell to the ground. Blood began pooling around his now motionless body.

Lora, who had been so close to entering the Way with the operative, turned.

"DADDY!" She yelled, letting go of the woman's hand and dashing to her father.

"LORA WA-" Her sentence, and life, were cut short as her head exploded in a mist of red. The large window to the left, which had been intact this whole time, was shattered.

Thanks Milo.

Now the only ones left were the agents and the girl. Rifles raised, the Upsilon-6 agents began slowly making their way to Lora.

"Hold your position." Jaxon snapped. The agents turned to her. "Make sure Albany and Ryan are ok, I'll deal with the girl."

She glanced at Black, a mix of anger and worry on her face. Turning, Jaxon slowly made her way to the girl.

"Lora, right?" She said, reaching up to her head and unstrapping her helmet. Lora, who was kneeling next to her dad, looked up. She was crying, and her hands and legs were soaked with blood. "Lora, I'm sorry about what happened to your father, but you need to come with us."

Jaxon took her helmet off and dropped it to the ground. There was a hollow thud as it tapped the floor.

"Listen." She continued, raising her arms defensively. "We aren't going to hurt you, I promise. Just please come with us."

There was a groan to Black's right. He turned to see Albany, with his left hand on his chest and right on his hip, walk up next to him and stop.

"You'll be safe." Jaxon continued, approaching the child. "We won't hurt you, I swear."

Lora responded by glancing at the still open Way. She couldn't have been more than 8 feet from it.

"Don't." Jaxon warned. "Please, don't."

Lora looked back at Jaxon, then turned and ran to the portal.

Like lightning, Albany whipped the pistol from his holster and shot the girl in the back. Twice.

Judging by the small bursts of red, he hit her upper right shoulder and lower right back. Yelling, the girl fell to the ground, blood pooling around her.

Those weren't rubber bullets.

"No…" Jaxon whispered, lowering her arms and hurrying to the young girl. Black turned to Albany, both astonished and horrified. Albany, with a face of stone, slid his gun back into the holster.

Black turned back to the den, and immediately wished he didn't. He wanted to turn away, but found himself unable to.

Jaxon was crouching down next to Lora, cradling her by the shoulder. The young girl was crying and gasping and whimpering in pain. Her face was pale as the blood poured out from her wounds. Even if there was a medic amongst the agents, it was too late to save her.

"It hurts." Lora said through her sharp inhales.

"I know…" Jaxon said. Her voice was, surprisingly, steady. Undoubtedly thanks to the years of watching young agents die in her arms. "It'll be over soon, I promise. It'll be over soon."

Lora gasped some more. "I'm scared." She whimpered shakily. "I want my Daddy."

"I know you do." Jaxon repeated, soothing the girl. "You'll be with him soon. Just a few more minutes, and you'll be with him again. You'll be together again soon."

The girl continued dying in silence, save for the sharp gasps of air, trying desperately to cling onto life.

First the breathing stopped, then the movement stopped.

Jaxon dropped the girl from her arms. She went to rub her eyes, but stopped when she saw all the blood on her hands. She was more than aware of the symbolism.

Lifting herself to her feet, Jaxon began slowly pacing the room. She blew air out of her mouth, then turned and kick her helmet with enough force to crack it. It slammed into the wall, breaking it even more.

"FUCK!" She yelled as loud as she could. Shaking, she walked over and place her back against the wall. Sliding down into a sitting position, she ignored the blood and placed a hand over her eyes. "God fucking dammit." She muttered.

Black turned again to Albany. The Colonel stood completely still, a look of complete neutrality on his face.

Milo was still prone and looking down her scope as Black approached her. She was completely motionless, except for her shaking trigger hand. He stopped over her.

Bending over, he pulled the sniper from her quivering hands. She kept her position for a few moments, before dropping her head and arms to the ground.

"I saw-" Her voice broke. "I saw the life leave her eyes, Black."

"You watched through your scope?"

She nodded. "She was… she was only six years o-"

"It's best if we don't think about it."

"I can't just not think about it, Black." Milo said, turning to him. Her helmet was on, but Black could tell her eyes were moist. "We killed a child. We killed a child in one of the most slow, painful ways t-" Her voice broke again, and again she laid her head on the ground.

A gust of air, far warmer than it had been, blew past them. The sun was out now, already melting the snow which had built up over the past few hours. The weather couldn't have been more unfitting if it was sentient and malevolent.

"What about that portal thingy in there? The Way?" She eventually asked.

"The Way closed up a few seconds after…" His voice trailed off.

Again, silence.

"How's Ryan?"

"KIA. Apparently one of the snakes froze his entire body, even his heart. While he didn't technically die to whatever magic bullshit hit him, he die from the organ failure it caused."

Milo took in a deep breath. Then she took another one. Then another one.

"Is it time to go?" She asked.

"Yeah." Black replied. "It's time to go."

She took a shaky breath, sniffed, and stood. Grabbing her rifle, the two of them made their way back to the group.

Rigby's usual wry greeting was absent when they boarded the helicopter. Their faces must've told him everything.

"Beginning flight back to Site-47." He said into the intercom. "ETA: 3 hours, 20 minutes."

The cabin rocked as they took off. Black, Milo, Albany, Brian, Jaxon, and Jenkins all sat in silence as they began their flight home. It wasn't long until that silence was broken.

"Colonel?" Milo spoke up. Albany turned to her. "Why-" Her voice broke. "Why did we shoot the kid?"

"It, Agent Milo." Albany said.

"Ok, why did we kill it? I thought our job was to contain."

"It was the only option I had."

"The only option?" Black said, almost laughing. "What the hell is that supposed to mean?!"

Albany turned to him.

"Sorry, I…" Black apologized. "Sorry."

Albany, with the slightest hint of sympathy in his face, nodded.

"It's alright. I understand you two are struggling with what just occurred. Same happened to me when I was forced to kill my first skip."

"But why did we HAVE to kill it?"

The Colonel sighed. "First off, you didn't kill it. I did. I, James Albany, take full responsibility for terminating the SCP."

Black leaned back in his seat, that didn't ease his mind in the slightest.

"Second off, it was a reality bender seconds from escaping to the Library who just watched their parent get killed by Foundation agents. You're familiar with the Library, correct?"

The two agents nodded. Everyone above Private knew about the Library.

"Then you know the two things about the Library. First, the Serpent's Hand uses it as a base of operations for their guerilla war against us. Second, the Foundation has no way of entering it, which means anything within the Library is completely out of our reach.

"Well, if the SCP made it to the Way, not only would it be impossible for us to get it back, but it would also be right in the middle of the Hand. Which means it probably would've joined it for reasons I don't need to explain. The skip huggers are already a pain, with them embracing Type Blues and all. Could you imagine if a vengeful Type Green were to join their ranks?"

"They'd be able to break the veil with ease." Milo said. She was staring into space, looking at nothing.

"Aye. It was a risk I couldn't take. Better a dead skip than a hostile one."

"That's awfully Coalition of you, Colonel." Jenkins said.

"The Foundation's never been against terminating anomalies." Jaxon retorted. Black turned to her. There were still smears of blood on her face. "But they only do so if there are no other options available, and in this case, there weren't any other options."

"Why didn't you shoot the legs? Or use the non-lethal rounds we were provided for this very situation?" Milo said, looking up at Albany.

"Not everyone's a crack shot like you, Agent Milo. The consequences of me missing by aiming for the thin legs outweighed the potential benefits of containing it. Besides, you know better than the 'aim to maim' argument. Even if I hit one of its legs, there's no guarantee that would've stopped it. Even if I blew its leg completely off, it was close enough to have crawled to the Way.

"Same reasoning for not using the rubber rounds. The ballistics for rubber bullets are different, which means I have less of an idea as to where they would go. And even if I did hit it, it was close enough to the Way to escape. Again, the consequences of me not stopping it dead were too great."

Silence echoed throughout the cabin. It was more deafening than the helicopter rotor above them.

"Shit." Milo said, her voice on the verge of breaking. "Killing the kid was the only option."

"Word of advise, Agent Milo." Albany started. "Don't remember it as 'she.' Don't remember it as 'Lora.' Don't humanize it. Remember it as 'it' and 'the SCP.' Treat all skips as objects, and you might actually sleep at night."

No one said a word for the remainder of the flight.

Black shot up into a sitting position, gasping. His breathing was rapid and shallow. He placed a shaky hand on his head, fighting back tears as the image of the little girl's corpse burned in his mind. He could still hear her gasping and whimpering.

He had this nightmare a few times before, mainly in the weeks following the incident. Still, it had been a good while since he last had it.

"You ok?" A voice said. Black turned to see SCP-105 standing next to him. Its jacket was tied around its waist, and its camera was wrapped around its neck.

Black cleared his throat and wiped his eyes. "I'm fine." He said, forcing his voice to sound normal.

"Bullshit." 105 retorted. "You're white as a ghost and soaked in sweat. You were also thrashing in your sleep, and you kept repeatin-"

"I said I'm fine." Black interrupted harshly. He rubbed his eyes and took a deep breath.

"Scorn stopped by." 105 said. "Told me to wake you up and tell you that it's almost time to get going."

"You woke me?"


I don't remember being woken up by it.

"Even if Scorn hadn't come in I would've woke you. You… It looked you like wanted out of that dream."

Black stood, ignoring it. He reached down for his uniform coat, and shivered as he threw it on.

Better to be protected than warm. He thought to himself. Besides, I'll get used to it.

The door opened just as Black was fastening his vest. Scorn entered the room, the plasma globe in their hand.

"Good to see you awake." They said as Black touched the object. "It is time for us to escort you to Special Object 354-C."

"This had better work like you say it will."

"I assure you, you will be back to your home dimension in no time. Now please, follow me."

Scorn turned and walked out of the cell. Black and SCP-105 followed suit.

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