Beyond The Depths: Knife Edge


Series Archive » North Star » Chapter 1 » Beyond The Depths: Knife Edge

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April, 2003


"What time is Anthony coming?"

Iris looked up at her mother. She was standing in the doorway of Iris's room, wearing her office clothes and tying her hair back in a bun.

"You're going to work?" She asked with a frown. Her mom usually had Saturdays off.

"Derek called in sick. Stacy wants me to take over. Shouldn't be too long, a few hours at most."

Iris nodded in response. "He said he'd be here around 4. We were going to grab a bite to eat first, since the movie doesn't start until 5:30."

"Theater food right? I heard their hotdogs are superb."

Iris nearly gagged.

Her mom smiled. "At least you don't eat like your father."

She placed her hands on her hips and looked Iris over.

"Come here." She said, approaching her daughter and embracing her in a hug. "I'm really happy about you and Anthony. You really needed someone like him in your life."

Iris nodded and returned the hug.

She was right. The months following Tommy's death had been hard, to say the least.

She thought back to his funeral, how she had ran off and hid in a corner to cry. No one found her, or at least no one bothered her. No one besides Anthony. He spent six hours sitting there with her, comforting her as she grieved over her dead brother. After that…

"Ok." Iris's mom said, pulling away. "I'm heading out. Be home by 8, don't spent too much money, and don't do anything with Anthony you wouldn't do in front of your grandmother."

Iris smiled. "Alright mom. I love you."

"I love you too." Her mom replied as she left the room.

Iris leaned back into her bed and looked at the clock hanging on the opposite side of the room.

3:37.

Anthony wouldn't be here for another 20 minutes. So, Iris turned to her book and continued reading the semi-fantastical story. She lost herself in the words and pages, so much so that the clock said 4:18 when she looked back up.

Iris frowned. In the year they had been dating, Anthony had never once been late.

Strange. She thought. I'm sure he'll be here soon.

She turned back to her book and continued reading. The next time she looked up, the clock said 4:29.

Iris was starting to grow anxious.

Where is he?

She closed her book as her mind fixated on why he'd be so late.

This isn't like him. He's never late. Or at the very least, he would've called. But I didn't hear the phone ring.

Iris bit her lower lip.

I'm going to call him. She thought, jumping off her bed.

Walking quicker than usual, Iris made her way out of her room, down the stairs, and into the living room. The landline was off in the corner, sitting on a small table.

Iris reached for the phone and dialed the number to Anthony's house. It rang 8 times before going to the answering machine. She hung up and pondered on what to do now.

He isn't home, which means he didn't forget. So where could he-

Iris was interrupted as a thought popped into her head. A thought that felt so real, it might as well have been a memory.

She was back at… THAT… place. The coffee shop that went out of business was across the crosswalk. There was no traffic, besides a single car stopped in the middle of the intersection. Laying in front of the car was Anthony. His eyes were empty, and blood was pooling around him.

A pain grew in Iris's stomach as she began to panic. Turning, she stumbled into the nearby bathroom and dropped to her knees. Iris lifted the lid to the toilet and began heaving.

Well, Mom and Dad were right about one thing. She thought as saliva and bile poured into the bowl. I do have an overactive imagination.

She was probably just unnecessarily stressing herself. Overreacting and freaking out over a what-if. Wouldn't have been the first time.

Still, Anthony wasn't here, nor was he home. Tommy's death had been so sudden, so unexpected. Even if Anthony wasn't hit by a car, who's to say something bad didn't happen to him?

I need to know where he is… and I know exactly how to find him.

Standing, Iris turned and bolted for her room.

Ever since she discovered her ability to see into photographs, Iris had been staunchly against using it to spy on other people. It just didn't sit well with her, especially since no one actually knew about her power.

But this was different. She wasn't using it to spy on Anthony, she was using it to make sure he was ok. Which means she was using her ability for good… right?

Iris entered her room and made her way to the desk. Her bookbag was hung on the chair, while her One Step Express camera, a stack of unopened polaroids, her completed algebra homework, and a handful of photographs she was meaning to frame sat atop the table.

One of the photographs was of her and Anthony. She had taken it a few days ago when she was over at his house, and it was exactly what she was looking for.

Grabbing the picture, Iris focused on the image.

Hopefully he isn't naked.

However, as the photograph began moving, Iris wished he were only naked.

At first the scene looked normal. Anthony's back was towards the photo, and he appeared to be standing in his living room. However, he was holding his hands above his head for some reason.

Then Iris saw the gun pointed at his chest.

"Don't you lie to me, boy." A gruff, male voice said. "I know your father keeps his winnings here."

The man was standing out of frame, so all Iris could see was his arm.

"I… I told you, I don't know." Anthony stuttered. "H- he probably keeps it in the bank."

The voice laughed. "We both know your father is the kind of person to keep his money on standby, easy to get to in a pinch. So I'll ask you again, where is it?"

He's being robbed. Iris thought as she felt the warmth leave her face. She wanted to do something, anything, to help Anthony. But what?

"I swear to you… I don't know!"

The man sighed and cocked his gun. "One."

The gun.

Anthony made a noise, like he tried to say something, but the words got caught in his throat.

"T-"

Without thinking, Iris shot her hand through the photograph.

"THE HELL?!" The man shouted as she grabbed the gun.

Iris tried to wrestle the pistol from his grip, but she wasn't nearly strong enough for that. The man yanked, and Iris jerked forward.

Gritting her teeth, Iris tightened her grip and yanked back.

I have to get the gun out of his hands, before…

There was a bang, and everything went still. Everything, except Anthony.

He let out a cry of pain, and Iris heard a thud as he fell to the ground. That's when the realization hit her.

No. She thought, releasing her grip on the gun and polaroid.

The photograph slowly fell to the ground as her right arm returned to her bedroom.

Iris stood absolutely still, the shock of what had just happened keeping her glued to the spot.

It happened again.

She dropped to her knees.

Oh god, it happened again.

Her vision blurred as tears streamed down her face. Sitting back, Iris buried her face in her knees as she began to sob. For the second time in her life, Iris had watched her best friend die.

This was different than Tommy. Both had been murdered, one by car and one by gun. Anthony, however, had been murdered by her. Her hand was on the pistol, recklessly pulling at it. It was because of her that it fired, and it was because of her he was dead.

Or maybe not.

Iris looked up as she replayed the scene in her head. Anthony had been shot, but he wasn't dead. And the bullet had hit his chest, not his head. Odds were he was still alive. Bleeding out, but alive. She would need to act fast.

Standing, she sprinted down the stairs and towards the front door. Bursting it open, Iris ran down the street and towards her boyfriend's house.


Black didn't respond. He didn't know HOW to respond.

Iris didn't say anything either.

The two of them just walked in silence, across the alien world. Well, Black walked, Iris limped.

It was becoming clear that stepping only on her toes and front of the foot wasn't as flawless an idea as they had hoped. With each step, Iris was relying on Black for support more and more. He offered to carry her, but she had outright refused.

"Did you-"

"No." Iris interrupted. "No. He was dead when I got there."

Black sighed. "You can't blame yourself."

"Damn right I can." She said bitterly. "It's because of me the gun fired."

"You don't know that." He responded. "And you were trying to save him."

Silence once again fell amongst the two of them. As they walked, Black gazed up at the dark green sky. The bright blue moon that illuminated the landscape hadn't moved much, but it had moved some. He wasn't sure how long the night cycles were here, but he was hoping long enough to make it to the pool.

"I called the police after getting to Anthony." Iris eventually said. "Like a fucking idiot I told them we were on the phone when he was shot."

"Phone records?"

Iris nodded. "That isn't what fucked me, though. What really fucked me was the gun. They found it in a ditch a few blocks from his house, with my finger prints all over it. That, combined with me lying to the police, made me the prime suspect."

"So how does the Foundation play into this?" Black asked.

"I told the court what really happened. That I saw the murder through a photograph. They didn't believe me, of course. Said I was insane, delusional… a liar. It took the jury 15 minutes to find me gu-"

Her voice broke. Iris stopped walking and closed her eyes. Black stopped walking also.

They stood there for several seconds, Black watching as Iris took shaky breaths in an attempt to calm herself.

"Guilty." She finished, opening her eyes.

The two of them started moving again.

"Before I was sent to the ward, however, a Foundation agent tested to see if there was any merit to my claim of having the magic power of seeing into pictures. When there was…"

"You were contained?"

Iris nodded. "At first I thought they were going to tell the court, proving me innocent and having my sentence overruled, but… well, you know how the Foundation is. Still would've been nice if they told my family and allowed me say goodbye."

"Goodbyes are luxuries." Black said.

Iris gave him a saddened look.

"…Sorry." He added. "Force of habit."

"Well, they went ahead and told them I died trying to escape the asylum. So now everyone thinks I'm dead."

"How did your family react to the situation?" Black asked.

"No fucking clue. Haven't seen them since the trial."

"How about during the trial?"

Iris let out a defeated sigh. "Crazy girl murders boyfriend makes for a great headline. The papers did everything they could to turn everyone against me. And aside from a few of my cousins, everyone did."

"Your cousins?"

"Whose ages ranged from 4 to 11. Not exactly going to save me." Iris said. "Actually, I did have one older cousin that believed me."

"Who?" Black asked.

"Her name was Sammy… er… Samantha. She was 16 at the time, and made it clear to everyone I had her support."

Black smirked. "Bet that made you feel good."

"She was a saving grace. If it wasn't for her, I…" She trailed off.

The two of them continued walking in silence. Black turned and looked in the direction of the train. The rail line had taken them around the side of a mountain, so the wreckage was completely out of sight.

"How about you?"

"Hm?" Black said, turning to Iris.

"How did you end up at the Foundation?"

"Oh…" He started. "My story isn't as… exciting… as yours."

"I still want to hear it." She insisted.

Black sighed. "I'll keep it short. I was a history major back in college, which meant I did a lot of studying and research. After a few years, I discovered that the Bismarck wasn't what our textbooks had told us."

"The what?" Iris asked.

"Bismarck. Nazi naval flagship during World War Two."

"It was an anomaly?"

Black nodded.

"And you found that out just by reading some college textbooks?"

"No, I discovered there was more to the Bismarck after years of tracking down old war vets, comparing accounts, and reading old diaries no one else had access to. The Bismarck lead me to the Obskuracorps, which lead me to the Allied Occult Initiative, which lead me to the Global Occult Coalition, which lead me to the anomalous world."

"I don't know what any of that is…" Iris started. "But ok. So where does the Foundation come in?"

"I wrote an essay on my findings for my professor. She threw it away, calling it mad ramblings and conspiracy theorizing. Well, that report got into the hands of some SCP agents embedded at the university. They approached me with an offer: join the Foundation as a guard or have my mind wiped. Guess which one I chose."

"A guard?" Iris asked, frowning. "Why not an archivist or something? You clearly know how to do your research and handle books."

Black shrugged. "They just needed a body more than they needed a brain at the time. I was well built, so it wasn't completely out of the question."

"Alright. So how did you go from guard to MTF?"

"By getting this." Black pointed to the scar that went from the middle of his eyebrows to the bottom of his cheek.

"I was afraid to ask about that." She said. "Didn't know if it was a traumatic experience or not."

"Nah, it's fine. I got it from a teddy bear with razor blades for hands. Bugger was fast, but I was faster. Nearly took out my eye. Apparently I was one of the few individuals to engage the thing and survive, which is probably why I was promoted to MTF."

Iris nodded, and the two continued their trek.

As they walked, Black noticed that Iris was leaning on him more and more, and that her limp was getting worse and worse. It wasn't until she began grunting with each step that he spoke up.

"Do you want a break?" He asked.

"Yeah…" Iris groaned. "Yeah… I would."

Black stopped and carefully lowered Iris onto the grass. She inhaled sharply and began rubbing her injured foot. Black dropped down next to her, catching his own breath. The two sat in silence for a few minutes, then Iris reached behind her and pulled up her camera.

"What's that for?"

"To take pictures." She said fiddling with the device.

"Good idea." He replied. "The Foundation will want some of this world."

"Well, yeah…" Iris started. "But I'm also taking pictures for me. This place is… it's beautiful and astonishing. The photographer in me won't let us leave unless I get some."

She raised the camera to her face. There was a click, and a polaroid slid out of the device's mouth a second later. Iris grabbed the freshly processed image and stashed it in one of her pockets.

"Tell me more about your ability." Black eventually said. "I never actually saw you use it."

"The doctors described my powers as 'portal picture.' Every polaroid I touch turns into a real-time video of the location or person or object or whatever was in focus."

"I see, and you can reach into these pictures right?"

Iris nodded. "Watch."

She pulled the photograph out of her pocket and pressed her uninjured hand against it. Instead of bending the picture back, however, her arm phased through it. A disembodied hand appeared a few feet in front of her, waving at Black.

"Huh." Black said. "I see why the Foundation considers you useful."

"Yeah…" Iris said quietly as she pulled her hand back through the image. "I suppose I am useful."

"Sorry." He added. "I should've said helpful."

Iris continued to look down at the ground, a neutral expression on her face. She didn't take any more pictures.

"Do you hate the Foundation?" Black eventually asked.

"It's… much more complicated than that, David." She replied. "Do I hate being an SCP? Yeah, it fucking sucks. But what alternative do I have? Spend the rest of my life in an insane asylum? A state prison? At least this way I have some freedom, and I'm not seen as a murderer."

"So the Foundation is both a prison and a sanctuary to you?"

"Now you get it." She said smiling slightly. "The Foundation, to me, is a new prison with a new warden. A better prison with a… relatively… more caring warden, but still a prison with a warden."

Black nodded. "So back to your abilities. You mentioned the photograph becomes a real-time video of whatever it was focused on. What does you mean by focused on?"

"The image will follow whatever was in focus when it was taken. For example, if I took a picture of an apple on a table, and then moved the apple somewhere else, the picture would follow the apple, not stay at the table."

"Uh huh…" Black said. "And what if nothing's in focus?"

"Then it just defaults to the background… or the place where I took the picture." She said. "We tested this extensively when I first arrived."

"How about pulling or pushing other object through the image." Black said. "You able to do that any?"

"You mean like grabbing the apple and pulling it to me?"

"Yeah, or putting it back by pushing it through the picture."

Iris shook her head. "I can't do the last thing, or at least I'm not able to yet. As for pulling things through, I kind of can. It's difficult, and I have to focus really hard, but I can do it… mostly."

"Mostly?"

Iris rubbed her arm. "Last time I tried it was with a wooden block. I got it halfway through before I lost focus and… let's just say the one wooden cube turned into two wooden rectangles."

"Oh geez." Black responded. "Might want to get that figured out before testing on mice."

A gust of cool air blew against his face, and he couldn't help but internally laugh. Even while stranded in an alternate dimension, the breeze always managed to calm him down a little.

"Take a picture of me." Black said, standing.

Iris looked up at him, confusion on her face. "Sorry?"

"Take a picture of me." He repeated.

"Why?"

"Just in case we find ourselves in a situation where a picture of me is helpful."

Iris shook her head. "What on earth could possibly happen in the next… what… mile… that would need me to have a photo of you?"

Black scoffed. "How long have you been on MTF?"

"A week."

He nodded. "Take a picture of me."

"I don't know David…" She started. "I was told that taking photos of agents was strictly forbidden. I really don't want to get in trouble."

"Oh come on." Black said. "You were chewing me out a few minutes ago for following my protocol."

Iris sighed in contemplation.

"Fine." She eventually said, readying the device. "But you can't tell anyone. I don't want to go back to class 2 containment."

"What?" Black said as Iris took his picture.

A polaroid slid out of the camera's mouth. Iris took it and nodded.

"This works." She said, placing it in her pocket.

"Hold on a second." Black interjected. "What do you mean go back to class 2 containment?"

"Human SCPs have class privileges that we-"

"Yeah I know." He interrupted. "What I mean is why were you in class 2?"

She shrugged. "I don't know. I just woke up in a class 2 cell."

"Did you resist or were uncooperative in anyway?"

"Nope." Iris said, shaking her head. "In fact, my first doctor commented on how cooperative I was being. Apparently most SCPs aren't when they're first contained."

She was put in class 2 containment right off the bat? Even though she was not only not uncooperative, but unusually cooperative? That doesn't make sense… unless…

"What class privilege are you now?"

"4."

"And when did they grant you that?"

"About a month ago, when I first agreed to join Pandora's Box."

So they locked her up in high-security containment until she agreed to use her abilities in a death squad.

"I know what you're thinking." Iris quickly added. "And it isn't as bad as it seems. I'm not expected to do much on Omega-7, just take a few pictures and report back to Team Able. Very rarely am I put in harms way. The benefits outweigh the risks."

Black looked up at the moon again. It was just starting to disappear behind a mountain. They would have to get moving if they wanted to avoid daybreak.

"You got my picture?" He asked.

Iris nodded.

"Alright." Black said, reaching down to grab her hand. "Then let's get going."

Iris let out groan of pain as Black helped her to her feet.

"You know I can carry you, right?" He offered.

"Let's just get going." Iris said flatly.

Black gave her a second look, then turned and began walking.


Iris had closed her eyes a long time ago. The pain that shot up her leg with every step had only increased in intensity. She had decided just to focus on taking one step at a time, relying on Black to guide her. He was practically dragging her by now.

Black had just finished telling Iris about his first mission, and how he had been paralyzed by some creature and dragged onto a pile of corpses.

"We're almost there." He said.

Iris lifted her head and opened her eyes. She wiped away the tears that had built up, clearing her vision.

The line dipped back down to the ground about a hundred feet in front of them. It stopped at the base of the mountain, in which there was an opening leading inside the stone mass. They weren't able to see the interior due to their angle, but they wouldn't have to do any climbing… thankfully.

"How did…" Iris groaned. "…you escape?"

"Agent Milo shot the creature and carried me to safety. Apparently my commanding officer declared me KIA, but she disobeyed orders to retreat. Instead, she risked her life to save mine."

"Damn. Does she… do that often?"

Black laughed. "Defy orders? Yes. Save my life? Also yes."

They continued walking towards the opening. Iris took a step, and the pain that followed had finally reached the point of unbearable.

She yelled out and stumbled to the ground. Black managed to catch her, allowing her to fall onto a knee instead of her face.

"You going to be able to make it?" He asked as Iris let out a few whimpers of pain.

She nodded.

"I… can… AUGH!" She attempted to stand, but fell back to the ground, clutching her ankle. Her leg had been fucked up before, and walking on it for three miles certainly hadn't helped.

It was now to the point that moving her knee was painful. She looked up at Black, who was giving her a wry look.

"Would you like to try again?"

"David…" Iris started. "We need to get back as soon as possible. The quicker we get to our world, the quicker my leg can be properly looked at."

"I agree." He replied. "Which is why I'm going to carry you the rest of the way."

Iris shifted uncomfortably. She didn't like being picked up, especially by people she didn't know very well, but a twinge in her foot quickly drove her to consider it.

"Alright." She eventually said, outstretching her arms.

Black knelt down and put one arm under her knees, one arm on her back. Heaving, he lifted her up.

"Comfortable?" He asked.

"I suppose it's better than limping on a sprained ankle."

Black smirked as he started walking.

"How's the arm?"

Iris reached up and rubbed the gauze.

"Itchy."

"Good." He replied. "That means it's healing."

Iris gazed up at the sky as Black made his way towards the entrance. The moon was halfway below the mountain range on the other side of the field.

The sky itself, meanwhile, had begun to lighten in hue. Odds are the sun would be up soon, which meant that they needed to get out of here, fast.

"Hey, there's something I've been meaning to ask." Iris said.

"Hmm?"

"I've noticed that you use the family friendly version of profanity. Why is that?"

Black frowned. "Elaborate."

"Well, back when you discovered that heat works differently here, you were going to say son of a bitch, but changed it at the last second to son of a gun. There are a few smaller examples, but I think you get what I mean."

He looked forward.

"I don't like swearing in front of kids."

Iris shot him a look.

"Don't censor yourself for me you-"

"Woah." Black interrupted, going still.

Iris turned her head, and saw what had made Black stop.

They had rounded the corner of the entrance, and were now able to see the inside of the mountain. Iris could tell it was completely identical to the cave where the first pool had been, though she doubt Black knew that.

It wasn't a perfect replica, however. Firstly, the pool was black and in the center of the cavern. Still the same size, just relocated. Secondly, there seemed to be a series of tunnels connected to the room, leading deeper into the mountain. The holes were a little larger than an average sized man. Finally, hanging from the ceiling were large, dark brown sacks. These sacks were oozing a black goo, which dripped onto the floor below.

"Were there supposed to be other Krekels here?"

"That's what Scorn said." Black replied. "Though it seems like no one's home."

"What do you think happened?" Iris asked, turning to him.

"I don't know, but I think we should hurry up and get out o-"

Black was interrupted by a scraping noise. It sounded like a cat clawing a piece of stone.

The two of them held their breath, listening. Whatever had made the noise didn't make it again.

Slowly, Black crouched down and laid Iris on the ground.

"David, what are you-"

"Shh." He hushed, standing.

He unsheathed his knife and stalked further into the cave, keeping his eye on one of the tunnels. Iris hadn't been able to tell where the noise had come from.

Maybe he had?

Black stopped and looked around. The only part of him that moved was his head as he scanned the cave. He did this for a couple of minutes, during which Iris didn't dare make a noise.

"Alright." He eventually said, turning back to her. "Let's get-"

Before he as able to finish his sentence, something burst out of one of the tunnels. It was too fast for Iris to make out properly. All she could see was that it had large, bat like wings… and it was going directly for Black.

"DAVID!" Iris yelled.

Black turned and tried to raise his knife in defense, but it was too late. The creature slammed into him and flew upwards, taking Black with it. Iris wasn't sure how it had grabbed him, only that it did. He yelled as he thrashed to free himself from the thing.

The creature made its way up and attached itself to the ceiling. Then, it folded itself around the still struggling Black, completely encasing him.

And all went silent.

"DAVID!" Iris yelled again. There was no reply. After a few moments, however, she did notice something begin to form on the outside of the creature. A black ooze, that slowly began dripping down.

Oh god…

Iris felt herself starting to panic. Her heart raced as she began to put the pieces together.

Those aren't sacks, those are cocoons. And inside those… the missing Krekels. And now David… oh fuck…

A pain formed in her stomach. Iris doubled over and began to dry heave, trying desperately not to throw up a third time. As the excess saliva dripped out of her mouth, her eyes landed on something shiny a few feet in front of her.

Black's knife. Iris thought as she made out what it was.

She grabbed the object and pulled it to her. Looking down at it, Iris tightened her grip around the handle.

Think. David is trapped in that… thing… and it's up to me to get him out. I'm a smart girl, I can figure this out. But how?

Then an idea made its way into Iris's head, and she nearly kicked herself for not thinking of it sooner.

His picture!

She reached into her pocket and ripped out the photograph she had taken of Black. Focusing on it, the image turned from his upper body to… completely black.

No, not completely black. Though it was hard to make out, she could see a bit of movement in the murky frame. Made sense, since it was probably pitch black inside that thing.

Ok, so I can see David, but now what? How do I get him out.

Iris was holding the photograph in her left hand. Slowly, she turned to her right, which was holding the knife.

I could try to cut him out. But I would need to push the knife through the picture.

As she had told Black earlier, she was only able to push her own skin and body through photographs. One of the main reasons why she didn't wear the gloves offered to her by the Foundation. In order to cut him out, she would have to bring the knife through the picture.

Worth a shot.

kefin.jpg

Tightening her grip around the knife, Iris angled it so it would fit through the frame. Concentrating, she pushed the knife into the polaroid.

The polaroid, in response, bent backwards.

Dammit.

She pulled back and tried again.

Placing the tip of the blade against the center of the image, Iris frowned and glared at the polaroid.

Go through.

Iris held her breath and pushed the knife forward, and again the paper bent backwards.

Gritting her teeth, Iris sat up straight and repositioned herself.

Go. Through. She commanded.

Slowly, she pushed the blade into the picture, only for it to bend back a third time.

"GOD DAMMIT!" Iris yelled, frustrated.

She looked up at the cocoon. Black sludge continued to drip down from it. Odds are the inside was completely flooded with the stuff, which meant Black had no air. He wouldn't last much longer.

Iris thought back to Tommy, and how she was powerless to stop the car from slamming into him. She thought back to Anthony, and how she…

I can't sit back as another person dies.

Closing her eyes, Iris took a deep, calming breath.

Breathe.

Opening them, she looked down at the photograph and knife. She rubbed her middle and index finger along the handle, feeling the stiff material. Taking another deep breath, Iris placed the tip of the blade back onto the polaroid.

Focus.

She gazed at the picture, concentrating on the moving image and edge of the knife. Frowning, Iris steadied her hand, and slowly pushed it forward.

The blade moved, the polaroid did not.

Iris laughed as she felt the knife move smoothly past the frame. This laugh was replaced with a sharp gasp as her hand went through, however.

As soon as it entered, Iris felt her hand catch on fire. The black ooze, whatever it was, was burning her skin. Given any other context, she would've ripped her hand back out and tended to it. However, the burning only made her more determined to get Black out of there. Gritting her teeth, Iris pushed her arm through the sludge.

Now to cut him out.

Iris angled her arm so the tip of the blade was pointing behind the photograph. She didn't want to cut Black, after all. Gazing up at the cocoon, Iris began to slowly push the knife back.

A bulge started to form as the blade met resistance. The outside of the cocoon had the consistency of rubber, making it difficult for her to pierce it.

Damn my noodle arms. Iris cursed. I'm going to start working out when I get back.

She summoned what strength she had and pushed against the outer layer. Black ooze began seeping out of the bulge, and soon the knife itself broke through.

Iris smirked, and started sawing downwards. Hopefully, she'd be able to cut it open enough for Black to pass.

As she sawed, more and more of the black ooze poured out of the cocoon. Eventually, Iris could make out Black, slowly starting to fall through.

Just a little bit more.

Black's body fell out of the tear in the cocoon and hit the ground with a muted thud. Maybe she should've done something to help break his fall.

Iris ripped her hand back through the photograph. It was covered in the sludge, and it burned like hell. There was a clutter sound, and Iris looked over to see the knife laying in front of her.

Grabbing her jacket, Iris did her best to wipe off the substance. It wasn't perfect, but she had managed to get some of it off.

Turning, she crawled over to Black, who was completely drenched.


"David!"

Black slowly opened his eyes to see Iris leaning over him. She was clutching her jacket, which had some kind of black substance smeared all over it.

Then, Black doubled over and threw up the exact same substance. Screaming, he clutched his stomach and chest.

"David!" Iris repeated. "Oh god, are you ok?"

"No." He groaned through gritted teeth. "I swallowed and breathed in that… stuff."

"Oh shit…"

"My stomach feels like it's digesting itself, and my lungs are on fire. We need to go… now."

Black put his foot down and tried to stand. It took a few attempts, but eventually he was able to get to his feet. He took a few steps, but even the slightest bit of movement sent an unbearable pain through him. He collapsed, screaming in pain.

"Come on David…" Iris, who had crawled next to him, said. She attempted to stand. "We're almost there, just a few- AUGH!"

She too yelled in pain before falling to the ground and grabbing her ankle. Neither of them could walk, at least not far.

The pool was still a good 30 feet away. So close, yet so far.

"Iris…" Black groaned, turning to her. "Get to the pool, and get out of here."

"I'm not leaving you." She said flatly.

"I don't intend on staying here." He replied.

Pushing himself up on his elbows, Black positioned himself towards the pool and began army crawling to it. Iris did the same, but was able to go faster than Black.

As he crawled, the pain in his torso intensified to the point that he was starting to become light headed. The world spun as Black focused only on moving forward, not thinking about how far he was along.

Just keep moving.

"We're almost there." Iris's voice came from somewhere. He wasn't able to pinpoint where though.

He crawled and crawled and crawled… until.

Black's hand fell through the ground. Squinting his eyes open, he saw that he had made it to the pool. Well, almost. His shoulders were over the edge, but the rest of his body was still on the ground.

As his hand dangled, so close to the liquid, Black felt his vision grow dark. The dizziness in his head turned to tiredness as the energy left his body.

"David?" Someone's faded voice called out. "DAVID!"


"Colonel, he's regaining consciousness."

"Aye, thank you doctor. Leave us."

Black became aware of how stiff everything was. From his neck to his legs, it felt as though he was made of stone. Slowly, he opened his eyes.

The room was dark, but recognizable. The walls and floor were a beige color, and the ceiling was a dirty white. Fluorescent lights were installed in the center of the ceiling, though they had been left off in favor of some soft orange lights on the sides.

Black was wearing something light, and was laying in a hospital bed. White and blue blankets covered his body. Standing at his feet was Albany, his commanding officer.

"Welcome back to the land of the living, agent." He said with a smirk.

"Wha-" Black tried to speak, but found his tongue and throat as dry as leather. His vocal cords and windpipe were also sore.

"Easy soldier." Albany said, raising a hand. "You underwent an intensive surgery. Apparently you got some kind of corrosive gunk stuck to the walls of your stomach and lungs. The doctors had to cut you open and clean them out manually."

Black closed his mouth and sighed. He slowly lifted his arm and experimented with his fingers. This would work.

[What happened?] He asked in sign language.

Albany chuckled. [A lot.]

[Be specific.]

"You and SCP-105 were found roughly 38 miles west of the cave SCP-354-11-A was camped at. Fortunately, you manifested right next to an Nu-7 squad. They patched you up the best they could, but you were critical. So, you were flown out to Site-22, where we are now."

Black frowned and tried to raise his head.

"Don't." Albany commanded, seeing what he was trying. Not that Black was able to.

[What happened to her?]

"Who?"

Black stopped for a minute.

[105.]

"Seems you're a little rusty, Agent Black. The gesture for 'it' is this…" [It.] "As of for SCP-105, the Nu-7 agents recontained it without any trouble and returned it to Omega-7. Last time I saw it, it was on a plane to Site-17."

Black closed his eyes in relief.

She's ok. He thought.

Despite his relief, there was also a sense of pity. From what Iris had told him, Site-17 was the last place on earth she wanted to be. Still, both she and Black understood the alternatives were far worse.

"Apparently you were on quite the adventure." Albany said. "Assuming SCP-105's recollection is accurate."

[Everything she says is true.]

The Colonel frowned. "It, Agent Black."

Black sighed and looked up at the clock. His vision was a still little blurry, so he wasn't able to make out the time.

[How did the op go?]

Albany smiled. "The anomaly is neutralized, all its deviants have been eliminated, and the Foundation now has TWO pools under their control."

[Ok, but how did it go?]

"It took us about 10 minutes to get down to the cavern. SCP-076-2, with only its bare fists, punched its way past the debris. You had to be there, Black. Anyway, somehow all of Team Iris survived. The poor Mole Rats didn't, sadly. Their death must've been brutal. The remaining Omega-7 agents seemed really distressed. Though, you'd think they would've seen worse given their field."

Distressed? Black thought. That made him smile some. They weren't distressed because the Mole Rats died, they were distressed because they didn't know what happened to Iris. They were distressed because they care about her.

[How did Milo do?]

"It's Lieutenant Milo now." Albany replied, smirking.

Black raised his eyebrows (or as much as he could). He and Milo were always being promoted within weeks each other. Neither of them held superiority over the other for very long, and it was constantly flip flopping between who got promoted first.

Seeing this, Black and Milo had started a little competition with each other over who would make Captain first. Now they were both Lieutenants, one rank away from their goal. Black was hoping he'd have a bigger head start than a few days.

[What did she do?]

"One of the Omega-7 agents said that the eyes were the weak spot. We can thank Agent Evans for finding that, God rest his soul. Agent Milo decided to show off, and shot out the remaining eyes. This allowed SCP-076-2 to get in close and finish the job with its magic sword things."

Black closed his eyes and laughed softly. He could picture Milo in his head right now, standing nowhere near cover as the spider rushed her, only for her to calmly shoot its eyes without missing.

[Where is everyone now?]

"Site-47. They'd be here if they had the time, but you never know when we'll be called into duty next."

[What about you?]

"I decided to take a quick detour."

Black opened his eyes. Albany was grinning down at him, arms crossed. The clock at the back of the room was finally clear to see. 9 o'clock. Black frowned as he read the time.

[What day is it?]

"August 17th." Albany replied.

That doesn't make any sense. Black thought. We left for Canada on the 16th at 10 PM, and didn't go to the pool until around 11.

[We were in the alternate dimension for days. How is this possible?]

"The researchers came up with this…" Albany started. "Time in the universe you and SCP-105 traveled to is faster than time in our universe, so what felt like days for you was only seconds for us."

[I suppose.] Black signaled. [Then again, I doubt we know much about inter-dimensional mechanics.]

"No." Albany laughed. "I suppose we don't."

The two of them remained silent. A dim humming echoed through the room as the ventilation turned on. As Black listened to the sound, he found his eyes begin to grow heavy.

Must be on some pretty strong sedatives.

"Alright." Albany finally said. "I'm going to head on out. The doctors said it'll be a week before you can leave the bed, 2 weeks before you can return to 47, and a month before you can return to the field. I want you to spend that time resting, understood?"

Black did his best to nod.

"Good."

Albany turned and opened the door.

"Get well soon." He said, exiting the room. "That's an order."

Black smirked and laid his head down on the soft pillow. Listening to the soothing sound of the air vent, he allowed himself to sink into the soft cushioning and drift to sleep.


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