Caged Bird Sings
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"You're late." Francesca Carpenter sipped from a cup of coffee. A plainclothesman took a seat across from her and sighed.

"You know," Agent Lee said matter of factly, “it's still a half an hour drive here from Portland, even at the best of times."

Francesca shrugged and gestured to the nearby counter. "Did you want to get something to drink first?"

"I'm fine," he replied. "What did you want to speak to me about?"

Francesca slid a photo across the table. The agent picked it up and frowned. The photograph contained the image of a trench coat and boots walking down the street, completely filled with ravens.

"Where did you get this?" Agent Lee said. His brow furrowed.

"Does it matter?" Francesca asked.

"You bet your ass it does!" Agent Lee hissed. "I need to know what kind of leak we'll now need to patch."

"Lee, relax." Francesca smiled. "Let's just say that Mr. Wilson knew someone, who knew someone, who used to live in Tillamook around 2011. It's an old photo. No leaks."

Agent Lee shook his head and slid the picture back. Francesca placed it back into a nearby binder.

"Not convinced, are you?" she said.

"Not even a little," he said, sighing. "But that's a matter for when I get back to the Site. What do you and the rest of Wilson's crew want?"

"I felt that was obvious by the photo," said Francesca. "It's an animal-based entity. We handle those according to the Boring Agreement. I'm willing to bet our aviary is much more equipped to handle those than whatever box you have it in."

"That is a person's mind shattered across a gestalt of about 30 ravens," Agent Lee replied. "It's not for you. And even if it was, the potential for cross-contamination with 3466 or something worse is far too high."

"I know we don't have all the toys and gadgets you and the rest of the Castaways have, but you know we're not idiots, right?" Francesca frowned then shook her head. She slid her binder across the table. "Listen, just take this to whoever is in charge of containing that creature. Have them look it over. I think you'll find we have dotted our i's and crossed our t's."

Francesca stood, and let out a sigh.

"You guys are always about secure, contain, and protect. Do you protect them from yourselves?"

Before Agent Lee could answer, the Wilson's Wildlife Solutions representative took her leave.

Aviaries were often noisy places. Aviaries filled to the brim with Corvus brachyrhynchos, such as the one found at Wilson's Wildlife Solutions, even more so. What made this particular murder louder than most, however, was that each crow inside was a businessperson waiting to happen.

As Francesca Carpenter passed by the enclosure, the cacophony of caws called out to her, attempting to sell her the sticks and rocks they had managed to claw from the earth in exchange for whatever change was in her pocket. Eventually, she stopped and scanned the enclosure, numerous black beady eyes staring back.

As she waited, the cawing died down. The crowd of crows moved to the other side of the enclosure, save for one which continued to lock eyes with its keeper.

Is it done then? a raspy voice whispered in the back of Francesca's mind.

"The ball is in their court," she whispered in turn. "Now we just have to hope they take the bait."

Site Director Edgar Holman put down the Wilson Wildlife Solutions dossier before him and sighed. Around the conference table sat three others. He stared at the document for several moments, his right index finger tapping on his temple before he finally spoke.

"Ladies and Gentlemen," he said, "we need to make a decision."

He turned his attention to the middle-aged woman to his right. She furiously wrote down notes on a small legal pad as she poured over her copy of the dossier.

"Sophia," Holman said, snapping the woman out of her fervor, "containment is your ballpark. If we handed 2106 over, would Wilson's crew be able to handle it?"

"From a veterinary standpoint, certainly," Sophia Turner answered. "Their containment unit would be a better size for a conspiracy of ravens as large as the dash ones and would be a more ideal environment for the animals than at the bottom of a bunker. My only concern would be the proximity to specimens of 3466, but as Tim has pointed out 2106 is Corvus corax while 3466 is Corvus brachyrhynchos. The only other sticking point would be if a 1505 outbreak took place, I don't know if Wilson is prepared to gun down that many birds. But we can always make arrangements."

Holman gave a satisfied nod, then looked to a tall, muscular man to his left. An emblem of a soldier's helmet impaled on a spear was visible on the left shoulder of his black sweater.

"Your take, John?"

"If a 1505 outbreak occurs with 2106 in their hands, the Castaways and I are on the first lines," John Schut replied, shaking his head. "Same if 2106 flies the coop. We need to think about who will be cleaning up the mess when, and not if, it happens. SCP-2106 is a person. Not an animal. You all seem to forget that. It's much smarter than Tim Wilson is used to dealing with. On top of that, I feel this sets a bad precedent. We have a ton of animal-based anomalies in containment around the world. If they learn about those, are we going to just hand them over? It’s a no go for me, Ed."

Edgar frowned, but eventually came to a slow nod of understanding. His head then turned to the other end of the table where a pale woman with thick glasses sat in silence.

"Dr. Campbell?" Holman asked. "How does this settle on the EC's side of things?"

"Captain Schut is right," Dr. Lily Campbell began, Schut's lips turning into a smug smile at the validation. "SCP-2106-2 is a person. Trapped in the mind of birds, yes, but a person none the less. She has not able to communicate with us since 2011. We did that. The greatest minds and scientists in the world and we broke her. And that, frankly, is a massive embarrassment. Hell, far more dangerous anomalies than her are still allowed communication with medical staff."

Dr. Campbell looked over the WWS Dossier again.

"It has been made clear by Dr. Aeslinger's analysis that her mental wellbeing is deeply tied to the health of the birds," she continued. "If sending her to WWS has a limited risk with respect to containment, and all that much more benefit for the anomaly, I'm going to need to advise you to consider Tim's offer, Ed."

Schut's smile morphed into a bitter frown. Holman nodded once more and looked back over the dossier once more, his finger returning to tapping on his temple. Eventually, he sighed.

"I think I've made my decision then."

"It is done. They are sending her our way," Francesca Carpenter whispered, her hands clinging to the aviary caging around the SCP-3466 murder as she locked eyes with a single crow. The creature tilted its head, and let out a loud caw.

Excellent! The crow's raspy voice once more whispered in the back of her mind. Expect us when the transfer occurs.

"You won't kill anyone, will you?" she asked. Her gaze shifted to the ground.

I will make no such promise, my dear.

Francesca nodded, then closed her eyes.

"And Jessica Bradley? She'll be safe?"

The crow let out another caw.

That I can promise.

Francesca let out a sigh of relief. A small smile came to her face as she looked up, but just as quickly vanished. The crow was gone.

Transcript of Dashboard Camera from MTF Beta-4 ("The Castaways") Escort Vehicle #3

Unnamed Road
Clackamas County, Oregon, United States

<07:40:33> MTF Beta-4 convoy transferring SCP-2106 to Wilson Wildlife Solutions containment is visible. Escort Vehicle #2 is in front, followed by Humanoid Anomaly Transfer Vehicle #6, followed by Escort Vehicle #3. Vehicles travel through low population roads of Clackamas County, per protocol.

<07:45:22> A large pine tree falls from the sky, crushing Escort Vehicle #2. Humanoid Anomaly Transfer Vehicle #6 and Escort Vehicle #3 swerve to dodge additional falling timber.

<07:46:45> A bright flash of light is observed in the cabin of Humanoid Anomaly Transfer Vehicle #6, as fire appears to engulf the driver and passenger. The vehicle drives off the road and stops in the nearby brush. Escort Vehicle #3 pulls to the roadside. The fire in the driver's cabin of Humanoid Anomaly Transfer Vehicle #6 is extinguished of its own accord.

<07:47:35> Agents Sung and Gray emerge from the back of Humanoid Anomaly Transfer Vehicle #6. Agents Lee and Yadav emerge from Escort Vehicle #3.

<07:48:50> Multiple cloaked humanoid figures appear within the air surrounding the crash site. Each figure wears an identical mirrored beaked mask with an emblem of a hand encircled by a serpent on the brow. The MTF Agents begin to open fire.

<07:49:30> Two assailants fall to the earth and cease movement.

<07:50:22> Agent Sung is launched several hundred feet vertically into the air and returns to the ground. Agent Sung's vital signs cease.

<07:51:15> Agent Gray is struck by a bolt of lightning and falls to the ground. Agent Lee recovers her body as Agent Yadav provides covering fire. An assailant falls to the earth and ceases movement.

<07:52:35> Agent Lee deposits Agent Gray beneath Humanoid Anomaly Transfer Vehicle #6. Agent Lee then resumes fire. An assailant falls to the earth and ceases movement.

<07:53:19> Agent Yadav spontaneously combusts. Agent Lee dives away as Agent Yadav's ammunition explodes. Agent Yadav's vital signs cease.

<07:54:08> Agent Lee is cornered by four assailants in front of the containment doors of Humanoid Anomaly Transfer Vehicle #6.

Agent Lee remained silent, his breathing heavy as the barrel of his rifle panned from one assailant to the other, his gaze unable to meet their eyes beneath the mirrored lenses of their masks. One of them stepped forward and held out their arm. Lee felt his finger begin to squeeze the trigger, stopping only when a crow swooped down and landed upon the cloaked figure's arm. The beast tilted its head at the agent and let out a short caw.

You do not need to die here, Agent. A raspy voice appeared in the back of Lee's mind. I wish I could say the same for your associates. Surrender Ms. Bradley to us, and I promise you that no harm will come to you.

"I don't hold a lot of faith in the promises of birds," Lee said.

The crow cawed again. A distant sound of laughter echoed in Lee's mind.

Generally, a wise policy. But I think you will need to take a leap of faith here. Whether you are dead or alive, Ms. Bradley is coming with us.

Agent Lee held his ground. Minutes ticked by in silence.

I will not ask you a second time, the crow spoke once more.

Lee sighed, lowered his rifle, and stepped away. He stared off into the orange and yellow horizon of the rising sun as the cloaked figures got to work on the door. Within moments they had completely separated it from its hinges and levitated the chunk of metal away.

Ms. Bradley, said the crow. You're free now. I'd recommend you take your leave.

From within the dark of the transport vehicle, a humanoid figure composed entirely of living ravens stepped into the light. She looked around and gazed with dozens of eyes, stopping to stare at Agent Lee for several moments. Agent Lee looking down in response. Eventually, she looked off to the sunrise. The ravens composing her body let out a single, long cry in unison and then fell silent.

"Thank you," said SCP-2106-2. Her voice was as if it were about to fade away.

One by one, the ravens disappeared. Each flew in a different direction before vanishing from sight.

A cage is hardly a place for such creatures, the crow said to Agent Lee as he watched the instances of SCP-2106-1 scatter. And it certainly is no place for a person.

Just as the ravens before it, the crow likewise flew away. Each of the cloaked figures flickered, then vanished from sight.

With a heavy sigh, Agent Lee sat down beside the transport vehicle. He bitterly chuckled as he only now realized his radio was alive with requests to report and barked orders.

"Multiple agents down," he eventually replied. "Object has been stolen by an unknown number of assailants, several with thaumaturgical capabilities. Vehicles disabled. Standing by for further orders."

The agent turned his head once more to the horizon. A single raven was visible for just a moment, then vanished into the amber sky.

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