...But Fear Itself

rating: +31+x

Koala's Pit, Wisconsin
Site-87's Rooftop

"Robert, stay with me." Alison Carol snapped her fingers in front of her best friend's face. "Robert. Robert!"

Liao had managed to staunch the bleeding, but it was a temporary measure. Tofflemire had been shot in the gut, at point-blank range, by a .457 revolver. It was a miracle that his intestines hadn't been relocated outside of his body.

"Th… there's not much more I can do." Liao wiped her brow with the back of her wrist. "I… I'm sorry, Agent Carol. I'm going to try to… make him more comfortable."

Alison put her hand over her mouth, tears in her eyes. Robert's breathing was shallow and starting to fade. She looked around the rooftop; people were curled up crying. Some were rocking back and forth. There were screams of pain, both physical and emotional, anguish so deep that Alison hoped she would never experience it for herself. Fear and misery reigned over the rooftop, over the town.

Alison felt the same childish fear she had felt two years ago when Robert Tofflemire had died the first time. She remembered how insufferable he was when they first met, but now, all she wanted to do was hear another corny joke from him, or punch him in the arm after he made another lame reference. But his breathing was growing slower and shallower. She didn't care if she was lost in all this, but losing Robert was her worst—

She paused at that thought. Her worst fear. Fear begat anger, and that anger drove Alison to her feet as she strode towards Dr. King. Her trenchcoat was stained with blood that looked more like ink with each step she took. "King!" She snarled as she came upon him. Before he could respond, Alison had one hand on his lapel, the other on his chest. "What the hell did you do?"

"I-I-I didn't mean to! I-I was…" King swallowed, an undignified string of snot hanging from his nose. "I was scared!"

"And I'm going to make sure you grow a damn spine." Alison dug her hands into his cotton overalls, feeling them crack at her touch. A keyboard formed under her fingers, and reality turned into a dark void filled with white text as she began to read. And from there, she typed.

Laura peeked through, eyes wide. She looked around the coatroom. "Doorman!" She called. "Tell the Janitor we need to do this now!"

But it was silent. The Doorman had vanished. "Hello?" She called. "Shit, what do we do? We're supposed to—"

"Not waiting." King looked at the shrub, reaching out his hand. Under his power, it grew by about two feet, and a single golden apple appeared from its branches. "This is our town, and it's suffocating."

"The Doorman said we need to wait, dammit! If we do this wrong, then…"

King glowered at Laura. "I'm not going to lose my family. We're doing this."

Laura suddenly felt a surge of insight into King's plight. "You're scared."

"What of it?" King snapped.

"You're scared. And this town is being attacked by some creepy son of a bitch that lives to cause fear." Laura chewed her lip. "They aren't going to die as long as their deaths have the potential to frighten you. To frighten any of us."

"So I'm just expected to sit here and— and take it? Be afraid?"

Laura nodded. "I'm scared shitless too, King. But if you give in to the fear, who knows what'll happen?"

Reality wobbled around Alison. She was standing by the punch bowl again, with Nina Weiss bearing down upon her with a revolver. "I'm going to save the Site, you freaks!"

The roots hadn't started crawling up Alison's body yet. The Goatman and Sinning Jessie struggled with the gun— one that was about to go off and kill her friend. She searched the pockets of her impractical-looking Doctor Who costume until she found it— a strangely-shaped silver implement with amber-colored lights throughout it and a yellow crystal at the end.

"If it's Union work, then maybe…" Alison vaguely remembered a plot point in Tennant's run where the Sontarans had disabled ballistic weaponry by causing the copper in the bullets to grow too big for the barrels. She aimed the sonic screwdriver at Weiss's revolver, pressing on the button as hard as she could.

Sparks literally flew as the revolver was blasted out of the Director's hand by the recoil of the apparent misfire— along with the Director's right index finger. Alison winced at that as Weiss looked at her hand in shock.

Liao rushed over and began trying to tend to Weiss's wounds. Nobody else noticed; they were all too busy coughing.

Robert looked at Alison, his eyes somewhat crossed. They widened considerably as something in his pocket beeped; he withdrew a Narrative Fluctuation Detector from it, and waved it over Alison. "What the hell did you just do?"

"Saved you. Saved all of us." Alison looked down at her coat. Bloodstains from Weiss's destroyed finger spattered on it, looking like ink.

The Union House

The Doorman ran out of the elevator, yelling at King and Laura. "He's given the signal! Do it!"

"…how?" King swallowed. "Sorry, we went over this, but… I'm scared of mucking it up."

The Doorman chewed his lip, looking him and Laura over. "Ever see Donnie Darko?"

"Don't start with the Fear-Love Dichotimy crap," Laura warned.

"It applies here. You are both scared to death for the state of this town. Everyone in this town is scared. Why?"

"Because we're going through one of the worst years in modern history?"

The Doorman shook his head. "Why?"

Laura continued, "Because our leaders are maliciously incompetent fascists who have irreversibly bungled one of the worst health crises in a century and are trying to snuff out a whole generation before we can even get our fires started?"

"But why are you scared of that?"

This gave them pause.

After a moment, Laura had another burst of insight. "Because we don't want it to be that way. We want it to change, and we're scared at the fact that it's not getting better. The world sucks, and the only way it's going to stop sucking is if we take our fear and do something with it that isn't blind navel-gazing, counting down the minutes on the Doomsday Clock—"

"In simpler terms?" King saw where she was going with this.

"Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate. But it can be another way." She brought the mask to her face. "Fear can lead to rage, sheer passionate burning rage against everything in the world that's wrong, and rage can lead to change."

King grinned, and felt the rage against the unjust fill him, and chomped down onto the apple.

"Alison." Robert swallowed. "You said that… if you ever did another edit like that… you'd vanish. Become a Nobody."

"Maybe I was wrong?" Alison looked down at her hands. "I don't feel like a Nobody. I feel real. I—" She looked down at her feet as a root coiled up around her legs. "I think that's our ride."

She was fully cognizant of this trip through, with no scream of panic overtaking her. As she was pulled through the roots of the multiverse, she felt… angry. Not spiteful, not the kind of anger a teacher feels when they have a bad day and want to take it out on the class with a particularly cruel pop quiz. She felt the rage a student might feel upon being given such a quiz, wanting to shove it into the teacher's face, drop out of school, and become a carpenter. The anger that led to change.

She emerged on the other side, hearing King give the exact same spiel he had before. This time, he was accompanied by Laura Ashbrooke, who looked like the cat that ate the canary. When King was greeted by manic stares as far as he could see, a pit formed in his stomach. "…oh. Fuck. What did I…"

There was a laugh as Katherine Sinclair, her left eyesocket a bleeding wound, came up and clapped King on the back. "You son of a bitch! We thought it ate you when you vanished from containment!"

"No, no." King shook his head. "I've been working with the— wait, you remember that? And It?"

"It's starting to come back." Cassandra Pike, clad in a Bonnie Parker costume to match her husband's Clyde Barrow, helped Agent February into a more comfortable position as feeling returned in his broken legs. "Just… I feel like I'm coming out of another brain fog. I can't remember all of it, but…" She looked down at her stomach. "I have an idea of what's going on. But I'm not sure any of us have the complete picture."

"But we're going to try to stop it anyway." Christopher Hastings grinned, helping Ruby Williams to her feet. They had gone as Gomez and Morticia Addams; both of them looked like they had been run over by a train, but their costumes looked all the better for it. "So… how can we help?"

Alison raised her hand as the crowd of Foundation personnel grew increasingly, if helpfully, belligerent. "As much as I hate to say it… this is a job for myself and Tofflemire. I think that you'd all be best suited to helping the townsfolk, have them enjoy a normal Halloween for once. Give out masks, make sure people observe social distancing, all that… but just let them have fun."

"We're the Foundation. That's impossible." Tristan Bailey stood where the DJ Booth was in the baseline, having taken off the mask for his Spider-Man costume. "Having fun, I mean."

This drew an unamused look from the entirety of the staff present before they began snickering.

"Right." Tristan clapped his hands. "I'm… acting director, as far as I can remember. Everyone get out there and help keep the town secure and protected, while we contain this." He looked at Alison. "While you contain it, that is."

Alison turned to Dr. King. "I need you to take me and Robert back to the Baseline. Deeper into the Site, if you can."

King shook his head, digging through his pockets. "I can get you into the lobby. Where do you need to go?"

"Maintenance sector. Long story." Robert rolled his neck. "But Weiss is going to do something… really stupid, and we need to stop her."

Alison nodded, looking down at her jacket; the beige upon it was starting to fade to black. She swallowed, looking at King. "How are we going to get back, exactly?"

King dug into his pockets and handed each of them a golden apple. Each of them had a word in Greek etched into their skin—'οίκος', or 'home'. "Bite into those. It's going to feel weird, but you're going to be okay."

Alison and Robert each took an apple and chomped into it. Instead of cleanly separating, the flesh of the apple stretched and warped, first around their mouths, then their heads, the rest of their bodies, covering them in roots that dragged them under.

Laura Ashbrooke stepped outside of the door to the Union House, and looked over the personnel of S & C Plastics. She'd lived in Sloth's Pit her whole life, but had never really gotten a good look at them. In their current states, with their disheveled costumes and somewhat stunned expressions, they didn't look like a shadowy organization that kept the town under their heel. They looked… oddly human.

But still, she couldn't have them going out to try to cheer up the town looking like their costumes had been set on fire. So, she set to work.

Sloth's Pit, Wisconsin

Nina Weiss had to stop to catch her breath in the lobby of Site-87. Tears were streaming down her face, and despite her efforts to wrap it, the blood loss from the wound where her right pointer finger was making her dizzy. She sat in front of the vacant receptionist's desk, rubbing her face and crying; as she descended, she knocked a bowl of Halloween candy on the desk over onto the floor.

She was an idiot. Everyone member of personnel was required to register their biometrics in order to access the lower levels of Site-87. Her biometrics required her right handprint, and she was missing an entire finger. She would have to… fake it, somehow, in order to access the maintenance level. Activate the last-ditch measure to protect the rest of the world from what this town had become.

There was a whisper of wind as something floated down from the desk— Weiss recognized it as her bank card. A fingerprint was on it, glowing bright white in the darkness. In her panic, Nina thought it was the town throwing her a lifeline.

She ran to the elevators, pressing her bank card onto the biometric scanner in place of her missing, mangled finger. The elevators opened, and she walked into them, pressing the button for the Maintenance Level, a panic attack building in her chest as she saw Alison Carol and Robert Tofflemire emerge from the floor of the lobby and try to reach for the elevator.

Alison Carol and Robert Tofflemire had little choice but to take the stairs. They had discarded their respective coats for the sheer impracticality, but Alison still felt a weight on her back as she ran into the depths of Site-87.

"We're not going to make it," Alison hissed. "The elevators here can go faster than anyone can walk." She paused at the landing on the fifth sublevel. "Unless…"

"What?" Robert's eyes widened. "Don't tell me you're going to do the teleporting stairs thing."

"Only way to travel right now." Alison put her hand on the railing; her other one was caught by Robert. "What?"

"Look at what you're holding."

Alison looked at the bundle of leather that had appeared in the hand on the railing. She unfolded it, and revealed a Louisiana fedora that looked like it could hold the sky. She looked down; she wore midnight upon herself, a black leather jacket, black shoes, black shirt, and black slacks.

"Not what I would have picked," she sighed. "But fair enough." She tried to put her hand on the railing again, only to have Tofflemire jerk her away. "Bob, what are you—"

"I'm not letting you do this!" He pleaded, tugging her closer. "If you put that hat on, t-then we forget about you. Is that it? Everyone?" He shook his head. "No. I won't. I'm not going to let you do it. I'm not going to forget you."

Alison didn't resist, letting her partner pull her close. "This… this is the only way, Bob." She let her hand slip from his grasp. "This has been a while coming. It's either this, or the town gets destroyed." She looked him in the eyes. "You get destroyed. I'm not having that."

Her partner laughed. "And that's going to make me forget you? Why?"

"…it's a mercy, it really is." Alison shook her head. "Nobody will be able to remember anything about me. Not my name, my face, the sound of my voice. If everyone forgets, then… there's not going to be any mourning. No tearful counseling sessions, no feeling of loss. Not even a hole where someone used to be. Just…" She snapped her fingers. "Like that. You won't even feel sad, in a few minutes."

"Fuck that!" He snapped. "Alice… I don't want to lose you, but if I do… I want to remember you for who you are. You're…" his voice caught. "You're someone who would charge in to fight fear itself and punch it in the face. You'd give up everything to save one person. You're the first person since I lost Kurt to the Old Man to make me feel like I'm not a complete fuck-up." He blinked away tears. "Y-you're my best friend, Alison. And I want to remember that."

Alison turned to face him. "I don't want to lose you either. I… " Her mascara was in streaks, her hair flowing red with ribbons of black ink through it. She gave him a hug, one of the few they had ever shared.

Robert hugged back, shaking. "I'm scared of being alone."

"You won't be. I'll make sure of it." She kissed his forehead, and pulled away, facing him. Then, they locked eyes. "Get out of here."

Robert's eyes stayed focused on her. "Not. Forgetting. You."

Allison smiled and put on her hat. Alison Carol vanished from reality and was replaced by the Narrator. "Go, dude."

Robert ran back up the stairs, reciting her name under his breath. The Narrator vanished down them, to the maintenance level.

Nina Weiss's eyes were filled with tears of pure, unbridled panic. She felt something lurking on her back as she entered the maintenance level, and made her way to the cage that held the Penzance Device. All it needed was a vocal confirmation from her, a drop of her blood. And it would be over, this whole nightmare would end.

Weiss unwrapped her wounded finger and jammed it in the air; a cloud of sensors detected that it was her fresh, still-flowing blood, and let her in. The cage holding the Penzance Device opened, and a microphone snaked its way out of the black box that held it.

«Confirm Password.»

Nina's voice stuttered as she tried to speak it. There was an error sound.

«Confirm Password.»

"I… I…"

A voice that sounded very much like her's came from over her shoulder as something pushed her out of the way. "With cat-like tread, upon our prey we steal, in silence dread, our cautious way we feel."

Weiss blanched at the sight of some… thing that looked like her saying the password to the Penzance Device. The countdown began. It spoke in another voice, after that, which belonged to the Goatman. "I believe it is time I make myself scarce."

"All this time." Nina laughed. "I'm an idiot. It was you, this whole time?"

"If it's any comfort, the actual Goatman never did you any harm. But I must say… your fear was delicious." It picked her up by the throat and pressed her against the walls of the cage. "What you're afraid of most… it isn't aging, it isn't losing your position. It's losing your wisdom, your ability to govern these people. And… you have."

Weiss swallowed, looking down at the thing wearing a face too young to be hers. "I should depart. The countdown for this gives me just enough time to get to the First Footpath. I think Milwaukee sounds like a good place to start…"

"Why would anyone want to go to Milwaukee?"

A new voice, this one unknown to Weiss, but somehow familiar. A woman in a black leather jacket stepped from the stairway, a Louisana fedora pulled over her eyes. "Honestly, what is there to do in that town? It doesn't even have a decent zoo."

The false Weiss tilted its head. "Do I… know you?"

"…was wondering how fast that spread. Hmm." The Narrator rolled her neck. "Right, I'm going to give you one chance to get into a cell and stay there, before I write you out of existence."

It snorted. "You're wasting time. This whole town is going to be—"

The Narrator reached out her hand to the Penzance Device; a glowing blue keyboard appeared on its surface as its countdown concluded. Unknown to any of them, the munition within the Penzance Device, if it could have been called that, was installed incorrectly; the polarity had been reversed, and instead of wiping out the entire Site, it simply turned inwards and unmade its most crucial components. The thing sparked, fizzled, and died.

"NO!" It snarled, breaking through the cage and lunging at the Narrator. "You cheated!" A dozen types of horrible fangs and tearing claws came down on her form.

"Is it really cheating if I rewrite the rules?" The Narrator stuck her hand into its mass and brought up the truth of what this thing really was.

Item #: SCP-2006

Object Class: Uncontained

"No more of this."

Object Class: Uncontained

"No more bullshit around Halloween. This town is protected. Neither you nor anything else is going to harm my friends, my family, ever again."

Object Class:

"I might be Nobody now, but I was, and still am, someone who will make sure that this town, these people, never fade."

Object Class: Neu

Mid-keystroke, she paused. "On second thought? That is far too kind."

Object Class:Decommissioned

SCP-2006 turned into a black sludge in her hands, melting away without so much as a whimper. She flicked her hands in contempt as it began to steam, before she turned away.

"W-wait!" Weiss called. "I… I'm sorry… I need help…"

The Narrator turned back and strode into the cage, putting her hand on Weiss's mangled one. "I can't regrow it. Plot's not right for it."

"Are… you with the town? One of those Local Legends?"

The Narrator felt something take root in her stomach. "If you want me to be." She ran her fingers over the air. "Good news is that you're going to be selected for some testing with a next-generation prosthesis before the year is out. Won't be full functionality, but… you'll be able to count to ten."

Weiss looked at her in disbelief. "Who are you?"

"I'm Nobody, really." The Narrator helped her to her feet. "I'm taking you to the infirmary. This is… going to be disorienting."

Weiss looked very tired the whole walk upstairs, as short as it was. The Narrator laid her on a bed, staunched the bleeding, and gave her a sedative. She needed to let somebody know that the people of Sloth's Pit were free to return.

But first, she needed to say goodbye.

Robert Tofflemire stumbled from the stairwell, into the empty site. He was on the first sublevel, where the barracks were. Directly across from the elevators was a memorial wall that bore the names of every agent KIA. As if it was planned, there was an empty space, big enough for a name and an epitaph.

He dug in his pockets, finding an X-Acto knife within. He crossed to the wall, and began the arduous task of carving into solid wood.


What was the next letter?


Her surname— down a rabbit hole.

Alison Carol

And now… what was she?

Gone but

Gone but what, but what?

Gone but not

"I won't." Robert sobbed, his hands shaking. "I won't, Alice. Never."

Allison Carol
Gone but not Forgotten

He sobbed, with relief. Her face had begun to fade, but he saw it in his mind as if she was in front of him. All the foul looks she'd given him for his jokes, all of the genuine smiles of relief, all of the concealed grins when she genuinely enjoyed his company.

And he was the only one who would ever remember it.

He felt a hand squeeze his shoulder, and heard a voice speak. "Hey, partner."

He looked up and saw the face of his best friend— somehow sad, somehow triumphant. He stood, and pulled her into a hug, sobbing for several minutes. She hugged back, staying silent the whole time.

He gave Nobody a soft kiss on the forehead when she pulled away. Three of the most powerful words in existence were spoken between them, in a sense that few could understand, and then she vanished up the staircase, and into infinity.

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