S & C Phonies

rating: +59+x

October 13th

Something that looked like Cassandra Pike stood over Alice Carol's bed, contemplating what to do about her.

The agent wasn't going to wake up anytime soon, that much was for sure. 'Pike' toyed with the syringe in the pocket of her labcoat— it was empty, perfect for giving an embolism. A hard-to-detect death, at first. Suspicions would be raised, but not until it was too late.

Still, at the moment, Alice Carol was no threat. Her death could have unintended consequences— Robert Tofflemire may have played the fool, but she had seen his records. He was able to fight off something that had killed hundreds of men, and Carol was a good friend of his. If she died, there would be hell to pay. For now, Alice Carol was asleep, sedated, muttering to herself a series of words that were now harmless. 'The Pit Sloth is real'.

"No shit, Sherlock." Cassie shook her head and made her way to the door, disposing of the syringe in a biohazard bin on the way out.

Katherine Sinclair watched as they carried boxes out of Tristan Bailey's office. Materials to be archived. She had her hand over her mouth— she had worked with the man for almost a decade, and now he was just… gone. It didn't seem real, or right.

One of the men unloading the boxes dug through them, a prominent frown on his face. He was turned away from Sinclair, and was inspecting something in his hand— a small box. A ring box.

"Christ, was he planning to propose?" Katherine put her hand over her eyes and whispered to herself. "Claire's going to be crushed."

Tragedy was something that Site-87, as a whole, was unused to. In the past five years, there had been ten deaths among personnel— a heart attack, brain cancer, containment breach, and seven KIAs, which happened less than a year ago. She had been there for one of them, at Hubble farms.

Internet and phones were out, still— even their connection to Scipnet didn't work. Nobody doubted that they were being interfered with— but why? Was it the Pit Sloth denying them information they could use to beat it?

Sinclair shook her head as the crew picked up the boxes from Bailey's office and started carrying them towards the elevators— one of them was out, the controls having somehow malfunctioned, and the cables having become frayed in a sudden ascent.

The thaumatologist looked into her colleague's office, noting that they had forgot the nameplate on the door. She slid it out of its receptacle, and turned it over in her hands, reading the front of it.

She looked back at the door, and tilted her head. They had missed a strip of tape that was on it, hung horizontally, like a sign had been attached to it.

Sinclair fumbled on the inside of the door for the light switch. Instead, her fingers met spongy styrofoam. Frowning, she pinched the foam and pulled it. In her hands, she held a blue Nerf dart with an orange suction cap on the end.

Sinclair laughed and shook her head. Memories came back of how Bailey used to set up gauntlets of dart guns in his office— the cleaners must have triggered one of them when they were cleaning up shop.

She shook her head and sighed, pocketing the dart. Tristan Bailey had left his office guarded by dart gun traps when he left late September, and come October, he forgot to disarm the traps when he returned. She saw no inherent contradiction in this.

The wake was planned for that night, at the Black Garden. She had to pick out some black clothes.

Elsewhere, Seren Pryce stamped her foot against the door out of the barracks. Various members of Sigma-10 had tried battering rams, plasma cutters, and were considering using acid to melt the lock on the door. They all knew it wouldn't work— something uncanny was barring the door shut.

"Fuck me with a spoon," Pryce groaned. "All right, headcount. Who all is in here?"

"Everyone's accounted for." Ruby Williams confirmed, scanning those assembled. Several of the agents were examining their weapons, or discussing escape plans; one of them mentioned trying to crawl out through the ducts. "Except for Carol, Ewell and Tofflemire."

"The first two are in the infirmary, and Toff's a wanted criminal." Pryce chewed her lip, and looked towards Agent Joseph Grey, who was fiddling with a series of radios. "But I still think Bob's our best bet."

"They'll have to have noticed that we're gone." Raymond February muttered as he sharpened a series of stakes. "People don't just overlook seventy people disappearing."

Pryce frowned, making her way over to Grey. "Joe, any idea if you can get an outgoing signal?"

"We're not that far underground. It'll be staticy, but with the boost I'm giving it, we should be able to reach anywhere in town." He handed Pryce one of the radios. "Gonna try for Toff?"

"Yeah." Pryce took the transmitter, and muttered a soft "Here we go", before pressing down the button.

Elsewhere still, Robert Tofflemire looked through a pair of binoculars trained at Site-87. Several members of Squad-25 were assembled outside, including Seren Pryce— one of the deadliest snipers in the world. If she saw him, his head would be a red mist before he could say 'snipe hunt'. So, he remained perched in his tree, watching for an opportunity to break their guard.

And then his radio burst to life in an explosion of static, causing him to fumble the binoculars. Through it, Seren Pryce's voice broadcast. "Toff—ire, Come in —mire, this is an —gency."

Robert brought the glasses to his face again. Seren was talking with Ruby, and conspicuously not on her radio. He brought his transmitter to his lips. "Prove you're the real Seren Pryce."

"Wha— tal—ing about?" The transmission was weak. "Real —ren? Of —se I am."

"Well, I'm outside the site, looking at something that seems to be Seren Pryce. She's talking with something that looks like Ruby Williams, and they seem to have just shared a funny joke."

"Son of a b— ch." The voice on the other end sighed. "We've got g—ngers?"

"Ruby's a ginger, but I'm pretty sure you're still a blonde. Hard to tell with your hair under the helmet out here."

"Not ginger, gang-rs."

Robert chuckled. "Yeah, you're the real Pryce. No patience for any of my humor."

"Where —re you?"

"Northwest of the site, in the grove of oak trees that overlooks it."

"Look f— dead tree. Cache with r-fle in it. Use to dr— them away from the s—-" And with that, Seren's transmission cut out.

"Hello? Hello?" Robert frowned and stowed his radio. He scanned the surroundings, finding the dead tree Seren spoke of— it looked like it had been felled in a lighting strike. He carefully scaled his way down the tree, and approached the dead oak.

The thing that looked like Seren Pryce frowned at her radio. "Did you catch any of that?"

The thing that looked like Blake Williams shook his head. "I wouldn't worry about it. Sounded like one of the announcers at the radio station. They've been sending out SOSes, so they probably boosted their signal to the point that—"

With that, the thing that looked like Blake's head exploded in a spray of blood and black ink. The ink evaporated, leaving the false agents splattered with blood.

"Sniper!" Seren climbed up a ladder onto the roof of a nearby APC, bringing her rifle off of her back. "Leave this to me."

The rest of the false agents took cover behind various bits of scenery. Pryce, for her part, retrieved a barbituate pill from her bag and bit down on it— her heart rate would slow soon.

She felt a furry, clawed arm emerge from her back to guide her aim. The sniper saw a glint of a scope up in the branches of a dead oak tree, and fired at it. The shot rang out through the tranquil autumn air, and she expected to hear the thud of a body, see one fall from a tree. Nothing.

She increased the magnification on her scope, and her eyes widened. She had shot out a pair of binoculars that were hanging from a branch above— a decoy. "Clever son of a—"

Pryce's brain was turned into a red mist. She didn't hear the gunshot, or feel any pain. She heard several more before numbness overtook her body.

«Lockdown is in Effect. Lockdown is in Effect. Lockdown is in Effect. Lockdown is in Effect.»

This same message had been droning over the intercom for the last ten minutes, since the microphones on the outside of the site had detected the first shot. The two things that looked like Cassandra Pike and her husband Claude sat in Claude's office, frowning.

"Tofflemire?" Cassie asked.

"Probably." Claude raised a cup of coffee to his lips. "Do you think he can detect us?"

The woman shook her head. "I think the agents we locked in the barracks got a message out. I told you we should have just made a meal of them."

"The task force is sealed in the barracks, and our progenitor will be around soon enough to collect them. Unless Robert can—"

A hand was placed over Claude's mouth. "Don't finish that sentence. You know this place loves irony."

Claude nodded, moving away Cassandra's hand. "So, I suppose we wait until they're swallowed?"

"Seems that way." Pike put her hands together. She felt it best to say nothing more, lest the town take some form of petty revenge for what they had done.

Robert kicked the ventilation grate out from under him, and emerged from the fume hood in Chemistry Lab 2— they were never blocked in the event of a lockdown, but the vents were big enough for someone wiry like Tofflemire to crawl through, even with tactical gear.

The only problem was that the lab was occupied. Christopher Hastings— or at least, something that looked like him— stared at Robert in fear.

Hastings swallowed. "D-did you just… how many people did you kill?"

"They weren't people, Chris." He noted the botanist going for his knife beneath his labcoat, and drew his pistol. "Don't do it."

Hastings fumbled for his knife, and approached Robert, holding it in an ineffective grip. "I got dragged underground for six miles by a pumpkin vine last year. Some psycho agent with a gun isn't going to scare me."

"Funny you should mention that," Robert frowned. "See, I read the report of that incident. Hastings followed all the protocol to a T— limiting surface area, not endangering anyone else, documenting his findings. And you can't even be bothered to hold a sampling knife in an effective manner."

Hastings swallowed, getting ready to swing his knife. Robert saw a bulge trail its way up the sleeve of his coat, and drew his pistol, pulling the trigger and shooting Hastings through the heart.

The botanist didn't go down. He stood, stumbled, and stared, before the back of his labcoat ripped open, and two furred arms with a pair of claws at the end of each emerged from his back. "Meddlesome, meddlesome, Bobby Toff. I should take your head clean off."

"The Pit Sloth, I presume." Robert took aim at the arms.

"Indeed, you've caught me in a lie. But 'tis a pity poor Hastings must now die."

Robert looked down and to the side. "You're bluffing. This isn't Hastings. It's just a puppet that looks like him."

"Are you so sure?" The thing's arms retreated into the botanist's back. "His cardiac system I can mend, a broken heart I can cure. But only if you surrender your gun, turn yourself in, and let me have fun."

Robert remembered what the Goatman said— the Pit Sloth was a contradiction born of being ignored. So, Robert stepped closer, keeping his gun aimed at the not-Hastings. He grabbed the man's shoulder and spun him around, tearing off his labcoat even as the fake botanist swung his knife. He pinned the man's arm behind his back, and lifted his shirt.

In Hasting's back, there was a gaping hole, and within, a pair of beady, black eyes. "I see you," Robert swallowed. "I acknowledge you exist. You're… not a threat. You're a creature from suborder Folivora, genus Choloepus. You're an animal that sometimes dies because it— it falls off trees missing branches. That's all you are."

"…I'll admit, this is well played." The body of the fake Hastings began to fade. Soon, he was left holding thin air.

Tofflemire let out a soft 'hoo' and wiped his brow. One down, god knows how many to go.

He heard the stamping of combat boots outside the door to the laboratory, and the cocking of guns. "Agent Tofflemire, open this door immediately, or we will use lethal force!"

Seren Pryce's voice. They didn't even care now— they knew that they were blown, so they just made a second Pryce. He absconded back into the fume hood, and up the vent. He heard the door open, and confused voices within.

Nobody could save him but himself.

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