Cigarette Break

rating: +13+x

Dr. Selvece inhaled deeply, smiling as the cigarette smoke was sucked into the wormhole in SCP-3295’s ceiling. Sometimes skips were terrifying, nightmare-inducing horrors…but sometimes they were his favorite part of the job. He silently thanked O5-6 for his defiant creation of the extra-universal smoking rooms as he read through the daily containment reports. No rest, even on a lunch break…

He didn’t look up when the door opened, but knew who it was. “Happy birthday, Laura.”

“Thanks, Doc,” his longtime friend replied. The latter was her invention, a nickname she insisted on if he insisted on calling her by her given name out of habit when she had obtained her PhD 12 years ago. “I hate it, like always.”

“Same here, but I hate it a little less nowadays. Time doesn’t heal wounds, but it makes ‘em less raw.”

“Pretty much.” She motioned for Selvece’s pack and lighter, as she did every year on her birthday. Lighting up her annual cigarette, she reflected on the events that had led her, a woman whose mother had been killed by tobacco at 46 years old, to agree to smoke one cigarette every 365 days.

Tuesdays fucking suck, Selvece thought drearily as he looked over the day’s containment report. It wasn’t close enough to the previous weekend to still have some energy but it also wasn’t close enough to the next one to get you excited. Tuesdays offered nothing but the mind-numbing boredom of desk work with the promise of plenty more to come. At least in the Foundation desk work was often very interesting, but right now it was just very frustrating.

“I’m sorry, Doctor, but we’ve still got nothing,” Michael Ashton announced to him. “All of the available evidence seems to indicate that the entity is warning about an impending attack, but MTF Pi-1 hasn’t turned up anything. We’ve extensively screened everyone entering the complex since the 23rd, but there have been no findings of report to note. Whatever it’s warning about doesn’t seem to be a repeat of 1993.”

“Keep looking,” he said gently. “I understand this is frustrating, but we have to be vigilant. 50,000 people here are depending on us to keep them safe. Anything else to report?”

“Today is a very busy day for our civilian counterparts on this floor,” Ashley Kowalski replied. “I recommend we stick to stationary monitoring work today to keep a low profile.”

“We can do that, but what about the possible sighting upstairs this morning…?”

“So far it looks like it’s gone, but Pi-1 agents are posing as conference attendees and monitoring the situation to make sure it doesn’t show up.”

“Then things are as stable as they can be right now.” Selvece looked at his watch - 8:37. “I’ve been here since 6 this morning and haven’t had my usual cigarette, and I’m afraid I can’t ignore my cravings any longer. Be back in 15, everyone. I’ve got my cell phone if you need me.”

His research assistants nodded in acknowledgment as the Doctor walked away from the SCP-3395 covert monitoring station on the 92nd floor of Tower 1 and towards the elevator banks.

It was the last time he would ever see them.

“Hi Laura, Doctor Selvece here,” he began his voicemail message, his phone in one hand and a cigarette in the other. “Hope you’re having a good birthday. Just wanted to give you an update on SCP-3395’s containment-”

The earth shook, and he was violently thrown to the ground as a tremendous boom filled his ears. He looked up in time to see a massive fireball rise from the North Tower.

No. NO NO NO! He knew what this was, immediately. How did we miss this?! Oh god how many of them are up there? How-

His thoughts were stopped as he got to his feet and saw SCP-3395. In front of him, and not staring through him but directly at him.

“Leave,” it said.

“Wh-” he managed in a whimper.

“LEAVE!” it-screamed? It was more than a scream. He covered his ears and he could still hear its voice echoing in his mind.

Then he ran, as far and as fast as he could. He had the presence of mind to pick up his cell phone, much to Laura’s relief when she frantically called him from her apartment five minutes later.

“How many?”

“I don’t know. Maybe they got out.”

“Look, it’s been three days. The only ones the Foundation have been able to reach are the three members of Pi-1 who were stationed in the lobby. I think…I think you and I are the only ones who made it.”

“Because I’m a fucking nicotine addict. It’s going to take awhile to accept that.”

The nine memorial services they went to certainly didn’t make that easier.

Laura threw her cigarette in the ashtray and stared at the wormhole-ceiling.

“18 years,” she finally said. “18 years since we cheated death.”

“Thank god you asked for your birthday off,” Selvece replied. “I couldn’t have done those funerals by myself.”

“Here’s to surviving,” she agreed. "Someone asked me about the pictures last week," she found herself saying. "If any of the people were worked with were…were the ones who-"

"They weren't," he cut her off. "I was morbidly curiously enough to look it up. The 92nd floor was blocked from the stairwells, but didn't fill up with smoke. So they were probably fine until…well."

"Yeah." Nothing more needed to be said. She got up and left, leaving Selvece alone with his thoughts once again.

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