Fox Hunt

rating: +27+x

Grashinow Block, Moscow

10 June, 1993

“Well, at least they’ve got nice digs for us, eh?” Sergeant Julie Chen of MTF-Omega-20 (“Thought Police”) looked around at the cracked cinderblock walls and peeling paint. She walked into the flat and dropped her bags out of the way against the wall separating the kitchen from the living room.

“It’s a safehouse, Julie. What did you expect?” Captain Rashid al Hasin followed his subordinate into the flat, similarly dropping his bags against a wall. He walked into the kitchen and immediately started looking through the cabinets, scratching at his military-length brown hair. He found what he was looking for and rinsed out a few mugs in the empty sink. He shook the bag of ground arabica beans to loosen it and started spooning the grounds into the coffee machine.

“Little help here?” Sergeant Maria Waltham, of MTF-Beta-777 (“Hecate’s Spear”), struggled to keep the door open as she dragged in an old-fashioned steamer trunk. Chen held the door open for her as she finished pulling it inside. “Thanks.”

She nodded and grabbed the other end of the trunk, preparing to lift it together once the door was closed. “Where we taking this?”

“Back bedroom, it’s got the best light from the pictures.”

Chen pulled upwards on handle of the trunk and grunted. “Jesus, Waltham. What’s in this thing?”

“Equipment. Don’t ask a magician to show you her tricks, Chen.”

By the time they came back into the main room, the smell of coffee was filling the space. al Hasin called from the kitchen. “Either of you want some?”

The English thaumaturge rushed in, her shoulder-length red hair bouncing as she hurried. Chen peaked through the dingy curtains in the main room. The sixteenth-floor view of a Moscow residential block was bleak, but the sun was bright, and people were out in the nearby park.

“What did you expect out here? I imagined everything would be gray, personally.”

Waltham called from the kitchen. “Well, the buildings are gray!”

“I meant, like, all the propaganda over the last however many years. I imagined Moscow to be lifeless.”

“People live here like anywhere else. Just a bit chaotic right now,” al Hasin said. “You want some of this or not?” He was carrying a mug to his subordinate.

Chen grabbed the mug and sipped gingerly at the steaming coffee. “So, we’re in goddamn Russia. What now?”

“Surveillance of the target followed by apprehension if we can swing it. If not, we’ll get what we can on his company and their connection to the attack on SCP-5957.”

“I’m gonna stick out like a sore thumb,” Chen said.

“There are plenty of Chinese nationals in the city. More than you’d think, actually.”

“I’m from Boise, Captain.”

al Hasin laughed. “I know, just saying you won’t look totally out of place. Me, on the other hand…”

“It’s a big city, pretty cosmopolitan for the capital of Soviet Russia – not that they’re Soviets anymore - and anyway, I’ve got charms for all three of us. No one will look at any of us closely,” Waltham said. She retreated into the room she’d claimed and returned with three bronze pendants inscribed with runes on rawhide strings. She tossed one to each of her colleagues. “This will also let you speak and understand Russian.”

Chen whistled. She looped her charm over her head and tucked it into her denim shirt. “When do we start?”


ProjectHeca

Site of the Director, Site-91

7 June, 1993

al Hasin and the rest of Omega-20 had only been at Eckhart House for a few weeks. He’d met Director Varga in the service of project Hecatoncheires when his team first arrived and began setting up their operations room. This was the first time he’d been summoned to her office though.

He sat in the waiting area, opposite the assistant’s desk – which was empty at the moment. He examined the room's stone walls and well-maintained wood floor. Eckhart House was nearly three hundred years old. Feels like I’m on a movie set. Strange coming from other Sites to this.

The door to the Director’s office opened and a short woman with her blonde hair in a ponytail and dressed in a pantsuit came out. “Captain al Hasin?”

He nodded.

“She’ll see you now.”

He stood and walked into an office more befitting an Ivy League academic than a Site Director. Bookshelves lined the wall behind the desk, old fashioned draperies were tied back to allow the morning light in, and the desk had to be original to the manor’s construction.

“Good morning, Captain.” Varga’s voice was tempered in neutrality. She sat behind the desk, facing her open door with a cup of tea in one hand and an open personnel file in the other. Several dozen other files filled the front edge of the large wooden desk, neatly organized. “Have a seat.”

He sat in a visitor’s chair in front of the desk, noting the chair was level with her own. A Site Director without a superiority complex. Interesting.

“Good morning, Director. I’m assuming this is about Marquez?”

“Has your team found any sign?”

“Not as of yet, but we’ve got our feelers out to the UIU, the CIA, Interpol, and MI5. I’ve got a call scheduled with a captain of the GS9 for tomorrow as well.”

“Good, good. I’m relying on your team to dig up something on him, but that’s not why I called you here.”

“No?”

“Your personnel file says you worked person of interest cases for the Egyptian Security Forces. How many fugitives did you apprehend before the Foundation headhunted you?”

“Hundred and forty-one, Director.”

“Good. I need someone tenacious.” She turned to a large TV set up to the right of her desk, turned it so he could see, and pressed play on a VCR. “This is surveillance footage from the SCP-5957-A area. Don’t worry, I’ve made sure you’re cleared for it and I’ll have you review the file. But, first, take a look at this.”

He nodded and focused on the screen. It depicted a sunny day in a mountainous, forested region. A fenced perimeter was being breached by soldiers in what looked like Soviet uniforms. But there was something off.

“Those aren’t people, are they?”

“No, they aren’t, but these entities are of secondary importance. This is the man I want you to pay attention to; Colonel Leonid Chernoff.” A well-dressed man in a long coat over an expensive suit, wearing an ushanka cap, came into focus. He was clearly ordering the entities in uniform as they entered the perimeter.

“How did they breach the fence? That looks electrified to me.”

“It is. Those entities didn’t seem to be harmed by the current. They were susceptible to other means, however.”

The footage cut to a scene in which a firefight between Foundation forces and the entities was taking place outside a large stone tower. A figure in the distance, near the tower, held up its hands and a bright light flared, cutting the footage.

“Did we have many casualties?” he asked.

“Actually, less than you’d imagine. They absconded with numerous anomalous corpses and even took most of their dead with them. The thaumaturgical effect of whatever that man did knocked out the security cameras and struck the security forces, but seemingly without intending to kill. He clearly didn’t mind bloodshed, as he had killed several security staff that were in the area, but, once reinforcements arrived his goals changed to exfiltration.”

“What were the entities?”

“‘Homunculi’. At least, that’s how they were referred to in GRU-P documents associated with the file.”

“Cold War espionage then. When did this attack occur?”

“Six days ago.”

al Hasin looked away from the screen and towards Director Varga. “But I thought the Division was shut down?”

“It is. But this man has access to anomalous means and entities, and he knows far too much for my liking. I want you to find him.”

“Does this take precedence over Marquez?”

“No, I want a small division of your team to focus on this. Maybe two or three agents.”

“He’s from Division-P?”

“That’s right. A man we recruited recently was an associate of his, and confirmed his identity. He’s a true believer in the Revolution but seems to have landed on his feet since the fall.”

“I assume we don’t know who he’s working for now?”

“No, but likely he’s still in Russia.”

“Well-dressed for a security agent.”

“There’s always opportunities for the ruthless, especially given the political situation in that part of the world right now.”

“I’m assuming the timetable is short?”

Varga sipped her tea and carefully sat it down in the saucer. “Yes. If you can find evidence of his presence in country, I want a team out there within the week.”

“Operational guidelines?”

“You’ll get a full requisition order, but I want the man found, and I want him here ASAP.”

al Hasin nodded and stood. Varga handed him a thick file labeled SCP-5957. “Let me know what you need.”


ProjectHeca


Kuznetsov Plaza, Moscow

11 June, 1993

An old colleague in GS9 had a lead that confirmed Chernoff was, indeed, still in Russia. The lead placed Chernoff at the head of a small but growing natural resources conglomerate called Proiskhozhdeniye Investitsii, translated as 'Origins Investments'.

Business records from the Russian Federal Government confirmed that the company had a modest office building in downtown Moscow. Varga assigned Sergeant Waltham from the Spears to accompany and provide thaumaturgical support, and they were off to Moscow on an exhausting red eye flight.

And so, Rashid al Hasin, MTF captain and psionic, found himself in a white, nondescript Mercedes van for another twelve hours for the second day in a row.

The sun had long sunk beneath the horizon when Leonid Chernoff, a well-dressed, up-and-coming business mogul, sauntered out of his ten-story office building.

“Not too close, Julie.”

Waltham looked sideways at him.

“What? I know she knows what she’s doing. I’m not that sorta man. I didn’t send it; I’m just talking out loud.”

Waltham rolled her eyes and looked through the binoculars again. Chernoff was approaching his town car, with a driver holding the door open for him. Chen was approaching cautiously, trying to place a radio transmitter on the underside of the bumper.

They couldn’t get access to the car at Chernoff’s residence, a medium sized manor on the outskirts of Moscow, because of significant on-site security. The driver went around the front side of the car and paused, looking back towards the rear.

Waltham spoke Latin under her breath, and a firework went off in the opposite direction. The driver turned quickly towards the noise down the block, freeing Chen to place the transmitter and slink into the nearby alleyway.

al Hasin cracked a smile. “Nice.”

“Minor igneomancy.” Waltham shrugged, but he could see the edges of her smile even as she turned away to look through the binos. “When you gonna do some of your tricks?”

al Hasin laughed. His “tricks”, as a psionic and part of the Thought Police, involved thought transmission, a modest-but-unpredictable precognitive spark, and Class-C divination that wound up only meaning he could psychically tell when lies were spoken.

“Soon enough.”

Chernoff’s town car started down the street just as Chen opened the back doors to the van.

al Hasin turned in his seat to look at her. “Sitrep?”

“We’re golden.”

He turned on the GPS display on the receiver and watched as the blinking red dot turned at the corner two blocks away, just as the town car did. He started the van.

“Weapons check. We’re still watching but you never know.”

Chen started busying herself checking the weapons in the throw bag. He checked the street for oncoming traffic and pulled out after Chernoff’s vehicle.


ProjectHeca


Warehouse District, Moscow

11 June, 1993 - Several hours later

“The hell is he doing in there?” Waltham asked.

“Just like the last five times you asked: ‘No idea’.” al Hasin checked his watch. It was almost 2300 hours local time. Pretty late to be out in an industrial part of town for a businessman.

al Hasin spoke into the secure radio. “Chen, what you got?”

“Nothing. I can’t get a visual on the POI. But I don’t think there’s many individuals inside, I don’t see anyone.”

al Hasin looked through the binoculars for any movement in the town car. They had parked down the block for fear of being noticed. Suddenly the driver turned in his direction, and he ducked down. He peeked over the dashboard again in time to catch the driver panning past them. The streetlight glinted across his eyes, shining a green flash throughout his irises. Like a goddamn cat.

“Waltham, pause what you’re doing.” He handed her the binos.

Waltham took the offered binos and looked at the driver. “What am I looking fo-” She stopped with a sharp intake of breath.

“What is it?”

“Not human by a long shot. Hard to tell, but you can just see the green and brown under the skin in this light. Looks like its made of soil?”

“Like the entities that attacked 5957.”

Waltham nodded. “And the eyes reflecting the light like that… gotta assume it can see in the dark, or there’s some other augmentation. No other reason for that.”

“He’s not even trying to hide it.”

“Who?”

“Chernoff. Having an entity like that out in public. Insanely confident. I take that as a bad sign.”

“Why?”

“He’s not even worried about being found out. Fugitives like that are either the dangerously stupid or the very well-connected.”

The radio cracked to life; Chen’s voice came at a fast clip. “Folks, we’ve got a problem. I clock five figures approaching the van from your six o’clock.”

al Hasin looked into his driver side mirror and saw two of them, dressed in civilian clothes and flashing green eyes like the driver. One of them had a baseball bat, the other a shotgun.

“Fuck, alright, we’re coming to get you,” al Hasin said as he turned the key in the ignition. Nothing happened.

Waltham handed al Hasin a shotgun from the throw bag full of weapons. She slung two MP5s over each shoulder and opened her door. “Out. Now!”

They both came out of the vehicle firing at the figures behind the van. Two dove for cover behind the vehicle while the other three fell in seconds. Waltham grabbed the bag with the weapons and ammunition, slung it across her shoulders, and started towards the warehouse. al Hasin hurried after her, glancing back towards the two remaining hostiles. They weren’t alone, six more individuals were approaching at a jaunt.

“Fuck, get behind cover!” he yelled.

Both circled Chernoff’s town car as the driver was getting out, putting it between the approaching homunculi and themselves. al Hasin leveled the shotgun at the driver and fired from only a meter away, nearly vaporizing its head and upper chest.

Safely behind the vehicle, facing the doors to the warehouse, he spoke into his radio. “Chen, where are you? The vehicle wouldn’t start. We’re shored up behind the town car.”

“Headed your way.”

Two gunshots echoed through the industrial park. “Sitrep!” al Hasin hissed into the radio.

“Two of them sneaking up on me from the other side of the warehouse. Fuck!”

“What?”

“More of them coming from that direction. I’m almost to your position.”

Waltham peeked over the trunk of the town car, before withdrawing quickly, just in time for a hail of gunfire to erupt from the other side of the street.

“More than ten out there now.”

“Shit.”

Chen came in a hurried, bent run from around the side of the warehouse. She slid in next to al Hasin. “Got at least eight more coming from that way.”

“We’re completely boxed in. Fuck.”

Waltham looked towards the warehouse doors. “Any back way outta there?”

“A side door on the north wall, one of them emergency doors. No handle on the outside,” Chen said, taking the other MP5 and several magazines from Waltham.

Waltham looked at al Hasin and bobbed her chin in the direction of the warehouse. He nodded.

“Cover me,” she said.

al Hasin and Chen raised their weapons and fired at the approaching group of homunculi, before ducking back to avoid oncoming fire. This continued for a few minutes, stopping the approach of the hostiles.

Behind him, al Hasin head the chatter of the MP5 a few times. He turned and saw Waltham next to the open doors of the warehouse. A few meters away, on the outside of the building, lay three more homunculi.

Chen moved first, him covering her. A few shots rang out, but they both made it inside the warehouse. Waltham was closing the doors when he felt a hot sting rip at the outside of his left thigh.

His vision swam as he saw the concrete rush to meet him. New pain flared from his shoulder as he hit the floor. A moment later, Waltham was standing over him. She was saying something, but he couldn’t hear anything over the raging pain in his leg.

She opened the bag and pulled a first aid kit out, pouring a stinging liquid onto his leg that made him cry out. Then she was wrapping his bare leg in a bandage and singing in Latin. He felt the pain subside a little and the clouds cleared from his vision.

“You with us?”

He looked up at her, waving bloody fingers in front of his face. His blood.

“Fuck.”

“Good. Okay. I’ve cleaned it as best I can and bound the wound. Little cantrip to dull the pain and stop the bleeding, but you need a doctor.”

“How bad?”

“Gonna need staples but you’re not gushing, so I think it missed any arteries. Not too deep. More of a nasty graze than a puncture.”

“Never been shot before.”

“Me either.” She smiled at him.

He laughed. “What are we doing about the doors?”

Waltham got up and went to Chen. He looked over and saw his Sergeant wrapping oily chains through the handles of the double doors. Waltham cut herself with a pocketknife on the tip of a finger and drew a rough sigil on the door. She sung in Hebrew this time, the blood boiling and burning its way into the metal of the doors.

Chen moved towards the rolling metal door where they’d let the trucks in. She stuck a piece of rebar through the gears, blocking it from moving.

“All set here.”

He sat up against a pallet of wooden boxes stacked five meters high. “What did you do with the door?” he asked Waltham.

“Seal of Solomon. One of the lesser varieties. Not for demons. Should keep anything inhuman out for a while.”

“Help me up.”

Chen braced her shoulder under his left arm and lifted, taking most of his weight.

“Fucker set a trap for us. Think it’s time we had some words.”


ProjectHeca

The front half of the warehouse was filled with pallets loaded down with boxes of various forms and sizes and the back half was cleared of any detritus. In the center of a very large space of bare concrete kneeled a man, naked from the waist up, arms outstretched to the roof.

In the center of the circle, an eye with a tree growing out of it was painted and, in three places, the branches crossed the circle. At each of these three points, a naked human body lay. Each was split from neck to groin, their intestines splayed out like wings, and their hearts, lungs, and livers placed above their heads - next to their bound hands, palms out. Each palm was affixed to the concrete floor with a wooden stake.

The man, his hands drenched in blood, called loudly to the sky in a language al Hasin didn’t recognize. He leaned on Chen and raised his pistol to point towards the man. “Shut the fuck up and turn around. Slowly.”

The man stopped chanting and turned his head to look behind him. His hair was salt-and-pepper, shorn close to the scalp on the sides and stylishly quaffed on top, resembling a man about town. His beard was full, but trim. He smiled.

“English. Huh.” He spoke in slightly accented English himself.

“I said, turn around, Chernoff.”

Chernoff stood and braced his hands on his waist as he stretched his back. He turned and held his hands out to either side of him. He had the physique of a runner, even at his age of 62. “Let me guess, CIA? No, not their style. They’d have hired the bratva. Interpol maybe, or GOC? English though, so Americans.”

“I’m Egyptian,” al Hasin corrected. “We have the guns, Chernoff. Call off your creatures.”

“Why would I do that? I’m surprised you were able to make it in here. I should have called more. You killed… six. Well, that only leaves sixty or so left.”

Waltham looked sideways at al Hasin. He nodded to her, confirming that Chernoff was telling the truth.

“I know! You’re Foundation. Never seen you in action until the other day.”

“You admit to the attack in the Urals?” Chen asked.

Chernoff shrugged then began pacing away around the circle, his hands still outstretched. “I have nothing to hide. What do I care if you know it was me?”

“You killed six people that day, asshole,” Waltham said. “And stop moving.”

“I’m not going anywhere, English girl. I killed six foreigners trying to take what is rightfully Russia’s. My duty as a revolutionary to resist the Western Imperialist.” He continued circling the sigils and ivory ring set into the concrete, looking down occasionally at the markings.

“That why you dressed the homunculi in Soviet military uniforms? To make a statement?” al Hasin asked, his gun following the Russian.

“I don’t have to explain myself to you. But…” Chernoff stopped and looked back towards al Hasin, “…why did you call them ‘homunculi’? That’s a translation of something I called them many years ago.”

“We aren’t in the business of releasing classified information to fugitive persons of interest that try to kill us, sorry.”

“You might as well tell me you’ve read the report, that’s how shit you are at spy craft.”

“What are they called?” Waltham asked, she also was circling the inscribed floor, keeping her MP5 trained on Chernoff.

Zeu leux. Grass children.”

“What language is that?”

Chernoff spit on the ground between them.

“Who are you working for, Chernoff?” al Hasin asked.

“I don’t answer imperialist questions. Fuck you.”

“Lot of resources right out of the fall of your organization, and I know intelligence types do alright in the private sector, but this is more than alright. You have a company, a manor. And you’re doing some crazy sahar shit on the floor.”

“The wings of the Lodge were there to fold me into their brotherhood.”

al Hasin narrowed his eyes at the Russian and focused on the words. They were a lie.

“Nope. Not the Sarkics. They don’t make puppets outta dirt. What are these symbols?”

Waltham examined the inscriptions along the circle, trying not to focus on the smell of the eviscerated sacrifices. “I’ve seen these before. They’re Daeva. And Sarkics don’t use the magic of their enslavers.”

Chernoff laughed harshly. “Of course, I’m working for the Daeva! Oh wait, they’re all dead.”

al Hasin tried to focus on Chernoff’s words again but something felt off. It was both true and false. Fuck. What does that mean?

“Let’s make a deal, Egyptian.” Apparently satisfied with his work on the bodies and inscriptions, Chernoff stopped pacing the circle and walked back towards al Hasin.

“Why would I make a deal with you?”

“I didn’t think you would even make it this far, I thought I called enough forces to deal with you. And I’m clearly unarmed.”

“Except for whatever you used to slice these three up with,” Chen said, pointing at the corpses.

Chernoff laughed. He reached into his waistband and slid out a bloody, curved knife covered in sigils. He dropped the blade to the concrete. “Now I’m unarmed. But if you try to take me out of here, you die. If you kill me, you die.”

“If you summoned those things out there, then their energies might dissipate after your death,” Waltham said.

Chernoff turned and looked at her. “A magician then. I did not ‘summon’ them, English. They are tangible soldiers, armed to the teeth. This could be like the Sundance Kid and the Butch Cassidy for you.”

“It’s Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, asshole,” Chen said.

He smiled. “Who cares? If you want to live to see tomorrow, you deal. You have three. I have five dozen.”

Waltham shrugged. “He’s got a point.”

al Hasin shook his head. “Wait, I have questions. We know you didn’t build the tower. Was it Sarkics? This used to be their neck of the woods a long time ago.”

Chernoff laughed. “No, it wasn’t the meat magicians. Those creatures have been here for millennia, interfering in our society, long before Ion was even born. The Sarkics had nothing to do with the tower. It’s made of stone and coral, are you a moron? Do you know anything about the Nälkä?”

al Hasin growled. “Are you looking to get shot?”

“I’ve executed men before, Egytian. You don’t have the look.”

“What’s the deal?”

“I escort you to your vehicle. You leave.”

“The vehicle didn’t work last time I checked.”

“It’ll start now. We go our separate ways and I drink vodka to your health… until such time as you return, and then I kill you.”

Waltham pointed to the corpses. “What were you doing here?”

“Not part of the deal, magician.” He met al Hasin’s eyes. “So?”

al Hasin looked over to Waltham and she nodded. He didn’t need to ask Chen, she’d agree with Waltham. “Fine. Deal.”

Chernoff bent to pick up his clothes from the ground, looked back towards al Hasin, and chuckled. “Is it ok if I put on a shirt first?”


Chernoff, with a shirt on, walked in front of the three Foundation agents. A crowd of zeu leux, as he called them, parted for the four. He walked with them to the van, and even opened the door to help get al Hasin in the back.

“There, our deal is done. Next time I see any of you, I kill you.”

“What was with those people in the warehouse, Chernoff?”

“Kindling, Egyptian. Bonfires don’t start without kindling.”

Chernoff closed the rear doors of the van and walked backwards from the vehicle until he was surrounded by his armed entities.

Chen kept the shotgun trained on him as Waltham turned the key in the ignition. It started without trouble.

Chernoff pointed to his right, and smiled. Chen couldn’t get the image of a shark out of her head.

Waltham pulled away from the curb and started putting distance between them. In the back of the van, al Hasin started counting all the ways this operation had gone pear-shaped.


ProjectHeca

Site of the Director, Site-91

13 June, 1993

“And he called them ‘zeu leux’?”

Captain al Hasin nodded. “Translated it as ‘grass children’, I think. Sorry, we would have made sure to wear body cameras if we had any inclination this would be the way it panned out.”

“It’s alright, Captain. I’ve got your reports here, I’ll review in time and ask you any followups.”

al Hasin stood and leaned on the cane the medical center had issued him.

“How’s your wound?”

“It’s not so bad, just need to keep my weight off of it.”

“Good. Well, we’ll talk in a few days about where we go from here. That’s all.”

al Hasin started walking to the door but paused when Varga called his name.

“Sergeant Waltham said the sigils were Daeva?”

“That’s right.”

Varga looked at the pictures Waltham was able to take while examining the occult symbols.

“What is it?”

“I don’t know yet, but it’s troubling. Thank you, Captain.”

After he left, Director Varga powered on her desktop and logged onto the SCiPNet email client.



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