Good Fences Make Good Neighbors
rating: +109+x

He sat alone on the apartment building's stoop, watching people go in and out of the building across the street. He was almost certain that it contained a Foundation presence and was curious to see if his research and tracking were correct. The last Site he'd infiltrated had had some unique anti-telepathy gear, which he had of course liberated, and he wondered what delights this one might hold. He could write entire books about what he'd seen them contain.

The morning turned to afternoon turned to evening and he still jotted down notes in his Moleskine. Such a handy size. Finally, he stood from his perch and ambled over to the other building's doorway. A buzzer system, but he entered the door code he'd observed. Standard issue slightly decaying lobby, wall of mailboxes on one side, creaky elevators on the other, flyer-covered corkboard hanging on the far wall flanked on one side by a stairwell leading up and on the other by a closed door with a plaque reading "Superintendent."

Most likely the elevator. Either a hidden basement or an otherwise inaccessible floor or something. Fairly standard for urban Sites, or so he'd found. He called the elevator and waited as it slowly rumbled down to the ground floor. Hmm, the mailbox doors all looked dusty. The Foundation really ought to pay attention to the little details if they were going to hide in plain sight.

He turned back to the elevator as it groaned to a stop and opened to reveal a pair of men carrying handguns, who swept the hallway as they exited. Neither paid any attention to the man standing in front of them, which wasn't unusual. He brushed past them into the open elevator while they finished.

"Nobody here, Command. Totally empty."

"Yes, I'm sure."

"What do you mean tha—"

The Foundation agents swung around and aimed at the elevator just as the doors finished closing. Nobody smirked a little and held down the "close door" button while he quickly thought over his options. How about choosing— Oh it couldn't be that easy. The floor buttons skipped straight from 12 to 14. He pressed both buttons and waited as the elevator trundled upwards.

The Site well and truly knew he was here by now, even if they couldn't find him. A shame, but it only made his investigatory expedition a little harder. Still, better safe than sorry. He crouched down as the elevator dinged past the 12th floor and pressed the stop button. The door creaked open and a fusillade of bullets struck the back wall.

Nobody scuttled out of the elevator, under the line of fire. The guards in the surprisingly spacious lobby had stopped firing after the first round, but still looked ready to resume at any moment. Once safely away from being immediately killed, he stood and surveyed the room.

A lobby that had to take up a good fifth of the floor, with keycard-protected doors set in all the interior walls. A modern-looking glass-and-chrome receptionist's desk sat in the middle of the room with an open laptop and phone sitting on it, along with a few loose papers paperclipped together, a few pens and highlighters, and a large 3-ring binder. Four guards in plainsclothes stood in a semicircle around the elevator, standard Foundation-issue handguns pointed into it. Oh, wait, one of those was a stungun. Well, at least there was the possibility that someone wanted to catch him alive, so there's that.

Nobody kept an eye on the guards as he investigated the open laptop. Looked like a duty roster, a logbook, a— hello, what's this? An email alerting the whole Site that Director Kondraki was going to visit the Site tomorrow. No details as to why, but those wouldn't be in a general email, anyway.

Two of the guards had started sweeping the room while the others remained focused on the elevator. One pressed her finger to her earpiece.

"No visual contact on the intruder. Elevator appeared to be empty on arrival. Please advise."

Nobody only paid partial attention while he flipped through the papers. Requisition form, requisition form, requisition form with doodles in the margin, photocopy of a barley stew recipe? Hmm, looked tasty. Might as well keep it.

Now to get past those doors. No keycard conveniently hidden under the laptop and he didn't see any dangling from lanyards. Really, all he could do was convince them to come out.

Nobody crouched back below the line of fire and leaned into the open elevator, pressed the button for the ground floor, then quickly backed out and away from the killzone. A second later, the elevator dinged and the doors slid closed. He heard it start clacking away down the shaft.

The guard with the earpiece holstered her weapon. "Are you sure it wasn't a malfunction, Command? It just closed and headed back down. Nobody was on it."

A pause. A nod. "Yes, sir."

She jerked her head towards one of the closed doors.

"Everyone, return to stations. Command is letting the lower floors handle it from here."

She fished a keycard out of her pocket (oh, there it was) and swiped it through one of the readers. The door unlocked with a clunk and she pushed it open. The one armed with a stungun sat at the desk and the other two left the room. Nobody slipped in behind them, managing to get in without touching the door.

The next room was small. A mesh-fronted weapon cabinet on one side and a long desk with a trio of monitors showing the downstairs lobby, the room they'd just left, and what looked like an interrogation room. No one in there, but intriguing. Why in the world would they put a security station this easily accessible to the main area?

The guards settled into a couple of chairs, looking alert. They were definitely still on edge about the intrusion. Another door in the opposite wall promised further secrets to plumb, but getting through it without notice was going to be tricky.

Nobody pulled out a small tablet that had a Factory logo stamped on the back. It'd been a bitch getting a hold of this prototype and the cost to use it was distasteful, but it had its uses. He brought the optical sensor up to his eye and strained to keep his lids open as it scanned his retina. He hardly noticed when the tiny needle almost painlessly stabbed into it to get a DNA confirmation sample. The screen turned on, showing a set of icons, glyphs, runes, and other arcane symbols. Everything that the tablet could do was technically possible using non-anomalous technology, but the speed and precision that it delivered results hinted strongly at retrocausal effects.

Nobody tapped one of the glyphs, typed in a short series of commands, and hit "enter". Immediately the lights and monitors turned off. He also heard a kachunk as magnetic locks in the inner door deactivated. As the agents scrambled in the darkness, Nobody slipped through the now accessible door.

The other side was a hallway lit by emergency lights, mini-floodlights illuminating every 30 feet or so. Not enough to see well by, but enough to set the mood. People were beginning to flood the hallway, a cacophony of excited voices starting to build. A second after Nobody entered the hall, the overhead lights flickered back on and a recording started playing over a hidden intercom overhead.

"Security Drill Active. All Personnel Proceed To Designated Areas. Security Drill Active. All Personnel—"

Nobody tuned it out quickly and proceeded up the hall against the flow of bodies. He peeked into the doors as he went. Most were just boring looking cubicle farms, but when he glanced in the window set into the door at the end of the hall, he saw racks of computer drives. A server room! Jackpot! Another keycard access, but… another eye poke and a few commands later, the light on the access lock blinked green and he pulled open the door.

Inside stood a dozen racks with row after row of servers and routers amidst a tangle of cables. At the far back was a small workstation with the monitor still on. Looked like… Samuel Johannsen forgot to pull his access card from the keyboard before he skeedadled. Bad luck for Sam, good luck for Nobody.

Looked like it was a standard Foundation OS, nothing Nobody hadn't seen before. Click, click, click, and there was the list of projects managed by this Site. Hmm… keys to other realms, data crunching results from some kind of world-building sim, logistics reports for the rest of the state… nothing unique enough to really capture his interest. Would be a shame if this was all for naught.

Hmm, wait. O5-access only files hiding in a folder labeled RI-class? What in the world would those be doing in a minor Site like this? Nobody pulled a cord free from the Factory tablet and plugged it into the workstation. Operating systems might be proprietary, but USB ports were universal. Another eye sampling to unlock the device (three times in quick succession was a bit rough, this was probably the last he could use it for a few days), a quick tap tap tap of a special app and… yes, files copied and password attack ongoing. This was probably all he was going to get and he shouldn't press his luck, so he tucked his gear away and left the room…

Into a squad of fully-equipped MTF agents. With perceptual filter goggles on. Damn.

Nobody raised his arms slowly and smiled sheepishly. "Nice day, isn't it, fellas?"

The crackle and jolt of the stungun's probes discharging into him weren't really a surprise at that point, and he fell to the ground, jerking uncontrollably before mercifully passing out.

He awoke strapped down to a chair in the middle of the interrogation room he'd seen on the monitor, or one very like it. He checked his bonds, secure, and then stretched and popped his neck while he waited. He was stripped down to his underwear and the chill of the room was making his muscles stiff.

A one-way mirror extended the length of the wall to his left, but he was able to see through it with little difficulty. No-one in there at first, but a few trickled in over the next few minutes. Someone must've noticed he was conscious. Labcoat, labcoat, military uniform? He snuck a closer look under cover of stretching his neck. Lots of badges, shoulder insignia indicated a US Army major general. One last glance and yes, a lanyard with ID card. General Mulhausen. Now why was that name familiar?

He was distracted from his ruminations as a quite angry looking man with a pinched face entered the room and rushed up to Nobody. Labcoat (he never understood their fetish for unnecessary labcoats), lanky, thinning brown-gray hair, essentially interchangeable with any number of other researchers he'd seen over the years. Nobody caught a glimpse of a small woman at the door before the man blocked his view and started shouting at him.

"Who are you! Who are you working for! Why were you after the files for Project Palisade?!"

The man's breath smelled of fish and mint, a combination which sent a mild stab of nausea through Nobody's stomach.

"I'm Nobody. I would've thought you'd already know that."

The man's (oh, let's call him Ratface) eyes narrowed and he spat back, "Nobody isn't real. Just an urban legend that agents tell to spook rookies. Who are you really working for?"

Nobody sighed internally. Great. One of those.

"I'm not working for anyone but my own curiosity. You guys always have the most interesting tidbits. You didn't hide this place all that well, by the way. Much easier to find than Site 19."

Oh, that got a response from the people behind the mirror. And sure, he was provoking Ratface, but that could lead to sloppiness. Besides, it was a little fun.

Ratface grew more livid, face flushing a bright red. He stabbed Nobody in the chest with his finger. "Nobody, and I mean nobody, has ever infiltrated 19."

"Exactly." Nobody smiled sardonically.

Ratface cocked his fist back and the woman spoke quietly.

"Agent Mitchell."

Ratface, Mitchell, stopped and lowered his still-clenched fist.

The woman gently pushed Mitchell to the side and looked down at Nobody, expression blank. Well, maybe vaguely curious, in the same way that you'd wonder whether or not a fly was going to bumble its way out of a partially cracked window.

"You're an odd one, Mr. Nobody. That Notice-Me-Not lattice woven into your coat is making some of our lab boys excited and we've been trying to get a copy of the Factory's latest generation of tech for quite a while. Thank you for bringing us these gifts.

"But I too am wondering why you bee-lined straight to our secure files if you were just wandering around sightseeing. What exactly were you hoping to find?"

She folded her arms casually, tapping her exposed fingers against her arm. Nobody shrugged as best he could while tied down.

"Luck on my part, I suppose. Bad luck, given that you immediately caught me, but still, just random luck."

He cleared his throat and continued, in a slightly different timbre. "I take it those files were about this Project Palisade. Wouldn't you like to tell me what that is?"

Mitchell growled disdainfully at him. "Yes, of course we're going to tell you all about our reality firewall program. Everything about using alternates for research purposes. That makes total sense."

The woman narrowed her eyes as Nobody smiled apologetically and said, "Well, you can't blame a guy for asking."

"Yes, I rather think I can. Agent Mitchell, report to CH&P and get a level White regimen. You've been compromised."

Mitchell looked shocked and angry. "What?! I have not! I'm perfec—"

"Agent Mitchell, you just disclosed sensitive information to an individual with unknown capabilities. Go before I file a reprimand." The woman's voice remained steady and calm.

Mitchell darted his gaze to the mirror, flushed an even angrier red, and stormed out. The woman waited until he was out of the room and the door closed before addressing Nobody.

"I'm naturally immune to most anomalous compulsion effects, Mister Nobody. It's part of why I have my job. Now please, continue. What were you planning to do with those files?"

Nobody briefly furrowed his brow and flicked his eyes up and down the woman, seeking some clue in her body language of how to proceed. She looked… well, she was… her eyes were…

Fuck, he couldn't keep any impression of her in his head other than her gender. That wasn't a good sign. At least he retained the metacognition to recognize that he was missing details. He hated antiperceptuals. Well, ones that he wasn't using himself, anyway.

He sighed. "I don't suppose that you'll believe anything I say at first."

"No, probably not."

"Well, I'm telling the truth anyway. I had no agenda coming in here other than to poke around and see what stood out. Thanks to Mitchell, I now know about the existence of this special project of yours that sounds very interesting. I copied those files because they looked special, not because I was looking for them specifically."

The woman nodded slightly. "That seems plausible, at least. A good story to start with. Now let's dive a little deeper."

She pulled a capped needle and vial from her pocket and proceeded to fill the needle with a yellow-tinted fluid. Nobody tried to jerk and flail as she drew closer with it, but the chair was bolted to the floor and his bindings held him tight. She injected a vein in his right wrist and he felt a cold sensation surge up his arm.

"Now, I want you to know that I don't want any harm to come to you, Mister Nobody, but we will find out what you know. So let's begin at the top. How did you find out about this facility?"

Nobody's head spun as whatever she'd shot into him started to take effect. The rest went predictably from there.

Nobody woke up on a park bench with a splitting headache and the taste of copper and cloying roses in his mouth. Blech. He hated amnesiacs.

He sat up and rubbed his temples, three circles forward, three circles back, two forward, two back, one, one. Memories of the past, goodness, week? filtered back slowly.

The woman really was good at her job. He didn't remember ever being interrogated quite that thoroughly before. She had been meticulous in not sharing any information, too. He had been able to glean a little from lip-reading people behind the glass, however, and they seemed particularly excitable when he accidentally used the word "variable". One of them started shouting a bit and a hint of it filtered through the glass before the general shoved him out of the room. Something like "extermination" or "escalation".

It was hard to read the body language of someone he could barely concentrate on, especially while drugged, but he had the impression that the woman had been moderately bothered that he hadn't given her any other conspirators. He would have to assume that he'd be under surveillance so long as he stayed in the city, probably until he used his abilities to completely and deliberately disappear off their radar. Fuck. He rather liked this place. Some really good street food vendors.

He stood and stretched, feeling stiff muscles creak and joints pop as his long-constrained body settled back into free movement. Well, time to go. He patted himself down. Looked like they'd given him back almost all of his stuff, but he'd have to trash what was left of it in case there were trackers. Swap clothes at a store, burn the coat, smash the tablet (last-gen; did they think he wouldn't notice?) and other toys and distribute the parts around town, hit one of his caches to confirm nothing implanted and resupply, then to the Library for some research.

A month later, Nobody sat in a coffee shop in a different city, browsing through a laptop that he'd liberated from a careless Foundation researcher a while back. At least half of his methods just consisted of taking advantage of other people's natural tendencies and common quirks. Like every IT drone's nightmare: an employee with zero sense of hardware security or understanding that no, they weren't the exception to the "don't take sensitive data home with you" rule.

He had snagged it for the technical specs on that telekill helmet, but it had some other files on it that he hadn't looked through much until now. Files about MTFs Omega-8, -9, and -10, nothing terribly interesting there, standard exploitative crap. What looked like a standard database of their disaster classification system. CK, SK, TK, XK, GH, RI, LO, wait. RI? Those O5 files he'd found were in an RI labeled folder. Let's see…

RG-class: Reality collapse
RH-class: Reality overwrite
RI-class: Reality incursion/invasion
RJ-class: Reality de-reification

Well. That certainly explained a few things that he'd overheard in the Library. Let's see, what else lurked in here…

Huh. He skimmed through the helmet's documentation again and noted a memo he'd previously disregarded.

The nature of SCP-148 in Fencepost cluster MNT-9T3-___ (key variant SCP-682) makes utilization difficult, as it deadens cognition rather than merely blocks intrusive telepathy. Deployment of protective equipment is not recommended in this cluster. Do not retrieve samples of SCP-148 from these Fenceposts, as there is evidence that it contaminates mainline material. Utilize variant assets from Fencepost PQ4-99R-DD6 for infiltration purposes. They have the greatest natural Psionic Resistance Scores of currently available subsidiary assets.

A slow grin grew across Nobody's face. He'd started with slimmer leads than this. It was going to be a wonderful day.

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