Guilt Trip
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rating: +28+x

Mirror Test 7: Colour (Orange) Continued

After a brief argument between the members of Alpha-9, Control unilaterally approves Agent Deneb's plan. Dr. Dan makes several minutes worth of irrelevant remarks before agreeing in principle, and the team returns to the atrium.


A9Asterisk.png

They shuffled back into the cavernous room, one by one, like reluctant mourners at a rained-out funeral. The Tau-1 soldiers pointed their rifles at the towering monstrosity twitching and glitching through the concrete wall; the Specter pointed his pistols at it, cape billowing in a nonexistent breeze; Rainer and Dr. Dan pointedly ignored it, and Lucretia favoured it with a withering glare.

Agent Carlotta Deneb, in the lead, merely examined it as she approached with catlike tread.

She'd once heard that Renaissance architects had played with forced perspective, tapering their buildings outward gradually so that instead of seeming smaller at the top than they were at ground level, they maintained the same apparent size and shape throughout. She was seeing the principle play out now in front of her: every inch of the stretching, oozing, groaning monstrosity seemed close enough to touch, looming mere millimetres rather than several metres above her. It was heaving, deforming, its pale white skin shuddering in its prison of plaster and rebar. A few metres from the front desk she noticed the waterfall of particulate matter tumbling to the floor, concrete abraded into dust by the only occasionally corporeal form of the half-sleeping Unclean. She placed a hand over her mouth and nose as she passed the desk; she didn't want to breathe in anything the creature had touched, and she didn't want to scream.

Just before she stepped beneath it, its featureless head tilted back and a long, thin line of orange drool poured out of a sudden mouth to splash on the filthy tiles beside her. She looked back at the team, following single-file, and shared a wide-eyed look of disgust and fear with Rainer.

Embracing the absurdity of the situation, she gave him a big thumbs up. He shook his head silently as he, too, walked beneath the living portrait of insanity which dominated the atrium.

She looked up at it again. The white skin was actually translucent; she could see shapes moving around beneath, bulges shifting in disharmony with the more regular distentions she'd come to think of as the monster breathing. She'd seen something like it before, only once. A hostage situation gone bad, the hostages dead for days, and under their skin the—

Left foot, she thought furiously. Right foot. Left foot, right foot, left foot…

A moment, a lifetime later, they were through. The next hallway was long and featureless, which was good; none of them wanted to do anything but walk for several minutes.


A9Asterisk.png

The hallway terminates in a security checkpoint. An enclosed booth stands between two turnstiles; through the cracked wraparound window, a solid mass of brown fluid can be seen. Trickles of this fluid have already emerged from the cracks, pooling on the tiles at the base of the booth.


A9Asterisk.png

Gross, thought Rainer. He didn't say it, because he didn't want to sound unprofessional.

"Gross," said Dr. Dan.

General Wilford examined the turnstiles. He placed a gloved hand on one, and pushed; it didn't give. He sighed. "Probably unlocked by the guard in the booth."

"We could knock on the glass and ask him," Dan suggested. "I'm sure he wo—"

The glass shattered outward in a shower of brown goop, knocking Dan and Wilford to the floor. Dan's ears were still ringing when the automatic rifles began to fire, ensuring they'd still be ringing for some time yet.

He scrambled to his feet, wiping great sticky globs of amber gunk onto his labcoat. "What the fuck?"

Wilford was already at the booth, brushing broken glass out of the way to grip the window sill and lean inside. "It's not even dead," he remarked. He signalled the soldiers, and stepped back.

"What's not even WHAT'S NOT EVEN DEAD?!" Dan said then shouted as the soldiers opened fire again. A mass of twitching sludge, red and brown, was worming its way through the window now as specks of fluid and what looked like flakes of bone were blown out of it by the expanding rounds. The soldiers carefully tracked upwards until they were aiming where a human being's head would be located; at the moment their magazines were spent, a human head's worth of dull grey matter, blood, and more bone popped out like a punctured water balloon and the entire thing sloughed back into the booth, out of sight.

Wilford leaned back in to check again. "Dead now," he announced.


A9Asterisk.png

General Wilford cleans the checkpoint console sufficiently to locate the unlocking mechanism, and Alpha-9 proceeds through the turnstile into the facility proper. They enter a vast hangar, utilitarian in design, with a high glass ceiling and dozens of doorways both open and closed. Unidentifiable armoured vehicles fill the hanger, most in a state of advanced disrepair; large portions of the ceiling and surrounding walls have caved in on top of them, and the floor is littered with rubble and rusted machinery.


A9Asterisk.png

"So, theories?" said Dan, smearing his labcoat with brown slime as he attempted to scrape it off with a pencil.

"Dr. Gat has an idea," Light's voice informed them.

"Please don—" Dan said quickly, but not quickly enough.

"Having experientially and experimentally established this establishment's military motif," Gat began.

"Yeah, right, exactly," Dan interrupted. "It's a military thing. All their soldiers are infected with the Tears. We just bumped into a guy who never quite went full-on Unclean — maybe he just didn't have the room, in that booth? — and he heard us arguing. We woke him up."

"You woke him up," said Wilford.

"And you blew him to smithereens, so we can neither confirm nor deny Dr. Gat's theory."

"Would you rather I'd let him eat you? Let me know before we run into another one."

"You didn't even let me state my theory," Gat complained.

"Computer," Rainer called from behind them.

They turned around. Rainer was standing next to another reception desk, this one nestled against a wall beside two doors. One was labelled UTILITY; the lintel of the other bore the legend HIS HOLY PROVING GROUND in black block letters. Rainer was fiddling with a computer monitor, and kneeling down to examine something below the desk.

"Working?" Dan asked, coming around to join him.

Rainer produced two halves of a frayed power cable, not unexpectedly covered in dark brown slime. He shrugged. "Not so much."

"Can you fix it?"

Wilford crossed his arms and leaned them on the desk. "How could he fix it, egghead?"

Dan put a hand on Rainer's shoulder. "This kid can do anything, jarhead."

Rainer stood up, blushing. "I mean…" He examined the cable in his hand, held the broken ends up to the dim light from the ceiling, and nodded thoughtfully to himself. "Yeah." He looked at the prongs; there were four of them, two thin, two thick. He nodded again, more confidently. "Yeah!"


A9Asterisk.png

Dr. Dan queries Control about entities visible on the camera feed but invisible to Alpha-9. Control assures him that he will be informed should such entities appear, and forbids him to repeat the query again.

SCP-4051 manifests a singularity and draws out a four-pronged power cable. SCP-4494 remarks that both their reaches transcend dimensional boundaries, and embraces SCP-4051 enthusiastically. Assorted irrelevant remarks from Alpha-9 are made, and SCP-4051 attaches the new power cable to the computer and attempts to boot it up.


A9Asterisk.png

The screen flickered to life, revealing a simple but effective bootup screen.

FaithfulOS.jpg

"Let's see what the unpleasant revelation generator has for us today." An unfamiliar interface cropped up around the wallpaper, and Dan fiddled with it for a moment before locating what looked like a networked journal application. He opened the most recent file and scrolled for a few moments, muttering to himself, before hitting the end and scrolling back up a bit. He cleared his throat, and began to read aloud.

"Quintilus the first. The Chosen have arrived today, three score in number. His Holy Militia will learn much from them, and we will pay those heretics in the City of Bernard's Hunt the true wages of sin."

Dan rolled his eyes.

"Quintilis the third. The Master—"

"Quintilis?" said Lucretia.

"Fifth month. Uh, May." Dan cleared his throat again. "The Master of the Workings informs me that the renovations are complete. We now have centralized control over the water-to-Tears ratio for every font in the facility. I have instructed the Master of the Militia to keep careful record of which Militiamen have volunteered for the Tears, and which have not; we will adjust the ratios accordingly, to ensure an even application."

The soldiers exchanged glances; Dan didn't notice.

"Quintilus the fourteenth. The Chosen are restless. Are there heretics among the Militia, sowing suspicion in their ranks? It matters not. Once the lessons begin, they will lose their capacity for discord."

"The hell does that mean?" said Carlotta.

"Quintilus the twenty-first. We have begun the lessons, with the aid of the Chosen. If the Militia is to remain free from sin, they must learn to combat it effectively."

The Specter was clenching and unclenching his fists. Dan didn't notice that, either.

"Sextilis the fourth. The Chosen are nearing the end of their useful lives. We no longer have accommodations large enough to contain them. It is time for the final lesson." He closed the application, and sighed. "These people and their fucking euphemisms." He reached under the desk, flicked a switch, and pressed a button on the keyboard. An unholy screech from somewhere beyond the utility door made everyone but Dan jump, and the soldiers pointed their rifles at it.

"Printer," said Dan. He pulled a camera out of his satchel, snapped a single shot of the computer, then gestured at the pair of doors. "Shall we continue the tour?"


A9Asterisk.png

Alpha-9 retrieve Dr. Dan's printouts from the utility room, then move through the second doorway into a narrow hallway. There are no further doors until the passage ends. There are sprinklers staggered every few metres on the ceiling, and corresponding drains on the floor; a control panel with unfamiliar pictographic labels and a blinking light is embedded into the wall. General Wilford asks why there would be fire suppression systems in an empty hallway; Dr. Dan agrees that there wouldn't be, and suggests that Alpha-9 avoid standing directly beneath the sprinklers. All members comply, and they reach the next door without incident.

The door is unlocked, and proper breaching protocol is followed. The room beyond is two storeys tall, an open plan with a mezzanine floor in typical prison fashion — except that the central space is much larger. The concrete floor is scarred, and bullet holes are evident. Large barred cells line the walls of both levels, some intact, some filled with rubble where their rear walls have caved in.


A9Asterisk.png

"A picture begins to form," said Wilford, examining one of the collapsed tunnels.

"I wonder how many of the Unclean started here," Dan agreed, and Wilford had to fight his natural urge to grimace. Don't agree with me.

"Fill FNGs in?" said Popescu. "Not all have doctorates or general stars."

Dan waved at the cells. "The Chosen," he explained. "Test subjects, looks like they escaped in the end. Whoever ran this place was giving extra Tears to the prisoners, and having the Holy Militia fight them. For training."

"Sounds like something they'd try back home," Wilford remarked, keeping a light tone. "Maybe we should write up a joint decommissioning/training proposal."

Dan glared at him. "Not funny."

Wilford bared his teeth. "I forgot, you prefer to spring your SCPs on the soldiers without warning."

For a moment, Wilford actually thought Dan might try to attack him. For a moment, he wanted it to happen. Dan's fists were clenched, but he made no move to advance. "This is pissing me off as much as it's pissing you off," the scientist snapped. "This mess has D-Class written all over it."

"I still haven't heard an acceptable explanation for what "D-Class" means," 4494 interjected.

Wilford nodded. "Well, we're not going to tell you here. We still need your help."

The Specter's fedora tipped down menacingly. "So, you think I wouldn't help you if I kn—"

They all heard it; a loud click at the far end of the prison, behind the door corresponding to the one they'd entered from. Wilford immediately remembered the blinking light, and winced. The soldiers took position around the agents, rifles raised, faces set in grim determination.

"Have we seen enough?" Wilford asked.

"I'd like at least one more data point," Dan responded.

Of course you would.


A9Asterisk.png

A hairless humanoid being in a military uniform with pale, distended skin emerges from the door. Upon perceiving Alpha-9, it raises an unfamiliar firearm and speaks sharply in an unknown language. General Wilford gives the order to fire.

The being is immediately felled by Tau-1, and a second vaults over its corpse to launch itself into the centre of the prison. General Wilford gives the order to disperse, and engage at will. The second being effectively avoids all gunfire, and closes the space between itself and SCP-4494 without visibly moving through it. SCP-4494 disappears in a burst of smoke, re-appears on the mezzanine level, and decapitates the being with a single pistol shot. The resultant spatter is red, black and orange.

The far wall of the lower floor explodes outward, showering Alpha-9 in particulate debris, and an indeterminate number of new beings enter the prison. Simultaneously, a door on the mezzanine floor opens and further beings attack SCP-4494, who begins manifesting and de-manifesting rapidly to disorient them and achieve better vantage points for further calculated shots. All beings carry firearms; they do not make use of them, instead engaging in melee combat.

One being visibly stretches through the centre mass of a Tau-1 agent, causing no apparent harm, to appear directly in front of SCP-4051. SCP-4051 staggers backward and falls, and the being drops over him. It opens its mouth, and a bright orange liquid begins to drip down. SCP-4051 places both hands on the being's chest, and apologizes; there is a flash of light, and the being disappears. SCP-4051 rolls aside to avoid the liquid.

Agent Deneb fells another being with several targeted shots, and retrieves its firearm. Dr. Dan announces loudly that he now has more than enough additional data points, and he recommends a retreat. Control makes this a direct order, and the soldiers fall in around the agents in protective formation. There are now over one dozen beings in the prison, and they are advancing. General Wilford expends his ammunition, and as he attempts to reload, a being appears directly in front of him and seizes him by both arms. It begins to stretch back towards its comrades, but its movement is arrested when it is suddenly punctured by many small Sarkic tentacles manifested by Agent Popescu. Further tentacles surround and protect General Wilford, drawing him back into formation; the being completes its snap back to position, tearing its own flesh through Agent Popescu's tentacles such that it splatters against the prison wall when its motion is complete.

Surrounded on the mezzanine floor, SCP-4494 demanifests into smoke and disappears into a ceiling vent. The remainder of Alpha-9 and Tau-1 retreat back through the entrance hallway. Dr. Dan shuts the door and ushers the team ahead, back into the hangar. He examines the control panel; after a moment, he presses a single button and enters the hangar himself.

Camera feed shows a clear fluid ejected from the sprinkler system before the door is closed. Screaming is heard from the hallway as the team retreats through the hangar.


A9Asterisk.png

"We're done," Dan shouted as they jogged past the endless rows of alien war machines. "Whether they're following or not, we're done."

"What about The Specter?" Rainer cried miserably. He looked ready to head back into the melee.

"He'll be fine," Light assured him over the radio. "Focus on egress, he'll find you later."

Wilford nodded brisk agreement. "We've used up a lot of ammo."

"There might be further targets of opportunity," Light added, "but you've done good work for one day. Come home."

The walls echoed with their footsteps, the regular rhythm bouncing back to them hypnotically. It took a sharp "STOP" from Light to bring them back to reality. "Whether you're being pursued or not, you need to move cautiously now. The Unclean is still up ahead."

Wilford looked… Dan squinted at him. Yes, Wilford looked embarrassed. Not so impassive now, huh. Dan took a deep breath. "One last push, everybody."

In single file, in silence, they returned to the scene of their first real trial.

The dust had settled. The ooze had turned solid, and dark brown.

The Unclean was gone.


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Alpha-9 move into the centre of the foyer, examining the room for new damage. The wall formerly occupied by the Unclean shows signs of further structural stress, and is covered in dark brown fluid. The reception desk, portrait, and computer have been flattened. No obvious sign of egress for a creature of the Unclean's size can be seen.

The camera feed shows hundreds of pale, faceless humanoid figures surrounding Alpha-9, filling the room from wall to wall, gazing fixedly at Dr. Dan and stepping aside to allow each team member to pass. The team members do not appear to notice.


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Light gaped at the monitor. "Should we tell him?"

"I wouldn't," said Gat.


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Lucretia fought the urge to place a reassuring hand on Rainer's shoulder. The kid looked like he'd lost his best friend, but this wasn't the time to condescend to him. They still had a job to do.

A violent clanging sound made them all jump, and as half a dozen nearly-spent rifles swung around to face the hole in the wall where a metal grating had been just moments prior, a thick plume of smoke resolved into a familiar debonair silhouette.

The Specter laid a hand on Rainer's shoulder. "You fought well, friend!"

The kid grinned up at him with obvious relief. "Are you kidding? You must have taken out half a dozen of them."

"Nine," the Specter corrected him. "But I had the benefit of distance! You defeated your foe close-up, in the scrum, where one's mettle is truly tested!"

"Huzzah," grumbled Dan, as they started to move again. "Take it easy with the exclamation marks? We still don't know where that thing went."

This time trouble waited until no-one was talking to make itself heard. An unholy screeching-shattering-smashing sound reverberated through the building, and one of the dormitory doors swung open apropos of nothing. The soldiers checked it out, but the cause was already obvious; the foundation was shifting beneath their feet. Lucretia put one hand on the nearest wall. It was vibrating. "Not good," she remarked as a low rumbling became the high roar of architecture under serious stress.

"Double time," Wilford agreed. "Or better."

They began to run.

The scale of the dormitory had been oppressive, the first time through; all those empty rooms, all that silent space. Now the only measurement that mattered was the length of the central passage, and it was far too long by half…

Lucretia felt the next vibration in her bones, first, then in the flesh of potentiality which distinguished her from her non-Nälka colleagues, then in her ears as it resolved into a bellow to put a lighthouse foghorn to shame. Whorls of dust blew past them down the hall, disturbed by the impossibly loud and impossibly low roar.

Something Lucretia had been mulling over in her mind finally clicked, and as they reached the damaged end of the complex she began to flex her muscles in preparation.


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Control orders General Wilford to activate his camera transmitter, and place the camera on his back. He complies, and Control begins receiving a second video feed. The far end of the hallway is now dominated with the vast torso of an Unclean, presumably the specimen first encountered in the foyer. It is phasing incompletely through the walls, floor and ceiling of the structure, by turns tearing them apart or passing through them without incident. It is attempting to crawl through the passage, which is far too small to accommodate its bulk, and its skin is resultantly stretched so thin that individual humanoid forms are clearly visible swimming beneath the surface. It continues to bellow as it pursues Alpha-9 towards the portal.

General Wilford gives the order to open fire, and the soldiers comply. The bullets strike the Unclean, pass beneath its flesh, and disappear without effect.

It becomes apparent that Alpha-9 will be unable to reach the portal before the Unclean overtakes them. General Wilford orders Tau-1 to take defensive positions behind several piles of broken machinery, to allow Alpha-9 the opportunity to escape. SCP-4494 and SCP-4051 immediately protest, but Control orders them to comply.

Alpha-9 reaches the portal, Agents Popescu and Deneb lagging behind. Agent Popescu tells the team to return to Area-09, then runs swiftly back towards the soldiers. She manifests a series of broad tentacular appendages from her arms, forming a mesh, and brings it between the soldiers and the advancing Unclean. She tells General Wilford to retreat; a brief argument ensues, during which time the Unclean reaches Agent Popescu's barrier and thrusts itself against it. Agent Popescu strains against the Unclean, expanding her barrier to hold it back; orange liquid begins to drip between the cracks in her flesh.

The soldiers now have no angle of fire on the Unclean, and General Wilford orders a retreat. The Unclean is attempting to phase through Agent Popescu's barrier, and she is adjusting to compensate. The ceiling collapses, and a pipe containing congealed brown fluid bursts over both combatants. The Unclean absorbs the material, and grows larger; Agent Popescu's fleshcrafts wither where the fluid touches them and she falls to the ground, the barrier receding back into her arms.

The Unclean leans down over her prone form, an opening appearing in its featureless head, and a stream of orange fluid begins to slowly drip down towards her.


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Praise the lord, and pass the holy munitions. What passed for a prayer shot through her mind as Carlotta squeezed the trigger on the alien rifle.

A dart struck the Unclean just above its gaping maw, and the effect was instantaneous. The surface of its skin rippled, and a filthy, pitch-black glob of biological material crashed out of its torso in a rain of what looked like amniotic fluid. The beast reared back, flicking the stream of orange muck meant for Lucretia against the walls and ruined ceiling as it screamed in what sounded very much like human pain. It swept one massive tree-trunk arm in her direction, and she ducked, hands over her head in an instinctive defensive gesture; she was wrenched up into the air, and she realized the rifle she was holding was now embedded in the creature's flesh.

There was no time to think. She swung her legs up, pressed her boots against the roiling bag of maggoty flesh, and kicked. The rifle tore free, or at least half of it did, and she fell to the filthy floor with a painful crunch. She felt—

No time to feel, either.

She crawled onto Lucretia's back, reached under her arms, and tried to lift her. She knew it was impossible, Lucy was half again her weight…

Lucretia pushed up off the floor, her muscles straining, a carpet of Sarkic flesh spreading beneath them both like a bloodstain, and she skidded to her feet in the oily mess. She grabbed Carlotta roughly by the midsection, hefted her bodily off the floor, and ran hell for leather back to the portal.


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The Unclean recovers from its injury, re-absorbing the lost mass and resuming its pursuit of Alpha-9. Agents Popescu and Deneb cross the threshold as the Unclean reaches the portal, and Dr. Dan retrieves SCP-093.

The mirror returns to a reflective surface.

Video ends.



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