Halfway Found, Halfway Lost
rating: +20+x

9th of September, 1984

Somewhere in the caverns under Nowa Oleszna, Poland

"…worth, Asheworth!"

A buzzing sound that filled his head grew more defined, as did her voice that only now entered his ears. Daniel Asheworth rubbed his eyes to adjust to the blinding white light descending upon him and stood up from the rocky ground he had been laying on. Judging by his back being overwhelmed by numbness, he guessed that he must have been laying there for a long time.

"What… what happened?" he asked in confusion as he looked around the place he had woken up in. He appeared to be standing in a room no different from the one he had just been sitting in. The cave was rather small, by his estimate, extending merely ten meters in both directions, with the ceiling standing approximately four meters tall.

"Don't you dare tell me you don't remember any—" Jessie Rivera replied harshly, getting up from the ground where Daniel had sat just moments ago. Her purple eyes drilled into him as she attempted to discern whether memory loss was a real possibility here. Her mind strained to recall her training as a psychologist as she explored all the possibilities of Daniel’s question.

"Oh, no, no, that's… that's— alright, let me reword that: how did we get from the crypt to here?" Asheworth answered, backing out a few steps and nearly tripping on the bits of the crypt floor that protruded clearly from the ground. "That's pretty much the last thing I remember."

A feeling of overwhelming relief filled Rivera's soul. She looked at him with a small, almost unnoticeable spark of happiness lurking in her eyes. "Thank God…" she whispered to herself. "Well, the crypt floor collapsed due to an earthquake of some sort and you fell unconscious."

"Well," Daniel replied, extending his arm into the left pocket of his jacket and digging around for something. "It looks like we're not getting out of here anytime soon." He took out a broken device from his clothing, spilling elements of the screen onto the ground below.

"What? Why?"

"Well, uh, how to say it… my… my phone broke…"

"Shit."

"Don't you have yours on you though?"

"Right, right…" Rivera said as she began to search her bag for the potentially broken phone. Tossing aside sandwiches and project notes for half a minute, she found what she had been looking for. "Got it. Give me a second— nope, of course not," she laughed nervously. "Of-fucking-course not. Tell me, Asheworth, who at Ontokinetics designs phones that can be used in literal non-dimensions but not in fucking caves?"

"Blaming it on someone really won't help us, Jes. Especially considering that we're stuck."

"Yeah, I, I know… but it looks like the flashlight's working. Thankfully," Jessie said, illuminating the previously unseen spaces of the dark cavern with a blinding light.

"Can you look around?" the second doctor replied, protecting his still sensitive eyes with one outstretched hand. His other dug in his pocket searching for his gloves, only finding one of the two. He noted in his memory to make sure for the next pair to have runes engraved onto them with utmost precision. Magic, or as they made him call it, "thaumaturgy" wasn't quite as effective when the circle of symbols was broken.

"Yeah, uh, sure," she said, redirecting the beacon of light towards the walls of the cavern; instead, she found that the cavern was rocks all the way down with no exit in sight. "Nope, no exit. Fuck." Rivera muttered before collapsing onto the stone floor.

They both sat silently in the darkness for a moment, until her voice filled the cavern again. "We're gonna die here, aren't we?"

"You still have supplies in that backpack of yours, right? Mine got lost in the crypt it seems… I mean, if you have some food and water, and the Foundation will go searching for us, then we might just make it alive! R-right?" Ashworth said, but he knew, deep down, that the chance of his coworkers noticing their disappearance quickly was very slim. Foundation personnel, especially those from the Department of Ontokinetics, had a history of disappearing for weeks or even months or a regular basis. Hell, even Asheworth, one of the most careful bastards within the entire Site wasn't a stranger to the idea of time-space fuckery. Still, his calculative mind tried to find every single way out; he was not ready to give up hope just yet.

"Daniel, I hate to break it to you, but you know that the chance that Micheals, let alone Cornwell, will actually check on us is, like, equal to zero, right? After Białystok they're not gonna report us disappearing for one day," she said, looking at Asheworth, anger filling her eyes. She could never stand his positivity. "I don't even mention the Regional Director, let alone anyone else from 120-"

"Hey, but there's some rubble from the crypt's floor here. And it looks like it actually has those weird Sarkic-Christian symbols like I suspected. Y-you know, the ones like those from 5936?

"Daniel, not to be an asshole, but I really don't fucking care. There's no exit from here, do you understand? We're trapped!" she shouted at him, not being able to hold the emotions together any longer.

"I suppose you're right…"

Silence filled their prison with the only sounds being those of Asheworth's pen hitting the paper of his notebook and Rivera's footsteps. After ten minutes of looking around, she gave up and sat down near her work partner.

"Well, if we're not going to leave this place, who was it?" she asked right as her body touched the ground.

"What?"

"Who did you lose? As in, you know, to see 5936?"

"Uh… why-why are you even asking?"

"Out of sheer curiosity. You're one mysterious man, you know that, Asheworth?"

"It's not like it will get out, I guess, plus if you're asking then, well," he sighed, finally deciding to spit it out. "Sparky was, he, well- wait, wait, wait, wait, I can feel wind!"

"Yeah, and what of it? Also, don't just stop here," she added, disappointed that she was most likely going to die with a man she knew almost nothing about.

"Well, it has to be coming from somewhere, right?"

"That's not how it— I mean you are technically right, but—"

"Oh, no problem for finding us a way out of this grave of ours, asshole," he said, mocking her. "I think it's coming from there," Daniel said, pointing at one of the walls of the place. "Help me out here."

"Fair enough."

Though the work was not easy, after three hours of sweating, swearing, and generally being angry at whoever gave them life, the duo successfully managed to move all boulders out of the way. Though the effort was worth the reward, their hands did not like it; they were covered with blisters and bruises. As the doctors looked through the tunnel they had uncovered, a strong breeze passed through their hair, finally giving them a feeling of freshness the cave had so deeply lacked.

"Could you, uh, shine there with that flashlight of yours?"

As the light filled the dead-dark corridor, they could clearly see a tunnel built with a material unlike anything they had ever seen before; the bricks lit up as though they were yellow, blue, orange, grey, and colorless all at the same time. It felt like they didn't belong here; like they were out of this world.

When the first beam of light touched the ceiling, three round objects, each approximately forty centimeters in diameter, exited the surface, only to stop levitating around three meters from the ceiling; after doing so, they filled the room with light equal to that of a day sky, effectively rendering the flashlight, which Rivera quickly turned off, useless. As the brightness illuminated the room, the place started to feel like it was… alive, with the floor vibrating in a pattern that resembled an arrow telling the duo to continue marching forward.

"Uh… this… this certainly looks promisi—" Just as she was about to finish the last word, her knees suddenly refused to continue supporting her stance. She fell, breaking the flashlight in the process.

"Jessie? Are you-are you alright?"

"Y-yeah, don't worry about me, I'm-I'm fine, really," she said, getting up from the cold floor of the corridor, only to fall to her knees again, scraping them even more.

"You're clearly not fine. Come on, let me help—" he attempted to reply, only to be cut off by Rivera trying to prop herself up with her hand. Just as the hand touched the bottom of the corridor, her jumper's sleeve tucked back, revealing a grey-like skin bruise, affecting the higher part of her wrist.

"Oh, no. No, no, fuck, no! This should not affect humans! This, it, I—" Daniel's thoughts wandered towards their initial purpose of visiting this peculiar city. The first reports of plantlife dying unusually quickly in recent weeks in the proximity of Nowa Oleszna were ironically one of the few good things to happen in a long time — a quick background check on it revealed that surprisingly, Dr. MacCarthy Jr. was seen there shortly after his dissapearence.

Site-120, being the only "big" Foundation Site within the region was, of course, alerted rather quickly. It was nothing special, seeing that reports of unusual events like this were passed on almost every week, though the Regional Command caught attention with it quickly.

Shortly after, all of 120's staff were alerted due to "possible connections with PoI-5936." (or Damien Nowak as every sane person called him). Due to Asheworth's strong obsession with the man, he immediately volunteered. O4 though obviously wouldn't let him go alone into a mission like this, especially due to his… ability to get carried away during Nowak-related activities. Thus, him and Rivera were dispatched onto the site of the operation.

The duo then questioned a couple of people living within the town about the whole situation, disguising themselves as geologists investigating a soil poisoning scenario. From what they found out, it was clear that all plants within a five-kilometer radius had started dying, regardless of any other factors, after an event that took place two months ago. During that time, multiple hooded figures gathered in the forest for a night and were never seen again. Stuff like that wasn't really investigated by locals, due to multiple disappearances being associated with putting your nose in all of that magic nonsense over the years.

Some more snooping around quickly let them understand that plantlife situated closer to the center of the city died quicker. Naturally, they started to look around said center much more closely, and upon a day of searching in the basements of abandoned buildings, they found an entrance to a crypt. A crypt that showed signs of recent activities and had multiple entrances, with one of them leading into the local forests. Everything made more sense then, and so the team thought investigating further was a good idea. Well, it wasn't. Upon Asheworth touching one of the runes he didn't recognize which were engraved onto the walls of the place, the entire floor collapsed.

As the flashback swarmed Asheworth's mind, everything made logical sense now. He snapped back to reality and their current situation.

"Look, if you'll have to leave me behind, I'm fine with that. If that's what needs to be done, I'll understand." Rivera stopped Asheworth's racing thoughts. Though she was never the sacrificial type, she was one of those people that could be extreme when the situation required it.

"That's not even a goddamn option, Jes. I-I think I know of a way to postpone it. It will still affect you, yes, but the thing won't spread from your hand to the rest of your body. I-I think," he said nervously, stuttering a bit.

"A-anything will work."

As Asheworth touched Jessie's arm, her eyes closed out of share tiredness. A humming, drilling yet peaceful sound filled the atmosphere, making its way into her ears. She felt a gentle warmth enter her body, and after three seconds, Daniel told her it was done. The grey infection suddenly stopped hurting, with a numb feeling entering her limbs.

"So, uhh, it will stop the infection from spreading for something like fifteen hours, I'm guessing," her savior said, scratching his head in the process.

"Alright."

Having dealt with their biggest (or smallest, depending on the point of view) problem, the duo headed down the seemingly endless corridor. Seconds turned into minutes, minutes into hours.

"Daniel, not to be an asshole, but we're going in circles," River said in an exhausted monotone. "We've been going non-stop for five hours now, don't you think we could use a little rest? I've been creating this map of the whole cave system and it seems for the most part, we've been looping."

"Look; the sooner we get out from here, the sooner we'll be able to rest, alright?" he replied, attempting to persuade here to his prime ideology: the sooner something is dealt with, the more you can think about how to not have to deal with it in the future.

"Yes, I know," she said, trying to sound as little sarcastic as possible. "Look, I don't care what you're doing, but I'm having a break."

"Alright, alright…" Although Daniel wasn't the easiest person to persuade, he couldn't mask his exhaustion any longer. "You think you could give me one of those sandwiches?"

"Sure."

As Asheworth was about to give the sandwich a first bite, he heard something. His most primal senses started to scream at him. "Someone's coming. Get behind that pillar, now!" he whispered, quickly hiding behind said pillar.

"…which only proves my point, Mark - this whole operation is bullshit," a manly voice muffled by the orange walls came from behind the one the scientists were standing by.

"Look, I'm not the one who gives orders, alright? If you're having a problem with them, ask Now—, I mean, the Grand Master, or better yet - Father. Though I doubt any will listen. Especially after that traitor incident…" Just as those sounds reached the ears of Daniel and Jessie, one of the wall segments opened up to reveal two robed figures: one short, standing approximately a meter and a half meters tall, the other one being around two meters tall. The exact characteristics of their faces were hidden by the hoods of their clothing.

"Also, may I ask how again our work here has anything to do with Lord? This is not the work of our Father, I assure you - that thing is very not what He had in mi—"

"Look, Father takes weird ways to get to his truth, alright? Heaven requires sacrifices, and it seems you aren't one that likes to sacrifice anything."

"I know, but that's not the problem here - the problem here is that everyone'll think we're assholes, goddamnit. Look, if I were a normal person, just minding their own life, thinking about coming home from work, then I would literally hate us. Plus, like, the ritual in Częstochowa doesn't really help our image, you know? People don't really like genocides. Also also, if we're trying to bring Heaven, then wouldn't it just be smarter to reach out to normal pe—" The man stopped halfway through his sentence, looking directly at Asheworth. He pointed his hand at the scientist, and proceeded to look at his colleague and then back at Daniel, repeating the process five times.

"Is-is-is that who I think it is?!" the small person stuttered in confusion.

"Uh, I-I think so…" the taller one replied, looking rather concerned.

"Oh Jesus, oh my Jesus fucking Christ, and he'd heard what we've been talking about—"

"Stop whining, bitchass, and get to actually killing them!"

"That's exactly what I've been trying to say!" the short cultist said as he proceeded to reach out for a pistol.

"Hey, hey-ey! Hey-ey-ey-ey! No need to do that, gentlemen! I'm sure it must be a misunderstanding!" Rivera said, waving her hands in the air, trying to show that no she had no weaponry upon her. "There must be some way we can help each other, right?" Her past sociological training attempted to help her in the situation.

"Oh, you know there's a need for that, motherfuckers!" the taller one replied, trying to find his weapon too. "What are you even waiting for, idiot?! Shoot him!"

As the deafening sound of two pistols firing filled the air around the group, the bullets suddenly disappeared. Everyone looked at each other in disbelief. When all four backed up from their previous stances, a deafening, pulsing sound, reminiscent of a security system alarm filled the air around them. As the siren's scream filled their ears, the gun was gone. A shard of glass off of Asheworth's phone he'd been keeping in his pocket - erased. Every single item that could be considered sharp or somewhat threatening disappeared.

Even if the scientists tried their hardest to precisely describe what happened next, they would fail. The best way for a human to talk about the following event would be to say that "reality started to fail," but that wouldn't describe it well enough. One could say the cultists disappeared - that would, of course, be a valid description. Another: that Asheworth and Rivera suddenly found themselves in multiple places at the same time, then suddenly landing in a previously unexplored tunnel. If a particularly perceptive observer were to witness the event, they would say that it would be impossible for them to truly say what their eyes are looking at.

* * *

The duo of Site-120 scientists woke up approximately twenty meters from their previous location. As they stood up from the cold, stone floor, their heads started to be filled with a numb pain. They both looked around themselves, trying to locate where they landed. Luckily, it looked like they hadn't traveled far.

The everpresent blue light started to glow much stronger - the feeling of nausea and weakness threw the duo off, making them back off a little. Though it felt like the entire world turned against them, the only true choice they had was to continue onward.

After what felt like literal centuries, both finally made it into what they could only think of as the center of the entire structure they've been lost in for so long. The hall which they entered was a hemispherical one, measuring approximately fifty meters in every direction, with all of the vein-like blue lights coming together near the center of the room. In the exact geometrical middle of the place there was a glowing, blue orb, slowly but surely growing, pulsing, like a human heart. With every single centimeter of its growth, the light around the hallways felt brighter and more powerful. At the exact moment of them noticing the place, something… felt different. Something felt like it didn't belong here. Something was inside of it. Something that should not be there.

"HARTHHHH'ASO-LEEEEEEE," a murderous scream filled the very being of Asheworth and Rivera's souls. There was no need to search for the source of it; it wasn't a sound, but a direct invasion of their brains.

While their consciousnesses were still adapting to the thought of words being literally put in their minds, thirteen monumentally large limbs emerged from the center of the glowing object in the middle of the room. Alongside them, a disgustingly malformed head and carcass greeted their eyes. Although its precise characteristics were unclear due to the sheer distance between the scientists and the monstrosity, from their current position it seemed like the body of their adversary was made up of multiple human bodies. Around it, multiple unidentified bodies of humanoids with long limbs and skulls were located; all grey, with their life-force seemingly sucked away.

"Jesus fucking Christ—" Jessie attempted to say.

"HOW DARE YOU SPEAK TO ME, YOU FILTHY PEASANT?" the creature cut her off, starting to make its way forward. "YOU DARE ENTER MY PLACE OF RESTING, THE PLACE I'VE BEEN SUMMONED TO, THE PLACE I TAPPED INTO THE POWER OF?!" The being's body was filled with multiple thaumaturgic symbols scattered throughout the many cadavers. Though they seemed to be still pulsating with pure magical energy, they all meant a single sentence: "to be summoned (to a place)."

"A-are ancient creatures always this straightforward about their, uh, properties and stuff?" It was dumb, but it was the only way she could react to what she'd just witnessed.

"Uh… n-no, I don't think so! Why would I know?!" Asheworth answered.

"I don't know, you're the know-it-all when it comes magic bullshit!" Rivera screamed at him, almost running from the place. "What the fuck do we do?!"

"Official answer - no idea!" Asheworth tried to be as reasonable as he could. "But… maybe! Buy me some time!" the man said, starting to whisper something to himself. He was clearly doing something, or rather, preparing to do something, though Rivera had no idea what it was.

She immediately knew what had to be done. Picking the biggest stone she could find on the floor, she threw it with the last ounce of her withering strength at the being, screaming in a vain attempt to give herself more courage.

The demon looked at her in confusion. For a second, its attention was focused completely on her; the sheer thought of something so little trying to attack it in such an idiotic manner made it stop for a moment, trying to understand.

Trembling in every limb, Asheworth, finally prepared it seemed, stepped forward. His hands touched the ground, which suddenly started to flicker around his limbs. From what was mere seconds ago a floor composed of the orange material, a spear came out, creating a small crater around its entry point.

He screamed, with his glove rune starting to flicker frantically. "L-leave, now!" As these words exited his mouth, a flaming circle surrounded both his weapon and his hands.

Upon seeing the little human threatening it like it was equal, the creature laughed.

"Oh?" it said, coming one step closer to Daniel. "Do you think a measly human like you could threaten ME? AFTER ALL THAT TIME GAINING POWER FROM THIS RITUAL, THIS RITUAL THAT CONNECTED ME TO THE LIFE OF BEINGS HERE AND EMPOWERED ME BY THEIR LIFE ENERGY, YOU THINK YOU ARE ENOUGH TO STOP ME?!" The words were stopped by the giant arm swinging at Asheworth, who rolled back in fear.

"Y-yes!" he said as he threw his spear exactly where the being's face would be. Upon coming into contact with skin, the item immediately caught fire, engulfing the being in fire. It screamed. It screamed like nothing the scientists have ever heard before. The sheer force of the hatred and pain and suffering the voice inhabited caused the hall to tremble. Walls started falling alongside stalactites, which greeted the floor of the chamber. Upon the north wall of the room, however, a single crack in the wall filled the place with light; light that seemed like a fury of a thousand suns, light which was unmistakeably that of the surface.

And as Daniel pointed out to the crack in the wall, Jessie's head was filled with a single sentence.

"Let's go!"

* * *

After finally arriving near the surface seen for so long — it might have been literal days — as merely a dying light at the end of the tunnel, the duo of scientists emerged from the dark depths of the caverns. Though that light was brighter than they expected, after a couple of minutes, their eyes were fully adjusted.

"So, uh… what do we do next?" Asheworth asked, scratching his head and looking around the field surrounding the place they had emerged from.

"Obviously attempt contact with the rest." Just as Rivera was about to press the call button on her finally working messaging device, an unknown man, resembling one of the junior researchers Daniel had met at Site-120 approached them quickly.

"I never thought you guys would be so quick to arrive at a one-day disappearance," Daniel said, laughing at the man. The burden of not being responsible for anyone finally escaped his mind, which was one of the greatest reliefs he could've felt.

"How… where…" The man was clearly still catching his breath.

"No, it's alright, we're already fine," Rivera answered the unasked question. "There's no need for any further help, really."

"M-Micheals, we got them. No, I don't know how either. I'll ask them," the newcomer said to his recently pulled out phone.

"What seems to be the issue, though?" Daniel asked, confused. "We've been missing for like, two days."

"Doctor Asheworth, you were off the Foundation radar for six months."

* * *

9th of March, 1985

Site-120's research laboratory, 5 kilometers south-west of Częstochowa, Poland

Though the general consensus was that leaving work in the Foundation for later was rarely a good idea, James Micheals decided he was done for today; staying in the research lab for longer than ten hours would most likely result in permanent brain damage sooner or later. After all, it's not like staying here would make any sort of difference; the Department of Analitycs wouldn't just magically finish their work faster with one more useless person looking hanging about.

As the man finished packing his things up, he stood up from his workplace and grabbed his coat, heading for the door.

When Micheals touched the panel that controlled it however, he heard and felt the familiar sound and vibration of receiving a message. He pulled the work phone from the pocket of his jeans and froze, looking at the screen.

"J-Jeremy, have you absolutely made sure the scanners were properly functioning before I requested the tests?"

"Yes, what seems to be the problem?"

"And are you absolutely sure they ran the tests with those anomalous scanners we got from Regional Command a couple of months ago? You know, the super-accurate ones?"

"What? Why?"

"The results say that the recovered material is both extraterrestrial and twenty-three billion years old."


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