Old Faces, New Foes
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rating: +35+x

Old Faces, New Foes


Asterisk.png

Office of the Director, ETTRA, Area-09


Eyes glued to a file, a cup of black coffee cooling rapidly in front of him, Dr. Dan ██████ was lost in another world — literally — until a voice from right beside his ear jolted him back.

"JESUS!" he shouted, nearly falling out of his desk chair.

The voice said something else, or perhaps the same thing again: "What the hell are you reading?"

The Director of the Emergent Threat Tactical Response Authority glared over his shoulder at his boss and fellow Director: Sophia Light, she of Project Resurrection and MTF Alpha-9 ("Last Hope"). "Why you sneaking up on people?"

"I knocked. Twice, actually. Then I came in, and even said 'hello.' Not my fault you're preoccupied."

He shook his head. He sipped his coffee. He groaned. "Ugh. Cold sludge. You should demote the cafeteria workers to—"

"You should demote your out-of-date jokes first. I'll get you some hot fresh sludge if you tell me what's so engrossing you flagrantly disobeyed my R&R order to read it."

"Reading is relaxing, Director Light."

"Cute. Now spill."

Dan briefly considered spilling the coffee, then flipped the file closed so she could get a look at the cover. She picked it up and sat down in a chair across the desk from his own. "Ah. SCP-093, nightmare fuel in the form of post-apocalyptic landscapes and religious hyperzealotry."

"Figured I should read up, since you're tasking ETTRA with investigating and neutralizing this fun stuff after Bowe implied he'd revenge-sicced it on us."

She laughed to cover her surprise. "I've issued no such orders."

"No, but you will."

She sighed, and opened the file to a still frame of a giant humanoid torso dragging itself along a sandy desert. "Christ. I'll never get used to those things."

"If we do our job right, you won't have to." He kicked his feet up on the desk; the coffee mug jumped dangerously at the impact. "But if Bowe wasn't bluffing, we'll almost certainly have to deal with them at some point."

"This is terrific. 'Little to no response from conventional firearms' …so how do we deal with them?"

"We might have a few options in that regard. For now, though, I think some reconnaissance is in order."

"You can dictate a list of equipment and manpower for ETTRA as soon as you get back."

He put on a false expression of wonder. "Back from what?"

"Taking the rest of the day off. You look like shit. Again." She stood and walked to the door, taking the file with her.

"I can just look it up on SCiPNET, Sophia."

"Not with your access revoked, you can't."

"What?!"

She looked pleased at his discomfiture. "Oh, relax. It's only for eighteen hours." She pulled open the door to reveal a pair of uniformed Area-09 security personnel. "Gentlemen, please escort Dr. Dan to his quarters."

"I don't need any goddamn babysitters!"

"If he resists, you have my permission to use the taser." She glanced back at him. "Notice I told them not to shoot you. Wasn't that nice of me?"

The officers glanced at each other, then at Dan. He sighed, powered down his laptop, and grabbed his labcoat off the back of the chair. "I will visit upon you such a vengeance."

"Yes, yes, how terrifying." She stepped into the hall. "See you tomorrow."


Asterisk.png

Cafeteria, Area 09


Lucretia Popescu turned to face the cafeteria entrance to watch two guards pushing a middle-aged man down the adjoining corridor as respectfully as he would let them. He was shouting something about "personal goddamn space" as they prodded him past the door.

A cold French fry bounced off her forehead. "What in fucking hell?"

"If you're not paying attention to me, you're asking for trouble."

Carlotta Deneb, one-time UIU tracker and profiler, was smiling at her and holding up a stack of flash cards. They sat across from each other at a small corner table, the remains of their meal crowding the space.

"You see old fuck yelling in hall? Looking to be under arrest."

"I didn't, because I thought we were working on your English."

"скучная фигня."

"Hey, I've paid enough attention to know when you're swearing at me."

"So what? This boring way to spend day."

"We've only been doing it for half an hour, come on. You'd rather someone was shooting at us?"

Carlotta and Lucretia were members of a relatively new ad hoc Alpha-9 squad. Only a week earlier they'd been flung into a series of alternate dimensions and nearly killed; that had been their first assignment. They'd both gained something valuable from the experience.

"No, I would not rather. Just tedious."

"Hey, this was your idea, dear." Carlotta playfully kicked at the big woman's combat boots under the table.

It was Lucretia's turn to smile. "You are playing the footsies, da?"

Carlotta laughed. "No da. Just a few more cards, and we can call it quits."

Lucretia blew out a breath. "You gonna learn Russian? Or Romanian?"

"Sure, if you teach me." Carlotta smiled brilliantly at her. "But first, the next card."

Lucretia groaned. American girls flirting is too much like school. "Okay. Three more. Then we spar."

Carlotta rubbed her arm, still sore from the last sparring match. "Sure, but I'm wearing pads this time."

"Whiny American."

"Communist hag."

Lucretia shrugged. "Okay, okay. Hit me."


Asterisk.png

SCP-4494’s Quarters, Area-09


"No, friend Rainer! It's best to hit Creepers from a distance, so they can't harm your fortifications!"

SCP-4494 sat ramrod-straight in front of a large television screen hooked up to a gaming PC. On the couch next to him, controller in hand, was Rainer Miller — SCP-4051. They too were recent recruits to Alpha-9.

"With what? I spent so much time making these diamond swords, I thought I'd see how good they are."

The cloaked and fedora'd shadow man laughed. "With a bow and arrow! One need not vanquish evil eye-to-eye! Why do you think The Specter employs his trusty pistols on the doers of evil?"

"Fine, make me one." Rainer tried to hand the controller to his dusky friend.

The Specter refused it. "A weapon crafted by your own hands is far more effective than one only merely given to you."

"What's that? Sun Tzu?"

"Who? That's The Specter's Eleventh Law of Fighting Crime!"

Rainer looked askance at him. "How many are there?"

"Fifty-two!"

"Wow. Well, you can tell me about them later. Wait… you made those pistols?"

The other anomalous agent's blank face somehow looked evasive, now. "I mean… they are me, so to speak. So, yes! You could say that I did."

Rainer laughed, and began rebuilding the wall the Creeper had obliterated. "Okay, but after I fix this, you're telling me how to make the damn bow."

One gloved hand struck his back firmly. "A fair compromise!"


Asterisk.png

Archives, Area-09


Sophia shook her head. "What are you even doing here? The emergency ended days ago, I thought you'd gone back to your Site."

Dr. Irving Gat did not look up from his computer monitor. "Well, Director Light, I've been recruited by a most prestigious enterprise operated out of this very (fine) facility!"

She didn't stop to ask how he'd put the impression of parentheses in her head. He was, she had come to understand, just like that. "Does anyone follow protocol around here? I issued your reassignment papers three days ago. Who, might I ask, thinks they can overrule me?"

"Why, you, of course!" Gat sipped from a teacup wafting an oolong aroma. He still hadn't made eye contact with her.

"Irving. Look at me."

He finally did so.

"What are you talking about? And try to keep it as straightforward as you can. No," she added as he opened his mouth, "more straightforward, please."

He took a moment to recollect his thoughts. "Well, you're the Director of Project Resurrection — which, after the gloriously grandiose cataclysm at Site-19, now envelops ETTRA in its organizational umbrella — and the head of said Authority was kind enough to suggest I stay and consult a while, so long as my sworn duty to assist with Alpha-9 takes priority."

"Dan, you son of a…" She shook her head again. "Wait. Did you tell him I'd ordered you back?"

"I did indeed! But he responded, and I quote: 'Nonsense, Director Light would be ecstatic to know you're still available'. And then he processed my paperwork."

"That man is going to give me an aneurysm." She knew by now that Dan only called her 'Director Light' in statements which were at least fifty percent sardonic. She closed her eyes and massaged them, anticipating the now-inevitable tension headache. "Okay. Did he say why he needed your consultation?"

Gat turned the monitor towards her; she was unsurprised to see the SCP-093 database file. "He claims that a nebulous and unknowable entity seems to be pulling the strings in this mysterious other world, defying the capacity of his considerable faculties to rationally comprehend. And as you know, I specialize in the irra—"

"I know, I remember. But it's ridiculous, you should've known I wouldn't authorize this."

Gat blinked. It felt like a micro-stall for time. "I had… suspicions? However! The paperwork was so very convincing, and I told myself 'Dr. Gat! You charming rapscallion! Wouldn't you rather offer the redoubtable Director Light your copious experience in the neutralization and containment of eldritch messianiac figures, than go slinking back to Site-⌘?" She winced to hear the name — 'Looped Square' — said out loud. "And I answered: 'Why, Dr. Gat! You silver-tongued inveterate defeater of devils! What a prescient suggestion. I do indeed prefer to proffer such services to the very capable Director of Project Resurrection'. And that was, as they say, that."

Sophia stopped the growl before it escaped her throat, but only just barely. She looked around the research cubicle to avoid looking at Gat, and saw a bedroll rolled up next to an overnight bag. "That ass. Did he not even set you up in the dorm?"

"He murmured something about 'logistics not being his bailiwick', and left me here."

"Of course he did. Sleep is something else his considerably faculties have trouble with. Well, come on, let's get you someplace to bunk if you'll be gracing us with your… continued presence."

He started to respond, but stopped when she held up one hand. "One more word, and you're shipping out on the next transport. Stamped as cargo, if necessary."

He made a theatrical zipping motion across his lips, locked down the terminal, and smiled happily at her.

The Sarkic is easier to herd than these two. She gestured for Gat to follow her, and walked out of the room with him close on her heels.


Asterisk.png

Staff Dormitories, Area-09

The next morning


"What does that even mean?"

Lucretia paused her stride down the hall and turned to look back at Carlotta. "'Руки не доходят'?"

Her partner laughed. "Yes, the Russian phrase you said out loud to me not five seconds ago. What did that mean?"

"Uh… arms do not reach? Da, close enough."

"Weirdly, that doesn't help my confusion at all."

"It means, um… 'no time for that'? Sort of."

"You don't have time for our boss getting pushback over having a Sarkic on the team?"

"Da. Fucking off with that. You Foundation, always looking sideways at Sarkic girl." Lucretia ran a hand through her short black hair. "Exhausting. Do I feed on babies? Nyet. Do I built meat guns to kill agents in sleep? Nyet."

"Meat guns?"

"Don't worry about it. But all I get is distrust. Romanian Sarkic save world—"

"With help."

Lucretia inclined her head and smiled. "Da, not alone. But still can't get even a little rope?"

"Rope? Oh, you mean slack."

"Slack! Yes. Give me slack!"

"Give them time. Up until now, most of us have only heard horror stories about people with your abilities. Everyone needs to get used to the idea that you're just another person."

"Wait 'til they hear I gay. Can't wait!" Lucretia started down the hall again, trusting Carlotta would follow. "Not that is so fun being gay in Russian underground brotherhood." She paused. "Or Russia period."

Carlotta grabbed her hand, and squeezed. "It's not just Russia, Lucy."

Lucretia nodded, and started to say something else when a sudden scream erupted from behind The Specter's closed dorm room door.

Lucretia pivoted, reared back and placed a devastating kick right beside the handle. The frame splintered, the door swung inward, and she burst past it as her arms grew to twice their usual size. She raised her fists and—

The Specter turned to stare at her with wide… face. Rainer, next to him on the couch, was cursing blithely at the television screen. "Fucking Wraiths! I was gonna sleep! I was trying to get back to my fucking bed!"

Carlotta lowered Lucretia's fists with her own open palms. Rainer glanced at them, registering the broken door for the first time. His eyes widened, and then another sound from the screen distracted him. "This game is hard! I thought it was for kids?"

"The struggle against Evil is never easy! That's Rule Fifteen."

Lucretia gaped at them. "Is eight in morning! Why you yelling over game?"

"That's what boys do, Lucy." Carlotta was about to steer her back into the hall when all four of their phones pinged simultaneously. Three of them looked down at their pockets; The Specter looked down at his shadowy self.

Carlotta opened her phone, and keyed open the SCiPNET app. She read the new notification. Her eyes widened.

"Well, that's interesting."


Asterisk.png

Director's Quarters, ETTRA, Area-09


Dan had another cup of virgin coffee. It was still outrageous swill, but it was at least hot this time. He stared at his laptop screen, watching the timer count down on his temporary security revocation. He suppressed, just barely, the urge to paint the white walls bean-black.

"Dammit! This is like a fucking time-out!" He'd been reduced to entertaining himself old-school the previous night, which meant watching a movie. A superhero movie. He shuddered at the memory.

Finally, his computer pinged him the happy news that he'd been released from purgatory. The moment he logged back into SCiPNET, it pinged again.

Dan sipped his swill and smiled. “Told her so.”



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