Operation Hades' Gate
rating: +13+x

"Hey, Daniel, wake up. Looks like we're almost there."

Upon hearing these words and feeling a light push on my arm, I opened my eyes, raising my head from the surface it had been resting for the past hours. Somethig heavy was leaning on my right thigh, and it felt like my whole face was covered in fabric.

Then it came back to me.

Mobile Task Force Lambda-5. Operation Hades' Gate. Truck.

Fully awake now, I felt my M4 carbine leaning on my thigh, my right arm clutching the lower receiver. I glanced to the left, to look at the other operatives in the truck. Brody sitting on my left, and two more guys in front of us, White and Jackson, both wearing Lambda-5's uniforms and balaclavas, with the Foundation and the MTF's symbol on their shoulders.

"Two minutes until deployment." Captain Marigold's voice came on the truck's speakers.

The mission wasn't that difficult, from what I understood. It looked like some civilian had found some form of underground structure in a quarry, and the things that popped outta there began killing the whole nearby town. We'd managed to stop that and pushed them back, and even gained some terrain inside their home. But apparently Command found something there that no one knew what to make of it. Took a while, but some higher-up thought it would be interesting if we brought in an "alternative" expert to take a look for them. Hence they wanted Skelly.

Huh, Skelly. Freaky SCP that one. We knew it called itself something else, but it was obvious someone would come up with that. To me, it didn't look that dangerous, if only a little odd. Wondered why we White Rabbits are the ones to put up with it. It wasn't like it had the habit of messing reality now and then. Still, orders were orders, and MTFs aren't there to doubt them.

When the truck came to a halt and the ramp opened up, the squad quickly marched out. First thing I saw when I stepped out was the medical tent. Two guys quickly entered it with an operative in a stretcher, his face all red and his right arm missing. Poor bastard, he was probably part of the initial response team. Hell, either that or more of those things were getting out of there. As we moved closer to the second squad's truck, I took a better look at the rest of the Forward Operations Base the Foundation had set up. Lots of barracks, supplies crates and command tents. Beside what looked like an improvised armory, I could see an M1 Abrams getting patched up. A few meters from where our trucks stopped, a helipad with a chopper getting ready for takeoff. And, of course, in the furthest corner of the quarry, a dark hole leading to whatever structure had been found.

Our eight-men squad assembled in the base's main square. Captain Marigold, the ninth member, stood there with his AK-47 on his back, looking pissed. As usual.

"Listen up, men!" He started. "The package should be coming in at any moment. From there on out, I want full vigilance on the subject!"

A few seconds later, a helicopter carrying what looked like a steel coffin hovered over the base, before quickly landing on one of the helipads. Two operatives in white uniforms stepped out of it, and proceeded to open the coffin. Once it was opened, Skelly stepped out of it.

"What a terrible voyage!" It said, as it adjusted its top hat and retrieved a cane from the box. Each operative then grabbed its arms and dragged it to the captain.

"It appears you are the man with whom I am supposed to cooperate in this assignment, good sir." Skelly said, restrained a few inches from Captain Marigold. "If I may introduce myself, sir, I am Dr. Robert Murth-"

"Alright, you listen to me, SCP-4586." The captain interrupted. "I don't fucking care about what you have to say about who you are. There are only two things you need to understand here. First: we'll bring you inside, you'll do exactly as we ask you to and we'll get you out of there. Second: You try and pull something on one of my guys here with that cane of yours, or just decide not to listen to us anymore and we light up your collar on max voltage. Is that clear?"

"Perfectly, sir." Skelly answered, after a few seconds of silence. Captain Marigold nodded to the two operatives, that released the SCP and returned to the chopper. He then turned to us:

"Alright, Gamma Squad, load your guns. We're going in!"

About three minutes later, we were standing inside the underground facility. The way through the hole hadn't been that remarkable, although I couldn't help but notice the intense smell of rust coming from the breached wall, after a few meters of rock. Who knew how long this thing had been down here? Brody muttered that we should have brought gas masks for this operation, but his complaints were silenced when we arrived at the facility.

The facility, or rather, the room that was breached, was immense. Rectangular in shape, with the ceiling forty —maybe fifty— meters high. Directly across the breach, there was this big, dark corridor, a few Foundation operatives guarding its entrance. On the left side of the room, there were more tents, most filled with researchers and computers. A single tent, probably an internal FOB, contained Foundation security personnel operating several communication devices.

The most remarkable thing, though, was on the right side of the room.

Dozens of lines, hell, maybe thousands of them, were etched on the wall, like circuits, shining with a red light. Every one of them began at pipes of varied sizes that either came from the ceiling, the floor or continued along the darkness of the corridor up ahead. The lines converged on a gleaming red circle in the uppermost part of the wall. A gigantic hexagon stood in the center of the circle, spinning clockwise. Occasionally, small bursts coming from the circle appeared to increase the light coming from the lines, almost as if an electric pulse had been sent by that red center. What the hell was that?

My attention was momentarily diverted by Brody ordering Skelly to get a move on. Apparently, the specimen had been staring at that wall since we entered the facility. I could swear that Skelly looked surprised, despite its emotionless skull. A few meters from the closest tent, a bald doctor wearing glasses, probably the Senior Researcher, approached Captain Marigold and shook his hand.

"Captain. Is this the specimen?" He said, pointing at Skelly.

"Yes, sir." The captain responded, gesturing at the SCP. "4586, come here!"

Skelly approached Captain Marigold, still glaring at the wall.

"This…this is phenomenal, sir!" It spoke, pointing the wooden cane in its right hand towards the circle. "I had never encountered a Runic Decoder of such magnitude in my lifetime!"

"A… Runic Decoder?" The researcher said, frowning at Skelly. "What's that?"

"A device of unimaginable power, doctor!" The specimen quickly responded, finally turning to face the researcher. "It is one of the beating hearts that sustains the Factory, that enables the crafting of the inconceivable!"

Skelly turned back to the wall, its left hand now on the cane's pommel, the other gesturing in the air. "I wonder how a Decoder of this scale was able to be built. Perhaps an employment of Akh'nul, distilled runic energy and- No, that would lead to unpredictable discharges… Even if that were to be corrected, there is still the matter of exposure… A reinforced layer could surely-"

Skelly stopped talking and lowered its hand. For a few seconds, it just stared at the wall, silent.

"Well, 4586, we are as eager to analyze this device as you are." The doctor said, breaking the silence and prompting Skelly to turn around. "We'd like you to assist us in any way possible."

Skelly turned back to face the wall, both of its hands now on the top of the cane. For a few seconds, the specimen kept tapping its right index finger repeatedly at the pommel, as if considering the doctor's request carefully.

"Of course, good doctor! It would be of my utmost pleasure." Skelly answered, quickly turning to the researcher. "However, I believe one would not find it much productive to merely listen to my seemingly incomprehensible thoughts. Were other mediums of communication available to me, your understanding of the complexity of this device would certainly improve, all factors taken into account."

"We'll get you paper to write on, SCP-4586." The researcher said, signaling to the staff in one of the tents.

"Marvelous, sir! I look forward to study this Decoder extensively." The SCP then turned to the wall once more, its only eye rapidly moving as if analysing all the lines at the same time.

Satisfied, Marigold turned to us and began shouting our orders: "Fredericks and Bauer, you two guard the entrance; White, Caldwell and Turner, you stay on the specimen; Norton, Brody and Jackson, make sure the SCP can't bolt straight to the corridor. Move it!"

Yes, sir, I couldn't wait to guard the furthest fucking place from the exit in this hellhole.

Brody, Jackson and I had either been staring at the emptiness of that dark corridor or glancing back to the research camp for about an hour. Not much had changed. We could see a lot of activity in the FOB, personnel moving around with tablets, technicians working on computers and a few officers talking on headsets. The research staff were working quite hard, trying to digitalize or just make sense of the notes Skelly was writing. Shit, they could barely keep up with how fast it was running through the paper they'd given it. Skelly moved around a lot, almost as if it was excited about the wall, whatever that thing was. At first, it looked like the Senior Researcher had been trying to keep up with Skelly's comments, but after a while he gave up and began sending another doctor to pick up the finished notes.

We spoke with the other guards in the area, and they pretty much laid out what was happening with the FOB: an hour or so before we arrived, the Foundation green-lit a plan to send an incursion team through the corridor to explore the rest of the facility. A few minutes later, though, they reported back saying they'd found a gate of sorts and couldn't continue without blowing it up. So they sent another team in with the explosives, but something happened with the load and they were trying to figure out how to get it to the target area without having to end their mission to detonate the payload.

Our mission was going quite well, I thought.

But in just a few minutes, everything went to shit.

We saw more intense activity in the FOB, as security personnel surrounded this technician operating a comm device. It looked like something'd happened with the first squad. Then another tech shouted for the commanding officer about "firearms discharge" in the second squad's position. The officer then ordered the soldiers in the area to take defensive position around the corridor's entrance.

"Captain?" Jackson said, his right hand on the comm in his helmet. "What do we do, sir?"

But before Captain Marigold could answer him, we heard this broken, high-pitched shriek coming from the depths of the corridor. For a few seconds, everyone just stared at the darkness, guns raised.

"Gamma Squad, form up and prepare for exfiltration." The captain slowly spoke on the comm.

We began walking towards Skelly's position, guns pointed at the corridor. However, as soon as we were just a few meters away from its entrance, a creature just lunged out of it. It looked like those we'd seen on the mission briefing, with three grotesque arms and twisted legs, but it had these rusted metal sheets over its skin. The head looked human, but it looked like it had been severely mutilated and sewn together with other pieces of skin.

With unnatural speed, the creature stood up and swatted one of the guards in the area, throwing him a few meters away, and prompting all personnel to open fire on it. For a few seconds, though, that thing endured the firepower, as the bullets hit the metal plates to no effect but the sound.

As we kept firing on the creature, two more jumped out of the corridor, with one of them landing on one of the soldiers preoccupied with the first creature, which now had begun to bolt towards another personnel. Now, we had three targets to shoot at.

Our MTF unit directed fire towards the first creature to have entered the room, as it was the closest to us. The initial hail of bullets probably weakened it, as a few seconds of concentrated fire took it down. Still, we it didn't change much, as another of those monsters had just marched into the room.

As we turned to support whatever security guards were still alive, Caldwell and White decided to flank the creatures in order to buy time for the research and tech personnel to flee the facility. While most of those things were still prety far from the outpost, one that had just exited the corridor lunged towards the FOB. Caldwell tried to hold his ground, perhaps thinking he could lay a shot at the creature's head, but it pinned him to the ground and used its arms to crush his torso. The thing then proceeded to lift one of the tables filled with electronic equipment and threw it right at our position.

"GET DOWN!" Turner shouted as all the squad just dived in multiple ways to escape the rectangular projectile.

As I stood up after having escaped the table, various tablets, phones and computers were still falling down. I quickly turned around to see how everyone else was doing, but it looked like they were all fine. Even Skelly, that was kneeling down on the floor, with its cane over its head, as if protecting its skull from the falling equipment, looked unscathed.

But as I looked back to the corridor, things were much worse than before. More of those things had marched in the room, and fewer than four soldiers were still trying to stop them. If we didn't move, they'd be on us in a matter of seconds.

"Captain! We gotta bounce!" White shouted, firing his M4 in full auto on the closest creature.

"Retreat!" Captain Marigold yelled, throwing a granade in the bulk of the three-arm creatures swarming into the room. "Extract the specimen at all costs!"

Turner, White and Skelly began running towards the entrance, with Bauer and Fredericks providing supporting fire. The captain, Brody and I also covered their exit. We couldn't see where Jackson was. The four remaining soldiers soon turned into two, then one. Then, it was just us.

We focused all our efforts in halting the nearest monster from bolting at us, with White and his Benelli shotgun being the most successful at it. Still, the second he ran of out shells, one of the creatures threw a dismembered body at him, effectively taking him out.

"Get the SCP outta here now!" The captain ordered as he discharged his magazine on the closest creature, which actually fell down quite rapidly. Still, as he approached the incoming group of monsters, one of them just picked him up from the ground and threw him on the wall with ease.

I was the last man between those things and the exit.

My M4 wouldn't hold them for long.

I quickly glanced behind me to look if the others were out yet. I couldn't see them, just a faint light coming from the end of the hole.

I could make it.

Just a few meters.

They won't get me in time

Fuck, was I wrong.

About a second after I turned around to sprint towards the exit, I felt a hand, more like a claw, gripping the back of my vest, and suddenly I was pulled backwards with unblievable force. For a few seconds, I was thrown off the ground. When I landed, I felt my left arm snapping and twisting. My ribs were also hurting like hell. The pain was impossible to bear.

The last thing I remember before passing out was the shriek of those creatures as they proceeded outside and the camp alarm going off.

When Dr. Robert Murthwallen regained consciousness, he found himself trapped on what appeared to be a container in a vehicle. He could not recall how he got there, as the last thing he remembered was the two soldiers dragging him out of that place. They probably shocked him with the collar to make haste, he ruled. That presented a complication to Dr. Murthwallen, since as he did not know how long he had been moving, he could not trace the location of the place he had just been to.

The wonders of that place still puzzled him. Where was that segment of the Factory located at? The Decoder there, it was different than the others he'd seen before. It displayed great resourcefulness, despite the many flaws in its design. Yet how was such an advaced version successfully assembled, considering the instability of the previous ones? Such questions now preoccupied the scientist's mind, as it meant his enemy had not remained idle. The Factory had evolved. Still, if imperfect, then perhaps there was still time to stop it. Hopefully.

While movement was restricted in his transporting chamber, Dr. Murthwallen managed to slide his right hand over his coat to check whether the electronic device he had picked up had not been removed from his person. As he carefully confirmed its presence in the coat's internal pocket, he wondered whether the soldiers had noticed him picking it up from the floor as they were dodging that incoming table. Ultimately, he concluded it to be unlikely, as their attention had mostly been directed towards the chaotic spawns of the Factory. Thus, the doctor couldn't help but feel a bit of joy concerning the prospect of tinkering with the device. His work, finally, could continue. Perhaps now was time to display a more cooperative attitude with the researchers, he wondered.

Escape, after all, was now only a few wires away.

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