Prelude: The Facade
rating: +20+x

Foundation Gothic

The holding cell was quiet, serene. Outside the door, the scratch of pen against paper could be heard as doctors filled out the forms necessary to relocate their latest acquisition to a more secure area. "'SCP-X was found on Stavely Road, shortly after midnight.' Does that sound correct?"

"Not quite. Clerkenwell Road." Director Alby scratched a few more notes down on his clipboard. Behind his spectacles, he wore a determined visage, though it now drooped with barely concealed fatigue. Still, he had that strong look about him which radiated authority. "Rude of him, making us work at this hour of the night."

"He didn't seem to care, unfortunately for us." The other doctor, Quincy, adjusted his lab coat impatiently. He scowled as he signed the fifteenth paper that night. "The wife will have my head for this, I'm sure of it."

Outside, the howl of some unknown beast could be heard in the distance, and the serenity of the cell was broken. There was a metallic clang, as a pair of hands gripped the barred windows with white knuckles, his torn and dirty clothes swaying from the motion. The figure they belonged to had wild blonde hair, and an equally unstable look in his eye. Barely above a whisper, he spoke. "Master. I hear you. I know you'll come to deliver your good and faithful servant."

Quincy sighed, putting the last form in an envelope. "He's at it again. Every damn creak in the night. A pox on him."

Director Alby skimmed over the relocation form for any discrepancies, not bothering to look up. "I'd be quite surprised if there weren't already. Do you have the date?"

"Seventeenth of January, 1877."

The wild-eyed man returned to a seated position in his cell. A spider that was crawling down the wall abruptly stopped, and shriveled into a dry husk. It fell to the floor, onto an ever-growing pile of insects.

Elizabeth shifted uneasily in her dress, glancing out the window. She fanned herself, feeling smothered by the oppressive air of the garish room she was in. The wedding planner before her finished rummaging through one of the bags he had brought, and turned around. Automatically, her face shifted to a polite and pretty smile.

"And you're certain the arrangement is to your liking, Miss Elizabeth?"

Miss, soon to be Mrs. Elizabeth Stoke nodded her head, struggling to maintain her pleasant expression. She glanced at the slew of unopened letters next to her, impatiently, before returning her attention the vase of flowers. "Yes, it's quite lovely."

"And you're quite certain you wouldn't like these-" The wedding planner began to grab a vase of differently colored flowers, but Elizabeth interrupted him.

"I'm quite certain," She made a show of being enamored with the pink blossoms that had been placed before her. "They'll make a lovely wreath, I'm sure. And please, I really must be going soon."

The wedding planner tipped his hat to her, as he wrote down her selection on a sheet of paper, and passed her a complimentary vase of the flowers. "Of course, of course! You're to be at the asylum again, I gather? It's too good of you to volunteer to help those unfortunate souls. You're quite the saint, Miss Stoke!"

Elizabeth began to respond, but she was cut off. "Not to worry, that was the last thing on the agenda for today. Very good selections! Randolph always complimented your taste, said you had a man's brain behind that lovely face."

Elizabeth's smile became even more forced. "And it serves me quite well while he's away on business."

The planner nodded enthusiastically, packing up the rest of his flowers and displays. Far too slowly, Elizabeth noticed to her great annoyance. "I'm sure he'll be very pleased with your selections, once he returns from…?"

"The Netherlands, he's meeting with a client who's interested in buying an estate here in London. If all goes as planned, he'll be back by February." Elizabeth began to show the planner to the door, stopping to retrieve his coat for him. Considering how extravagantly he was already dressed, it didn't make much of a difference.

After slipping his coat on, he collected his packages once again. "The Netherlands? He's mad, going that far when he has a beautiful fiancé here! Someone could snatch her heart away-" He winked at her flirtatiously, "-and he'd be none the wiser."

He stopped on his way out to bow to her and kiss her hand. Elizabeth curtsied in return as he made his way to the waiting carriage. She waved to him as he proceeded down the path to the street. "Thank you once again, for your services."

Before he could respond, she closed the door behind her, breathing a sigh of relief. Setting aside the vase of flowers, she rubbed her temples and took a seat. The wedding planner would have been there all day if she'd allowed him to keep talking.

She caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror, and sighed. She adjusted her dark hair into a bun, staring into her own weary brown eyes. She shifted uncomfortably in her garish dress. The whole room around her felt musty and oppressive, from the ugly pink drapes, to the coarse wallpaper, to the mildewed smell of the rug. But still, it was home. She slumped into the couch, picking up the letters that had arrived earlier that day, which she hadn't had time to see due to the wedding planner's arrival. The first of them was unmarked, save for a small emblem on the upper left.

A moment of panic ran through her mind. Immediately, she opened it, casting aside the envelope. She cursed internally, leaping to her feet and pulling on her gloves and coat. She grabbed a bonnet and put it on as she ran out the door, angling her head down so as not to be recognized.

Around her, London bustled with life as horse-drawn carriages rolled past down the cobble streets. The skyline was clouded and grey, with smog-spewing smokestacks rising in the distance. People glanced at her as she walked past, a determined expression on her face. Ladies walked arm in arm with their men, whispering into their ears as Elizabeth breezed by. Alone, she felt like a fish out of water.

However, it was a short walk, and at her pace she arrived at her destination quickly. Before her was a three-story asylum, encircled by a large gate, guarded by a man wearing a rather large bowler cap. Elizabeth looked up at him, and the man nodded in response, pushing open the gate enough for her to pass through. She continued inside, to the reception desk.

The receptionist smiled at her, tipping his bowler cap and eagerly tapping his cane twice on the ground. "Good evening, my lady. Are you here to see anyone in particular?"

Elizabeth bowed her head to him, and tapped her left foot on the ground twice, right foot once. It came so naturally to her at this point that she barely even noticed she had done it. "Yes, I am. The man downstairs."

The receptionist's smile instantly dropped, and he tapped his foot on the ground in an aggravated manner. "Do you have any idea how late you are?"

"I'm aware, Doctor. I was accosted by a wedding planner." Elizabeth gave him an apologetic look, as she pulled a small lanyard with an identifying badge from her dress, and placed it around her neck.

The receptionist rolled his eyes in annoyance, flipping a lever. Behind him, a section of the wall clicked, and popped ajar slightly. "Well hurry on in, Alby's been waiting."

She pulled off her bonnet, and placed it on the coat rack, before opening the hidden door. Checking behind her to ensure no one was looking, she slipped inside and sealed it behind her. She passed through the dark hallway, and emerged in an open room on the other side of the building.

Around her, scientific instruments clicked and whirred, and men in lab coats buzzed around like bees. On one side of the main room, there were cases full of objects, ranging from the mundane to the bizarre, separated from the rest of the world by a thick pane of glass. Beyond that, there was a staircase, leading down to humanoid containment areas. She had reached Site-23 of the Foundation.

"Miss Stoke."

She turned, and was met with a tall man holding a clipboard. Behind his spectacles, he wore a blank expression, though his posture gave away some impatience, and signs of fatigue. On his lab coat, there was an emblem in bright yellow, signifying his high status. Elizabeth curtsied to him.

"Director Alby."

"You're rather late, we've had the humanoid in the interrogation cell for nearly five hours now." He adjusted his glasses, peering over them at his subordinate.

Elizabeth looked away, a bit embarrassed. "My apologies, I was-"

The Director interrupted her, speaking in a softer tone. "You don't have to explain, I'm well aware of your current situation, Miss Stoke. And I wish you the best."

She breathed a sigh of relief. "Thank you, Seymour."

"Think nothing of it." He cleared his throat, resuming his formal tone. "That being said, as your Director, I cannot tolerate continued tardiness just because I am serving as the best man at your wedding. I will consider this an unofficial warning."

She nodded to him in a silent display of gratitude, and the two made their way through the room, and continued down the stairs to the interrogation cell. Seymour flipped through his clipboard, and held a lantern up to better see.

"'The total scope of SCP-048's anomalous capabilities is currently unknown, but it has been observed to have a noticeable effect on small creatures, including insects, rodents, and small avians. It is believed to be unable to cause direct harm to humans at this time.' Mm. You'll be accompanied by Quincy, regardless."

"Understood, Director." Elizabeth responded automatically, mentally preparing herself for what was to come.

"Line of questioning at this time is to focus on origins, knowledge of its capabilities, and possible connections to groups of interest."

"Understood." Her job was simple, but important. Internally, she practiced her platitudes, her 'You poor thing's, and her 'won't you help me understand what's happened to you?'s.

They stopped in front of the door of the cell, where Seymour left Elizabeth to retrieve Quincy. Elizabeth took a deep breath, her mind absolutely clear and focused for the first time that day. The hallway around her was dark except for the occasional lantern, and the air was stagnant and cold, but it didn't bother her in the slightest. This is where she knew she was meant to be.

After a moment, Seymour returned with Doctor Quincy, who nodded dismissively at her as he adjusted his formal black tie. She curtsied in response as he opened the door for her. She steeled herself behind her facade, took another deep breath, and stepped inside.

The room was dark, containing only a small lantern, a table, and another man, who was affixed to a chair by a straightjacket. As Quincy and Elizabeth stepped in, he looked up for a moment. There was a wild look in his eyes, like that of a cornered animal. Shadows from the lantern danced across his face, making his expression hard to read. Elizabeth did her best to ignore this, and took a seat on her side of the table. The facade hardened into an iron shell around her, and she spoke.

"Can you please tell me your name?"

The figure across from her regarded her uneasily, giving her an odd, sideways look. After a moment of studying her, he spoke, in a raspy voice. It sounded as if he hadn't drank any water in years.

"…Gregor. You can call me Gregor."

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