Responsible Promotion
rating: +27+x
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Cal's fingers tapped nervously on his briefcase. For the fifth time, he reached into his pocket to pull out a bit of origami paper, before remembering that he'd deliberately left it behind.

Stay professional, he thought to himself. Origami is not professional.

He sat in a little chair, adjacent to the blank white door. His mind briefly flashed back to when he was a little kid, the only time he'd ever been sent to the principal's office. He didn't remember much, but it had something to do with making another kid cry because he'd been scared of his magic trick. Thankfully, his younger self didn't know that a seven-year-old's magic tricks would be the least of his worries one day.

After a five-minute eternity, the Site Director's door opened. Director Jennifer Monroe, an eighty-year-old woman with the presence of someone even more frighteningly ancient, peered down at him, making Cal's heart skip a beat. Her aged eyes seemed to pierce right through him, boring holes through his cheap tie, further reinforcing his single memory of being in the principal's office.

Following her came a much more friendly and familiar face. Cal's brother looked no worse for wear, thankfully. A smile filled his face, although most of it was eclipsed by a dark, bushy beard. David turned to his brother and his smile managed to somehow widen more. He reached out his arms for a hug, which Cal gladly accepted.

The two of them embraced for a few moments, before they heard a light cough. They both turned towards the sound, and stiffened as they succumbed to Director Monroe's menacing glare. After a moment, her expression softened, and she held out a hand to David, who shook it.

"Again, congratulations," she said, "I am very impressed by your work here, and I think it's safe to say that we'll miss you." She cleared her throat. "Now, I still have some matters to attend to, and I'll leave the two of you. Well done to you both."

She quietly retreated back into her office. Cal punched David playfully on the arm.

"Loser," he said, "Imagine being so bad at your job that they make you director of another site just to get rid of you."

"Imagine being so awful that you get kicked off of the containment team for 212, and then somehow 4745," retorted David.

"Aww, come on, it's not that bad."

"I bet you're gonna miss staring at a plastic snowman for two hours a day, aren't you?" David poked Cal. "Huh? Bet you like staring at the snowman. Bet you like staring at his beautiful face, his nice, thick, round base."

Cal broke down in laughter as his brother kept poking him and taunting him. Finally, keeling over, he managed to beg out "Stop" through his wheezing laughter. He stood up and wiped his eyes. Instantly, a slight frown passed over his face, and he reached out and hugged David tight.

"I'm gonna miss you."

David hugged back. "Me too."

The two of them held each other tightly. Over the past year, they'd grown incredibly close, especially compared to the years they'd gone without seeing each other. Knowing David would be gone just felt wrong.

David held Cal out at arm's length. "Hey, don't get all dramatic. We'll still talk and all, and you've got plenty of friends — and snowmen — to keep you company." David flicked Cal's badge. "Tomorrow, give me a call, I wanna hear all about your first day as Lead Researcher."

Cal grinned. "Alright, but you've got to tell me about Site-119. I'll be disappointed if they haven't bullied you at all."

The two of them walked down the hallway, bantering and teasing, until they were forced to part ways. The rest of the day, Cal couldn't take his mind off of what would come next. His new promotion was nice, but taking out David would be like poking a hole in a slice of bread and calling it a donut: fun shape and activity, but the flavor and joy just wouldn't be there.

He eventually managed to psych himself up a bit more. It wasn't like David would be out of touch or anything, he was just getting new opportunities. And he wasn't the only one! Cal spent most of the night anticipating his first day as a Lead Researcher. Doubts and worries nagged at him, but his excitement overcame them, stomping through his anxiety as he marched into the next day.


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Cal struck the match, careful to keep an eye on the vital readings. His first test with 649 hadn't gone terribly, but it had taught him to be a bit more careful. He'd doubled down on the layers this time, but the cold still crawled like ants over his body, biting into him.

649 wasn't the most interesting item he'd ever worked with, but his stomach still fluttered with butterflies at being the research head. His fellow researchers stood around him taking notes and readings.

A snowball hit the back of his head, startling him. He turned around but didn't see anyone. He eyed the door carefully. This was still dangerous, of course. He had to remember that. As curious as he was, he couldn't allow himself to be lost.

A child laughed behind him, and another snowball struck his shoulder. Other researchers started getting pelted as well. Quickly, he directed everyone out of the chamber, running for the door as the assault intensified.

They retreated into the test room and took off their equipment, laughing as they did so.

"Have they always been that crazy?" asked Jean, one of the tech leads.

One of the other researchers shook his head as he pulled off his boots. "I think they're planning an invasion." Cal tried to place his name, but it barely escaped his tongue. He made a mental reminder to look him up later.

"That was fun!" he said. "We'll have to look into that though, we might need to strike back. No-good kids." A few of his colleagues chuckled, which sent relief through his body. Nothing more stressful than telling a joke to a new group of people and all of them immediately thinking he was lame. "Let's take five," he said, "Go get some lunch."

The rest of the crew all left the room, with Cal staying behind to finish putting away some paperwork. He thought he'd be the last one to leave when a hand patted his shoulder, making him scream at an octave that would make mice jealous. The voice of an older man laughed from behind him.

Cal turned and saw the hand's owner, Winston… something, the security head for 649. Cal needed to crack down on the names before someone's feelings got hurt. Winston whatshisface had a cheery grin, accentuated by slight wrinkles showing his age. His light blue eyes were deeply piercing, but in a friendly way, like he was looking into someone's happiest memories rather than investigating their darkest secrets. He removed his hand from Cal's shoulder.

"I think you need a bit of rest, pal. Get some fresh air, not that recycled arctic crap." His voice sounded like the engine of an old, familiar car: rusted down and clearly worn, but reliable and hardy all the same.

Cal smirked. "I'm fine, really. But thanks, I'll be sure not to let people sneak up behind me."

Winston laughed: a contagious, hearty guffaw that forced Cal into giggles as well. He held out his hand to Cal.

"Winston Amos," he said, "I don't think we've really spoken at all yet."

Cal shook his hand. "Calvin Bold."

Winston nodded. "Good to see some new blood 'round here. I've spent twelve years with this thing, and it's fun to see everyone meet them for the first time." He rubbed his nose and scowled. "Ah, gonna miss Ralph though, hope he's well."

Cal smiled. "I hope I don't let you all down."

"Nah, son, you're doin' great." Winston gripped Cal's shoulder again. "You're gettin' the hang of it quick. And that's good for me. If you know how to do your job, that means I don't have to do mine." He snickered. "That makes me sound lazy! But you get what I mean. As long as everyone's safe, we're doin' our jobs right."

Cal nodded. "Thanks, that's reassuring. For real."

"As long as everyone's safe, you're doing fine. Now," Winston straightened. "You said lunch, kid? I hope you let us have more than five minutes."

"Huh? Oh, no, what I meant by 'take five' was just, you know, take a break. In general. I thought that's what it means."

"Nah, I'm pretty sure it means just five minutes."

The two of them started towards the door, but right then, a massive BOOM echoed through the facility. Alarms started blaring, and a moment later, the lights went out.

Attention. A containment breach is underway. This Site is under lockdown. Please remain calm. This is not a drill.

Cal turned towards Winston. "I think it's gonna be longer than five minutes either way."

Winston locked the door. He pulled out his sidearm and peered through the window, then back at Cal. He made a "get down" motion, then slowly moved one of the desks in front of the door, barricading it.

Cal reached for a doorstop and tucked it between the floor and the door. He looked at Winston and shrugged. "Doing my part?" he suggested. Winston nodded thoughtfully.

"That's all we can do for now," Winston mused. He leaned against the wall and breathed out. "You ever been in a containment breach?" Cal shook his head. "Yeah, luckily this is one of those low-risk sites. Only ever seen one before this one here, turned out just to be an angry duck. Nasty bloke."

Cal sighed with relief. He'd been a researcher for a while now, but he still felt like the new guy in the Foundation. It was assuring that Winston knew how to handle himself here.

"Well," he said, "I think we're safe."

In that moment, Cal's lingering newbie-ness manifested in the worst way. Under no circumstances, especially not during a containment breach, should any personnel ever claim to be safe. The moment he said that, the door shattered, the table was thrown against the wall, and a massive creature burst in.

Luckily, Winston was quick on the draw. Two shots rang out, and the creature fell to the floor. Crawling forward, Cal could make out its pale skin, jet-black hair, and fangs. "Oh no."

"The hell?" Winston exclaimed. "This is a Safe-object only facility. What's this doing here?"

Cal gulped. "That's not an SCP."

"What?"

"It's created by 4745, it creates generic horror monsters and stuff when active. I was on the containment team for it. We'd been testing its long-term effects and I think it got—"

Cal's words were interrupted by the vampire's hand reaching out and gripping his throat. Panic instantly seeped into him. I'm going to die, his mind repeated over and over again.

Another gunshot pierced the air, and the grip on his neck loosened. Cal scrambled away, looking towards the sound. Winston held his gun in one hand and a broom in the other. "Get out of here!" he yelled, swinging the broom at the vampire. It ducked, but another well-placed bullet blew through its head, temporarily halting it.

"I'm gonna hold it off, I can't keep it down long. Go!"

Cal ran. A small, fantastical part of his imagination envisioned himself bravely staying behind to help Winston, but it was as fake as the vampire was deadly. In that moment, Cal didn't care about Winston. The friendship he'd made evaporated as he ran down the hall, not knowing where to go or what to do.


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Cal ducked into the doorway. One of the monsters had spotted him, a stereotypical zombie, but he was able to outrun it. He quietly shut the door, and watched as the occasional monster or anomaly rushed past. His heart pounded in his chest, and he wanted to grab it and make it still just so nothing would hear it.

Tears streamed down his face as the reality sunk in. Winston was either dead or going to die, and Cal had let it happen. He'd barely spoken to the man, and yet he'd been willing to fight for him. In return, Cal had thrown him to the wolves.

"As long as everyone's safe, we're doing our jobs right." That summed up Winston's job, of course; he was an agent, member of security, and the front line for this stuff. But wasn't that Cal's job too? Protecting people? That was the whole point of all this, keeping people safe from the dangerous and anomalous. And Winston was as much of a person as anyone else.

A faraway crash jolted him back to the present. He wished he could stay in the room, but a basic lock was all that protected him, and it was only a matter of time before something tried to enter. He swallowed, then cracked open the door. Seeing that the coast was clear, he began sneaking his way down the corridor. He knew these hallways, and followed the quickest path to the exit. He almost walked into an intersection before stopping himself. Something big was approaching.

He looked around. This was the only reasonable way out. Turning back would take him on an extremely long path that would almost definitely get him killed. He looked for side doors in his hallway, trying to find a place to hide. He squinted at the door next to him, trying to make out the words on it. Finally, he was able to discern them, and he almost had to stop himself from laughing.

He wasn't thinking about where these hallways would go, aside from to the exit. But perhaps through some stroke of bizarre luck, he found himself right next to the door labeled "SCP-212". Which meant that the door across from him led straight to… SCP-4745's containment unit.

A choice presented itself. He'd been on the research team for both anomalies, and his keycard could open either door. If he entered SCP-212's chamber, the heavy-duty security doors would surely keep out any intruders. He'd likely be safe until a rescue team came. On the other hand, he could enter SCP-4745's chamber. It was almost definitely more dangerous, and doubtless some monsters were still in there… unless they'd all left. If he could just get in there…

Fear clutched him, wrapping around his brain like barbed wire. His mind came up with all sorts of situations and misfortunes that could occur. He could save everyone, but would he be safe?

The footsteps became louder. Whatever was approaching was taking its time, but eventually, it would be on him. He had to make a choice now.

Cal opened the door and immediately shut it behind him. He breathed a sigh in the darkness, safe in SCP-212's chamber. He started grasping at the walls, feeling for the light switch. He was familiar enough with the chamber that he knew roughly where everything was, even in the dark.

Or at least, he thought he did. Until he reached his hand into something mechanical and realized, a second too late, that the new containment team had moved SCP-212. Mechanical appendages reach out and pulled him in.

He tried to escape, calling out in fear, but the device closed around him all the same, as a searing pain pierced his body.


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The first sense to return to Cal was smell. He breathed in deeply, taking in a slightly coppery scent, permeated by the familiar aroma of a laboratory — or a hospital. Next was his hearing, the sounds around him gradually amplifying. Beeping machinery, people talking over each other, and rolling equipment all infiltrated his ears. His senses slowly grew, and he could feel himself lying in a bed, cold air surrounding him, permeating his skin like water into a napkin. His breath felt slightly stale, with some kind of mask having been placed over his mouth and nose.

He wanted to see where he was. He tried opening his eyelids, but they felt heavy. He tried again, and again. He reached to his face, where he found some kind of cloth covering his eyes. He gulped, hoping to swallow his panic, when a familiar voice called out to him.

"There's the man!" His brother's voice was unmistakeable. A loud banging sound popped next to his ear, and David sighed loudly. "How's it going?"

"Davey… my eyes… what—?"

"Ooh, yeah. I talked to one of the doctors, they said, um, well…"

"Am I gonna be blind, Davey?" Cal's voice rose with a wave of stormy panic. "What happened to my—?"

"Hey, hey, hey!" cried David. Cal felt a hand grasp his arm. "You're not— well, I dunno. You might end up blind—"

"Might?"

"—But they said that it's weird. They're still connected to your optic nerves, they're just… Hmm…"

"Just what? Davey, just what?"

"Hold on. Hey, can we take that off?" Cal realized David was speaking to someone else. "I get— yeah, I know, but he's in a bit of a state right now, can we just— alright, thank you."

A hand brushed against Cal's temple, and he slowly felt the blindfold being unwrapped from around his eyes. A few moments later, he saw a strip of darkness peel away, and the faintest cloud of light entered his vision. He laughed. "I see some light!"

"Hey, that's a good sign!" said David, his grin practically audible. More and more light came into view, until at last the weight on his head was almost nonexistent. He clutched the blindfold, stopping David from unwrapping it further. He breathed in, then out. He grasped the fabric and lifted it from his face.

For a brief moment, Cal was excited by the blinding light. He couldn't discern any other features, but he was just relieved that he could still see. But the blindness of light slowly receded, and his elation was quickly replaced with terror. He could see, but it was too much seeing. The world around him fractured like a kaleidoscope, the room he was in collapsing and repeating into infinity, a demented tesseract of an image. He started breathing heavily, before letting out a scream. The infinite doctors turned towards him. He tried shutting his eyes but couldn't. He reached for his face, his endless fractal hands feeling something like stone embedded in his face. The doctors reached towards him, but before they could, Cal was brought back into the now-welcome darkness.

He felt something tighten around his head, and then a pair of arms wrapped around him in an embrace. He hugged back, trying to perceive David in any way other than through sight. His screams died down, being replaced by broken sobs. The two of them held each other for a few minutes.

Finally, after Cal had calmed down, David hesitantly pat his back. "So, uh, yeah. How was it?"

The awkward question lightened the air, and Cal laughed a little bit. "Terrifying." He gulped.

"Can you still see?" asked David nervously.

"Yeah. But it's…" Cal shook his head, as if trying to throw away the sight from his mind. "It'll take some getting used to, to say the least." He thought to himself. "Wait, what happened?"

"The reinforcement squad found you in SCP-212," explained David. "You saw the stuff with the eyes, and apparently there's something different about your lungs now. On the plus side, wait until you see your arm!"

"My arm…?"

"Yeah, it looks like it replaced your flesh with something transparent, so now it looks like you have a skeleton arm. Really cool."

"Huh!" Cal started chuckling at the mental image, before the memories of the containment breach suddenly came crashing down on him. SCP-212. Modification. Winston. He started hyperventilating again.

"David," he exclaimed, "Is everyone alright? Did anyone get hurt?"

"Hey," David said softly, "It's fine. The team managed to deal with 4745, only a couple of casualties."

Perhaps those words were meant to feel reassuring, but Cal immediately broke down into tears. He wanted to ask who, but he couldn't bear for his fears about Winston to be confirmed. He didn't need them to be. He knew the answer already. "This is all my fault," he said.

David hugged him and rubbed his back. "It's not your fault at all, okay? You hid, of course you did, that's what you're expected to do."

"But I—" Cal sniffed. "I—"

David clutched his face in his hands. "Hey. It's not your fault, alright? There's nothing you could have done."

Cal hugged David. He wanted to believe him so badly. He wanted to pretend like he didn't have a choice at the time, or a choice now, a choice to confess. He shook, trembling until he felt like he would fall apart if he didn't say anything. Finally, he spoke.

"Yeah. There's nothing I could have done."

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