Solvin' Center of Problems
rating: +120+x

Dell Conagher could hear the agonizing screams of half his coworkers dying horribly. He solved this problem by removing his traditional hardhat and pulling on a pair of acoustic earmuffs. The Safe'n'Sound, straight from Mann Co. One of his best purchases to date. Now ignorant of further screaming, gunfire, and explosions, the Engineer flipped through his magazine lazily, his feet resting on the the ammo drum of his sentry.

He nodded at the German man that suddenly appeared on his right, standing on the hard red light of a Telemax Teleporter. The Medic waved away the particles that often remained after teleporting and hurried downstairs. The teleporter coughed up a few spare transdimensional particles before the red light faded and the gyroscope powered down. Dell glanced at his PDA and sucked on his teeth when he saw his dispenser and teleporter entrance had both been destroyed.

Down below, the Medic arrived just in time to rejoin his coworkers as they charged out to fight the incoming robot menace, good as new. The metal doppelganger horde approached the building, the ground shaking beneath their feet. The sentry twitched eagerly as it detected hostiles, like an Australian before a fistfight. Dell peered over the magazine briefly before returning to the new Mann Co. catalog.

"Easy, girl," Dell said fondly. "It's gonna be a long day. Plenty of robots to shoot."

SCP-1290. The "Imperfect Teleporter," as his peers had nicknamed it. "Fucking Bullshit," was the name Researcher Cassiter of Research Site 48-Alpha had given it. The Foundation had spent the last fifteen years trying to reverse engineer the thing, and while they could copy it they didn't understand how it actually worked, or how to solve its malfunctions. Cassiter was beginning to wish for a reassignment when someone proposed something new. And it was a more interesting idea than sending a bowling ball.

His colleagues were in the middle of deconstructing Dash Two on the other side of the planet when the idea came up. "What if we activated Dash One when Dash Two was disassembled?" Cassiter didn't know the answer. The Site Director didn't know the answer. So they decided to find the answer.

Dell Conagher fired his modified shotgun and continued making widows. (Provided robots married. Dell didn't want to just assume.) The Sniper stood nearby, systematically applying Mr. Mundy's "mystery liquid" to the robots with one of his custom rifles. Dell's sentry bombarded a Heavybot with missiles and gunfire, and after a brief but brutal punishment the giant automaton stumbled and smashed several of its smaller brethren.

Dell had yet to rebuild a new teleporter entrance, but he had at least had the sense to erect a dispenser so the Heavy Weapons Guy could freely annihilate any mechanical men that approached him or the not-so-good Doktor. A squad of Soldierbots unloaded on the mercs' little stronghold, but a combination of Übercharge and sticky bombs from a drunkard successfully held off the push. They had survived the latest wave of the day.

Dell hopped down and rushed to the smoking dispenser, pulling out his trusty wrench. The ultimate tool to an Engineer, capable of repairing anything with a little skill. Dell smashed the dispenser a couple times and nodded with satisfaction when it was back to 100%. He stretched and watched his coworkers collect the cash dropped by Gray Mann's minions. Sniper wandered over and tossed him his share. Dell caught the cash wad and lowered his Safe'n'Sound.

"Much obliged."

"We gave 'em a bloody drubin, eh, mate?"

"Yeah." Dell pocketed his money and headed for his nest. "Startin' to think we'll actually live through all this."

"Aw c'mon, Truckie!" Mr. Mundy smirked and absentmindedly rubbed his scar. He stowed the money in his hat and followed. "I could do this all day. We got the Doc, and your… respawn thing. We'll be fine."

"Yeah… So long as we got Mann Co. supplying us, I suppose we'll be fine." Dell tinkered with his sentry before the next wave came.

"Uh… I don't remember you layin' down an entrance."

Dell looked to the teleporter exit. It was spinning, and letting off its usual hard light disc. Except it wasn't red, or even blue. Dell figured gray was a more likely color than black. But there it was, the teleporter up and running. And after a few seconds out came a a block of Styrofoam.

The Engineer and the Sniper stared for several seconds before looking to each other.


"Well, that worked," Cassiter remarked.

"D-Class?" Researcher Tyler asked.

"D-Class. Power it down until we test it, just in case."

Dell Conagher picked up the Styrofoam carefully. He shook it around, broke it apart, but found nothing strange about it. Dell Conagher was the descendant of a man who had cut off his own hand just so he could replace it with a robotic one, he himself had personally trumped said ancestor by developing a machine that would make men immortal, was employed by a sociopath who was very possibly powered by his mustache (or his chest hair that resembled Australia), he had befriended a psychopathic pyromaniac, fought a wizard (several times, actually), accidentally killed a monkeynaut with a defunct rocket (RIP Poopy Joe), fought robot clones powered by money, had gone to Hell and back, and somehow this was the weirdest thing he'd ever seen.

So Dell decided to do what he always did when something broke his weirdness threshold. He rolled with it, but cautiously. He placed the Styrofoam down, and redirected his sentry toward the teleporter. He hailed his comrades and alerted them as to what happened. They prepared themselves. They were too curious to not simply destroy the teleporter exit, and too insane to wonder how long they would sit there staring at it.

And then the teleporter powered down.

And then more robots showed up.

An hour later, D-101007 was pulled from his usual duties and placed on SCP-1290-1. The researchers gave him a helmet, knee pads, and elbow pads. They did not tell him what they were planning, just that he was going to contribute to science. Or cure their boredom, at least. They didn't actually mention that second part.

Tavish Finnegan DeGroot stared at the stump just beyond his left shoulder. "Where's m' arm?"

"Where is your legs?" Heavy Weapons Guy asked.

The drunk Scotsman looked down at himself and immediately sobered up. "Y'know, I can't remember."

The Heavy laughed, long and hardy. The Demoman began to join in but bled out and died before he could really get going. This made the Heavy laugh even harder, and the Medic even joined in. Half a minute later the Demoman marched out of the respawn room with a large grin and an even larger bottle of scrumpy.

The Medic wiped the oil and smile from his face and cleared his throat. "Engineer, about zat… Vat vas the vord?

"Anomaly, doc." Dell raised his goggles. "It's possible there was an error in a Telemax shipment. Somebody else is also linked with my teleporters. But if that were the case, they would have come through, not that packagin' stuff."

"So… what?" the Sniper asked. "Somebody found a portal and chucked somethin' in to see what would happen?"

"Wouldn't be the first time it's happened," Dell said with a shrug. The mercs all mumbled their agreement. "I'm thinkin' we're facin' another one of them multiverse phenomena. Like when Soldier found that rocket."

"Soldier finds rocket with new weapons, we get foam?" Heavy crossed his giant arms and spat on the ground. "Could at least send hat."

"Can ya… I dunno, trace it?" the Demoman asked.

"If it activates again, I might be able to figure out where the entrance is. But that could have been a one time thing. If the other side knows it's a one-way teleport, they won't risk sendin' people. Unless they're idiots. Or cold-hearted-."

The familiar sounds of a teleporter starting up cut him off.

"Well…" Dell lowered his goggles. "Time to find out. Grab yer guns, boys."

The mercs gathered and aimed their various weapons at the black disc. They prepared themselves. Humans, zombies, ghosts, wizards, robots. They'd fought them all and won. Now they faced a new threat. Styrofoam.

Instead, a large man in an orange jumpsuit materialized. The sentry jerked back and forth as if decided whether to fire or not. Dell slapped it and the sentry lowered its barrels. The man waved away the black nothingness coating him and screamed like a little girl when he found six mercenaries and a very large automatic turret aiming at him.

"Easy there," Dell said. He lowered his shotgun slightly. The others hesitantly lowered their weapons as well. "Where ya from, pardner?"

The man in the jumpsuit stumbled back, but Dell had built the teleporter against the wall. The man slid down the wall until his butt hit the hard light disc.

"Yer gonna wanna move, son," Dell said. "If somebody else comes through, you're gonna get telefragged."

When the man didn't move, the Heavy yanked him out of the way. The Engineer crouched down and tampered with the teleporter. He pulled out his PDA and checked its readings several times. He grinned and stood up.

"Our new friend came from Colombia." The mercs looked him over. He didn't look Colombian.

"In the year 2013." They looked for some sign of lasers or jetpack, but found none.

"And from a different universe." Without any premise of new weapons, gear, or money the mercs lost interest and prepared for the next wave of robots.

The initial volley of metal arrows rained down on them. Heavy used his massive form to take as much of the damage as possible, but a lagging arrow whizzed toward the orange-clad newcomer. He winced and the arrow drove itself through his head and embedded itself in the woodwork behind him. And he was no worse for it.

"Did that arrow just go through his head?" Sniper asked.

"Aye," the Demoman said.

The Medic raised both eyebrow and crossbow and pulled the trigger. It whizzed through his chest without ever truly touching him. Dell smirked and fired off some metal. Still nothing.

"Well, that sure is interesting," Dell said. "Y'all defend, I got a call to make."

"I just realized something," Researcher Tyler said.

Researcher Cassiter looked up from his lunch. "Wazzat?"

"Twelve-Ninety is one-way. We have literally no way of knowing where he went. We just sent a D-Class out into the wild. Possibly into another universe. That's a massive information breach."

"Eh, it's not the worst we've done. Plus, he'll maintain velocity. The only damage he'll cause is likely in a different universe as a high speed ragdoll."

"Oh. Right."

Idiots or cold-hearted sum' bitches, indeed.

"Raccoons. No, I don't want to hear about raccoons, Soldier." Dell Conagher lifted his goggles and pinched the bridge of his nose, holding the phone in his other hand. Talking with Mr. Jane Doe was always a trying experience. "Yes, they're adorable little critters. Now, please, listen. Can. You. Contact. The Wizard?"

"Nope. Wait, yes! Well, no. I can't talk to him, I can only summon him. Sorry, Engie."

"But that-" Dell stopped himself. One had to roll with the punches, and the only way of getting anywhere with the Soldier was by humoring him. "Well, that just might work. I need you to come to the latest defense site, ASAP."

"I'm kind of in the middle of something." Dell could hear the clamor of pots and pans on the other end of the line. "How about I just tell you how to do it? You're smart."

"I… suppose that could work. Okay, I have a pencil and pad. How do I summon the Wizard?"

"Right. First…"

Researchers Cassiter and Tyler stared at SCP-1290-1.

"Wait! What if we turned Dash Two upside down?" Tyler asked.

Cassiter didn't bother to bring up the fact this had been brought up over a decade ago. He'd humor his newer colleague. "Then you'd be oriented right, but still moving east at- what is it, 930 meters a second?"

"What if we had Dash Two upside down, and fired the object 930 meters a second going west? And then timed it right-"

"Cute. You have to be touching the platform. I guess if they somehow managed to graze the platform and you time it perfect, it would work. But I think it would basically be hitting a wall at 930 emm ess, so you still die."

"Seriously, how the hell did they manage to build a teleporter, but didn't think to build it to compensate for conservation of momentum?"

"I think they were working with Aristotelian physics. Y'know, Prometheus, Aristotle, Greek?"


Cassiter chuckled. "You just suggested turning the thing upside down and shooting people out of a cannon, and the guys who built a functioning teleporter are idiots?"

"Shut up."

Dell Conagher stared at the mess he had created at the behest of the Soldier. An amalgamation of the defeated robots, welded into the shapes of a dozen raccoons. Standing in the middle of them was a statue of a man, his arms held out in a very wizardly pose.

"Alright, Soldier," Dell said. "We built it. Now what?"

"Now I'm going to make you a medal, Engie! Thank you for building me that statue. Can you bring it over to my new house if the robots don't murder you all forever?"

"What." Dell did his best to not break the phone in his white-knuckled hand. "Soldier. This was supposed to summon the Wizard."

"Oh. Did I not mention that? Just draw a circle with a smiley face inside, but the mouth is an M. Set it on fire, and Merasmus shows up."

Dell chewed on his tongue. "Soldier, have you done that anywhere other than the Wizard's house?"

"No. Haven't had a reason. But whenever I needed to talk to him when we lived together, I just did that and he was there in no time!"

"Soldier, that's because you were setting his house on fire."

"…" Dell watched his teammates fight the robots, waiting for an answer.

"Soldier, can you magically contact or summon the Wizard in any way?"

"…" The Newcomer was charged with collecting the money as they went, allowing them to collect money that otherwise would have been destroyed in the firefight. The Newcomer had been terrified of everything around him initially, but once it was established he couldn't be hurt he was willing to help in whatever way possible.

"Soldier, are you still there?" Dell could still hear pots and pans, but nothing else. Then someone cleared their throat on the other end of the line. "Jane?"

"No. This is MERASMUS! What is it you want, fool?" Dell could hear Soldier laughing in the background and bragging to the raccoons about being right.

"Oh." It took a few seconds for his brain to start working. "There's a portal to another universe, but it's one-way. I was hoping you could… magic your way through."

"And why would I do that?"

"Make you a deal. Come and help, bring Soldier, and we'll let you kill him."

"Please, I- MERASMUS!- no longer seek the end of you pitiful-"

"He won't stay dead, so long as you kill him near the respawn room. You can kill him a few times if you like."

"…He told you of my summoning ritual?"

Dell grinned. "He did."

"Please hurry."

Researcher Cassiter stared at SCP-1290-1, as he had for the past eight years. He still wasn't sure why the Foundation was so interested in it. It had been disassembled and reassembled so many times that even the janitorial staff knew how to put the stupid thing together. And yet the higher-ups had them repeat the action time and again in an effort to understand it. It all was, in fact, Fucking Bullshit. At least most of his colleagues, such as Researcher Tyler, were good people.

Cassiter briefly pondered the fate of the D-Class they had blasted off to… somewhere. Maybe he would just be in limbo until Dash Two was activated, and then appear. And go splat. Cassiter made a mental note to tell the Dash Two team to activate it remotely.

While Cassiter further pondered what they could possibly be missing about Twelve Ninety, a wrinkle in spacetime opened up a few meters from the main platform. Cassiter didn't notice it until it expanded into a purple vortex. Cassiter was about to raise the alarm when D-101007 stepped out, his helmet and pads missing, instead toting a very large bag. Behind him was a red-clad man with a large metal toolbox. The vortex snapped shut with a sound not unlike a balloon deflating.

"Well, I'll be," the man said with a Texan accent. He tipped his hardhat toward Cassiter in a friendly way. "Howdy, mister."

He lowered the toolbox and kicked the top off, and the entire box splayed open to reveal a device Cassiter didn't recognize. The device began to rotate as its arms unfolded fully, and then little metal latches flipped to secure the now still arms in place. The arms whirred together and the device was silent for a moment. Then it began to spin again, much faster this time, generating a red disc that remained hovering just over the device. Small red rings lifted off the disc, disappearing maybe half a meter into the air. Then Cassiter pretended to scratch at his stomach as he pressed his personal alarm.

"Now then," the man said. He walked up and offered Cassiter his hand, which the researcher took hesitantly. The man's grip was like a vice, but Cassiter did his best to not react to the pain. "My name is Dell Conagher. I'm an engineer. Just thought I'd stop by to see what kinda universe you're workin' with."

"Call me Cassiter. So, Mr. Conagher… you're from another universe. And you managed to come here, and even bring D-101007, in only a matter of hours. May I ask how?"

"D-wha? That fella in the orange jumpsuit?"

Cassiter nodded. Conagher did not remove his goggles, but Cassiter could tell he was eying him strangely.

"And your name's Cassiter. Why's his name a number, and yours ain't?"

"I am a researcher, and he is… a test subject, for lack of a better term."

"Ah." Conagher nodded, as if confirming something to himself. "I gotcha. He a clone?"

Cassiter shrugged. "Is that common in your universe?"

Conaher shrugged. "I'm a clone, you tell me. Anyway, how I got here? Magic. No, I ain't pullin' your leg. We got wizards where I'm from. We got a lot of things where I'm from. How about you? You got things?"

Cassiter nodded. "From our perspective, you are a thing. Your entire universe is a thing."

Conagher nodded. "I guess that makes sense. You're a researcher? I'm guessin' you research the weird things of your world? How's about you and I swap stories."

"I'm not at liberty to do that."

"Oh. Well, that's too bad. We brought a bag of goodies from my world. Call it a gift. Or are you not at liberty to do that?"

"…" Cassiter weighed his options. First and foremost the Foundation was to contain anything that disrupted normalcy. Bringing in anomalies from a different universe was definitely disrupting normalcy, but it also presented the opportunity to study this man's universe. And if he was willing to bring an entire sack full of them, they were available in ready supply. They were made in his world. Perhaps they could be made in Cassiter's. An entire bag full of possible Dash E Exes were staring him in the face.

"Before I answer… What is that object you deployed? The disc device."

"Hmm? Oh, that's a teleporter exit. The way we actually got here is… costly, but with that little puppy it's as easy as standin' still. So now with however you sent your guinea pig, and my setup, we have a full connection between our worlds."

Where the hell was security? "Mister Conagher, surely as a man of science you understand the significance of this conversation. We are from different realities, and our actions here carry the weight of our respective universes. I cannot-"

Conagher chuckled, but after a few seconds it broke into a cackle. He thumbed his hardhat up and smiled. "Listen, son. This isn't the first time we've interacted with other universes. It happens every couple months for us. Usually it's just little things, trinkets. Stuff we wear around the battlefield, hats and accessories. Sometimes it's weapons, but they're usually nothin' we couldn't a' built ourselves. You get what I'm sayin'? Multiverse interaction ain't that big a' deal, we treat it like goin' shoe shoppin'. We get little gifts, and the worlds we cross get some financial compensation."

Cassiter stood there silently, torn between listening to the offworlder and hauling ass until security showed up.

Conagher lowered his voice and tilted his head forward, his hardhat clanking down to rest on his goggles. "I can read you like an open book, Cassie. We both work for an employer that doesn't really 'exist.' And judgin' by your reactions, it's cuz your bosses like hidin' things. Think they're savin' the goddamn world by burying whatever weirdness comes along. Thing is, my employer has spent its entire existence embracing the weirdness. Eggin' it on, seein' where it'll go. Amassing our madness in a stockpile and selling it like it's a toy. Finding other universes and buyin' their anomalies. That word, anomaly. That's what y'all call it, huh? I could see your face light up, just for second."

Cassiter was now in full on run-the-fuck-away mode, but his legs refused to move.

"Here's how this is gonna work, son. I am going to hand you my pistol. If y'all can play nice, you will do nothing to me. You will take the bag I brought, I will speak with your superiors and maybe both our worlds can benefit. I learn about your world, take some stuff home, maybe y'all can have little exploration ventures into my world to ask us about stuff. But if you intend on trying to contain me and my world, you are going to shoot me in the head. And you better pray to whatever gods you worship that it kills me, and then you better destroy that teleporter exit and leave my world the hell alone. Because if it doesn't? I will personally march my world into yours, and then we will take your anomalies."

Conagher withdrew a pistol from his pocket and handed it to Cassiter. Conagher grinned maliciously and lifted his hat to expose his forehead.

"Make your choice, son. Your world hangs in the balance."

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