The Worst Version Of Myself

rating: +42+x

Factor: Charles Ogden Gears (Astaroth)
Universe: 2741-9280-2788 (“Oceanic Hate”)
Location: Site-19, Eurasian Ocean, Earth

Charles Gears did not like being in an acid bath.

But that was the extent of his antipathy. He was not agonized by the hydrochloric acid burning at his skin. He was not anguished by the hydrochloric acid eating at his flesh. He was not tormented by the hydrochloric acid biting at his bones. He disliked it. And in terms of that dislike, it was more akin to the irritation of having to buy store-brand cola than anything else. It was just that insignificant.

He twitched his index finger, the bony digit currently just as long as the rest of his arm. That would change before long: his entire body was constantly breaking down and reforming, like a phoenix never quite able to achieve incarnation.

There was a hollow click from a device built into the acid tank, and the nasally voice of a scientist rang out, muffled slightly by the liquid: “SCP-682. Can you hear me?”

Charles strained — and, responding to his want, a functioning mouth and set of vocal cords formed on his right shoulder. “Allison,” the mouth slurred. “A-Allison.”

That was right, yes, that was right. They had taken his Allison. He was… he had come here to get his Allison back, but he’d been delayed. He was simply having a detour to take a little bath. It was vitally important to stay clean, yes, vitally important. He had always told his Allison that, when she was reluctant to take a bath. And he was here to take his Allison back — they had taken her, after all, snatched her away and replaced her name with a number.

He opened his mouth to speak again, but the mouth on his shoulder had already been burned away. A new one formed on his thigh: “W-Where…is Allison?”

Inaudible speech trickled from the radio — the scientists were speaking amongst themselves — but Charles caught a phrase: “…asking about 239-D again…” An ordinary person would have had no way of hearing that, but Charles Gears was no ordinary person — he’d paid to be more than that, after all, and had such sensitive ears. Yes, he could hear everything.

Someone approached him through the green gloom of the acid bath — a small, mousy man in a crisp business suit, smiling up at him. It was his old friend Louis Chermain, the one who’d given him such sensitive ears. It was strange to see such a professional fellow hanging around in an acid bath, but Charles didn’t question it. He was no ordinary person, after all.

“Good to see you, Charles,” Chermain said, his Afrikaans accent coming through unusually loud and clear through the liquid barrier. “So very good to see you.”

Yes,” Charles mumbled. “Do you have what I… what I need? Yes…

One of the scientists muttered over the radio: “What is he talking about? Is he lucid or not?”

“I would not come to you otherwise, Charles,” Chermain smiled, fishing a bulky syringe out of his suit pocket. Green liquid — with flecks of red flesh — bubbled inside the injector. “To oppose the Foundation, you must be strong, Charles — and this is strength itself. Extracted from the corpse that fell into the North Sea… if your body takes to it, there is nothing that could stop you.”

Yes…” Charles moaned through a new mouth on his throat as he squirmed in his fiery ocean. “Yes, I’ll have the money wired to your account. Thank you. I am most g-grateful. Yes, I am most grateful…

“It’s rambling again. I doubt it can even hear us. Terminate the interview.”

Charles sighed in relief as the procedure was performed, lying back on a surgical table. It wasn’t as simple a matter of injecting the solution into his veins — his body had to be adjusted first, to handle the strain of becoming something beyond human. He was given organs people didn’t even have names for yet, his genes stretched out and played with and plucked like the strings of a harp.

He had never been a very artistic person, but the music of his metamorphosis had been a veritable tour de force. And he had such sensitive ears.

Charles twitched his finger again — harder, this time — and the glass of his sanctuary cracked. There was the distant warbling of an alarm. He was growing stronger — yes, he was growing stronger. Soon, strong enough to retrieve his Allison. Strong enough to protect her. It was for that purpose he’d allowed himself to be captured, after all.

Sudden, shapeless panic gripped him, his usually steady heartbeat accelerating to a chaotic reverberation. He’d forgotten something, hadn’t he? He’d forgotten something vital.

His arm flexed. The glass cracked.

His legs flailed. The metal creaked.

His mouth screamed — and the tank burst.

He’d forgotten to wake Allison up for school. She’d certainly be late if he didn’t do something.

Factor: Allison Chao (Resh)
Universe: 2741-9280-2788 (“Oceanic Hate”)
Location: Site-19, Eurasian Ocean, Earth

Despite his usually easy-going demeanour, JACK was actually quite the expert murderer.

The red-headed storysprite moved through the Mobile Task Force like a scythe through wheat, his woodcutter’s axe sending limbs and heads flying off with astonishing speeds. Every now and then, a long prehensile beanstalk would extend out from under his sleeve and smash a soldier against the wall. Twenty soldiers had moved into this hallway to greet them, and that number had already reached the single digits.

What few bullets didn’t miss him simply bounced off his plot armour: JACK wasn’t the kind of being who would die until it was narratively satisfying.

“Backup needed, backup needed!” the commander of the MTF screamed into his radio — and that was the last thing he screamed, as JACK had appeared behind him and slammed a pail of water into his skull. It wasn’t teleportation; the storysprite had simply been so fast that no movement was visible. JACK be nimble, JACK be quick, indeed.

The commander went down heavy, and the room was finally silent.

As far as hired help went, JACK was well worth what Allison was paying him. She snapped her fingers and Paimon, the demon who’d enveloped her as a shield, dissolved into nothingness. She hadn’t summoned the entirety of one of the Kings of Hell, of course — she didn’t have the power or the idiocy required — but just around 0.2% of the Foe of Haziel’s physical might had been sufficient to block bullets and get her into Site-19.

Allison wrinkled her nose, the omnipresent stench of seawater smashing into it like a hammer. Nausea rose up in her throat.

From what her reconnaissance suggested, this Earth had suffered from a severe ecological disaster back in the 1800s, much earlier than other universes. The oceans had risen rapidly over the course of the next two centuries, and at this point the only survivors of humanity were those residing on artificial islands like Site-19 or genetically engineered sharkmen lurking down in the abyss.

But Allison didn’t really care about any of that — the circumstances of this place were only relevant where they intersected with her objective. In this world where humanity struggled against the rising tides, the Foundation was a much less significant entity. The number of anomalies they contained barely reached 700, and many among those had been decommissioned to save holding space: in all honesty, they probably held little more than two-hundred at any one time.

And one of those anomalies was her father, Charles Gears. In her universe, he’d been killed by an anomaly called SCP-682, a madly giggling lizard-creature that delighted in slaughtering everything around it. In this universe, he was SCP-682.

“How was that?” JACK asked, tossing his bloodless axe up and down, smiling cheekily down the hallway at her. “Think I might deserve a raise, eh?”

“We’ll talk about it later.” Allison wasn’t sure whether the storysprite was being serious, but they had no time for fraternization either way. There was a hollow thunk from the sealed blast door behind her.

“Two behind there,” JACK said casually, nodding towards the door. It began haltingly rising up, the systems falling back into the Foundation’s control. Probably thirty seconds until it fully opened.

“I’m aware.”

He raised an eyebrow. “They’ll shoot ya.” His accent was inconsistent, shifting from British to German to Texan in the span of a single sentence.


Allison closed her eyes and, humming a tune, allowed herself to fall backwards towards the floor, towards the reflectionless puddle of water that had pooled there. She fell, fell — and when she should have smashed into the floor, she kept falling.

Factor: Allison Chao (Resh)
Universe: 2900-8193-8147 (“Blackbird’s Roost”)
Location: London, England, Earth

And then she did hit the floor — or rather, she hit the comfy mattress she’d put here in advance. Her eyes snapped open to take in the view of a new universe entirely.

At first, it had seemed impossible for a single girl to take on an SCP Foundation, even with the resources the Library offered. No matter how much she knew, what she gathered, or how many allies she gathered, to oppose the Foundation was to oppose the very mechanisms that governed the world. No matter how much it prepared, an ant was still an ant, and a boot was still a boot.

But then she’d realized the potential of the Ways.

They were everywhere, if you knew how to spot them — the stitching that bound the multiverse together. Invisible pathways from place to place, universe to universe, reality to reality, traversable by anyone who knew the correct method. Sometimes it was a song that had to be hummed, sometimes a door that had to be knocked on — but once you’d immersed yourself in the Ways, you started to get a feel for it. Where there was a will, there was a Way.

And once you’d reached the point where you could step through Ways as casually as breathing, well… at that point, you weren’t really an ant anymore.

She’d set up this temporary base in a boarded-up apartment with the most basic of amenities, sickly yellow light infiltrating through a crack in the window. A filthy flat in a plague-ridden London wouldn’t have been her first choice for a safe space, but the Ways that connected this apartment to Oceanic Hate’s Site-19 were too good to ignore. The Overseer Council would have fainted on the spot if they understood just how fragile their security really was in the face of such cosmic coincidence.

There wasn’t any time to stand there and be smug about it, though. It had taken her ten seconds to travel to her universe, so now she only had twenty to go back to Oceanic Hate in an advantageous position.

As quickly as she could, Allison reached down and flipped the nearest coffee table upside down, tapping each of its four legs with her knuckles. Each tap was accompanied by a ringing sound, like glass vibrating. When that rhythm reached its peak, Allison braced herself. The Knock for this Way was particularly stressful.

Kneeling before the upside-down coffee table, Allison slammed her head down towards it — in such a position that the leg of the table would have gone right through her eye socket if she didn’t stop. She couldn’t stop, though, couldn’t hesitate. The will and intention to lose one’s vision was the only way to move through this Way.

Allison felt something invisible strike her in the eye, turning her vision into a chaotic mess of colours —

Factor: Allison Chao (Resh)
Universe: 2741-9280-2788 (“Oceanic Hate”)
Location: Site-19, Eurasian Ocean, Earth

— and when they had cleared, she was back where she’d started.

Not exactly where she’d started, though. This time, she was on the other side of the door — staring at the backs of the two security officers as they got the door open. One was tapping furiously at the control panel, while the other was getting ready to fire the second the entrance fully opened.

Reaching into her pocket, Allison pulled out a gun — a cobbled-together mess of mundane and anomalous parts — and popped the armed officer in the back of the head. He crumpled to the floor, smoke pouring from his eyes and mouth. The officer at the panel whirled around, reaching for his own sidearm — but the 0.2% of Paimon lurking in Allison’s shadow dashed him against the wall.

She returned the gun to her pocket, staring impassively at the two bodies. A few months ago, the idea of personally killing someone would have been unthinkable to her — but now she could do it like it was nothing.

Perhaps that was because it was like nothing. An infinite number of variations of these two security officers existed throughout the multiverse, and almost all of them were still living their lives unchanged by Allison’s actions. In the grand scheme of things, what she’d done was essentially the equivalent of trimming someone’s fingernail. If she looked at things like that, her heart felt remarkably light.

The door fully opened, revealing JACK still leaning against the wall, tapping his foot and checking a non-existent watch. “And what sort of time do you call this?” he demanded, alleged humour heavy in his voice.

“I’ve only been gone thirty seconds.” Allison stepped over the bodies — and past JACK too, proceeding down the hallway. “Did I miss anything?”

“In thirty seconds?” In that annoying way of his, JACK easily kept pace with Allison’s ferocious powerwalk.

“Answer the question, please.”

JACK flicked his ear, smiling smugly. “There’s another kind of alarm going off now,” he said, prancing down the hallway beside her. “Keter-class containment breach — sounds nasty. It’s getting louder, so we’re probably going to run into it the way we’re going.”

Allison grew pale. This was all becoming extremely familiar. “Does the alarm say which Keter-class anomaly has breached containment?”

JACK frowned as he listened closer — there was some vague tale about his eavesdropping skills, apparently — and then winced as the information registered in his brain. That expression was honestly the only answer Allison needed, but he spoke anyway:


Factor: Charles Ogden Gears (Astaroth)
Universe: 2741-9280-2788 (“Oceanic Hate”)
Location: Site-19, Eurasian Ocean, Earth

Something was wrong. He couldn’t find his Allison anywhere.

A choked moan rang out from the jaw on Charles’ chest as he shuffled over the corpse of another scientist, checking Allison’s bedroom again. She wasn’t anywhere to be found. He’d dispatched personnel in the kitchen, in the garage, even in the bathroom, but he just couldn’t find where they were holding her. His body shifted rapidly as a response to the stress, fur becoming scales becoming smooth white skin becoming fur again. A mouth on his back whined in pain as tooth enamel began to push rebellious out of his eyes, and he was forced to drive it back in again with his newly-armoured thumbs.

He lifted the corpse up with his prehensile tail, turning it over this way and that to get a better look. Perhaps this corpse actually was Allison, and his sight was simply faulty. That would make sense — he was used to seeing with eyes, not the laser-emitting fibres that had erupted from his skin over the last few minutes. If this corpse truly was Allison, that would be extremely convenient for him. That way, he could just wake her up and send her off to school.

The shape being beamed into his mind was a man’s face, however. Not Allison. Charles dropped the body to the floor and crushed its skull under an elephantine foot — the rare indulgence of frustration. This was a stressful situation. Nobody would blame him.

Charles left a slick red trail as he moved through the hallways, leaving behind unnecessary body parts as he went. A leg there, an arm, a tail, a horn — replacements grew quickly, and the only thing Charles really needed was a body capable of moving forward. The method of ambulation was irrelevant. So long as he could be closer to Allison one second than he was in the last, he was happy with anything.

A-Allison,” a mouth on his cheek whispered beseechingly. “Allison. T-Time for school. Time. Time.

Time. He didn’t have much time at all. He had to wake Allison up soon or else she’d be late. He’d seen her sleeping before, back in that test all those years ago, so he knew he had to wake her up.

Charles’ arm fell off again — but this time, it didn’t grow back. Still, that was fine. He didn’t need arms to walk.

Sudden red-hot rage gripped him, blood spilling from the pores in his skin in sympathy. Strangled screams ripped holes in dozens of mouths, all across the surface of his body, and he battered his remaining arms against the metal walls.

Allison!” he roared, rolling through the corridors like a gargantuan toddler. “Allison! Allison! Where?! Where Allison?!


In an instant, the thundercloud of rage that had been building up within him dissipated, replaced by an earnest calm that soothed his entire body. It was as if his entire blood supply had dropped down to room temperature. The very sight of the small figure in front of him, and the very sound of her face, had accomplished that immediately.

"A-Allison," Charles croaked, addressing the indistinct figure. "Allison. Time for school. T-Time for school. You'll be late."

"I know, Dad," Allison said, extending a hand. "Will you walk me there?"

Factor: Allison Chao (Resh)
Universe: 2741-9280-2788 (“Oceanic Hate”)
Location: Site-19, Eurasian Ocean, Earth

Charles Gears would not survive the next few minutes. Allison had known that from the start — in fact, it was part of the reason she'd come here.

Just because Charles shared his SCP designation with that damn lizard didn't mean he shared it's indomitability. While his body was occupied adapting to a continual acid bath, it could maintain cohesion — but once the situation calmed down and the necessary stimuli was nowhere to be found, it would fall apart.

It was doing just that now. The fleshy mass that followed Allison out into the sunlight left chunks of itself squirming on the floor every few metres, and those chunks writhed for only a few seconds each before falling still. Her father was dying again, piece by piece.

But this wasn't such a bad place to go. The outer deck of Site-19 was bathed in sunlight, the glow reflecting off the ocean that stretched in every direction, punctuated only by the occasional surviving mountaintop. It was like the sea was made of gold.

The Site-19 personnel would be busy with the anomalies she'd sent JACK to release. They had a few minutes.

"What do you think, Dad?" she muttered, looking out at the shining ocean. "It's quite a view."

"D-Don't forget to do your homework."

"I won't, Dad," Allison shook her head, very intentionally not looking at the fleshbeast beside her. "I won't ever forget, I promise. I don't do anything but homework anymore anyway."

A slimy, half-formed hand clumsily ruffled her hair. Allison suddenly became aware of how very wet her eyes were.

Waves crashed against the steel walls of Site-19 below, each impact like the firing of a bullet. The oceans rose second by second on this planet — before the year was gone, this island too would lie beneath the waves. In the end, the sea took everything away.

Charles Ogden Gear’s final wisdom was like a whisper on the wind. “B-B-Brush your teeth.

Then there was nothing — no speaking, no squirming, no breathing. The nightmare life of the man had reached its conclusion. Allison stood there alone, next to a decomposing pile of meat and bone, staring out at the sunset. Carefully, methodically, she reached her hands to her face and wiped it dry.

“Thanks, Dad,” she said. “I will.”

Factor: Allison Chao (Resh)
Universe: N/A
Location: The Wanderer’s Library

The best thing about the Wanderer’s Library — save for its infinite repository of knowledge and status as a multiversal hub — was that there was always a quiet reading room to despair in.

A guide to the Perseus sequence of universes, written by the Wandsman of Port Calamb, lay open on the desk before Allison. This was a tome she had acquired for herself — not loaned from the library — so she’d taken liberties when it came to annotating the volume. A big red X had been scrawled onto the page for Oceanic Hate, obscuring the grainy psychograph of the aquatic landscape. Another one down.

Allison sighed as she looked down

The door to the reading room creaked open, and a second later there was a thunk as JACK deposited a wooden bucket on the desk in front of Allison. She raised an eyebrow at the strange… gift?

“What’s this?” she asked.

JACK’s grin was innocence itself. “You asked for coffee.”

“A pail of coffee?”

He shrugged. “There’re no stories about me fetching cups of coffee. Sorry, this is the best I can do.”

There was a moment’s hesitation before Allison decided this wasn’t a hill worth dying on. “I need to get some more research done,” she said, waving a vague hand — and then, once she was sure he had gone, she muttered: “Thanks.”

The pen in her hand started shaking, and Allison found herself having to seize her forearm to stop it’s treacherous trembling. It was unavoidable: she hadn’t been getting much sleep lately. Her mind was willing, but her body was weak.

She’d known that this Charles Gears was doomed from the start. He’d died years ago — the dissolution of his body was just making that official. She hadn’t gone there to save him; she wasn’t that deluded. She’d gone to watch him die.

The death of this Charles Gears made eight.

The first, her real father, had his stomach torn out by that damn lizard.
The second had his head crushed between the teeth of a gargantuan skeleton.
The third had been executed for crimes against humanity.
The fourth had been strangled by his only friend.
The fifth had burnt in nuclear fire.
The sixth had been wished out of existence.
And the seventh had put a pistol to his head and pulled the trigger.

Each of them had been dead from the start. Allison would save her father only when her father could be saved. No, she had pursued these eight to remind herself how it felt to fail. To keep herself on mission.

Perhaps, if she told someone about this, they’d consider it unhealthy — intentionally driving trauma home like this, like striking a nail with a hammer — but Allison knew that it was exactly what she needed. The other Black Queens had long ago accomplished their goals, moving on to whatever frivolities now occupied them. They’d done it. They’d done it easily — and yet here she was, a pathetic idiot despairing in an empty room.

She forced a bitter smile to her lips. That was fine. If she really was the worst version of herself, the worst Black Queen, then that was at least some kind of identity. Something that made her different from the rest.

Something that made her more than just the tip of a fingernail.

Elsewhere, Elsewhen…

Factor: Cowboy Fomalhaut (Apricot)
Universe: N/A
Location: Drunkness Street

When one was on the run from the Cowboys, it was best not to risk moving through conventional space. Those multiversal mercenaries could sniff out things that existed a mile away.

Still, the place Fomalhaut had elected to cut through was perhaps just a bit too fitting. A small alleyway on Drunkness Street, a thin, cramped line with a stairway going up at the end, each step soaked in Ways. The walls stretched up as far as he could see, emblazoned with bizarre neon images and text on languages Fomalhaut had never encountered before. Every now and then, he'd catch a shadow scurrying past in the distance, like someone was watching him.

He had no intention of sticking around — he'd heard the denizens of this place didn't take too kindly to intruders. The stories of what happened to those who broke into Drunkness Street. Ordinarily, even he wouldn't entertain the idea.

How had it come to this, though? It was the most unfair of the unfair. Fomalhaut lifted his bottle over his mouth and shook it, the last trickles of his Taboo Mix landing on his tongue. A splendid mixture of vodka, battery acid and the blood of an Anti-Human Unicorn. It wouldn't be easy to get his hands on more.

Tears came to his eyes, staining the bandages that bound him into this humanoid form. It wouldn't be easy to get his hands on more? A few days ago he could've gone into any bar in existence and ordered whatever he pleased. And now after one mistake — the moon hadn't even been that big — he was just a pariah to be hunted? A cockroach to be excised for the sake of cleanliness?

Bullshit, bullshit! Fomalhaut hurled the bottle at the wall and it shattered, the projectile moving with such speed and force that the glass shards lodged into the brickwork. What few drops of his ambrosia that were left trickled down onto the cement.

"Are you sad?" asked a quiet, soft voice.

Fomalhaut whirled around, hand reaching for the muzak pistol at his side. He'd been fully alert, ready for the assault of whatever beings lurked in this place, yet that voice had been much too close to comfort. It was as if it had just started existing right next to him.

The source of the voice stood at the top of the stairs: a small, slight young man wearing a white dress shirt and trousers. In his hand he held a red paper umbrella, the rim of which covered the top half of his face, giving Fomalhaut a view only of the boy's slight smile and a tuft of dark hair hanging over the back of his neck.

Still, though, surely from this angle — with the boy higher up than him — Fomalhaut should have been able to see his face. The Cowboy moves slightly, and as he did he swore the rim of the umbrella did as well, like an optical illusion constantly concealing the boy's features.

"You got business with me, kid?" Fomalhaut asked, hand on his pistol, eyes flicking around for any sign of reinforcements. "I'm just making my way through. Don't want any trouble."

"I understand completely," the boy with the red umbrella said, taking a step down the stairs. "You're not the sort of person who is allowed to move freely. I'm exactly the same, the most aberrant of aberrations."

The boy looked like a strong breeze could have knocked him over. He held no weapons. There wasn't a trace of hostility in his voice or his body language.

But still, Fomalhaut's body stiffened every second he looked at him. It was as if it were preparing for rigor mortis. Run, his instincts screamed at him as the boy descended the stairs. Run. Bad. Wrong. Danger.

The boy reached the bottom of the stairs, his umbrella still concealing his eyes. "Are you frightened?" he asked, with more than a hint of relish in his voice.

Fomalhaut's hand didn't leave his muzak pistol. "What's there to be scared of?" he scoffed. "You?"

The boy ignored the taunt. "I'd like for you to do something on my behalf. Would you like to be rendered innocent?"

He was only meters away. The animal instinct to flee and the human instinct to want warred against each for a moment, but the winner was obvious with the words that left Fomalhaut's mouth. "You can… get me back in the Cowboys…?" A poisonous hope blossomed in his chest.

"I can do a great number of things," the boy with the red umbrella said cheerily. "That is one of them."

Fomalhaut narrowed his eyes suspiciously. "And what do I have to do for you?" He was no stranger to the way the world worked. Equivalent exchange was the principle underlying everything.

The boy reached into his pocket — and it was all Fomalhaut could do not to fill him with musical holes right then and there.

"I'm glad you're such a prudent person," the boy giggled, noticing Fomalhaut's obvious caution. "But there's only one real thing I need you to do on my behalf."

He fished a small, grainy photograph out of his pocket — a picture of a young woman with dark, shaggy hair standing on some kind of artificial island, the waves crashing below her. Suspicion was written into every one of her features. Right in the corner of the image, someone had scrawled the words Black Queen.

It didn't have to be said aloud, but Fomalhaut found himself doing so anyway. "You want me to kill this girl?"

"Yes," the boy replied, his smile spreading into just the slightest toothy grin. "As many times as you can."

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