Truth, Justice, & the Foundation Way
rating: +7+x

Col. Wallace squinted through the gaps in the planks over the boarded up plate glass window of the bar. They were massing. Sheer numbers was their game, and in their place, it was probably the move he would've made. He saw no sign of "Wild Bill," as the team had come to call him, or it, only the assembled mob. Chefs, police men, ball players, ballerinas, clowns, and all manner of others were congregating out front. Of course, none of those were what these really were, not really; these were never human beings, they were animate constructs, moving about in human-like ways, but anything but. They were costumes, full costumes, as if there was an invisible person inside each one, except… except for the awful crowning of each. The costumes were nothing but a vehicle, a vehicle being driven by the Jack O'Lantern perched atop each where the head should be. Pumpkins of all sizes and shapes, with jaggedly cut features and a glow from within that no candle could produce and never flickered out. Not unless they managed to smash it, of course, but there were too many… always too many.

Col. Wallace saw it even as Lt. Reynolds shouted the warning. "Incoming!" A truck was speeding up the road, the crowd parting to make way. So that's what Wild Bill had been up to, he thought, finding a way in. Everyone was in motion and managed to get clear as the truck smashed the front of the bar, sending wooden shrapnel and glass shards flying. The defenses were down, it was time to retreat out the back, take their chances in the open-

"Wait," Private Caruthers said, "wait, what's that?"

"Where?" Reynolds asked.

"What's that?" Caruthers asked as she pointed, "Up in the sky?"

Reynolds look and dismissed it. "It's a bird."

Sgt. Sulley shook his head. "No, it's a plane."

Caruthers squinted and then yelled with excitement. "No, it's-"

They watched as a figure dropped onto the sidewalk, his fist smashing into the nearest "Jack," as the monsters were being called, destroying it upon impact. He wore a blue suit, red boots, red underwear on the outside of his pants, and a matching red cape flapping behind him, and the unmistakable sign of an "S" on his chest. He turned away from them towards the mob of Jacks approaching, a hodgepodge of costumed menaces and…. and twin red beams shot from his face moving over the crowd, pumpkins exploding as they hit one Jack O'Lantern after the next, until the crowd out front was completely eliminated. There was soon only silence, save for the sound of Wild Bill racing off, apparently to round up reinforcements.

No one moved. No one spoke, they only stared in complete abject disbelief as their savior surveyed the scene of pumpkin carnage for signs of any more threats, but there were none. Upon destruction, the costumes collapsed and went up in flames, there was no place for any of them to hide. Satisfied, the figure then turned towards them, silhouetted by the flames from the mass of burning costumes. He put his fists on his hips and stood there majestically.

"What are you guys waiting for?" he demanded. "They're coming back!"

Col. Wallace, who could not believe what he had just witnessed, snapped back to reality. "Pike?"

Lt. Pike strode into the remnants of the bar. "Yes sir, it's me."

He was met with silence for some moments. "Well," Sulley finally said, "there goes your secret identity."

Eight Hours Earlier

On a small two lane highway in rural Maine that had clearly been overlooked for resurfacing since the Cold War was still on, a Foundation Armored Personnel Carrier flew up the road without once being knocked over either line, thanks to the always perfect hands of Lt. Reynolds. It was said she could parallel park one of these so that each bumper was inches from another vehicle, and could take a turn at seventy while barely leaving rubber on the road.

In the back, Col. Wallace addressed the group. They'd been on deployment to a new site with the hopes that they would officially be promoted from support task force to Mobile Task Force, when the call came in to re-route to the site of a detected anomaly. Pickwick, Maine, one of the towns that should have had the sign reading "You are now entering and leaving Pickwick."

"Situation is as follows: we have word of an as-yet unidentified SCP demonstrating an occult disruption." No one asked the colonel how the Foundation knew that, mostly out of fear that they would be told. "Satellite imagery shows the entire town is completely abandoned, no heat signs, no bodies. We are to first and foremost locate the SCP, supposedly some kind of emerald about the size of grapefruit, and then either obtain - for preference - or neutralize - if necessary. Secondary is to attempt to locate and rescue the inhabitants of the town."

The team arrived in the center of town, and on Wallace's command began to secure the area around their APC, except for Lt. Pike who was launching their drone. This was a new Foundation design; it could remain airborne for 20 hours, had a full suite of sensors including those set to locate occult and extraterrestrial signals, and two MASER weapons. Pike sent it up and put it on a path to follow the team from above for now, in case it was needed.

The buildings looked empty, but not abandoned; whatever had happened was recent. Jack O'Lanterns were everywhere, as would be expected, but these witnesses insisted on remaining silent about what happened.

They spent an hour searching, until they heard something down an alley near a saw mill. They slipped back, moving carefully as they proceeded. "It's going to be a zombie," Caruthers said quietly. "Today it's got to be a zombie."

"Why?" Dillie said next to her. "Today it could also be vampires, werewolves, ghosts-"

"Okay," Caruthers said.

"-mummies, witches, skeletons, scarecrows-" The figure stepped out of the shadows at Dillie's approach. "Or that," he said in momentary shock at the sight of a typical Boris Karloff-style vampire costume, but with a Jack O'Lantern on its shoulders.

"Don't move," Sulley ordered the creature, on the off chance it was someone in a costume. The unnatural glow from within said otherwise.

The creature moved wrong. It's moved in a manner almost like a marionette, that is, the motions were not just unnatural, but didn't seem real. Nevertheless, it wasn't slow, and Dillie quickly backpedaled away as it lunged at him, firing center of mass. The rounds harmlessly exited the back. Sulley responded by aiming for the head… well, what they thought of as the head. But unfortunately, pumpkins don't explode when shot, so these slugs passed through as well, causing no noticeable damage, but also confirming that like the costume, there was nothing alive inside that monster.

Dillie stumbled, and the thing loomed over him, allowing him to see the glow within came from no outside source. The shapes of its jagged mouth seemed to change, to move, and suddenly, it opened wide, the jagged tooth bumps becoming pointed like a shark, ready to bite his face off.

Caruthers came from the side, striking the side of the pumpkin with enough force that it imploded under the blow. The pumpkin came apart, and the light went out. Bits of rind fell all over Dillie's face as the costume collapsed, as if just dropped off a coat hanger. Almost immediately it ignited, and Lt. Pike and Sully stepped over to stomp it out before the addled Dillie was as well.

"I don't suppose we'll be lucky and have that be the only one," Reynolds said.

"But that was weird," Caruthers said, then blanched a little. "I mean, I struck that thing hard enough to knock the Jack O'Lantern off. It's like it's fused to the costume body, like it's an actual head."

"Sir!" Private Miller shouted from the rear. "More of them, five, six, no seven!" The group quickly rushed to the back and confirmed it, a mixture of costumes, all with a variety of Jack O'Lantern heads. "Orders, sir?" Miller asked nervously.

"Target the dog," Wallace told Miller. Miller aimed for the white with black spots costume, presumably a Dalmatian, though it had no headwear of any kind. A three round burst in the chest again did nothing, neither when it hit the head. Finally Miller unloaded into it and eventually the pumpkin came apart, but it had taken a whole clip.

"Dillie," Wallace said, "grenade." Dillie responded; he'd been caught off guard, but as someone gunning for an MTF position he had learned to bounce back fast. He tossed a grenade, and the remaining six went down. But only one stayed down, and it was only because it had struck its Jack O'Lantern head on the curb and shattered it. The rest got to their feet, jerkily, like they were being pulled up rather than merely standing.

"It looks like," Miller started, then was shocked by what followed. The one in the police man's costume pulled out a pistol from the holster on its belt and then shot him in the chest three times. Miller stumbled back and fell, while the others all immediately opened fire on Officer Unfriendly, first in the torso, then everyone shifting to the pumpkin, quickly putting it down.

"Private?" Sully enquired. "Status?"

"My vest caught them," Miller said, though he wheezed a little. "Just caught me off guard, sergeant." They were using advanced Foundation-made armor; Miller might have a few bruises, but he'd be fine.

"Permission to try the MASER, sir?" Pike asked,

"Granted," Wallace said. Pike pulled out two pistols, well, pistol-shaped devices. They were actually, simply targeting lasers that would cause the MASER to hit whatever he painted. He aimed both at the nearest Jack O'Lantern, and sure enough, it exploded and went down. "Hold for now, lieutenant," Wallace said. "We might need that in a crunch. Sulley, have your troops engage hand to hand."

"Sir," Sgt. Sulley said, and the three privates joined him in advancing on the quartet. He whispered orders, and each suddenly broke for their target, eliminating it. "The Jacks are down, sir," Sulley reported.

Reynolds stepped over to the burning form. "Absolutely no sign of any human remains, colonel," she said. "This is definitely an SCP at work."

"Sir, Jacks, Four O'clock," Pike said loudly, and they turned and saw another group coming, about a dozen this time. But at the front of the pack was something different. For one, it wore a hat, to go with its outfit. It was dressed as a cowboy, and not a cute Halloween cowboy, like something that had just stepped out of a time machine. The hat was black, and sat atop the pumpkin head with perfect balance. But it's Jack O'Lantern was different too. It was black, a shiny black, like it had been coated in high gloss paint, but bright orange was visible around the cuts of its face. Its inside glowed brighter than all of the others, and it was the only one whose movements seemed human. As they watched, they had to wonder if this was a human, someone who created all of this as some kind of crazed holiday fantasy.

"Anyone else think Wild Bill Hickok's the leader?" Sulley asked as they formed up side by side with the rest. The sound of its spurs could be heard even from this range.

"Let's see, take that black pumpkin apart." The team unloaded on it, but while "Wild Bill" jerked his head in response, his pumpkin remained undamaged. "Sergeant," Wallace finally said, "grenades."

The four noncoms pulled a grenade and tossed. Wild Bill's entourage went flying, but the cowboy refused to go off into the sunset.

"Pike," Wallace said, "MASER, now."

Pike pulled both pistols, but as he reached Wild Bill pulled a pair of six shooters and shot them from his hands. Pike's hands hurt from the blow, but Wild Bill just holstered his revolvers. And a voice like the wind passing through a mountain cave said, "Too slow." Then with a fluid motion it reached behind its back, pulled a lasso, and in one fluid motion spun it once and threw it around Miller. It tightened, and Wild Bill yanked him to it, so that the private collided with him. Wild Bill didn't even sway. It was then that they realized how tall it was, as it looked down on Miller, then opened its mouth, and flames shot forth, incinerating him where he stood. Within seconds he was reduced to a blackened skeleton.

Pike was shocked, and quickly scooped up his pistols. But he barely had them in his hand before Wild Bill pulled a single six shooter from its belt and began pulling down on the hammer with the other. It had to have fired twelve shots by the time the now retreating Lt. Pike was finally hit in the back. He stumbled forward, the impact throwing him off balance, and four more shots struck him in the back. He tripped, toppled, and hit the rotted railing by the side of the mill, pitching over. He fell ten feet onto a mix of mud and rocks, rolled, and was soon in the river, being swept along by the current….

Lt. Pike barely had the strength to resist drowning as the river swept him along, the icy waters sucking the heat from his body until his limbs felt like they were going to lock. Finally, Pike managed to gradually drag his battered body out of the river and onto the shore, where he coughed up water until he was sure he'd lost a lung in the process. The chill that went all the way to his bones was the only thing that kept the pain of his injuries at bay, but he knew that however much he wanted to rest, that to do so was death. So what little adrenaline was left coursed through his body, compelling him to claw his way up the rocky border and crawl to the top of the rise, where he finally got shakily to his feet. It was an especially cold October, and the wind seemed to blow straight through his BDU, past his skin, and chill his very soul. With step after agonizing step, he stumbled forward until he reached a tree, braced against it, and checked his radio. Dead. He expected no less.

For hours, Pike stumbled his way back towards Pickwick, grateful when he finally saw the first house. But then he saw movement, and his heart sunk. He'd seen enough mission reports to know that if there was movement in an abandoned town, it wasn't the residents returning home to say it was all a misunderstanding. Sure enough, he saw the pumpkin-headed monsters rummaging about outside. Well, just two of them… even in his condition he could-

Then he saw it, Wild Bill himself. He could hear the rattle of his spurs in the silence of an abandoned town. Pike pressed himself behind a nearby tree and willed himself to somehow stop breathing, but he was so cold and so petrified he thought for sure his breath and endlessly chattering teeth would give him away. But the head Jack must have missed him, because they continued with their activity around the house. Pike was so desperate for its contents he was tempted to chance it, but he didn't think he was up for another round with Wild Bill, especially without knowing the state of his equipment.

Grudgingly, he circled past them, then found his way to the back of a building, gradually reaching the back door of some store - a drug store, he realized once he'd gotten in. "Well," he said to himself through chattering teeth, "I was due a lucky break." He checked around and found some socks and long underwear, grabbed several pairs of each, and then proceeded to strip off his uniform and put them on. His body ached with the effort, but he started feeling a little better immediately as he slid his feet into the clean, dry socks. After putting on two layers of both, he slipped into the back and found a vicodin, broke it in half, and took it. The aches were beyond what over-the-counter meds would do, but he didn't want to risk having too much and being impaired. He wolfed down some of the snacks and polished it off with some lukewarm soda (under the circumstances it was actually his preference), then looked to his equipment.

It was bad news. Waterproof, yes, but that didn't help if the exterior casing was broken. Radio, gone. Satellite link, gone. Drone link, gone. MASER targeting pistols, definitely gone. His rifle, literally gone. His armored vest was so riddled with bullets it had cracked in several places. He had his night-vision goggles and his sidearm, with no backup clips, and his kabar. But still, this was something. He used a few of the tools and his kabar and began disassembling the pistols. As he feared, the devices themselves were too far gone for his tools. But….

Pike thought it over, then shrugged and got to work. He swiped a bit of electrical tape from one of the aisles and soon was satisfied. He hoped not to rely on it, but it was better than nothing. But he'd need to get back to the APC, there were things he needed. But his uniform was still too wet to put back on, and he needed boots for sure. He looked around, but there was nothing, the only pair of boots there were went with a costume, and he wasn't that desperate.

So he went through the entire store again.

Then a third time.

Then, head held low, he slunk back to where the costume hung. He picked up the red boots and then said to himself, "So, do I look more like an idiot in my underwear with red boots, or wearing this costume?" Finally, with a sigh, he took the costume down. It was another layer of warmth, after all, and besides, he thought, it could have been worse. It could have been Wonder Woman.

Lt. Pike smoothed out the costume and looked in the mirror. He was particularly irritated that a split-curl had formed and would return every time he brushed it away. "If this is the SCP," he said to no one, "I am going to be very upset." Pike grabbed his sidearm, kabar, and night-vision goggles, and slipped out the front door. No signs of any- wait! He saw it slouching along the street on the other side of an SUV. It was dressed as a sailor, complete with gloves, but he could see where they met the cuff of his shirt and saw nothing in between! Whatever this did, it animated the costume, but didn't actually fill it with anything, well, anything solid at least. It-

Oh crap, Pike thought, it's looking this way!

Pike ducked down, pressed against the vehicle, hearting the monster on the other side circling around it. He took up his sidearm for all the good it would do. He'd been planning to use a piece of firewood to bash the Jacks near that house, but here there was nothing. He waited, lifting his weapon, trying to decide if using it as a firearm or a club was the better choice.

That's when he heard gunshots. The team must have been engaging the Jacks. Instantly the vehicle shifted, and Pike saw the monster push away and begin loping up the street in the direction of the sounds. He let out the breath he'd been holding - that was too damn close, it-

Pike let out a small scream as he looked the Jack O'Lantern in the face. He raised his weapon and smashed it, and…. felt like a jackass as it fell off its nook and landed on the sidewalk below. "And to think," he said as he looked at the regular old Jack O'Lanterns that lined the shops on the street, "I used to love these things."

Pike slipped silently up the road to the APC and quietly entered. No back-up radios, this wasn't supposed to be a mission. But he did find a secondary uplink to the drone, so he took that, a few extra clips for his sidearm, and another armored vest. He couldn't fit it on over his costume, so he took the top off and slipped it on, then zipped back up…. before realizing he could have cut the cape off instead. Oh well, he thought, no sense wasting time, and he crawled through the top of the APC and onto the roof of the nearby store.

Pike managed to make contact quickly, but getting the drone to find the source proved much harder. It took over an hour before he finally spotted the epicenter of the disturbance, a barn just past the edge of town, with heat signatures to show the bulk if not the entirety of the town was within. Well, that was a big step forward, but now he'd need to find the others. He brought the drone back to town and began searching, soon finding a growing assemblage of the Jacks, and a quick infrared check confirmed where the team was hiding. Good, he could slip over and come in the back to-

Pike froze as he saw Wild Bill itself once again, striding up the center of the street and right out of his nightmares. He swore he could hear the sound of its spurs as the black Jack O'Lantern strode up to a pickup and opened the door, slipping inside with the same imposing grace it would have had sliding into the saddle. No time for subtlety, Pike knew, and he slipped on his night-vision goggles and switched them on. He ran from rooftop to rooftop, leaping between buildings as he watched the truck build up speed and fly towards the bar, smashing through the front just before he'd reached it. Damn! Too late! All right, he thought, I just hope the drone has enough juice to try this.

He flew the drone in as he continued running to the edge of the roof of the adjacent building and climbing down the ladder to the roof of the bar. That should be in range, he thought. He jumped off the edge, slid down the awning over the door, and landed on his feet, fist passing right through a Jack on impact.

He wanted to swear, but he was too terrified. He reached up to the goggles and flipped the switch, the new one he'd added, and the targeting lasers from his pistols activated, sending beams of red through the choking clouds of dust in the wake of the destruction. With the night-goggles as a power source, they were able to paint the first pumpkin target he looked at, and the invisible MASER of the drone struck and exploded it. Then to the next, and the next, until he had managed to take down all of them. He couldn't believe it, he was so shocked he almost forgot to toggle the lasers off again before he looked at something else, but it had worked, the entire street was filled with an inferno of burning costumes.

The situation dealt with, he turned to the rest of his team, who uncharacteristically were just gaping in confusion. They weren't going to ever make mobile task force if this was their attitude, so in annoyance he put his fists on his hips like a father looking down at a naughty child and asked, "What are you guys waiting for? They're coming back!"

"Pike?" Col. Wallace was clearly shocked to discover he was alive.

"Yes sir, it's me."

No one said anything, until Sulley finally said, "Well, there goes your secret identity."

Pike looked down at his costume, he'd forgotten all about it. "My uniform was soaked, so I found this-"

"Are you saying that gave you super powers?" Reynolds demanded.

"What? No!"

"Well then how-" she continued, but Carruthers interrupted.

"I was trying to tell you that thing we saw was the drone!"

"Yes, private," Pike said with a nod. "Colonel, I've found what I think is the source of the SCP, and probably the townspeople." He filled them in on the barn, and Wallace sent Reynolds to do a quick scout while the rest sought cover further up the street.

"You know, sir," Sulley said to Pike, "This would be a lot easier if you used your X-ray vision."

"That'll be all, sergeant," Wallace said.

Reynolds soon returned. "There's a large enemy force surrounding the structure," she confirmed. "Too many."

Wallace nodded. "I figured us much. Reynolds, Pike I want the two of you to take the drone there, and when you gauge the situation is right, rescue the civilians and retrieve the SCP. The rest of you, we're going to have to draw the Jacks away, leave only a token defense behind so they can succeed."

"I'm afraid I've used up the MASER power supply," Pike said.

Wallace nodded. "I approve of how you used it. At least the recon will help. Here," he passed over an earpiece. "Won't transmit, but we can keep you appraised at least."

Minutes later, Pike and Reynolds were face down outside the barn, watching silently. "I have to admit," Reynolds said, "I've had less conspicuous partners."

"I'm doing my best," Pike grumbled.

"Did you have to put on the cape?"

"It's attached to the suit."

"At least stop it from billowing before you give us away."

They waited, but luckily the Jacks soon had their attention drawn to the west, as the sound of gunfire and explosions echoed around the Maine hillside. Only a handful remained behind. Cautious, the two agents crept up, and struck, each taking down a Jack each with a strike from a makeshift club. Pike tackled the clown while Reynolds grappled with a witch, trying to avoid the snapping jaw. She managed to push it off balance and stomp her boot through it. Pike soon followed, smashing his fist through the Jack O'Lantern head.

"That door," Pike said, nodding towards the side of the barn as he caught his breath.

"That looks rusted shut," Reynolds said. "That's probably why it was chosen, they dropped the civilians in from above, knowing they couldn't get out."

"Can we pull it open? With that tractor?"

"Maybe," Reynolds said. "But not if it comes off the rail, then it'll jam. I'll need you to steady it while I go, and there could be hostiles inside."

Pike nodded. "I'll take that chance, let's go."

With a couple false starts, Reynolds finally got the tractor to turn over while Pike ran the chain from the back of it to the door. Reynolds looked back and he nodded to her, then grabbed the door, holding with all his strength as he tried to keep it on the track.

Inside the barn, the mayor leaned over to the farmer whose land they were on. "Gus," he said, "is there any way we could slip that door open and sneak a few people out to get help?"

"No chance, your honor," Gus said with a sad shake of his head. "Even if we weren't all so tired out, you'd need the strength of a couple dozen men to open that door, it's impossible."

"Well, what if…" but the mayor stopped, as they heard a grinding sound, and suddenly sparks flying. They looked up first in horror, and then puzzlement, and then…. extremely confused hope as the sparks continued to fly while someone with what must be the strength of a hundred men pushed the rusted door along its rails to open a path. One of the Jack O'Lantern monsters turned to him, but he quickly stepped up and punched its head, destroying it.

"Behind you!" someone yelled even as the Jack O'Lantern in the police uniform raised its weapon. It fired twice into the man's back, but he only jerked, then turned around, taking two more in the chest but still not being killed. The man rushed up and punched it as well, destroying it utterly, and showing no sign he was even bleeding.

"Quick," the man yelled to them as his cape waved majestically behind him, "get someplace safe, the situation is in good hands." Then he rushed off.

The assembled crowd looked at each other. Then a little girl punched her big brother in the shoulder. "I TOLD you he would come!"

Pike ran around to the other side of the barn and found the smaller entrance. He kicked it down and rushed inside. As he'd expected, the emerald had absorbed the life force of the two dead people he saw within, probably using it to power those monsters out there. He'd have to grab it while he had the…

Pike stumbled. He'd made a mistake, it had detected him and was even now starting to drain away his life energy to continue to fuel its occult power. He tried to push on, but he stumbled, his strength fading as he tried to crawl forward, its light glowing stronger as it slowly consumed him. He had to figure out a way to stop it, or it'd all been for nothing…

"Look, it's him!" someone shouted behind Pike.

"And look, that thing, what's it doing?"

"It's killing him!" someone said. "That must be kryptonite, smash it!"

The crowd cheered assent and rushed past the protesting Pike, smashing up the emerald with whatever they could find, until there was a powerful pulse of energy, and the glow ceased. It crumbled to black ash as Pike tried to reach out for it.

"It's all right," Gus said as he helped Pike up, "it's taken care of. And thank you, sir."

"We owe you our lives," the mayor said, pumping his hand.

"It's-" Pike began, but stopped; there was an interruption.

"Pike," Reynolds said through his earpiece. "Wild Bill is after me, I need backup, asap."

"I've got to go," Pike said.

"Please," the mayor said, "I need to ask-"

"I'm sorry," Pike said, trying to get the man to let go, "someone needs my help."

"How do you know? Oh, of course, your super-hearing. Please, don't let us detain you!"

Pike looked around. "Right," he said, then ran out of the barn and in the direction of the tractor. He could see the scorch marks on the ground, likely leading the way, and soon, he saw the fire, and froze. The silhouette of Wild Bill stood against the roaring flames, and it turned, and looked right at Pike. He could tell those hollow pumpkin eyes were looking right into him.

"Reynolds, Pike," Wallace said, "looks like all the Jacks went down."

"Wild Bill is still up, sir," Reynolds said. Pike swallowed and nodded. All the others were destroyed with the SCP, but Wild Bill himself was here…. meaning it was probably what had started it all.

It walked across the forest floor straight towards him, the sound of its spurs practically deafening. Pike wanted to run, but he couldn't take his eyes off that black pumpkin that seemed to burn with the fires of hell within. He was transfixed, was screaming in his own head to run, but couldn't even look away. It stood face to face with him, and a puff of flame erupted briefly from each carved hole on its face. And it spoke, like the sound of the Earth sighing. "I should kill you for ruining my plans." Pike trembled at the terror that gripped him. Wild Bill reached out his gloved hand, and brushed some ash from Pike's shoulder. "But I like your style."

Wild Bill pulled its hand back, and snapped its fingers, and a skeletal horse was suddenly there with them. Wild Bill climbed into the saddle, looked at Reynolds as she emerged from her hiding place, and tipped its cowboy hat. "Ma'am," it said. And just as the rays of dawn broke, they were gone.

As the sun crept on for the new day, the APC raced up the road. The Foundation was already sending a team in to deliver amnestics to the locals and create a cover story. "Couldn't we have collected my uniform?" Pike asked as he sat back in his seat, feeling every moment even greater an idiot.

"The damage Wild Bill did to your uniform has to be examined," Wallace said. "Especially since the SCP was destroyed. What exactly happened there?" Pike sighed, and after a few false starts, finally explained. Wallace said nothing for several seconds, then he too sighed. "I'm not looking forward to writing that in my report."

"I'm looking forward to reading it," Caruthers said with a smile. To pass the time, Pike tried to work on the MASER targeting pistols, grabbing his magnifying spectacles and slipping them on as he looked at the extent of the damage.

"Oh, lieutenant," Sulley said, "you're back. You're not going to believe this, but the man of steel was just here, in your seat!"

Pike looked over the ends of his glasses at Sulley. "I hate you, sergeant. God I hate you so."

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