rating: +101+x

D-2172 squinted one eye and then the other, trying to figure out which one had the least amount of sleep gunk stuck in the corners. When she finally decided it was the right, she rubbed a fist into that eye for a moment and then tried to focus on the two guards standing outside her door.

"Hey, guys," she said in between yawns. "Bit early for this shit, ain't it?"

"Late for us," the one she recognized as Officer Grady told her with a shrug. She didn't know the other guy, either a new hire or a transfer.

Rubbing the other eye and wishing for an energy drink, she sighed and leaned against the doorframe. "Lemme guess, I'm about to get my walkin' papers?"

"If only you were so lucky," Grady chuckled. "Come on, '72, we ain't got all mornin'."

"Yeah, yeah."

'72 turned around and slumped back into her room, the solid security door sliding into place behind her. Trying to find the perfect balance between taking enough time to annoy the guards but not enough time to legit piss them off, she stripped out of her standard (and, for some damnable reason, mandatory) orange D-Class pajamas and started slipping into her standard orange D-Class jumpsuit and accompanying underthings. Not in that exact order, though it amused her for a few moments to imagine stepping out in full homemade superhero regalia.

As she sat on the bed and laced up her boots, she looked up at the mirror on the opposite wall and let out a quick huff at her reflection. "Another day in paradise," she mumbled, pulling the knots tight and standing up.

New Guy and Grady flanked her the moment she stepped back out of her room, then silently led her out of the D-Class dormitory. The hallways of Site-272 were quiet but not completely dead, even at such an awful hour in the morning. Researchers and the occasional guard or administrative drone would pass by, sometimes giving '72's escorts a nod of recognition but completely ignoring the petite woman between them.

Better than jail, I guess, '72 reflected not for the first time. There had been plenty of instances during her previous incarceration that she'd wished the people in charge had ignored her, treated her like a non-entity. Not that her time at the Foundation had been all wine and roses, but it beat the alternative.

Her jaw tightened slightly as she remembered just how close she had already come to going back to that alternative. It tightened further when she looked up and realized where they were heading.

"Hey, guys-"

"No talking," New Guy said, perhaps harsher than he'd meant and almost certainly tougher than he actually felt.

"Yeah, but-"

"Come on, it's been a long night." Grady's shoulders sagged a bit as he rubbed the bridge of his nose. "Don't make this any harder than it's gotta be, alright?"

"Jebus fuckin' cripes," '72 cursed under her breath, but she kept any other misgivings to herself as they crossed the dreaded security checkpoint into Site-272's Keter wing.

The air beyond seemed actively oppressive. Given the experience she'd already accumulated with the Foundation, '72 assumed that the feeling probably wasn't entirely psychological. Fortunately it also seemed that their little trip wasn't going to last much longer. They turned down the first hallway to the right, and just a few doors down the hallway stood the familiar face of Dr. Anna O'Neil, one of the site's senior researchers.

Despite the situation she was undoubtedly walking into, D-2172 felt her spirits rise just a little bit. Dr. O'Neil was watching them approach, obviously waiting for them, and she was still filling out a lab coat just as nicely as usual.

"Thank you, gentlemen, that will be all," the researcher told the guards, giving them a nod of dismissal.

New Guy seemed to hesitate for a moment, a natural reaction given standard operating procedure as '72 understood it. Grady swatted New Guy's shoulder and offered to buy the first round of coffees in the breakroom, however, so no objections were raised as they went on their way.

'72 raised an eyebrow and smirked once she and the lovely doctor were alone. She opened her mouth to speak but was interrupted by O'Neil holding up a hand.

"Please keep your inappropriate advance to yourself today, D-2172," O'Neil said brusquely. '72 loved it when she used her full designation. "We have a job for you."

The mood was immediately killed as '72 remembered where she was. "Oh, yeah," she said, glancing over at the door next to them. "Uh, about that. Keter duty? Really?"

O'Neil frowned deeply. "You've read the D-Class operations manual as well as the D-Class sensitivity training module, '72. You know there's no such thing as Keter duty."

"Okay, you get that I can read. So ya know I read the sign back there that said this is the Keter wing, and we're standin' right next to a door with a sign on it that says 'Class: Keter', right? I mean, I know you guys think I'm just some hick chick from the sticks, but I ain't stupid."

"D-2172, just become something can easily cause a containment breach does not mean it is inherently dangerous to human life."

"Right, but-"

"Stop." The doctor took in a deep breath and released it. "I understand. Believe me, I do. Given your particular situation and the pervasiveness of the 'Keter duty' rumors, it certainly would seem reasonable to think we're going to try and kill you off in some horrible testing 'accident', but I assure you it's not the case. Trust me."

'72 crossed her arms and shrugged as she looked away from O'Neil's hard gaze. "Okay," she said. "Fine."

The tension that had been filling the taller woman's body visibly eased away. "Good. Now, seriously, this is quite an important task you are being charged with, but it's going to be a great deal easier and safer than you might imagine. For one thing, we aren't going to be doing any testing today. Instead, you'll just be performing a little guard duty."

"What, like, just standing around with a thumb up my ass?" '72 laughed despite herself. "Grady ain't gonna like the competition."

"Well, not quite that easy, I'm afraid. This way, please."

Dr. O'Neil turned and moved over to the containment chamber door, which '72 only just noticed was slightly ajar. Without any need to put in a passcode, swipe a security key, or scan any part of her body or DNA, O'Neil was able to simply pull the door open and step inside.

"Y'know, maybe this thing wouldn't get all breachy if you tried locking the door."

A long-suffering sigh escaped the doctor. "You'd think," she replied. "Come along, and please leave the door cracked open behind you."

'72 restrained herself to a roll of her eyes and a quick shake of her head as her only complaints about the bizarre nature of the situation, then stepped inside and complied with the request. She turned away from the door and had the words Okay, now what? on the tip of her tongue, but she stopped short and frowned at the sight before her instead.

The chamber wasn't exactly large, she figured, but it certainly seemed larger than it actually was due to all the empty space within. Stairs led down to a sunken concrete floor illuminated by light panels in the ceiling high above. Aside from Dr. O'Neil and '72 herself, the only other person in the room was another D-Class sitting in a folding chair near the center of the room, just in front of a tall stepladder with a lock box balanced on the top. The doctor's footsteps echoed lightly from the bare walls as she approached him.

"Thank you, D-92368, you may go now."

The man closed the ancient magazine he was reading, stood up, and grunted as he audibly popped his back. "Thank Christ. Uh, the thing did its thing just before you came in, so it oughta be a while before it does it again."

"Excellent. Please take the chair and your reading materials with you when you go, and remember-"

"Yeah, prop the door open. No problem, doc." He quickly folded the chair, then picked it and a small stack of magazines up, hefting them slightly at '72 as he passed by. "Sorry," he told her with what sounded like genuine sympathy.

"Okay, I'm confused. Just what in the hell is goin' on here?" '72 asked, more with confusion than vehemence. "Ditchin' the guard escort? An unlocked containment room? I'd ask if I was on some kinda really fucked up hidden camera show, but that's pretty much SOP around here."

O'Neil looked up at the lock box and took in a deep breath before answering. "Ironically, you can add a lack of hidden cameras in this room to your list of unusual circumstances. Trust," she said, turning around to face '72. "Trust is something in very short supply in the Foundation, and with good reason. We deal daily with objects that can twist your senses, leaving you unable to trust what you see or hear. We regularly employ criminals, a generally untrustworthy lot, to be used as guinea pigs, which naturally doesn't lead them to trusting us very much in return."

"Oy, the grand lecture, oy," '72 interrupted, rolling her eyes. "Ma'am, if you could just shoot me instead, I'd really-"

"You are on thin ice, '72," O'Neil interrupted in turn. "There are very few people here willing to trust you after the incident with SCP-3053, which was bad enough. Trying to break into SCP-3147's locker with D-42271 last week has raised questions of your suitability to work with even the Safe anomalies. If it were up to Supervisor Kelly and the Site Director, you would already be rejoining '71 back at Broken Cliff Penitentiary."

D-2172 clamped her mouth shut and swallowed hard.

"Fortunately for you, I am one of the very few who believe you still have the potential to do good work for the Foundation," the doctor continued. "Dr. Markaby and I lobbied hard to keep you here, and this assignment is your last chance to prove that our trust is not misplaced. Fail this and you will be sent back, your memories erased and your sentence reinstated."

"Yeah," '72 said, her voice even raspier than usual. "Yeah, okay. So what's the job?"

The doctor pushed her glasses up on her nose. "Just wait a few minutes and you'll see."

'72 crossed her arms and looked everywhere but at the other woman. Crooking a finger into the collar of her jumpsuit, she tried to get a little air circulating. Everything about the room had become uncomfortable, a feeling she just couldn't shake even though she knew it was mostly a psychosomatic response. It didn't help that she was just standing around, waiting for whatever awful thing the object stored in the chamber was going to do.

Her train of thought was suddenly interrupted by movement in the corner of her eye quickly followed by the sharp clack of something hitting the floor behind her. She turned her head sharply around, eyes scanning first for the source of the noise, unsuccessfully, then over to the lock box, the lid of which she was surprised to see dropping back into the shut position.


With a long, slender finger, Dr. O'Neil pointed behind '72, who slowly turned to look. Still not seeing anything, she started stepping hesitantly in the indicated direction.

"Look down," the doctor prompted. "A little more to your right."

The confused D-Class knelt down when she finally spotted what she assumed she was supposed to have been looking for. She reached out, picked it up, and turned to present it to O'Neil.

"Okay, so what is it?"

"That," O'Neil replied, "is SCP-3284. It's a ball bearing."

'72 shifted the small metal sphere from one hand to the other. "Yeah, I see that. I mean, like, what does it do?"

"Something a little annoying for an organization like ours, I'm afraid." O'Neil rubbed a hand across her forehead. "It can't be contained. Put it in a box, it will open the box and roll out. Put it in a block of concrete, it makes the concrete crumble and then rolls out. Watch it with a camera, the camera malfunctions and it teleports away, and so on and so on."

D-2172 let out an amused snort. "Okay, I can see where that might tweak your noses a li'l bit," she said. "Guess I shouldn't go stickin' it in my pocket, then."

"That depends on if you like having pockets with holes in them," O'Neil said with a shrug.

"And if I just hold onto it real tight?"

"D-92368 wouldn't recommend it, I'm sure. He said his arm is still a little sore from the muscle spasms."

"Chuck it in a field and ignore the hell out of it?"

The doctor wagged her finger. "Very clever, but just because 3284 wouldn't move itself somewhere else, that doesn't mean somebody couldn't just come along and pick it up when we're not looking. Allowing it to be uncontained simply isn't an option."

"I guess y'all've thought this through." '72 held the ball up to the lights and squinted at it. "So what should I do with this thing before it starts makin' my hand dance around like a dyin' spider?"

"Put it back inside the box. Close the lid but leave it unlocked. 3284 has never been observed to move beyond ten meters outside of its containment, which is why we have it sitting in the exact center of a twelve cubic meter room with an open door, so it won't consider that part of said containment. Your job will be to locate and replace 3284 after every breach."

'72 paused halfway up the ladder. "Ah. That sounds-" She felt her heart sink a bit as the true nature of her new assignment started to settle in. "-incredibly boring," she finished quietly.

An enigmatic smile crept across Dr. O'Neil's features. "Don't worry. It happens at random intervals, and you'll only be in here for five hours."

"That is not reassuring."

"If you need a bathroom break, the restrooms are just down the hall on the left. Make sure you only go immediately after you put 3284 back in the box, and you have to be done and back within fifteen minutes. There aren't any cameras in here, so feel free to do whatever else you want as long as you don't damage anything and it doesn't interfere with your guard work. If you need any assistance, just go out and wave at one of the cameras in the hall."

'72 put the bearing back in its box and jumped down from the ladder. "Riiiiiiight, and if I feel like just takin' a walk?" she wondered aloud.

"A morning stroll through the Keter wing?" Dr. O'Neil asked in return as she tried to suppress a sardonic smile. "One of the most securely locked-down parts of this facility? Filled with some of its most dangerous and breach-prone anomalies?"

D-2172 shot fingerguns and a wink at Dr. O'Neil. "Just testin' ya," she said.

"Trust, '72." O'Neil held up a finger in warning. "This exercise is meant to help build it back up. Please take this seriously and don't abuse the chance we're giving you. Remember that it's your last one."

As O'Neil turned to go, the smaller woman licked her suddenly dry lips. "Hey, uh, just one more question?"

The doctor stopped and looked back over her shoulder expectantly.

"So … why didn't '71 get the same treatment?" '72 asked. "I mean, she ain't even fucked up as many times as I have."

A pensive look stole over Dr. O'Neil's face as she seemed to consider the question carefully. "Two reasons," she finally said. "First, her protective feelings toward children aside, the former D-42271 is a purposefully destructive, vindictive, and murderous individual, thus completely unsuitable for our organization as anything but a test subject. The Foundation is cold, not cruel."

"Ah. Okay. And second?"

"She didn't actually want to be here."

With that, Dr. O'Neil turned and was gone, leaving D-2172 to her work.

The first hour went by quickly. At least, '72 could only assume it had been an hour since she didn't have any way of keeping time aside from counting off the seconds herself. SCP-3284 had escaped from its little box seven times, each time getting quickly located and then relocated by its new guard.

'72 had spent the time amusing herself by doing a few impromptu tests of her own on 3284. The first time it had gotten out, she had been staring directly at the box. The second time, she had very carefully studied one of the room's corners. She had tried standing under the ladder, sitting on the steps, watching the hallway through the propped-open door. For a short while she had even gone so far as to sit on the lock box's lid, but mental images of it flying open and flinging her down to the concrete floor below cut that particular test short.

It was all very exciting.

One of the more interesting parts to her was that the lid of the box always opened with every escape. 3284 apparently had to teleport itself out of the box since it couldn't just roll over the box's lip, but it still needed the open space to get out. Strange.

The second hour went by a little slower than the first. It turned out that the uncomfortable feeling she had been getting earlier hadn't been purely mental after all. Due to the vents in the room being small, high up on the wall, and barely putting out the smallest whiff of cool air, the temperature had started off a little warm and was gradually getting warmer. Even the open chamber door didn't seem to be letting much fresh air in.

'72 searched the very few nooks and crannies in the chamber over very carefully before deciding that Dr. O'Neil had been telling the truth about there being no hidden cameras. With a heavy sigh of relief, she unzipped the top half of her jumpsuit, peeled it down, and tied the sleeves around her waist. In her life on the outside she usually wouldn't have cared much if anyone had been looking, but the thought of a bunch of guards ogling her regulation Foundation undershirt without her even knowing kind of creeped her out.

Since she was already a little sweaty, she decided to spend the rest of the second hour going through her usual morning routine. Toned, wiry muscles flexed and relaxed as she performed a series of stretches to limber up. When she felt sufficiently stretched, she kicked it into higher gear with push-ups, sit-ups, and more. She considered moving the lock box for a bit to use the ladder in her routine but thought better of it.

As the presumed third hour came down, she began to see the true insidiousness of her assignment. SCP-3284 had continued its own routine, getting a little more irritating each time as the sharp clack of metal on concrete forced her to stop what she was doing. And since she couldn't exercise the entire rest of her shift, she was left with almost nothing else to occupy her time except for waiting for the next clack.


Pick the ball up.


Put the ball back.


Grind teeth and repeat.

By the time what was obviously the fifteenth hour rolled around, '72 was absolutely convinced that her assignment wasn't a test of trust but a punishment meted out by a god or gods that actively hated her. It was like water drip torture, only with a clack instead of a drip. More than once she stood with SCP-3284 in her hand, glaring at the open door and imagining herself hurling the fucking thing into the hallway, out a window, into the brainpan of Dr. O'Neil and Supervisor Kelly and the Site Director and, and, and …

Well, whoever the hell it was that actually ran the Foundation. She didn't know who that might be, but she knew she wanted to hunt them down and shove 3284 deep into an intimate part of their anatomy.

Instead, she dutifully turned, stomped her way up the metal ladder, and put 3284 back inside the lock box, every single time. Then it was back down to sit on the hard floor, to pace from wall to wall, to stare at the ceiling, and to wait for the next clack to come.


For a moment, '72 figured that she must have imagined the noise. There weren't any thumps in the containment chamber, nothing that could possibly sound like a heavy weight hitting fabric. And there definitely wasn't anything in the room that could have hit her in the waist as she laid stretched out on the floor.

Lifting her head and looking herself over, she couldn't at first process what she was seeing. Perched right over her waist, sitting in the folds of her jumpsuit sleeve, was SCP-3284.

"Uh," she grunted intelligently. "Hey there, little buddy. The fuck you doin'?"

The ball bearing, whatever its motivations might have been, stayed silent.

'72 groaned and pressed her palms into her eyes for a moment before grabbing the bearing and standing up. She took the climb up the ladder slowly, popped the box lid, and put the source of her torment back inside.

Or, at least, that was what she had intended to do. Instead, when she tried to drop 3284 inside, it clipped the lip of the box and bounced outward. Still not quite up to speed, it took '72's brain a moment to register what had happened, by which time 3284 had clanged against two of the ladder's steps on its way down. She cursed, suddenly alert, and jumped off the ladder in pursuit of the rolling ball.

3284's recapture seemed a certain thing for a moment as it lost momentum, '72 snarling and grasping at it. Just as her fingers were about to close in, however, her foot seemed to think it would be a great idea to slide in ahead and kick the bearing further away.

"Shit!" she swore again as she nearly tripped in a second desperate lunge to halt the bearing's forward movement. It shot ahead of her while she tried to regain her footing, then right in front of her disbelieving eyes, it hit a slight imperfection in the concrete floor, bounced up into the air, and collided with the containment chamber's door.

The door, which was still slightly open as per orders, swung further open as 3284 dropped to the floor and slowly rolled into the hallway. '72 stood and pushed herself forward with what felt like agonizing slowness as she watched the door hit its apex, swing back inward, and shut with an audible click.

"No!" '72 shouted, clearing the steps in a single leap and slamming into the solid security door with all the force she could muster. The door was unimpressed and, to '72's complete horror, locked. "No fucking way! Oh … oh, you son of a bitch!"

Her wide eyes stared through the tiny reinforced window that ran along the door's left side. Right there, right in the middle of the corridor on the other side, was SCP-3284.

"Fuuuuuuuuck!" '72 slammed her fist against the window. "Don't you do this shit to me, you little prick! You open this door right now!"

Nothing happened, and it continued to happen for several more moments as '72 fumed, glared at 3284, and tried to calm her racing thoughts long enough to figure out what she was going to do.

Someone was going to come down the hall eventually. She couldn't remember any part of the site she had been in remaining empty for very long, especially when it was so close to a security checkpoint. So someone would come along and get the door open, let her out and put SCP-3284 back in and-

Her temper flared back up as she realized the next 'and' would be 'and see how D-2172 has fucked things up again'. Her last chance to stay out of the pen, to get her sentence reduced to nothing, to truly be free again, and it would all go down the drain because she couldn't accomplish the simple task of putting a little metal ball back inside a box properly.

She scowled through the window and pointed at SCP-3284. "You stay put," she ordered it, then turned and glanced around the room. Again she wondered if there really weren't any hidden cameras anywhere. She hoped there weren't or she was about to get into even more trouble.

Reaching down into the right leg of her jumpsuit, '72 ran her fingers along the fabric until she found the small bump she was looking for. She moved carefully so as not to bend or drop the small sliver of metal she had secreted in the tiny pocket there. It had cost her quite a bit to obtain the tool, taken time and effort to sew the secret pocket without the guards noticing.

Kneeling down in front of the door, she carefully slid the tool between it and the frame until it touched up against the bolt holding the whole thing closed. She then tapped the free end of the metal sliver with her finger, and waited. Just when the first drop of panicked perspiration had started to roll down her temple, she heard a sharp click as the bolt moved aside.

Unlike many of her fellow D-Class, '72's had never harbored any intention to escape the Foundation, but she was still a big believer in being prepared. She wasn't entirely certain how the little tool worked. The guy she had traded with had told her it was some kind of little magic trick that he had learned while testing some anomaly or other. All she knew for sure was that it could unlock any door and could only be used once.

Even though it was spent, she also knew there was no reason to just leave it sitting around to be found and prompt questions she didn't want to have to answer, so she carefully put it back in its pocket before pushing the door open and stepping out into the hall. She tried to look as nonchalant as she could as she stepped out, forcing herself not to look up at the security cameras that were undoubtedly zeroing in on her.

It didn't occur to her until she had walked past SCP-3284 and into the women's restroom that her earlier worry about the guards seeing her stripped to her undershirt had become moot. She leaned over one of the sinks to rub water on her face and pulled her jumpsuit back up into place while she reviewed her plan in her head. All she had to do was walk back down the hall, surreptitiously kick 3284 back into its chamber, and then walk in after it with no one the wiser.

Easy. Simple. Elegant.

A panicked knot rose in '72's throat when she stepped out and glanced down to find that SCP-3284 was no longer where she'd left it. Instead it was rolling slowly down the hall away from her. Hoping that she wasn't drawing attention to herself, she picked her pace up a little.

Her stomach sank as the bearing started to roll just a little bit faster. She leaned forward and sped up, and again it did the same. Within seconds, they were both well past the containment chamber door, the plan completely forgotten.

"No no no no, come on come on come on!" '72 was snarling under her breath as she broke into a jog and then a flat-out run. "Don't you do this to me! Don't you fucking do this!"

SCP-3284 rocketed along the tiled floor of the hallway as if it had been set on a steep incline. D-2172 was hot on its trail, her legs and arms pumping as adrenaline dumped into her system. Security doors passed by in a blur, barely noticed as all of her attention focused down a long tunnel at her quarry.

They came up on a T-intersection abruptly, the ball bearing curving along the floor gracefully as it rolled down the new corridor to the right. '72, caught off guard, barely managed to slow down enough to avoid breaking any bones when she slammed into the wall. Without missing another beat, she pushed herself away and was back on track, lesson learned. Her eyes immediately seized upon the silvery sphere as it sped away, but they also widened focus to take in the surroundings.

This wasn't going to be easy after all, but she could feel the switch click over in her brain, felt the adrenaline seeping deeper into her extremities. She was in the zone. She poured on the speed.

Another sudden turn came up as 3284 dodged into a hallway on the left, and there were the other Foundation personnel that '72 had expected to see eventually. Six white coats accompanied by two guards and two D-Class were either heading to or coming from an experiment, and they all looked up in surprise as they saw her barreling down the hall at them.

"Catch it!" she screamed at them. "On the ground! Catch it!"

Most of the researchers and both D-Class scrambled out of the way. Two white coats and the guards moved in reflexively to catch either SCP-3284 or D-2172 herself. Both targets were safe, however, as one of the researchers slipped and tumbled into a guard, causing the other doctor to jump back while the other guard fumbled around with his taser, which had apparently gotten stuck in its holster.

'72 had all of five seconds to take the entire scene in before 3284 had threaded its way through the group and it was her turn to do the same. The guard with the faulty holster tried to reach out and grab her arm, but she twisted away and used her altered momentum to roll her back along the back of the researcher still on all fours on the ground. She straightened back up the moment her feet hit the ground, and she pelted away from the confused crowd.

"Call in a containment breach, asshole!" she yelled over her shoulder at the idiot that had tried to grab her.

Another left turn, then another right along with another barely-squeezed-by research group, and finally the alarm was sounded. Red lights streamed along the walls as an automated voice alerted everyone to both a containment breach in progress and an escaped D-Class running amok.

Luck finally seemed to be on '72's side as an emergency bulkhead started to close ahead of them, complete with two guards standing on either side. But luck was a fickle bitch, '72 decided as the bearing seemed to gain even more speed and shot between the closing doors without the guards noticing a thing. One of them reached for his taser while the other pulled out a nightstick, and '72 simply did not have time for this shit.

The taser leads flew through the air, aiming straight for '72's chest. With a herculean effort that she figured she would never have been able to accomplish if not for the reflex-enhancing chemicals soaring through her arteries, '72 twisted her body to the side to let them sail by harmlessly, then slammed into and rebounded off of the wall at just the right angle to send her careening into the guard with the nightstick.

The wind was knocked out of the poor guy as he got sandwiched between her and the bulkhead, allowing her to pull the club from his suddenly weakened fingers. She spun around, swinging the stick at the head of the other guard, forcing him to back away as she continued her spin between the bulkhead doors just before they clanged shut.

There was another guard further down the hall on the other side, and she was completely ignoring SCP-3284 in favor of '72, just like the others. The major difference was that this guard was pulling an actual pistol out and yelling something about stopping or getting shot. '72 pulled her arm back and flung the nightstick end over end.

The guard had her gun out but didn't have time to point it in '72's direction. Instead she pulled to one side almost as if she was attempting to emulate '72's earlier miracle dodge, and the D-Class was on her before she had time to recover. Her wrist was bent back as '72 wrenched it, causing the pistol to drop into the other woman's hand.

'72 didn't stop, couldn't stop. She elbowed the guard in the face to get her out of the way and was back after SCP-3284. There was no time to aim as she ran, but she still gave shooting at the bearing a try, hoping to at least halt its progress with a bullethole in the floor. The effort was predictably futile, and after the slide clicked back but not forward, she threw the empty gun aside with a snarl.

The yellow-painted steel of another bulkhead loomed, this one already almost completely closed. '72 let out a primal scream of frustration as she watched 3284 slip through a crack barely wider than it was, then she skidded to a stop as the doors completely closed.

D-2172 had just enough time to notice that a handprint scanner sat in the wall next to the bulkhead before a thick line of pain lit up across her shoulder blades. She fell forward, rolled to the side before another blow could come, and came back up in a crouch. The guard was there, nightstick in hand, advancing on her again.

With a sudden burst of speed, '72 launched herself forward so that she would be inside the guard's swing radius, then drove the palm of her right hand into the taller woman's gut. Reaching down with her left, she hooked the back of the guard's knee and pulled, sending her down to the floor.

"Sorry about this," she told the breathless guard as she pulled her over to the scanner. "Seriously, I'll send you a gift basket later or something."

The guard struggled as '72 grabbed her hand and slapped it on print scanner, then squawked in surprise and pain when the D-Class stepped down lightly on her other hand to keep it from going for a taser or handcuffs. The light on the scanner turned green as the doors started rumbling open again, and the moment the opening was wide enough, '72 kicked the guard away and was gone.

The emergency lights glinted off of 3284 just enough for '72 to notice as it turned another corner far ahead. The spot where the nightstick had hit her was starting to ache and a small stitch had begun working its way up her side, but still she pushed forward as fast as she could to catch up. She turned the corner and found herself right near a security checkpoint heading back into the Euclid wing.

The fickleness of luck had turned her way again. There were guards at the station, naturally, and both of them had gotten suited up in their riot gear, but they were both facing away from her, their heads turning this way and that as they tried to figure out why one of their metal detectors had sounded an alert.

"Comin' through!" she called out as she slammed into the back of one guard, pushing him onto the already-unlocked button for the checkpoint's emergency shutters. The other spun in her direction but couldn't react before she had rolled under the rapidly-descending shutters and popped out the other side. There she found two more guards, both of which were too stunned by her sudden appearance to stop her from legsweeping one, grabbing his taser, and tagging the other with it before running off.

Turn after turn, she barely managed to keep up with the bearing as it tried to shake her. The halls had become almost entirely empty as most everyone had headed to their designated cowering areas, and it seemed almost as if 3284's serpentine pathway was allowing it, and therefore '72, to avoid any further encounters with the site's security officers.

Sweat was pouring off of '72 in waves. She could feel her limbs start to grow heavy as the adrenaline was used up and broken down inside her muscles. Her breathing was starting to turn into sharp gasps, and she wasn't sure how much more she could do.

Then, a light at the end of the tunnel. She followed the bearing around another corner, and instead of the maze she had been running through before, the new hallway was a simple straight shot. Doors lined the walls and another capped the other end, but '72 felt her second wind coming on. 3284 would have to cause one of the doors to open, which would tip her off to which direction it would take and give her a chance to dodge ahead.

All the way down the hall she chased it, slowly gaining with each step thanks to the new vigor flowing through her. The door at the end of the hall opened, the bearing headed straight for it, and a man in a white lab coat stepped out, running right into '72 as she tried to dive down for SCP-3284. The two of them slammed into each other and tumbled first into the wall and then onto the floor, their flailing legs pushing the door closed after the ball bearing had passed through.

"No no no, dammit!" '72 spat out as she disentangled herself and grabbed onto the door handle only to find it locked. "Who the fuck-"

She turned on the doctor she had collided with and grabbed him by the collar, then jumped in surprise as she noticed the familiar face.

"'72?" Dr. Markaby groaned as he rubbed his sore head.

With no time for further pleasantries, '72 shook her head to clear it, snatched the ID card clipped to Markaby's belt, and frantically slid it through the reader on the door. When the light turned green, she released the card, which was pulled by its tether to snap back against the doctor's waist with a painful-sounding smack!

A cafeteria undoubtedly meant for researchers and administration only was on the other side of the door. SCP-3284 was there as well, rolling its way down the middle aisle between the tables, headed for a set of double doors on the far side of the room. A sign that softly glowed EXIT in block letters was hanging from the ceiling just above them.

'72 reached deep and pulled out everything she had left. She moved, one foot in front of the other, arms pumping in time, pushing ahead like all the demons of hell had been let loose behind her. She couldn't let this happen. Wouldn't.

The double doors opened, because of course they did. '72 didn't know how, didn't know why. Perhaps some fault in the latch. Maybe an automated door opening system suddenly decided to turn on. It didn't matter anymore, because what she saw on the other side had suddenly become the most important thing in the world.

The cafeteria exit led out to a balcony. Beyond the railing edge of that balcony was a drop three stories to the ground. She could see the treetops of the forest that surrounded Site-272, and she knew without a shadow of a doubt that if SCP-3284 managed to roll off the balcony, it would be lost out in those woods. Gone, and with it, her memories and everything she had gained while working for the Foundation.

Everything seemed to be going to painfully slow, every second passing by like hours dipped in molasses. The bearing reached the doorway, hopping a little as it bumped its way over the lip. '72 dove through the door after it, hit the floor, and slid across the patio tile with her arm and hand stretched out far enough that it felt like she was about to dislocate her own shoulder.

SCP-3284 went under the railing, over the edge. D-2172 thrust her hand out after it and came to a sudden stop as her shoulder jammed up against the railing.

Her fingers closed on empty air.

Everything seemed to freeze around '72 as she stared at her clenched fist. Her mind was blank, wheels spinning uselessly as she tried to process what had just happened, tried actively not to think about what it meant.

Her joints and muscles aching from exertion and stress, she slowly pulled her arm back from under the railing and got back on her feet. She forced her fingers to uncurl, forced herself to look at the empty palm scored by four small dips where her fingernails had dug in. And then she screamed.

"Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaarrrr, fuck dammit! You piece of … you shitting-ass piece of fucking garbage shit!"

She jumped up in the air, then stomped down with as much force as she could muster. She stomped again and again, turning in random directions and punctuating each impact with a hurled invective. When her legs started hurting enough to make her stop, she grabbed onto the railing and leaned over it to thrust a quivering but forceful middle finger out at the forest.

"Fuck you then!" she screeched at the top of her lungs. "I hope you rust out there, you worthless fuckshit! I hope you stay uncontained for-fucking-ever, and these fucksticks here never find you, and you never get found by anybody else so you can't do your stupid, shitty trick to anyone ever again! You fucked me! You fucking fucked me, and I hope you rot in hell!"

'72 breathed in fire and heaved out smoke. Her hands clenched around the railing so tight that her knuckles turned white. Tears of mixed frustration and despair started welling in the corners of her eyes as the last of her strength left her. She felt her body begin to sag, and all she wanted to do was fall down right where she was and fall asleep.

Before she could do just that, however, she felt a small weight suddenly drop into her hip pocket.

Her eyeballs felt like they were creaking in their sockets as she cocked her hip out and looked down at the clear plastic pocket. There, sitting in the very bottom, was SCP-3284.

"Hah," she laughed once without mirth. She reached into the pocket to fish the ball bearing out. "No," she said quietly. "I don't want you anymore. Go away."

She pulled her arm back, then snapped it forward, sending the bearing flying back out toward the forest. It wasn't quite going to reach the facility's fence line, but it also didn't matter. The second '72 wasn't able to track the tiny sphere anymore, she felt the same weight as before fall into her left breast pocket.

"D-2172! Stand down! Now!"

'72 turned to face the source of the new voice to find two fully geared members of MTF Delta-10 standing in the doorway, their rifles aimed directly at her. Way behind them in the cafeteria, she saw Dr. Markaby frantically talking on his cellphone and occasionally glancing in their direction. The task force goons were still yelling orders, telling her to assume the position and such, but it all just sort of melted together.

It hardly mattered. She knew the routine. She dropped to her knees, put her hands behind her head, and just let everything wash over her.

By all appearances, the room seemed warm and inviting. Dark-stained wood paneling, thick carpet, beautiful potted plants, the works. Even the long table that she sat chained in front of had something of an inviting, inclusive look. The reason her blood felt frozen inside of her regardless was that she knew what the purpose of the room was.

On the side of the table opposite her, three people sat in judgment. Her fate was in their hands, and she didn't care much for her odds.

D-Class Supervisor Donald Kelly was the only one that allowed his personal opinion of the proceedings show clearly on his face. A deep scowl creased his dark features, his arms crossed against his broad chest, and every time he looked in '72's direction, the muscles in his jaw started to twitch.

Dr. Anna O'Neil sat with her hands clasped in front of her on the table, staring impassively at '72 from behind her glasses. The only indication of what she might be thinking was the occasional glance down at the clear breast pocket that still held SCP-3284.

The third and, it seemed, most important figure at the table sat between the other two as he silently sifted through files on his tablet. '72 didn't know his first name, but he had introduced himself to her briefly as Site Director Yarborough when he had come in earlier. It had been about that point that it fully sank in just how much trouble she had gotten herself into.

Director Yarborough let out a long but gentle sigh as he set down the tablet, took off his glasses, and rubbed the bridge of his nose. When he had finished, he leaned forward and looked her directly in the eyes.

"D-2172," he said, his voice heavy with authority and just a hint of weariness, "I'm sure you know why we're here today. The investigation into Incident 3284/72 is complete, and this is to be the final review on the matter."

"I understand," '72 said hoarsely.

The director nodded. "Good. Now, Dr. O'Neil and Mr. Kelly here have both already put in their reports and recommendations, which are being taken into account for the final decision, and they are here now in an advisory capacity. I will be asking you a series of questions about the incident, which you are to answer truthfully and to the best of your abilities. Are you prepared to do that?"

"Yes, sir."

"Excellent, then let's begin. During the incident, you displayed a great deal of skill in both combating and evading our security officers, skills that you have shown some propensity for in previous testing environments. This was something on a quite different level, however. How did you manage to do what you did?"

'72 shifted uncomfortably in her chair. "I … don't think it was all me, sir," she said.

Director Yarborough raised his eyebrows. "Are you saying you had some kind of outside help? Why didn't you mention this during your debriefing?"

"'Cause I'm still not really sure about it," she told him with a shrug. "I mean, it's kinda crazy. Some of what happened was probably just luck, but the rest? I think maybe 3284 had something to do with it."

Supervisor Kelly scoffed and looked like he was about to say something, but Yarborough held up a hand to cut him off. "How so?"

"Well, it's just a feeling, but looking back on it, it seems like 3284 wanted me to catch it. Like the whole thing was some kinda game. I just took advantage of the way it set stuff up."

"Are you saying SCP-3284 is sapient?" asked the director.

"Like, can it think or whatever?" '72 shrugged again. "I dunno. I'm not a researcher or nothin'."

"The idea that SCP-3284 is aware of its surroundings and can, to some degree, selectively effect them is a hypothesis we've been planning on testing," Dr. O'Neil chimed in.

"I see." The director pursed his lips thoughtfully. "So, if it hadn't been for the anomalous uncontainable effect aiding you, you don't believe you would have been able to accomplish everything you did that day?"

'72 looked down at her hands while she nervously fingered the chains hanging from her wrists. "Probably not?" she finally said.

"Mr. Kelly?"

The D-Class supervisor cocked his jaw to the side and glared thoughtfully at '72. "She could have," he said grudgingly. "Maybe. It would have taken her a little longer, she would've gotten beaten on a little more, and she probably would have lost SCP-3284 in the end … but I think it'd be a close thing. If I had known it was relevant, I would have sent you the security footage of her taking down three men twice her size in the mess room a couple of months ago."

"Ah. So it's not just our guards she has a propensity for punching in the gut."

'72 flinched at the director's words but stayed silent.

"Which I suppose leads us to the next question," Yarborough continued, "which is, why did you do what you did?"

Confusion and a strange feeling of dread settled over '72. "I'm sorry, sir? I'm, uh … I guess I don't understand the question. I told Officer Oaks-"

"Yes, I am aware of what you told Officer Oaks, D-2172," the director said, shaking his head. "And I do believe you when you say you got into 'the zone' while trying to help with a containment breach. That's not what I'm asking. I'm asking, why did you set out to try and re-contain SCP-3284 on your own in the first place? You could have flagged down someone via the security cameras in the hallway, as you had been instructed to do. When you first ran into the security guards during your pursuit, the footage clearly shows you calling to them for assistance, so it would appear you were not yet zoned out enough that you couldn't simply stop, explain the situation, and let them handle it from there. So again I ask, why?"

Even if she hadn't been chained, hobbled, and attached to a floor anchor, '72 didn't think she could possibly feel any more trapped. At least two of the other people at the table knew her reasons, but the words still stuck in her throat, refusing to come out. She didn't want to have to say it out loud. But she did.

"I don't want to go back to prison," she told him, her voice small and quiet. "I don't … I don't belong there. I killed those people. I did. But I don't deserve … that. That place. And I knew that if I stayed here, got through everything y'all wanted me to do, I could get out of there for good."

Tears began to well up in the corners of her eyes. She blinked them back, wiped at her nose. "And, I mean, this was my last chance, right?" she continued. "So I couldn't screw it up. I couldn't let that fucking little ball get away from me, and it just got in my head that this was it, I had to do it on my own and that was the only way I could prove I could do what y'all wanted. It just kind of … popped right out of my head that beating up a shitload of people doing some property damage on my way to get the ball back probably wouldn't look any better than losing it completely.

"I, uh … I did the wrong thing. Again, I guess. And I'm sorry."

Silence fell around the table as '72 put her face in her hands and took a deep, ragged breath. Her thoughts tumbled one after the other, dark and disjointed. It was over, and she knew it.

The director cleared his throat. "Well then, one last question," he said. "Do you know or have any thoughts on how or why SCP-3284 came back to you, or why it seems to be unable to be removed from your person?"

'72, face still hidden, shook her head.

"I see. Thank you for cooperating with this inquiry, D-2172." Director Yarborough picked up his tablet and started typing on it. "It may not surprise you to hear that I had already made a tentative decision based on the facts as they had been presented to me. Your answers today have not changed that decision, and now it will be made official. D-2172, stand up."

The chains rattled, pulling '72's arms down in front of her as she stood, revealing the wet trails streaking across her cheeks.

"You are hereby released from the Foundation's D-Class program," he told her, still typing. "You will be reassigned as an E-Class employee on a temporary basis as a containment specialist, specifically assigned to the containment and testing of SCP-3284 until such time that other arrangements for its containment can be found. This assignment begins immediately, and you will begin receiving payment and other benefits appropriate to your new position as of now."

After giving the tablet one final tap, he motioned to the guards standing by the doorway. '72 stared at him agape as they stepped in beside her to remove her shackles.

"Wait, hey," she said once she had regained her voice. "No, no, hey, this isn't what I want."

The sour look on Kelly's face as he and the others stood up told her that he was thinking the exact same thing, if for different reasons. The director folded his glasses and put them away, then stuck his hands in his suit pockets and shrugged at her.

"Would you prefer to go back to jail?" he asked.

"No, of course not," '72 said, waving her hands helplessly at her sides. "I mean, I want to be free, dammit. Actually free. I just wanted to do my time here and then get out, but now you're pulling me in even more?"

"Temporarily," Supervisor Kelly reminded her.

"We can't send you back to jail now anyway, not with an anomaly attached to you," Yarborough said. "The only other alternative would be to designate you SCP-3284-1 and contain you along with your new little friend. Would you prefer we did that?"

'72 blanched. "No," she replied. "No, I would not."

The director gave her a smile. "Good. It would be a terrible waste of a potential resource. Now, you're going to be attached to Dr. O'Neil's research team, of course. We'll get you through your new orientation tomorrow, but for now she'll be giving you a quick rundown and showing you the way to your new quarters. Have a good evening, Miss Masters."

She flinched at the sudden use of her real name, then again when she noticed that Dr. O'Neil had already rounded the table and was standing beside her. Everything was suddenly coming at her too fast, too much, and the fact that she couldn't tell whether things had worked out well or not was making her jumpy.

O'Neil put an understanding hand on her shoulder to help calm her down. "Miss Masters?" the doctor said gently. "Or would it be alright if I called you Samantha?"

"Sam," the former D-2172 said reflexively. "Yeah, it's fine."

"Then you can call me Anna, if you wish. Outside of testing chambers and official reports, at least." She gave a conspiratorial wink as she started guiding the dazed woman out of the room.


Anna smiled. "Welcome to the Foundation, Sam."

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