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« Prologue: Dramatis Personae

D-2392 was confused. "You want me to do what?"

"Take that gun," Dr. Sariksen said, "and shoot D-2390. Directly in the head."

"No way, man," the first replied. "I know a setup when I see it. I ain't touching that."

"That's right, he's smarter than that," D-2390 said. He had been the other man's boss, before they were both assigned to the Foundation. "Whatever that shit is you did to us, we gotta bond, Moe and me. He ain't doin' none of that shit."

"Subject refuses to comply with instructions given," Sariksen said into his tape recorder. "Beginning active phase of experiment 877-27 now." Dr. Sariksen looked at his control panel and typed in a series of commands. Looking up at his charges, he pressed enter.

"Hey, what…" D-2392 began moving jerkily, as though moved by an outside force. "What the fuck is this, doc? What are you d-" His voice ended with another of Sariksen's keystrokes. His face showed confusion, and his mouth was open, clearly trying to scream but seemingly unable to do so.

"Note," Sariksen said, "updated version of control software should include facial motor function overrides of some sort."

The D-class personnel stood up as though possessed. "Moe, what the fuck, man. What are you doing?" the other man said.

"Commencing hand-eye coordination experiment 27-A," Sariksen said into the recorder. Another series of keystrokes into the control panel.

"Moe, seriously," D-2390 said as the other man picked up the handgun. "You don't have to do nothin' this guy says, okay? I don't know what kinda voodoo he's got you under, but you listen, okay? You and me, we've known each other for a lo—"

A gunshot, then silence.

Then incoherent screaming, two more gunshots, gurgling, a final gunshot, silence again.

"Note," Sariksen said, "hand-eye coordination still undeveloped among new hosts. Also to be rectified in updated software editions." Sarikson shut off the tape recorder, programmed the D-class host to clean up the mess, and removed his cell phone from his pocket. A cheap prepaid one, not the Foundation standard-issue one that tracked his calls.

"John, it's Sergei. Golem is mobile and ready to hit the road. Yes. What? No. Why would I have bourbon? Fine, but make it quick. Twenty minutes, then we meet." He pushed "end" and began to pack.

Maria Jones had been working late nights for a long time, and tonight was no different. Something was very wrong at Site 38, and she was going to figure out what it was.

The Records and Information Security Administration theoretically had access to all of the records of every documented SCP phenomenon, every anomalous object and event, every interaction between Mobile Task Forces, every meeting, every dark room where every decision was made. Maria Jones had not been disappointed by her ability to access raw information yet. Even information that various departments tried to conceal, Jones could get ahold of. She had made a great deal of enemies, many of whom helped her anyway, knowing what she held over their heads. She preferred that to having friends. Enemies you just took what you needed from. And Jones had taken a great deal.

The problem was in processing. Maria was now sitting on a series of very interesting data, and she knew, in some incomprehensible way, that they were connected. The trick was figuring out how.

Point one: six units of SCP-1043 were classified as "misplaced" four weeks ago. Investigation chalked the error to faulty record-keeping at Site 33, along with less-than-fully stringent security measures. Jones had seen the personnel files of the implicated individuals. There was no reason to make that assumption.

Point two: two dozen D-class personnel had recently been allocated from Site 19 to Site 38. 19 had an overabundance of them, it was true, but Site 38 had never had any need for significant D-class personnel, being a minimum-security area limited to Safe and Euclid-class items only. Barely any significant research came from the Site; it was used principally to test the ability of Level 1 personnel to obey instructions before being transferred somewhere else. That and a shuffling-off point for personnel deemed too incompetent for more serious work but not disloyal enough to warrant termination. Jones figured every organization of a certain size had a place like Site 38. But this place was getting far too much attention of late.

Point three: Incidents involving SCP-877 being captured in the wild had increased sharply over the past two months. Point three and a half: several specimens of SCP-877 previously contained were unaccounted for as of three weeks ago. Research on 877 had stopped back when it became apparent that there was simply nothing new to discover about the microchips. Site 19 researchers had decided to wait for some new breakthrough to reveal itself. Well, something's changing now, Maria thought to herself.

Point four: Multiple technical glitches had been reported from the tertiary storage cluster at Site 38. Maria didn't know the relevance of that piece of information, but given the significance of that particular piece of hardware, Maria wasn't about to consider that irrelevant.

Point five: After several weeks of remaining on-site, Mobile Task Force Rho-1 was now largely in the field, collecting an SCP artifact believed to be associated with that particular group of interest they worked with. Rho-1 served as Site 38's de facto site security force, meaning that Site 38 was essentially unprotected at the moment. That had never been an issue before, but now…it looked like that was about to change.

Rho-1 was scheduled to return in two days. Meaning that if something were to happen, it would have to happen soon. Maybe tonight.

Maria picked up her phone.

The Tennessee air was unseasonably chilly, even more so at night. David Eskobar had never gotten used to it. He knew it was coming, he could throw on a jacket, but he was never quite ready for what was coming. The bike made the temperature seem fifteen degrees colder, and he shivered as he rode the short distance to the main building of Site 38.

The whole area was heavily wooded, with barely graveled country roads connecting isolated houses to one another. There weren’t any houses, not anymore; the Foundation had bought out the few remaining owners, or arranged for “convenient” busts on the nearby meth labs. Population density in the area meant that that was all that was required to ensure almost complete secrecy. David rode past the thick woods, surrounded by almost complete silence. Only the lights on his handlebars illuminated the road

He rode past an area of woods thick enough to almost completely obstruct visibility past the treeline. Even if it had been daylight, the pool of concrete slowly building an enormous structure outside the main grounds of the Site was invisible for the moment.

Reaching the main building, he leaned his bike against the wall beside the door to his office. He had requested a single bike rack and been told, officially, that that was seen as an unnecessary use of Foundation funds at that time. He tried to call the requisitions office once, but he couldn’t spit the words out; his stutter always managed to make phone conversations nearly impossible.

David hated the phone. He hated almost everyone at Site 38; the way anybody who worked with him for long enough developed that look in their eyes somewhere between pity and contempt. He loved the first day of orientation, when all of those bright-eyed Level 1 personnel milled about, chattering happily about their projects. That lasted a week, maybe two, before they figure out that Site 38 wasn’t a promotion. It was one step away from an assignment in Antarctica, or maybe a D-class spot near the Red Pool.

Site 38 was where failures went to flounder in obscurity. David hated that he was the director of “Stumptown,” as he heard two Level Twos call it in Site 19. Heard them. They knew he could hear them, and they knew he wasn’t going to say anything to them about it. And they were right. He could barely talk as it was. David hated talking to…almost everyone. He hated his office, and he hated being away from it, away from the only place where he could demand even the most rudimentary respect from others.

He was in his office, now. He heard a knock at the door, and called for the visitor to come in. Dr. Collins, one of the higher-ranking Researchers. Likely to be promoted over his head and transferred away to somewhere useful any day now. Eskobar admired—oh hell, he envied John, even if the old prick gave him the creeps.

John walked in and pointed a gun at his supervisor.

Anesidora's palace was finally complete. The Being, now in possession of a Throne nearly equal to Her glory, commanded Her servants to lift Her form onto the seat from which this victory would take place. They did so with great difficulty, though they viewed their efforts as a tremendous honor. To touch Her Glory's physical form and be permitted to live was almost unheard of. Anesidora permitted all but one of the Servus used in this task to retain their corporeal forms. The last Servus, however, She Integrated into Herself. She was very hungry, after all.

When the last of the servant's limbs were decomposed into Her form, the Goddess spoke. As was befitting Her divinity, Her words did not take audible form, so as to avoid the stench of this world contaminating the pure joy of Her thoughts. She spoke directly into the servants' brains, through a small microchip embedded in each of their cerebella.

You, the Voice rang through the minds of some of Her attendants, secure my Birthing Chamber. You two, locate my Crown. Sinking deep now into concentration, Her Mind reached out to the complex just outside the forest. Site 38, the hominids called it. As Her servants left the Palace to carry out Her commands, She made contact with several beings that had recently come into contact with microchips within the complex, and spoke to them.

Awaken, my children, Her Voice said. We have work to do.

Dr. Sariksen was finishing his packing in his lab when he realized something was missing. Something was…off. There was a sound in the background of the lab. No, that wasn't right. There was a sound missing.

The mopping had stopped. Sariksen had written the program himself, and in theory, the D-class should not have been able to stop of his own volition. So what was he doi—

Running towards him. Sariksen turned just in time to be tackled to the ground by D-2392, or whatever was left of him. Sariksen's head slammed into the tiled floor with a loud crack.

Rapidly losing consciousness, Sariksen felt teeth breaking his skin before everything went black.

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