In the sublevels of Site 10, Dr. Yara Mirski raised the gemstone to the light with a gloved hand, in a gesture she'd repeated a hundred times before. She admired its black contours, broken up by the mottled white pattern and the golden filigree that wrapped around its exterior.
SCP-001-Delta. The fourth SCP item considered a 'prime', or '001', item. One of several that had a hand in the creation of the Foundation. And, in Yara's opinion, by far the most frustrating.
For one, there wasn't much else to know about Delta at Level 5 clearance.
Most of the other 001 items had a great deal of falsified information attached to them, the better to confuse ever-curious researchers. Some versions were altered beyond recognition. Like Iota, Yara's favorite. Some meta-humor to give snoopers an existential crisis. Some were fabricated entirely — notably, Beta, which was a little surprising, since it was just an ordinary monster. What was so unusual or startling about that, compared to Keter cakes or Project Rho? But Beta was an invention from whole cloth; everything about it was fiction besides its ancient classification system.
Not so with Delta. Delta was strange enough on its own that people always assumed the files they had unearthed were altered. They were wrong. Delta was the most straightforward 001. A lock that appeared to literally "contain" our universe, and also something called "Apakht." It seemed like a joke from several cartoon shows, a joke made worse by the fact that it was true.
And Delta, the Lock, was still missing its Key. Not that the O5s hadn't tried to crack it open, especially the skittish ones who didn't like the idea of anyone containing anything but them. One of them had it in her head that Delta unlocked Heaven. Kept rambling on about something called the Thaumiel Initiative. It didn't matter. Not even SCP-005 could pry that lock open, and no megaton bomb could crack Delta's shell.
Yara felt the warmth of the Delta stone through her gloves, and reflected that it was perhaps fortunate that every attempt to unlock Delta had failed.
She was still reflecting on this when the first klaxon blared.
The Harbinger hated its code name.
"The Harbinger." Really. So fucking over-dramatic. They wouldn't stop using it, either. For security, they said. Harbinger. Harbinger. Harbinger? Harbinger, Harbinger, Harbinger. It wanted to kill the son of a bitch who came up with that.
Yet… as long as it was on the premises of Site 10, it was not going to think of itself by any other identity but Harbinger. Not its name, definitely not gender. The Harbinger was an it, now, and would stay that way until this was over.
Sure, the Foundation's ability to read minds was not precisely A-grade, but considering the stakes, it wasn't planning on taking extra risk. Especially not with an 001. Especially not with Delta. The Harbinger was familiar with Delta's containment procedures, listed and unlisted, maybe too familiar… no, better not to think about that either.
The Harbinger tore through the outer containment shell around the Primary Archival Vault, wincing slightly at the ease with which the steel alloy peeled apart. The auto-defense turrets came next, followed by the chemical bath. The Harbinger's glowing white form withstood the punishment and it destroyed the turrets with a wave of its hand.
A battalion of carefully crafted containment procedures, made useless in moments. The Harbinger carefully pushed back the memories sifting up in its brain.
The Harbinger reached the Vault, the massive, aptly named octagonal prism-shaped containment chamber, custom-designed precisely for the purpose of containing SCP-001-Delta. Until now, it had done a very good job.
It was made of reinforced concrete and steel, with a time-locked access portal in the ceiling. Pretty much nothing could get through that portal.
The Harbinger grimaced. The Foundation just did not reckon with power on the right scale. That would have to change—quickly.
The Harbinger left the portal alone and ripped off the entire front side of the vault.
It walked forward two steps and stopped.
The Vault was supposed to be empty… It wasn't.
In point of fact, there was a woman sitting in it. The Harbinger recognized her. Dr. Yara Mirski. Research lead on 001-Delta.
A dangerous thought, the thought of her, bubbled up into the Harbinger's head — quickly suppressed — but it was a distraction for a key second.
Mirski was holding what appeared to be a harpoon gun on steroids, aiming it forward. She did not appear surprised to see the Harbinger, not at all—
She pulled the trigger.
God damn it, the Harbinger thought, as the bolt impaled it through the chest.
Yara Mirski hadn't known what to expect the invader, the "Harbinger", to look like, and she wasn't going to let it faze her now that she was seeing it.
But it really did look very startling.
It was shaped like a person, glowing entirely, uniformly white. She couldn't make out any features on its face. Couldn't tell whether it was male or female.
And there was something else about it — some sense about it — that felt purely otherworldly, made it hard to look at. It wasn't just the hundred wings sprouting from its back. She was reminded of the Bible stories that she'd heard in church growing up, the ones involving angels. How unwitting mortals would fall to their knees in worship, only for the angel to stop them, pull them to their feet, and rebuke them, because you should only be directing your worship to the one true living God.
There was also, of course, the harpoon in its chest, but she'd put that there. She'd almost forgotten, staring at the Harbinger's visage, until its glow started to dim and some of that intense white energy started spiraling into the harpoon.
Thank God, she thought, it's working. Then she laughed at the irony.
The Harbinger never moved its gaze from her. Only its hands moved, rising to the harpoon. She knew it couldn't remove the fully powered harpoon bolt, not while it was leeching away the being's essence. But the Harbinger didn't try.
Instead, it dismantled it. Tore open the casing, unwrapped the internal wiring, got to the power source and cracked it open with a pinch of its fingers. Immediately its light returned to full strength.
The Harbinger tossed the remnants of the now-useless harpoon aside and walked towards her. It lifted the Lock from her nerveless fingers.
Yara Mirski fell to her knees.
"Oh, cut that out," the Harbinger said. "I'm not going to kill you."
Its voice startled her back to her senses. It was mellifluous and otherworldly, still without discernible gender, but casual, undramatic. And… weary.
"Don't be too hard on yourself," it said. "Really."
She sized up the Harbinger again. No wound was visible from where the harpoon had pierced its chest. There should have been a gaping hole. There was nothing.
It didn't look at her. It was examining the Lock.
"That was very clever," it said. "It almost worked. Another time, another place… maybe it would have."
"Why didn't it?" she asked.
"If I told you that," the Harbinger said, "… well, then you'd know."
She couldn't think of a response to that.
The Harbinger reached into its form and drew from its… robes? … the item that, somehow, Yara knew it would have. A small ornate object, resembling a key. Exactly as it had looked in the recovered sketches.
It looked so tiny. So ordinary.
"Stop," Yara said. "Wait. Please. I know you've … You obviously want to do this. But think about it, please. Do you have any idea what could be in there? Do you know—"
"Actually…" The Harbinger seemed to chuckle a little. "I know exactly what's in there."
Yara felt a little cold. Spell of containment… "Apakht," she said.
"Apakht," the Harbinger agreed. It inserted the Key into the Lock, and turned the Key.
There was a small flash, and something about the world was irrevocably changed.
For a brief moment, the Harbinger wasn't a glowing hundred-winged angelic being. It was nothing more than an ordinary human.
Their eyes met.
"I know you," Yara said, without thinking. "You're—"
She couldn't finish the words. She couldn't even think the thought in her head. It — it — the Harbinger was doing something to stop her.
"Sorry," the Harbinger said. Its glowing radiance had returned in full. "Nothing personal." It looked at the Lock, as if watching. Or listening.
"What did you do? What is it? What did you unlock?" She could feel something vibrating in the back of her brain. Her eyes kept being drawn to the lock. It looked exactly the same, visually, but it was also incredibly different. "What's Apakht?"
"It's the End," the Harbinger said.
The fabric of reality began to unfold before their eyes.