Atzak III
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Not all who have died-



darkandemptyeyes.png



have stopped breathing.





ATZAK

PART THREE


The phone in David Bell's office rang four times before it was answered, knocked to the floor though it was by the just-woken doctor. In the darkness of his office, he fumbled for the receiver, eventually righting it and pressing the cold plastic against his face.

"Dr. Bell," the voice on the other end said, a voice he knew belonged to one of the Director's aides, "Director Eckelkamp for you."

David murmured a reluctant acknowledgment, passionately rubbing at the bridge of his nose to force life back into his face. He heard the tell-tale three clicks on the other end of the line, and then heard the sea. The hair on the back of his neck stood on end.

"David." It was Kerry. "There's been an incident."

"Incident?" David squinted in the dark, trying to find a light switch with his loose hand. "What incident? Where?"

"On the docks. We've got it contained, but I need you to get down here quickly."

"Divers?"

"No."

"Not divers?"

"No, not divers. I don't have time for- David, listen, we have a lot of bodies to deal with and we need to figure it out fast. EthCom is involved."

Adrenaline surged through David's veins. "What? Why? What happened?"

The voice on the other end of the phone hesitated for a moment. "One of our lieutenants down here called our Region Hub before calling me. The call was routed to an EthCom liaison due to "loss of life". He says he didn't say much to whoever he talked to, but Cimmerian is on a plane right now."

"Fuck me," David said, scrambling now to slip on pants. "Don't let anyone leave. Get the, uh, get some fucking Class C's and uh… Jesus I can't even think right now, give me just a minute… Ok, ok. How many bodies are we talking?"

"Forty-three."

"Dead?"

"Some. Not all."

"That's some slight blessing. Were they ours?"

"David, I could explain this better if you-"

"Kerry for fuck's sake, just tell me. Ours or not?"

"No. It was a fishing trawler. We don't know how long they've been out there, the ship was just pulled in to port a half hour ago."

"Any Americans?"

"No."

"Another blessing. These sure keep adding up, don't they." David threw his coat over his shoulders. "How long do we have?"

"A few hours at best until the regional liaison gets here. Another few after that until Cimmerian and his posse show up."

"Ok. We work fast, then. Give me ten minutes, I'm leaving now."

Kerry acknowledged, and hung up the phone. David grabbed a few more things: his ID, a pack of Marlboros, his gun. He stumbled out into the not-yet-light of the early September morning, waving off his security detail as he threw all of his belongings into the back of his car. The engine hummed to life, and David Bell accelerated down the side road leading towards the docks. It was 1:27AM.


Kerry had been mistaken. After another twenty minutes of searching, three more bodies were pulled out onto the dock, making forty-six bodies out under sheets. From his vantage point in a control tower, Kerry could see the faint rising and falling of the chests from the few who were still breathing. A handful of security personnel stood at the far end of the docks on either side, all aware that by sunrise they wouldn't remember they had been there that night. A handful of site doctors stood around the bodies, taking a few samples and making some observations.

The scene was almost comical, he realized. Every great tragedy looked like this through the filter of the Foundation's response mechanism. Quarantine, assess, wait for reinforcements. More often than not, this ended in a few people in white coats standing around staring at something horrible and making idle small talk while they waited for somebody to do something. Kerry thought it was funny.

He started at the top again. Good morning, Dr. Cimmerian. Good to see you again. Yes, everything is going fine here. No, just a false alarm. One of our agents got a little jumpy. No, we don't have a pile of bodies hidden in a warehouse somewhere. No, I expect your investigation to proceed with little issue. Kerry felt his blood running cold. The Ethics Committee had a number of influential members, but none of them wielded that authority with such absolution as Jeremiah Cimmerian. Maybe if we're lucky we'll just lose our jobs. Worst case scenario, we botch the coverup and they just kill us.

The facts, as he knew them, were simple. One fishing trawler was found, non-communicating, floating aimlessly somewhere about seventeen klicks from the shoreline. The crew was unresponsive. The ones who hadn't experienced cardiac arrest and death were carrying on, slowly starving and running down the battery on the rest of their life. This isn't your fault, Kerry. You didn't do this to them. But the Eel had.

Kerry Eckelkamp was made director of Site-305 for one reason: his team, or rather, Adam Hollister's team, had developed the Atzak Protocol, and after Hollister's death Kerry was the most senior member. As it stood, he was one of only four members of that team left working on the SCP-3000 project, along with Isaac Kent, Jens Ulrich, and Angela Hughes. The rest had known better, and skipped town when they could. But not Kerry - Kerry found himself in a position of power and relished in it.

"These new Foster-class compounds are really something, Kerry," he remembered Dr. Lang telling him during their last meeting. "The work your team has done is really incredible. If you can maintain this kind of production, you'll have revolutionized the Thaumiel class. Hell, that has to be worth something, don't you think? A directorship, maybe? Or even more, who knows." The Foundation needed people to forget, and if you needed people to forget you needed Y-909, and if you needed Y-909 you needed Kerry Eckelkamp.

Sure, he hadn't necessarily been the most forthcoming about the side effects of working with SCP-3000. Dr. Hollister might have realized exactly how big the can of worms they had opened was, had he not been little more than a muttering simpleton by the time he died. He might have said something about the growing number of bodies they kept finding, fishermen and tourists and locals, all with the same blank eyes and emptiness inside. This is the cost of doing magic, Kerry had told the rest of the team. This is the price of working miracles. Most of them had left shortly afterwards.

But Kerry remained, and so did the bodies. Some of them were reported. Most weren't. This, though, was something different. So many at once was unheard of, and with the Ethics Committee already hovering over their entire operation… there couldn't be setbacks. Kerry's division, Experimental Parapharmacology Trials, often came to odds with the Ethics Committee, and each had earned the ire of each other. Cimmerian would have us amnesticizing subjects with hypnosis and tonic water, Dr. Mann had said, with no shortage of disdain in his voice. Don't fuck this up.

There was a knock on the door behind him, and Kerry braced. He turned stiffly, an alabaster smile stitched onto his face.

"Dr-"

"No time, Kerry," David said, throwing his coat onto a chair inside the door. "We need to figure this one out quick."

Kerry sighed in relief. "Yes, absolutely. Any ideas?"

David paced back and forth in front of the window. "Do we have any indication the vessel was inside the exclusion zone? Something we missed, maybe?"

Kerry shook his head. "They weren't even close. We combed the ship, too. Nothing really of note, though we do have a cell phone that might have something recoverable on it. They had it sent down to processing after we brought the boat back here."

David tapped furiously on the side of his head. "Does anyone else know about this?"

"The men on the dock, our other primary support staff. You and me."

"None of the locals? Nobody from Regional?"

"The phone call our lieutenant made just implied there had been a local loss of life. Didn't say why, or how."

David nodded slowly. "Ok. Ok. Ok. I think this is what we do. How much time do we have?"

"Another couple of hours, maybe."

"Do we still have mines around the exclusion zone?"

Kerry furrowed his brow. "Yes, but-"

"Put the bodies back on the ship, run it into a mine. The ship sinks, we report it as an unintended disaster, and Regional Containment buries it so they don't have to deal with it."

All of the breath came out of Kerry at once. "Are you fucking crazy? Your plan is to sink the ship?"

"Yep. That's the fucking plan, Kerry, because there's something going on here that you idiots can't seem to figure out, and until shit like this stops happening we're going to have to do some nasty stuff to keep it under wraps. You got it?"

"The exclusion zone is miles from the coast! What if they ask about why they were out so far from-"

"Then empty a couple of cheap liquor bottles out and throw them around the fucking boat, Kerry, I do not give two shits how you make this happen or how you explain it, but you explain it. If EthCom shows up and we have to explain forty or so mysteriously dead individuals on top of Officer Dead-Eyes down there, they'll shut down our operation for months, and we can't afford that Kerry. You can't afford that."

He paused to take a breath. "You need to know that the first time one of our agents reaches for a Class-A and it isn't there, Lament is going to pay you a visit. Tell me what you would prefer, Kerry. You want to do something shitty now and brush this whole ordeal under the table until we can get this shit fixed, or would you like to explain this to both Cimmerian and Lament?"

Kerry Eckelkamp sat down against the wall. He pushed his palms into his eyes, quietly seething at the unfortunate scenario he found himself in.

"We don't have much time."

"Then get a fucking move on, Kerry," David said, grabbing his coat and bounding out the door. "I need to go distract our lovely Regional EthCom rep while you take this thing and sink it to the bottom of the goddamn ocean.









ONE SAVED MESSAGE.

The task fell to the Eremita, because it always did. Dark chains stretched from the deck of the silent trawler into the darker seas below.

Ani… Ani it's me, Vihaan. Ani… something is happening.

As the shore grew more distant behind them, forty-six sailors stood their posts on their vessel. Some of them breathed. Most of them didn't. None of them blinked.

Some of the others are seeing things, things that aren't there. The captain… the captain took his own life, Ani. He died screaming, and he… he said… he saw eyes

They had voices, once. Their laughter or curses might have once filled the air on deck, a light on dark seas that reminded them they were still alive.

I… I can see the eyes too, Ani…

But the light had gone out.

It… it doesn't matter. Run. Fight. It ends the same.

The chains came free, and the Eremita pulled away. Moving once more under its own power, the vessel pushed forward towards inevitability. No one uttered a single word.

I called you to tell you something, but I… I don't remember. I don't remember who you are. I don't… I don't remember who I… who I… who…

There was an explosion, but it too seemed to step quietly around this moment. Water filled the ship from below, and as it leaned to one side and slipped below the waves, not a single soul on board cried out for mercy, because-

…there was never any mercy to give.

When the last of the nameless trawler and its crew of quiet men had disappeared into the dark sea below them, the Eremita turned away and left. No one uttered a single word.

END MESSAGE. WOULD YOU LIKE TO REPLAY MESSAGE?

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