Chapter 1: Your Mission, Should You Choose to Accept It...
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Brink Dangerguts and the Shard of Thermopylae

Several copies of this anonymous manuscript have been found scattered across Site 19 over the past month. Despite its near-total factual inaccuracy, it contains enough truth to warrant a low-level breach of security if published. As far as Foundation sources have gathered, it has not been sent to any outside publishing company; the investigation is ongoing.

“I tell you, amigo, this is what life’s for.”

Brink was lounging poolside at the hotel, draped over a lawn chair while a pair of bronzed Peruvian women rubbed suntan lotion on his imposing chest. A third reclined gracefully against his shoulder and ran a hand across his close-cropped brown hair. “If heaven doesn’t have this setup right here, I’m not going.”

“Tal vez no irás allá en absoluto,”1 Trail muttered around a mouthful of mango nectar, his inflatable seat bobbing lazily in the water.

Brink looked at the glass on the table beside him and stood up. “Yeah, you’re right, buddy,” he replied, “that is looking a little on the empty side. Oh, ah… It’s Hormiguita, isn’t it? Hormiguita!”

A fourth woman sauntered sultrily from across the patio carrying a whiskey sour in one hand and a lit cigarette in the other. She moved like a runway model, and wore noticeably less.

“Is Mercedes,” Mercedes corrected him, scowling. She raised the cigarette to her lips and blew smoke at his face.

“Mer—what? Why would I need a—no, no, Hormiguita, two.” He held up two fingers to illustrate his point. “Two drinks. Dos… drinks,” he said patiently as she strolled back, rolling her eyes. “Swear to God, love lookin’ at ‘em, but the minute you try to get one to do a simple task…“

“…hablas con ella como tú no crees que tiene cerebro.“2

“Trail, buddy, you know I can’t understand you when you say things fast like that.”

“Oh. It was nothing. Just talking to myself.”

There was a sudden rattle at the gate, and a pair of men in black suits and reflective sunglasses approached Brink and Trail. The one in the lead was short and slight, whereas the one behind was roughly twice his partner’s size in both directions. He looked capable of pulling apart a car with his hands alone.

“Burke Dangerous?” spoke the short man, curtly.

“Brink Dangerguts. My name is Brink Dangerguts,” repeated Brink Dangerguts. He proffered his hand to the miniature stranger, who ignored it.

“Brink.” He seemed to turn the name over in his head. “Right. My name is Agent Caraway, and this quiet individual—“ he gestured to his enormous companion, who bowed—“is Agent Toreo. We’d like to ask you for a moment of your time.”

“Sorry, I can’t spare a second right now,” Brink said. “As you can probably see, I’ve got several young women to attend to, and I’ve really spent enough time out of my chair as it is.”

“Is that so.” Caraway motioned to the giant, who clapped twice. The women turned their heads sharply, like a flock of cockatiels.

“Por favor,” Toreo said, “regresen a sus cuartos inmediatamente. Es de gran importancia.”3

At once, the three women arose, grabbed their towels, and began meandering toward the building. Brink stared at their retreating backs in surprise. His luxurious chestnut mustache and left eyelid twitched visibly.

“What the hell did you just do?” he asked, dumbfounded.

“It looks like your schedule just got a lot lighter, Mr. Dangerguts,” said Caraway snidely. “Now, you think we could talk with you for a moment?”

“After that? I ought to send the two of you flying! What’s worth sending away all the women? What kind of introduction was that?”

Caraway sniffed. “The kind that precedes an extremely lucrative job offer.” He started up the steps into the hotel. “Come inside.”


The contents of Toreo’s briefcase covered the rich velour sheets of the bed in Brink’s hotel room in much the same way as he had hoped a collection of señoritas was going to. Photographs, interview transcripts, clipped headlines, and scientific-looking articles formed almost a full layer of paper across the California king-sized mattress, with some loose pages falling onto the burgundy carpet.

“This right here is what you’ll be recovering for us,” Caraway said, his finger on a photo of a shard of Greek pottery. “It’s an ancient clay fragment with some rather unusual properties.”

“Is it cursed?”

“Well, no. Not really.”

“Will it melt your face if you look at it?”

“Oh, definitely not.”

Brink was puzzled. “Haunted, then? Possessed somehow?”

“Nothing like that.“

“Well, what’s its deal? Why is it so important?”

“It was stolen from our employers, and they desperately want it back. That is the extent of what you need to know in this regard. That, and not to touch it with your bare hands, but that should really go without saying.”

“Hold on, hold on, just a minute. Tell me it at least has some sort of catchy, recognizable name.”

“We call it SCP-960.”

“You’ve got to be kidding.” Brink stood and stretched his massive arms. “Mysterious—probably mysterious—ancient artifact, and the best you goons can come up with is a bunch of gibberish. All right, I’ll name it.”

Caraway sighed. “This really isn’t necessary.”

“The Shard of Thermopylae!”

“It’s not from Thermopylae,” groaned the squat agent. “Sit back down. I wasn’t finished.” Toreo nodded stiffly in Brink’s direction.

“Now, Mr.…" Caraway pretended to fumble for the name. “Dangerguts, wasn't it? You were responsible for locating the Adze of Maupai, correct?”

“That was me, yep. Me and my buddy Trail.” He made a move toward the window. “Why’d we have to leave him outside, anyway? We do all our adventuring as
a team.”

“We’ll get there. You also went toe-to-toe with the wild cockatrice on the Isle of Man, right?”

“Fought ‘em. Killed ‘em. Tried eating one of ‘em.”

“Oh? How was that?”

Brink shrugged. “Not great.”

“Hm. And Mad Captain Norman’s lost treasure, you found that, too?”

“With a cut air hose. …Hang on, we didn’t even go public with that yet. We just wrapped that one up a week and a half ago, how did you know about it?”

“My line of work extensively involves knowing things, Mr. Dangerguts.” Caraway began to pace around the suite. “As such, I have personally conducted a thorough background check on you before considering you for this job. Obviously, the fact that we’re speaking this instant proves that you’ve passed. Unfortunately, I cannot say the same for your partner, hence his current absence.”

Brink frowned. “Aw, hey, now, look, if you’re talking about what he did in Sumatra, I can tell you that was perfectly excusable in context.”

“It’s not just about Sumatra.” He picked up a wax apple and tossed it back and forth. “It’s a protracted pattern of misbehavior and unreliability in tense situations. Wouldn’t you say he has a tendency to fly off the handle?”

“Well, yes, but only when the handle needs to get flown off of! Look, sometimes you just gotta do something drastic to get a situation under control, and he understands that. He knows exactly what he’s doing.”

Caraway sniffed again. “Be that as it may, our employers have decided that he is too much of a risk for a mission as delicate as this. Leave him here. Say you’re going on vacation.”

“But this is our vacation.”

“Then say you’ve got family business to attend to. Dying grandparent or something, I don’t care. Just don’t bring him with you. Understand?”

Brink cast his deep blue eyes downward. “I understand.”

“Very good. So long as you don’t breathe a word to him of this arrangement, you will be extremely well compensated for your efforts concerning the artifact. Now, as I was saying, the last we heard, it was being flown into Egypt in the custody of a man named Heinrich Krause…”


“Madre de Dios, Brink, there you are. It’s been at least an hour and a half. What did those guys want?”

“Never mind what they want.” His face broke out into a perilous grin. “Come on, buddy, we’re going to Cairo.”

Brink Dangerguts and the Shard of Thermopylae

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