of an L
The pair conversed through the entire car ride, much to the chagrin of the man tied up in the back of the van. Not because he cared much one way or another about the topic of conversation, which was him, but because he had hoped to catch a nap while he was tied up. Had they been quiet, the rain would be fairly soothing.
"He couldn't have figured out who we are on his own. Flanagan crunched the numbers. He should only be able to… understand groups at least six or seven times as big as us. Otherwise he would have seen us coming." The owner of the level voice, a heavily tattooed woman that looked to be in her mid-fifties, adjusted the rear-view mirror to better focus on Gabriel's face. "That, or he's completely incompetent."
"And you're sure that this isn't part of some big plan of his?" A much younger, substantially louder voice emanated from the driver's seat. "To, to get caught by us, for whatever reason, and use us to do whatever it is he's up to?" Seemingly becoming aware of xyr own voice, the wide-eyed individual quieted down. "I mean, it's not like we'd really have a choice if that was his plan, it's just…" Xe coughed, with the sound of clanking metal and a brief puff of black smoke issuing from xyr throat.
Gabriel's boredom was briefly tinged with amusement.
"Then don't worry about it. You don't trust Flanagan's analysis? That's fine." The woman who called herself DeadeyeAlligator1 withdrew a phone from her bag and began tapping. "I'll just let them know that you've spent twelve years studying economic and cultural trends and developed a coherent theory of meta-aware str-"
Mind-Thriller2, as xe preferred to be addressed, interrupted. "Yes, yes, I get that they're some sort of ridiculous prodigy, we established that." Xyr voice began to rise again, less of its own accord and more to be heard over the sirens. "It's just that… I don't know. I'm iffy on this."
"You signed on to be the getaway driver for a kidnapping without being sure about the mission?" DA was forced to brace herself as the van took a precisely timed turn down an alley at MT's behest. "Not that I can fault your work…"
"Of course I did. If I didn't, you'd still do it, except you might get caught."
Having given the assertion a thorough evaluation, Gabriel decided to weigh in with a statement he hoped was not overly controversial: "You're about to drive into a wall." This appeared to be true — in this weather, and at these speeds, hitting the brakes would be of little use. "Thought you should know."
As this was stated, DA was already unrolling a sleeve, revealing a tattoo of a knotted snake on a starry background. "Don't worry." With perhaps two seconds left before impact, DA placed a finger on the knot, and the van drove through the wall unimpeded into an inky black abyss. The only light came from DA's arm, which glowed a dull yellow.
Gabriel looked out the window. "Oh."
As their eyes adjusted to the sudden change in lighting, it became clear that the darkness was merely nighttime; a desert landscape was visible around them. MT glanced back and smiled after slowing the van to a stop. "Yeah. Magic. Cops don't really expect it. Uh, DA, mind getting us back to the hideout?"
"Sure thing." Also addressing the prisoner, "It's a bit convoluted, but you'll get used to it." Placing a finger on a different tattoo (one of a turtle with too many legs), the surroundings changed to a dingy garage; or, rather, what could have been one, had it contained any opening large enough to move a van through.
"Okay." Gabriel neither resisted nor complied as MT threw his light frame over xyr shoulder and headed through the room's singular door into a cellar furnished with comfortable-looking furniture, a tiny kitchen, and three gun safes. After being deposited on a couch with a denim cover, he made no effort to move or sit up.
"Not feeling talkative?" DA and MT removed their coats, bulletproof vests, and shoes as DA re-tightened the cord tying Gabriel's hands behind his back. MT continued, "Or do you just not care?"
"The latter. And I read faster than you talk, so just give me a copy of your manifesto before telling me to help you smash the system or whatever. And yes, I care enough about not being tortured or neglected to help you further your goals." Pause. "And I'm thirsty."
"That's…" DA and MT shared a look as the former trailed off. "Alright. I'll go get you a copy." She headed into a different room as MT went to the sink and filled up a glass of water. After it was filled, MT sat down on the table across from Gabriel and extended the glass of water to his lips. "… should I even ask how you knew all that?"
Gabriel calmly took several sips of water before pulling away from the glass's brim. "Having intimate knowledge of every significant formal and informal system and organization in the world makes people easy to predict. Even if they're working mostly outside of it. What should I call you two?"
"We go by, er, the name of our blogs." MT cleared xyr throat, breaking eye contact briefly. "I'm Mind-Thriller, and she's DeadeyeAlligator. It's quicker to just say MT and DA."
"And you know all about me, I assume." Gabriel nodded in understanding, then yawned. "You're ex-Serpent's Hand, right? That's probably important."
Xe sighed. "DA is. She tried to get me into it, but it… wasn't for me." Xyr frown didn't lift as DA reentered the room with a tablet computer, which she placed on Gabriel's lap. "We're going to untie you now, and I assume you know better than to try anything." DA reached behind Gabriel's back and carried out this
"You could snap me in half if you wanted." This was apparently intended as an answer, as he said nothing further while he read. He did pick up the glass of water and down it as he read. Several minutes passed in silence, Gabriel occasionally swiping to the left on the tablet's screen while DA sent some texts and MT kept xyr focus on Gabriel. After reaching the end, he spoke. "I can see why you're not affiliated with any larger group. There really aren't many that would be to your liking. And most of this would be flatly impossible without my assistance."
"But it's possible with your assistance." DA sat up and turned her attention to Gabriel as she spoke.
"Yes. I've already got most of the plan done. I need to talk to Graff first, though." He handed the tablet back to DA. "The mathematician going by 'Flanagan' that you mentioned earlier."
"You figured out Flanagan's identity?" MT tilted xyr head at this. "How on earth…"
Gabriel, in an unprecedented display of emotion, sighed a bit. "I cover my tracks well. To figure out that I'm anything but a reclusive self-made billionaire, you would need a genius with a supercomputer and an advanced understanding of memetics, economics, and sociology. The SCP Foundation is the only group that has geniuses, supercomputers, and an established study of memetics. The Chaos Insurgency does too, actually, but they would have caught a traitor much faster."
"Oh." MT hmmed at this. "They didn't mention that."
"The Foundation keeps very extensive records of their memeticists, so I know all of them. Only Dr. Vanessa Graff has the background and affiliations that would suggest any interest in this." Gabriel pointed at the tablet. "I need her here so I can get more information on your resources and talk specifics. You also need to meet her in person, if you haven't."
"We'll…" DA trailed off, disconcerted. "We'll check with them on that." She pulled her phone back out and sent another text.
"Okay." Gabriel stretched a bit, yawning again. "Where's the bathroom?"
MT pointed at the door that DA entered through. "Down the hall, on the left. And you can sleep in the guest room across the hall."
Gabriel nodded, then stood up and walked out of the room without a word.
MT turned to DA. A bit too loudly, "So how much of that do you believe?"
DA shrugged. "Well, judging by Flanagan's reaction, he at least ID'd them correctly." She showed her recently received texts to MT, a screen full of expletives and invective. "So I guess that much is true. It doesn't really matter what we believe about the rest. Personally? He's probably right about us needing him."
"So…" MT sighed. "We're meeting Flanagan… er… Graff? In person?"
"Yyyyup." A buzzing indicated that DA had received another text, which she checked: "Oh. Restaurant in Seattle, in… an hour. Think you can handle that?"
MT grinned, showing a mouth full of chrome teeth. "Shouldn't be too hard." The pair began preparing for their next excursion, grabbing their coats, vests, and firearms. "Have SearchNabokov3 drop by to keep an eye on Gabriel. I don't want him unsupervised."
"Got it." DA sent yet another text, then turned towards the bathroom to yell: "We're heading out to meet Graff! Someone is gonna drop by to keep an eye on you! Don't fuck anything up!" The pair exited to the garage. The sound of doors opening and closing were heard, followed by the starting of the van's engine, which abruptly cut off into silence.
Shortly afterwards, the toilet was flushed. Gabriel walked over towards the guest bedroom, then lied down in its doorway and promptly fell asleep. It had been a long day, and it was finally quiet.