Consolidation
rating: +28+x

We're here. I'll send you a response when the dust has settled. I hope you have a plan B, because I'm honestly expecting this whole thing to crash and burn.

Your concern is noted, but I think you'll find that we have more of an edge than you realize. Good luck.


As they stood alone in a parking lot near a trail head for Forest Park, Sasha Merlo simply watched the light November rain fall around them, and placed her cell phone back in her pocket. Her brunet hair was stuffed beneath a small beanie as she took in a deep breath. On the other side of the parking lot, Daniel Navarro was finishing up a cigarette. Once they were in Site-64 there would be no more smoking, so he was making sure to take advantage of this last opportunity. Eventually, the lanky man approached, taking a few moments to watch the rain fall with Merlo before he finally spoke.

“So…” he began. “How about those SCPs?”

Merlo immediately punched him in the arm.

“Hey,” Navarro said through a chuckle as he hopped backwards, rubbing his arm with his free hand. “That’s a little extreme don’t you think?”

Merlo shook her head.

“Four years,” she said. “You could have at least sent me an email. ‘Hey Sasha, just a heads up, I’m not dead or had my memory wiped.’”

“What can I say,” he shrugged. “The new task force has me swamped. This is the first time I’ve even been back to Oregon since 2014.

“See, that also burns me,” Merlo snapped back, “I offered you a spot on Gamma-13 at least four times, and each time you said, ‘MTFs are for squares.’ And yet here you stand as a Bibliographer. Seriously, what the fuck?”

“They put a bag over my head,” Navarro replied with a sly smile. “Clearly they wanted me more. Try kidnapping next time.”

Merlo let out a frustrated sigh and turned back to the rain. She managed to maintain a frown for a few more moments before it cracked into a small grin.

“They really put a bag over your head?”

“Sure did.”

The two agents let out a brief laugh before they turned towards the maintenance trail leading westward into the forest. Half a mile in they would find yet another trail that would lead to one of Site-64’s entry ways.

“Think Holman will bite?” Navarro asked. Merlo’s thoughts then turned to the folder in her backpack, detailing the intricate plan Phineas had shared with them back at Fort Charles.

“I doubt it,” Merlo sighed. “But right now he’s the only one who’d even agree to meeting with me, let alone another scheme to capture Anderson. Holman’s our only shot, as poor a shot as it is. I’m just hoping that the incident with Saker-13 is enough to show him that Phineas is willing to play ball.”

“I mean, what else could he ask for? Two dead congressmen?”

“With our luck, probably.”


Site Director Edgar Holman looked over the folder in silence. Navarro and Merlo sat before him, each remained motionless in the two chairs he kept in front of his desk. As he continued to read, Merlo looked Holman over. The years had not been kind, as the wear and tear of over two decades at the helm of a Foundation facility had finally begun to show. His slicked back hair, once black, was beginning to show streaks of gray. Merlo had enough difficulty handling the MTF she had been assigned. She could not begin to imagine how one managed to sleep when they were responsible for an entire site.

Eventually Holman took off his reading glasses and closed the folder. He looked up at the two agents before giving a small chuckle.

“I don’t know what I’m more impressed by, the fact that you brought me this little scheme or the fact that you did it with Dan Navarro in tow, as if it would help,” he said. He then shook his head. “We’d never get approval for something like this, Sasha.”

“But what do you think?” Merlo inquired.

“It doesn’t matter what I think,” Holman replied. “I could be convinced that this plan was God’s gift to the Foundation and we still wouldn’t get approval, assistance from Phineas aside. They’re only calling Gamma-13 together to raid known Anderson locations. Not bait traps, especially ones dependent on known PoIs.”

“So that’s it then? Plug’s being pulled?”

“I’m afraid so,” Holman said with a sigh. “Valiant effort, but no dice.”

Merlo gave a defeated nod and stood.

“Thank you for your time, sir,” she said, and made her way to the door. Navarro followed suit. It was not long before the two agents were in the halls of Site-64, slowly meandering back to Merlo’s office.

“So what now…” Navarro asked, keeping himself in time with Merlo’s stride.

“I have no clue…”

“There is always my way…” Navarro said with a chuckle. Merlo laughed briefly then shook her head.

“I don’t have the benefit of being a wizard, Dan,” she said. “If I go through with this unapproved, even if I was successful, they’d wipe my mind and leave me on the banks of the Willamette. I told Phineas this would be a long shot, and go figure I was right.”

Merlo sighed as she pulled out her phone and sent a single text.

No go.

She once again pocketed her phone and the two continued in silence, only stopping their solemn gait when they heard Holman calling out behind them. The older man was nearly sprinting, his breathing heavy as he finally caught up.

“Sir?” Merlo asked.

“You two… the AMAT Lab… now!” Holman said between gasps. Eventually he regained his breath and let out a final sigh. “There has been a development.”

Merlo felt her phone vibrate. As she followed behind Holman she discretely checked the new text.

Dust hasn't settled yet.


Site-64’s Anomalous Materials lab was one of the newer labs in the facility. As such, when Holman, Merlo, and Navarro entered they were greeted with the sights and sounds of new scientific toys whirling, buzzing, and otherwise being scientific. A handful of researchers buzzed as they went about their business, excitedly chattering among themselves before they noticed the three outsiders standing at the threshold of their academic lair.

A scrawny man in a lab coat with messy blond hair, and sleep deprived eyes stepped forward. His lips were turned up into an ecstatic smile, as he offered a handshake to Holman.

“Director,” he said in a slightly monotone voice, “thank you for making the trip down here.”

“Of course, Conwell,” Holman said, eyeing the chittering researchers in the background. “These are Agents Sasha Merlo and Daniel Navarro, would you mind telling them what you told me on the phone earlier?”

Conwell gave the two of them a sharp nod, his smile vanishing briefly.

“We’ve met.”

“Long time no see, Sadman,” Navarro replied. “What have you got for us today?”

“A flashdrive was left on my desk this morning. Inside was directions to synthesize a stable variant of SCP-1360-1,” said Conwell. He then took a small tray from a nearby work bench. Sure enough, a square of the familiar tough, black fabric that always covered Anderson’s androids was there. Conwell then handed over a small piece of paper. “This was found with the flashdrive.”

Merlo snatched it from his hands and read it hungrily, Navarro reading from over her shoulder.

Conwell,
You and Johnson got pretty close to cracking this. I felt that you deserved an answer.
Tell your superiors that all my cards are now on the table.
Phineas

“We’re running a large series of tests,” Conwell added, looking to Holman. “But once we get your approval, I’d like to send this to the paratech devs. Self-repairing body armor could be a useful tool. However, I think you’d be more interested in this little tidbit.”

Conwell took out a small spray bottle, and immediately sent a few drops of an unknown liquid flying at the fabric. Within seconds the aramid fibers shriveled into dust.

“Phineas also provided instructions on how to destroy it. I imagine this, if weaponized, could be handy to Gamma-13, or any number of task forces dealing with Anderson robots.”

Merlo and Navarro beamed at Holman. Both agents wore a smug smile. Holman sighed in response.

“How much longer until you finish the preliminary tests?” he asked.

“I’ve cleared our entire testing schedule for the day,” Conwell replied with a smile. “Give us a day or two to verify everything, and I’ll have the full report on your desk.”

“Have a copy ready to send to the paratech devs,” Holman replied, then turned to his agents and gestured to the hall. Merlo caught a glimpse of the AMAT lab techs scurrying about before the door closed, leaving the trio alone in the hallway.

“Soooooooooooo…” Merlo said, turning to Holman with a grin. “Phineas provided us with a dead Saker, names, locations, and has now armed us. He clearly wants Anderson taken down. If we don’t take him up on this offer, he’s going to find someone else. This is our shot, Edgar.”

Holman rubbed the bridge of his nose. He then let out an exasperated sigh.

“I’ll pass this up the chain,” he finally said after several moments of silence. “No promises anything will come of it though. Our track record is not exactly top tier.”

The Director slowly walked away, two fingers rubbing his right temple.

“And for the love of all that is good and holy, behave,” he added. “Or I swear I will personally be dumping your bodies into the Willamette.”


Very clever. Your gamble worked. Gamma-13 has been approved to launch the operation.

I figured that would grease the wheels enough to get things moving.

Right. So this bait you mentioned…

Dr. Contos and her son. Two people that if captured would draw Anderson out. I'm still on good enough terms with them that they can agree to meet with me. There your team can grab them. Should be simple.

Just tell us where to be, and we'll make it happen.

As per our initial agreement, they are not to be harmed during any part of these proceedings, else the identities of no less than five of your agents within MC&Ds operations will be revealed.

I thought you said you laid all your cards on the table.

I kept an ace up my sleeve.


Agent Clarissa Shaw sat alone in a small coffee shop in downtown Seattle, the outside world soaked in Washington’s fall rain. Her long blond hair was neatly hidden under a red wig. Her usual thin rimmed glasses had been replaced by contacts that changed the color of her eyes from blue to green. As she sipped from her mug of coffee she looked at her watch.

Any second now… she thought. The door to the coffee shop then opened. Shaw hid her smile behind the mug.

As Phineas promised, a thin young man with a mop of curly blond hair and thick glasses entered, a short, middle aged woman with shoulder length brunette hair and faint blue eyes followed behind him. Four businessmen trailed them, each looking about the room in a seemingly random pattern. Jason Contos and Dr. Medea Contos had arrived.

Shaw turned her head and scratched her ear. A gentleman in the far corner of the room folded his newspaper, while two women in different corners closed their laptops. The company of six had only just sat down after obtaining their drinks, when Shaw and the others stood in unison throwing several canisters to the ground and covering the room in a fine cloud of white powder. The four businessmen attempted to stand and draw pistols hidden on their person, but rapidly fell apart as the powder covered coated them. Thick black puddles were all that remained.

Shaw and her fellow agents lost no time in drawing their pistols, the barrels trained at the Jason and Medea. The two scientists held their hands up, Medea shaking in terror as she looked around at the approaching agents. Jason maintained a vigil of hatred.

“Gotcha,” Shaw said with a sly smile, and tapped Jason on the nose.


Dr. Contos and Jason are in our custody. We have the bait, and Navarro has set up the trap. We're ready when you are.

In a studio apartment on the edge of Three Portlands, an old, bald man with a large white beard watched the rain come down. Occasionally, he’d glance at his phone, each time there would be no new messages and his heart would sink a little deeper.

“Something has happened,” Phineas said to himself as he turned around, and went to the kitchen where he started preparing water for tea. Saker-45 and Saker-32 should have checked in by now, as should have Douglas Walker and Tessa Kim. With Jason and Medea now in Foundation custody there was much to do before the final blow could be struck. All hands would be needed on deck.

The kettle whistled as the water came to a boil. Phineas reached into his overflowing sink and pulled out a dirty mug in which he placed several bags of peppermint tea. As the water took on its light green-yellow hue, Phineas sighed. They had just kicked the hornets’ nest.

“I hope no one else got stung,” he said to himself, and looked down at his steeping tea.

Shikt

There was a sharp pain in his back. Protruding from his stomach was a large, thin blade. Phineas felt himself forced forward, a powerful electric shock blasting through him, destroying the functions of his mechanical limbs. He used his arms to keep him from slamming into the kitchen counter, the devices powering down as they locked in place.

“You bastard…” a metallic voice said behind him. “Did you think there was any place you could hide that I wouldn’t eventually find you? Don’t you remember all that we’ve done to build this company? Don’t you remember what I’ve done?!?

Phineas coughed. He could taste blood in his mouth. Slowly turning his head, Vincent Anderson came into view, his silver tragedy mask shimmering in the dim light of the room.

“Hey Vince,” Phineas said with a small smile. “You finally fixed that voice module, I see.”

“Silence…” Anderson hissed, twisting the blade and delivering a fresh wave of pain. “How could you do this to Jason and Medea? Of all people…”

Anderson trailed off. He reached into the pack he carried and pulled out a large black helmet covered in wires, carefully placing it on Phineas’s head. The helmet quickly began to hum.

“Initiate.”

The old man felt a sharp jab at the base of his skull.

“What are you up to?” Phineas asked. He felt his mechanical limbs grow rigid while his biological self grew weaker. Even a cyborg of his caliber still needed his internal organs.

“Its one of Wilson's gizmos, creates some kind of electronic neural imprint or something.” Anderson said in a matter-of-fact manner. “I don't really know, Wilson made it before signing on with us. The point is, I'm digitizing your memories. It will take some modifications, but I’ll have my friend back. Then we’ll get Jason and Medea, and put this mess behind us.”

Anderson paused for several moments.

“Then all will be well again.”

Phineas gave a short laugh before coughing up a large amount of blood.

“I was wondering when we’d reach this point,” Phineas said as he spit out the dark red fluid. “You can’t just edit out the parts of people you don’t like, Vince.”

“Don’t tell me what I can and can’t do, old man,” Anderson replied. There was a static sound. Phineas imagined that his old friend would be crying now if he was still able. “I’ll see you real soon.”

Anderson then pointed his right index finger at Phineas’s head. There was a bright flash as lightning. Then Phineas was still.

Anderson stood motionless for several moments, and then slowly slid down to the floor. He pulled off the tragedy mask, and placed his head in his hands, slowly rocking back and forth.

“It's okay…” he said to himself. “I can fix this. I can fix everything. It's okay… it's okay…”

Anderson then got to his feet, and flicked the tragedy mask with his index finger. The masks expression changed to comedy. Anderson placed it back on his face, and made his way towards the door, grabbing Phineas's phone on the way. He quietly scanned the texts and sent a reply.

Ready or not, here he comes.

Anderson stepped out into the Three Portlands rain as Phineas’s apartment erupted into flames.


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