Conspiracy, Epilogue
rating: +36+x

Checkmate

Command-02, Washington, D.C.
Monday, 26 December 1988, 2130 hours local time


This time, it was Harper waiting for Seven in the darkened conference room. Alone, she entered the dimly lit room to find the counterintelligence officer facing her from by the window, casually smoking a cigarette. "Ma'am," he said quietly.

"Mr. Harper," Seven replied. "Do you have a status report on your investigation?"

"I have," he said, blowing a puff of smoke. "Initially, it appeared as though some vast and unknown conspiracy had managed to penetrate every major organization operating behind the Veil. But that turned out not to be true. The information discovered in the warehouse was carefully prepared bait, gathered by a few individuals with access to nearly omniscient intelligence apparatuses. After one of the key conspirators called Director McDonnell's direct line from an untraceable number, Robert swallowed it hook line and sinker. Being the by-the-book operative he has always been, he reported it to his direct superior: O5-5. Five had, for years, handled counterintelligence, while you handled intelligence collection, until his untimely demise left a skill vacuum on the Council you offered to satisfy until the appointment of a replacement Overseer could occur, likely after the holidays."

Seven frowned slightly. The report was not going as expected.

Taking a breath on his cigarette, Harper continued, "The death of Five and Director McDonnell was easy enough for the conspirators to arrange, for they had knowledge of a device which could explosively detonate a mundane-looking object from half a world away. This device, the explosive coins and their associated atlas, had been used by the Foundation once before to destroy an American naval vessel, causing a war that directly benefited this organization. Unfortunately, the coins had been stolen by Marshall, Carter and Dark after Fidel Castro had nationalized the site where they were stored. This presented little obstacle for the plotters, however, for they had inside access to the club's records. Whether Lord George Smith-Cumming was a willing member of the plot or an unlucky pawn sacrificed for the game, or even, indeed, if he had actually ever owned the coins at all, we may never know. But the red herring was there to confuse anyone who made it that far."

Seven swallowed. Her right hand ever so slowly slid towards the pistol concealed in the small of her back, moving carefully to avoid notice.

Harper exhaled, and said, "The conspirators were clever, really, for they held positions from whence they could not only monitor the investigations, but they could direct it. They could play both sides off the middle, and for a while it worked. My investigation took me to Europe, the Middle East, and the Soviet Union, while I'm sure the Global Occult Coalition's investigations required similar globetrotting. I was sent chasing the illusive C. In the meantime, the conspirators worked to either secure, or look as though they were securing, some SCPs with the capacity to not only inflict significant collateral damage if turned loose in a populated area, but also lacked stringent protective measures preventing their being seized with relative ease."

Seven's fingers felt the grip of her pistol.

"I would rather you didn't do that," Harper said, producing a weapon of his own with his right hand, his left still holding a cigarette. "I'm not finished yet," he said coolly. "You came to an agreement with Regional Deputy Director Keith Bain at the GOC, another of the key conspirators," Harper continued, "having him hire a drunk to kill my family ten years ago, so that I would agree to take a promotion that would eventually land me here: as the investigator who would be keeping you apprised of your own conspiracy to seize control of the Foundation. Unfortunately, Bain made a mistake. The drunk he hired was his bodyguard's twin brother - the same bodyguard he used to assassinate O5-3 and his own direct superior as part of the conspiracy. By shooting his bodyguard, he neatly prevented the assassin from giving up the secret of his employer, while simultaneously becoming the hero of the situation for the GOC."

"Foundation-Coalition relations will be set back decades because of this," Cornelia said.

Harper shook his head, "Possible, but unlikely, given that the O5 Council provided the Coalition's leadership with incontestable financial proof of Bain's treachery. Greedy bastard, Bain. I understand they have placed him under arrest." Cornelia looked slightly ashen. Harper paused to take a breath on his cigarette, then continued. "I don't know who in the Chaos Insurgency you were in bed with, but having them hit Research Site-29 right after I left was a nice touch, as was leaving Ford around to say what had been taken. And, if he took the blame for the attack, so much the better."

If looks could kill, Harper would long since have been blasted backwards through the tinted window behind him. He was relatively unconcerned with dirty looks, however, as his pistol was leveled neatly at his adversary's chest. "I have been cleared to know the truth about SCP-006. Clever bit of acting, buying Sir James' service in the conspiracy with water from the fountain of youth. Unfortunately for you, I determined the real identity of C, Cornelia."

Cornelia Dark let out a quick, barking laugh, "You know nothing."

Harper smiled, "Sir James mentioned how you and he had first met: 'in university, one giving a lecture the other attended,' he said. I realize now that you were the lecturer, not him, despite the appearances of your ages. You've been planning this for a very long time. It's over now. You will spend the remainder of your natural life in as cold, dark, and damp a hole as the Foundation can find."

"Like Hell!" Cornelia snarled. With astonishing speed, a tiny pistol appeared in her hand out of the sleeve of her suit jacket. She raised her arm to fire. Two shots rang out, and Cornelia Dark, née Roosevelt, formerly O5-7, fell to the floor dead, two bullet holes through her heart.

"A pity," said a low voice. "It would have been nice to know who her contact in the Insurgency was." A figure stepped out of the shadows in the corner of the room. A nondescript man, unremarkable in nearly every facet of his appearance, he was O5-1, the first among equals of the O5 Council.

"I apologize, sir," Harper said respectfully.

O5-1 replied, "You need not worry, it was self defense. The cleaning crew has had more substantial messes than this to clean - they are getting quite remarkable at getting blood out of carpet."

"Yes, sir," Harper said.

"Now, Mr. Harper, I have spoken with the other Overseers," O5-1 said, "and we would like you to assume the duties of O5-7, effective immediately. Do you accept?"

Me? An Overseer? Harper thought to himself in surprise. He took a long moment to consider, then answered, "Yes."

"Very well," O5-1 said, producing a black identification card with a gold border, Harper's photograph, and 'O5-7' printed in gold. "Welcome aboard, Seven. The Council's first assignment for you is to oversee the closure of this conspiracy investigation. Allow me to make something perfectly clear: this never happened. There was never a plot to overthrow the Council or to seize control of the world behind the Veil. Your predecessor was not shot; she retired. Please see to it that Mr. Muir and Ms. Daniel understand how events took place, and see to it that all documentation reflects what happened accurately."

"Yes, sir," the Foundation's newest Overseer said.

"One more thing, Seven," O5-1 said, turning to leave. "Make sure you got them all."


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