Foundation Command-02, Washington, D.C.
Monday, 26 December 1988, 0755 hours local time
When Harper arrived at Command-02 on Monday morning, the tension in the air was palpable. Security was heightened beyond anything he could remember in the nearly thirty years he'd worked for the Foundation, and he knew the platoon of heavy-weapons-bearing mobile task force personnel present in the building lobby paled in comparison to the security that was hidden out of sight. When he finally reached the head of the line to the security checkpoint, the attending guard pulled him aside. "Mr. Harper, you're needed on the seventh floor, sir," the stern-faced guard said. "Now."
A short elevator trip later, not even stopping to put his hat, coat, and briefcase in his office, Harper walked into the same secure conference room he had been in the preceding Thursday. Once again, Seven was waiting for him. The strain of the past several days had visibly taken its toll on the Overseer: she had shadows under her eyes, and her raven hair was beginning to come loose from her usually immaculate bun. "Mr. Harper, the situation is dire," she said, trying and failing to keep the stress and sleep deprivation from her voice.
Harper nodded, "Yes, ma'am."
"How much do you know?" Seven asked, her green eyes boring into him.
Harper coughed, "Apart from your two messages, I've been out of the loop since I left Research Site-29. When I arrived this morning, I was told you needed to see me immediately, so I didn't stop by my office to get updated." He gestured at his coat and briefcase, which he had laid upon the nearest chair.
"Very well," she breathed, turning to look out the tinted window at the Capital Building. "Two more Overseers are dead. Eleven died in his sleep of an apparent heart attack. The timing is too suspicious for it to be an accident; our experts are looking into the possibility that he was poisoned. It's a long shot, since there are plenty of poisons we're unlikely to discover postmortem. Three was assassinated while she was meeting with Regional Director Strauss and Deputy Director Bain for the GOC. The Coalition's Regional Director was also killed, as were both his and Three's bodyguards. Our liaison officer to the GOC is in the hospital, though he is expected to survive."
Harper asked, "Did they manage to catch the assassin?"
"No," spat Seven. "Not alive anyway. He was the bodyguard for the Regional Deputy Director, a man named Benjamin Arnold. Bain killed Arnold during the shootout, and is now apparently Acting Regional Director."
"Do we know why Arnold started killing everyone in sight?" Harper asked.
"The Coalition is claiming no knowledge, and pointing fingers at the Chaos Insurgency," Seven replied. "I have Intel running down leads. Though we've seen no evidence to suggest the Chaos Insurgency is the mastermind for the ongoing plot, they certainly seem to have their hands dirty. The MTF that secured Research Site-29 said it looked like the Insurgency was responsible for that, as well."
"Has there been any progress questioning Dr. Ford?" asked the counterintelligence officer.
The Overseer shook her head. "Zimmerman has been questioning him down in the basement."
"Zimmerman is a brutish, sadistic thug who couldn't get a useful answer if his life depended on it," Harper objected.
"Agent Zimmerman is one of our most experienced enhanced interrogation—" began Seven.
"He's a cold-blooded sadist!" Harper snapped. "Jesus Christ, you might as well have shot Ford and gotten it over with! Torture. Does. Not. Work! People will say anything to stop the pain, truthful or not, so you can't trust any of it without independent confirmation, which if you can get you shouldn't have tortured the guy in the first place!"
Seven turned to face Harper, her gaze icy. Speaking softly, she said, "So be it. You will be responsible for Ford's questioning." Taking a deep breath, the counterintelligence officer nodded. Seven continued, "Most of the O5 Council is running scared. With three Overseers killed in the past week, the surviving members of the Council voted five-four (I abstained) in favor of transferring seventy-five liters of liquid from SCP-006 to Sir James. In exchange, he has provided us with the coordinates of a warehouse in Finland where he believes C's objects are stored. MTF Xi-13 is on route as we speak. In short, that is what has occurred since you left Oman. Now, what are your findings?"
Harper began, "Well, nothing seemed out of place at Research Site-29 while I was there. According to what Dr. Ford's team had been able to translate, SCP-557-1 - the entity formerly held by 557 - could cause some real damage."
"What do we know of 557-1?" Seven inquired.
Harper said, "Not much. Translations are, uh, were, I suppose, ongoing. Most of the records only refer to it as 'the prisoner,' though one refers to it as 'the bastard son of Apep.'"
"And now the Chaos Insurgency has access to all our research on SCP-557," Seven sighed. "Wonderful. And SCP-1440?"
"He was apparently approached by a mysterious young woman who offered to 'cure' him," Harper responded. "He declined, and she left."
"Do you think this woman could be C?" asked Seven.
"We have no way of knowing," Harper said. "We have no physical description of C to compare."
"Anything else?" asked the Overseer.
Shaking his head, Harper replied, "No, ma'am."
"Very well," she said. "That will be all. Keep me informed - I want status updates every time you have a major new development. That will be all." Harper nodded, collected his coat, and left.
Helsinki waterfront, Finland
Monday, 26 December 1988, 1500 hours local time
Foundation Armed Rapid Response Task Force Xi-13 sped through the heavily falling snow across the icy waters of Helsinki's harbor. In their winter camouflage and white-gray speedboats, only the most perceptive of observers would have been able to see them through the blizzard, and their boats' engine sounds were indistinguishable from the port's usual traffic. They had deployed from the SCPS Kraken, which waited out in international waters.
Agent Price, Xi-13's executive officer and field commander, knew only slightly more than his men. Orders From The High Muckitymucks had come down instructing his team to secure a waterfront warehouse at a set of GPS coordinates that turned out to be in the Finnish capital. Apparently, some member of MC&D had a stash of artifacts stolen from the Foundation there. That is, if the little vague intelligence he'd been given was correct. Resistance was expected to be somewhere between "non-existent" and "heavy," the report had indicated. Right, that was helpful, Price thought.
A month and a half earlier, the United States government formally acknowledged that the aerospace corporation Lockheed Martin had designed and built a single-seat, twin-engine stealth ground-attack aircraft for the USAF, designated the F-117 "Nighthawk." Production numbers would remain classified for years to come, but those with clearance into the program knew that a total of sixty-four Nighthawks had been built, with five prototypes and fifty-nine production versions. At least, that's what the Department of Defense's numbers recorded. In fact, Lockheed had built another five production versions under secret contract for the Global Occult Coalition. Unbeknownst to Agent Price, or anyone else in Helsinki for that matter, one of the GOC's Nighthawks was lining up for a bombing run on the warehouse Xi-13 was rapidly approaching. With a radar cross section equivalent to a large bird, not even the Finnish air defense forces realized the presence of the intruder.
"Lombardi! Bring us alongside the dock!" barked Price. Xi-13's speedboats raced in formation towards the target.
The GOC F-117 opened its bomb bay doors. Two GPS guided thermobaric weapons, more commonly known as "fuel-air bombs", each weighing in at 1,150 kilograms (or 2,500 pounds) fell silently towards the warehouse.
The Foundation speedboats slowed abruptly as they reached the dock. The troops were about to leap ashore when the Nighthawk's bombs reached their target.
Thermobaric weapons consist of a container of fuel and two separate explosive devices. When the bombs entered the warehouse by crashing through the metal roof, the first explosive charge on both bombs burst open the fuel container. The fuel, now free to mix with atmospheric oxygen, was rapidly accelerated outward in all directions, creating a cloud which almost completely filled the interior of the warehouse, flowing around the crates stored within and the small security force concealed inside to protect the stored goods. A fraction of a second later, the second explosive charge for each bomb went off. These explosives, though tiny by themselves, detonated the now-oxidized cloud of fuel. The fireball, reaching temperatures well in excess of 2,500 degrees Celsius, incinerated the warehouse's contents and inhabitants in fifty milliseconds, one eighth of the time required for a human to blink. The overpressure of the explosion reached three megapascals, or 430 pounds per square inch, over forty times the pressure necessary to severely damage buildings constructed of reinforced concrete. The warehouse, built out of little more than sheet metal over steel girders, was quite literally blown apart by the blast wave. Less than a second later, the burning gases that made up the explosion began to cool, causing the pressure to drop abruptly. This created a partial vacuum, further increasing the devastation as debris was sucked into the still hellish conditions of the explosion.
The blast wave from the explosion, traveling at nearly ten times the speed of sound, rocked the Foundation task force's boats, knocking the entire platoon off its feet. Though it critically injured a full half of the MTF (every agent was injured to some extent), the blast wave actually saved many of their lives by keeping them from being killed either by the outward-moving fireball or by the powerful backdraft. It was later determined that only six members of Xi-13 were killed in the event: four instantly and two later due to injuries sustained.
Agent Lombardi was one of the least injured. As he got to his feet and surveyed his surroundings, he realized that Agent Price was down. Looking around, he couldn't see any of the MTF's senior agents showing any sign of consciousness. With the target warehouse and its precious contents now a twisted pile of burning rubble, the junior agent decided some REMF intel puke had really FUBARed this time. Grabbing the boat's long-range radio set, Lombardi fired off a situation report to the SCPS Kraken, calling for immediate backup and medical assistance, and letting the astonished ship's captain know that it would only be a matter of minutes before the Finnish authorities were swarming all over the scene.