Conspiracy, Prologue
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Night Raid

Park Royal industrial district, London, UK
Tuesday, 20 December 1988, 2334 hours local time


Sitting in his car a block from the target, Director McDonnell lit his pipe. He hated waiting, but securing buildings was the job for younger fellows. He'd only accepted the promotion to head of the Foundation's Counterintelligence Directorate the year before so he could have more time to spend with his granddaughters. In forty years working for the Foundation, he'd missed too many of his own children's birthdays; with Christmas just days away he was looking forward to seeing the entire family in his large house in Edinburgh. Of course, that would require his not being called away on work. Here he was on the week before Christmas in a cold, abandoned street following up on an untraceable and anomalous tip made to his direct line about "some documents which might interest Foundation Counterintelligence."

The radio on the dash crackled. "Right, this is Xi-One-Three-Lead to all units. Stand by to breach target in Three. Two. One. Go! Go! Go!" A muffled thump rang through the darkness as the mobile task force blew their way into the target: an old warehouse in the run-down outskirts of London's industrial district. For a long two minutes, the night was still and quiet. Then the radio crackled again, "Target is clear. Director, you're going to want to see this."

"On my way," replied McDonnell. He left his car and strode up the street to the warehouse.

A young chap dressed head to toe in the black tactical clothing adopted by police and special forces worldwide greeted him. "This way, Director," he said, gesturing inside.

"American?" the Director asked, noting the young man's accent.

"Yes, sir. Agent Lombardi," the American said, walking McDonnell through the long and mostly empty warehouse. A few crates were stacked along the walls, but they didn't so much take up space as make it seem all the much more cavernous.

"New to the Foundation, I take it?" McDonnell inquired, making smalltalk.

The young agent blinked, "Yes, sir."

"Well, Agent Price will take good care of you," the Director of Foundation Counterintelligence said as they reached the warehouse's office. "Speak of the devil! Burt!"

"Director," Agent Burt Price saluted, looking up from a table piled high with documents. Several black-clad figures were poring over the pages.

"What's all this?" asked McDonnell, gesturing at the table.

"We have a security breach," Price replied, handing over several sheets of paper from the table. McDonnell thumbed through them. The first was a testing log for some zucchini that grew nearly instantly, printed on Foundation letterhead. The second, also on Foundation letterhead, was documentation on a slightly worn high school yearbook from 1976. The third was in Russian, with a KGB seal in the corner. "The first one there is SCP-506, and the second one is SCP-1833. My Russian's a bit rusty, but the third one is something about an old lady able to 'hear' nearby radio transmissions. I've never heard of that one," Price said.

Taking a puff on his pipe, McDonnell shook his head, "Neither have I, old chap. Neither have I." He furrowed his brow and picked up another paper. It was part of a budget for the Global Occult Coalition's previous fiscal year. "Is there any sort of method to this madness?"

Price laughed, "Not that I can tell. And this will keep the chaps at Site 11 busy for a week or two. What I do know is that someone has top level access to the Foundation, GOC, Marshall, Carter, and Dark—"

"Prometheus Labs and the Factory, according to this, sirs," one agent said.

"Found something here on Wondertainment's distribution network," another added.

"List of IRG operations in Latin America," a third noted, holding up a sheet.

McDonnell nodded, "I get the idea. Persons unknown managed to obtain a sizable quantity of classified information from some of the most secretive organizations on the planet. Definitely bad news, but hardly a crisis, I should say."

"Uh, I wouldn't place a wager on that, sirs," one of the other agents interrupted, "you should read this."

"What is it, Harding?" asked Price, taking the proffered page. His jaw dropped as he read the page. "Shit." He handed the paper to McDonnell.

Reading the paper, McDonnell swore loudly in his native Gaelic. It was a detailed schedule of the whereabouts and security precautions of all thirteen of the Foundation's Overseers during the last week in December 1988. In other words, the week which would start in a mere five days. A scribbled note at the bottom stated 'Ideal timing for action on the twenty-sixth at 0300 Zulu.' A second page with fair quality photos of the Overseers was stapled to the first; O5-5, O5-6, O5-7, and O5-8 were all circled in red ink.

McDonnell was intelligent enough to realize that he didn't know exactly what was planned, but he certainly had some guesses. He turned to Price, "Alright, Price. Bag it all and bring it in. As of this moment, everything related to this is Level 5, need to know access only. I want copies of these documents stored at our site in Manchester; have the originals delivered to my office." The wheels in McDonnell's head were already turning. He'd use his contacts in Whitehall to arrange for a diplomatic courier bag to carry the documents on a transatlantic flight. The papers would go to the analysts at Site 11 so they could stir the tea leaves, while he could give his report personally to the O5 Council at Overwatch HQ. And, with any luck, he'd be back home for Christmas.


Interlude

"They found the warehouse. McDonnell is taking the evidence to Overwatch HQ tonight."

"There will be copies."

"Those are stored in the Manchester annex. They will be taken care of."

"Good. Everything is going according to plan."


Explosions

Scottish airspace
Wednesday, 21 December 1988, 1858 hours local time


At just before seven o'clock the following evening, Director McDonnell was sitting in Clipper Class on the Pan Am flight with a diplomatic pouch in the next seat, handcuffed to his wrist. The cabin had a number of Foundation personnel: O5-5 was sitting the next seat forward next to his bodyguard, while McDonnell's deputy was seated behind him. He also recognized a couple of American intelligence officials and two fellows who looked to be their bodyguards. McDonnell cracked the first of his stack of novels. It would be a long flight to JFK, and the pouch meant he couldn't sleep through it.

At exactly 19:02:46.9, an explosion punched a large hole in the left side of the fuselage. McDonnell and his diplomatic pouch were instantly incinerated. Shock waves from the blast ricocheted through the aircraft, meeting pulses still coming from the explosion itself. Due to a quirk of fluid dynamics, these shock waves, technically called "Mach stem shock waves", traveled twenty-five percent faster than the waves from the explosion itself, and with twice the power thereof. As these shock waves pulsed through plane, a section of the 747's roof a few feet above the explosion's source was peeled away as if by a giant hand. The force of the explosion smashed through the bulkhead wall separating the forward cargo hold and the cockpit, shaking the flight-control cables. This shaking caused the front section of the fuselage to roll, pitch, and yaw. The entire front section of the aircraft, with the flight deck and first class cabin, separated from the rest of the plane and flew upwards and to starboard. There, it collided and sheered away the number three engine. No longer under any control, the aircraft (or what was left of it) went into a steep dive. The plane continued to disintegrate as it plummeted 9,400 meters through the night, crashing into the Scottish town of Lockerbie two minutes later.

Unnoticed and flying without a transponder, an unmarked Cessna flew past the wreckage. Though maintaining radio silence, the Cessna's pilot would report his observations as soon as he landed.


Office of Solicitors, Carnegie & Potter, Manchester, UK
Wednesday, 21 December 1988, 1904 hours local time


Over two hundred kilometers away in Manchester, the four story office building of Solicitors, Carnegie and Potter was empty, save three night shift security staff and two caretakers. Though Carnegie and Potter were indeed two well-respected solicitors, they mostly handled litigation related to the Foundation's activities in the United Kingdom. Their office was also one of the Foundation's secure document repositories. In the building's safe sat what were now the only remaining copies of the documents recovered from the warehouse by Xi-13.

A nondescript package a meter on each side sat in the building's receiving room. Because of its late arrival, and the fact that was not labeled with the codewords for Euclid or Keter objects, it hadn't been processed; the security guard who had signed for the parcel knew the staff would handle it in the morning. All the employees were properly briefed on handling unusual parcel deliveries at odd hours, as well as the appropriate code phrases for various hazards. This package was labeled as reams of blank legal paper (hence the weight) for the offices with the proper supply authentication phrases. In all, it was a thoroughly mundane delivery for a building which often received items which were anything but.

The contents were not reams of blank legal paper (though had the guard opened the package for inspection, two layers deep of paper reams sat atop the true contents). Most of the package's cubic meter of volume was taken up by Semtex, supplied by two very helpful members of the Irish Republican Army now feeding the fish in the Irish Sea. Like squirrels with their nuts, Irishmen were always hording arms and explosives for the day when they would rise up to drive the English from their island. Or that was the plan of some of the more radical countrymen, at least. The revolutionary struggle that had continued for over seventy years showed little sign of concluding in a manner agreeable to the IRA. Over time, many of the caches of weapons and bombs were forgotten about as their owners retired from their struggle or were arrested or killed by the British military and police forces. So, for someone with the right contacts and sufficient ruthlessness, it was not difficult to acquire large quantities of high explosives with no clear connection to the user, assuming that someone did not mind incurring the wrath of a fairly nasty terrorist organization with a good memory. IRA reprisals did not concern the men who had appropriated that organization's Semtex.

A brief radio signal reached a radio-receiver attached to the plastic explosive's detonator. In an instant, the cube of high explosive detonated at a velocity of over eight thousand meters per second. The explosion tore through the building, reducing the military-spec architecture to as much gravel. All five people died with merciful haste as the shock wave overtook them. The fireball, burning at temperatures sufficient to melt the structure's steel skeleton, turned the building's safe into a crematorium for the secured materials within. Hundreds of thousands of pages of classified Foundation documents, including the copies of the documents from the warehouse, were reduced to cinders by the inferno. Within less than ten seconds, the parts of the office building not strewn across the area by the explosion itself crumpled inward into a mound of twisted, charred rubble.

The local police and fire department arrived on the scene within ten minutes, just missing a nondescript sedan with an unremarkable driver leaving the area. With his radio detonator hidden away under the vehicle's dash, he stopped at a telephone booth a few blocks from the scene to report that his end of the operation had occurred without incident.


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