Dr. Church sat back, grinding a fist into a single blood shot eye. Done. He was finally done for tonight. He drew in a heavy breath, holding it captive for a long, aching moment before letting it hiss from his lips. The hot, stale air ruffling the papers on his desk and he frowned. Carefully, he rearranged the product of sixteen hours of work, the thick sheaf still warm from where his hands had been pressed to it. He was finally caught up with work, a rare enough occurrence by itself for Foundation employees. His weary mind mulled over the possible expenditures of his newly-found free time, briefly entertaining the idea of going to the cafeteria for his first meal in eighteen hours. He discarded the thought, deciding on sleep.
Even the thought of it made him smile. He settled in his chair, thinking back to the last time he had a good nights rest. Let's see; it's four o'clock in the morning on a Saturday, and he hadn't slept yesterday. Thursday night he'd been in quarantine when that fungus SCP had broken loose, and Wednesday he'd spent sleeping on the couch after an argument with the missus… hadn't slept on Tuesday, and Monday he'd stayed late to finish that report on D-Class allocation… Sunday he'd been in the burn ward after another SCP had breached containment… huh. Come to think of it, he couldn't remember the last time he'd had a good nights sleep. Well, that's all going to change tonight, he thought triumphantly.
He remained sitting, letting the quiet of his small office wash over him before he packed up and went home. It was peaceful, an area that was his. To him, it was more home than home, a safe place where he could work in peace. He ran a fingertip over his stapler, following the devices smooth, black outline, before going up and tracing the rim of his desk lamp. Both were gifts, given to him by the Foundation when he got his office. Next was his pencil cup, a pale mug labeled "#1 Researcher!", also a gift from when he figured out how to make D-Class transportation systems 2% more efficient. His "In" box, mercifully empty, followed closely behind by his "Out" box, obscenely filled with neatly stacked and filed papers. Almost unconsciously, his finger found the handle to his top drawer.
He tugged it open.
It was filled with various odds and ends, office supplies, the occasional rubber band ball. They rattled softly as the drawer slid open, but Church's eyes were drawn to the 9 mm sitting on a stack of old printer paper. A standard issue Foundation Beretta M9 15RD, another "gift". Distributed among all researchers at Site 19, it was a fairly common firearm as far as hand guns went. He remembered the day they signed him on and gave him his office. There hadn't been a whole lot of ceremony to it; they'd shoved him in, handed him a stapler, gun and name tag, then told him to get to work. Unsure what to do with it, he'd stuck it in the drawer and tried to forget about it. It was always there, though. Tickling the back of his mind; an instrument whose sole purpose was to end life. It was not a tool of construction, of contribution, nor of production. It was a tool of destruction. And it was sitting in his desk drawer.
He picked it up.
The smooth, machine-wrought curves passed under his fingertips as he examined the thing, the matte finish soaking up light like a hungry maw. There was no part to this weapon that did not have purpose, he realized. Every sliver of metal, every groove, every nick, and every curve fit together, sliding over one another, resisting where resistance was needed and giving where give was needed. It was fascinating. Dr. Church hefted the lump of metal, appreciating the weight, the coolness of steel in his palm. With a flick of his thumb, he let the magazine slide free, catching it and placing it on his desk. His attention followed along the carefully planned chain of reactions; as the trigger depressed, the levers and pins spun, pulling the hammer back. The spring would resist, of course, as was its purpose, but it would give way, allowing the hammer to pull back father and farther before-snap. The tiny bit of metal rocketed forward, hitting the flint. He manually operated the rest of the sequence, pulling the slide back as the gases expanded, the cartridge flying out of the chamber in slow motion in his minds eye. He let the slide slip forward, knowing it would scoop another round into the chamber as it did so. He sat there a moment longer, running through the process in his minds eye once more.
He pressed the barrel against his temple.
His pulse jumped immediately, then settled as logic kicked in. It was empty; the magazine was on his desk, he'd just checked the chamber, what he was doing was perfectly safe. Still, the tiny kick of adrenaline at the simple move caught his attention. His breathing was elevated, and a slight tremble had entered his hands that he couldn't wholly attribute to sleep deprivation. Closing his eyes, he tried to imagine what it would be like. Holding a gun to his head, the trigger depressing. The spring creaking as it gave way, the hammer pulling back. He frowned. It wasn't quite right. It didn't feel… real. He glanced at the door, wetting his lips.
He slid the magazine in.
Still safe, he reasoned. He had the safety on, and even if he didn't the chamber was empty. He was just getting a feel for it. The weight of the bullets definitely made it more realistic, made it easier to imagine. Closing his eyes, he replayed the scenario once more. The trigger going down, the hammer coming back, the bullet leaving, the slide rocketing, the casing flying out… yes, he could imagine it perfectly. Almost perfectly. The almost nagged at him. Almost perfectly. There was no bullet in the chamber. That degree of realism was still removed. He held his breath and listened to his pulse pound through him. He felt on edge, he felt on fire, he felt alive. If this was as excited as he got without actually being in danger, what would it be like if-
He pulled the slide back.
Safety on. Still safe. Still secure. Still-GOD, everything was in such crystal clear definition. He could see every grain, every nick, every stain on his shitty little office door, every greasy fingerprint on his desk, and every fleck of dust that wafted through the air. His breath came out in ragged gasps, his finger tip trembling on the trigger. He mentally berated himself, disgusted at his own excitement. He still had that safety net, that little pin of metal holding the bullet in check. He still had his finger, and the final line he wouldn't cross. And yet, he was acting like he had just ran a marathon. He gulped wetly, letting the thoughts spin through his mind. He felt oddly detached, almost dizzy even, from the gallons of adrenaline his body was dumping into his veins. So high, such excitement, and the safety wasn't even turned off-
He flipped the safety.
Everything was quiet. God damn, it was never this quiet. He could hear fucking EVERYTHING. The air whistling down his throat, the soft clatter as the gun shook in his hand, the soft creak in his finger as it tightened. He focused on that, his eyes staring straight ahead, unseeingly. He focused on his finger, tightening around the trigger. He knew exactly how far it had to go before the hammer tripped. He squeezed half that distance. His heart was beating a thousand times per second, pouring the barely oxygenated blood through his system. He pulled half the remaining distance. It was hot. So fucking hot. Somewhere in the back of his mind, he knew it was because of the blood pounding just below his skin, pouring his body heat into the room. That part of him was quickly smothered by the roaring in his ears. He depressed half the remaining distance. Just an eighth. Just an eighth of a pull left. Such a tiny amount. He pulled half, then half again. A thirty second. A pitiful, tiny amount; insignificant. Barely larger than a hair. His eyes dilated, black pinpricks as the world narrowed. It was just him. Just him, that gun, and a thirty second-no, a sixty fourth of a pull now. He could feel it. He could feel the hammer straining, begging the spring to release it. Begging to be reunited with the flint. Begging to spark, to ignite the gun powder. It pulled back, just the tiniest amount, nearing the point of no return as his finger tightened, the tendons and nerves and muscles pulling the trigger that last, indivisible amount-
"Doctor, I know it's late, but I was looking over the 892 report and I thought that maybe-"
Assistant Researcher Wilkes paused at the door, holding a stack of paper and staring at the doctor stupidly. Dr. Church hastily pulled the gun away, dropping it into the drawer and pushing it shut all in one smooth motion. A moment of awkward silence filled the tiny space as they stared at one another, neither moving a muscle.
"Doctor, what were-"
"An experiment," he cuts him off. "Just an experiment." His eyes flick to the thick sheaf of paper, and he held out a hand. "If I may."
Wilkes clumsily handed him the report, fumbling with the papers as he stammered out, "I-I noticed a few consistent cells in the, uh, uh-DH block, and I, uh, thought that if it were a pattern, we could… "
He trails off, gesturing helplessly at his report. Dr. Church flipped through the papers, nodding thoughtfully.
"Interesting. That could work… but only if the cells didn't change over that period… Get a copy of the last twenty iterations. I don't think they were perfectly consistent, but it should give us a control group." He returns to the report, mumbling quietly to himself. Another moment of awkward silence passes. He glances up, noticing Wilkes was still there. "That will be all."
"Doctor, when I walked in, what were-"
"That will be all, Doctor Wilkes."
They stare at one another a moment longer. He fidgeted, then nodded respectfully. Slowly, Assistant Researcher Wilkes turned and exited the office, casting back a final, lingering glance. Dr. Church ignored the look and picked up his pen. With a certain tired, methodical pace, he started scribbling notations in the corner, reading through the report carefully. He stifled a yawn and turned the page.
He had really been hoping to get some sleep.