Quinine’s bitter, sugar’s sweet! The music blared. It was the only way she could stay alert in the early mornings.
Regional Director Kate McTiriss drummed her fingers on the desk, whiny lo-fi music playing out of her laptop speakers. She pushed the button on the radio again.
“Outpost 2072, you’re late for the sunrise check-in. Do you copy?”
She heard only static and acoustic guitar. “Jeff, you can’t pull this shit, it’s 6:21, you’re almost half an hour late for check-in.” Director McTiriss sighed and paused her music, stepping out of her office into the bullpen, three tired agents monitoring news wires from all across North Florida. “Heads up, guys, we’re heading to Micanopy. Jeff’s not radioing in.” They looked relieved to have something to do. Solowski downed the last of his coffee and slipped on his windbreaker. He asked, “Permission to shoot him myself if we get there and he’s asleep?”
“Provisionally granted. I’m driving. Houghton, let Atlanta know we’ve got a potential containment compromise on a Safe-class. Perez, get on the database on your phone and tell me if there’s been any news relevant to SCP-2072 recently.”
They barreled down 441, through the early-morning prairie. The sun hadn’t been up long enough to burn off the thick fog, lending the well-worn horizon more mystery than it deserved, considering how many times this exact car full of these exact agents had made this exact trip.
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The doors on their Crown Vic closed with a satisfying slam that echoed through the woods. The pet cemetery that doubled as SCP-2072 was off a long dirt pathway, tucked deep in the timber by the Marion County line. The four defenders of fucking nowhere that made up Local Mobile Task Force 352-Lamedh — “Stump Knockers,” to their friends — tentatively edged their way towards the outpost. Houghton and Perez, guns drawn and tall frames crouched, flanked McTiriss and Solowski, carrying briefcases full of provisional containment supplies. Kate’s eyes darted from grave to grave. This place was unsettling even when there wasn’t a thick layer of fog.
As they approached the one-window temporary office Jeff Pink sat in for 12 hours a day, they saw the security camera mounted on it shot to pieces. Kate heard Solowski mutter under his breath. “Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.” She gestured with two fingers towards the door, put her shirtsleeve around her hand (so as to not disturb any prints) and twisted the knob.
When someone gets shot in the head in the movies, they get this perfect little circular hole and slump down. Christ-like, really, like a personal stigmata for the frontal lobe, Kate thought. Maybe it was just on her mind because she was clutching her rosary. Because in real life, there’s no pretty little hole. Field Agent Jeff Pink’s head was torn open. Brain and blood pooled on the ground, wall behind him splattered with viscera, mouth hanging open in an unrecognizable howl. Kate McTiriss felt that familiar bitterness in the back of her mouth, stomach flipping over. No matter how many times she saw this, it didn’t change. “Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.”
- | - | -
Kate radioed into Atlanta first, voice wavering more than she’d like. This was the first staff death since she took over the force. “We’ve had a Safe-class containment incursion, region 352, SCP-2072. Containment re-established but the info is out, scramble task forces near Montenegro with a focus on protecting 2072-Named individuals.” Next was Jacksonville for backup. “352-Zayin, send all free agents to Micanopy, we’ve had a 2072 breach and an agent killed.”
There wasn’t a soul still around. Whoever did this got in, got what they wanted and booked it straight back to Hell. The tarps covering the 23 graves that seemed to predict every Prime Minister of Montenegro were still there, but the presence of amateur knots instead of Foundation-standard constrictors betrayed the purpose of the incursion. Solowski summed it up best. “Some Montenegrins are gonna try and fuck causality right in the ass.”
The question was when. The answer was coming sooner than the under-staffed and under-rested agents of 352-Lamedh were quite ready for. McTiriss felt another lurch in her stomach, but this one wasn’t nerves. It felt like all the air in her lungs was trying to escape and throw a Goddamn party on the way out. Her ears popped. Orientation told her about this feeling. It’s the feeling of nearby space folding in on itself. Or as her old boss put it, “It’s like Einstein and Rosen teaming up to gangbang you, Kate. It’s the feeling of your day getting a lot less fun.”
Not that this day was any fun to start with.
The four people standing lost their balance, stumbling with sudden vertigo. The air cracked like a whip and the sound rustled through the surrounding woods. The ground beneath one of the graves began to collapse, like the dirt was falling through a funnel. A hole, a perfect rectangle, formed in the ground, light pouring out of it. The pressure in everyone’s ears disappeared, they could stand up straight again. Kate approached the hole. She saw the image through it, light wood and large desks tilted at a strange angle. A figure was standing, clutching his heart, blocking her view. He fell backwards in the image and straight through the hole. Four North Florida agents stared at the suit-wearing corpse of a member of the Montenegrin parliament, slumped pathetically in the leaves.
“What in the name of the ever-loving holy fucking mother.” She could hear screams in the room through the grave. A gunshot rang out, more screams. Kate turned to her men and gestured towards the hole with two fingers. They jumped in.