Ouroboros
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AFTER

— - —
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A long black car pulled around to the entrance of a sprawling business campus, and was met at the door by a man in a sleek black suit. The driver parked and came around to open the door, and Calvin stepped out of the vehicle. His hair was grey and his eyes held weight, but his gaze was sharp and his blue suit was crisp and clean. The man who met him was younger, the Foundation’s newest site director. When Calvin had stood and adjusted his coat, the man approached him and extended a hand.

“Good morning, Overseer,” the man said behind a genial smile. “Welcome to Site-108. We’re thrilled to be hosting you.”

Calvin smiled meekly and shook the man’s hand. “It’s my pleasure, Director House,” he responded. “Gives me the opportunity to knock out two birds with one stone, so to speak. Apologies for the delay in getting out here - current events have been keeping me tied down elsewhere.”

House nodded solemnly. “So I’ve heard. A team from Site-17 arrived this morning - I believe they came straight from the crash site.”

Calvin winced. “Indeed. I suppose I should try and talk to them first, before we kick things off.” He looked down at his watch. “Have the others arrived yet?”

House pulled his phone from his pocket and leafed through a document. “The directors have all arrived, as have all the Overseers except… O5-2.”

Calvin nodded. “She’ll be arriving shortly. Inform me when she does.”

House nodded, and promptly escorted Calvin into the main lobby of Site-108. They were followed by Calvin’s security detail, who had finished sweeping the site and now fell in behind him. They entered a secure wing of the site, and before too long had reached a small conference room off the main hub of that area. House gestured towards the door and stepped aside.

“My team is available if you ever need anything,” he said. “Please don’t hesitate to let us know if you do.”

Calvin nodded in response, and House turned down the hallway and disappeared. Calvin passed through the door to the conference room, which was abuzz with the response team he had created in the wake of the crash. To the man, they looked exhausted. When he entered, the team leader - an up-and-coming doctor named Tori Lang, approached him.

“Overseer,” she said, bowing slightly. “Good to see you.”

Calvin smiled. “And you as well, Doctor Lang. Forgive me for my tardiness, my security team was perhaps too cautious in our approach.”

Lang nodded swiftly. “Of course, sir. Given the circumstances, the caution is appropriate. We only arrived earlier this morning.”

Calvin looked up at the projected screen in front of them. Flashing across it were pictures of a crater with the twisted wreckage of a jetliner still smouldering inside. In every picture there were members of the Foundation response teams poring over the site. He squinted at the screen.

“Loss of life?” he asked.

“Minimal, fortunately,” Lang said, handing him a folder. “The flight team was small, just three pilots, a mechanic, and a four-man security detail. Another casualty from where the wing landed - here,” she pointed to a picture of a farmhouse that had been cut nearly in two by falling debris, “and then two more civilians we had to terminate after they were exposed to the anomaly while looking through the wreckage before we got there.”

“Eleven total,” Calvin said. “Not great.”

Lang flinched slightly. “No, not great. We were able to recover most of the artifacts on board, but a few were damaged in the crash, and…”

Calvin raised an eyebrow. “Yes?”

She shifted uncomfortably. “A few were missing, sir. A handful of our sealed containers had been opened, either by the crash or by external tampering, and the contents were removed.” She pointed towards the bottom of the page. “Here are the details. Three unclassified artifacts, one that was pending evaluation, and the soul jar.”

Calvin nodded slowly. “That is unfortunate. Have we seen any chatter about these on the blue markets?”

“Nothing out of the ordinary. We don’t usually expect to see anything show up when the, uh, when the Insurgency is involved, sir. They don’t sell their artifacts.”

“Ah, yes, that’s right,” Calvin said, tapping the side of his head with a finger. “Forgive me, I’d forgotten. Have we heard anything out of the Insurgency, then?”

Lang motioned to one of the other agents in the back of the room, who pulled up a video on the projected screen.

“This was posted on a Knights of Truth webpage late last night. We got to it pretty quickly and have flagged all other known services for it, but we’re still keeping an eye out for anything else.”

Calvin stared at the screen. “Has anyone seen this?”

Lang shook her head. “No sir. Insurgency propaganda carries a level four classification.”

He nodded again. “Good. Go ahead and take a break, Dr. Lang. Get your team some rest, and mine will take care of this.”

The doctor nodded in response, and the response team filed out of the conference room. Once they were gone, Calvin locked the door and took a seat in the front row. He pulled up a keyboard from the desk, and pressed play.

The video opened like all CI props did - the animation of the Foundation seal being pierced by three parallel arrows, forming the Insurgency logo. As it faded out, a face appeared on the screen. Calvin had seen it before, every other time he had to sit and watch one of these, but each time was no less difficult. It was a man - fully grown - sitting at a table, his blond hair tied behind his head and his beard neatly trimmed. He was wearing a flak jacket and had a gun in his hand. He was sitting at a table, and in front of him was a small ornate jar carved out of green jade.

It was Adam.

“Brothers and sisters of the Reborn Insurgency,” he said, his voice a bark, “today we have scored a great victory against those who would seek to undermine our reality. Today, we have spat in the face of tyrants who would use the unraveling of creation for their own benefit, instead of seeking to heal it. We have brought their planes out of the sky and smote them against the Earth, sending a clear message to their ivory tower - that they are no longer safe. They are no longer free to move about this world as they please. Our strength grows, and with it does our influence. The Foundation has been laid low today, but we cannot grow complacent. We cannot rest on our laurels. We must take this opportunity to strike again, where they are weakest. We will cut their supply lines. We will sink their ships. We will derail their trains. We will undo the damage they have caused and make our world whole again.”

He stood and walked off-screen, and when he came back he was holding a sledgehammer. The camera zoomed out, and Adam leveled the hammer in both hands.

“There is only one response fitting for fascists and tyrants, brothers and sisters. Our vengeance.”

He raised the hammer above his head and brought it down on the jar, shattering it and the table beneath it. A blast of light and sound burst out of the jar and a plume of green smoke erupted into the air, obscuring the camera’s view of Adam. After a moment, his voice cut back in.

“I know you’re watching, Calvin,” he said, his voice barely a hiss. “This is the world you built. These are your towers. Your planes. These deaths are on your hands. I am your Red Right Hand. I am what you were too craven to do. You can sit there in the fortress that you should have burned to the ground, but you should not feel safe in it.”

The voice hesitated, and for a moment all Calvin could hear was Adam’s breathing. The smoke began to clear, and he could see Adam more clearly now. He was no longer the young, thin boy he had been all those years ago. It had only been a few years, but he was muscular now, hardened. He had a scar on his neck and a smaller one just above his eye.

“I don’t understand, Calvin. I’ve never understood. I trusted you. We trusted you. Anthony, myself, Delta, and Olivia…” he trailed off. “I’ve seen what you’ve done to her. I’ve seen the puppet you’ve been parading around, masquerading as an Overseer. That’s not her, Calvin. I don’t know what sort of foul dealing you had to do to get that creature to walk and talk but I knew Olivia and she died, and that’s not her.”

He slammed his fist against the wall. “You’re a coward. You’re a coward, and a traitor, and I will make you suffer every day of the rest of your life for what you’ve done.” He extended his arms out to both sides. “I am Vengeance. I am Wrath.”

The screen went dark.

— - —

An hour later, he took a seat at the end of a long table. There were thirteen chairs in total, six on each side and one at the head. He centered a folder full of papers in front of him, and then looked up. Twelve pairs of eyes looked back at him.

“Before we get started,” he said, “I’d like to congratulate you all on your promotions. The Insurgency’s plot against this council cost us the lives of many of our finest administrators, and replacing them was no mean feat. Thanks to the dutiful efforts of our Site Directors’ Council and the Ethics Committee, we have put together a council that, I believe, will help us maintain stability throughout this transitionary period.”

He opened the folder in front of him and pulled out a sheaf of papers. “You’ve all received your designations, but for the purposes of this meeting I want to read off the appointments and the departments you will be overseeing, in case any of you aren’t sure who everyone here is.”

He scanned down the page. “Let’s start here."

One by one he listed them all, notable doctors and agents of the Foundation being granted its highest promotion. There was a reorganizing in place, as well - positions that had been left vacant in the past were now under new management. Finance, Applied Influence, Public Awareness - he continued down the list until he reached the name before his own. He paused for a moment, his eyes wavering slightly, before reading it aloud.

"Assuming the role of O5-2 is Agent Olivia Torres, who replaces the former O5-13 in overseeing the uh, the Department of Occult Studies." He hesitated again, and a light murmuring swept across the room as its occupants focused in on the figure directly to his right. It didn't move an inch.

He continued. "Then there's myself, of course, but my role will stay the same.” He looked up from the briefing all the other faces at the table. His eyes passed over them all, but he was careful to avoid the gaze just to his right, though he could feel it against his skull all the same. “Does anyone have any questions?”

After a moment, he nodded.

“Very well. Let’s begin.”

— - —

That night, Calvin sat awake in his room, his eyes fixed on the glowing screen of his computer. He had moved the video file from earlier to his own secure server and then wiped it from the central database. It was part of a growing pile of documents - records of Insurgency attacks, newspaper clippings, journal entries - related to the Insurgency. Unorganized as they were, it would be difficult to see the the narrative, he thought. It would be difficult for someone to understand, to find their way to where he was now.

So he opened a file editor with his administrative privileges and began writing. He attached everything - the papers they had recovered, pictures they had taken, lists of names. Transcripts of conversations the All-Seeing Eye had access to - defunct as it was, the records had persisted. He collected it all and created a single document, one that would tell the whole story. One that would make sense.

Principalis, he thought, would be a good classification. It was an old Coalition designation used to identify the earliest known anomalous items they had discovered, but as far as he knew it had fallen out of service decades prior. Nobody will see this but me, he figured, so what does it matter anyway? The containment procedures were a directive - the Overseer Council would contain this new entity and maintain public safety while doing so.

Had this been where Aaron Siegel had sat, he wondered? Had he stayed up until the break of dawn, pushing himself past the point of exhaustion, seeking any new advantage over the bomb they were sitting on? Had Aaron grown complacent in his work? Would Calvin? Would some usurper rise to dethrone him, just as he had? How would he explain what he had done? How would he explain that there was no other option? Would it matter?

The door to his room creaked open, and a figure slid in silently. The figure crossed the room and took a seat in the corner, and stared at him. Calvin did not look at it. He knew what it was. He could not look at it.

But how to describe it? What could he say that the next Overseer would see and understand? He had been wrong - it had never been the council, or the anomalies themselves. He had pulled back the cover on the heart of darkness and found only a mirror, a reflection of desire and meaning cast on himself. What was it that Purpose had said?

To know me is to know the Foundation. He had looked upon the Foundation’s true face and seen his own, reaching for a ringing phone and a voice that did not compromise or negotiate. That is what it would be. To know SCP-001 is to know the nature of the Foundation.

He closed the laptop and set it aside. In the dim glow of the security lights outside, he could see Olivia’s face illuminated against the darkness. She did not blink. Her eyes were fixed on his own. She will not be the same, the avatar had told him. You cannot cross that threshold and return as you were.

“Good evening, Olivia,” he said quietly. “Are you ready for bed?” He asked her despite knowing that she no longer slept. That she would stay in the corner, watching him, unblinking, the entire night.

A grim rattling filled his ears, as Olivia’s jaw opened too far and a grating, grinding croak crawled its way out of her throat.

”C-a-a-a-a-a-a-l-v-i-i-i-i-i-n-n-n-n-n,” the Thing That Had Been Olivia said. ”C-a-a-a-a-a-a-l-v-i-i-i-i-i-n-n-n-n-n.”

Calvin did not move. He did not breathe.

“Olivia,” he said softly, “please. Not tonight. I can’t do it tonight. Just go to sleep.”

She sat unmoving the rest of the night. Calvin did not sleep either.

— - —

In the morning she was gone, and he was alone again. He got up, got dressed, and poured himself a cup of coffee. He opened his computer, and began reading through the file again.

After a moment, the phone on his desk rang as it had so many times before.

As he had so many times before, O5-1 answered.








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