Researcher Conwell sat in a slightly uncomfortable chair. The room in which he sat was a musty study, complete with polished wooden furniture and the smell of old books. The light from the afternoon sun crept in from a small window on the opposite wall, bathing the interior in a bright orange glow. Conwell gave a weak chuckle to himself as he imagined the room was on fire. A series of quick glances from the other guests returned Conwell to silence.
Conwell looked himself over as he sat. He was clean shaven and dressed up for the occasion, that is, he dressed up by his standards. Black slacks, black dress shoes, a nice dark blue dress shirt and an even nicer tie. He hoped that these would draw attention away from the very dark rings under his eyes that made him look particularly run down. In addition, he hoped he wouldn’t stand out among the other well-dressed men in the room.
He took the opportunity to quickly glance at the three other guests. One was a balding man with a short cropped beard and dark glasses. Conwell smiled to himself as he was reminded of the batman villain Hugo Strange. Conwell thought he had seen the bald man before, perhaps aboard the SCPS Cassandra or maybe at Site-84. He couldn’t put his finger exactly on where. The bald man sat patiently on a small couch with a drink in one hand as he idly spoke to another guest sitting to his left.
Conwell shifted in his seat as he awkwardly attempted to find a small spot of comfort in his chair. He did not succeed. He then turned his attention back to the guest sitting to the left of the bald man. This man had short grey hair, and a pair of thick glasses that sat on the end of his nose. Conwell knew his name to be Dr. Gregg Collins. The two of them had met several times before, each meeting serving as a chance to reestablishing their slight mutual dislike for the other. It did not help that Collins appearance reminded him of the human equivalent of a chicken. He couldn’t hear what the two men were discussing, but the two would occasionally nod to one another.
A final guest stood alone by one of the bookcases. The thick stubble covering his face and way he carried himself gave Conwell more of the impression that he was some kind of rock star rather than an employee of the Foundation. The man would casually look over the various objects upon the shelves. Every now and then he’d pick up one and quietly examine it before gently setting it back. Conwell thought he had seen this man around Site-19 before, but didn’t have a name to go with the face.
Conwell’s head snapped to attention when their host returned to the room. He was an elderly man who moved slowly with a walnut cane. A large wooden box was cradled beneath his arm. Conwell slightly deflated as the man looked his way and smiled. What once had been a cheerful and lively man despite his advanced years now looked practically undead. His skin was pale and shrunken, and all his movements seemed to be at great personal expense.
This man was all that was left of the once great Dr. Zachary Johnson.
Johnson made his way slowly to his desk. All of the guests remained silent, watching as he put down the box and cleared his throat.
“Dr. Johnson, what the hell happened to you?” Conwell interrupted, leaning forward in his increasingly more uncomfortable chair. Johnson replied by putting up a hand for silence.
“Give me a moment to get there,” he said with a sad smile. “First off, allow me to thank you all for being here. I know that for some of you this meeting was short notice, and that the trip was a great distance. I cannot begin to say how much I appreciate all of you attending. I see some of you have already found the drinks. If you haven’t already, please help yourselves as we proceed.”
Conwell glanced around nervously, squirming in his seat. He wanted to demand answers, but bit his tongue instead. All of the other guests appeared to keep their composure as they waited on bated breath. Their attention was solely on Johnson.
“I will not mince words with you, gentlemen,” Johnson continued. “I am dying. It was the reason for my retirement. I have been diagnosed with Glioblastoma multiforme, and should the disease continue its course, I will be dead within the next four months.”
Conwell’s mouth dropped and hung open for several moments. He could vaguely hear the other guest’s reactions, but couldn’t comprehend them. It was as if the outside world had become muffled and distant. His arms went numb as the news sunk in.
Johnson looked him dead in the eye and gave his head a small nod. Conwell sank deeper into the iron maiden that was his chair, and rested his head in his hand. Johnson waited a few more moments, but then continued his speech.
“Rather than burden all of you with my suffering, I felt it would be more my style to take advantage of what strength I have left and leave each of you a final gift,” Johnson said. “You know, say my goodbyes while I’m still half the man I was. While I still embody how I’d like to be remembered.”
Johnson paused for a moment. He scanned the room as his gaze met each of his guests before he proceeded to turn his attention to the wooden box. Carefully he removed a smaller, more ornate box made of a black polished material. There was something carved on the lid, but Conwell couldn’t see what it was from his seat. The man standing by the bookcase let out a light hearted chuckle as he appeared to recognize the curio.
“Let’s begin then,” Johnson said. Conwell watched as he turned to the man by the book case. “Daniel, you have saved my life on two separate occasions. After the first of these times, you gave me this trinket. While it is not my place to reveal what it is to these gentlemen, I do feel that considering the circumstances it would be put to better use if returned to your possession.”
Johnson held out the box. Daniel gingerly retrieved it and placed it in his palm. He remained silent for several moments as he looked down at the box.
“It was truly a beautiful gift, thank you for sharing it with me.”
“Any time,” Daniel said. A small smile appeared on his face as he placed the box in the breast pocket of his jacket. With a nod he returned to his spot by the bookcase. Johnson then turned his attention to the bald man on the couch.
“Karlyle,” he began. Conwell felt his fists tighten as Johnson pulled a small revolver out of the box on the desk. The bald man appeared to hesitate for a few moments, but then relaxed again.“You and I started at the Foundation around the same time. You are easily one of my oldest friends and we have had more than our fair share of close calls. This is the revolver I used during that containment breach in ’96. I can think of no better person to have it than you. I hope you will never find yourself in a position to use it, but if you do, I think you’ll recall that this can get the job done.”
Karlyle chuckled to himself as he got up from the couch and approached the desk. Johnson handed him the pistol, which he promptly placed back down on the table before engulfing Johnson in a bear hug.
“I will treasurer it forever, Zach.”
“I appreciate that.” Johnson’s look of shock soon faded into a smile. Karlyle loosened his grip and pocketed the revolver before returning to his seat. Conwell watched Johnson’s gaze then turn to Collins.
“Gregg,” he said as he pulled out a beautiful chessboard that Conwell recognized from his former office at Site-19. “You were my first assistant, and have since become one of my closest friends and colleagues. This is the same chess set I used to have in my office. You should recall the numerous games we played, you as black and I as white. It is my hope that it may bring you as many fond memories with your assistants as it brought me.”
Dr. Collins approached the desk slowly, refusing to make eye contact with Johnson along the way. Conwell noticed tears had begun to form behind his thick glasses. He picked up the chess set and starred down at it for a few moments before holding out a hand shake. The two men quietly shook, Dr. Collins then silently returning to his seat, his gaze locked onto the tiles of the chessboard. Conwell then turned his attention back to Johnson. He felt his hands go cold. It was now his turn.
“Dr. Johnson, I can’t accept anything from you. I just can’t-”
“For the love of god, Jacob, call me Zach,” Johnson sighed. “And I insist. I’d very much like you to have this.” Conwell watched curiously as Johnson placed a small silver watch on the table.
“This watch was originally a gift to me from Dr. Thompson prior to his incident. He said that, like this timepiece, I was simple, dependable, and had a slightly odd tick.” Johnson laughed to himself for a moment before he continued. “In the time I have come to know you, I feel that you exemplify these qualities more than I ever had. This is why I think you should have it.”
Conwell’s mouth hung slightly open for a few moments as he thought of the words to say. Nothing came to him and he felt his mouth get dry. Eventually Conwell nodded and got to his feet. He slowly made his way to the desk before stopping to put on the watch. It felt slightly heavier than it should, and the metal was cold against his skin. Conwell then noticed that etched onto the strap was a single term: You’ve done a good job. - ZJ
Researcher Conwell stood alone in front of a heavy Site-19 laboratory door, a small box of his personal possessions under his arm. He reached down to the handle, but quickly snapped his hand back. Conwell let out a small nervous laugh as his gaze then turned upwards to the name written on the door: Zachary Johnson, PhD.
Conwell closed his eyes and let out a sigh. He grabbed the door handle and quickly pulled it open, sliding into the adjoining room. Upon opening his eyes, Conwell found that he was now standing in a small research lab. Spread across the various work benches were several large pieces of a black fabric, each soaking in what appeared to be a different type of chemical bath. An old man in a white lab coat sitting at a nearby workbench looked up from his notebook and smiled.
“You’re early,” he said as he put down his pen. His voice was jovial, and reminded Conwell of his grandfather. The man slowly got to his feet, carefully grabbing a walnut cane at his side.
“I felt it would make a good first impression,” Conwell nervously shrugged.
“Well then, consider me impressed,” the old man chuckled. As he approached he held out a hand which Conwell quickly took. His handshake was confident and firm. “Dr. Zachary Johnson. Pleased to meet you. You’re Conwell right?”
“That would be me,” Conwell replied.
“Excellent,” said Johnson as he gestured to the lab around them. “Welcome aboard. You can go ahead and set up at the desk in the back corner. I’ve already left you the documentation for the objects you have clearance to assist me with, so go ahead and get cracking on those.”
“Thanks,” Conwell said with a nervous smile.
When it was clear Johnson had nothing left to say, he silently made his way over to the desk. As promised a stack of files were already there, waiting to be consumed. Conwell took his seat and started reading the first document: SCP-1360.
“Oh, and Conwell,” Johnson called from over his shoulder, “I’ve read your personnel file. Don’t ever hesitate to ask me how you’re doing if you’re in doubt.”
“Thanks,” Conwell chuckled. “I’ll keep that in mind.”
“Don’t mention it,” said Johnson, “That’s what I’m here for. Also, I looked into your work on the SCPS Cassandra and out at Site-84. Very nice. You did a good job.”
Conwell watched the second hand tick by and smiled. He could see what Johnson meant. The watch did feel like it was designed for him.
“Thank you Zach,” Conwell said as he looked up. Johnson returned his smile and nodded. Conwell then returned to his seat. This time, however, it did not feel quite so unpleasant. The room became silent as once again, all attention was on Dr. Johnson.
“That’s all folks,” he said as he removed the box from the desk top. “Thank you all so much for coming. I consider it an honor to have spent my time on this earth with gentlemen such as you.”
The gathering quickly died down after that. One by one, each of the guests said their goodbyes and left the house. Conwell was the last one to leave, staying behind an extra hour to sit in silence as Johnson smoked his pipe. Eventually, Conwell also made his way to the door.
“I had a good run, didn’t I?” Johnson asked as he saw Conwell out. “Something to be proud of?”
“Definitely something to be proud of,” Conwell replied with a smile. “You did a good job Zach.”
“I appreciate that,” Johnson said with a smile of his own. “Farewell, Jacob.”