McTiriss, Solowski, Houghton and Perez stumbled, but landed on their feet. The ninety-degree shift in gravity upon jumping through the gravesite hole wasn’t pleasant, but ‘unpleasant’ was a fine working baseline for this day, all things considered. They were standing on the floor of the Parliament of Montenegro in…whatever the capital of Montenegro was, Kate thought. Men and women in suits and ties surrounded them, looking terrified and slack-jawed. A man in a jacket with a patch on the sleeve lay dead on the ground about twenty feet off from where LMTF 352-Lamedh emerged, looking like he shot himself. Standard murder-suicide, except the victim fell through a hole into a pet cemetery five thousand miles away.
Kate crouched down and opened up her briefcase, switching on the signal jammer and putting in her earpeace, activating the emergency Foundation radio connection. She was on the line with International, and nobody else in this building had any contact with the outside world. She spoke softly into the mic, crowd still staring at her and her three compatriots in confusion, “International, this is LMTF 352-Lamedh, Director McTiriss speaking. I’m in the capital of Montenegro establishing preliminary containment on a spacial anomaly. Stand by for details, engaging in crowd control. Do you copy?” A crackly voice, barely making it through the jammer, responded. “Site-19 here. We copy.” She grabbed the fake badge she needed from the case and stood tall. Showtime.
“Hello, folks, Interpol agent Kate McTiriss here.” She flashed the badge. “We’re the rapid response team. You are not in any danger, our manner of entrance was authorized by the European Commission in 1998. I understand all of you have just witnessed something very upsetting. We’re here to discover the facts and ensure justice is served, so I’ll need everyone to remain calm and remain in the building.” Rapid-fire, authoritative bullshit, Kate thought. It’s how you go from press director to run a Task Force. Unlike usual, the crowd didn’t seem to be buying it, though. Most of them looked at her, confused and scared as ever. Her arms dropped to her sides as she realized her mistake with a sigh.
“Okay, right. I need someone that speaks English to translate what I just said for everyone that doesn’t.” A young man in glasses, college-age and wearing a truly awful clip-on tie, stepped forward meekly. Kate acknowledged him with a nod. “Uh, I’m Ludovik Miani, legislative assistant.” He shook her hand, his palms sweaty. “Okay, super. Ludovik, tell the people what I just said.” He nodded and turned to the assembled Parliament. She thought back to her old boss again. Sometimes, Kate, you’ve gotta put your faith in local resources, even if they’re miles from ideal. She stepped away from the kid, back to her team.
Perez was clapping. “Great showing, Kate, me and the six other people here that could understand it really dug the speech.”
She looked at him, wishing a glare could set his stupid grinning face alight. “Shut the fuck up, Oren. Titus, go back through and take pictures of the body. Come back with the unredacted list of SCP-2072 graves and a spare sidearm from the squad car, I’m feeling underarmed.”
“Playing field agent, cute. If you ever actually get around to shooting a guy I’m sure you’ll never shut up about it.”
She hoped her grimace at that wasn’t as visible as it felt. She shook off the memory. “I need everyone to cut the backtalk. Three people are dead and I am in charge here, fuckos.” Titus Solowski, his anchor tattoo peeking out from under his sleeve, hopped back through the hole in the floor. Kate put her finger back up to the earpiece to work out a containment plan with International.
- | - | -
“Forty-eight people, looks like.” Static for a few seconds in return. This is where the decisions the Ethics Committee wrung their hands about later were made. Three guys in a room in Site-19 were thinking on the number forty-eight, deciding the value of that many lives. Kate knew about International. Forty-eight was nothing compared to keeping the veil on.
The Einstein-Rosen bridge was stable, displaying no abnormal radiation and a constant safe reality level. The other graves from 2072 were blank, coffins empty, Solowski had informed her. This thing was neutralized, all the magic was gone from the place. The only problem, then, was these forty-eight Montenegrins that saw a man shoot their Prime Minister, shoot himself, and saw four deeply underprepared Americans jump out of a grave-shaped hole in the ground seconds after. The building had to go, International said.
The crackling stopped. “Your call, Director. We’ve got the 747 circling if you give the go order.”
They pussied out. Kate bunched up her fists. Of course they did. They had an autopiloted 747 circling the fucking Parliament, ready to bring down the building, the witnesses, *and* set up the easiest cover story in the world. People always bought terror.
But she had to say “go.” She had to be the one to kill forty-eight innocent people for the Greater Good. She drew in a breath, closed her eyes, and rocked back on her heels.
- | - | -
EIGHT YEARS EARLIER
It was an unseasonably cold morning in the District. Kate McTiriss, Press Attaché for the FBI, woke up well before sunrise with her fiancée in her arms and tears welling in her eyes. She’d cooked a nice dinner for Anne the night before, and the taste of the good red wine stuck in her mouth. This was her last chance to tell her, to say ‘fuck you’ to the whole thing and put her life before work for once and for good.
But she fucked up. And she had to make it right. She kissed Anne on the head and left their bed for the last time. She broke down as she stepped out, putting on her blazer like battle armor.
Hours later, she was driving the senior environmental reporter for the Washington Post out to the Arlington suburbs. She’d been playing whistleblower with him for years, feeding him just the right lies to keep the media off of the things the UIU dealt with that the people couldn’t know about. But she gave him too much. He was close to figuring it out, and he needed to go. It was Kate's fault, so she had to do the honors. She served the Bureau well, so they’d set her up with a gig with a partner org out in the middle of nowhere. All she had to do was kill Greg Ionnas and the UIU would fake her death and whisk her off to Florida, of all fucking places. They stepped out of the car in front of the warehouse, Greg with his camera around his neck. He thought he was here to take the photos that would make his career.
Kate drew in a breath, closed her eyes, and rocked back on her heels. She felt her gun holstered to her hip. She exhaled.
She led the man inside.
- | - | -
Kate walked up to Houghton and the kid, Ludovik, translating his questions. “We’re going back through, Houghton. Ludovik, we’ll be back in three minutes. Keep everyone here.” She handed him the gun Solowski brought her. Miles from ideal, Kate.
She brought her guys back through the hole and put her hand to her ear. “Consider this your go order.”