House Of Gears, Part One
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A valuable heuristic to follow when working in a science lab is this: for each piece of equipment worth more than twenty dollars, assume that, at some point, it will fail. To summarize for the layman, there are machines in my workspace that will become drastically misaligned if a researcher sneezes within a yard of them. The Foundation has built redundancies upon redundancies so that one part of the facility can malfunction without affecting the system. Each of the individual machines, eventually, will break.

I was fixing an uncooperative laser printer on the day I was abducted. I can picture the exact specifications of the part I was soldering when I heard conflict break out behind the blast doors of the containment chamber. Several M4s discharged, which are standard issue for this sector's guards, but I heard no other gunfire. This caused me to rule out several potential attackers. I considered the most probable containment breaches, and in the absence of roaring vocalizations, clanging metal, or screams in proto-Akkadian, dismissed them. Judgment: situation unclear. Response: suspend the current task, observe.

Something collided loudly with the wall above. The object traveled forward until it was directly above me. A humanoid body passed down through the ceiling, accompanied by a long note, descending in pitch, played on a slide whistle.

The intruder wore an indigo suit made of a ribbed material which pulsated at a frequency of approximately 100 beats per minute. Save for her eyes (in my time here, I have learned her gender), which were beneath a set of goggles, the garment covered her face completely. She withdrew the mask by pressing against it with the fingertips of her left hand. I determined that she was human, superficially.

This woman reached between her suit's abdominal ribbing with both hands. Each appeared to open into a void where her body should have been visible. On the right, she stored the whistle and withdrew a pistol of unfamiliar design. On the left, she produced an object and told me to describe it.

I took the item from her to gauge its weight and examine it on all sides. Save for one moving part, it was carved from a single piece of low-density wood, possibly balsa. A small extra piece has been fasted to one end with a wooden bolt in a way that allowed the part to spin freely on an axis. The body was coated in red acrylic paint, applied inconsistently; it chipped with little resistance against my fingernail. I began with the most basic description of the object: it was a toy plane.

This summary caused her extreme displeasure. Grasping for a solution, I began to relay the other details, but she interrupted me before I could finish. Do you remember this? I considered that this woman had disabled a fire team in order to deliver this question, so I affected a reassuring tone. I explained to her that I have use of what is colloquially known as a "photographic memory". If I had encountered this object at any point in my life, I would know so. Even after amnestic usage prevented me from recalling it of my own free will, the sight of it would almost certainly evoke at least a vague sense of recognition.

At this point, the woman nodded. Although I am not a psychiatrist, and the assigned tasks of my job for the Foundation made any degree of human interaction optional, I had a reputation among my coworkers for the ability to succinctly and dispassionately convey information. Too often was I pulled away by staff who promised favors in exchange for delivering bad news: a family death, an anomalous disease, various other occupational hazards. As a result, I have seen, at least a dozen times, the particular sort of nod that the woman employed at that moment.

The woman put away the toy and restrained me with a pair of handcuffs. I asked her who she was, and what her intentions were. She told me to call her Alison, and that she planned on permanently removing me from the Foundation. I would not be harmed, she explained, but I would never be able to return. I told her that my test subject wouldn't like that.

Up until this point, Alison was either unaware or indifferent to the nature of the containment chamber into which she had forced herself. Outside the room, a station contained a reference document for containment procedure, a laser printer, and a set of reinforced suits and flamethrowers, available in case the test subject becomes uncooperative.

The containment chamber itself appears to be featureless; in fact, each wall is lined with roughly one dozen layers of industrial-grade paper, to facilitate the free movement of its occupant. The entity is contained within the paper, and can manipulate it to a degree.

Upon my mention of a test subject, Alison spun around and saw the entity in action behind her. It superficially appeared to be a life-sized ink drawing of an angry young woman. Pieces of the paper surface tore away and folded together at a rate of dozens of folds per second. In an imitation of the intruder's passing intangibly down through the ceiling, SCP Object Zulu Hotel Echo emerged from the wall in a humanoid body and advanced towards us.

My captor fired her pistol. The bullets passed through Zulu Hotel Echo without effect. Alison crouched, pulled a lever on the gun, and discharged beams that tore large cavities into Zulu Hotel Echo's body. The paper humanoid pulled material up from the floor to repair them. Then it lunged at Alison.

The two of them tumbled across the floor. Zulu Hotel Echo's claws tore into Alison, and Alison ripped away parts of her assailant as quickly as it could produce them. Alison pinned Zulu Hotel Echo to the floor, adjusted her pistol, and applied a jet of fire point-blank to the entity's head.

The paper body convulsed and folded into itself in an attempt to smother the flames while Alison rolled away and surveyed her injuries. Numerous cuts covered her face, and she was bleeding heavily from the shoulder. She dropped the pistol and pressed her trigger hand against the wound. The other held one of Zulu Hotel Echo's hands, torn away at the wrist.

The entity withdrew from the smoldering heap and onto the side of the chamber, then crawled to the wall Alison had leaned against. It formed two arms, one on each side of her. I noticed that Alison had folded the severed hand's claws together into a single point and smudged it with her blood. The smudges formed a drawing of a knife. As the hands closed around Alison's throat, she stabbed the point into the wall behind. It pierced the paper and Zulu Hotel Echo convulsed, causing the paper on the wall to shake and tear. The strangling arms went limp. Alison pushed herself onto her feet, leaving bloody handprints on the floor.

Alison pulled me away from the fire, which was spreading to fill the room. She sprinkled green powder in a circle that surrounded us. She noticed my fidgeting as I looked for an opening for escape, and pleaded that I not disturb the ring, for the sake of our own safety. She extracted a few jewels of various cuts from her suit and arranged them with care in the center of the ring, then wrapped an arm securely around my neck.

I decided that, while helpless, I could still at least gather information. I asked her how she was going to escape, and she told me that she would "open the Way".

This went without elaboration at the time, but my captor would later explain what was meant by the phrase. Alison can access a passage that intersects multiple universes, a phenomenon which she and her ilk have termed "the Way". The Way varied in geographic location, as it manifested in the immediate vicinity of "the most dangerous ten-foot square in America". Although the Foundation I worked for lacked the means to detect and analyze this portal, the qualifying ten cubic feet was almost always in or near a Foundation site. Whenever Alison herself was in a Foundation site, she found it trivially easy to "attract its attention".

During my initial capture, as I watched the flame advance toward us, I skipped the matter of what exactly "the Way" was, as the name made the basic concept evident, and asked if this powder was the method of opening it. She denied it. She held a sewing needle into my range of vision, point lightly pressed against her thumb, and said that she merely had to draw blood. The flames were centimeters from contact with the circle.

I inquired further: in that case, was the purpose of the powder?

Explosive, she said, as she pierced her hand, and I felt an acute physical sensation similar to motion sickness.

Continued in Part Two.

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