At a Window Booth
Shirley tried her best to look distinctly unimpressed by O5-4.
Their meeting place, a Denny's outside of Kalamazoo, was unorthodox. But she had insisted upon it. There was no better place to show your barely concealed rage about being passed over than a Denny's.
"What do you think you're going to get?" she asked, sipping from a dirty cup of ice water. "I think they serve breakfast here all day…"
"I ate on the walk over. I'd rather talk business."
"Fine. Why, sir, did I have to find my own way into Alpha-9?"
O5-4 shrugged, almost sheepishly. "We were planning on approaching you, once more groundwork had been done. Your history with the Foundation was noted as more than satisfactory."
"Only satisfactory?" Gillespie smiled as the waitress came by to take their order. She ordered iced tea, and a bagel. Her compatriot got a cup of coffee.
"Excellent, actually. Your skill in managing large numbers of inanimate SCP objects was particularly noted as an asset to the project."
Gillespie moved her water aside, and placed her arms on the table. "So, then why didn't you come to me at the beginning? Don't tell me you thought I'd be uninterested."
"We felt that you might be skeptical of the whole idea, since, well, you opposed Omega-7 pretty strongly at the time." O5-4 pulled a small strip of paper out of his jacket pocket, carefully holding it a few inches from his face. "You went through extensive lengths to prevent any personnel connected to Site-77 from participating or being transferred to the project."
"Without success." Gillespie's tea had finally arrived. She poured in a small packet of sugar.
"Yes, that is correct."
Taking a delicate bite out of her bagel, Gillespie wiped the crumbs from her mouth. "I never said I was against the concept. There just didn't seem to be anything intelligent going on in the planning or execution of… that task force."
"What strikes you as different, this time?"
"For one thing," Gillespie said, spreading another one of those little cream cheese tubs on her bagel, "You aren't placing anyone asinine at the top. You just put a figurehead this time."
"Director, Sophia Light is more than capable of managing this task force."
"I'm sure she is. She's also very famous, famous enough to make the people think this might not be an enormous mistake."
"I think confidence in Sophia is well-placed. But I digress… we're very happy to have been wrong about your attitude. A lot of people would be very happy if you accepted a position."
Gillespie nodded. "I'd like to meet with the administrative staff, before I render a final decision. But I don't foresee anything that would make me decide against accepting the position."
O5-4 dabbed his mouth with his napkin. "That is very good to hear, Director."
"I'd like to meet with Light, first. At Site-77."
"… Very well. That can be arranged."
Site-77 Tea Room
Director Shirley Gillespie and Director Sophia Light stared at each other awkwardly from across a small table in the tea room. Anderson had already served the biscuits, but they hadn't exchanged more than pleasantries since sitting down.
Light stirred some more sugar into her tea. "It's a pleasure to finally meet you, Director."
Gillespie nodded. "The feeling is mutual. Your reputation precedes you… I've enjoyed reading a lot of your work. I can't agree more with your thesis, that we should be pushing to see how things really operate."
"Thank you." Light tried to center her focus on the slightly stale biscuit, and not on the laser-beam lock of Gillespie's eyes.
"Are you still a Site Director?" Shirley asked, while blowing gently onto her tea.
"No, actually. I voluntarily left being an active Director in order to completely focus my attention on Alpha-9. Site-41 will probably still be there for me, maybe. Eventually. Possibly." Light shrugged, and took a sip of tea.
"Aha. That's a shame." Gillespie sipped her tea, and made a quiet hum of satisfaction. "I'm lucky enough that I have a person to trust as interim Director indefinitely. My grandson, Ralph. Have you met him?"
Light paused. "I… maybe. It does sound familiar."
"He's very good. And I'm not just saying that because he's my grandson."
Light smiled. "I'm sure."
"But I'm sure you don't want to hear about that. We should be talking shop. About what we can do."
"I'm all ears, Director." Light placed her elbows on the table, leaning forwards. "Tell me what you want to do."
"My dream, the point of my dedicated researchers here, is to use Safe and Euclid class anomalies to push what we can really see about the anomalous world. To find that one cross-test that grants us that thread to tug at, until the whole thing comes undone."
"Have you ever had an object reclassed as 'Explained' at your Site?" Light asked.
"You don't need to show off." Gillespie's lips tightened, and she looked down into her tea.
"Oh, didn't mean it like that!" Light raised her hands defensively. "Really. I just thought, that was what you were talking about."
"It's fine," Gillespie said, quietly finishing her tea. "I think… it would be better if I showed you some examples of what I mean. I don't want us to have any misunderstandings."
SCP-213 Containment Area, Site-77 Euclid Wing.
"This is one I think has great promise for the combatant side of the task force."
They stood outside of a glass containment area, surrounding an enclosed metal hut. Toxic gas seeped and hissed through the room, twisting into greenish gray columns. Two guards stood outside the glass, dressed to kill.
"Inside, there is a man we've had since he was little." Gillespie handed Light two photographs. A Polaroid of a pudgy, acne-scarred teenager with two glowing lights around his hands, trying to look tough but ending up scared. The other, a fresh print of a young man, bald and pale, covered in nodules and scars.
"He's responded well to therapy, since we woke him. We've worked through a lot of body and identity issues. Some problems with maturity, but he's a solid block to build on. Young enough to mold."
Light looked from the containment area, to the pictures, and back. "But, if he's cooperative, why is there such heavy containment?"
"Cooperative? He would be if he could."
"So there's more to him than meets the eye?"
Gillespie pulled out a final photograph, a larger one, and held it up for Light to see. "This is the alien parasite which causes his anomalous properties. It does as it pleases."
Light grimaced at the photo. "That's unfortunate. I thought you said this would be a viable candidate?"
"Luckily there has been progress… we know how, if given the opportunity, the parasite can be suppressed. We can do it. The only thing preventing it is the lack the resource allocation for things that are contained."
"This is what you meant, then. Augmentation, rather than explanation?"
"In a nutshell, I suppose." Gillespie smiled a small smile, and gestured towards an elevator. "But that is also an oversimplification. I want to augment, to explain. I'm going to show you one of the main things I wish to explain."
SCP-2322, Site-77 Administrative Offices
"So it's like Being John Malkovich?"
"But it only recreates one day, that I lived here in 1999."
"Have you ever been inside of it?" asked Light, looking at the door. Directly across the hall from the Site-77 director's office door. A person walking by might almost consider it unassuming, barring the lack of a handle, its rigid steel construction, armed guards, and a massive sign designating it as a high security records room.
"No, never. Once I was informed of the nature of the anomaly, my staff and I felt it would be a bad idea. Too risky."
"It's completely bizarre. And it just popped up one day, like it was always there?" Light said, trying not to stand in the way of the various bureaucrats menacingly marching through the hallways.
Gillespie nodded. "We drilled in from the other side, but none our of drills made a dent. I wasn't going to pay for renovating an enormous section of our already-undersized offices to try to poke a hole in a door."
Light, giving up on human dodgeball, leaned against the wall next to the door. "I don't see how augmenting 213 into a weapon will explain this."
"It's not that, specifically." Gillespie traced her hand along the door. "It's just an example of new ways of looking at the unexplained. The first time we're able to make that leap, of being able to apply something learned from one to another, that we will enter a new age."
Before Light could respond, a robotic hand reached out of the sea of people, and interrupted her thoughts by swinging a knife at her face.
The android, wearing a blood-stained business suit, looked a lot less realistic when not sailing in a sea of conformity. Light pressed her back into SCP-2322.
One of the security guards, the one closest to Light, got a metal spike to the thigh. He cried out, before the construct struck him down. The other guard managed to draw his pistol, before a knife got jabbed in his belly.
Gillespie reached into her purse, but the faux-man swept in from the now panicked and fleeing crowd, brandishing a dagger. The hand which was not trying to actively murder somebody held an antique pistol, and the whole contraption was sizzling with electricity.
It was then that the door to SCP-2322 opened, and Light tumbled inside.
For a moment, Gillespie paused, considering her purse again, before going in after her. The door tried to close, not used to more than one person at a time, but the charitable murderer jammed its blade into the door, pried it open, and followed.
Gillespie and Light suddenly found themselves feeling a flood of deja vu. They had just walked down the entrance hall a few hours beforehand. Everything was a little less high-tech, but altogether the impression was the same.
"So you know," said Gillespie, "This is supposed to be a one-person simulation of my life. It's never had more than one person in it before. It might behave… unusually. Death usually isn't permanent, when it comes from something that was already here. Tests on foreign materials have been… tricky."
Light leaned in and whispered. "There's a ghost kid walking underneath me. Is that supposed to be happening?"
Gillespie looked down, and couldn't conceal her surprise. "Ralph?"
Walking next to Light, with one hand tugging on her pants, was a little Ralph Roget. Not even ten years old in 1999, he looked just as he had in that day, apart from the translucence.
Light looked from Gillespie, to Roget, and back again. "So, what do we do?"
"Let's just keep walking. Keep the loop going."
"This is your life, do you remember where to go?"
The checkpoint guard to their left flapped his gums, and gibberish spilled out. He sat there, waving lazily and reading a magazine as they strode by.
Gillespie frowned. "There's an elevator ahead. We can take it to my office."
Light looked around as they briskly moved through the entrance area. "It's nice to not have everyone staring at me for once."
Gillespie opened her mouth to say something, but the shriek and crack of a handgun interrupted her. BANG. Light grabbed her stomach and fell to the ground. The little Roget began to silently wail beside her.
Gillespie looked up a second later. A man, not a man, wearing a red coat and a fake beard was pointing a gun at them. Gillespie's mind was racing. It's not supposed to be real in here. Everything's fake. But the fake man is a real robot. No. This is very bad.
The robot dropped the gun, and began walking towards them. Out of its coat, it pulled out its bloodstained instrument. "SOPHIA LIGHT" declared its grinding metallic voice, "Give BACK, FOR what you have RECEIVED. FORTUNE must be MET with CHARITY. How would you feel if you didn't have KIDNEY? WE CAN TELL YOU."
Grabbing Light, she pulled them both towards the elevator with all of her might. Not-Roget followed along behind them, tottering as fast as his legs would take him. The android, in turn, followed along lazily, watching them struggle. As they reached the elevator proper, Light righted herself and hit the 'close door' button. The doors closed before the ghost child could make it in with them.
"Fuck!" Light cried, grabbing her abdomen. "That fucking hurts!"
"Are you shot?" Gillespie leaned down over her, looking for blood. "Oh no. We need to get a doctor, right away, this is not a good place to—"
Light lifted up her shirt, and grimaced as she slid herself into a sitting position.
Gillespie looked at her. "Where did you get a bullet-proof vest?"
"I've had one since Overwatch put me in this position. We agreed… ow, fuck… that something like this would happen sooner than later."
Gillespie stood, wiping her brow and pressing the button she knew led to the administrative offices. "Oh… you had me worried. I don't want to see anyone hurt in here."
"I'm fine. But we have bigger things to worry about. What the hell are those things?"
Gillespie looked up, thoughtfully. "I believe… we've contained them since before I even got a position here. From the Manna Charitable Foundation. They're more or less twisted Robin Hoods who take from anyone to give to anyone."
Light gingerly pressed her finger against the bruise under her vest, and winced. "Have they breached containment before?"
Gillespie shook her head. "Never. I have no idea how they might've gotten out on their own. They're normally very peaceful. If they'd been helped, maybe… we can review the security documentation when we return."
The bell dinged, and the elevator doors slid open. The little half-visible Roget was waiting for them. He bounded next to Light as they stepped out and walked through the teal halls of neatly labeled doors. Gillespie's office didn't look any different than it had earlier in the day. The same paintings hung on the walls, which were pained the same color, and terminated onto a floor which had the same carpet.
Light looked around. "It's like deja vu all over again."
Gillespie took a seat at her desk. "Yes, yes… we need to come up with a plan of action. If the loop hasn't terminated yet, we might have to wait until it's all over. I don't think the copy of site security will offer us much protection."
Light took a seat across from her. "Let's just wait here for a time. Let them come to us. The Manna robot doesn't know the site any better than you do, so it might take it awhile to figure out where we are."
The doors took that moment to open up. The SCP-2322 version of Security Director Anderson walked in, and took the remaining guest seat in front of the Director's desk.
An incoherent mess of vowels spilled out of his flapping gums, as he placed some documents on the table. Light and Gillespie looked at them.
Shirley #: Gillespie
Object Class: Gillespie
Special Gillespie Procedures: Gillespie is to be Shirley standard Gillespie Gillespie, located in Stanley Gillespie Shirley Gillespie. Ralph Roget Roget Ralph Roget Shirley Stanley Gillespie Gillespie. The containment Gillespie is to be Shirleyed once per week by custodial staff wearing opaque Gillespies…
Gillespie looked back up to Anderson. His attention, however, had already turned to something else. He had taken a knee, and was playing with the little Roget directly in front of Light.
"Gillespie!" he cried, tousling the ghost child's hair. Roget laughed and giggled, playing along. Light tried to sit as far back in her seat as possible, away from Anderson. She looked over to Gillespie, who looked back. They glanced at Anderson, and to each other, before they both cleared their throats.
Anderson looked up, and sheepishly muttered something unpronouncable, incomprehensible, distorted and illegible. He began to take more papers out, placing them along the desk. They all looked the same as the first one. Before he could say another stupid thing, klaxon alarms began blaring.
ATTENTION SITE PERSONNEL declared the shrill son of speak-n-spell. "CONTAINMENT BREACHES ON ALL LEVELS. ASSUME CODE BROWN-CASTLE PROCEDURES."
"Shit," said Light, standing up. "Is this normal?."
"No." Gillespie sat back in her seat, her fingers quietly drumming on the mahogany desk. "Anderson, go."
Anderson stood, nodded, and quickly fled the room. Gillespie pulled open a panel of her desk, and pulled out a pitcher of white grape juice. She poured herself and Light a glass. "Take this. It clears your head, and we're going to need it."
"Is there any kind of a panic room? Someplace we can go to wait this out?" Light asked, taking a generous gulp from her glass while leaning to look out the office door.
Gillespie closed her eyes as she took a sip of her beverage. "I can remember where the safe places used to be. Maybe."
In the distance, there was quiet screaming.
After a moment, Gillespie stood, pressing a button under her desk to open the evacuation elevator. "I don't like this. We need to leave."
Nodding, Light moved ahead of her, and into the elevator. Placing her empty glass onto her desk, Gillespie followed. The elevator doors smoothly and silently shut as they began to descend to safety.
SCP-2322, Safe Object Wing
The elevator took them to a quiet patch. They stuck to the walls, checking around corners and minimizing noise. Occasionally, a distant explosion or scream would remind them that there was trouble afoot, and made them watch each step even more carefully.
"What exactly are we looking for?" whispered Light, as she peeked around one of the endless corners that made up the rat-trap of a wing. The small Roget crept along with her, poking his nose over the corners after Light passed them by.
"Something useful," Gillespie whispered back, reading the labels on the doors as they passed. "Anything that might give us an edge."
"Wait," Light said, crouching. "Look. That door's open."
So it was. A door was ajar, halfway, standing perfectly still at the far end of the hallway. There were no marks on it, or the surrounding walls, to suggest what, if anything, had come out of that door.
Behind it, a voice called out. "Is that you?"
Light's brow furrowed. Was that Lament? She strained to look.
Sure enough, it looked that way. Lament walked into the light coming from the open containment chamber. "I came as soon as I heard. Is everything okay?"
Light frowned, and looked down at Roget. "…"
The phantastic child was too occupied with Gillespie's shoelaces, and didn't pay anyone any attention. Gillespie herself was chalk-white, speechlessly staring ahead.
Light looked back towards the Lament, frowning. "What did you give me on our first date?"
Shaking his head, Lament took a step forwards. "Don't do this, Sophia. I'm me. I said I came as soon as I heard what was going on."
Sighing, Light took a step back. "Not what I asked you. What did you give me on our first date?"
It was at that point that Lament's face began to melt. "Light… whabble… Gillespie Gillespiesgddgdsd…" the voice faltered, as the being drew closer. Like a ship seeing through the parting fog, Light could see there was no Lament. Only an oily, quivering fleshy blob.
"The snot," gasped Gillespie, clutching onto Light for support. "Just the… damn… snot…"
But not quite. A rubbery looking skin punched a hole out of its slimy vehicle, writhing with the robotic skeleton beneath it. It only managed to get its head and arm out, before becoming stuck. It flailed about, trying to free itself.
Gillespie's grip on Light tightened. "It's using my specimens!"
Light looked down, and took Gillespie's hand. "We need to get out of here, ASAP. Can you run?"
"No… Yes… I'm fine… I just need a few seconds." Gillespie leaned against the wall, her face ashen. "I'm fine."
The robot continued to worm its way out of its slimy vehicle. It seemed to be having a difficult time, and the two women watched it warily from afar. "I can help you, if you need it."
As she leaned one hand against the wall, the other over her chest, Gillespie huffed. "I said I was fine." She righted herself, and stood tall. "Let's continue. We can go around the obstacle."
"Where are we going, exactly? An armory?"
Gillespie shook her head, and pointed further into the Site. "I don't know how to shoot. I'm also of the opinion that firearms are useless against that… he's wearing a dead boy's skin, you know that?"
Light wrinkled her nose. "Do I want to know?"
"No. But it stops bullets better than your vest does." Gillespie began walking away from the robot, still watching it.
Light followed. "So we're not looking for a gun."
"No. We're fetching a mop."
The robot managed to work out its other arm, and began eagerly digging the rest of itself out of its imprisonment. They booked it, going as quickly as they could down the hallway.
Gillespie led them to a door that opened to a large, transparent tank filled with a clear liquid. Gentle jets of water kept a simple janitor's mop floating in the center of the tank, slowly spinning and not touching any of the edges. A shimmering green ooze leaked from the mop's end, before disappearing as it mixed with the tank's chemical containment compound.
Light could hear the android coming down the hall, dripping with fluids. She kept her eye on the would-be assailant's route of attack while Gillespie picked up a large pair of tongs and extracted the mop from its container.
Gillespie handed the mop to Light. Light looked at it for a moment before taking it in hand. The robot was free now, and it cast a shadow upon the wall as it came around the hallway's corner.
Light took a stand as it came around the corner. It was covered in oil and looked like a man with the wrong skeleton. It blindly and wildly swung its knife as it marched towards.
"SOPHIA LIGHT," it blathered, stumbling towards her. "WHY NOT DONATE TO THE LATTER CHURCH OF THE BROKEN SAINTS, for ONLY—"
Light struck quickly, popping the mop into its mouth. "No solicitors."
She twirled the handle, aggressively splashing the inside of the principal skin with acid. As the mop twisted and turned, creating unsightly bulges from beneath the loose skin, the android's wild swinging was reduced to slow sinking. Noxious gases rolled out of the skin's various orifices as the robot fell onto its back, spasmed, and was still.
SCP-2322, Euclid Object Wing
The walk over to the Euclid containment area had been surprisingly quiet, with only distant screams and explosions, and occasional power outages. It seemed like as good a place as any to find a ways of defending themselves. They arrived to find it littered with debris and fallen fake men, but nothing of substance.
Light gingerly slid the handgun out of the dead guard's grip. The small phantasmagoric child shielded itself behind its grandmother's legs, waiting for her to finish. "I think something's already been through here."
"What makes you say that?" asked Gillespie, poking over some ruins with a broken piece of rebar.
Roget's apparition, apparently bored of being afraid, toddled over to be by Light again.
Pulling her jacket closed, Light shivered. "It's getting colder. Is that something to worry about?"
"No… I don't think so. Possibly. Probably not," said Gillespie, as she sat down upon a pile of rubble. "Not unless you see snow."
Light continued walking into the wing, stepping over the shattered remains of the entrance checkpoint. Broken glass crunched under her feet, as another gully gust of chilled air swept over her. "Something's definitely modulating the temperature. I can feel it from here."
Gillespie looked over from her seat. "Do you think we should keep going in?"
Light shrugged, and peered further down the hall. "It's your site. You'd know what it might be better than I would."
Picking herself up, Gillespie gingerly followed through the debris field behind Light. "I don't think we're in any immediate danger… we should keep going. We'll be fine."
The destruction became more apparent as they progressed deeper into the wing. Every single door was a singed remnant of its former frame, and there was broken glass and twisted, burnt pieces of metal littered the scorched halls.
Lighting had become a luxury, so they kept a hand upon the wall as they proceeded, with only the occasional spark and Light's cellphone-light to keep them going. A low mist hung around their ankles.
At a moment neither of them took note of, a delighted smile crossed over Roget's face. In the darkness, he slipped ahead of them.
It was at that moment that the lights flickered back to life.
Light and Gillespie both looked around for any signs of treachery. Down the hall, frosty winds billowed from an open steel security door. Light aimed her weapon at it, and began to walk closer. "I think we've found who's letting the cold demons out."
Gillespie walked behind Light, and read the inscription next to the door as Light opened the door to its full outstretched position.
"… It's Walt."
Light glanced over. "What?"
"Walt Disney. We've got his head on ice."
A childlike voice squealed with delight from inside the room. Gillespie's head snapped towards the sound's source. "Ralph?"
Before Light could say a word, Gillespie had shuffled into the cryonic containment chamber.
Light followed. She was greeted with the sight of Gillespie's grandson's transparent replica, surrounded by prancing, ringing sheep with coats made of rotary dial phone cords. In place of a head, there was a telephone.
Walt Disney's frozen head was poised on a pedestal at the center of the room, with two phones attached and off the hook. A voice emanated from one of the phones attached to Walt's pedestal. "Director! It's delightful to see you again!"
Gillespie stepped forward, smiling and shivering. "Hello, Walt."
"Please accept my apology for the chill, Director. We had a spot of trouble with the thermostat. Luckily, my ovine imagineers were here to help."
On cue, all of the sheep's rotary phones began ringing off the hooks.
"Now, to what do I owe the pleasure, Director?" asked Walt, his immobile head's lips staying in place beneath the glass.
"… Where to start?" Gillespie exhaled, and crossed her arms. "It hasn't been the best day."
"Well, it brought you and your grandson together, so how bad can it really be?"
"Pretty bad, Walt. He's helping, but it's tough."
One of the sheep came forward, Roget on its back. A small matchbook had been placed on the phone. "This might help you," said Walt. "It's how I kept myself presentable while my imagineers went to work."
Light picked up the matchbook, examining it. "What is this?"
Gillespie looked at Light. "It's a matchbox full of winter, dear."
"Oh, cool," said Light, as Roget dismounted his mighty steed. "Thanks, Walt."
Walt said nothing. Plucking the matchbox from Light's hands, Gillespie turned to leave, motioning for the little Roget to follow along.
Walt called out after them. "Just one more thing, Director."
Gillespie turned at the threshold. "Yes?"
"It's dangerous to go alone. Please, be careful."
Gillespie nodded. "I will, Walt."
Light followed her outside. "Can't say I expected to meet Walt Disney when I woke up this morning."
Gillespie walked around to the security door, and began pushing it. "Help me get this closed, please. The last thing we need is for things to get colder."
Nodding, Light moved beside Gillespie and pushed. "Jeez, this is heavy. You need all this to keep a head locked up?"
Gillespie struggled beside her, as the door slowly began to squeal closed. "Just keep pushing. I think… after this I'd like to rest a spell."
Light huffed and puffed. "That's a great idea."
As the door locked into place, they both leaned upon it, wiping their brows and sliding to the bottom of the door. The cold steel felt good, like a cold shower frozen solid. They leaned on each other, the exhaustion suddenly catching up to them.
Eventually, Light spoke up. "What a day, huh?"
"Yes… but I'm guessing it's nothing new for you."
"I don't go out looking for danger. A lot of those stories are… exaggerated."
"Oh." Gillespie looked down at the matchbox. "You were… very good with the mop. That robot was relentless…"
"Oh, uh… thank you."
Gillespie touched the frost on the ground. "It's warming up already. We should go."
Light groaned. "In a minute."
Gillespie closed her eyes. "I was hoping you'd say that."
For a time, they laid there, their breathing slowly descending from exhaustion, too tired, too sleepy, too asleep. The Rogetian apparition curled up in his grandmother's lap. Underneath the buzzing lights and lying on frozen steel, they waited for the sake of it. It wasn't until a malodorous scent invaded the corridor that the peace was broken.
"Do you smell that?" asked Gillespie, slowly picking her head up from Light's shoulder.
"Yeah… like a biology lab. Or my garage." Light stood up, bracing herself as stiff muscles whined about a rude awakening. "It's coming from down there."
From whence they had came, it emerged. Before them stood a gigantic and leafy doberman topiary, with the head of a man. It was a decapitated and aged head, covered with mollusks and with sagging, pallid flesh. The vines and leaves swiveled menacingly as it came upon them.
Before either of them could move, it was already on top of Light, pinning her beneath tree trunks of paws. Gillespie scrambled away. Light was too astonished to struggle.
The thing opened its mouth, and a mollusk-like tongue oozed out of its mouth.
It licked Light's face like man's best friend ought to, and then sat obediently, awaiting command.
Gillespie had found Light's gun, and was now staring at her and the thing.
Light let out her breath. "… I think it's friendly."
SCP-2322, Safe SCP Wing
It took Light around fifteen minutes to decide that she'd forgive Gregory for getting goo all over her face. Riding on his back was very comfortable, and there were delightful flowers to look at while they zipped along.
It was around the same time that it leapt over the makeshift barricades that permeated Site-77's Euclid wing. If Gregory hadn't come along to help them when he did, they might've still been sitting pooped outside Walt's pad.
Light leaned towards Gillespie, who had makeshift reins in her hands and Roget in her lap as she guided Gregory through the odds and ends of Site-77. "Did you find it?"
Gillespie shook her head. "Not yet. But we're close. I'm sure this might've been before they moved it."
Light watched the doors and rubble as it went by, in a blur. Gregory zipped past everything, responding to Gillespie's commands almost subconsciously. "You're good at this."
Gillespie shrugged, handling the reins. "I've… we've done tests with 1513 before."
Light laughed. "No shit? You should've showed this to me before!"
They took a hard left. Gillespie gripped the grassy neck. "I was going to… oh, heck."
Bracing herself on handfuls of daffodils, Light scrunched her face as a the floor ripped itself apart, pulling the ground out from under them. Gregory stumbled over the remains of a wall, wrapping Light and Gillespie in flowery vines as it fell. Roget sailed through the wall altogether, landing out of sight.
Between the vines, Light saw it coming towards them. It was the android— skinless, but very much intact— wearing earbuds, seemingly covered in softly vibrating sub-woofers. Its waxen head was deformed and coming off in chunks, revealing a gigantic speaker in place of a head.
"SOPHIA LIGHT! We can work past YOUR attempt TO LIQUIDATE ASSET… It is PERHAPS times for you to give up MUCH MORE, SOPHIA LIGHT. WE CAN HELP."
Light winced and covered her ears. "Should be slag… how the hell did it even find us?" She looked over to the bundle of vines lying next to her.
Gillespie pulled the vines apart and stood up, her hand already throwing the small white box from her pocket. It skidded across the floor, coming to rest a fair ways from the android assailant. It watched as a couple of snowflakes emanated from the matchbox.
The android threw its head back, and let out a deafening tone.
Gillespie stumbled back, ears covered, into the bushy beast behind her. Thick leaves covered her up.
The vines abandoned Light as Gregory pounced upon the android. There was a flurry of foliage as they struggled, with occasional piercing tones being muffled by leaves, and slashing metal tearing through the dampeners.
Light looked around for Gillespie and found her again. She was brushing leaves from her clothing.
The snowflakes were picking up. Gillespie looked at them, and then at Light. "We need to get out of here. Blast doors. Down the hall. Take me."
It didn't need to be said twice. Gillespie was a small woman, and Light had been stuck with a strict workout regimen for years. She scooped up and carried Gillespie as quickly as she dared down the hall, as the sounds of the battle behind them grew more intense.
When they reached the security door Gillespie neatly typed a code into the keypad. The thick, green blast doors creaked open, and the last remnants of the frost dissipated as fresh air blew in.
A flat tone shrieked, and through the mist there was a long howl. The doors were open now, as Light and Gillespie stepped through.
As the door closed behind them, Gregory, his body weighed down with dead frost and dead robot weight, swung around the corner. Thundering down the hall, he was only moments too late to fit his body between the closing metal gate. For a few moments, there was scrabbling and scratching. Then, silence.
Gillespie clutched Light, panting. "I knew that would work…"
Light patted Gillespie's head, and breathed a sigh of relief. They began walking down the hall. Behind them, Roget poked his head out from the ruined walls, and ran to catch up with his grandmother. Gillespie slowed down to accommodate him, then stopped. Walking to one of the doors dotting the wall, she punched another security code in, and opened the door.
Inside was a sterile white room, with a navy blue door quietly occupied the opposite end of the room. Its light bulb was on behind the door, and shining through the slits. Gillespie hopped over to the door, murmuring to herself. "It's been… waiting for us? Yes, yes, this will work…"
Light strolled in behind her, taking in the sights of the room. "What's going on?"
The bulb clicked off, and Gillespie smiled softly. "Something useful."
Gillespie opened the door, and scooped up the small piece of metal from the floor. She carefully inspected it, before turning to Light with a sparkle in her eye. "Better than I dared hope. We've got a chance yet."
Light motioned to Gregory. "So, where to next?"
Gillespie pocketed her new friend, and walked to the door. "We're burning down the house."
SCP-2322, Motor Pool
Gillespie walked among the fleet of Azteks, and frowned as she ran her hand across the car's oddly-shaped rear end. "This place is breaking down. These cars didn't even exist in 1999."
Light, from across the room, called out to her. "This one has a tent!"
Shaking her head, Gillespie turned her attention to the roof of an Aztek in the back row. Taking an adhesive from her purse, she fixed the laser pointer to the top of the car furthest from the wall, and tugged on it to make sure it was secure.
Light ambled back over, and peered over Gillespie's shoulder. "This is going to be safe, right?"
"Probably. If we cause enough destruction, it'll probably terminate the loop, and kick us all out."
With that, she flicked the laser on. A red dot appeared on the wall across the motor pool, barely visible apart from the red line of light stretching from the car to the wall. They didn't have long to appreciate the sight, though. The pointer's effect was instant. Every car in the lot, dozens of Pontiac Azteks, began revving, starting up, and getting ready to go.
Tires squealed as every vehicle began chasing the red dot. Almost immediately, most of them crashed into each other. But before too long, the logjam was cleared, and the automotive automatons were smashing repeatedly into the wall, onto the little red dot if they could help it.
The destruction was enormous. The cars smashed and smashed, and cracks spread from the walls to the roof. The constant pounding brought down dust and pieces of ceiling, and the whole room shook like a tweaking chihuahua.
Crack, crunch, crumble.
The wall fell like it was 1989, and the Azteks began fighting for position. Gillespie and Light watched as they plowed through the next room, and the next, and the one after that, until they were out of sight.
They waited a little longer, listening to the sounds of destruction as the Azteks made their way further into the Site.
"This probably ought to knock the site down, right?" asked Gillespie, brushing some rubble off of her sleeve.
"… Yeah. Probably. As long as they keep going." Light stared through the hole. "You want to, uh, wait in a car? Maybe see if the radio works, or something like that."
Gillespie walked through the hole, appraising the crumpled wrecks of the few Azteks which hadn't survived the initial onslaught. She picked one and pulled on the door to the driver's seat. The door came off in her hand.
Shrugging, she moved onto the second closest, which had most of its damage on the rear-end. "This one seems to be relatively intact."
She got in first. Light got in behind her, and closed the passenger door. Light hit the lock button, then settled into her seat and closed her eyes. "Phew…" she said.
"Why did you do that?" Gillespie asked.
"Do what?" Light popped one eye open, returning Gillespie's look.
"Lock the doors."
Light looked away, through the window. The Rogetian apparition was playing with a piece of twisted gears, from one of the more ruined wrecks. "Shirley, you never know what's out there."
"I do. And don't call me Shirley."
Light sat up, still looking out the window. "We're not on first names yet, then?"
Gillespie shook her head. "It's not that, it's… nevermind. You can call me that if you want to."
The entire room began to violently sway. In the distance, there were several rather loud explosions. Chunks of the ceiling began falling down onto the car like raindrops, denting all which had not already been dented. Gillespie looked up, dismayed.
"I was hoping that the loop would terminate before something like this happened…" Gillespie looked out the window, pursing her lips.
"Something like what happened?" Light asked, as baby Roget phased through the doors and into the backseat, silently wailing.
"Everything actually breaking down. We've never run a destructive test that was quite on this sc—"
A large heap of metal interrupted her, as it crushed the hood and cracked the windscreen. Gillespie jerked back, her hand over her heart. "Oh, my. Oh dear…"
"Just hang on. We just have to wait for it to pass, and we'll be fine. Don't worry." Light took Gillespie's hand. "Just relax."
At that moment, a large, furry appendage slammed into the cracked windscreen. From outside the car, they could hear it calling, in a pre-pubescent voice. "Like, ohmigod Jane, there's totally stuff in here!"
"Shit." Light pulled out the sidearm. Outside, the apparition of Roget screamed in terror as spiders swiftly overwhelmed him.
Gillespie just closed her eyes.
Skittering down to the front of the car, the appendage's owner made itself clear. A giant spider, bows in its hair and lipstick smeared all over its mandibles.
Spiders began crawling up, from the cracked ground and through the ruined walls. They descended from the ceiling from webs, and thudded onto the roof over and over again.
The car began rocking, back and forth. The compatriot of the spider, previously unseen, began to come join it by the hood of the car.
Soon, every window was blocked by pieces of furry exoskeleton, as they chattered and pounded at every surface. The windscreen bent, but did not break. Pieces of glass showered the front seat.
The car continued to rock back and forth, and both women clung to their seats, and to each other. They were thrust into pitch blackness as the outside of the vehicle was swarmed. The back windows were punched in, and a dozen legs began squirming and pushing to get in.
The two of them shrunk into the front seat, with Light pointing her firearm back towards the sound of flailing limbs. The roof above them began to give way, as three more spidery limbs began blindly thrashing around. Gillespie cried out, her forearm snapping as a spider's leg jabbed her.
It was then that Light and Gillespie felt their ears pop.
At once, the spider's leg stiffened, and crumbled like ashes. The pounding from all sides ceased at once. The windows were still a void, but there was no more movement. Gillespie groaned, and clutched her arm. An ambient light began to shimmer down from the holes in the roof. Light looked over. "How bad is it?"
Gillespie looked at the deformity on her arm. "Broken…" she mumbled, straining in her seat and gripping the steering wheel with a white-knuckle fist. "Look outside… is it over? Are we out?"
Light pushed, and forced the door open, looking outside.
"… It's different now. I think we broke it."
The shards of what were once a motor pool floated in space. The car, dented and twisted, sat on a small floating platform. Blue wisps of light twisted through the floating pieces of concrete. The air was thick, and permeated by a high-pitched ringing.
Light carried Gillespie through the void. Gillespie's breathing was short, and her eyes closed. Light wasn't sure what she was walking on, as she strode past sections of rooms suspended in space. Occasionally, there were portions of people. Light tried not to look at those.
There was a whistling in the air.
"How are you holding up?" she said, adjusting her grip on Gillespie's frail form.
"Fine… fine," Gillespie said, taking a deep breath. "Keep walking. He should be here… soon."
Light looked ahead. There was something glimmering in the distance. It was a pink shimmer, drawing closer at every second.
The whistling grew louder.
In a flying V, they came. Pink flamingos, with sharpened metal prongs in place of legs. Dangling from three of them, suspended by thick, black leather straps, was the charitable robot, dripping oil, legless and covered in vines, but swinging its blade and silently flapping its waxen gums.
"Fuck." Light groaned and took a step back. "Why won't this goddamn thing stay down‽"
The flamingos swept down from above, prongs at the ready. Ducking down and covering Gillespie, Light felt the prongs rip through her back, and the warmth as blood flowed freely from the wounds.
The flamingos took the skies again, returning to formation with the android at the forefront.
Again, they charged from the skies. The automaton swung its knife, with every wild swipe causing bolts and wires to be flung from its body.
Light tensed, and rolled as it drew close, gripping Gillespie to herself as they dodged out of the way. The blade stabbed into the ground, and pulled the droid to the ground.
Gillespie winced as Light set her down. Light stood up.
The droid crawled towards them, clumsily waving its blade towards them. Its eyes dangled out of its sockets and its waxen lips cracked as they dragged along the ground.
Light backed up, keeping a hand on her firearm.
A figure darted towards them and stomped down onto the android's head, crushing it into pieces.
Light watched warily, firearm still in hand. A young man approached them. He was a hairy little guy, coming only to Light's hips, and he was wearing a D-Class jumpsuit.
"Director Gillespie… can you hear me?"
Gillespie perked her head up, eyes open wide. "Oh… good, it's over. How nice to finally… meet you."
E-8812 reached over and brushed the hair from Gillespie's eyes. "The feeling is mutual. You've made quite a mess today."
"Wasn't… my intention." Gillespie pushed against Light, who helped her stand. "I never intended to come here… like this."
E-8812 took her hand, and instantly her pained face was washed away by relief. "Wow…"
"It's a funny thing, pain. There was pain, when they all burned, or were crushed, or died in a myriad of other tragic ways. It was all real pain, even from fake people."
Gillespie looked away.
E-8812 looked around. "You know why this place exists?"
"Because you created it?"
He shook his head, pointing to Gillespie. "You made it happen. You were the first person… in quite some time, to show kindness. Really, it sort of wrote itself from there."
Digging into his pocket, he pulled out a small picture. It was Gillespie, twenty years earlier. She was smiling with her husband, on a white porch in summer. "This is your world, Shirley. We're all just living in it."
Gillespie took the picture. "Where did you get this?"
"I don't have the answers, here, and we're almost out of time. Sorry. You're the only one who really has a final say." E-8812 clapped and waved his hands. The lights formed into a blue box, with a shimmering white spiral in the center. "Anyways, you know what we do now, I'm sure."
Gillespie nodded. "Go on."
The white spiral shone a bright white, and turned into the number three. "You blew up my base, and caused the deaths of thousands of people. You didn't recreate the day, but I sincerely look forward to the next time you try."
Gillespie nodded, and then faded away. Light heard the sound of a door closing.
"As for you," said E-8812, stepping towards Light. "Don't ever come back."
The white flashed to a big, red zero. Light felt the ground disappear from beneath her, and she fell. Everything went white for a moment, before shapes and sounds began to take form. Through the ringing in her ears, Light heard them saying her name.
At the Lunch Counter
Gillespie and Light sat by each other, in the center of the counter. Gillespie's arm was in a sling, but her spirits had never been higher.
"I met Bowe exactly one time. He came over to inspect Site-77, when he was on the warpath for humanoids with vaguely weaponizable powers. He wanted to use 213, for obvious reasons, but he was still comatose then. You wouldn't believe what he offered our doctors to rouse him."
Gillespie shook her head. "That was when I realized it probably wasn't going to work out."
Light chuckled. "That sounds about right."
Gillespie picked her tea up with her good hand, and shook the ice around. "So, what did Lament give you, on your first date?"
Light grinned. "Ctenophores. It was awesome."
Gillespie smiled in return. "Gifts like that always mean the most. What happened to them?"
Light laughed out loud. "You'll love this. A Junior Researcher drank them, thought they were anomalous, and almost got our whole sector on lockdown."
Gillespie chuckled. "Shame that you lost them."
Light shrugged. "Ended up being a great story, though. Sometimes that's the best you can hope for."
"Yes… I've heard stories, rumors, about you and Lament. If you don't mind, of course…"
"No, go on. I don't mind."
"Are you still… entangled?"
Light shook her head. "Just friends. We both agree that things work out better that way."
Gillespie nodded, sagely. "It's a shame… you would make a tremendous power couple. But I'm sure the last thing on your mind is needing more power." She closed her eyes, and finished her drink before standing. "Let's head back to the Site… I've got a lot to show you before we go. We've left O5-4 waiting long enough."
Standing with her, Light smiled. "Lead the way."