Incursion
rating: +96+x

1


If the words "esoteric containment" mean nothing to you, stop listening.

Time passes, approximately ten seconds. During this time, rain can be heard striking a number of windows nearby.

My name is Doctor Lowell Henry Piedmont. I am a research scientist for the Foundation, specialty in esoteric containment of anomalous objects, events and locations. I have gone missing. There are three others with me. Alicia Connors is an archivist assistant currently assigned to SCP-914. Jerald Hanndock is a research assistant, also assigned to SCP-914. Matthew Terger is a security agent with whom I have worked with to a considerable degree of satisfaction.

The output of the SCP-316 replica produced by 914… we were exposed to the light of this new item. We are now someplace I suspect to be the United Kingdom, though we haven't been able to confirm this. We have taken shelter in a greenhouse on Terger's suggestion — it is elevated, and will give us a good view of any more incoming hostiles. We have already been attacked.

We attempted to make camp in the great room of the adjacent, abandoned manor house, but gunfire awoke us during the second watch. Terger saw something disturbingly long melt a panel of a window. It attempted to reach Connors while she slept. He almost lost sight of it. He managed to shoot it, clipped the anterior of its body length and sent it running back through the warped hole in the window. We relocated immediately.

This is the first of my records. I will be documenting our attempts to return.

Doctor Piedmont, signing off. Night one. One round expended. Seventy-one remain.

Rain continues for nearly two seconds before recording ends.

2


If the words "esoteric containment" mean nothing to you, stop listening.

Time passes, approximately ten seconds. The sounds of running and sloshing water are prominent nearby, as are a calm, low male voice and a higher pitched female voice, apparently in some distress.

We took a chance and returned to the manor house after daylight was sufficient to light the interior of the house. Terger was on point, I covered the others from behind. We didn't find more insects. The house has outlets but no power- it has no modern accoutrements whatsoever, in fact, and is in truth quite sparsely furnished for such an estate. There are places where paintings must have hung, however, and furniture was moved. It was probably stripped and abandoned. Still, we remain in some proximity to our time of origin, though we have clearly been geographically displaced.

We were unable to find any maps or other useful things here besides canned foods. Unfamiliar brand names. Could be regional food, could be evidence that we are further from home than I'd like to admit. Have to keep an open mind.

We had a debate about going into the basement. I was outvoted three to one in favor of breaking the locks and investigating. We were reasonably certain that nothing like we saw last night would be down there. We were right.

I know that it sounds absurd, but I have the nagging feeling that the thing that took a bite out of Terger's shoulder with the mouth on its elbow used to be human. We didn't stay long enough to find out. Hanndock had found a keyring in the kitchen after we broke about half the locks with a hammer from the gardening shed. After the creature decided Terger wasn't tasty enough (I shot it, center mass), we relocked the remaining locks; we'll have to hope they're enough. The skin absorbed a lot of the impact, and we don't have the ammunition to kill the thing. We bound the wound; Terger seems as though he'll recover in a few days. A little longer to mend his ego.

This house is dangerous, but we don't have anyplace else to go. We'll walk a few hours tomorrow, and turn around if we can't get a vantage point to see another destination.

This is the second of the records documenting our attempts to return.

Doctor Piedmont, signing off. Night two. One round expended. Seventy remain.

Background noise continues for nearly two seconds before recording ends.

3


If the words "esoteric containment" mean nothing to you, stop listening.

Time passes, approximately ten seconds. The sound of a large fire, perhaps, is audible.

I was certain I remembered something about that creature. It matches a file a colleague had me read a few months ago, regarding a bottle of whiskey that turned drinkers into literal monsters. The insect may have been a… anomaly as well for all I know. But I know exactly what killed Alicia. I have no idea how three unrelated… objects… ended up in the same place.

We saw a small town on our expedition, from the top of a hill. It was on the other side of a river, but that was surmountable. We crossed the river and followed it into town. Nobody was there. Too many houses for the cars here. Still here, I should say. There were some pretty deep-set oil stains in front of a few homes, but no vehicles to make them.

It must have been a while since the… I can't say what they are. I don't know who will find this. I'm calling it the beach. The beach killed or drove off everyone who lived in this city. If you find this note, don't get close to the lake. The sands are alive and they will devour you before you realize your feet are in pieces. They took her apart, had her on stumps before she realized she was getting shorter.

That's an exaggeration, but it was horrible to watch. When she tried to run, what was left of her feet splintered and she fell. She didn't scream long. We found a car with keys inside not too far from the lake; I spotted the keychain gleaming while we were running. I think we could have gotten away without the car, but it helped.

There's a roadmap; glove compartment. It's not in a language any of us speak, though it was dogeared on a specific page. The road layout fits the town, and the river; we're going to get some gas and find the next nearest town.

The clouds haven't lifted since we got here. Not for a minute. I hope that's just how things are here- the last thing we need is anomalous weather.

This is the third of the records documenting our attempts to return.

Doctor Piedmont, signing off. Night three. One magazine and sidearm lost. Fifty eight rounds remain. Got food from a grocery store. Looking for a gun shop next.

Background noise continues for nearly two seconds before recording ends.

4


The recording starts, but there is a pause- perhaps three seconds- before Piedmont speaks. The only background sound is two uncoordinated sets of breathing.

If the words "esoteric containment" mean nothing to you… stop listening.

Time passes, approximately ten seconds. A third set of breathing joins the noise, much closer to the source of the recording.

Terger had to subdue Hanndock after we found the mirror. I don't know how it could have broken containment. There was only one, and we had it. The insect, the creature, the beach… could be explained. There's only one mirror. It can't be here, or else we're not where I thought we were. I'll talk to Terger alone from now on when discussing my theories. Hanndock isn't stable enough to take it.

We encountered the mirror on a stand in the pawn shop we broke into. We made it to the next town, but it's as empty as the first. We've found a few bodies, but they're all accidental. Nothing particularly alarming. The mirror, though, has us all on edge. Had. We put it face down behind the counter. But not before it told us what was happening.

We can't trust what it said. It'd have said anything to keep us from leaving. Terger almost stayed, but he followed my lead, thank god. Hanndock just… didn't understand. He must have never read the file. It screamed so loudly. I hope nothing's here to hear it.

It can't be here, but it is. We aren't home. We're someplace else. We'll find a way back. This many objects in one place? There has to be more.

I hope we don't find the wrong ones.

This is the fourth of the records documenting our attempts to return. The first since Connors' death.

Doctor Piedmont, signing off. Night four. One revolver, one rifle, one shotgun found, all loaded. No ammo besides. Seventy four rounds remain.

Background noise continues for nearly two seconds before recording ends.

5


If the words "esoteric containment" mean nothing to you, stop listening.

Time passes, about ten seconds. The sound of calm conversation is in the background, two male voices. There is also the faint sound of rustling metal.

We aren't in Peru. They shouldn't be here. As far as anomalies go, though, grasshoppers aren't all that horrible. The accidents- we found dozens more before we made it to the store- make sense now. I'm glad we picked a grocery store to make camp; we'll be able to wait them out. Terger was the only one to see them, and he's restrained- not that it was hard to talk him into handcuffing himself to the door of the storeroom freezer after what he saw. Hanndock and I have been keeping him fed and taking him to the restroom when he needs to go, keeping our backs towards the windowed storefront. We took away his gun for the time being, obviously.

At least he told us what he was seeing before we looked. We'll be alright.

Another anomaly. We need to figure out what's going on before we run into something seriously dangerous again. There's too many objects to prepare for them all.

This is the fifth of the records documenting our attempts to return.

Doctor Piedmont, signing off. Night five. Seventy four rounds remain. We'll be here a while.

Background noise continues for nearly two seconds before recording ends.

6


If the words "esoteric containment" don't mean anything to you, stop listening.

Time passes, about ten seconds. Two sets of breathing, one matching that of a sleeping human, are audible in the background.

We lucked out. Again. Hanndock might have had some trouble with it if he'd been the first exposed, but it caught Terger at the tail end of the locust exposure. He didn't bat an eye. It's been disconcerting to have around, but we've been adjusting. Terger's proven resistant to its form of "attack," and it's taken to mimicking him. It bothers Hanndock most. The surprise gets to me, but I don't have any trouble with its secondary disturbances, at least. I think it might be amusing itself- forgive me the pun, but I'm glad of the irony that it lacks a "black" sense of humor. Who knows- maybe it will prove helpful in the end.

Doctor Piedmont, signing off. This is still the fifth night. Sixth of our records. Seventy three rounds after initial reactions.

Hanndock deserved the cuff to the head. I'm going to get Terger a beer.

The sleeping breathing continues; the other chuckles under his breath, presumably Terger. Piedmont joins in; recording terminates after approximately one more second.

7


If the words "esoteric containment" mean nothing to you, stop listening.

Time passes, approximately ten seconds. The sound of a motor is audible in the background.

We almost went into that house. The mother's slip-up, though- Hanndock's the one that caught the significance. Terger assumed she'd miscounted; I thought she'd included the statue (it didn't leave with us- must have transferred to someone in the house). Hanndock, though, he'd been on edge since the statue started following us. Borderline paranoia, but it paid off.

I thought I was keeping an eye out. If we'd gone into that house… ten percent chance to escape infection. The distances on the map would have meant nothing after that. I owe Hanndock an apology. He's not suited for permanent field work, but he's a quick thinker and well-read.

Terger identified a city with a sector in the industrial district nearby. He trained there, he says. The cloud cover is finally breaking up a little, but it's far from a clear sky. Nice to see the stars, now and then.

Five days to-

Can't say. I mentioned there's a sector there. But five days and maybe we'll get some answers.

This is the seventh of the records documenting our attempts to return.

Doctor Piedmont, signing off. Night six. Seventy four rounds still remain.

Background noise continues for nearly two seconds before recording ends.

8


If the words "esoteric containment" mean nothing to you, stop listening.

Time passes, about ten seconds. Assorted sounds consitent with the cleaning of a civilian-grade hunting rifle are audible in the background.

If we return, I will write a personal letter of thanks to the founder of the Foundation. I don't care that they won't get it. These things are-

There is a brief pause, then a short burst of nervous laughter.

These things are "redacted." You can choose your expletive of choice; whatever idiot savant type green created that godforsaken cloudfish needs to get a visit from Alto Clef. I don't know whether to be thankful that the first time Terger looked up was through the sunroof of our jeep or curse the decision to take on extra gear and store some on the roof. I hope the damned thing chokes on the shotgun. Everything else is replaceable, but we're probably going to be stuck with the sidearms and the eight shots in the rifle at least until we make the city, and after that bloody cloud…

Four days. This is the eighth of the records documenting our attempts to return.

Doctor Piedmont, signing off. Night seven. Shotgun lost. Seventy two rounds remain.

Brief, humorless grunt of laughter.

Plenty of food, though.

Background noise continues for nearly two seconds before recording ends.

9


If the words "esoteric containment" mean nothing to you, stop listening.

Time passes, about ten seconds. The soft sound of the surf is audible, not quite close to the microphone. It sounds like it's crashing against rocks, as opposed to onto sand.

We can put a rough date on the incursion. That's what I'm calling them now, the arrival of the anomalies. I've been studying the map we found, and we seem to be in the Atlantic Archipelago. That's the U. K., if you're unfamiliar with the term. I thought the driving time was unrealistic, but Terger was right- while we could drive from where we started near…

Damn it all to hell, I can't even speak openly. We're going to a city on the other end of the country, and we can't drive straight there because we have to keep stopping and hunting for gas stations that still have gas to siphon off. So we have to keep detouring through this godawful abandoned world-

At least they tried to abandon it. We found out where most of the people ended up. The ones the anomalies inland didn't get. We stopped at a coastal city, the highway took us there. Roads aren't too crowded, thankfully. But the cliffs, and beaches and…

There are boats everywhere. Smashed against cliffs; the few that made it ashore safely were abandoned to the surf. Thank god it's late winter- not mating season, or we'd probably have been dead just being close enough to see those beaches. Drowning, though… better than Connors got.

My theory is it all happened at once. Anomalies arrived, probably decimated the population. Panic ensued, mass exodus failed; they must have ran out of boats eventually. And considering the nature of some of the more volatile anomalies, it can't have taken long to reduce the standing population to six, seven percent. The smart ones. We won't see them. They'll be too smart to approach us or attack us. They've probably got a good idea of when it's safe to move around, and a car in a silent world is a pretty loud announcement of our approach.

… Three days.

This is the ninth of the records documenting our attempts to return.

Doctor Piedmont, signing off. Night eight. Seventy two rounds remain.

Background noise continues for nearly two seconds before recording ends.

10


If the words "esoteric containment" mean nothing to you, stop listening.

Time passes, about ten seconds. Two sets of quiet breathing consistent with those heard in previous recordings are audible in the background, as is a repetitive tapping, like that of a foot.

We are no longer travelling after dark. When we find a place to secure for the night, it must be cleared by nightfall or we're just sleeping in the car.

You never forget the smell of that thing. Terger remembered it from a voluntary stint on Keter duty covering for a short-staffed skip after a breach. It stinks like… well, like gas and oil and death and rot. Imagine a corpse drenched in vaseline. Sort of like that. He wouldn't let us take another step until we knew where the anomaly was. It'd just pooled in a hollow. We could have walked straight through it on our way to the store across from where we were staying. It wasn't mimicking anything, though- I suppose in a place of relatively frequent food, it must have been easier to be a dark puddle than hope someone paranoid would traipse into a dangerous goop to save someone else.

It's getting harder to balance safety with the urge to get to the site. We all want to get home. Hanndock isn't allowed to drive, which means splitting up daylight between myself and Terger. The other sleeps in the car. We all need to be awake when we scout a campsite.

This is the tenth of the records documenting our attempts to return.

Doctor Piedmont, signing off. Night nine. Seventy two rounds still remain.

Background noise continues for nearly two seconds before recording ends.

11


If the words "esoteric containment" mean nothing to you, stop listening.

Time passes, about ten seconds. Hard breathing is audible, two-fold, with a third set of breaths slow and calm. One of the panting voices swears under their breath at infrequent intervals.

Hanndock's got a hairtrigger and he probably just saved Terger's life. If I remember the file right, we could have all died easily. It could have sat in that corner and at some point, bam. Someone dies, it bloats and goes for seconds. But Hanndock was out of sight when it started moving and was startled enough when he entered the room to just gun it down.

Who the fuck makes something like-

Under his breath, Piedmont speaks. … there is no fear. Fear is the mindkiller, and with the mind gone, we're all dead. Anomaly's gone, room cleared, Terger's recovering from the aboulia.

He returns to normal speaking volume. This is the eleventh of the records documenting our attempts to return.

Doctor Piedmont, signing off. Night ten. Sixty rounds remain. Hanndock gets to clear the next gun shop we find to replace his ammo- thing must have been dead after the sixth shot and he just kept firing.

Can't really blame him, that thing was ugly.

Get there tomorrow. Then we'll see what's going on.

Background noise continues for nearly two seconds before recording ends.

12


If the words…

Quiet panting is audible in the background, and sounds consistent with loading rounds into a magazine audible at what seems to be some slight distance from the microphone. Background audio includes occasional, distant vocalizations that do not match the spectrum of sounds produced by the human layrnx.

… "esoteric containment"… mean nothing to you… fuck off.

Nearly a minute of silence elapses; the magazine ceases to be loaded and can be heard being placed into a gun. A few moments later, it is ejected, the bullets removed and loading begins again. This repeats throughout the entire recording. At no point are any more or less than seven rounds inserted into the magazine.

… can't even fucking say what we saw or we're term'd if we ever make it back. Hanndock's dead. I shouldn't have sent him into that fucking gun shop alone.

The facility is intact. Even powered in some areas. We're too tired to look tonight. I don't know how far we ran. We won't be able to get back to the car. If what we need isn't down here…

This is the twelfth of the records documenting our attempts to return.

Doctor Piedmont, signing off. Night eleven… fifteen rounds, two sidearms remain.

Time passes, thirty seconds or so.

I used to fucking love peppermint. Damn it all to hell.

13


If the words "esoteric containment" mean nothing to you, stop listening.

Time passes, about ten seconds. The exhaustion and frustration in Piedmont's voice present in the last recording have faded. He sounds professional once more, and there are two sets of footsteps audible in the background. Background vocalizations are consistent with previous recordings.

The site may be intact, but containment certainly isn't. We've seen evidence of anomalies that weren't even stored at this site. I should have said that last time. We holed up in one of the observation rooms for a pretty dangerous anomaly. It was fortified, physical door locks, and nothing around to cause a problem. We slept in shifts. We aren't safe; we can hear movement, and other things, from distant parts of the site, but we've had training for situations like this. Back in the site, that all comes back quick.

The first room Terger thought we could use wasn't much of a room anymore. There's a bathroom a level above, and I guess the Foundation didn't discover that particular anomaly prior to all this. The roof was blasted out, part of the floor was slagged down into the containment chamber below- not all accounted for, though. Guess it's not surprising, considering the temperatures involved. Vapor doesn't leave a lot behind.

What's left in the containment chamber below might have been what ended things. It matches the containment procedures, and despite the overwhelming scent of char, I can still smell the fucking mint. Whoever was in here when the room above hit a few thousand kelvin sure as hell would have constituted a dead body.

This is the thirteenth of the records documenting our attempts to return.

Doctor Piedmont, signing off. Day twelve. Fifteen rounds still remain. We're heading for the archives to see what was kept here.

Background noise continues for nearly two seconds before recording ends.

14


If the words "esoteric containment" mean nothing to you, stop listening.

Time passes, about ten seconds. Background vocalizations are consistent with previous recordings. There are also faint sounds consistent with an individual standing in place shifting their weight occasionally.

Had to move through Euclid containment to reach the archives. We don't have much in the way of supplies, though, so we've relocated our base of operations. Always thought it was kind of silly, making the archives one of the most secure places in the facility. I'm not laughing now; this might be safe enough to keep us alive. More bodies in a few of the sealed rooms around the Archives- only in rooms that respond to security badges. Alive, unresponsive but clean, dressed… no obvious cause. Like they're being kept. Seriously concerning. Cognitohazard? Maybe.

We saw someone down one of the hallways. Looked alive, but the damnedest thing is that I swear I saw one of them earlier today, but it was braindead. Still stunning that they're alive at all. I guess that the-

… right. Can't talk about them. But they don't come down here. I think the stuff below scares them.

I hope to God it's the stuff below here that scares them.

This is the fourteenth of the records documenting our attempts to return.

Doctor Piedmont, signing off. Day thirteen. Fifteen rounds remain.

Background noise continues for nearly two seconds before recording ends.

15


If the words "esoteric containment" mean nothing to you, stop listening.

Time passes, about ten seconds. There are sounds indicating an individual shuffling through some papers, near to the speaker; Background vocalizations are consistent with previous recordings. Also present are footsteps indicative of an individual pacing around the room, likely on watch.

I do not like what I am seeing. We left the archives just once today, to check the canteen for supplies. No problem obtaining some, but I'm sure I saw someone watching us. They were gone when we left with our supplies, though I have no idea where they went. Had a panic attack when I realized there were weakening, decaying spots on the walls, but they aren't actively falling apart- it's not him. We'd have known if he was here. We'd be fucked if he was here.

I checked the spot where I remembered the doll- the living body, nobody home- that I thought I saw yesterday. Still there. Different position, and I'm sure there wasn't dust on the cuffs of his slacks before.

They're moving. Or being moved. Just not when we're here.

We took a roundabout way back to camp. Don't think we've been followed. Guess we'll find out, if whoever I saw has Factory gear. Not like walls are going to keep them out. Gonna have to stay hidden.

Still searching for records of what I hope is here. Beans for dinner. Yum. Piedmont's tone here suggests overwhelming dissatisfaction with the contents of his meal.

This is the fifteenth of the records documenting our attempts to return.

Doctor Piedmont, signing off. Day fourteen. Fifteen rounds remain.

Background noise continues for nearly two seconds before recording ends.

16


If the words "esoteric containment" mean nothing to you, stop listening.

Time passes, about ten seconds. Background vocalizations are consistent with previous recordings. A second set of respiration suggests a sleeping individual.

More sightings of our companions. Always at a distance, always gone when we check later. Always near those decayed patches. Pretty confident that's Factory work. Still not sure how the dolls are moving. More were out of place. It's never much different, but it is. I'm sure of it. Terger's been giving me some weird looks, but he trusts me. I know what I'm talking about.

Encountered an anomaly when we went to check out an archive annex one floor down. I haven't got a clue how the observation chamber got relocated into one of the hallways. We detoured around, but not before watching a few cycles. Waste of a minute, but it was nice to see some human beings for a little, even if they do get shot and who knows what happens after the flash. Hope they're okay.

It's weird- I never cared before, but now I really do hope they're okay. Wherever they are.

Guess I'm just more sympathetic now.

This is the sixteenth of the records documenting our attempts to return.

Doctor Piedmont, signing off. Day fifteen. Fifteen rounds remain.

Background noise continues for nearly two seconds before recording ends.

17


If the words "eso… esot-teric containment" mean-n-n-n n-nothing to you, s-s-s-stop… stop listening.

Time passes, about ten seconds. Background vocalizations are consistent with previous recordings. Two individuals exhibit rapid respiration consistent with a state of panic.

This i-is completely irrational. I know it won't act if we d… don't open the door. I KNOW it won't and I KNOW for a FACT that if we DO open the door, it'll-

Piedmont's voice cracks, devolves into hyperventilation for a brief moment before he can get himself under control.

But it WON'T. It WILL and we're FUCKED if it doesn't leave.

I fucking hate cognitohazards. I'd rather run from them upstairs than sit here cowering.

Terger gave me his g-g… gun. To make sure he d… doesn't… waste bullets.

Or himself.

Fourty-three seconds pass; rapid breathing remains consistent with a panic state.

This is the seventeenth of the records documenting our attempts to return.

Doctor Piedmont, signing off. Day sixteen. Fifteen rounds remain.

Background noise continues for nearly two seconds before recording ends.

18


If the words "esoteric containment" mean nothing to you, stop listening.

Time passes, about ten seconds. Background vocalizations are consistent with previous recordings.

It's still there.

Seventeenth record. Day seventeen. Fifteen rounds.

Background noise continues for nearly two seconds before recording ends.

19


If the words "esoteric containment" mean nothing to you, stop listening.

Time passes, about ten seconds. Background vocalizations are consistent with previous recordings.

Still there.

Eighteenth record. Day eighteen. Fifteen rounds.

Background noise continues for nearly two seconds before recording ends.

20


Still there.

Nineteenth day. Nineteenth record. Fifteen bullets.

I just want to go home.

Background noise continues for nearly two seconds before recording ends.

21


Still there. Out of water.

Twentieth. Fifteen bullets.

We're going to die.

Background noise continues for nearly two seconds before recording ends.

22


Still there. Out of food.

Twenty first. Fifteen bullets.

Background noise continues for nearly two seconds before recording ends.

23


Piedmont begins this recording in a tone suggesting triumph bordering on mania; additional voice in the background is laughing in frantic relief.
If the words "esoteric containment" mean nothing to you, stop listening, you lucky son of a bitch.

Time passes, about ten seconds. Background vocalizations are consistent with previous recordings. Laughing subsides to a chuckle, sounds of firearm maintenance can be heard.

The fucking dolls. Whatever's moving them, one must have threatened line of sight on the bastard! He's gone, and we found ourselves to get out of here and get some goddamned water. Had to use the restroom faucets to rinse out and refill the bottles- someone's locked the canteen doors with a rock.

At least that's what I figure's gotta be there. Terger tried to force the door open, but the way he stumbled back so far, looking startled, I didn't let him try more than once more. Said it was hard to reverse, and he winced hard when he kicked it again. Got him away from the door. There's a patch of discolored paint next to the door; pretty sure we can thank the dolls for this. Still, we HAVE food, and it could have been worse- they could have locked OUR door.

This is the- what, twenty second?-

Affirmation is audible.

-twenty second of the records documenting our attempts to return.

Doctor Piedmont, signing off. Day twenty two. Fifteen rounds remain.

Background noise continues for nearly two seconds before recording ends.

24


If the words "esoteric containment" mean nothing to you, stop listening.

Time passes, about ten seconds. Background vocalizations are consistent with previous recordings. Additional audio suggests a second individual engaged in the act of eating.

The annex has been compromised. Contagious typoes-

Secondary individual disputes the definition.

- it might as WELL be typoes, Terger, for all the good a badly-written self-insert fantasy does us. A dozen file cabinets and three PCs ruined. We checked ourselves for any materials that could bring the infection back, left them there. I'm glad I left my coat upstairs today- might have infected our recordings. We haven't lost much, but we'll have to go deeper tomorrow. We've exhausted the options on this floor and one below, and there's another canteen three floors down. We'll locate a safe room before restocking.

This is the twenty third of the records documenting our attempts to return.

Doctor Piedmont, signing off. Day twenty three. Fifteen rounds remain.

Background noise continues for nearly two seconds before recording ends.

25


If the words "esoteric containment" mean nothing to you, stop listening.

Time passes, about ten seconds. Background vocalizations are consistent with previous recordings, though fainter. Additional audio suggests the recording occurs while Piedmont and Terger are in transit on foot.

Annex two floors down from base one was empty, except for a single sheet of… I think it was leather, middle of the room. I didn't let Terger get close, not if that's what I think it is. I think annex is a bad term for a room that's something like a hundred feet on a side, this place could almost be its own archive. Could have been, anyway. There was one file cabinet left, crammed back in a corner, but I think he woulda been pushing awful close to the edge of the jump radius. We can't afford to pick that thing up on anything we're relying on. We'll just keep looking. One more floor to-

A third set of footsteps becomes rapidly audible. Faint, growing static is heard overwhelming the audio. A previously unheard voice calls for someone to 'get out of the way.'

Shit, TERGER! We've g

Audio dissolves into uselessness for six minutes, twenty eight seconds; fluctuations suggests an attempt to record strong, nearby sounds. Recording ends.

25 Cont.


Recording resumes.

-nk you, doctor. Had no idea about the battery leaking. I owe you my thanks. Stay safe.

Christ. Just wanted to get that leaky battery out before it ruined this device. Would have lost our records.

That's terrifying. I don't even know why, they aren't at all necessary to our survival, but recording these keeps me feel… grounded.

Sane, I suppose. Though now I feel guilty for not taking better care of my recorder, so there's that theory out the window.

Anyway. This is the twenty fourth of the records documenting our attempts to return.

Doctor Piedmont, signing off. Day twenty four. Fifteen rounds remain.

Background noise continues for nearly two seconds before recording ends.

26


If the words "esoteric containment" mean nothing to you, stop listening.

Time passes, about ten seconds.

I want to say that the stairwell we approached was flooded, but that's not quite right. Maybe it was, at one point. The corridors one floor down are steel-walled, chambered to seal in an emergency. The one by the stairwell was filled with what looked like basalt. Tons and tons of solid, smooth basalt. Tested it with a dead monitor; broke the rock, left a splash, frozen in stone. No way we get through there.

Another stairwell at the north end of this block. We'll try tomorrow.

This is the twenty fifth of the records documenting our attempts to return.

Doctor Piedmont, signing off. Day twenty five. Fifteen rounds remain.

Secondary individual remarks; volume is insufficient to make out dialogue.

Yeah. I'm tired, too. We'll try to take a break when we make it to the canteen.

Background noise continues for nearly two seconds before recording ends.

27


If the words "esoteric containment" mean nothing to you, stop listening.

Time passes, about ten seconds. Soft breathing nearby; pitch suggests female physiology. Distant, rhythmic footsteps in a stilted pattern.

And so are we three. Terger insists we bring her along. I'm not so sure, but she's only dangerous if we hurt her. So… we won't. I'd be more comfortable without a tagalong, but as long as we're not here more than a month and she doesn't get torn up any… Terger handed over his shoes so she wouldn't step on glass or rubble. I considered suggesting we ask her if she's willing to let us harvest a little venom, but Terger's so keen to have company of SOME kind that's not trying to kill us… not worth it.

Made good progress, at least. We're two floors down. Next floor should have the canteen.

This is the twenty sixth of the records documenting our attempts to return.

Doctor Piedmont, signing off. Day twenty six. Fourteen rounds remain- just nerves. Glad I missed.

Background noise continues for nearly two seconds before recording ends.

28


Strain is evident in the voice of the speaker.

If the words "esoteric containment" mean nothing to you, stop listening.

Time passes, about ten seconds.

I am alone.

Another twelve seconds pass in silence.

A door opened where there had been none before. Terger brought up the gun, finger off the trigger, standard procedure.

I guess she never saw the movies. The curse didn't send him flying. She just… turned him off and left. The woman stayed by his body. I took the gun and left.

I couldn't have taken her out of here anyway.

This is the twenty seventh of the records documenting our attempts to return.

Doctor Piedmont, signing off alone. Day twenty seven. Fourteen rounds remain.

Background noise continues for nearly two seconds before recording ends.

29


If the words "esoteric containment" mean nothing to you, stop listening.

Time passes, about ten seconds.

New base camp. Good place to store supplies- it's extremely defensible. True, it's loud, but anything drawn by the noise is already going to be affected.

Just need to remember to watch my footing. There'll be a lot of blood if I have to play anything.

This is the twenty eighth of the records documenting our attempts to return.

Doctor Piedmont, signing off. Day twenty eight. Fourteen rounds remain.

Background noise continues for nearly two seconds before recording ends.

30


If the words "esoteric containment" mean nothing to you, stop listening.

Time passes, about ten seconds, in which indistinct and apparently amicable discourse occurs in the background between two male subjects, including the speaker.

It's almost amusing, the things of which you can be reminded. If I'd been asked to brief someone else on how to handle this fellow here… I'd have said "don't shoot first. Or at all."

I completely forgot he was backing up our database. It's a new one, but it should work. One-Seven-Eight-Oh. I just need it, an office… and some patience.

This is the twenty ninth of the records documenting our attempts to return.

Doctor Piedmont, signing off. Day twenty nine. Fourteen rounds remain.

Background noise continues for nearly two seconds before recording ends.

XXX


If the words 'esoteric containment' mean nothing to you, stop listening.

Time passes, about ten seconds.

It felt harder to keep going when it was just me. Having Terger around meant I had someone to watch out for. Meant I had to watch my mouth, too- not like he's cleared for all this- but it was motivating. Now… just me.

But that's enough. I'm… almost done. 1780 wasn't too hard to get. It was hard to get to, sure- though some things were just a little… comical. The manhole, for instance. In the middle of a secure facility…

The strangest thing was the IV. Someone had hooked it up to… something. Wires and batteries and plugs. So much power, and it all seemed to do nothing. Maybe it's responsible for all this. I can't tell, really. I haven't got the luxury to sit here and try to unravel all that. It doesn't matter- I've got to get back. I've been too lucky by half; the Cop keeping the Salesman company, the rats- both sorts, the smart ones and the sharp ones, the candy and the fish- Christ, I hate compulsives.

Terger never really thought to ask why I knew so much about all these things. It's not like the database is an open book. You read what you're assigned to, nothing more. Usually. Some assignments require more indepth familiarity.

EC-3 doesn't stand for esoteric containment- but I couldn't very well tell them that. Easier for all of us if they were just working with some researcher. They expect us to know everything, anyway- far easier than explaining.

I've rigged the nameplate at an angle. When I slam this door, it'll break static friction and allow it to slide out of the holder. This room… it's a crapshoot, but it's better than all this.

There wasn't a pop or rush of air or anything. It's like it's always been connected to the room on the other side. I opened it, so… I just need to step through, slam the door. I can feel the bit of metal in my hand, gravid with all the pregnancy of possibility. I know what's on the other side of this door. Time and space relative to a single room that is anything but singular, spread out and away like… forever.

This is the thirtieth of the records documenting my hopefully successful attempt to return.

Doctor Piedmont, signing off. Day forty two. Fourteen rounds remain.

Background noise continues for nearly two seconds before recording ends.


If the words 'esoteric containment' mean nothing to you, stop listening.

Time passes, about ten seconds.

I'm still waiting.

Background noise continues for nearly two seconds before recording ends.


The recording resumes an uncertain amount of time later. There are several days of silent recording of nothing besides the turning of pages, the sounds of two guns- one sidearm and a larger firearm- being disassembled, cleaned and reassembled, and pacing footsteps. After 207 hours, Piedmont speaks. His voice reflects strain, consistent with prolonged solitary confinement.

Nothing runs out here. I haven't run out of time. Or energy. Or gun oil. or battery

A tiny pause, and the note of tension increases in the tone of Piedmont's voice.

Except reading material. I'm out of that, save for the letter. And I'm not going to be reading that. I've read the excerpt. I'm not scared. But it's not the way back.

I can ignore one sheet of paper for as long as I have to.

Speech stops and activity lapses into the aforementioned patterns of behavior. These continue. Despite the limitations of the amount of information that can be stored on the digital recording device, recording continues as above, without pause, during which time audio analysis of the recording shows four vocalized patterns matching Piedmont's readings of the text of Oxford’s Unabridged English Dictionary and three variants of Time Life’s Great Ages of Man: A History of the World’s Cultures, repeating a collective total of 923 times with slight but detectable increase in vocal tremors as time goes on. At 4763 hours and 27 minutes, the door opens, a single pair of footsteps enter the room approaching the recorder and recording ends.


A second voice cuts into the middle of a sentence, apparently intructing Piedmont to "go ahead" with something. Piedmont speaks, notably more stable but significantly more guarded in tone.

If the words "esoteric containment" mean nothing to you, stop listening.

Time passes, about ten seconds, then the second voice speaks, prompting Piedmont to continue.

I'm sitting at a table across from a man I've never met but I've read about. He's told me that we'll meet, later and in a less… tense situation. And he's stated he can get me back when I need to go.

Emphasis on when. There's only so many exit points into our world, so many active instances, and the only one that's not going to result in classification as 1780-2 is…

Jesus. Is that what this whole mess was for? Three people dead in a world that never knew them, and all to get me to one when. Not even ME, but someone who knows what I know.

A short pause.

How do you know what EC actually stands for?

The second voice speaks shortly.

… of course I did.

Goddammit. Every attendant researcher and all of the D-Class have already been killed or incapacitated by the time the instance becomes active? This is accurate?

I don't want to do this, Xyank. Tachyon Control Circuit or not, I'm seriously tempted to just take one of the other doors. Containment or not- do you know what that procedure entails?

A longer pause. Silence on both sides. Then, a heavy sigh.

… no. You wouldn't. Or you'd do it yourself. That's why I'm here.

Another, considerably longer pause, then the sound of a chair moving, someone standing.

Alright. I'll do it. It's not like I don't already know what's involved. Just.

Never thought I'd have to participate.

A series of footsteps, then another in tandem, move away from the recorder. Distantly, Piedmont speaks.

When you're ready.

The door clicks, and immediately the far-off sound of screaming and the nearer sounds of panicked voices fill the room.

See you later, X. You'll have to explain that Tachyon Control Circuit deal some other time. The long way. I'm done with vanishings.

Footsteps proceed away from the recorder, and Piedmont's raised voice covers the sounds of chaos.

No time to panic, people, we've all just been requisitioned by order of the Ethics Committee. I've already been briefed on Procedure 110-Montauk forward and backwards and we've still got time to do this if you shut up and do as you're told. You'll all get amnestics and commendations as soon as we're done but we get one ch-

The door clicks shut and the sounds die instantly. Footsteps, slow and almost ponderous in the wake of Piedmont's departure, approach the recorder. A heavy sigh is heard before the second voice speaks.

I hate saying this, but you can't give him the amnestic. Deny him this experience and he isn't going to be half-ready for what comes down the line. He needs this edge. And he needs this trauma.

We need him a little broken. So don't fix him.

Or we'll just have to do it again.

Background noise continues for nearly two seconds before recording ends.

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