"Do you have children, Ekaterina?"
SCP-1041, dressed in loose-fitting gray and black striped clothes, picked another file out of the cabinet and rifled through it, her flashlight scanning quickly, assessing its relative importance against its weight and size. "Experimentation in Extraction of Compound H13-White: Trial Series VII." Into the briefcase it went. She hurriedly moved on to the next shelf.
"No. That would be a grave error." Nechayeva's French was flawless, her aptitude for language one of the reasons for her initial assignment. She looked again at the clock mounted above the door, undoing and redoing the cuff of her thick woolen coat while she waited for her companion to finish. She was ill at ease in civilian attire.
SCP-1041 paused briefly. A grave error. For her, or for everyone? The unspoken distinction was troubling. She continued to fill the briefcase with the most relevant files available. The whole project would never fit in such a small case, but enough points of reference would allow Petrov's people to reconstruct it, in time. "I don't know if I have any children. I mean, I've claimed to be a mother sometimes, but there's never been any proof. I hope for my sake I am. I hope for anyone else's sake that I'm not."
"That doesn't matter right now."
"Hm. I suppose you're right." It was easy to forget how young this woman was, sometimes. The briefcase was almost full. She would only be able to fit the abstract of the paper detailing the final findings. The older woman slid the report out of the case, and undid the clasps binding the pages together. "Where will I be tomorrow, I wonder. I haven't had to think about that for quite some time."
"They shouldn't be here for another eighteen hours. We've repositioned most of our people to Novosibirsk. Once I secure the exit route, you'll be coming with me out of here."
SCP-1041 paused as she considered the plan once more. "Have you had any news of Dr. Geissler?"
The younger woman's face hardened. Lines furrowed around her mouth. "It's better to think of him as dead." SCP-1041's flashlight briefly shone on Nechayeva's steel teeth as she spoke. Despite herself, the older woman felt stabs of regret when she thought of the Foundation researcher. Dr. Geissler had always been likely to come to a violent end, considering where he had come from and what he had begun. But they had all been a part of it, willingly, enabling both Soviet and Foundation scientists to make great leaps of understanding in the terrifying new field they helped create. The older woman had logged a total of four days and eighteen hours of work on Dr. Geissler's project; yet she felt deeply responsible for its ultimate result. And for Geissler.
Right now, though, she was right, she thought. Far better to think of the doctor as being dead. Other thoughts were intolerable at the moment. Nepheshology had been born at Site-7; their job now was to make sure it did not die here. Or worse.
"You have what's required?" asked Nechayeva, nodding to the briefcase.
SCP-1041 paused, shoving the last of the documentation into the case and snapping it shut. "I hope so. We have fifteen minutes at most before the sentries check my block again, we have to hurry."
The two women left the file room, entering a dark hallway. All personnel were focused on maintaining the perimeter and keeping those anomalies that were an immediate threat on lockdown. Even GRU-P didn't have the staff at present to post guards in the research wing. The Foundation operatives at Site-7 had fought dearly to keep control, surprised as they were. The new masters of Site-7 were still awaiting replacements from Moscow for the men they had lost in the operation.
The older woman led the way to the service corridor in the back, where the boiler equipment was kept. In the years she had spent as a mandatory guest of the Foundation, security had never been relaxed. She didn't remember wishing to escape at any point, especially when Dr. Geissler had asked her to participate in his work. But the guard complaining at shift change about how damned drafty it was in the boiler room, that had seemed like something useful to remember at the time. Nechayeva's people at KGB, eager to strike back at their rivals within the Soviet government, had been able to make good use of the information.
Quickly, they twisted their way among the service corridors, steam ducts and wiring snaking over their heads, the hum of the machinery that powered Site-7 growing increasingly louder as they ventured into the heart of the facility. Coming to what looked like a dead end behind three large pipes, SCP-1041 saw a plain access door, next to where the pipes appeared to come through the wall. A thin sheet of frigid air seeped around the frame of the door, a small wind that sliced cleanly through the bare warmth of her clothing, chilling her immediately despite the boiler room's oppressive heat.
Nechayeva produced what looked like a tiny screwdriver and several thin lengths of wire from an inner pocket in her coat. She crouched down level to the doorknob, inserting her tools and levering delicately inside the lock. Within seconds, she heard a small metallic catch, and the door was open.
In her mind, SCP-1041 went back over the route they had taken, repeatedly, hoping that she would not lose her way while rushing back to her cell before inspection. She had never had illusions about the Foundation, or what their capabilities were if they were threatened. But from what she had been told, GRU-P was a different matter. If she were found out, she would need to take the pill that Nechayeva had given her, immediately, and hope that it killed her quickly enough. Even with the fate that surely awaited her if she were captured alive, she wondered if she would be able to do it.
Nechayeva touched her arm, looking her in the eyes. "We haven't forgotten your service." The young KGB operative's face was stony. "I'll be back here for you. We'll meet again."
SCP-1041 squeezed Nechayeva's hand in reply, and then handed the briefcase containing the work of years over to her. "Please know, no matter who I am when you see me again, what I say…I'm grateful for what you have done."
Nechayeva nodded. She opened the access door, cold air now buffeting them, propelled down the exterior service corridor by unknown forces. She drew her service pistol from under her coat, looking into the dimly lit path ahead.
They nodded to each other. Though Nechayeva's permanent frown remained on her face, SCP-1041 noticed now that the younger woman's eyes were not as hard as the rest of her. They still provided a little insight. The future was less certain than the young operative was presenting.
"Do zavtra," said Nechayeva. She moved now into the corridor, disappearing into the winding pathway in just a few seconds, briefcase in one hand, pistol in the other. The service door closed behind her.
SCP-1041 started running back through the boiler room. Matters were out of her hands now.