Two Days Prior
"You want The Suit?" the dog asked. "Are you sure?"
"Adams is going to need it," Clef said, "especially if the Coalition starts stepping up their efforts."
Professor Kain Pathos Crow gave a low, angry growl. He slapped his front paw against a button on his console, and the finally-completed Egg Walker folded up into its storage configuration and rolled up the ramp. "You should take her off the Task Force," he said angrily. "She's not ready."
"She's going to be ready, Crow," Clef said. "And she's going to be one of the best assets the Foundation has ever had. Call it a hunch."
"I don't intend to have my most important creation put at risk of destruction on one of your hunches, Clef," Professor Crow retorted. "I spent months… years…"
"I know what you're worried about," Clef interrupted. "But Adams can do it. She just needs that goddamn suit."
Kain Pathos Crow gave his old friend(?) an angry glare. He glided his little hover-platform past a pair of large water tanks, where a couple of white-coated researchers were apparently conferring with a pair of nightmarish sea monsters with long tentacles and glowing spots all over their bodies. "Elliott!" he barked.
"Yes, Kain?" A thirty-something woman stuck her head up from behind a desk where she had apparently been working on a computer. Her eyes were large and surprised looking, and she pushed her glasses up from where they had been sliding down her nose.
"Would you get Dr. Clef the Suit?" Kain asked.
"We're not completely done with…"
"Yeah, we are," Kain said. "We don't need to put on all the markings and numbers. What we have now will suffice."
"Right," Dr. Elliott said. She dashed into a back room, from which the sound of rummaging could soon be heard.
"Isn't that the one who was with Adams and 105 in that stupid bar crawl incident?" Clef asked.
"She was the getaway driver," Professor Crow replied, "and she's a damned good researcher too. Gonna take her away from me too?"
"Not planning on it," Clef said. "The suit should do fine."
"That's not what I meant," Professor Crow said. "They promised me that they'd reactivate Olympia. It's been days and I haven't heard anything else. What gives?"
"A bit impatient, aren't we?" Clef laughed. "Look, I wouldn't worry too much yet. You'll get your girls back soon enough."
Their conversation was interrupted by Dr. Elliott returning with a silver case under one arm and a sleek, black helmet under the other. "Here you go," she said, huffing and puffing. "There are flexible solar panels in the fabric: it should keep it going for most of the time, but you're going to have to plug it in every once in a whi—"
"I'll figure it out," Clef said. "Thanks." He picked up the suitcase and helmet. "Hey, look on the bright side, Crow. If I'm wrong, we'll all probably die, then you can tell me, 'I told you so.'"
"Only if all dogs don't go to heaven," Kain said, deadpan.
"All right, Adams," the voice over the loudspeaker said. "How do you like the suit?"
"I look like a video game character," Adams complained. The suit was form-fitting, and jet black, and a bit shiny, too: supposedly from the flexible photoelectric cells embedded into the fabric. The "sexy spy catsuit" look alone was enough to make Adams cringe, but then there were the faintly glowing bits, and the dark red decorative piping… "What the hell is this thing?"
"Leftovers from an abandoned project from the Omega-Seven era," Clef said. "It's a bit complicated, but think of it as enhanced combat armor."
"Okay," Adams said, raising her hands and clenching her fists. Despite the tight fit, the suit didn't seem to restrict her movements. "Will Alpha-Niner be issued these too?"
"Nope. Just you," Clef said. "Technically, everything in that room is subject to Special Containment Procedures. The Procedures in this case are, 'If Adams breaks or loses them, she's in deep shit.' So take care of them, capisce?"
"Yes, sir," Adams said, putting as much sarcasm as she could into her salute.
Clef chuckled. "All right. We'll start with sensory input. Put on the helmet, close your eyes, and count to ten. By the time you open them, the vision systems should have activated."
Adams slid the helmet on over her head and locked it into place. It fit snugly, as if it were made for her (and it almost certainly was). She followed Clef's instructions and closed her eyes…
Adams opened her eyes.
Something behind her eyes went click.
The world exploded into painful color. The light didn't so much pierce her eyes as barrel through like a juggernaut. Adams staggered, her optic nerves ablaze with an overload of information. She clawed at the faceplate of the featureless black helmet, struggling to get it off, get it off, get it—
"ADAMS." Clef said. His voice was painfully loud. "ADAMS. LISTEN TO ME. FOCUS. CONCENTRATE. CONCENTRATE ON MY VOICE."
She closed her eyes again. Took deep breaths. Tried to drown out the pounding of her terrified heart through force of will. "Too much… too much color!" she gasped. "Can't… can't see…"
"Adams, listen to me! It's feeding information directly into your visual cortex! Everything from gamma rays through infrared! You just need to filter!"
"Don't… know how…" Adams wept as she pounded the visor of her helmet against the concrete floor. The blurring of her tears twisted her vision further, which didn't help her current situation at all. "Can't… can't control…"
"Yes, you can," Clef snapped. "It's just like going from a dark room into a lighted one. Your eyes will change the way they see the light. Your brain will change the way it processes the information. You just need to give it time to get used to it. Open your eyes, Adams. Don't be afraid." His voice took on a sneering, condescending tone. "Or are you just an air-headed office bunny like everyone thinks you are?"
Oh, fuck you, Clef.
Raising her eyelids those few scant millimeters was the most terrifying thing she'd ever done. When she did, she wanted to scream. She didn't do it. She refused to let that smiling asshole see her weakness again.
The explosion of information… didn't quite lessen. More like she grew accustomed to the insane amount of data pouring into her brain. She started picking out the important bits, filtering the junk, disregarding the noise to focus on the data. In a few moments, she was able to stand, breathe, slow her racing heart back into something resembling its normal resting rate.
She looked up at the observation room with its bulletproof window. "Dr. Clef?"
A metallic click. "Yes, Adams?"
"Please don't insult the office assistants again, or I'll report you to our superiors for another round of sensitivity training."
She heard Clef chuckle. "Understood, Adams."
"All right, Adams," Clef said. "Seems like you've gotten the hang of the first part of what the helmet can help you do. Now it's time for the second part."
Up in the observation lounge, the window turned black as a polarizing light filter activated. One of the walls of the test chamber lit up, displaying a swirling pattern of lights.
Adams immediately recognized the distinctive orchid-and-worms pattern of a Berryman-Langford Memetic Hazard. She let out a shriek of surprise and closed her eyes.
"Open your eyes, Adams," Clef ordered.
"Are you fucking insane!?" Adams shouted. "With a live cog-hazard in the same room as me?"
"You will be protected from its harmful effects," Clef said. "Open your eyes."
Adams opened her eyes.
It wasn't that she wasn't being affected by the deadly pattern swirling on the screen. It was more that she could recognize what it was trying to do, and was able to deny it. The image on the wall was trying to tell her heart to stop, but like a child putting her fingers in her ears and yelling loudly, she could somehow drown out that voice.
"Congratulations, Adams," Clef said. "You are now one of the few un-innoculated people to ever see a Berryman-Langford Memetic Kill Agent and live. What's it like?"
"Why don't you clear your windows and see for yourself?"
Clef chuckled. "I think I'll pass. All right. Let's try some audio hazards next, then we're going to repeat yesterday's exercises on ultraviolet and upper EM-spectrum tracking."
"I think I'm starting to get the hang of it," Adams said. "Though I think infrared would be more useful. Not many humans give off ultraviolet or gamma rays."
"I've got my reasons, Adams. I'll explain later. For now, let's continue the lesson…"
"All right, Adams," Clef said. "I think that's enough for the helmet. Now it's time to test the suit."
He pressed a button, and a minigun popped out of a hatch on the other side of the room and opened fire. Adams tumbled back as the force of the bullets knocked her to the ground, pummeling her with supersonic projectiles. "I get it!" she shouted. "The suit's bulletproof, let me up!"
"Of course the suit's bulletproof," Clef said. "That's just the first part of the test."
Another hatch popped open, and the muzzle of a large caliber anti-materiel rifle emerged from a gun port in the wall.
Oh shit, Adams thought.
The rifle fired.
Something behind her eyes went click.
Adams felt the round punch into her left arm. She felt the pain for an instant, then it was as if all the agony just… went away. She knew her arm was hurting. She didn't care.
It was just pain.
The rifle's muzzle turned. The next round hit her in the forehead, then the back of her head hit the ground. She shook her head as stars exploded behind her eyes.
Up above her, a ceiling panel opened up.
Then a grand piano fell on her.
The minigun ceased firing. The rifle pulled back behind the gun port. There was only silence, broken by the sound of hot brass clattering to the concrete floor.
With the sound of snapping piano strings, a fist punched through the splintered wood, followed by another fist, then a head and shoulders.
"All right," Clef said. "Let's review: the suit will stop penetration, although not impact, of rounds up to .50 caliber Browning. It will also stiffen against broader-area impacts. Also, it will enhance your strength and speed up to—"
Half of a shattered piano smashed against the observation deck window.
Clef chuckled. "I guess you found that out already. Next exercise…"
"All right, Adams," Clef said. "Let's talk guns."
"Are you going to shoot me again?" She was still pissed about the piano thing.
"No. Today, you're going to be the one doing the shooting."
One of the walls slid open, revealing a firing range beyond. The walls and ceiling were covered in what appeared to be battleship armor, and the bullet trap was a long, heavily armored cone the length of a football field.
"There's a Mark-7 sidearm on the firing line," Clef said. "Go ahead and load it."
Adams walked to the firing line, picked up the pistol, checked the chamber and magazine. "Should be a piece of cake," she said, as the slide snapped home. "I've always been good at marksmanship."
"I know," Clef said. "But this drill is a bit different. Pop-up targets at unknown ranges. Your goal is to place ten rounds into each. Ready?"
"Ready," Adams said, taking up her firing stance.
The red light lit up, and the speakers let out a buzz. A small white circle, about the width of a baseball, flipped up at the end of a metal arm.
Adams raised the pistol and tracked the target, lining up the front sight with the center of the circle. She exhaled halfway, took up the slack on the trigger—
The target dropped away. The red light flashed and the speakers buzzed.
"Zero points," Clef said. "Next target."
Another target flipped up on the end of a metal arm. Adams brought the weapon around, lined it up…
The target fell away. Red light. Buzz.
"Zero points," Clef said. "Stop thinking. Just do it. Your body's trained. You know the motions. Focus your mind on finding the targets and let your muscle memory do the rest."
Another target flipped up. Adams spun and opened fire. One hit, two hits, th—
The target fell away. "Two points!" Clef said. "You need to fire faster!"
"That's insane!" Adams protested. "You can't get groupings that tight that fast!"
"No. THEY can't get groupings that tight that fast. YOU are wearing a highly sophisticated combat suit. YOUR abilities are far beyond that of any human. YOU can do this. Next target!"
A surge of anger blazed through her blood.
Something behind her eyes went click.
She put the first round into the next target before it had flipped completely into place. The second and third followed just as quickly. The fourth clipped the upper edge of the target, so she pushed down the muzzle of the pistol and put five and six back into the center…
She put two more into the target before it fell away behind the berm.
"Eight points," Clef said. "Not too bad. Next target."
"But I'm out of ammo!" Adams protested.
Red light. Buzz. "Reload faster! Zero points!" Clef said.
Adams swore as she grabbed a magazine from the firing line and slammed it into place.
"… all right, Adams. Take five."
"What the hell happened?" Adams cleared and safed her weapon, then inspected the damage. The trigger hung loosely in the lower receiver, giving no resistance to the touch of her fingertip.
"You pulled the trigger before the bolt returned fully." Clef said. "When you did, you must have broken something in the trigger group. You were literally firing faster than the weapon can cycle."
"The Mark-19 carbine has a cyclic rate of 950 rounds per minute," Adams said.
"Yeah, I know," Clef said. "You're faster."
Adams put the rifle down on the table. "Okay, I'm a little bit freaked out now," she said. "What the hell is this suit, anyway?"
A long pause. "I guess you do deserve an explanation," Clef admitted. "All right. Get changed and meet me outside. It's lunchtime, anyway."
"So," Clef said, rummaging through the picnic basket. "Do you want turkey or beef?"
"Turkey," Adams said. "Hold the hallucinogens."
Clef laughed. "I only did that once, and it was for a seminar."
"The walls were alive and my purse was trying to eat me. And you were screaming about how you were a living God. I have no desire to repeat the experience."
"You handled it better than most," Clef said. "Poor Chang was clawing the tablecloth." He handed one of the two sandwiches to Adams. "All right, down to business. Do you know anything about the Bowe Commission?"
"A little bit. It was before my time."
"Hm. Okay, once upon a time, the Foundation wasn't the international, independent organization it was today." He opened up a little foil packet of mayonnaise and spread it liberally over both halves of his bread. "It needed help, especially funding and manpower. It found both through a man named General Bowe."
"I've heard of him," Adams said. "I don't know much about him, though."
"Well, General Bowe was the head of the U.S. military's secret paranormal research branch," Clef said, spreading potato chips over the upper half of his sandwich. "Cold-War die-hard. He truly believed that the Soviet Union was an empire of evil, godless monsters, the whole deal. They went to the GOC, but the UN wasn't interested in helping the U.S. build up a private arsenal. General Bowe needed to find someone with enough resources to fulfill his needs, but outside the aegis of the United Nations."
"Us?" Adams asked.
"The Foundation," Clef confirmed. He picked the tomatoes out of his sandwich and tossed them onto his sandwich wrapper. "Match made in heaven, right? We get our money and an unlimited supply of convicts. They get their weapons. Hence the research. Hence the increase in field teams and security forces. And especially hence MTF Omega-Seven: a Mobile Task Force made up of humanoid anomalies."
"… except Omega-7 failed," Adams said. "Able killed them all."
"Yeah. Bowe wanted soldiers, but what he got was a psychopath and a teenager. What he needed was someone who was good at killing, but was also controllable. Seventy-Six was good at killing, but he could never be controlled. One-Oh-Five followed orders, but she was never really a killer, no matter how hard they tried to turn her into one. So one of the other researchers came up with a different approach."
"The suit?" Adams asked.
"Pretty much," Clef said. "Instead of turning an anomaly into a soldier, you train up a soldier and give it the power of an anomaly. That suit you're wearing represents the end result of that project."
Adams steepled her fingers as Clef tore open his little packets of salt and pepper and sprinkled them onto his sandwich. "So how come everyone knows about Iris and Able, but no one's ever heard of this suit before?" she asked.
"It was in early prototyping when SCP-076 killed Omega-7 and O5 shut down all weaponization of anomalies." Clef put the other half of his bread on top and pressed down firmly, crunching the potato chips. "Up until I asked Crow to resurrect one of his old projects for you, the suit wasn't completed."
"I've never met Professor Kain Pathos Crow," Adams said thoughtfully. "Maybe I should consult with him regarding improvements to the suit's design."
"Improvements?" Clef scowled. "Why the hell does the suit need improvements?"
"It's not exactly comfortable, for one," Adams said. "Rides up a bit. And it takes forever to put on and take off—"
"Adams?" Clef said. "You focus on keeping SCP-105 alive and being ready to put a bullet in her head if she turns bad. That's your job. My job is dealing with the eggheads and bureaucrats. You want to ask Crow for improvements, you send the requests through me. Capisce?"
"Capisce," Adams said, rolling her eyes.
"All right, Adams," Clef said. "Today we're going to talk about why the entire firing range is armored like a tank."
"I assume it has something to do with this gigantic rifle on the side table?"
"You assume correctly. Pick it up."
Adams hefted the enormous gun. Even with the suit taking most of the weight, the weapon was incredibly unwieldy. "What the hell does this thing fire?"
"20mm cannon shells. The same kind they put in fighter jets."
"What am I going to do with this? Blow up a tank?"
"You could," Clef said, "Or you could fight the Global Occult Coalition."
"I'm listening," Adams said, perking up.
"Good," Clef replied. "A GOC STRIKE trooper in a White Suit is basically a human-sized tank. It can run at speeds upwards of 60 miles per hour. It can shrug off weapons fire up to and sometimes beyond .50 caliber BMG. It can be dropped by parachute from a plane or apport in with the aid of a thaumaturge. And most importantly…" Clef said, tapping a control on his console, "… it's fucking invisible."
Six dummies clad in white armor suits materialized on the firing range. "Jesus!" Adams shouted, recoiling in surprise.
"He's too busy to help you," Clef said. "Now, our invisibility tech isn't as advanced as the GOC's, but this should suffice for training. A White Suit's PAVISE system renders it invisible to infrared and visible light, but they're somewhat visible in the ultraviolet and upper-EM spectrum. None of which matters because they're also shrouded by a cognitohazardous compulsion not to notice them. And if you can get past both of those defenses, you've still got to find a bullet big enough to punch through their armor."
"This suit," Adams said, as understanding dawned. "It makes me just as fast and as strong as a White Suit. The helmet senses ultraviolet and upper-EM and filters out cognitohazards. And the rifle…"
"The rifle is our current best chance to punch through a White Suit's armor without also taking out an entire city block." Clef's voice was low and grim. "I'm not going to lie to you, Adams. Even with all these upgrades, your chances in a one-on-one fight aren't much better than 50%. And STRIKE Teams deploy in squads of eight, plus commander, all in White Suits."
"Those are their heavy hitters, then?"
"Hell, no," Clef said. "The heavy hitters are Orange Suits. But nothing can fight a UHEC, so we're not even going to try. If you see something that looks like a cartoon robot and sounds like a monster? Just fucking run."
"All this isn't exactly doing wonders for my confidence." Adams dug the toe of her boot into the floor. "You're telling me I'm screwed."
"No," Clef said. "I'm telling you that you've got about a one percent chance of taking on a GOC STRIKE Team and winning. Which is better than anyone else in the Foundation's chances, which are a big, fat, stinking zero. Now stand on the line and engage your sensors. I'm going to re-cloak the target. When I say 'go,' you will have about ten seconds to engage and destroy them all."
"Is that all?" Adams asked sarcastically. She inserted a magazine the size of a phone book into her enormous weapon.
"Nope!" A hatch opened, and a .50 caliber machine gun emerged from that damned gun port. "You're going to do it all while getting shot at!"
Adams swore. She ducked behind a concrete barricade as a burst of heavy machine gun fire punched big holes through absolutely everything.
FROM: Assistant Director Alto Clef, Division of Training and Development
TO: O5 Council
RE: Mobile Task Force Tav-666, Operation Elpis.
Asset Samekh has completed familiarization training with Phase 2 equipment. Current rate of integration is estimated at 25%.
As of the writing of this report, amnestic treatments and false-memory constructs continue to hold. Per pre-existing standing orders, Asset Samekh remains unaware of its prior identity.
I will continue to monitor Asset Samekh's progress and provide training and support as needed.
PRIORITY MESSAGE: PALISADE BROKEN MENAGERIE (REPPRI-5PALBM)
AT 1827 HOURS LOCAL TIME, AIAD "GRAPE" DETECTED INTERNET TRAFFIC INDICATING A POSSIBLE BROKEN MENAGERIE (ANOMALOUS THREAT IN WILD) INCIDENT. FOUNDATION AGENT WAS DEPLOYED TO ██████ █████ HOSPITAL IN ████████████,MI. CONFIRMED OCCURANCE OF SCP-008 IN WILD.
MOBILE TASK FORCE BETA-5 ("BABYSITTERS") TO PREPARE FOR IMMEDIATE DEPLOYMENT. ELEMENTS OF MOBILE TASK FORCE ALPHA-9 ("LAST HOPE") and LAMBDA-2 ("NNE") TO ACCOMPANY MTF-B5 AS OBSERVERS.
FROM: O5 Council
TO: Dr. Alto Clef (Commander, Mobile Task Force Tav-666)
RE: Mobile Task Force Tav-666, Operation Elpis.
Asset Resh-2 to be released from storage and returned to Asset Resh. Asset Samekh is to be deployed with Phase 2 equipment as security detail for Asset Resh.
Assets Resh and Samekh will deploy with Mobile Task Force Beta-5 as observers. Let's get Iris some hands-on experience (before we possibly get shut down forever).
It felt oddly right to be back in tactical gear again. The equipment had changed, but its purpose had not: to make sure her most vital gear was carried in a comfortable, but easily reachable, fashion.
Iris tied her boots tightly and tucked the ends of the laces under the tongue of her boot. Adrian had showed her a neat trick that would make sure that the lacing didn't slip and her shoes didn't come untied. It had taken a few tries to remember how it worked, but once she'd gotten it right, the way the boots gripped her ankles felt… proper.
She was pulling a blue long-sleeved shirt over her tank-top when the women's locker room opened, and Mrs. Emma Peel walked in. Except it wasn't Mrs. Emma Peel, it was Adams in a close-fitting black catsuit.
"What the hell are you wearing?" Iris asked.
"Anomalous tech," Adams said. "It's some kind of super-suit." She put down a silver pistol case and a helmet that looked like something straight out of Power Rangers.
"You look like Catwoman," Iris said.
Adams sighed. "I'm gonna get so many stupid comments, aren't I?"
"Look on the bright side," Iris said. "Everyone's going to be so busy staring at you that no one will want to shoot at me."
"Thanks a lot," Adams grumbled. She fished her tactical vest from her locker, pulled out the plate inserts and tossed them onto the floor, handling the heavy ceramic plates as if they were playing cards.
"You're not going to wear the plates?" Iris asked, shrugging into her own armored vest.
"Won't stop anything this damned suit can't," Adams said, pulling the Kevlar on and closing the clasps. "Oh, by the way. I brought you an old friend." She gestured to the pistol case.
She undid the latches on the gun case and opened the cover, slowly and reverently. A Polaroid camera lay within, nestled in pluck foam. She ran a finger over the familiar scuff mark on the bottom left edge.
"We were able to find a few cartridges of original Polaroid film in our stocks," Adams said, strapping her pistol belt around her waist. "Not sure if it'll work after all this time, so we also brought three more of that new stuff. Good?"
"Yeah," Iris said. "We're good." She checked the straps and gave them a brief tug, then slung the camera and its protective case over her shoulder. Feeling that old, familiar weight fall into place at her hip felt good, like coming home after a long trip abroad.
"Hey," Adams said, giving the younger woman a confident grin. "Don't fret. This is gonna be a piece of cake. We'll just sit back and watch the MTF do their thing. Everything goes smoothly, we spend a couple of days up in the mountains looking good in black…"
"Some of us better than others," Iris quipped slyly. "You should seriously find out if you can wear pants over that thing."
"Goddamn it," Adams muttered. "I'm seriously gonna have some words with R&D after we get back…"
PRIORITY MESSAGE: PALISADE BROKEN MENAGERIE (REPPRI-5PALBM)
AT 2200 LOCAL TIME, OPERATION "CAMP GRANADA" COMMENCES.
I saw a clothes horse and he rear up and buck, and they tell me that a man made a vegetable truck