ΩK
rating: +124+x

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"Umm… Mrs. Michaels?"

"Yes?"

"I believe the doctor would like to, um, show you something."

Joyce Michaels' father was sat up in his hospital bed for the first time in months. The heartbeat monitor next to his bed cried a steady tone — it had been disconnected.

"Who are you?" the man asked.

He was finally awake, though perhaps not lucid.

Joyce turned to the nurse. "What happened?"

The nurse fumbled with his words. "We shut off the life support just now — 07:02, that's, 14:02 GMT. It didn't… nothing changed."

Joyce's lungs burned. Her heart felt slow. This can't be real.


07:32, half an hour later. Joyce was in the hospital lobby. The doctors had told her to go wait while they worked out what had happened.

A television in the corner of the room was tuned to the news. It wasn't just her dad. It was everyone. In the past half hour, life had continued, uninterrupted by death for the first time in forever. No one had died. Not even animals.

The camera was focused on some boy who'd slapped a mosquito on his arm. Amongst its remains, what was left of it still writhed, trying to fly away.

The presenter was smiling. 'A miracle', she called it. Joyce couldn't manage a smile — the only thing on her mind was the amount of work that lay ahead.

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"Hey, Joyce."

She quickly finished typing up her message and hit 'Send' before looking up to see who'd come into her office. She smiled when she saw that it was Darryl Lloyd, a researcher with whom she'd worked previously. "Hey, Darryl. What brings you down here?"

"I just got assigned to a new project and wanted to come say goodbye. What're you up to?"

"I just sent an email to the Site Director asking for a transfer, actually."

"Can I see it?"

"Sure."

To: Site Director Fletcher

From: Dr. Joyce Michaels

Subject: Omega-K research request

Hi Tom,

I'd like to request to be on the team researching Omega-K. Not only is it in my field, but it's very much a personal matter to me.

I've worked with the analytical teams for SCP-2679 and SCP-3138, both of which required me to determine the cause of death for anomalous corpses. While I'm more than aware that Omega-K won't involve any dead bodies, I feel that being part of the research team is something that fits my expertise very well.

Many thanks.

Joyce

"No spelling mistakes, nice," Darryl commented, his head hovering over Joyce's shoulder as he scanned the text. "Are you sure you know him well enough to call him 'Tom'? I think you should go a little more formal."

Joyce dismissed the notion with a wave of her hand. "It's fine. We've spoken… at least three times. I've sent it now, anyway."

Darryl sighed in mock exasperation. "You're too late, by the way. Emily Young's already claimed the project — it's numbered SCP-3984."

"You couldn't have told me that already?"

"Hey, not my fault you couldn't wait to send the email."

"Fair enough. How did she get to it so quickly, anyway?"

"Seemed like she claimed it literally minutes after it happened. Don't ask me how she managed it."

Joyce shrugged. "I guess she does work fast. How do you know this stuff, anyway?"

"I'm on her research team."

"Oh, come on now, that's not fair. Do you think you can get me a place?"

Darryl laughed gently. "I'm not sure that I can. She was keen on having a very small team."

"Shame." Joyce sighed. "Look, I actually have to head to a meeting in a few minutes, so I don't really have time to chat."

"You know…" Darryl began, his voice trailing off.

Joyce looked up at him. A long moment passed. "What?"

"…it's funny how it's the Rapture, but my neighbors are still out mowing their lawn like it's any other Sunday."

"Rapture? Who's calling it the Rapture?"

"Uh, I think some hippies on the news started it to raise awareness for the growing population or something. Spread over the internet."

"Right. Sorry, what was your point?"

"I just find it funny how this is a K-class scenario and all, but the mundane day-to-day stuff just carries on."

Joyce laughed gently, just enough to tell Darryl that she'd acknowledged his joke but didn't find it funny. He smiled, rapped his knuckle twice against her office door, and closed it behind him on his way out.

She checked her email again. Two new messages — one to her work address, one to her personal address.

To: Dr. Joyce Michaels

From: Site Director Fletcher

Subject: RE: Omega-K research request

Dr. Michaels,

ΩK is a personal matter for everyone in the Foundation. It's a personal matter for everyone in the world, no less.

That being said, the reason I can't allow you to research ΩK is because it's already been claimed. Dr. Emily Young has taken the project and picked her own staff to assist her — a skeleton crew, I might add. I'd suggest you pass along your request to her.

I should mention that she's made it very clear that the purpose of research into ΩK should be to discover its limit, not its origin, and I'm inclined to agree.

I'd recommend you do something more useful with your time. The bugs should be a huge problem by now, perhaps you can find out why they're not.

Hoping you're well,

Site Director Thomas Fletcher

To: joycemichaels79@gmail.com

From: administrative@newstarthospital.org

Subject: Regarding upcoming discharge

Dear Joyce,

On account of budget constraints and increasing hospital membership, the New Start Hospital regrets to inform you that your relative, George Michaels, will be discharged from the hospital on the 15th.

As Mr Michaels is no longer in a terminal condition, we trust that this news will only bear a minor inconvenience.

Be sure to let one of our staff know if you need assistance transporting Mr Michaels to your home.

Regards,

New Start Hospital

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A long, thin speleothem of spittle drooled gently from her father's mouth. Joyce took a piece of tissue and gently dabbed it away. His eyes, seeing but probably not understanding, were fixed on the television screen.

The television showed, in silence, the inauguration of Jonathan Narsimmes as president of the United States. The election had been a landslide. Narsimmes' manifesto was neither left-wing nor right-wing — he simply had a solution, which is what everyone wanted to hear.

Three sharp knocks on the front door woke Joyce from her mental haze. Her eyes drifted hazily from the television — which was turned on but muted — to the door. She rose from her seat and made her way over to the source of the noise. She took a quick look through the peephole and saw someone she faintly recognised from years ago, a face she could barely remember and certainly didn't know by name.

She opened the door and there stood someone dressed in the green uniform of South Cheyenne Point, an assisted living facility a few hours' drive away. It was where Tony, Joyce's brother, worked — if you believed what the Foundation told people who didn't need to know better. Joyce knew the truth, of course, but the fresh-faced twenty-something who was stood at the door clearly had a script to deliver.

"I'm real sorry, Miss Michaels." he began. "I-I hate to have to be the one to tell ya, but Anthony's dead. He passed away peacefully—"

"How old's that script, kid?" Joyce asked, tired eyes boring down into him. "No one's died for a year and a half."

He stuttered, fumbled on his words. He didn't have a backup plan. "I haven't had to do this in quite a while, sorry, ma'am."

"You are Foundation, right? Not civilian?"

"Yes, ma'am."

"You know that I'm also Foundation?"

"N-no, ma'am. But I do now."

"Then you should know that I know that my brother's been dead for quite a while."

"I'm real sorry, ma'am," the boy mumbled. He was doing his best. "I guess that's better than finding out now?"

A quick glare silenced him. "It's not."

"I'm sorry. Wh-when did he die, if you don't mind me asking?"

"Ten days before everything went to shit. Ten fucking days. If he'd've taken a holiday or something he'd be alive today."

"I'm sorry for your loss."

"You know," Joyce continued — now that she'd started talking, she couldn't stop. "I was told he was a good man. A great agent. One of the best. I was told he saved countless lives, but they never told me how."

Joyce stepped to the side, letting the boy look into the room, letting him see the silent television and the elderly man who sat opposite to it, watching intently, probably not even aware that he couldn't hear anything.

"That's my dad," she continued. "I look after him these days. He's supposed to be dead. Hospitalized for months — he was going to die that very day, you know. He kept his life, just like everyone else, but his memory is long gone."

Tears began to form slowly in her eyes. As she blinked rapidly to force them back, she was grateful that she was facing away from the boy, that he didn't see.

She turned back to him. "One survived, but lost his mind. The other died. It should have been the other way round, but life doesn't work out the way you want it to, huh? So how come my brother's died again?"

The boy stuttered. He didn't have a response for this. It was supposed to be a quick visit. "I'm sorry, ma'am. It must've been a mistake. I'll… I'll… Y'know, we can maybe do something about your father. Look after him for you. That way you-you can maybe even come back to the Foundation, have a little more time on your hands."

"I'll think about it," Joyce said, and then she gently shut the door over the boy's face. She took a seat next to her father. He asked who the boy was, but she didn't answer. He wouldn't remember asking by the time she'd finished speaking.

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Joyce sat at her desk, compiling the report that she'd been asked to make. A list of anomalies, both in containment and otherwise, and any changes that occurred to them as a result of ΩK.

She stared at the list, her five most recent entries — the ones she'd finished today — staring back.

SCP Post-ΩK Behavior Post-ΩK Classification
SCP-1440 SCP-1440 entered a nearby township and dwelled there for a week without causing an anomalously formed disaster. The Foundation proceeded to capture SCP-1440 for containment at a nearby site. Euclid, pending further reclassification as Neutralized
SCP-2935 The Foundation is no longer able to access SCP-2935; its entrance now leads to a non-anomalous tunnel system. Neutralized
SCP-2718 System bug making entry inaccessible is now gone. Entry was empty. Possibly unrelated. Reassigned
Declassified Anomaly A315 A315 no longer displays anomalous properties. Neutralized
SCP-2339 Population number has continued to increase into the millions. Now capable of simulating upwards of 20 symphonies simultaneously. Euclid

Three sharp knocks on her office door diverted her attention from her work.

"Come in," she called.

The door opened and Darryl Lloyd burst inside. He looked a little dishevelled, his hair not quite in place, a little red in the cheeks.

"Joyce," he began, slightly breathless, "Young just tried to kill herself. I know that you've worked with her previously, I… I just wanted to let you know."

"Emily Young?"

"Emily, yeah."

Joyce closed the document she'd been working on and rose a hand to idly scratch the side of her neck.

"Weren't you both working with 3984 directly?" she asked.

"We were. You'd've thought that she of all people would know the consequences."

"What's her current condition?"

"I got here as soon as I could. She's being taken to medical right now. If I had to give a prognosis, I'd say brain damage at the very least."

"How bad?"

"Bad."

Joyce pressed both hands to her face and let out a long, quiet moan. If Darryl heard, he didn't comment.

A long moment passed. Darryl broke the silence.

"I'm sorry, Joyce," he began, "were you two close?"

Joyce lowered her hands from her face. She took a sharp breath in, and exhaled it slowly.

"No. My brother worked with her, though."

Darryl nodded. He understood.

"Can you let someone know that I'll be taking over 3984?"

"Are you sure?"

"Yeah, I'm sure. I wanted to originally, remember? I'll write up the post-incident report and everything, just leave it to me. I want to see Emily first, though."

Darryl shook his head sympathetically. "Of course, I'll take you there now."

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"Hi, is this the home of a Miss Joyce Michaels?"

The woman at the door had hair dyed a deep purple, made into curls that bounced around her shoulders. Her smile, painted a bright red, was big and felt genuine.

"Yeah, that's me."

"Good to meet you! My name is Emma Preston, I'm working with the Societal Census Program and I'm here to ask you a few questions. Can you spare fifteen minutes?"

"Oh, I've heard about you guys. Didn't you find something weird happening in Florida, or something?"

The woman shrugged, a wry smile on the her face. "I'm sorry, I wouldn't know about that. I just ask the questions. Do you mind if I come inside?"

With no excuse readily available, Joyce waved her inside. Preston curtseyed and let herself into the lounge. The two sat on either end of the long couch.

"You are Joyce Michaels?"

"I am."

"Can I have your age and gender?"

"I'm fifty-one. And I'm female, but I'm hoping you knew that."

Preston laughed gently. "Hey, I'm not one to judge."

She spent another moment writing in her notepad before looking back up at Joyce.

"May I ask if you have any living immediate family?"

"Uh, sure." Joyce took a moment to think, and saw that Preston was already writing even though she hadn't said anything yet. "My dad, George, is eighty-three, he lives in an assisted living complex. My brother Eric is forty-eight, though I don't know where he's living at the minute."

"Have you visited your dad recently?"

"I— uh, that's a little personal? No, not recently."

Preston looked up from her notepad. "I'm sorry. Is that everyone?"

"That's everyone."

"Thank you, Joyce. May I ask if you're expecting a child, or if you know anyone who is?"

"I'm not, and I don't. I'm pretty sure we're not allowed to, these days?"

Preston nodded. "You are, but only if the pregnancy is registered, which you have to declare a few weeks in advance. And then they can deny it — I think it's hideous, personally, but it's the law. Sorry for asking — this is what the Census is for, after all."

Sure it is. "That's no problem. Blame Narsimmes."

"Of course. May I ask about any lifestyle changes you've had since the Rapture?"

"The Rapture? Oh, you mean omega-kay."

Preston tilted her head to the side slightly, her hair swinging to match. "I mean, since people stopped dying."

"Yeah, that. Uh… I guess not a lot, really. What kind of information are you looking for?"

Preston smiled. "As much as you're okay with sharing. For example, have your living arrangements changed at all?"

"Yeah, sure. I quit my job a few years back to take care of my dad, who would've otherwise, y'know. Eventually he got moved into assisted living and I was given my old job back. I still work there. Huh, I guess my arrangements haven't changed at all."

"Where do you work, out of interest?"

"At the minute, just general admin for the Foundation. I used to have a more hands-on role, but it got too much. I stepped down from that a few months ago."

"The Foundation?"

"You know, the, uh…"

It occurred to Joyce that Emma Preston might not know what the Foundation was, despite being employed by one of its fronts. Joyce had been talking to a civilian this whole time.

"…the, uh, Manna Charitable Foundation. We're… a charity."

"Of course, my apologies! Would you say your organisation's work has changed much since the Rapture?"

"It's…"

Joyce had never worked with the Manna Charitable Foundation, and had no clue what they really did. She decided to wing it.

"…it's gotten a lot harder. Taking care of the homeless is already difficult enough, and in recent years, so many more people are forced to live that life. We've been doing our best to take care of as many as we can, and we'll keep doing so, but… it's hard, you know? Every day when I walk into work I can feel the weight of those people who depend on me, who depend on us. And I feel like this is my place in the world, this is where I belong. I'm just grateful that so many people are still happy to donate their money to us, to help however they can."

As she spoke, her bullshit was punctuated by Preston's perfectly-timed expressions of sympathy and approval. Joyce sighed. She'd have to make a phone call to get her census entry expunged.

"You mentioned you used to have a more hands-on role?"

"In the soup kitchen. I burned my hands, so I don't work there anymore."

Preston nodded solemnly, and began to stand up. "Well, thank you for your time, Miss Michaels, I have more than enough to be working with, and a good many other people to get to today!"

"That's no problem. Have a nice evening, Ms. Preston."

"You too, Miss Michaels. Make sure you visit your dad soon."

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"Hey, dad."

"Hello, have we met?"

It was the same conversation every time they saw each other. Every time, it was torture. In some ways, though, it was a blessing — it had been over a year since Joyce had visited her father, and her guilt was suppressed by the knowledge that he didn't even remember who she was.

"I have a New Year's present for you."

She held out a small box — one that had once held a wedding ring. The same box that he had given to Joyce's mother so many years ago. She'd found it, by pure chance, a few months ago. She was hoping that he'd remember it, that feeling its blue velvet cover would bring something back. The best she could hope for was a fond tear in his eye.

Her dad might not even remember what New Year's is, but he knew what a gift was. He took the box slowly. His hands, weak and covered with dark veins, shook gently as he struggled to open it.

Joyce reached forward and opened for him. The box opened slowly, its internal spring trying to hold itself closed, until it popped open with a mufflied click.

Inside was a single pill.

"What's this?" he barked, his voice gruff and coarse.

"It's… medicine," she told him, "it'll make the pain go away."

"I'm not in any pain."

I am. "It'll stop you from forgetting things."

"I haven't forgotten anything."

"Dad, you don't even know who I am."

"Of course I do," he said, and for the first time since Joyce had arrived he looked up and made eye contact with her.

Joyce had forgotten what that felt like. Her dad's gaze, sharp and intelligent, boring down into her. He smiled, not with his mouth, but with the friendly wrinkles around his eyes. It all came flooding back, all the precious memories she'd hidden away and locked up tight: how he'd taught her to cook, all those long cycling trips, the conversations they'd had together. It felt like her dad was back, and for a moment, she dared to hope that he finally remembered his daughter.

"You're my nurse," he finished.

Of course. Her dad was long gone.

Joyce looked down at the pill in the ring box. She was putting her job on the line to bring her father some peace.

Perhaps if he understood just what this was, how hard it had been for Joyce to get.

"You know, Dad," she began, "this pill was very hard to find. It's made by a company called Marshall, Carter and Dark, and they call this little pill 'Hypnotraline'. It's very expensive." Far, far more expensive than I could ever hope to afford.

She moved a little closer, her father's eyes watching intently. "I actually stole this. We — the Foundation, that's where I work — intercepted a shipment of hundreds of these pills, and by pure luck I managed to steal one just for you."

She moved her father's hand onto the pill, keen not to touch it herself, just in case. "It's really important that you… I want you to take this, Dad. It's for your own good."

She didn't tell him that the pill was the result of a collaboration between MC&D and Prometheus Laboratories, as far as the Foundation could tell, and the two corporations had swapped research as and when was it was profitable for both. There was no telling what Prometheus Labs had gotten out of the deal, as only MC&D had a product to show for it.

Perhaps if her father knew all of this, then he'd take the pill. Perhaps, if he knew it was a sleeping pill that put you into a sleep so deep you'd never wake up, then he'd take it.

He didn't, and Joyce was no monster.

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You are old. You are sick. Perhaps you're simply tired.

Tired of life. But we all know that there's no end in sight.

But who needs an end, when we can have a fresh beginning?

Why be you, when you can be new?

Prometheus Laboratories. Make the change, today.

The advertisement had finished ten minutes ago, but its message still echoed in Joyce's mind. Prometheus Labs were literally offering the ability to swap your entire body with another — and somehow, not a single person in the Foundation had been aware of it before the official announcement. 110-Montauk hadn't left any casualties, but the clean-up had taken up a lot of resources.

Joyce had been tasked with writing the report on what Prometheus were doing and how they'd managed to fly beneath the radar for so long. Her work was slow, though — not only was there very limited information to research (most of which came directly from Prometheus' advertising), but she was concerned that is was too late — that by the time they had any semblance of a plan to oppose the company, people would already be flocking to get their surgery done.

Before long, the news might even reveal that the surgery actually worked, and by then, it would be way out of the Foundation's hands.

Three sharp knocks on her office door diverted her attention.

"Come in," she called.

The door opened and Ardal Rogers, captain of one of the Site's security teams — Joyce couldn't remember which one exactly — partially stepped into the room.

"Dr. Michaels. Sorry to disturb you, but an interrogee is requesting your presence."

"An interrogee?"

"Yes, ma'am. We found her trying to access a classified document — the file for 3984, in fact."

"I haven't touched that for years. No-one has. Why would she want that?"

"We don't know, ma'am. We're hoping she'll be a little more open if she's allowed to talk to you."

Joyce nodded. "Very well. Take me to her."


She wasn't being kept in squalor, with each wrist strung to a wall and blood dripping from her mouth from being beaten by guards. Instead, she was sat in a wooden chair, handcuffed to a metal ring on the left side of a table. She looked fairly healthy, if you ignored the scars around her neck and the red stain on her shirt.

Her head was bowed slightly, but she kept strict eye contact as Joyce entered the interrogation chamber. She took a seat on the opposite side of the table. Neither said a word for a long moment.

She smiled, his eyes wide and empty. "You're looking old."

"I was told that you attempted to access the documentation for SCP-3984."

"I did."

"And that you specifically requested my presence."

"I did."

"Why?"

The woman leaned forward a little. "Do you remember me?"

"No."

"It's been a long time. Sixteen years?"

"You're older than sixteen. I could see you being fifty."

"Sixteen years since you stitched my head back onto my body."

It all came back. 3984, every D-Class who Young got her hands on, the fates that befell them. They were all still alive. One had come back.

"She beheaded you."

Her smile grew wider. "You remember me."

"I'm sorry." Joyce started. Words came back to her, words that she'd been planning to say to her but had never been given the chance. "I'm so sorry you had to go through that. Eight years in a freezer—I, I'm—"

She nodded, but too quickly — it was more like a nervous tic. "It changes you. But you survive."

"D-11424. That was your designation. What was your name?"

A look of confusion passed over her face, like she didn't know the word, or perhaps the answer, but it was gone in an instant. "It doesn't matter."

"Why did you want to talk to me specifically?"

"Young was trying to hide something. I knew it, I know it, I found the evidence."

Of course she was trying to hide something. She killed handfuls of D-Class, real living people who had to take the torture she inflicted and carry with them forever. "If you've read the file, you know as well as me that she tried to—"

"Do you know what Project Dammerung is, doctor?"

"What?"

"Project Dammerung. Does it ring a bell?"

Joyce thought back. The word did ring a bell, though she couldn't remember where from. "I don't recognise the name."

"It existed. I know it. There's a link, a link to it in SCP-3984. A reference. But I couldn't get through it."

"I was the lead researcher for 3984 for years, I would know if there were something like that there."

"Of course you wouldn't be able to see it. It was buried! Hidden, deep beneath. Level 5 access only. Young, Young put it there."

She spoke too quickly, spit forming around her mouth. She reached her free right hand up to wipe it away.

Joyce knew that she could be right. If there were such a link, it was very possible that it could have been hidden from her.

Joyce turned towards the door. "I think we're done here."

"No, no!" she cried, stretching forward with her free hand, panicked eyes staring up at Joyce. "Tell me then, doctor, tell me why research into omega-kay was forbidden."

"Because there's no point." But there was no point in any of the tests we did for 3984. A guard's voice echoed through the door, barking some command.

"Promise me you'll look into it."

"No." I will.

The door swung open and Joyce was pushed aside. A guard grabbed the old D-11424 and forced her into her seat. Another grabbed Joyce, more gently, and led her outside the chamber. The door swung shut behind her with a metallic clang.

Ardal Rogers placed his hand on Joyce's shoulder. "I'm sorry you had to go through that, ma'am. Forget what she said. We'll take care of her."

"It's no problem," Joyce replied, but her voice was distant. D-11424 could be right.

Before she could look into that, though, she had a report on Prometheus Labs to finish.

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