"Ladies, gentlemen, and other assorted individuals. The time has come for us to die."
A great noise erupted from the assembled members of the Shark Punching Center. Some in the audience had known of these plans for quite some time, but to the majority, the announcement came as a shock. Question after question was hurled at the speaker on stage, who remained silent until the room calmed down. There would be time to answer all of them, but for now, everyone needed a few moments to vent and get everything out of their systems.
After several minutes of disorder and shouting, the room gradually grew still, all eyes fixed on the speaker, hoping he would provide some answer to this perceived madness.
"Now, as you all know," the speaker began, straightening his tie out, "we have all solemnly sworn to defend the Earth from the constant threat it faces in the form of the shark menace. Every day, hundreds of us go out into the field, and punch sharks in the face, risking life and limb so that no family has to be torn apart by a great white, so that no basking shark can ever threaten the international security of any country. We've had a good run at it, and under ideal circumstances, we would continue our operations far into the future." He paused, then sighed deeply. "But unfortunately, circumstances are far from ideal right now. We are under constant threat, and for once, it comes not in the form of a scaly, fanged monster from the depths of the ocean. Rather, it comes from the organization known as the SCP Foundation."
A few curses were muttered in the audience, accompanied by several shaking fists. "You are all of course familiar with the way they came to possess a transcript of our orientation program. At first, we thought nothing of it: who cares if they knew? It's not like they had any good reason to stop us at the time. So we let it slide, and for a short period of time, we coexisted peacefully. They contained their anomalous objects and we punched our sharks.
"But after a time, it became apparent that we could not exist completely parallel to one another. We started pushing at the boundaries, infiltrating their operations. We managed to gate crash their Halloween party, establish our own website that was highly similar to theirs, and even stole away a few of their contained objects to further our ability to punch sharks. It was our most successful period, both in terms of achieving our goal and financial success."
Again, the orator stopped and adjusted his tie, coughing slightly as he did so. "But then the Foundation started pushing back. They captured our top field agent. They started working to keep us out of their sites. They even attempted to stop several of our best men from punching sharks! And then there's this," he said, standing up straighter and brandishing a handful of papers, "this… thing they put out just the other day. You all saw it yesterday, I know you did. A mockery of all our hard work and sacrifice. They view us as little more than a joke - no, not even that anymore. We were a joke to them in the past. Now we're just a tired old gag."
The speaker stepped out from behind the podium and placed his hands behind his back. "But then, I suppose we've been a joke since the beginning."
Another cacophony of noise rose up from the crowd, outraged at the merest hint that their sacred mission could be considered anything close to a joke. "Everyone, please, please listen!" the orator cried, raising his hands up and desperately trying to calm the crowd down. "I do not mean to imply that our mission is a joke, or that the act of punching sharks is an unworthy cause! Please, listen!"
The assembled members eventually calmed down enough to take their places and listen once again, though many still seethed at the words they had just heard.
"Lately, I have been consulting the psychic shark we keep hidden away in the high-security wing. You are all very much aware of the danger in punching this one, due to its tendency to damage the very fabric of reality whenever it is struck. However, while working to find some way of saving ourselves, I punched him straight between the eyes, and I saw. I saw that this world was not always as it has been. There was a time when things the Foundation considers to be… 'goofy,'" he said, finger-quoting as sardonically as he could, "were very much the norm. It was a time when a man could punch all the sharks he wanted and protect mankind from the shark threat, and the Foundation would not find fault in this at all.
"But there came a time when the nature of the universe changed. Some greater power, far beyond our comprehension, reshaped the fabric of reality, so that much of the 'goofy' elements in the universe were purged. Everything was serious now, and off-the-wall concepts were very much forbidden.
"And then we came into existence. Despite our forty-year history, from a relative standpoint, the Shark Punching Center hasn't even been around for two years." Another cacophony rose up in the crowd. "If you don't believe me, you can go punch the psychic shark yourselves!" the orator snapped, his patience for these outbursts growing ever thinner. "Now please, listen to me!" There was, however, no calming the assembled members. All the speaker could do was wait for the chaos to die down. It took nearly twenty minutes, but eventually, order was restored.
"Look. I may have gone a bit far in bringing that up. But it is ultimately beside the point. Regardless of why the Foundation views us the way they do, whether it be because we exist in a world where men and women like us are not meant to exist, or if they are simply sick of us, the fact remains that they view us as a joke. And if this," he brandished the papers again, "is any indication, we are the kind of joke that they will find a way to get rid of. But they will not do it fast.
"We face a slow, horrible death, people. The Foundation will attempt to gradually drain away our resources, undermine our membership, and undo everything we have wrought. And again, this will not be swift; this will be a long, painful, drawn-out process. They can't be bothered to do it in one go; every time they need something to kick around a little, they'll drag us up and destroy us a little more, and then a little more, and then a little more, until there's nothing left. The death of the Shark Punching Center, on the terms of the SCP Foundation, will be drawn-out, humiliating, and painful. Is there anyone here who wants to see our mighty organization brought low in such a manner?"
Having heard of their potential fate, few in the crowd could bring themselves to say they did. One solitary voice rose up from the sea of faces: "So what do we do?"
The speaker sighed deeply. "We destroy ourselves. Not entirely, mind you, not entirely. We have a few select field agents chosen to continue our mission in secret. They will wander the oceans of the world, doing whatever they can to protect those threatened by sharks. But they are never to form another organization like us - it will only be them, and them alone, who defend the world. As for the rest of us, we are to vanish off the face of the Earth, and our bases are to be destroyed, all four of them. By the end of the day, it will be as if the Shark Punching Center never existed."
A few people in the room laughed to themselves. A few people sobbed into their hands. Most were silent. A sense of inevitability had descended upon the room, leaving the majority unable to react in any significant manner. The speaker sighed one last time.
"However, this does not mean we are going to go quietly." Ears perked up all across the room. "We will not be attacking the SCP Foundation, or doing some grand suicide mission, or anything of that sort. But we will not be going quietly. If you will look in the lockers stationed around this room, you will find enough scuba gear and boxing gloves to fit every person in this room. You are to don them, and brace yourselves for a sudden increase in the amount of water in the room. Shortly afterwards, every shark in this facility will be released, leaving us with more than enough shark faces to punch. With any luck, we will punch like we have never punched before.
"There will not be any survivors. Despite our great skills, the fact of the matter is that the sharks far outnumber us, and will slaughter every last one of us. Upon the death of every non-shark living thing in the facility, the water is to be drained, leaving the sharks to die horrible, suffocating deaths. The bases will then blow, leaving behind no evidence we ever existed. And that, my friends, will be the end of the Shark Punching Center. One final glorious round of flying fists and bleeding scales. A fitting swan song for our group."
A great excitement had gripped those assembled. In spite of their oncoming demise, none in the room could deny that there was any other proper way to go than this. They had punched sharks together for years, and if they had to go out, then they would go out swinging. Scuba gear was tightened, boxing gloves were strapped on, and bodies were braced. The brave men and women who had diligently protected the world from the underwater menace were ready to die, unsung heroes, but heroes nonetheless.
Seeing that the last scuba mask had been fastened on tight, the speaker smiled - for the courage of the men and women before him, and for the years of glory they had lived for. "Does everybody remember the techniques you learned from The Art of Punching Sharks?" A great cry of confirmation echoed off the walls. "What is our motto?"
"To search, punch, and conquer!"
"Then release the sharks."
So ended the Shark Punching Center.