In a dark room a bank of monitor screens illuminated a pale face. The rusted brown glow of the video feeds gave Roger Little more color than the sun had cared to give him in the past few months. Half a kilometer north and two hundred meters down, an automated surveillance drone slowly made its way through a series of corroded metal hallways.
It was oddly silent, beyond the whine of computers and the whir of fans. Roger fiddled with his volume before checking the system audio. Nothing but the noises of the drone itself. No groaning, no creaking, no screaming. Just the soft click clack of the drone.
Roger checked the timing. The drone should have reached it by now. He squinted into the glare and overrode the drone. Nothing but flakes of rusted metal scattered across a floor of rusted metal, fallen from the walls and ceiling of rusted metal.
After several minutes of searching, Roger rubbed his temples. He drummed his fingers on his little metal desk and took a few deep breaths. He reached over and picked up the bulky plastic phone sitting on the edge of his work space. He dialed the number and only had to wait a few seconds before it was answered.
"Sir? It's Roger Little, from Surveillance. We may have a problem."
In the cold reaches of space, a satellite continued to do what it had done for over a decade. It hung in the weaker clutches of the Earth's gravity and watched a man wander about.
The man it was watching, however, was doing something a ways away from his status quo. He was running. Through the sweltering heat of the American Southwest in the middle of its summer, over the scorched earth, under a blazing sun, Mister Lost ran.
In hot pursuit was a man with fiery red hair. His black jacket left unbuttoned, it snapped behind him like shadows cast by a fire, the red trimming a much duller affair than his hair. He was gaining on Lost, who continued to make the mistake of looking over his shoulder. Each glance seemed to give the red-haired man more speed.
The eventual collision left Lost sprawled on the ground for a moment before he tried crawling away. The second man was up in a near instant. He brushed himself off and waited a moment before continuing his pursuit. He walked just behind Lost for a time, until he tried to get up. The pursuer kicked his target back onto the ground. This repeated itself for some time, until the red-haired main simply grabbed the man in the green jacket and dragged him in the opposite direction.
They eventually came upon a third man, who had been sitting on a rock outcropping. Blood and rust clung to every inch of his body. With what seemed to be considerable effort, the man stood. He took two steps before falling.
The red man grabbed the rusted man by the shirt and hauled him up onto his shoulder in a way that was quick but not unkind. All the while Mister Lost remained gripped in his opposite hand. After what looked like a satisfied sigh, the red man walked east.
An O5 rolled an unlit cigar back and forth over the sleek top of his desk. In front of him, the video feed on his monitor ended. Beyond that, his secretary stood at attention.
The secretary took a brief glance at his clipboard. "As you can see, sir, the unknown humanoid has captured both 2933 and 920. Further surveillance from multiple sources show it is now heading for one of our facilities."
The Overseer idly flicked the cigar, sending it spinning. "Given the context, I'm guessing it can be safely assumed who the entity is?"
"It's attacked two of the three Little Mister anomalies we don't have properly contained and now seems to be heading for the Site where we contain the other seventeen. Combined with its general appearance, yes. The list's designation number fourteen, Mr. Redd."
"Lock the Site down. We don't know what Redd is capable of. Considering it was able to escape 2933-1 and has been able to transport 920 for over a hundred miles without stopping, it's not something we want to discover first hand in the midst of an active facility."
The secretary nodded and departed for his own desk. Left alone, the Overseer plucked the cigar up and spun it between his fingers. He replayed the submitted videos and quietly thought to himself.
Eventually his secretary returned, and after a brief wait hustled back out with a freshly stamped order. Alone again, O5-4 slid the silver lighter off his desk and thumbed it several times before it sparked.
A group of people sat in a room full of monitors. Not quite like the one previously described, which was merely a one man obligation simply for the principle of the thing. As the door so boldly claimed, reading Site-██1 Security, this was a security station for a Foundation site, full of attentive individuals, with live feeds covering nearly every hallway and the ability to stream feeds from various containment cells if forwarded from the cell's own containment team.
One attentive individual sat up in her chair, more so than her already perfect posture had allowed. She began squinting at one of the monitors showing a feed of a camera deep within the facility, well away from any of the entrances.
Within the frame was a trio of men. One was dressed in a black and red jacket, one in a coat of metal, and one in a green hoodie. The first was carrying the second and dragging the third, the former of which was groaning and screeching like rusted clockwork and the latter was attempting to crawl away despite appearing to be unconscious.
She wondered how they arrived in the site despite it being locked down, when no one else had made any sort of comment. The worker flagged down her superior as quick as she could and explained what she had seen. But when she pointed to the group of monitors of the area the men had just been spotted in, they were nowhere to be seen. Now one of her coworkers, who had been monitoring an entirely different Wing, was reporting about them.
By the time attention arrived on the monitor in question the men were nowhere to be seen, and further examination showed they had disappeared from surveillance entirely.
O5-4 snubbed out his cheap cigar in one hand and thumbed one of the buttons on his monitor with the other. A round woman with sharp eyes snapped into view.
After a smokey exhale the O5 sat up and meshed his fingers together, if only for himself. His outgoing calls only showed a generic silhouette. "Dziekan. I hope all is well."
The Site Director fidgeted. To her credit, it was only slightly. "Not as such, sir. Redd has somehow breached the site with both Lost and Scary. More than that, he broadcasted a video message from somewhere in the facility. And he's made demands."
The weight of the silence from her superior stayed Dziekan. After several seconds O5-4 took a slow breath and said, "Somewhere in the facility?"
"Well. Sir. I don't recognize the area. It appeared to be a medical bay, but it definitely isn't any I'm aware of. With him was a little girl with a swollen stomach. He called her Katherine but we don't have any subjects on file with that name."
The name pressed down on the Overseer's chest. He took slow, deep breaths in an effort to calm himself but every inhale became more and more difficult. On autopilot, his hands opened his cigar case. The lighter sparked on the first flick and he took a deep drag. On exhale he realized what he was doing, but decided he may as well enjoy it while he could. How in the world could Redd have known about 231—
"O5-4? Are you still there?"
He shifted out of his daze, if only slightly. "Dziekan. Right. Yes. What were his demands?"
"For you to personally come in to see him, or he would kill the girl."
The next pull turned half the cigar to ash. "And?"
"Nothing else. Just for you to see him in person."
O5-4 watched his hand shake, smoke from the cigar zigzagging. "What did you tell him?"
"That I would notify you."
"You didn't say anything about that being against protocol, it being unlikely of happening, anything like that?"
"Seemed unwise to do so, given the context."
He finished his cigar. "If we're both alive tomorrow, remind me to give you a pay raise."
He terminated the connection.
One door creaked open only to reveal another. O5-4 stepped through and stared down at the man leaning against the wall, an IV sticking into his arm. Mister Scary looked at him and smiled. The contraction chipped away some rust and blood flowed from the edges of his mouth. Neither said anything as the Overseer stepped past the Little Mister, glanced at the bag of morphine, and went through the second door, this one rusted open.
He considered breaking into a run down the hallway and settled on a stiff jog. Some of the tiles cracked under his feet and when he arrived at the double doors they were open, the joints rusting them in place. "I: 1-7 Os: Ker" was all that was visible of the plaque beside the doors.
Rust began to cling to some of the machinery, but the video feed of SCP-231-7's room was still functioning. Overseer Four steeled himself before looking.
A little girl lay in a hospital bed, her pregnant belly covered by her surgical gown. She seemed quite calm given the circumstances, but given her general situation there likely wasn't much that would upset her anymore.
Next to her bed was a man in a red vest, his jacket draped over the back of his seat. In one hand he held the ankle of a rusting man who was attempting to crawl away, and in the other he held a children's book.
The only sounds in the room were Lost groaning as his body rusted as he scrabbled against the decaying tiles and Redd reading in a warm voice.
O5-4 found the intercom and pressed the button. Katherine winced at the squealing as the system turned on and Redd cocked his head at the noise.
"Alright, Mister Redd. I'm here."
Redd released Lost and slowly turned in his seat to reach into his jacket pocket, removing a piece of paper. He marked his place in the story and shut it, setting the book on the bed. As Redd looked into the camera O5-4 saw flakes of brown and black on Redd's skin, red lightning sparking against it and revealing smooth skin.
Redd smiled. "Please, no need for the 'Mister' formality. We're all friends here. I'm Redd open parenthesis discontinued closed parenthesis. My friends just call me Redd. How are you, Four?"
Geniality was not what O5-4 was expecting. A few moments passed, filled only with the sound of Lost banging on the door, before Redd tilted his head and waved at the camera. O5-4 cleared his throat and said, "I've been better, Redd. You've been causing a lot of problems lately. Now what is it you want?"
Redd shrugged theatrically, splaying his palms. "Sorry about that. Though I do believe I was clear with my video earlier. I'd like to see you, face to face. No cameras, no PA systems. No tricks, no body doubles."
Was that a knife in Redd's hand? No, nothing. A trick of the light, a video oddity.
"Before that, I have one question. How did you get here?"
"The site has been on lockdown and you were able to avoid surveillance for most of your trek despite us having a satellite meant to track Mister Lost. And you somehow not only knew of this Wing, but how to access it."
"Like I said, I walked. As for why I knew, call it insider information. Now, please do get in here."
Again, a glimpse of black in his palm. A jagged shadow that played hell with the lighting of the room.
With great trepidation O5-4 unlocked the blast door and dodged Lost as he darted past. After watching the Little Mister run down the hall, the Overseer stepped into the room. It smelled of disinfectant and lilac, thanks to the small aromatizer next to the bed. He felt his heart hammer away at his throat as he looked to Redd, and clench slightly when the child gave him a little wave.
Redd gestured to the armchair on the opposite side of the bed. Once they were both seated Redd cupped his hands together and sighed.
"So, this is it," Redd said. "The finale. The brief period after a long sentence that drips with the taste of freedom. How long have you been doing this job?"
The Overseer was silent.
Redd smiled. Four would have sworn the overhead lights took on a slightly bloody hue.
"I," Redd finally said, "have been a Little Mister for… what is it, almost twenty years? Something like that. It's been difficult, let me tell you."
Redd looked down at the dagger in his hand, which was now all too real. With something akin to reverence he lifted it up and dragged the shadow across his own throat, cutting so deep his exposed trachea whistled softly. Red ran down his shirt. But it clung at odd places, depicting runes that sat at the edge of the Overseer's memory. Lightning lanced out and into the damage, the blood draining as red sparks healed the wound.
The Little Mister took another breath, "And there's no getting away from it. It won't let me go. As long as this stupid dirt ball keeps spinning, I'm going to be here. Unchanging. Undying. Unable to feel much beyond blinding rage."
He smiled again. "But what if I stopped the spinning? What if I could stop it all? What if I could stop hurting? I'd have to try, right?"
"If that's your intention, why bring me here? Why drag the other two around?"
Redd eventually stirred from his trance. "Here, I want you to have this." He removed the bookmark from its spot and unfolded it before handing it over.
O5-4 stared at the list. One line in particular drew his eye.
14. Mr. Redd (discontinued) ✔
The man stood there for a moment, eyes unfocused. Somewhere in his mind the twentieth slot was filled. He leaned to the right, his hand out as if ready for a cane to take the weight. After a moment he caught his balance and examined his right hand, then the left, flexing and clenching them. He straightened back up and examined the room.
The former body of O5-4 took a breath.
Mister Collector let it out.
Collector reached into his pocket and pulled out a crisp piece of paper, uncrumpled despite its confines.
He let out a small chuckle. The paper between his thumb and middle finger, he snapped, and a bubble formed around the parchment. It floated just above his palm, bounced when he tapped it. He gave the top of the bubble a light pat and it collapsed into itself, away for him to take out later.
"How you feeling?" Redd asked from his seat.
"Better than I have in years," Collector responded. When he spoke, Redd sat up. Squinted. "And yourself?"
"You—!" Redd flew forward, knife in hand.
Collector slapped it away into a bubble, which soared just out of Redd's flailing grasp. Redd drew another from his sleeve and threw it, only for it to be caught in another bubble. Red in the face, Redd swung a fist while simply producing a dagger from his palm. Collector caught the punch and a silky bubble wrapped itself around Redd's hand. He pulled and yanked and was only able to free himself when he released his grip on the third shadow knife.
"How?!" Redd demanded. "You should be dead! The girl said you were dead!"
"I likely am. The me you are speaking to is merely a copy, made prior to Mister Forgetful erasing 'me' from my old body. Whatever was left in the body of Isiah Crawford after that was Doctor Wondertainment, though with a bit too much Factory mixed in for my taste. I suppose I remember all that because Forgetful couldn't get to me as I was merely in potentia. You remember Mister Mad?"
"He was a fucking— were we all just tests? A fucking training ground?"
"Not all of you, no." Mister Collector, née Doctor Wondertainment smiled. It lacked its old rainbow glow but it shined all the same. "Forgetful and Stripes to cover my tracks, the latter's brother to get you all here…" The smile faded. "…Scary. Ahem. Truth be told, this whole Collector concept was done fairly late into the project's development. I mostly wanted to see how things would turn out. How is Isabel doing?"
Redd glowered. "So then why was I made?"
The old man narrowed the eyes that weren't really his. "Hmm. You were a gamble, I suppose. Of course, I made a grave error— as they say, always bet on black."
Redd grabbed Collector by the collar. "Do you think this is a fucking joke? That I am somehow funny?"
"Not as such. My apologies, I was trying to lighten the mood. What would you like me to say? That you were a defect? That I condensed a power that was much more destructive than I could have imagined and pumped it into some young man's veins? I tried to change you, but you just wouldn't take much. So Redd you became."
Redd released his grip, his face expressionless. "So I'm a mistake."
Collector straightened his tie. "I would more say… an unfortunate surprise. But who doesn't like surprises?"
"Ha…" Redd reeled back, smiling. It took another few seconds for his face to move again. "I'll show you a surprise."
"And what's that?"
The grin in Redd's mouth was almost as sharp as the knives in Collector's bubbles. "That would be telling, dear father. Can't spoil the surprise."
Redd sidled next to the child's bed and smiled down at her. Katherine smiled back up at him, her gaze occasionally edging toward the other Mister. Redd sat down, the impact bouncing the book up and off of the bed. A chuckle left him as he bent over to get it.
Redd set the book down in the center of the bed. He traced out a curved knife on the cover. A spark of red followed his fingertip, outlining the weapon. Once completed the red flickered and was filled with black. Redd slipped the knife off the book as one would a playing card and held it for Collector to see. When Redd turned it so that the blade faced Collector, it appeared to merely be a wispy black line flickering in the light.
"Are you ready?" Redd asked Katherine in a soft voice.
The child took a few breaths. "Are you sure you can? I don't want Him getting hurt."
Redd twirled the knife in one hand and brushed back her hair with the other. "These people may have locked him away, but I just so happen to have the key."
With trembling fingers she lifted up her gown to expose her belly. Brands marked the swollen skin, dull and dark. They crackled like coal when Redd touched them. Katherine laid flat and squeezed her eyes shut.
The twisted scalpel slipped into her, the blade so fine she didn't wince. But as Redd ran the knife across her, she began to scream. The runes on her skin sizzled as Redd cut through them, vapor rising into the air. Within the girl, red and purple pulsed and writhed, her womb mangled and distended. It squished and squelched as her yelling became racking sobs.
All the while, Collector stood impassively at the foot of the bed. He had seen as bad, caused worse, but a twinge of guilt struck him as he thought of Sweetie. Hopefully she would at least speak to him when he found her. Collector stirred from his thoughts when Redd cleared his throat, knife hanging over the mess.
"Don't lose focus, old man. You're about to witness the birth of a new era. Or, at least, the death of this one."
The knife dropped.
Rather than cut or tear into the tissue, the dagger simply sank into it. Black into a mottled red. But as it was swallowed, a pinprick of bright red showed itself. There was a moment of stillness, even within the girl, as the shadows cast across her intestines swirled to the red.
The room was suddenly all too full. The smell of iron was nearly palpable, a loud ripping sound the only thing accompanying Katherine's now-resumed screams. Hardened flesh that matched the color of a dying sun dripped with blood and placenta. It pressed everywhere within the room, on the walls, under the bed, even within the inhabitants. The ceiling began to crack, and then the tearing sound intensified enough to drown out the sobs.
The ceiling exploded. The earth and concrete above it was obliterated as the thing rose, level after level was leveled by the growing expanse. It grew as it rose, each rising floor destroyed in a greater capacity. Eventually Site-██ was exposed to the open air, where dark clouds were beat about by a pair of reverse wings. Eleven mouths creaked open to take their first breaths.
Foundation personnel stared up in slack-jaw awe. At a distance, civilians who could spot at least the crown of horns began to panic. Down in the medical room, the trio remained. A thin umbilical cord connecting Katherine to her son. Redd cackled and pointed the monstrosity out to the spent child. Collector tapped the side of his head and a bubble formed around it.
The Seventh Son spoke. Clouds broke and the sky cracked under the weight of his words. The air itself tasted of blood. All those within the range of His mighty voice felt crimson run out their ears, with the exception of a single man standing in the center of it all. His bubble vibrated rainbows against the onslaught, but held.
"Do you see?!" Redd yelled, none hearing him over the din. He touched the blood coming from his ear and showed Collector. "It's over! I can finally be over!"
Once the bubble stopped shaking, Collector popped it. The world was silent, waiting for the Son's next words. He took the umbilical cord in his hand and proffered it to Redd. A crack of a smile broke Redd's face. From nowhere he produced another dagger and with no amount of ceremony separated mother and child.
Knowing this, the Seventh Son drew another breath. When He spoke again, His words fell on deaf ears. The air around him shimmered slightly, reflecting a rainbow in places.
Collector lowered his hand from where he had touched the Scarlet King's spawn. Something stuck to his hand, which he wiped off on the bed sheet. He cleared his throat and adjusted his tie again.
After a moment he turned to Redd, a small smile on his lips. "I'm so sorry, I'm afraid I couldn't hear you over all the noise. What were you saying?"
Redd said nothing. He did nothing, for a short time. Then his eye twitched. He looked at the shimmer of the bubble around the Seventh Son, at the stain on the bed sheet. Bony palms dug into his eyes as he tried to rub whatever nonsense was clouding his vision. When he looked again, the scene was the same.
"…No," Redd finally said, a full sword in his hand. He slashed at the bubble, the blade digging into the film. Then it flew out of his hand as the bubble pushed back. "No."
Collector watched Redd attack the bubble over and over again with a variety of shadow weapons. After a dozen or so weapons were embedded in the wall behind him, Redd slashed at his own hands and thrust the scarlet lightning into the bubble. It did nothing but catch the light.
"No!" Redd repeated, turning on Collector. "No."
"Sorry, is this distracting you?" Collector said. He raised a palm and snatched away the Seventh Son, now the size of a newt contained within the ball in the Little Mister's hand. "I'll put it away."
Redd watched his savior vanish with a whimsical pop! Mouth agape, he turned to his Queen. She couldn't look back, her eyes glazed over. Her breaths came in short, ragged bursts. Redd ground his teeth together and turned back to Collector.
With a mouth full of blood and darkness, Redd yelled, "No!"
He stumbled forward, knife in hand without the usual motion. It buried itself in Collector's chest.
"No!" Redd screamed, spraying blood in Collector's face. He pulled the knife out of his brother/father and continued stabbing him. "No. No! NO!"
Blood flew from the knife with each stab. Droplets froze in midair, catching other sprays and sloshing together into hovering bubbles of blood. Color drained from Collector's face as Redd's gained more and more.
"No…" Redd whispered, losing breath. His arm fell, opening a large gash across Collector's stomach. The knife fell and disintegrated, merging with the shadow cast by the last blood orb. A tear droplet met it. "No…"
Collector/Isiah hugged his brother/son. Redd sobbed against the offered shoulder. When the cries weakened in strength, Collector led Redd back to his seat. Redd fell into it and wrapped himself in his jacket. With a flick of his wrist Collector brought the crimson orbs into himself. By the time he finished collecting what shadow weapons remained he regained his color, though he moved slowly. He went about pop!ing the armaments away save for one. He took it out of its bubble and sat on the arm of the chair, between Redd and Katherine.
"I can't say this is how I envisioned the family reunion," Collector mused. "But I think I can afford you at least one gift."
Redd almost laughed. "What could you possibly give me?"
"Less give." Collector tapped Redd's forehead. "More take."
Redd blinked. He stared at the swirling hate bubbled in front of him. He winced when it vanished with a light tap from Collector. Emptiness filled him. Wonderful, calming emptiness. Tranquil, simple serenity.
Redd felt where Collector had prodded him. "It… it's gone?"
"Simply somewhere else."
Redd nearly sprang from his chair. "The girl! You could… take whatever they did to her out? Make her right?"
"I don't believe they made her wrong," Collector said, turning his gaze to Katherine. "If the Scarlet King could enter this world without humanity's help, he would have done it already. She chose this life for him. There is nothing for me to take from her, except…"
The black dagger seemed to try to catch the light in his hand.
"At least let me do it," Redd urged.
"I didn't wash your hands of blood just for you to dirty them again, Redd," Collector replied. "What's a few more drops on mine?"
He was silent for a moment, and then Redd said, "I don't think I really want that name anymore."
He closed his eyes. The roiling red sea of his mind was now a calm blue. "I'm thinking Bluee."
"With two E's."
Collector wheezed a laugh. "So be it. Excuse me one moment, Bluee."
It was over quick. Bluee found it hard to look at her, so he covered her up.
"So… what now?" Bluee asked.
"Now you enter one of the Foundation's little boxes, like your siblings," Collector said.
"What? That's it?" Bluee stood. "No, that isn't fair, it can't just end like-"
Collector held up a hand, and Bluee went silent. Collector reached into his pocket slowly, like the old man he looked to be. "You may be free of the Scarlet King's branding, but not of Wondertainment's. I'm in the body of a Foundation Overseer now. We have to act our parts."
Collector finally retrieved the paper he had pulled from his pocket earlier. He offered it to Bluee, who took it gingerly.
Wow! You've found them all and became Mr. Collector!!
But the fun isn't over yet, because now a whole new set of Misters will soon be in development, brought to you by our own Ms. Heir!
00. Mr. Collector ✔
01. Mr. Chameleon ✔
02. Mr. Headless ✔
03. Mr. Laugh ✔
04. Mr. Forgetful ✔
05. Mr. Shapey ✔
06. Mr. Soap ✔
07. Mr. Hungry ✔
08. Mr. Brass ✔
09. Mr. Hot ✔
10. Ms. Sweetie ✔
11. Mr. Life and Mr. Death ✔
12. Mr. Fish ✔
13. Mr. Moon ✔
14. Mr. Redd (discontinued) ✔
15. Mr. Money ✔
16. Mr. Lost ✔
17. Mr. Lie ✔
18. Mr. Mad ✔
19. Mr. Scary ✔
20. Mr. Stripes ✔
Bluee made a double take.
But the fun isn't over yet, because now a whole new set of Misters will soon be in development, brought to you by our own Ms. Heir!
Bluee looked up.
Collector's smile had more strength than the rest of his body combined. "Because we're not done yet."