"People of Earth! You may call me Mr. Swackhammer!”
The researcher sat completely still behind his desk. From the top, he was calm, collected, his face set in a perfectly neutral and nonthreatening expression. Below the desk, completely hidden, his sweaty hands were clenched so tightly on top of his trembling legs that the rather short length of straw hidden in the left one was starting to break the skin. He contemplated the bearded man sitting across from him, looking, at the moment, just as calm as he did.
“Dr. Kondraki,” he began cautiously. “I’m sorry, but these pictures you’ve taken of this new SCP, are… uh… less than adequate.” He nodded to three small black and white blobs on the desk. “I’m afraid that, um, that they are not of sufficient quality to be used in documentation.” He fought the urge to throw up his arms.
Kondraki shrugged. “Yeah, sorry about that,” he said simply.
“N-now, I’m not implying that you-,” the researcher paused. “Did… did you say sorry?”
“Yeah, I just don’t know what’s with me lately, but I just don’t seem to be able to get what I usually can out of this camera,” the man said, with a mild look of sheepishness on his face. “I can’t even get 408 to do anything.”
The researcher was having trouble formulating words. There was no shouting, no threats or pointy objects in evidence. Things were not going according to his mental script. It did not feel good, despite the lack of pain. It was as if the entire world was… wrong.
He said, “Er…”
Kondraki looked at him with some concern. “May I go now?” he asked politely. “I’m thinking of requisitioning a new camera and I’d like to get started on the paperwork. You’re looking a bit off-color, there,” he added,
“Oh… ah- I-, uh… huh…” the researcher’s jaw was slack, but he managed to nod his head.
“Thanks. I’ll see you around sometime. Hope you get better.” Dr. Kondraki gave the man a small wave and walked calmly out of the room. The researcher sat still for a moment, overwhelmed by shock, then began to dial the emergency extension on his office’s phone.
Dr. Crow’s claws clicked on the floor as he made his way to his quarters after a long day. He was practically asleep on his feet, but his instincts were still sharp. He caught a flash of something golden in the corner of his eye and whipped around, baring his teeth for a fight.
There was nothing there. Then the whatever it was flashed by again, and he realized that it was his own tail.
He chuckled. Overwork, that’s what it was. Making him see things. He batted at his tail affectionately. It moved out of the way. He tried again, it moved again. With out quite realizing it, he was suddenly chasing his tail.
He thought to himself, I say, this is rather… ha ha, fun. Hah. Hahaha. Hahahahaha! AHAHAHAHAHRRRRRRRRUGH! GRRRUGH! RUGH!
Dr. Gears sat next to his assistant, who was feeling just slightly uncomfortable. Of course, he'd worked with the man for years, but, well, if only he'd just, move or something.
"So, these are the latest batch of test result photos, sir."
Gears shifted in his seat slightly, surprising the other man. "I am aware of that," he said. "Please show them to me."
The assistant obliged. "Here we have D-5584, after several days as the 'rear' of SCP-1545."
Gears swallowed. "All right. The next one, please," he said quickly.
Puzzled, the assistant went on. "Here are the results of SCP-682's latest termination attempt. Apparently SCP-2599 managed to do quite a lot of damage before-"
"Yes, I can see that." Dr. Gears' voice was strained very slightly, and he looked pale. "The next one, please."
The assistant was thoroughly unnerved. This was worse than the doctor's normal neutral expression. This was worrying. He found the next picture.
"H-here, we have some new pictures from SCP-610's-"
Dr. Gears threw up.
Alto Clef lost his grip on the door frame and slammed to the floor of his office. His shotgun had jammed, for the tenth time, and it was probably because of something he'd done.
Something was wrong. The entire day, he had felt… off. He was tripping over his own feet, as well as other things. He was lucky to get his gun to fire at all. Granted, he couldn't hit anything anyway, but the jamming was new. Dr. Clef was worried.
He hurried down to the security room to check the footage of his office. Had somebody finally got to him? Was it a prank, or something more sinister?
He found his office feed for the night before and played it back, but there was nothing. He fast-forwarded. Perhaps it happened when he came in. He waited, the door on the screen opened… and he saw nothing but his face. His perfectly normal, unaltered face.
He scrambled out of the room, beginning to panic. The kitchen. He had to find a kitchen. He couldn't have lost everything.
He made it to the cafeteria kitchen without dying, although there were a few close calls. Everything he needed seemed to be there. Clams, bacon… tomatoes…
The very last one to find out was Dr. Bright.
"And we're sure that the signal is extrasolar?" he asked the agent beside him.
"That's right, sir, but not from any of the usual sources. It's just static so far, but we've managed to limit its access to a closed Foundation network, just to be safe."
Bright scratched his beard (it was red today) absently. "Not just every television," he mused, watching the flickering screen. "Literally every screen capable of transmitting data… Anything going to those lengths has something to say. Good work, agent. Are the countermemetic precautions in place?"
"Keep monitoring the signal, then, and send someone down to External Affairs for a cover story. If anything changes, alert-" he was interrupted by a loud fanfare from the television. The static disappeared to be replaced by a squat green figure in a wine-colored suit. It was nearly spherical in its construction, with pointed ears and a face that only a mother could step on repeatedly with cleats. It was also, both thankfully and worryingly, not human. The alien landscape behind it was obscured by a reddish, atmospheric fog, but jagged peaks appeared to be the central feature.
"People of Earth and beyond!" the apparition boomed, taking a cigar out of its mouth, "You may call me Mr. Swackhammer! As for all of you," and here the face twisted into a horrible grimace that was probably meant to be a smile, "I think that I'll just call you my pals."
The… man paused to take a drag on his cigar and started to stroll leisurely to one side, the camera following. "Anyways, I have some very exciting news to share with you. We here at Moron Mountain have decided to open our doors to species from around the galaxy! That's right, including you!" The creature had stopped taking the cigar out of his mouth while he spoke, opting instead to let it balance on his generous lower lip.
"Now, you may ask yourselves, 'Mr. Swackhammer! Just what is going on to have prompted this miraculous event!' Well, shut up and I'll tell you. We have begun a parkwide renovation, preparing for two thousand new attractions! Oddities, anomalies, impossibilities, the likes of which you have never seen before! Some dangerous! Some wonderful!"
Mr. Swackhammer now stopped moving. "And this is all possible thanks to our new backer, Dr. Wondertainment Incorporated!" The camera moved to the side and zoomed in on a young woman sitting atop an enormous corgi apparently made of ice cream, sleeping in a giant waffle bowl. The woman's grin was wider than her skinny body, and her arm was waving so fast and violently that it was almost invisible. The camera abruptly cut back to Mr. Swackhammer as she was preparing to stick her tongue out at it. "Now, the safety of our patrons is our number one concern here at Moron Mountain," he said with a solemn look, "and that's why you'll be pleased to know that before we reopen our gates to the public, every new attraction will be managed by our expert team of Monstar containment specialists."
And now the camera cut away, showing nothing but the ominous glowing mist. Bright and the agent watched as… things began to emerge from it, dangerously alien and horribly, horribly familiar.
The first creature to show itself did so in a flash of light and butterflies, dissolving into the center of the shot, smiling proudly, defiantly at the world. It was the smile of someone who put their job first, their own enjoyment second, and everything else tenth.
The next alien simply walked out to stand next to the first, wearing a completely deadpan expression that would not waver if he was murdering you.
The next face to appear jumped down from above, the features shifting like sand as steam from a small bowl curled around it. The alien was riding a large green wolf (and why shouldn't there be alien dogs, Bright thought, lightheaded) whose eyes betrayed an intelligence that complimented their natural ferocity.
Finally, one more alien came from the mist. There was nothing remarkable about its face, or its expression. To Bright, it looked as ordinary and expendable as an alien could look. There was, however, one remarkable feature. A red glow, at the base of his neck, without any apparent source.
The commercial went on for a few more seconds, but Bright was no longer paying attention. He reached for the familiar lump of SCP-963 around his neck. It had never moved. He knew it hadn't, but there was a change. The gem in the center had darkened, becoming almost black.
The television went back to static as Bright stared at the amulet. He became aware of the agent saying something.
"Hm? What was that?" he said absently.
"I asked what you would like me to do, sir," the agent replied, clearly nervous.
Bright's turned a thoughtful face to the agent, his eyes becoming unfocused. "You have a gun with you, agent?"
"I, uh, yes sir."
"Give it to me."
"Huh? But, what will that…" the man saw the Senior Staffer's expression and quickly handed over the gun, "of course, sir."
The young man was frightened, and confused, which was why he almost forgot to react as Dr. Bright raised the gun to his temple and pulled the trigger.
The mood was bleak among the four researchers and one dog gathered in Site-19's conference room as the calls poured in.
"That's Site-38 raided!" Gears slammed the phone down. Kondraki was sitting across from him, patting Clef on the back as he took a spoonful of steaming red liquid from the bowl in front of him and shuddered. At the end of the table, Kain was attempting to lick Bright, who was sulking. This may have had something to do with the straitjacket he was wearing.
"I'm surprised they didn't come for us first," said Kondraki. "They obviously know their way around."
"We're a major site. They probably wanted practice before coming in here and wiping us out," Clef piped up.
"Besides," said Gears with a small proud smirk, "this is where we work. A few of the security protocols in place are there to deal with the five of us, specifically."
"I don't see why you can't just let me die," Bright muttered. The mood around the table became uncomfortable.
"We've been over this, Jack," said Kondraki after an awkward pause. "We feel for you, and under any other circumstances we'd be happy to… er… let you go… but it's better for everyone that you be the one who can't die, rather than an alien menace bent on the Foundation's destruction."
"Marginally," said Clef under his breath.
"Yeah? Well, what are we actually going to do to make that happen?" Bright snapped. "You've been doing nothing but complaining since we came in here! What's the plan? Tell me why the hell we haven't just given up yet!"
In the sudden silence, Kondraki raised his hand hesitantly.
"I… actually thought that was obvious?" he said.
"Did you miss the 90's or something?"
"We're going to need…" Clef paused dramatically, "a very large drill."
Clef opted to drive, but after having to double back to Albuquerque three times in a row, Kondraki gently nudged him into the back seat, where he wept softly until he felt better.
The grey, anthropomorphic rabbit chewed thoughtfully on the carrot in his hand that in no way resembled a cigar, nor encouraged children to emulate him through smoking in any legally meaningful way, shape, or form.
"A containment contest?" he said.
"That's right," Kondraki said. He and Gears had been chosen to negotiate with the Looney Toons, with the other three hanging back. Occasionally, there was a bang behind them, which they ignored. "We've set a time and place with the Monstars. Marshall, Carter, and Dark, and the Factory are sponsoring, and donating some anomalies, and we got someone in from Are We Cool Yet to do the catering."
"…For a containment contest… between us and the Monstars…"
Bugs Bunny looked at his friends, who shrugged incredulously. He chewed on his carrot a bit more. "Doc, I hate to tell ya this, but we can't do it."
Gears rushed forward, grabbed Bugs by the chest fur, and rammed him against the empty air where the edge of the screen would be. "Listen, Bunny," he growled, "we kept out of your hair because you were funny and people thought you were fictional. Now we may be in trouble, but don't think that will stop us from making your lives a lot harder."
"Hey, hands off the fur," Bugs said, calmly removing himself from the doctor's grip. "Look, doc, I ain't saying we won't do it. I'm saying we can't. We have no idea how to catch these things, and… no offense, but you guys aren't exactly in a shape to help us." He indicated the three figures that were standing a few feet away. Clef was lying on the ground, Manhattan chowder spilled all over him, covering his face from Kain's slimy oral onslaught. Bright had somehow acquired a shotgun, and was becoming increasingly annoyed as each shot only served to move his mouth into a new, humorous position.
Kondraki sighed. "You're right about that, at least."
Daffy Duck chose this moment to chime in. "C'mon, fellas. Don't you have anybody else? An expert, a loner, a hard-boiled ex-container that doesn't play by the rules? Someone who can mold these lumps of playdough into a lean mean containing machine?"
They thought about it. Gears looked up.
"I think I know the perfect guy for the job."
Once he got there, he could talk normally, but until then, it was one sentence at a time.