Site Director Hayakawa set a kettle of water on the hotplate and locked his door. He took a final look at his desk and the series of filing cabinets and countertops in his office. Spotless, organized. Gleaming white.
Hayakawa closed the blinds and turned off the fluorescent lights. A hazy afternoon sun crept across his labcoat and his sofa, filtered by the blinds into razor-sharp lines of brightness cutting the cool darkness of his fifteenth-floor workspace. He took off his wire rim glasses and rubbed his eyes, grateful for the momentary reprieve from Site-17's daily business but dreading what he had to do next.
His late afternoon naps had become the stuff of legend among researchers. Experienced staff knew that anything requiring immediate attention had to be submitted to Dr. Hayakawa before 1600 hours, or they were liable to wait for an answer until the next morning. Once, the deputy security chief had even waited to relay a Euclid-level containment breach until 1730 for fear of disturbing the boss' "siesta". This custom was a useful illusion to Hayakawa, however much the reputation that it bestowed irritated him. So much of the appearances of Site-17 and its functions bothered him, even if Overwatch Command knew the true state of affairs. Hayakawa was a practical man, but not without his vanity, and the idea of appearing to condone free interaction between staff and an SCP was an undercurrent of discontent beneath his placid exterior. Nevertheless, the game must be played. The stakes were high indeed.
The kettle started to whistle. Hayakawa unlocked a desk drawer and retrieved a small envelope of green herbs and a small plastic bag containing three pills. He emptied the herbs into a small white cup and poured some of the now-boiling water. He locked the drawer again and waited for the herbs to steep.
He didn't know why the girl troubled him. In his three decades of service time, Hayakawa had seen impossible things do other impossible things to innocent people on many occasions. As an Agent, he had ended many lives in the service of the Foundation. Some were those who had once been friends. He had overseen experiments and authorized containment protocols that would have had him standing before a tribunal in the Hague if the world knew. The girl suffered in containment, but she was hardly alone in that. Few went to the lengths that she did, though.
He shook the three pills from the plastic bag into his hand. He tossed them into his mouth, and washed them down with the entirety of the white cup's contents.
Hayakawa lay on his sofa. Under his breath, he began to recite the mantra.
"Let go to get in."
He began to focus on his breathing, slowing it down and keeping it steady.
"Let go to get in."
Repeated practice and intense discipline allowed him to navigate the drugs. No one really knew if 343 could read minds or not. Hayakawa could not take the chance. He closed his eyes and imagined nothing.
"Let go to get in."
He felt himself floating. He forced his mind back down and calmly repeated his mantra, the words losing all meaning and taking all thought with them. Something deep in his gut clicked. The Foundation manual called this part the "self locking into place," but to Hayakawa it felt more like the self dissipating away into the air. Either way, he was now ready.
He opened his eyes. The edges of his desk shimmered, and the corners throbbed with color where the walls met. Slowly, deliberately, he rose from the sofa. A low, echoing hum was now coming from the ceiling vent over his head. The Advanced Security Protocols liaison had once told him that this particular regimen of drugs made the mind impenetrable to those with extra-sensory capabilities, and that in over 1200 attempts in controlled conditions, not once had a test subject's thoughts been breached. Then as now, the "controlled conditions" caveat troubled Hayakawa. The last word he would use to describe what they faced was "controlled."
A quick check with the detector confirmed that the room was free of unauthorized electronics. Hayakawa snapped open his briefcase and took out a black laptop. As he started it up, he was greeted in turn by the usual retinal scan, thumbprint authorization and voice confirmation. The communication link was established, and he now addressed a video feed of an elderly man, his tailored black suit a stark contrast to his shock of gray hair.
"Things are coming to a head over here, O5-7."
The old man's left eyebrow raised slightly. "I had gathered such from your request this morning for Lambda-19's presence at Site-17. What's new on the ground?"
Hayakawa took a breath. The drugs made high-pressure situations especially tricky. "I've gotten confirmation that 343 finally made contact with a skip. My source says the encounter took place yesterday afternoon, with 105. She's currently being held in the sick bay, in a coma."
O5-7's features darkened. "That certainly is new. Did 343 put her in the coma?"
"No, one of 105's suicide attempts went even further than usual. The chatter on the security networks is that 343 has been telling staff that they had a visit while she was passed out from an intentional overdose."
The Overseer sighed. "We're in a sorry position indeed when we're relying on an anomalous item's arrogance for intelligence gathering. Though I think it's generally a safe calculation when dealing with a spacetime distorter pretending to be God." He ran his hand through his hair and continued. "What are the implications?"
Hayakawa took three breaths this time. "Somehow, 105 has induced some change in herself allowing her to become perceptible, and by extension manipulatable, by 343. We don't know to what extent 343 maintains contact with 105, but we have to assume that 343 knows what 105 can do. And if he knows that-"
"All hell breaks loose. What's your plan?"
"Our hand's been forced. We don't know what 343's combat potential is. We can't even model it for fear of tipping him off. But the risk for a mass containment failure is too great now. We have to act. Lambda-19 has experience with reality benders, and I've drafted about 34 combat scenarios involving the most likely objects to go if 343 wants to make trouble. Not that any of them are going to matter once they engage."
"And if Lambda-19 cannot neutralize 343?"
Hayakawa struggled to preserve his state of mental equlibrium. O5-7, no stranger to Advanced Security Protocols, patiently waited.
Hayakawa massaged his temples. "…then it's the failsafe."
O5-7 shook his head. "We always knew that was a possibility when that thing showed up there in the first place. But it was one I never liked thinking about. And you're prepared to do that?"
"I'd better be. Request permission for deployment of Lambda-19 to the clandestine staging point, arrival at 0600 on the 14th. We move at the first sign of trouble."
"Permission granted. This problem is going to be solved one way or the other, John. Good luck."
The video feed ended abruptly. Hayakawa closed the laptop. Possible outcomes raced through his mind. None of them were good. Even the not-so-bad outcomes relied on the element of surprise. And he was not certain at all that it was possible to surprise 343.
As he sat back on the sofa and waited for the drugs to wear off, he started to smile despite himself. Maybe there were positive outcomes. He would soon be free of an uncontainable skip whose very existence had troubled him since he came to Site-17. And it was quite likely in the soon-to-be-ensuing chaos that 105 would get what she wanted after all.
One way or the other.