Stratagem
rating: +66+x

“Tater tots? That’s what they give us for lunch? Tater tots?” Dr. Harold Breaker looked down at the brownish nuggets on his plate, alongside the chicken patty sandwich with its flimsy pickles and watery ketchup, next to the rubbery macaroni and cheese. The pudding, however, was unblemished by the evils of cafeteria cost-cutting. For now at least.

“Since when is the Foundation an elementary school?”

Taking his tray with him, Dr. Breaker set off aimlessly into the sea of cafeteria tables and hungry researchers.

Breaker was black, in his mid fifties, with thinning salt-and-pepper hair and an unobtrusive mustache. He was a reasonably large man in both height and width, though his college football days were long behind him and a gym membership forced upon him by his wife was in his discernable future.

Breaker sat down at the end of one of the long, metal tables at the less-occupied corner of the cafeteria. He wasn’t in the mood for socializing with large numbers of people. The researcher took a bite of patchily-cooked chicken sandwich.

“Hey there, Breaker.”

Breaker looked up to see Dr. Ryan Melbourne standing on the opposite side of the table, holding a tray of similar low-grade foodstuffs. Melbourne was tall and lanky, around thirty years of age, with a bushy head of sandy hair, a scar on his chin, and a good tan from his recent Caribbean vacation. He had rolled up his shirt sleeves, revealing the tattoo of Chinese lettering on the inside of his right arm. The phrase translated into English as “Were you expecting something profound?”

“Hey,” Breaker said flatly as the younger doctor sat down. “Haven’t seen you around recently.”

“Yeah, the department’s been a in a fuss all week. The supervisor’s worried about a memetic hazard outbreak, so she’s been having us checked four times a day.”

“What happened? And why did I not hear about this?”

“Three researchers all acted exactly the same during the monthly psychological review. Started singing a bastardized version of “The Immigrant Song” with a very interesting use of the word ‘defenestrate’, among other things.”

“And who were the researchers?” Breaker could see where this story was going.

“Drs. Jameson, Ulrich, and Ferrier.”

Breaker slapped the table and laughed.

“I knew it! I saw that one coming a mile away.”

“It’s a miracle they haven’t been demoted to D-class by now. They can’t go a week without getting Supervisor Bricket’s panties in a bunch.”

“In more ways than one.”

“True that.” Melbourne swallowed a forkful of macaroni. “Moving to a completely different subject, I have fifty bucks riding on a bet and I need an answer from you.”

Breaker sighed. Melbourne’s gambling habit was the bane of everyone who knew him, as he would inevitably ask them for a bailout. Unfortunately, the doctor could see no applicable escape routes from the cafeteria.

“Go ahead,” he said, dreading what came next.

“Okay, let’s say, hypothetically, that 008 broke containment. Widespread infection, no chance of containment. What do you do?”

Breaker didn’t expect something so… serious.

“Lock down the facility, switch to backup generators. Use drones to recon the situation outside. If it’s truly an XC or XK-class scenario, we fall back to basics: our facilities can be easily defended; we have food, weapons, water, and medical supplies already. If we’re in for the long haul, we’ll ration and improvise as necessary. If there are any SCPs that would cause a danger to us or a drain on limited resources, we destroy them. All the others we use to our advantage.”

Melbourne smiled.

“By the book, but I’ll count that as a zombie plan. And they said you didn’t have one. That’s fifty bucks in my pocket right there.”

“A zombie plan? That’s what you call it?”

“Or SCP-008 contingency plan, if you want.”

“I really don’t care, actually.” Breaker went back to his sandwich.

“Aw, come on. Ask me.”

“Fine.” He glared at the other researcher. “What’s your zombie plan?”

“You’re doing it wrong! Ask me something different.”

Breaker stroked his chin.

“Okay…you’re stuck in a room with 173.”

“I believe not blinking is the first order of business. So long as I can keep one eye open, I’ll run backwards out the emergency exit and do it fast.”

“Fair enough. That’s really the only thing to do.”

“My turn. 705 takes over the break room.”

“Are you kidding? They wouldn’t stand a chance against my five-year-old nephew.”

“Send him in; it would be hilarious. Maybe we can introduce them to 387 afterwards.”

“Don’t let the administration hear that one. 239 wakes up and decides she’s not too fond of us.”

“Flee to Canada.”

Breaker gave Melbourne a “you’re not taking this seriously, I take it?” look.

“What? You’re the serious one, not me. 055 breaks containment.”

“What?”

“Exactly.”

“Whatever. We don’t even have a fifty-five, I don’t think. Mass outbreak of 217.”

Melbourne crossed his arms and put on an irked face.

“You’re expecting me to say something stupid like “Wait for Rights to have another kid”, right? Well, you’re wrong, and your idea is stupid. Pick something that we haven’t already dealt with.”

“Fine. How do you like this one? Video of 597 gets on the internet.”

“Oh my God.” Melbourne’s eyes went wide. “Do you even know what you suggest?”

“You’re probably going to tell me.”

“Damn straight I am! Look, most hormone-crazed guys only know the philosophy of “moar boobs”. The revelation that there is such a thing as “too much boobs” would send the ‘net into spiraling anarchy followed by implosion.”

“That’s… You know what, I’m not going to say anything."

“It’s for the best.”

There was an awkward pause.

“804 starts spinning out of control,” Breaker said.

“Try to remember my Boy Scout training? Either that or smash it with a rock, I don’t know. You’re supposed to be having fun with this and you are definitely not having fun with this. Look, here’s how you do it: 231-7 gives birth, coinciding with 682 breaking containment, 076-2 turning against the Foundation, and something super-bad coming out of 354. The combined sum of these causes a containment breach on almost every other Keter-level item we have.”

With Melbourne’s trump card played, Breaker was quiet. Nearly half a minute passed, the researcher not moving more than a twitch. Then, a smug smile spread across his face.

“You’re smiling like that again, Breaker.” Melbourne pointed his fork at him. “Good things do not happen when you have that smile.”

“That’s the easiest one yet.”

“How so? Suicide’s against the rules.”

“Still easy. First, I activate the emergency termination protocol for the D-class barracks, then I run in there and apply 447 on each and every dead body in there.”

Melbourne’s expression was priceless.

“What the fuck is that supposed to do?”

“Well, since things really couldn’t get any worse, the normally catastrophic effect of letting 447 near so many dead bodies will cancel everything else out.” Breaker stood up, taking his empty tray with him. “Or it’d just destroy the universe. Either way it’d be an improvement, and I believe that is game over, my friend.”

|Hub|

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