He was certain of one thing. There was going to be hell to pay. After what he'd done, there could be no other result.
Dr. Christian Morse shifted in his seat uncomfortably as several men and women filed in and sat in the chairs opposite him. Each of them sat down and cast what seemed like accusatory glances in his direction. "Stay calm," he chanted to himself, grasping the armrests with force.
"You should relax Dr. Morse," the man seated directly across from him said, in a surprisingly soft voice, "No decisions have been made on the appropriateness of a disciplinary hearing." The man was lying. Or being willfully ignorant.
No one, not a site director, and certainly not a project director like himself could get away with an unauthorized decommission. He was going to be crucified, the only thing his bosses needed to figure out were if he'd get out of this with a decent memory, job, or pension.
"Of course," he said, willing himself to relax the death grip he'd inflicted on the armrest, "But if I may ask, what is the point of this inquest then?"
"Consider this a debriefing. You successfully decommissioned SCP-1548. We need to know how, why, and what happened."
"Where should I start?" He had asked the room, though the man in the middle answered for everyone.
"Wherever you want."
"Alright. I guess I can start with my motivations. I started working with SCP-1548 in 1995."
December 23rd, 1995:
Dr. Christian Morse looked up at the security guard, who looked unusually cheerful. The guard carefully looked over the credentials, checking them against his books.
"This says you're a new hire?"
"Yes sir," Morse said, still slightly nervous.
"No need to call me sir. Your credentials check out. You should be looking for Building 12. Take the first left there, then take the next two rights. You'll see the building number out front." The guard handed Morse his security credentials back and waved him on, before heading back into his guard post.
"Thank you, sir," Morse called after the guard as he pulled off.
Dr. Morse drove ahead a bit, noting the somewhat sterile look of the concrete and steel buildings. He followed the guard's directions and found himself outside Building 12. A large placard lined the wall in front of one of the parking spaces, labeled "Christian Morse".
Morse pulled his car in and turned off the engine. He sat there for a moment, glad that he'd showed up early enough to take this in. Inside those doors lay a future he couldn't quite imagine, but he was trying anyway.
He'd had to tell his roommate that this was a government job as part of his cover, but the government shutdown had her incredulous. She couldn't believe his luck, but since she'd been furloughed, they were both happy to have another steady paycheck coming in.
When he'd left that morning she was slouching around the apartment in her pajamas while eating cereal and blasting Hungry Like a Wolf over the stereo. Of course she was beautiful in anything, but he'd never been able to say that.
Maybe, he thought, having a job this important would be good for his self confidence. They'd recruited him before he had even finished college, and they wanted him specifically. Not his much smarter roommate, not his more creative brother. These people had sought him out and now he was here in the belly of the beast.
If this place was the whale, and he was Jonah, then he could take solace in the fact that even today people know the man's name. Being swallowed whole is not always a terrible thing, he thought.
He sighed once before opening the car door. He grabbed his packed lunch and headed inside Building 12.
"Perhaps I misspoke," the man in front of him interrupted, "we've all read your personnel file. We're aware you spent 5 years working with 1548 before you moved onto your current project."
"Right. Sorry. I should still explain what I found while working on the project."
February 8th, 2001:
"I can't believe you thought this would be a prestige posting. You went through all the same security checks I did, right?" his research partner Dr. Lewis Malcolm started laughing loudly.
Morse turned slightly red. "Shut up. You know what it's like. I'd just finished my Astrophysics degree and the stupid fucks seemed like the men in black or something. I thought I was important,"
Dr. Malcolm's smile came back broadly, "Wow. Had you actually seen that movie?"
"Nah, that was before it came out."
"Fair enough." Malcolm copied over some more information from the terminal in front of him. "You hear they're making a sequel?"
"I did. Thus confirming my belief that Hollywood is running out of original ideas."
"Hey. That's not fair! Dungeons and Dragons was pretty good."
"First of all that wasn't original. Second of all you are dead to me."
"Fine. How is Leslie?" Malcolm looked at the terminal and copied more information to a piece of paper.
"Better. The chemo seems to be helping," Morse said, trailing off.
"That's good man. She's gonna beat it again. Easy as pie."
Morse didn't have a response to that. The last two years had been hell. He could've blamed the cancer, but he knew better. Morse wasn't a good boyfriend. He couldn't keep count of the number of doctor's appointments he'd had to miss due to his work. But the work was more important than anything he could ever do for her.
Even the most beautiful girl in the world would be at the mercy of 1548 if the thing decided it wasn't going to wait for 5000 years. So they kept monitoring. Malcolm would receive the coded messages and translate them. Morse would check the signal's blue shift to determine if the thing was accelerating further. Then he'd recheck it. And recheck it again. All day.
He studied the numbers. Buried his head in his work. As the hateful star came closer and closer, the most beautiful girl in his world drifted further and further away. When she came home from the hospital last month, she decided to stay with her parents. Said she didn't think he'd mind.
He did mind. But he was never good with his emotions. He kept it inside. She needed to spend her last weeks with the people who loved her and could show it. He kept his distance, half out of instinct, half out of fear of how he'd react if he had to see her in her final moments. He'd made another promise to come by this evening.
He didn't feel like telling his friend. Malcolm's good mood was part of what kept him sane. There was no way that the truth wouldn't bring his friend down. There was no way that wouldn't make Malcolm look at Morse the way Morse looked at himself in the mirror.
So instead of telling him what was going on, Morse rechecked the blueshift calculations.
"On February 8th 2001, the blueshift calculations changed. 1548 began to accelerate. It should be noted that given the object's capacity for superluminal messaging, we have no reason to believe that the speed of light is any sort of barrier for this thing."
"Your file says that after your findings you were transferred out of the 1548 project?"
Morse nodded, "Yeah. I got kicked upstairs. On the one hand they agreed that the acceleration was a problem, but the vast majority of 1548 staff were of the opinion that the star would adhere to normal physical laws. I disagreed, rather strongly."
"That's how you came to be the project head of SCP-4531?"
August 4th, 2002:
Morse raised his eyebrow, "Just check the numbers again."
"I did," his research assistant protested, "I've found seven fake stars so far. We could turn off 4531, but then someone will notice. Five of them are possible supernova candidates, and we can manipulate the data to get rid of them that way over time. Two are yellow dwarves in the earliest part of their lives. Astronomers would figure that out. These seven are actually the only ones we can confirm anyway. There could be a lot more."
"This doesn't make any sense. Why would the Babylonians create a fake star generator?"
"Dr. Mekem doesn't think this is Babylonian. The carvings suggest that Babylonians definitely found this and then buried it, but the design doesn't seem like their work."
"Alright. Tell her to keep working on it. I'll file the report." Morse looked back down at his desk, and the Research Assistant, at this point used to Morse's habits, left the room, shutting the door on his way out.
Morse stopped, turned and pressed play on the stereo behind him. The tape was old and worn at this point, but he knew a Fleetwood Mac song when he heard it. Little Lies started playing and Morse's pen dropped to the table.
He looked up, raised an eyebrow and hit the intercom button, "Frank, could you get the rest of the team together at 5 o'clock today? I have something to discuss with them."
The man at the center of the table raised his hand to stop Morse, "This was the point where you came up with the plan to decommission 1548?"
"What has the rest of my colleagues questioning your judgement here, is that you didn't tell anyone outside of your team, or even attempt to coordinate with the 1548 team."
"That is not, strictly speaking, entirely true."
March 13th, 2004:
Morse stirred his drink absentmindedly. Leslie had recovered from both the cancer and him. After the break up Malcolm had invited him out for drinks. Though with how he'd left the 1548 team, he didn't feel like talking to his old research partner. 7 months later, he'd called Malcolm up and took him up on the offer.
"Dude, congrats." a voice from behind Morse offered. Morse craned his neck and put his hand out to shake Malcolm's before he sat down. His old friend moved in for a hug instead, before sitting down.
Morse broke the embrace, "Thanks man."
"How'd things turn out with Leslie?"
Morse took a sudden breath, "I'm just trying not to think about it."
"I completely understand. How is the new project… 4531 I think?"
"Yeah. It's pretty cool actually. Still working with stars. Or sort of I guess. We've got this ancient computer interface that manages to fake some of the stars in the sky."
"Yeah. It can create these absolutely enormous screens instantly in space, and then runs these weird video files on them which fake all the data from a star, all from here on earth."
"That's fucking amazing. Why?"
"We think it's was created by someone a long long time ago to complete some constellations."
"First of all that's insane. Second, there's no way I'm cleared to know about this shit."
"Eh it's not a big deal. You're a friend of mine. Besides, I didn't just call to hang out."
Malcolm sighed and gave Morse that look again, "Right, what do you need?"
"I need you to keep me up to date on the blueshift data from 1548."
A silence had descended on the entire room.
"So you lied, then?" his interrogator asked.
"Basically. After incident SCP-1548-A, I didn't feel it was prudent to tell anyone about what I had planned. Me and my team could be kept away from a telescope, but the larger the group of people involved, the less chance of a deception on this scale of working. I told him I needed the data regularly, and secretly, because I thought the two skips might be related to each other."
"How did you justify the secrecy?"
"I told him that if we were wrong, we didn't want 1548 finding out about 4531. Malcolm was already barred as part of his job from working with any telescopes, so I considered a conspiracy of two a valid risk."
A woman three chairs down from the center finally spoke up, "Why don't you tell us what we all came here to find out: how did this all lead to the termination of 1548?"
January 16th, 2004:
"There's a chance no one will see it." Morse's research assistant, Jared Thomas, mused while stirring his coffee.
Morse laughed. "We took the time to create a video file for a month long supernova. If no one sees it, we'll give it a few more tries and then give up on the project."
"What if we got the file conversion wrong?" Jared said, with a hint of fear in his voice.
"Then it shouldn't play at all. We can't go looking ourselves. You know that. The minute anyone on our team goes near a telescope this whole thing is going to be blown open, and we'll probably all lose our jobs." Morse was trying to think of more things to say to buttress his assistant's confidence when another team member barged into his office, without knocking.
"They've got it,"
"The supernova?" Morse asked.
He'd called together his team to congratulate them. It was full of idealistic young men and women, who, with the right push, could accomplish some amazing feats. They'd figured out how to reverse engineer an interface for 4531 from scratch. They'd figured out how to convert an MP4 into a video file the object could play on its giant distant screens, and as of two years ago had managed to create a new screen two lightyears away from earth to play a custom made video file.
That file was modified to perfection, mimicking a supernova over 11 million lightyears away. Terrestrial telescopes and their watchers were fooled, and due to its distance, type, and location in another galaxy, no astronomers would be optimistic about finding the originating star. If there was one problem, it was that the video file was only a couple of months long and was found late in its life.
Still, it'd been found, and it would start to diminish before disappearing completely.
"Today we can celebrate," he said to his team in front of the large computer screen he used for briefings, "Tomorrow we get back to work. We possess the ability to move the heavens. I say we put them to use. Thomas has proposed the creation of two new video files, one of earth, and one of the black background of space. Both on loops. Later this year the hateful star will be passing very close to a black hole called 47-AJK-B."
Morse moved the presentation to the second page, showing the black hole approach. "A slight modification of its trajectory is all that is required here. All of 1548's changes of velocity have required a certain level of ramping up. Our plan is simple: make it appear as though the earth is trying to escape."
Morse pushed another button, displaying a new page. "We will layer two video screens utilizing 4531. Both will materialize about two lightyears from earth. One will follow the solar system's motion, obscuring it from view via 1548's vantage point.
"The other will move in this direction, appearing to continue on a trajectory to quickly escape the galaxy. Either one of two things will occur."
Morse moved the presentation to its last page. "Due to the superluminal communication and apparent observational abilities it possesses, we believe it will immediately notice the changes, and alter course accordingly.
"Alternatively, the screen will simply provide a shield for the earth from 1548's vantage point. While the former is preferable, the latter is an acceptable outcome."
Morse looked at the various team members spread out across the room and turned the lights back on. "Any questions?"
The man at the center of the room appeared to have regained his control of the room. Or perhaps more likely, Morse had stunned them into submission, "How did 1548 respond to the deception?"
"By now you know the rest; it began to change course to follow what it believed was the new trajectory of the Earth, then, once it became apparent that 1548 wasn't going to escape the black hole's gravity well, we deactivated the special programs we'd created for 4531."
The man across from him finished writing in his notebook and looked up.
"I think that's all then. We'll be interviewing all of your staff over the next few days. You can go home, but I wouldn't suggest you go anywhere else until a decision is made about your disciplinary inquest."
"I understand, sir."
Morse was actually more used to staying at the onsite lodging at this point. The apartment was hardly used and it looked it. He walked into the kitchen and made a bowl of cereal. The milk in the refrigerator wasn't any good, so he ate it dry. He grabbed a glass of water and went into his bedroom.
The place was empty; the florescent light in his room barely flickered and the silence was deafening. He stood up, walked to his desk, opened the bottom drawer and pulled out the 80's mix tape he'd made for her almost 20 years ago.
He'd loved her, or at least he told himself he did. Today he couldn't remember her face, and his memory of her quirks had faded as well. She loved 80's fashion and music. He wondered why he never took the time to get to know her better than that. Now he was left alone, loving an incomplete memory.
She'd made him feel alive. Still, he'd learned a long time ago, the good things in his life were fleeting. His girlfriend, his job, the way his friends tried so hard to get close to him, none of that would last forever.
He sat on the edge of his bed and flipped the cassette's case over to look at the song titles.
Duran Duran - Hungry Like A Wolf
Wham! - Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go
Bruce Springstein - Dancing In the Dark
A-Ha - Take on Me
Fleetwood Mac - Little Lies
Buggles - Video Killed the Radio Star
He stopped there. He laughed out loud like a man getting a joke for the very first time and it echoed off the bare walls.