Django Bridge woke up.
He'd been sleeping in his office, face down at his desk. The glow of his screensaver and the yellow of a lamp outside were casting a mixture of warm and cool light in the room.
He sat up and cracked his neck, glanced at his monitor. Red. That was not good.
Bridge was the system administrator. He was also the only Level 4 on the site. He swiveled out from behind his desk to hustle over to the server room downstairs. Who in the hell was screwing around with the servers at 3 in the morning? Only persons with Clearance Level 3 or higher were even allowed into the server room.
As he made his way downstairs and through the halls, Bridge unclipped the radio from his belt and made a call. Site-66 was, originally, a coal power plant, abandoned for about a decade or so before SCP-1479 was discovered inside one of the outbuildings. Most structures had been updated and upgraded, with other SCP objects scattered around the premises.
Bridge’s office was in Building A, the largest and most extensively updated structure, complete with modern offices, an exceptional security system, and a block of data archival servers on the second basement level. Most of the halls were lit by stark fluorescent lighting against the old, heavy metal and concrete corridors, giving an industrial look to the lower levels.
Bridge arrived on the second level and immediately noticed how quiet the place was. No security peons in sight… Strange.
"Bridge to security, I have an unauthorized entry in the new archive servers. I’m taking a look—" He cocked his head to the side to see an open server panel.
He turned the corner to find a man he didn't recognize. The man wore an oxford white shirt with black tie and suspenders, and was bent over a bundle of tangled wires and devices.
"Hold on, hold on, stop right there, hands up." Bridge quickly drew and aimed a taser at the man. He’d practiced that motion quite a bit in his off time.
The man looked up with a shocked expression. "Whoa there, Hoss… I just—"
"Stand up, hands up!"
"Whatever you say. Listen though… I'm respondin' to the same thing you are. Prolly."
"Okay. Then who are you, and what the hell are you doing in my servers?" Bridge’s arm relaxed a little. Suspenders. Pale. Earpiece? IT peon?
"Look, I got ID." The man reached into his shirt pocket to produce a Foundation badge and a folded transfer order. Bridge peered down and scanned it.
"Site-66 information requisition by order of Dr. Karlyle Aktus, MTF Lambda-2 transferee Agent Dietrich Lurk…. Lurk?" He gave Dietrich a queer glance.
"Pa's family's Scottish." Dietrich shrugged.
Bridge continued to read Dietrich's orders. His eyes flicked between the ID photo and Lurk’s face. He’s seen this face before, somewhere. Probably when he was combing the personnel index for Lament’s email. He shook his head and stepped a bit closer, clipped the ID tag to Dietrich's pocket.
"Feel like I should have known we had a new guy. Did Dr. Seidelman confirm you? What are you up to at three in the morning?"
Dietrich let out a long exhale. "Just arrived twelve hours ago, I'm still on the different time zone overseas. But really… this shit ain't mine." He motioned to the stripped wires and alligator clips pouring out of the open server panel and the silvery canister nestled in the middle.
'Twelve hours…' Bridge wondered, leaning over to get a better look around the newcomer. After a moment he slipped around and crouched down to get a better look. Panel cut off at the hinges. Lots of wires. No brand names or writing. And the wiring…
“They… hacked the security interlocks?” Bridge stood back up, a hand going to his forehead.
Dietrich nodded. "Yup, and look'it here. They got the site's jammer frequency set to disable its own comms."
"That makes sense…Wait, seriou—" Bridge jumped as he was interrupted by a wet plcht sound and Dietrich dropped to the cold linoleum. For a half second, Bridge thought his finger slipped and he tazed Dietrich himself — then he saw a masked feminine figure holding what looked like a handheld electropneumatic launcher.
"Agh-ahgha—" was all he was able to convey before the assailant slipped out of sight.
"G-g-goddamnit!" Dietrich grabbed onto Bridge's pant leg in pain.
"Aaaagh— sorry sorry—" Bridge bent down and pulled out the projectile from Dietrich's back.
"GAH! SHIT!" Dietrich shakily picked himself off the floor and took a knee. "That fuckin' smarts… whoooooohoo."
“Are you okay?” Bridge cringed as he held the projectile at arm’s length. The nasty black and yellow pronged cylinder was still firing tiny arcs into the air. He marveled at the brutality. "…This is not standard issue."
"Yah? No shit. You gonna go'on after her?"
"We're cut off, I've just been tasered, and can barely get up. Go'on after her." Dietrich tossed Bridge a tiny audio earpiece. "Here, put that sucker in."
"… Right. Okay. Why?" Bridge wiped the earbud off, and slipped the piece into his ear canal.
«Testing. Testing. One two,» chirped a perky female voice on the other end.
Dietrich motioned to his own identical headset. "Alex, yer connection's good. I'm gonna plug ya into the site's wireless direct. Give this gent 'ere directions, corner off the perp, then see if we can establish comms fer the cavalry, copy all that?"
«You got it, sir! Dr. Bridge, head forward and make that first right.»
Bridge took a deep breath and nodded his head, and took off just as Dietrich plugged in his mobile device into a USB port.
«Okey dokey, Dr. Bridge, take this left and we'll flank her. I'm closing accesses and leading her into a utility tunnel. She'll be blocked in.»
"Just Bridge. And thanks… er… Alex. Alex, right? Are you off-site?"
«No silly! I'm one of the AI conscripts.»
"Oh. Oh hey, cool! I just read about those, like with Gla-"
«You missed the turn.»
"Right, sorry." Bridge jerked to a stop and turned on his heel to continue jogging down the hallway.
«Great, I got her on the security cameras en route to you. Duck behind this corner for a moment.»
Bridge complied and pulled his taser back out.
«Er… Bridge… your gun.»
He cringed and slipped the taser in his pocket, while he fumbled for a standard issue firearm with the other hand.
«Good, now if you would fire two shots from around your corner down that hallway adjacent.»
"What am I shooting at?"
«It doesn't matter, just spook her a little. She’s going deeper into the basement.»
Bridge complied and blindly let off two rounds.
"Motherfuck!" yelled a female voice, followed by hurried footsteps in the opposite direction.
«Thank you! She's headed for the dead end now.»
"Ha!" Bridge grinned. Excellent. Nothing down here but old pipes and circuit breakers.
«Dietrich, you there? We got her trapped. Fixing the comms too.»
"Yah, copy. Good work you two. I'm just tryin' to deal with whatever this thing is she left behind."
Dietrich looked at Merle in the reflection as he pointed to one of the screws on the canister itself. "Good call there, partner."
He squinted his eyes in hopes of identifying the dark grey powder caked around one of the sunk screws. With his fingernail he scooped up a teeny bit and gave it whiff, a trick he picked up in his years tagging along with MTF Mu-13.
"Guys… this 'ere is thermite. Guess'n she wanted to cover her tracks."
Merle signed to him reassuringly.
"Wait, what?" Bridge pushed the earpiece in deeper just in case he'd heard wrong. He hadn't. The repeated word 'thermite' followed by 'bomb' just put a pit in his gut.
«… Lurk? Hello? Can you disarm it?»
There was a brief pause between Alex and Bridge as they listened to a few choice expletives followed by an eventual affirmation.
«Good, I almost have comms back online. Hang tight for another five minutes.»
"So now what?"
«Bridge, approach and keep her in place.»
"… Okay. Ten-four." Bridge straightened up. His spine cracked a little as he headed into the utility tunnel.
His panic shifted into anger. She dared put a bomb in his archives?
He couldn't see her, but knew she was there. "There’s no exit here! Put your weapons on the ground!" His heart beat fast. His hands trembled as he held his gun up.
There was no answer. Bridge set his jaw and flicked the safety on his gun to 'off'.
“Lay down. Do not move,” he shouted. He carefully drew closer, with measured, even steps.
He held his gun in one hand, reached into a pocket to draw his taser. He held them forward on either side as he stepped down the darkened hallway… and found nothing but pipes.
“… What the hell? Where’d she go?”
«That's impossible. She's not on any of the video or infrared feeds anymore.»
The tunnel suddenly reverberated as the rolling faint sound of thunder passed through.
«WARNING! FIRE DETECTED IN SERVER ROOM! HALON GAS EXTINGUISHERS ACTIVE! PLEASE EVACUATE TO LEVEL B-1!»
The smoldering hole that used to be the Site-66 Main Archive was quickly put out by the gas. A few seconds longer and Dietrich would have been found as a crispy charcoal skeleton.
"Merle! When you say 'you can help'; that don't mean to ramble on about cuttin' red or green wires then givin' up and tellin' me to toss it into a trashcan!" Dietrich would have yelled more, but trying to talk between coughs was proving too difficult. He looked into a reflective surface to see Merle sign a response.
Dietrich angrily signed back.
Merle then flipped him the bird… as did Dietrich, only much harder.
Bridge returned to see Dietrich flipping himself off in a reflection. Right.
"Oh thank god you're alive. You alright?"
"Huh? Oh, yah… I uh… yer library though." Dietrich pointed to the blackened room behind them.
Bridge held up a hand between his eyes and the disaster. "Don’t even want to look at it."
«Dietrich, I'm looking through the backup logs now to view the most recent changes. Comms is also back up, security inbound and they'll want an explanation I imagine.»
"Right. I got a bloody shoulder and singed hair. I reckon there'll be a debriefing, Alex. What 'bout you two? Where's that spy?"
"Don't know. She just fucking disappeared." Bridge gritted his teeth, pulling his earpiece out and looking at it. Did Dietrich just carry around a bunch of these things?
“What'd'ya mean?” Dietrich furrowed his brow.
“I mean she disappeared down a dead end.”
"But what abo—" Plcht. Dietrich toppled to the floor a second time as a team of six security guards rushed into hazy server room.
"EVERYONE FREEZE!" shouted the security guard on point.
Bridge stuck the Alex piece back in and put his hands up. "No no no, not him! He's Foundation!"
"G-g-g-goddamnit!" Dietrich stuttered in between the clicks of the taser.
Bridge accompanied Dietrich to the infirmary to to help him rest and get patched up.
Merle was in Dietrich's periphery, laughing his ass off. Dietrich fumed. Merle had clearly intentionally decided not to warn Dietrich that the guards were coming. Not that this was surprising. Merle was prone to 'dick moves'.
Alexandra just finished running diagnostics and a few other utilities on the auxiliary servers.
"So… why were you transferred, Dietrich?"
"I don't reckon I can really say why. I'm under orders by the higher ups. Gotta take it up with my new boss." Dietrich rubbed the gauze patch on his shoulder.
"Uh huh. Guessing you can't tell me who?"
Dietrich hesitated a bit before answering. "Ever heard of Lambda Two? It's a new outfit. I'm not even sure what it's all 'bout. But that's what I'm runnin' with."
Bridge cocked his head a bit and leaned his weight into the door frame. "I heard a couple rumours about that. Something about the legendary Doctor Clef making it happen. I thought they made him a desk jockey?"
Dietrich nodded. "Yup… reckon it was time to dust off that weird shit-kicker hat of his." He coughed a bit. His lungs still stung from the halon gas. "All I can tell you is that I'm headed out prolly in the morning. This was supposed to be a quick stop. Perhaps that black-ops lady was af'er the same thing I was."
Bridge's expression hardened. "Go on?" He closed the door to the triage room.
"Don't get yer panties in a wad." Dietrich held up his hand. "I just had Alex running checks within Site-66. You folks have real good internal record keeping. Just making sure a certain group is on the up-and-up. Heard they might've made contact here."
Bridge huffed in irritation. "Yeah? Nobody thought to tell me about this. Who?"
Dietrich squinted past Bridge. Merle's hands were signing to Dietrich from an adjacent mirror.
Dietrich nodded in agreement and paused to choose his next words wisely. "Bridge, you prolly want to know who torched yer archives and why, yah? I just had a crazy idea, but hear me out. I reckon you should accompany me—"
"Yah, us to Site-17."
"Site-17. Okay. And why is that?" Bridge murmured, glancing to the side as if to glance at Alex in his ear.
He began to sift through his upcoming schedule in his head, visualizing his calendar. A few meetings, containment review… Maybe. No, he could probably spare some time. Definitely.
Alexandra chirped into Bridge's earpiece. «Based on some of these search queries, I'm pretty sure the intruder was looking for files on Alpha-Nine, like we were doing.»
"I need a data-rat. Really, I need a data-rat with 'nuff clearance to get Alex in where she needs to go. We work together on this, we can shoot two coyotes with one bullet. And that bullet's name is Alex. Wanna ride the bench, or steal home on this?"
"I don't golf, but I think I'll come along. Give me a few hours to set everything in order." Bridge took out his phone and turned on his heel towards the door. "I'll see you in a bit."
Dietrich nodded. "Yup, meet me in the motorpool garage."
Bridge paused for a moment, his hand on the door handle, letting it register in his mind. The garage, not the tarmac.
"The garage. Got it. See you." Bridge turned the handle and stepped out.