A possible future…
Jack Bright pushed his way past the holo-sign reading "Closed to Visitors" and made his way up the polished carbonate stairs to the monorail. There was a single car waiting for him. A large red button on the control panel read, "Press this."
He did so, and the sleek silver conveyance whispered up the side of the mountain. The view out of the diamond-glass windows was spectacular: the vermillion hues of the setting sun reflecting off the hair-thin lines of the orbital elevator leading to Sunlight One, the world's first permanent launching station to the deep space colonies. A zeppelin ghosted past the mountainside, one of the new superheavy models that could convey two thousand passengers across the Atlantic in comfort. It was the dawn of a new age.
But it was the past that he had come here to meet, not the future.
He disembarked the monorail, then followed the instructions from the e-mail up the craggy mountain path, to where a waterfall cascaded down into a clear alpine pool. There was an old man standing on a ledge overlooking the falls, looking down at a brass plate, now encased in diamond-glass to protect it from the elements. His hair was white, and his back hunched with age, but the eyes that turned to regard Jack were still as stark and intelligent as the day they had first met.
"Hello, Alto," Jack said.
"Alto… Alto Clef. Now there's a name I haven't heard in a long time," Clef scoffed. He laughed, a long, hard laugh, and then he coughed hard into a handkerchief, hacking and wheezing. The white cloth came away speckled with blood. "New body? Looks good on you."
Jack Bright nodded in reply, then came to stand next to his old friend. He looked down at the plaque. "At this fearful place, Sherlock Holmes vanquished Professor Moriarty, on 4 May 1891," he read.
"Funny, huh? The man didn't even exist, and here they've put a memorial to him. Reichenbach Falls, the setting of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's last great swan song. The final tale of Sherlock Holmes… until his fans and editors made him write more stories, the whining fucks." He pointed down at the churning white water, far below. "Imagine, Holmes and Moriarty, the master detective and the Napoleon of crime, struggling to the last breath, clawing and pummeling each other as they plummet to their dooms. Such a fitting end for two great men."
"Is that supposed to mean something?" Bright asked. He put his hand in his coat pocket, felt the small-caliber handgun he'd secreted there. The note had said to come unarmed, but he hadn't survived this long by being stupid.
Clef reached into his coat pocket. He pulled out a grubby piece of pink paper and handed it to Jack. The younger man read it carefully, then nodded. "How long do you have?"
"Two months at most," Clef said.
"We still have several doses of Five Hundred left," Jack said. "I could authorize to have one lost and recovered by the GOC. As a favor to an old friend."
"I think not," Clef replied sternly. "There comes a time when a man realizes it's time to die. For me… that realization came last week. That was when I got a report that young Kroger took down a Tier 4 Type Green on his lonesome. Took it down in a way I never would have thought of: smart as hell. That kid wasn't even born yet when I started this job. And then it hit me: I've done all I can. All I can do from now on is take up space and get in the way of the younger kids who will carry the work forward." He smiled. "So. Time to die."
"I sense… a personal indictment… in those words," Bright replied slowly.
"Yes," Clef said.
"You think that I, being immortal, will hold the Foundation back, and stop it from moving forward."
"I am afraid," Clef said, "of what it will imply when the most powerful and influential member of the Foundation is an SCP himself. I worry that… not now… not a hundred years from now… but someday, you will have lived so long and become so strange that you are no longer human. And by then, you may be too powerful to stop. So that threat must be nipped in the bud now."
"What if I never become a threat?"
"You will," Clef said firmly. "No one who lives as long as you will can stay human."
"And so you've come to try to kill me," Jack Bright concluded.
"I've come here to kill you," Clef corrected. "Not to try."
"And how did you plan to do that? They've been trying to kill me for over a hundred years. I don't think even you've found a way."
"I didn't. Kroger did," Clef smiled. "Like I said. The young man's smart as hell."
"I see… and your plan?"
Clef told him. He explained, step by step, Kroger's plan for killing Jack Bright. He left out no details. He told him exactly how and why it would work, why the plan was foolproof, and in the end, Bright had to admit that Clef was right. This plan would work. It would kill him.
"It's a good plan," he said. "But there's one problem with it."
"And what's tha—"
Before Clef could finish his sentence, Jack drew his gun and shot him, twice in the chest, once in the head. A perfect Mozambique.
The old man slumped and plummeted off the ledge into the water. Jack put his gun back in his coat. "Bye, Alto," he said. He turned and walked back to the monorail, wiping his face. It was certainly spray from the waterfall, but although Reichenbach Falls was freshwater, it still tasted a bit like seaspray.
He was on his way down the monorail when the implications of Clef's words hit him.
"I didn't. Kroger did."
Someone else knew how to kill Jack Bright.
The realization chilled his borrowed heart. He gripped the armrest on the monorail seat hard, in a white knuckle grip.
No… not just someone else. If he knew Clef, possibly the entire GOC knew how to kill Jack Bright. An entire worldwide organization with the backing of the goddamn United Nations, thousands of highly trained agents dedicated to finding and killing him…
Suddenly he was very aware of just how vulnerable he was in this monorail car. This small, enclosed space, bound to the monorail tracks… a perfect killing ground.
He closed his eyes and waited for the killing blow.
It never came.
Instead, the monorail made its way down to the bottom of the mountain, and the doors opened. His driver was waiting there for him, with his armored limousine. "Director Bright?" Lyn put his hand on Jack's shoulder, concerned at the Director's pale face and trembling hands. "Are you all right?"
"Yes," Jack said. He looked up at the mountainside, at the distant cascade of falling water. "Perfectly fine." As the driver pulled away, something else occurred to Jack Bright, something that made him laugh out loud at the bitter irony of it all.
Jack Bright also knew how to kill SCP-963.
"Mister Kroger?" the man in the black uniform asked.
"Speaking," Kroger said.
"No," the man in the black uniform said. He handed Kroger a card. It was pure white, except for a single, swirling symbol on the front in stark black ink. Kroger understood.
"Mister Treble Clef?" the man in the black uniform asked.
"Speaking," Clef replied.
"Better." The man in the black uniform nodded. "I have a request…"