A possible future…
The flexi in Jack's suitcase buzzed for the third time. Sighing, he pulled it out and unrolled it. As was his usual reaction, he was sorry he ever helped invent it.
The note that popped up was a reminder. "TRANSPORT LEAVING T-MINUS 90 MINUTES. PLEASE ACKNOWLEDGE." Jack pressed his thumb on the indicated spot, rerolled it, and put it back. He'd make the ship after his appointment.
Driving up to the gates of Site 19 still felt damn peculiar. Jack was used to the days when getting to Site 19 required two hidden tunnels, a parking lot in front of an abandoned hospital, and two elevator rides. The dismantling of the Veil Protocol had any number of benefits for the Foundation, and far more benefits for humankind as a whole. Nevertheless, Jack never could get over the fact that it was simply far less cool to answer a receptionist's page and be waved through. The parking spot was nicer before, too.
There was no receptionist when Jack pulled up to the door, not that he thought there would be one. He had pushed to have the whole system automated, but some piece of legislation required that the Foundation hire a certain number of recent high school graduates. As it was, Jack had to park at the gate, walk up, and pull the gate open himself.
The drive to the building was uneventful. Jack pulled the car around to face towards the gates and put the top down. He brought the keycards with him as he went inside the building.
The halls of Site 19 echoed Jack's footsteps back to him as he walked. Every containment chamber he passed was empty; the rustling sounds of contained humanoids no longer filled the air. The doors were soundproof, but he always seemed to be able to hear them. Now, nothing. The building was empty, save three rooms. Jack knew his destinations by heart.
The first containment chamber was three hallways away. Jack could hear the little beast two and a half hallways before he reached it. Of all the organic nonhumanoid SCPs they had captured over the centuries, this one in particular stood out as an unspeakably annoying creature. Jack removed the AR-68 helmet from the nearby armory and slipped it on, along with one grenade. Walking to the containment chamber, he removed his flexipad and began to narrate.
"By order of the United Nations Secretary of Secure Containment, that being myself, termination order for SCP-1013 has been issued on this day, 25 December 2231, at this time, uh…" Jack checked the clock. "…2243 hours. Termination process begun…now."
Jack cracked open the containment chamber, pulled the pin on the grenade, and threw it in, making sure not to look at the thing inside. A single squawk came out. He slammed the door. WHUMP.
"Termination process complete. SCP-1013 decommissioned. Two SCPs remaining."
Jack's next destination lay three floors down. The elevator ride was smooth, just as he remembered. He was glad that some part of this was comfortable. 1013 was a legitimate pleasure to get rid of. It was one of Clef's last requests, actually; Jack remembered it from the wake. This, however, was not going to be pleasant.
SCP-4321 had been contained for half a century now, and she had aged normally during that time. She was sitting on her bed when Jack entered the other end of the airlock.
"Hello, Josephine," Jack said.
Josephine sat quietly, chewing on a fifty-pound note.
"Josephine, it's time. I don't know how well you can understand me, but I'm sorry. I brought you a gift." Jack slipped a wrapped package of $1000 Treasury notes in through the slot.
She perked up considerably. Looking up from where she sat, her eyes gleamed. She dragged herself across the floor with her hands to the airlock and grabbed the notes. Without unwrapping them first, she chewed through the plastic to get to the bills.
Jack began narrating. "SCP-4321, also known as Patient Four in the Great Plague of 2182. Patient Zero apprehended, contained, and decommissioned 3 May 2183." Jack meant that Patient Zero had been drained of his bodily fluids and vivisected in search of a cure. They had killed seven patients doing that. Most of them had belonged to the terrorist group that had created the virus in the first place. Not all of them. And not Josephine.
Jack had laced the bills with cyanide. He had also tripped the morphine gas in her room for this event. She would hardly feel anything. She kept chewing monomaniacally. As she slowed down, her head winding around dizzily, her eyes half-focused on Jack's. "Are…are we…"
"Yes, Josie. I promise."
"Are…are we…are we cool yet?" Josie's half-dead eyes pleaded for the answer. "Are we cool yet? ARE WE COOL YET?" The screeching of her voice was as haunting as ever. Jack's mind flashed back to the days, decades ago, when those words were being screamed down corridors.
"Go to sleep, Josie." Jack narrated into the flexipad, "SCP-4321 decommissioned 25 December 2231, 2258 hours."
Her eyes faded for the last time. She lay on the ground, a half-eaten bill hanging from her mouth. Jack walked away.
One last stop. The containment chamber was at the bottom of the building, making the elevator ride a bit farther than before. He hadn't come down this way in a long time, well over a century. Not since the Unveiling. Not since the creature he was here for had arrived.
It used to be kept out of Site 19, back in the old building. One of the greatest benefits of the Unveiling was the scientific research that came with opening Foundation research to the rest of the world and seeing what came back. Since the advancements in containment that had come from that, there hadn't been a breach from this chamber in decades. The elevator slowed to a stop.
Jack exited into a well-lit hallway. There was one room on this floor, at the far end, with a speaker grate attached to a translation device. They had found out some time ago that the beast was always talking, often at telepathic wavelengths or ultrasonic pitches. It had taken years to work out all of the nuances and process it into audible speech, but the result was…interesting.
"GOOD EVENING DOCTOR BRIGHT," the speaker intoned. "WHAT BRINGS YOU HERE TONIGHT."
Jack cleared his throat. "You're more polite than I recall. That's a development."
"YOU ARE STILL FILTH TO ME," the creature said. "MY TEETH STILL ACHE FOR YOUR BLOOD. BUT I AM CONTENT TO WAIT FOR THE OPPORTUNITY. THIS IS THE LONGEST I HAVE EVER BEEN CONTAINED IN ONE PLACE, AND I MUST SHOW SOME RESPECT. I DO NOT EXPECT YOU TO UNDERSTAND, DOCTOR."
"I don't go by Dr. Bright anymore," Jack said. "I'm barely that person anymore. We've all moved on. I'm the only one left alive, anyway."
"THE LIST OF THE DEAD IS LENGTHY, AND I AM RESPONSIBLE FOR SO FEW OF THEM. IT IS SORROWFUL. WHAT SHALL I CALL YOU THEN."
"Just Jack," he said.
"VERY WELL JACK. WHAT BRINGS YOU HERE THIS EVENING."
"I have a gift. For you." Jack said. "It's time to go."
"Go. We're done containing you, and you may leave."
The beast, so far as it could pull off body language, seemed confused.
"No, I'm serious."
"YOU ARE A LIAR AND A SOCIOPATH, JACK. YOU HAVE KILLED AS MANY OR MORE THAN I HAVE AT LEAST IN THE MOST RECENT CENTURIES."
"That's not me anymore," Jack said uncomfortably. "We've changed. The Foundation doesn't exist any more. We don't do those things any more."
"YOU ARE A LIAR EVEN TO YOURSELF. WHY WOULD YOU RELEASE ME."
"Two reasons. First, we live in a remarkable world now. We've traveled to star systems far away, spread ourselves out across two dozen planets. The Earth is used up, drained as far as possible, so we've evacuated the planet. There are less than twenty people left here, and as far as I know, they're all sitting on a ship, waiting for me. After midnight tonight, this planet will be human-free. You won't be a threat anymore. We've even gotten the rest of the SCPs off-world. There's no need to keep you here."
The monster paused. "WHAT IS THE SECOND REASON."
"It wouldn't have been possible without you."
"WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT, JACK."
"It was a casual containment breach for you. We had trapped you at Site 19 temporarily during…some crisis or another, I can't recall which. You broke out, killed six that day. And in the course of that, you ended up in one containment chamber in particular."
"JACK I DO NOT RECALL THESE EVENTS—"
"Getting to that. You broke into 055's containment chamber. We have no idea what happened next inside there, but two things happened. First, eighteen iterations of you appeared in major cities, wreaking havoc. Not complete copies of you, just imitations; they all died pretty quickly once our task forces arrived. But that was about it for the Veil Protocol after that. So congratulations, I suppose."
"WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOU—"
"We've never understood it, but apparently you did something to 055. You reappeared in your chamber after we killed the last copy, forgetting everything. We never particularly wanted to let you in on it. But 055 started putting out energy after that. Just a trickle, then more and more as time went on. We were able to harness it, thanks to the combined efforts of the Foundation, the GOC, the UIU, everybody. We couldn't have done it without global support, the kind we never would have had before Rampage Day. It changed the world. You changed the world, in a good way. For once."
The beast was silent. It was like old times again.
"So, you're free, as of…as soon as I'm out of the building. The programs are prewritten. I hit one button, once I'm safely away, and you can leave as soon as you like."
The beast was silent.
"Yeah, I don't want to mess around with weepy goodbyes either. I hope, and I mean this with all my heart, that we never see each other again." Jack turned to leave.
"MAY I SEE THE ARTIFACT FOR ONE LAST TIME."
Jack stopped to think if there was any way the lizard could exploit the amulet to its advantage and couldn't think of any. He pulled the amulet out and showed it to the beast. "I'm still in here. Some things don't change."
"THERE ARE ASPECTS OF THAT ARTIFACT THAT YOU WILL NEVER UNDERSTAND. REFRACTIONS OF LIGHT THAT YOU WILL NEVER SEE. THINGS I COULD NOT EXPLAIN TO YOU EVEN WERE I SO INCLINED. 'GOODBYE', I BELIEVE IS THE EXPRESSION." The beast retreated to a corner of its chamber and became quiet.
Jack turned and walked to the elevator. The ride up to the surface was long, and uncomfortable. Once in his car, he opened the flexi, tapped four times, and put it back. He turned the ignition.
Jack was at the spaceport boarding the flight when the flexi vibrated again. He had programmed Site 19's cameras to follow what happened, and the show was apparently over. He watched the footage as the preflight checks were completed.
2345: All containment blocks drop. The monster waits for a moment before springing for the exit. It races to the open elevator and crawls up the shaft.
2354: The creature reaches the ground level, knowing instinctively when it arrives. It rips through the steel door with its teeth and emerges onto the floor of Site 19. It looks from side to side momentarily, then rushes for the enormous glass door. It is standing open.
2356: The lizard arrives outside. There is a moment when it looks at the giant gate and looks…suspicious, almost. It knows its former containers, knows what they are capable of. It knows what Dr. Bright is capable of, wonders how sincere he is about this transformation of his. The pause is just for a second, but all this is present. The lizard could go through the gate, or go around it; crawl over the walls or smash them. When the lizard slowly, tentatively starts snaking towards the gate, Jack believes it has made a decision. It has decided to do something not out of fear, not out of suspicion, but out of hope. It has not known hope in a very, very long time, but perhaps it decides that it is time to do something new.
2358: The lizard reaches the gate. What happens now is unrecorded, is likely unrecordable. This was technology nobody knew about; not the government, not the rest of the Containment Department, nobody. A bright blue flash of light, right when it passes under the gate. Jack doesn't know what it feels like for the beast to become mortal for the first time, but it doesn't have long to know the feeling.
2359: Site 19 warheads detonate. Something else the government didn't know about. Two directly beneath the gate, in fact.
"SCP-682 decommissioned 25 December 2231, 2359 hours. Site 19 closed at that time. Send record to headquarters." Dr. Bright tapped the pad again.