The Lizard is Dead
rating: +29+x

The Lizard was dead.

SCP-682 lay on its back, black tongue lolling from its jaws. Researchers and administrators stood around, mumbling to each other. One guy was even crying a little.

Doctor Blank followed in Agent Friendly’s wake as he pushed through the crowd, grunting apologies to the dazed personnel. She held tight to every detail as she passed. Don’t expect anything. Just look at whatever’s there.

The researchers were all more solemn than she expected, considering how far they’d gone in their termination logs. It made sense. These people had built their entire lives around this thing, and now it was rotting in front of them like a beached whale. Its massive containment tank was undamaged. The Lizard was legendary – clearance be damned, everyone knew about the dragon the O5s kept in acid and couldn’t seem to leave alone. Blank didn’t see any damage to the surroundings, which meant someone had drained the tank manually. Why? Obviously part of the assassination – but if somebody wanted it dead, why not finish it off while it was half-dissolved in the tank?

Friendly offered a handkerchief from his coat pocket, gratefully holding it over his own nose when Blank waved it away. She fiddled with her eye patch as she squinted at the dead animal. It was intact except for a diagonal incision from the right jaw to left collarbone; a black substance with the texture of vomit and consistency of asphault had seeped from the wound and hardened. There was a trail of claw marks in the steel floor behind it, but none underneath. It died immediately. The thing’s neck had to be three or four meters across. No way a person did this. They’d waited for the creature to regenerate before they struck; why? Did they let it loose for it to kill someone else, and have the plan backfire? But whoever released it would have to be in here with the intended victim. None of it added up.

A spark went off in her brain: the first sentence of the containment procedures. SCP-682 must be destroyed as soon as possible.

“Why are we even here?”

“A sapient skip is dead, unsanctioned. That’s our problem.”

“Weren’t they just complying with the procedures? ‘Must be destroyed,’ right?”

“Sure.” Friendly’s eyes remained fixed on the carcass. “But this was unsanctioned.”

“Somebody succeeded where the Foundation’s been-“ she glanced around, making sure nobody was paying attention to them. “Where the Foundation’s been failing for decades.”

“So we’ll give’em a medal before we shoot’em.”

Blank’s heart pounded as they walked into the director’s office. Friendly was all leisurely cool, taking his time, examining things in the room Blank couldn’t fathom the importance of.

“Thanks for coming to help us out with this,” Director Torres wheezed. He was a large, greasy man with a long ponytail and a smile that stopped dead at his cheeks.

“My pleasure, as always,” Friendly drawled, settling into his chair like a boxer taking the ring. I hate it when he smiles like that. “I know you’re busy, an’ I wanna respect your time, so here it is. Senior Researcher Cooper was the last one seen goin’ into the containment area. We already interviewed his coworkers, an’ it seems he prob’ly knows about this thing we’re dealing with. We’re wantin’ to check out his records. Times in an’ out, laboratory access, requisitions, all that kind’a stuff. Mostly jus’ the times in an’ out.”

“L-3 Cooper is one of our best personnel. His reputation is impeccable. You can’t just come down on a researcher of that stature. He’s an extremely accomplished-“

“Course. I’m sure he is, or you wouldn’t have him in that position. But he’s the last one seen goin’ in. You know how it is.”

“We’ll have to review.” The fat man bobbed his head like a snake. “Our site has its own policies, you know. We have a way of doing things. Our way of doing things involves an internal review before we release any records during an investigation like this.”

“I understand.” Friendly shifted catlike in his seat. Blank struggled to keep her eye from twitching.

“How about we jus’ all talk together? Jus’ call him in real quick?”

“We have our own policies here. We’ll let you know when we’re done with our review. Doctor Cooper is a highly reputable personnel. Impeccable. I’m sure we won’t find anything on him.”

“Well, I’m sure you’d find somethin’. Nobody’s perfect. That wouldn’t look right. If it didn’t look right, we’d prob’ly have to audit the whole site. You know how stressful that whole-“

“Did you know, Agent, that the Ethics committee admins are lateral to the O5? I was just talking about this with 05-7 yesterday. I called him when I heard you were visiting, and we talked about it. Seven let me know that any site director – any L4, really, I’m sure you know that as a director we all have to be L4 – that your team is subordinate to L4 personnel? Technically.”

“No need for technicalities, now, is there? We’re all on the same-“

“If an L4 personnel, like a site director, like me, if an L4 personnel tells your team to drop an investigation and you don’t, that’s technically treason. Did you know that? I didn’t know that, before Seven told me. When we talked yesterday.”

Friendly leaned back. His grin never wavered, but his eyes went cold for a moment. “Well. You know them technicalities. How they shake out different, case to case.”

There was a long silence. Blank’s stomach roiled. She started twisting her hook, to keep her hand from shaking.

“If that’s all, I know your time is valuable. We’re all busy, right? I’m sure you have other sites to visit. We’ll let you know. When we’re done with our process.” The director oozed out of his seat and gestured toward the door from behind his desk.

“Thanks for seein’ us, then.” Friendly looked around the room and walked out, much more slowly than necessary. Blank sighed with relief as she followed, the director’s beady eyes trailing her all the way out.

The site’s administrative offices were decorated like a corporate lobby - all wood panels and fake plants. The secretaries and data processors working in their cubicles were quiet, like they’d just come from a funeral. They lost a friend today. The tobacco smoke was thicker in the air than usual, and even the chattering of typewriters was dampened somehow by the mood.

“He ain’t gonna help us,” Friendly murmured as they signed the visitor’s log and headed for the elevator to the surface.

“It sure doesn’t seem like it,” Blank agreed, eyes widening. “He was threatening to charge us with treason.”

“Sure he was. Lots of’em do that. He might be hiding somethin’, but it might be he’s jus’ difficult. Thing is, we still gotta do the job we came for.”

She swallowed hard. “You really think we’ll do better with forgiveness than permission?”

“I think we do neither. We’re gonna do what we need to do, and get away with it.”

It took a couple hours of lurking to sneak their way to Cooper’s office. Agent Friendly smiled warmly at some of the people they passed, ignored others, nodded casually at a few, even scowled at some with a finger over his lips. More than once, they ducked into a stairwell or conference room to avoid someone altogether. Blank was sure site security was going to come take them, and then what? Summary demotion to D-Class by the director, or a shootout right there in the hallway; the options were grim.

But no security came.

She was surprised how cramped and disorganized the office was for a researcher of Cooper’s rank. Cooper himself sat at a desk surrounded by columns of yellowing paper, doing a crossword puzzle. He startled as they burst in. “You can’t just-“

“We already, did, though. But you’re right. We’re kinda not supposed to be here. So let’s do this fast.” Friendly’s grin was charming as he lit a cigarette. He put away the lighter and pulled out a revolver in one motion. The researcher gulped, eyes fixed on the gun. Blank looked at what was in front of her. This is all wrong. This guy’s no killer.

“SCP-682 was terminated without authorization last night,” Friendly continued, emptying bullets from his gun and putting them in his pocket until only one chamber was loaded. “Where were you when it happened?” He cheerfully spun the barrel and snapped it shut. Cooper glared, but said nothing. Friendly cocked the hammer, beaming. “Y’ever heard of Russian Roulette, Doctor Cooper? We’re gonna have Doctor Blank here hold your hand down on your desk, and every time I have to repeat a question, we’re gonna-“

“Is that what this is about? The Lizard?” Cooper burst into harsh laughter, reminding Blank of a sickly crow.

“That’s what this is about, sir. So. My question. Do I have to repeat it?”

“Fine. God damn you, fine.” The doctor reached for his desk drawer, pausing when Friendly started forward. “May I please reach in my desk drawer and show you my alibi?”

“Do it slow enough to not make us nervous,” Blank said, drawing her own piece. Friendly winked at her.

Cooper dumped a brown paper bag on his desk, sneering. A glass bottle covered in a handwritten prescription rattled out, receipt fluttering next to it. “Here you go, tough guy. An old man’s pills.”

Friendly picked up the bottle and rolled it in his hands. He opened it and took a peek. Checked the date on the front and matched it to the receipt.

“Huh. So you were out getting these prescribed last night. Does Mrs. Cooper know she gave you the clap?”

“Mrs. Cooper has nothing to do with it, you son of a bitch. There’s a… a lady. A businesswoman. You know what I mean. I pay for her company. She gave me something more than I bargained for. Mrs. Cooper’s fine, because she hasn’t been anywhere near it in months. Which is why I go see this lady in the first place.” He squirmed, twisting his ring. “And now you know the whole thing. Write me up for soliciting prostitutes, but I don’t know about 682.”

“We’re not here about prostitutes.” Friendly tossed the pills on the desk and put his gun away.

“How do we know he didn’t mock that stuff up?” Blank cut in. “Those could be sugar pills with last night’s date written on them.”

“Look at him. He’s humiliated. He might jus’ be a good actor, so we’re still gonna check this out – and God help you if we have to come back – but I’m thinkin’ this‘s just a guy with V.D.”

“You’re making sense for the first time since you came in here,” the researcher snarled. “And now I have some questions for you. Does Director Torres know you’re down here harassing his trusted staff? Do you have any idea the reputation I have in this building?”

“Yeah, I heard. So you know what's next.” The agent whipped out the canister too fast for Cooper to react, white fog already spraying. Blank reflexively pulled her jacket over her mouth and nose. Cooper caught the amnestic full in the face, blinking furiously as he struggled for words. He slumped over the desk and relaxed into sleep.

“Old guy like this jus’ needs a lil’ bit,” Friendly said, sliding the cartridge back into his sleeve. “Perfect that it knocked him all the way out. Maybe he’ll think he jus’ took a nap on his own.”

“Okay, so he didn’t do it. That leaves us nowhere! We didn’t get any closer to figuring this out.” The stress of the day caught up with Blank all at once. ”We risked our careers, dosed someone, made enemies with a director, and didn’t even make any progress-“

“We made progress. We eliminated one suspect. We learned some things about our guy. We know at least that he got in there past all the witnesses. That he knows all about the procedures and security routines and layout of the containment chamber, but isn’t part of the research team. We ruled out some possibilities and got closer to figurin’ out if maybe it was another anomaly that did this. Everything that happens tells us somethin’, and we’re gonna use it all. It’s just not gonna happen right away.”

She took some breaths. Tried to put it in perspective. “You’re right. We’ll do our part, and let the rest fall into place.” She tapped her hook against the back of her good hand. “We know it was something sentient, probably sapient. We know the wound was where a humanoid would have inflicted it. The Lizard is supposed to be invincible, so there has to be an anomalous force involved somewhere…”

“See? We know more than we did this morning. And we’ll learn more tomorrow. You did good. For now we’ve got to figure out how we’re getting out of here in one piece.”

“…It has to be an anomalous humanoid. One with some serious knowledge. Some serious skills.”

“Learning’s no good if you don’t get to act on it. Let’s go.”

Cooper snored peacefully, drooling on his crossword book.

Incense curled in the dim air of the dojo. Sharks circled in their custom floor tank. A muramasa gleamed on the wall, its edge crusted in chunky black ichor.

The Foundation would hire a swordsmith to craft him another. This one belonged on display now: a trophy, to mark a momentous victory.

“They were a truly… worthy opponent,” Darkblade said, to nobody in particular. “A legend. But all legends… must come to an end.”

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