Two old men sat at a dinner table, directly across from each other. Above, an old glass chandelier hangs, ornamented with beautiful lights. On the north wall stands an impossibly large portrait of the same two men – shaking hands and smiling, their once jet black hair now dull gray.
There's the sound of cutlery moving about, of cups being lifted and then replaced.
“Keats,” one says.
“We need to stop.”
“Oh? Oh! I agree completely, the Oracle stock is played out and useless to us now. We should look to invest in clean -”
“Not stocks, Keats.”
Both men put their cutlery down in unison and look at each other. They've been friends for so long that neither manages to muster up one hundred percent of the steel possible in their gaze.
“What are you talking about, Bill? I have to say, your train of thought is sometimes too fast for me to catch.”
“You know exactly what I'm talking about.”
“I'm afraid I don't.”
“I guess I have to spell it out for you, then.”
And here the first speaker -Old Wild Bill, if that matters- looks genuinely angry. He almost stands, thinks better of it, and stops himself. Silence hangs about the room like a condemned man.
“You…this, Keats.” He spreads his arms out around him in exasperation, showing off their grand surroundings. Indeed, the room seems better suited for the upper class streets of London, Washington, Tokyo, or Moscow. Who'd believe it was buried meters deep in Australian dirt? Who'd believe above these men's heads was a statue that would kill you, an immortal lizard, and perhaps worst of all, something red? Who'd believe that below them, even deeper still, was a nuclear warhead with a 20 megaton yield?
As it turns out, quite a lot of people.
“Are you unsatisfied with the Retreat Room, Bill?”
“Listen to me, you little shit.” Bill had taken this tone with the other man only a handful of times in their long, long acquittance, and it slaps Keats awake.
Old Wild Bill stands, and in that moment, he no longer is an old man, but the warrior once called Laughing Bull. His hands, tough black leathery things, come down hard on the table. "I've known you for a long time, William. I know you better than your old whore of a mother knows you. I have stood behind you in all your endeavors; even the ones that were monstrous. It was by my will that my old tribe did not rip your scalp off on the spot when you came riding into our camp. I talked to you, befriended you; you were inquisitive and intelligent, but lacking in humanity."
The other man rolls his eyes and scoffs at the word "humanity".
"It's true. I followed you because…I cared for you, Keats. You were a good friend, despite your greed. But I will not let you hold the world for ransom any longer."
Keats merely takes up a napkin and dabs at his chin and mouth.
"Have you nothing to say for yourself?"
“I'm waiting for you to finish this tired little tirade. Or would you rather me continue this story? Should I recount the tale of how the metal in your backwards little tribe's sacred 'relic' responded to my touch? Or should I yell loudly about what we found there? We could take this out in the hall, if you please.”
"The Factory is a mistake, Keats. It is…" He searches for the right word. "…not a thing of man. We are not meant to create in such a way."
"You are correct about one thing there, at least. It's not of man. It is mine. The Factory is my will made reality. And an effective tool to impose my reality on anyone who cares to disagree."
"Insults now, is it?"
"Do you realize how old we are, Keats? Why won't you see reason? I am two hundred and ten today. I have watched my entire family die. Ever since you created that damn water -"
“Ah, the Fountain of Youth. Not my most graceful or original creation, but it works.”
Bill's rage was growing. He just looked at the other man and gritted his teeth. Keats noted this and grinned shallowly.
“And who would you tell about this grand conspiracy theory, Bill? The other O5? They are mine. A man's creations can never turn against him. You would know that, wouldn't you, Bill? You're the one who produced the most humans with my Factory. What were their names, again? Alto and Jack? Oh, and there was the one that looked like your son. The old you broke. 'Doctor' Gears, was it?"
“Shut up, Keats."
"I think not. You see, I have known of your growing dissent for some time, and I have planned this moment. Perfectly, I might add. Do you think I would honestly let you walk in here one day and end the world's greatest and longest con? No, Bill. There are still countries to bribe, blackmail, and ruin. There is still money and power out there that I do not yet have. Do you realize what leaders will pay to keep their people safe and their rule secure? I simply cannot allow you to ruin this job for me, despite old friendships." Keat's voice had slowly descended in tone; where there was once affable enjoyment had been replaced with cold stillness.
"I'll kill you, William Keats. And then I'll kill your toys."
“Big words from an old Indian. Excuse me, Native American.”
“You piece of shit -”
Keats had been thumbing the action on his gun since Bill had begun speaking. Two shots rang out, and Wild Bill suddenly found he no longer had knees. There was a scream, and Keats stood, wiping at his mouth with a napkin. In his other hand was a smoking matte-black revolver.
“And history repeats, it seems. The noble English have once again prevailed against our savage foes. ” He presses an intercom button built into the table, and a quiet speaker crackles to life.
“Yes, Mr. One?” An extremely chipper female voice echos throughout the room.
“Mrs. Escot? Which Sites are Alto Clef and Jack Bright currently stationed at?”
“One minute please, sir.” Keyboard taps. “Dr. Clef is stationed at Site 19 sir, but he is currently visiting Dr. Bright at Site 23.”
“Ahhh, 23. The renegades. How convenient; three birds with a single stone. Mrs. Escot, please arrange for SCP-173 and one of our cloning devices to be transferred to Site 23. Once they are inside, please remotely seal the exits and arrange for the two to interact. You have my permission to use our sleeper agents.”
“Yes, sir! Sir, shall I detonate Site 23's nuclear warhead afterward?”
“Hmmm…no, but please ensure that the Site's entrance is buried. And see to it that a cleaning crew is set down to the Retreat Room. Tell them to bring mops.”
“Yes sir! Thank you, sir!” Click. The speaker turns off.
Wild Bill lays on the floor, bleeding and barely holding onto consciousness. Keats walks over and stands over him, the gun still in his hand.
“Any pithy last words, Bill?”
Bill's left hand weakly extends a middle finger.
“How predictable.” There is a single crack, and the world's second oldest man dies.
Keats looks at the broken body of his only friend, shrugs, and pockets the gun. He removes a cigarette and a lighter from his breast pocket, and lights up. The smell of tobacco mixes with the smell of gun smoke, and for a brief second, William Keats, pride of his father and light in his mother's eyes, feels a deep sense of nostalgia and accomplishment.
“You ran a good con. Happy birthday, Bill.”
He throws the lit cigarette unto the other man's body and leaves the room.
Ten minutes later, a crew in orange jumpsuits with mops enters the same room, and wordlessly cleans up the body. Thirty minutes later, every single man and woman in Site 23 is trying not to blink. An hour later, and Keats is sitting across from the President of the United States and calmly informing him how easily SCP-682 could be transported into Washington.
The next day, a large amount of funds are transferred into the Foundation's coffers.
Ignoring death and tragedy, the con, and the Foundation, goes on.