In a lonely office at Site-64 sat a short young man with salt and pepper hair. Across from his desk was a casually dressed woman with neck length brunet hair tied back in a ponytail. Several old filing cabinets lined the back walls of the room, while the other walls were coated with a menagerie of motivational posters. The man was known as Researcher Fredrick Clayton. The woman was Agent Sasha Merlo. The individuals remained silent, their meeting stalled as they awaited a third party. So far the waiting time was approaching half an hour.
A moment later the door to the office opened and a man dressed in a lab coat a few sizes too small, with a thick layer of stubble on his chin entered. As he took a seat, he gave Clayton an enthusiastic grin.
“Greetings fellow Researcher,” he bellowed, “How shall we destroy the mysteries of the universe today?”
Clayton immediately looked over to Merlo. It was clear she was using every ounce of willpower in her possession to keep from breaking out in laughter.
“I take it this is Agent Navarro?” Clayton asked Merlo. His expression lacked joy.
“I am Dr. Science!” the man interrupted, “I was born with a test tube in one hand a thirst for knowledge in the other!”
“You know I have a daily report quota to meet, yeah?” Clayton sighed as he placed his head in his hands. “I really don’t have time for this.”
“Where did you even get the lab coat?” Merlo chuckled, Navarro grinned as he took off the small coat.
“I just found it on the back of a chair in the break room,” Navarro replied. “Couldn’t resist…”
Navarro then turned to Clayton.
“I was told you placed Jericho’s thoughts on file?”
“Indeed,” Clayton said as he wheeled his chair back to one of the filing cabinets that lined the back wall. Carefully selecting a drawer, he opened it and removed several folders. “It took a while for Director Holman to provide the clearance for the drawer, but I was able to transcribe about four days’ worth of thoughts before they stopped.”
“How is that even possible?” Merlo asked, “He can’t just stop thinking.”
“It’s not the first time this has happened,” Clayton sighed. “Either your man is dead or, more likely, he has an undocumented instance of these cabinets. If your name is on two cabinets simultaneously both stop collecting the individual’s thoughts. We believe it was a control measure created by the cabinet’s original owners.”
“Was there anything useful in the thoughts you were able to transcribe?” Navarro asked, quickly grabbing the file from Clayton’s hands.
“There was,” said Clayton, his lips curling into a smug smile. “Unless Jericho changed plans in the last two days, he intends to be present at a reopening ceremony for some historic hotel called The Templar here in Portland. A local sculptor named Tom Herring did an art piece that’s going to be unveiled.”
Navarro immediately stopped reading the file and turned to Merlo. Both he and she shared the same pale expression of revelation.
“I’ll get clearance from Holman!” Merlo said as she immediately got to her feet and made her way to the exit. Navarro quickly placed the file back on the desk and followed suit. Within moments the room had emptied of all occupants save Clayton.
“You’re welcome,” Clayton said out loud as he watched the door to the office swing shut. With another sigh he then returned Jericho’s file back to its drawer.
The Templar hotel had long since passed its heyday. As a speakeasy during prohibition, it had good fortune of acquiring enough interesting history to warrant a full restoration effort. Now that the reconstruction was complete, many of Portland and Seattle’s elite had gathered in the hotel’s ballroom for an elaborate reopening ceremony. The ballroom’s center piece, a large statue that had been requisitioned from an upcoming local sculptor, remained hidden behind a velvet curtain.
Agents Navarro and Merlo sat at a table in the corner. Having been provided with fake identities by the SCP Foundation, the two agents kept their eyes peeled for any signs of Jericho T. Hill. As the party around them unfolded, it appeared that their target was a no show.
“Gotta love these dead ends,” Merlo chuckled as she scanned the room. She was dressed in a black dress, her hair down from its usual ponytail.
“Absolutely,” Navarro snickered, his gaze focused on the curtain covering the statue. He was dressed in an uncharacteristically nice suit.
“I don’t know what will be worse,” Merlo continued, “Explaining to Holman that this mission essentially boiled down into us attending a party, or telling the response team that they’ve been on standby for no reason. C'est la vie.”
Before Navarro could respond, two more individuals sat down at their table. One was a tall, pale woman in her mid-thirties with short black hair. The other was a muscular man in his early forties, with his long brown hair done back in a braid. Navarro recognized them as Jill and Tom Herring.
“You son of a bitch,” Jill hissed at Navarro. Both her and her husband shared the same hostile glare. “We’d never see you again. That’s what we agreed on Daniel.”
“Oh, hey Jill,” Navarro responded, “Nice to see you too.”
“What are you doing here, Dan?” Tom asked.
“Well, considering how this is a public display by a known anartist, I couldn’t begin to guess.”
“You think Tom is stupid enough to pull that kind of shit?” Jill whispered.
“Everything’s on the level Dan,” Tom added, “The Suits don’t need to be here. You can leave.”
“We just need to see the statue and then we’re on our way,” Merlo chirped in.
“Is she a Suit too?” Jill asked between clenched teeth, both her and her husband’s gaze falling on Merlo. “Christ, how many of you are here?”
“Well, technically she’s a Dress,” Navarro smirked, “but yes, she is with me. We need to see the statue, and if all checks out, we’re gone. I promise.”
Tom and Jill looked at each other. With a sigh, Tom shrugged and got to his feet. His wife quickly took his arm and the two left.
“Congratulations,” Navarro called out to them as they walked away.
The party continued for a little bit longer before the mayor of Portland took the stage. With all the flair one would expect of a politician, he made a short speech and then welcomed Tom Herring to the stage to unveil his art piece. With a small drum roll, the curtain was drawn back to reveal a four meter tall white marble sculpture of a medieval knight, sword held aloft. What caught Merlo’s eye was that the piece’s face bore a striking resemblance to Daniel Navarro.
“Daniel,” she whispered under her voice, “why the hell does this statue look like you?”
“Clearly someone thought the world could do with a little more Navarro in it,” he whispered back. “Do you actually think I know the answer to that?”
It was then Navarro noticed a man standing on one of the balconies overlooking the ballroom. He was dressed in a black business suit, and had short blond hair. A single leather glove could be seen on his right hand. The man nodded at Navarro and motioned for the two agents to join him.
“Son of a bitch,” Navarro mumbled and quickly got to his feet. He then spoke into the radio hidden on his person. “Hill’s been spotted.”
Navarro and Merlo lost no time finding a stairway to the upper levels of the ballroom. The two agents quietly drew their pistols as they made their way to the balcony door. Merlo held her breath as Navarro counted down on his fingers.
Navarro quickly opened the door and passed through to the other side, the door slamming shut in Merlo’s face as soon as he passed the threshold. The agent quickly tested the door handle, but found it locked. Merlo attempted to kick the door in, but to no avail. The door was sealed.
“Fuck…” Merlo mumbled under her breath.
On the other side of the door Navarro stood now stood alone, the balcony absent of Jericho T. Hill. With a frustrated sigh, he looked over the balcony at the ongoing party below. His gaze swept over to Tom and Jill shaking hands with many of the hotel’s benefactors, and then to the statue. He smiled as he looked at its face.
“Certainly a handsome guy,” Navarro chuckled to himself.
Navarro’s smile vanished when he noticed the statue begin to move. Its unblinking eyes turned to him on the balcony. It then pointed its sword at him. Screams could be heard in the audience below as the statue stepped down from its pedestal and began to make its way across the ballroom.
“You have got to be kidding me…” Navarro mumbled as he readied his pistol for the oncoming fight. “Strike team, now would a great time for you to strike!”
As soon as she heard the gunshots coming from the ballroom, Agent Merlo pulled a 180 from the balcony door. However, as soon as she completed her turn, she was greeted by Jericho T. Hill standing only a few meters away. As she leveled her firearm, she felt a great force yank it from her hands, the weapon sailing through the air until it landed in the palm of Jericho’s glove. The weapon turned to rust in his grip.
“If you promise to remain calm for the next minute or so, I won’t have the other pistol you’ve hidden on your person go off,” said Jericho. His voice was completely without emotion. “I imagine that would be very messy.”
“Quite,” Merlo replied. “So this was a trap the whole time? Lure us in, set off some anomaly, and then jet?”
“More or less,” Jericho replied.
“How do you plan on that last part? We have this place surrounded. You can’t just walk out the front door Mr. Hill.”
“Oh I’m aware,” said Jericho. “Tell me, Suit, how well do you know Daniel?”
“Well enough,” Merlo answered. “Get on with it. You’re stalling.”
“Then you’d know that he was an anartist in a former life, and started working for the Suits after he was apprehended and promised amnesty in exchange for serving as a double agent.”
“And your point is…”
“What happens when the chips are down again?” Jericho sneered. “What happens when he is captured by the Hand or the Coalition and promised a similar deal? He is a man completely devoted to preserving his freedom, and you and anyone he associates are going to be caught in the crossfire.”
“I’d like to think Daniel has a little more integrity than that,” Merlo replied flatly.
“Does he though?” Jericho shouted back, “I knew at least ten anartists who thought the same thing, and he helped the Suits kill them. Believe me, he will end you.”
There was the sound of shattering glass. Two members of the Foundation strike team descended from a skylight.
“Get down, Merlo,” one shouted. Without further hesitation they opened fire on Jericho.
At the same time, Jericho held out his gloved hand at the strike team. Their bullets flew through the air, stopping several centimeters from his outstretched palm. Jericho waited for the sound of empty magazines, and then made a small gesture with his hand, the collection of bullets diverting towards the agents. Each shot hit its mark. The two agents fell to the ground.
Merlo lost no time charging Jericho from behind, knocking him off his feet with a firm tackle. However, before she could incapacitate her target, Merlo received several blows to her face from Jericho’s elbow. Disoriented, Merlo felt him push her off. She got to her feet as quickly as she could, but by the time she was oriented Jericho was gone.
“Fuck!” Merlo shouted at the top of her lungs.
Jericho T. Hill had yet again escaped.
The marble statue held Agent Navarro in a firm grip as it batted at the members of the Foundation strike team with its sword. The room had long been evacuated of civilians, leaving only the various agents to attempt to contain the anomaly. The strike team continuously peppered the colossus with all manner of small arms fire, chipping away at its frame. Eventually a grenade went off, causing the statue to topple to the ground. Bracing for the impact, Navarro felt the statue’s grip loosen upon collision with the ballroom floor.
Navarro quickly rolled away as the strike team provided covering fire. As soon as he reoriented himself, he turned to see the statue crawling after him.
“Stand back!” he shouted at the strike team. He then held out his hands and made several odd gestures, muttering unintelligible speech for almost half a minute. The strike team watched as the statue started to steam, then glow, and finally became coated in nuclear fire. As the rest of the strike team looked away from the intense light and heat, Navarro remained concentrated on the task at hand. A few moments later, Navarro lowered his arm. The fire quickly dissipated to reveal that the statue was now a molten sludge, only the face remaining partially intact.
Navarro then sighed as he leaned against one of the ballroom’s many columns before sliding to the floor. As he looked over at the statue’s now deformed mockery of his face, he couldn’t help but chuckle. He then turned his gaze to remains of the strike team, watching as a beaten and bruised Agent Merlo slowly walked over to his spot on the floor.
“Hill?” Navarro asked.
“Escaped,” Merlo replied.
“Well then. Glad to see that this was a fruitful evening.”
Agents Merlo and Navarro sat in front of the desk of Director Holman, a tall, sharply dressed man with slicked back hair, and Site Director of Site-64. For several moments, he didn’t say a word. Rather, he simply stared at the two agents.
“I had to sign the order authorizing the use of amnestics on the fucking mayor of Portland,” Holman said, eventually breaking the silence. “Needless to say, my superiors are less than pleased with the outcome of this most recent mission.”
Neither Navarro nor Merlo responded.
“While some are calling for both of you to be seriously reprimanded, the fact that this incident was largely self-contained and easily covered up has bought you both a large degree of leniency. Congratulations. For now you’re off the hook. However, for the foreseeable future, you’d both be wise to keep your heads down. Dismissed.”
Quietly, Navarro and Merlo left Director Holman’s office behind. Upon entering the hallway, Merlo placed a hand on her colleague’s shoulder.
“You doing okay there?” She asked.
Navarro didn’t respond right away. Instead, something Jericho had said to him several months prior entered his mind.
But, if I keep putting you into situations like this, how long do you think it will take for them to question your value as an agent? If they are constantly pulling you from incapacitation, when will they start to see you as a liability?
“Never been better,” Navarro replied, and left without another word.