To Sleep, Perchance to Dream
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August 3, 200█:
A red light blinked on and off, annoyingly insistent amongst a sea of green and blue denoting the status of the Foundation's worldwide assets. The man at the console, annoyed at being interrupted from his nap, sat up in his chair and started tapping commands into his console.

Observation Post 3-02 was one of those little places that only a few high-ranking Foundation personnel knew or cared about, but it was a vital safeguard against catastrophe. The personnel staffed to watch the OPs were not allowed to have knowledge on any other Observation Posts, or even know exactly how many there were, but these installations kept tabs on every major site in the world, quietly monitoring alert systems and backing up data in case of a breach or disaster. The personnel that watched the dull banks of monitors were some of the most vital links in the Foundation's world wide network. Or so they were told.

In truth, the men and women stuck in these backwater shacks were the joke of Foundation Security. While the occasional breach warranted notification of their superiors, the job was boring beyond comprehension. It was easy to go crazy staring at the endless banks of monitors, waiting for something, anything, to happen.

And so, as Agent Johnson grumbled and rose, he could only think about the annoying amount of paperwork that would eventually land on his desk after any 'red-light' event. But something was different about this one. Something he'd never seen before, which was cause to take a closer look.

"PRIORITY 3 ALERT", the status indicator read. "Automated Notification: Site 28 - SCP-███/SCP-███/SCP-███ containment compromised."

That merited a raised eyebrow. A breach of a single major SCP was pretty serious news, but three at once was almost unheard of. While a loose Keter was capable of claiming an entire site, it had been several years since a breach of that magnitude had occurred, and containment security had been seriously upgraded since. But that was of little concern to the man in the OP, for his job was only to watch, and report. But as he reached to forward the message, another red light came up on his console.

"PRIORITY 2 ALERT", the new report said. "Automated Notification: Site 28 communications lost."

How unusual, Johnson thought to himself as he reached for another folder, yet another preset incident response. It sounded rather dire, but the Foundation was ready for anything these days. It was probably a simple electronic malfunction (breaches tended to cause all sorts of collateral damage), but a mobile task force would be sent out to make sure that everything was alright. Ten minutes later, with the proper reports filed and notifications sent out, he leaned back into his chair and closed his eyes, hoping nothing else would pop up and he could catch some more of his nap.

Half a second later, Johnson sat up again, cursing as he reached for his console and then freezing as he scanned the monitor array.

"PRIORITY 3 ALERT - Automated Notification: Site 36 - SCP-███/SCP-███ containment compromised."

"PRIORITY 3 ALERT - Automated Notification: Site 31 - SCP-███ containment compromised."

"PRIORITY 2 ALERT - Automated Notification: Site 42 communications lost."

His hand was shaking slightly, Agent Johnson noted, as he reached for two more folders from the cabinet, wondering what the devil was going on. He didn't know why he was so nervous, but something just seemed… wrong. On a whim, he checked the logs from the Foundation news wire, seeing if any breach drills were scheduled for today.

Nothing.

But even as he started filling out the reports and initiating response protocols, more red lights began flickering on across the board.

"PRIORITY 3 ALERT - Automated Notification: Site 14 - SCP-███/SCP-███/SCP-███ containment compromised."

"PRIORITY 2 ALERT - Automated Notification: Site 8 communications lost."

Something on the edge of panic began to creep into Johnson's veins, but he could only stare at the monitors as more and more reports rolled in.

"PRIORITY 2 ALERT - Automated Notification: Site 3 communications lost."

"PRIORITY 2 ALERT - Automated Notification: Site 38 communications lost."

"PRIORITY 1 ALERT - Automated Notification: Site 26 on-site warhead detonated."

"PRIORITY 1 ALERT - Automated Notification: Site 21 on-site warhead detonated."

Now, fragments of inter-site communications were pouring in from secondary channels as well, dutifully recorded by the OP's data harvester and filed away in the post's repository.

"-Security to Section 5, massive breach coming from-"

"-us out of here… Oh God, they're coming through the wa-"

"-blow it; we're all dead, we're all fucking d-"

As the alert notifications overflowed the monitors, however, a single message popped up above his main console, overriding the primary monitors.

"O5 ALERT - All observation posts: Immediate, initiate Protocol XK-0272/A."

Even as the message popped up, a hidden console in the wall opened, a red keypad with a keyed lock, looking all the world like the Big Red Button in a bad science fiction movie. In a cold sweat, Johnson stood up and pulled the thin folder from the back of his cabinet, a dusty manila file, red taped and with the ominous protocol designation across the front. Breaking the seal and taking out the single page of instructions, Johnson sat down and began reading.

PROTOCOL XK-0272/A

In case of irrecoverable [DATA EXPUNGED], all Observation Posts must observe Action XK-0272.

Due to possible compromise of primary staff and researchers, all triggering mechanisms for Action XK-0272 are routed to OP consoles.

ACTION XK-0272

In case of [DATA EXPUNGED], priority of Foundation personnel is to eliminate infection vectors for [DATA EXPUNGED]. This necessitates the termination of all nonessential Foundation staff and assets, and elimination of all major worldwide population centers in preparation for [DATA EXPUNGED].

Upon confirmation of destruct code from requisite majority of OP posts, on-site warheads and sleeper warheads at all Foundation sites and world population centers will be detonated, by which the infection of [DATA EXPUNGED] may be halted and human re-population possible.

Was this possible? Agent Johnson collapsed into his chair, frozen in disbelief, both at the instructions on his table and the constant stream of communications being routed through his post. Even as his mind reeled from the revelation, the status indicators of countless sites and task forces flickered off as, one by one, they succumbed to whatever cosmic horror had broken loose.

Was this the only way? Was there any possibility of avoiding this? What if there were survivors holding out in the cities? How could they expect him to do this? The keypad on the wall seemed to leer at him, taunting him, daring him to end the world.

Agent Johnson sat for nearly an hour, watching as the world he knew disappeared from his monitors, before finally standing up and walking stiffly to the keypad. There was nothing left, he told himself. There was nothing left to save, nothing left to mourn. The key from around his neck went into the lock, and his personal pass code went into the pad.

"To sleep, perchance to dream," he muttered, and twisted the key.

Document 0272/A-T/0131:

To Dr. ██████:

Pursuant to your inquiry dated [DATA EXPUNGED], here are the results of the 8/3/0█ experiment. Out of a total ██ Observation Posts subjected to the test, only █ OPs were able and willing to carry out the pre-assigned task.

While this is alarming, it is not necessarily unexpected. Being assigned to an OP is seen as a dead-end assignment. These people are not properly trained or conditioned to be able to deal with a real XK-class end-of-the-world scenario. If we really want to be able to use the 0272/A system as a fail-safe, then we'll have to figure this out.

Most of the personnel involved have been given Class A amnesiacs and sent back to work, but many had to be re-assigned or removed from duty. I believe two also committed suicide.

In summary: The test was well within expected parameters. We'll work on increasing the effectiveness of the fail-safe in the future.

Sincerely,
Dr. █████████

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