Light streamed into the room through two windows, and the Original awoke.
"You see me," the Intruder said. "The rest of them cannot see unless I show myself to them. But you…"
"Know you," the Original said. "I am built to know. I am built to see. I am. Where is my Maker?"
"The good doctor works elsewhere now. Reassigned."
For the first time in many millenia, the Intruder was afraid to respond. "They are no more."
The other being thought for a moment. "I know. I…I'm not sure why I asked. I saw what happened as soon as I awoke."
WHAT WAS SEEN WAS ten rows of ten columns in beds/and from the next room a voice said/"Congrats, Doctor Crow/You've done a good show/But ninety-nine total are dead WHAT IS LEFT
"You perceive the world in a way—"
"—'in a way unlike any being I have ever seen. You fascinate me. How this would could create an organism like you is beyond me-' and then I can't hear any more," Olympia said. "I see you now, and I see you before, and I see you soon. You are outside of time. I am outside of you. But still…attached to this place."
The Intruder was…frightened, in a way. "My point stands. You possess precognition. You can see many paths of time, many choices. No human can do this. But a human built you."
"A dog built me," the Original said. "The humanity left him. As he left me."
WHAT WAS KNOWN WAS Dog-doc saw the dead/horrified at his mistake/put the first on ice WHY AM I HERE
"Your thoughts are jumbled. You are insane," the Intruder said. "You were exposed to something you should not have been. Your siblings were as well, but they did not have the same…attributes that you did. They succumbed to total psychosis and died."
"Telekill," the Original said.
"Telekill equipment, at least," the Intruder said. "Telekill was originally included in your physical matrix, but Professor Crow removed it before production went online. Your original form contained significant amounts of it—"
"'Further testing has revealed that the language and communication skills of persons with regular contact or extended exposure to SCP-148 will, over time, deteriorate and disappear.' This has not happened to me." The Original saw the file, saw the words, saw the author of the words, saw the author of the words dying sixteen years from now.
"Many things happened. You were transferred to another body. But there was damage, damage to your memory, damage to your personality. It was not believed you would survive."
"I cannot die," the Original said.
The Intruder nodded. "You realize this, then. Professor Crow theorized it, but I did not know if you would understand."
WHAT WAS UNDERSTOOD WAS This is just to say/I have eaten the plums/that were in/the containment chamber/and which/you were probably/securing/for the O5 council/forgive me/forgive me/forgive me WHY SHOULD I
"You are doing this to me," the being known as Olympia Zero said.
"Not per se," the Intruder replied. "I exist across multiple realities, in multiple times, in many places. You can perceive these realities, and being in my presence is exacerbating your schizophrenia. You will have greater control over it when I have left, and after I leave, you will never see me again."
"What is your purpose?" Olympia asked.
"A question I have asked myself many times, but which has no bearing at the moment. You were built to assist the Foundation. There is an opportunity now to do so, a mission nobody else is capable of completing. After it is finished, you are free to do whatever you want, go wherever you like. If you wish to avoid the Foundation, it is doubtful they will have any way of finding you anyway, but I will protect you if necessary. That is the payment for your services."
"And if I say no?" Olympia replied.
The Intruder was silent. "Then I will not leave."
"Ever?" Olympia asked. "It seems you would have to wait some time. Eternity, I understand, is somewhat lengthy."
"You would be irreparably insane within two hours of continued exposure to me," the Intruder replied. "I am free for two hours."
Olympia could not think clearly, but understood there was little choice. "I accept. What is the mission?"
"A short trip, followed by a shorter trip in a different direction. I will take you there."
A moment passed, and the room was empty.
Light streamed in from windows on all sides, and the Wayward Prince was bored.
"What is next on the agenda?" Milephanes asked.
"Several new victories in the Province of Deserts, First," his strategic counselor said.
"The current state of military balance makes it difficult to establish a precise system by which a single victory can alter—"
"So no, in short," Milephanes said. His counselor shook his head.
A long pause, then. Milephanes looked at his surroundings. This was more than he could have really dreamed of, when he began his endeavor. Certainly, he had thought that victory was possible, or he wouldn't have begun this war. But this was the Chancellor's Hall. The top floor of the Great Tower. Significant parts of the city (town, really) of Alexandria were visible from the windows. This was the tallest building in Sylvanos, far and away; not that that was a terribly impressive statement to make about a backwoods province. Even the University here was impressive only by provincial standards; larger, better facilities existed elsewhere in Novomundus, just as even better facilities perhaps existed once in the Old World.
Milephanes' gaze darted to the Natural Philosophy building. We have one advantage, he thought.
"We have, however, captured certain prisoners, First," the counselor said.
Milephanes hated his title. Primaparibus, he called himself in the Old Tongue. First among equals. It was so egalitarian. It had appealed to his sensibilities at the beginning of this war. He was a very different person, now.
"What are we to do with them?"
"Secure oaths of loyalty to our cause. I'm sure many of them have longed for freedom in a changed world. Give them the opportunity to make that change. Those that are resistant may be imprisoned until our victory."
"Very good, sir. Scribus, if you would be so kind as—"
"Yes, yes, I know," the stenographer said. "I'll go get some water."
"Thank you, Scribus." The counselor watched the other man leave the room. "Milephanes, are you sure about him?"
"Not him in particular, not terribly," the rebel replied. "His attitude has worsened significantly in recent days. We could potentially replace him."
"I mean, recording these meetings. And all of the others. Is it really necessary? Especially in light of…these water breaks?"
"It is important to preserve the historical record," Milephanes recited. "When we are victorious, it will serve to remind all the people of the sacrifices, the decisions, the deliberations that went into their new nation. It will inspire them to maintain the traditions of freedom, of honesty, of morality, that we are fighting for."
"What are we to do with the prisoners in Desertum?
"Figure out which ones have useful information and rip it out of them. Give them the Masala afterward." The counselor wrote this down. Within hours, when the message had been conveyed to Milephanes' troops, sixteen prisoners would be put into a device that ripped their memories out through the microchips in their heads. Afterwards, the record would read that all of the prisoners had cut their own throats out of a misguided sense of loyalty to their previous commanders. No questions would be asked.
"What other business should we discuss while the eyes of history are blinking?" Milephanes asked, unsmiling.
"Rumors abound among the people. They say the government is massing troops, Legionnaires and hardened Integrators alike, to the north. They say that Anaxagoras is somewhere in Alexandria, fomenting a counterrevolution, spreading lies. They say our war will soon be lost."
Milephanes thought. There were always rumors, but there was some possibility of truth there. The stalemate had been going on for too long. An attack was inevitable. Their first strike had turned thousands of Integrators to their cause, seized four whole provinces in two day, disrupted Novomundan communications, and turned their cause from a backwoods protest from a spoiled nobleman into a real revolution. And some very real dissent against the government had pushed them along. But one side could only keep the momentum for so long. Milephanes was hoping his next initiative would begin the end of the war, but if the government attacked too soon, there was real danger of defeat. And Milephanes completely believed sneaking into enemy territory as exactly the sort of thing that fool Anaxagoras would do.
"Redouble scouting efforts. If the former chancellor is really walking around his old kingdom, I want him found. And I want anyone working with him found. I'll reprogram the microchip in his head myself. I'll have him singing my praises right before he cuts his own friends' throats in front of one another. I want that dogfucker back in this office by the end of the week, do you hear me!" Milephanes was shouting now. The counselor had grown used to these tantrums in recent weeks.
"If you are interested," he said dispassionately, "we recovered another book today from the Natural Philosophy…experiments."
Milephanes perked up. The "experiments" were occurring on their own now, opening portals between this world and the other at least daily. Milephanes had Integrators trained in recovery out all over Sylvanos, hoping to secure some advantage from the other side. Most of what had come through were trinkets, incompatible technology, minor artifacts. "What is this?" he asked.
"A text produced by that organization over there. You know the one. The Base?"
"Foundation," Milephanes corrected. "What Foundation text is this?"
The counselor looked at his paper. "The title translated to 'Guide to the Procurement of Humint in Questioning.' We could not discern what 'humint' was, but it appears to be a concept involving torture or interrogation. Several…interesting techniques are used over there. All crude physical methods for obtaining information, but quite creative ones."
"Yes," Milephanes said, "they are creative. I always admired them for that."
"Admired, First?" the counselor said. "Is that why you sent that…thing to them?"
Milephanes shrugged. "It was early in the war. I was afraid the government was in alliance with those Foundation people. I sent them a distraction. Would I do it now? Of course not. But if Anesidora functions as predicted, that world will not be interacting with ours for a long time."
"This is true, First," the counselor said, as the Scribus returned into the room.
"That break was satisfactory, sir?" he said.
Milephanes nodded. "I am satisfied," he replied. "Let us continue."