What Happened Beneath Cronos
rating: +14+x

"He's going to find out," a young Joseph Bell sighed as he walked alongside Jeremy Walsh through a forested path on their way home from school. "And when he does he's going to kick our ass."

Joseph and Jeremy had grown up together close as brothers, sharing interests in invention and science. By the time they had reached high school, few could recall seeing one without the other. Co-president's of the schools A/V club. Stage Manager and Assistant Stage Manager. Joseph and Jeremy seemed attached at the hip.

"We covered our tracks," Jeremy replied with a confident smile. "Trust me. This time we won."

Unfortunately, in addition to sharing interests, the two also shared tormentors in the form of Gregory Henry and his band of friends. From elementary school onward, the lumbering burnout had pushed the two of them around. Now, having had enough, Jeremy had managed to plant a package of his mother's cigarettes in Gregory's locker and left an anonymous tip to the vice principal. By the end of the day, their bully had been suspended.

"You just need to relax." Jeremy continued his attempt to erode his friend's pessimism. "Appreciate the fact that our foe has been vanquished."

Joseph nodded, his worried frown slowly turning up into a smile, which then turned into a laugh.

"How'd you even get the pack of cigarettes into his backpack?"

"It was easier than you might think." Jeremy replied, "First I…"

Jeremy was cut short by a rock crashing into the back of his head. Joseph turned to see Gregory Henry step out of the woods and onto the trail.

He knew.


Within a violet sky, an unfamiliar sun rose above distant pine forests, as Researcher Joseph Bell brushed a grimy lock of his messy dark hair out of his eyes and looked ahead as one might look upon a cemetery. Around him, the surviving members of MTF Eta-13 behaved similarly. The ruins of Cronos Outpost stretched out before him, beside a large lake surrounded by pristine meadows and scrublands.

"So…" said Bell to the tall, lanky medic who stood beside him. "Here we are?"

"Here we are," James Candle sighed.

Eta-13 continued to look on in silence. Fourteen separate sets of eyes scanned the burnt-out buildings below. A large hill sat at the center of the outpost, with a concrete bunker built into its side. Its open blast door gave Bell the impression of a gaping mouth. The sound of Sgt. Darren Wells clearing his throat broke the spell the ruins seemed to cast over the task force, and all at once the group faced their tall, stocky commanding officer.

"Welcome to Cronos Outpost, ladies and gentlemen," Wells said. "If all goes according to plan, we'll be back within The Gate within the hour. From there Site-93 is a hop, skip, and a jump away."

The members of Eta-13 gave a short unanimous sigh of relief. It had been a hard and unexpected journey, but now the end was in sight. A short anthropologist standing next to Wells adjusted his glasses and looked towards Candle.

"You and Blaire were the last ones here, James," Dr. Johna Baldric asked the medic. "Any idea if we should be expecting anything inside?"

Candle gave a tired chuckle and shrugged.

"We barely got out of the Gate when the natives attacked, so we really didn't get a good look at what was left around. There could be supplies in the bunker, then again there could also be a trap. I honestly have no idea."

Both Wells and Baldric looked to each other and frowned.

"Security, stick to your researcher. Turner will take point. I want all of you to be ready for a fight if it comes to it," Wells ordered. "Apologies to the tourists in the group, but we're cutting a line straight to the bunker. Get in, get out, go home."

The task force silently took their positions, and began to descend into the awaiting ruins. Bell tightly held his pistol as he took several deep breaths. He could hear Candle chuckle next to him as they walked.

"How you liking your first trip into the Gate?" Candle asked. "Everything you hoped?"

"Scenery was beautiful, but I got attacked by mechanical spiders, and pestered by a rude thought monster," Bell replied with an exhausted smile. "Zero out of ten, would not recommend."


A few years before he had joined the SCP Foundation, Researcher Bell and a few of his college friends had taken a brief trip to New Orleans. There, he had gone on a few guided tours of the old cemeteries within the city. The experience had left him with the feeling of all his actions being watched. Now, as he walked among highly trained task force members through the charred ruins of what had been a relatively fortified outpost, that feeling returned.

We're almost there… Bell thought to himself. His hands held his pistol tightly and his eyes constantly scanned the surrounding environs for any sign of the mirror headed natives. Almost there… Almost… there…

The agent who had taken point, a slender woman named Jia Turner, arrived at the open blast door. In a fluid motion, she activated her flashlight and scanned down the dark tunnel within. Eventually she gave a satisfied nod, and signaled the task force to proceed. Within moments the entire group was upon the threshold.

From his position in the formation, Bell could overhear Baldric speak to Wells in a hushed voice.

"We even going to bother trying to get the power back on?"

"Is it necessary?" Wells asked in response.

"It will make moving through the confined concrete corridors safer. Not to mention if any of the interior doors are sealed… I mean, this is why the task force has engineers, isn't it?"

"Would you even know where to look?"

"I have a rough idea, a lot of these bunkers have similar layouts."

"So be it then. Just do it quick."

Baldric and Wells then turned back to the rest of the task force. Baldric's eyes scanned the many faces before he finally called out a list of names.

"Bell, Gonzalez, Murphy, Harris. You're with me!"


Joseph sat on his bed in the dark, his breathing heavy as he tried to remember the events of the last hour.

He remembered a rock sailing through the air and pelting Jeremy in the back of his head, knocking him down to the trail floor. He remembered Gregory Henry stepping out of the forest with several friends, a stream of slurs directed at Jeremy and Joseph leaving his mouth as his friends threw rocks of their own. He remembered getting hit in the leg and shoulder, his body turning and starting to run, but then everything went blank. The next thing he remembered he was sprinting up his street and into his house. No Jeremy. No Gregory. A pang of revulsion struck him at that moment as he realized he had left his best friend behind. Joseph proceeded to vomit, and then crawled to his bed.

"Coward!"

A voice from the front yard prompted Joseph to look out his window. A battered and bloody Jeremy stood on the lawn below looking back.

"You fucking coward!" Jeremy yelled again.

Joseph slinked away from the window and back onto his bed. He closed his eyes and waited as Jeremy yelled three more times at his house, and eventually limped away. Joseph felt tears of shame roll down his cheek.

"I'm a fucking coward," he repeated to himself in the dark.


Agent Turner watched with an amused smile as Baldric, Bell, and a handful of others descended into the dark confines of the Cronos Bunker. Their flashlights were visible, bouncing in the dark, until they disappeared around a corner, leaving the rest of the task force just inside the bunker entrance to stand guard.

"In Cronos, no one can hear you scream," Turner joked in a monotone voice as the crew sent to turn on the power finally vanished. Candle rolled his eyes and shook his head.

"First off, that joke doesn't make sense," Candle replied. His hand held his rifle tight as he kept his eyes on the surroundings. "Secondly, that's pretty low hanging fruit. How do you do it?"

"Trade secret, sorry," she answered, smiling as she got Candle to smile. "Think it will take them long?"

Candle prepared to answer, but then froze. In the distance the sound of blaring trumpets could be heard. Candle quickly pulled up his binoculars and looked out over the lake. A swarm of twenty beings rapidly sailed towards them, each covered in a brownish-green cloak with no feet dangling beneath them. A spherical mirror took the place of a face beneath their hoods. Each carried a black crossbow.

The natives had arrived.

"Not long at all, I hope!" Wells responded to Turner's inquiry as he grabbed a walkie-talkie on his person. "Baldric, get your ass in gear! We got company!"


"I think its worth mentioning that I'm not an electrical engineer," Bell told Baldric as they moved through the darkness.

"I'm an anthropologist, Gonzalez is a xenobiologist, and the others are skilled at punching holes in things with tiny bits of metal," Baldric replied without looking back. "We're all out of our element here."

"Right…"

"We'll be fine," Baldric continued, "The kind of generators they have in these places are idiot proof. You'll figure it out."

"I'm sure," Bell replied.

"Baldric, get your ass in gear! We got company!"

Wells' voice over the walkie-talkie ripped through the corridor, followed by the distant sound of gunfire. Both Bell and Baldric froze as they took a few seconds to comprehend the implications of Well's words. It was then that the entire team's eyes met in a moment of revelation.

"Oh shit…" Baldric shouted, and began to sprint down the hall. Bell followed closely behind. Within moments they had arrived at a room containing a massive generator. Despite years of remaining idle, it appeared to be in working condition.

"What are we looking for?" Baldric asked.

Bell's eyes followed the beam of his flashlight as he frantically looked around the generator's perimeter.

"I don't know…" Bell replied.

"Think, Bell! What do we need to find?"

"I don't know!"

"Think, goddamn it, this is why we have you here!"

"A lever or crank? Something to give the generator charge? Something like that!" Bell continued to scan the room frantically, it was then his flashlight beam stumbled upon his target. "There!"

The young engineer quickly dashed across the room to a large lever. Bell rapidly pumped it three times then slammed a nearby button.

There was a beep.

Then a whirl.

Then generator sprung to life.

The emergency lights flickered back into existence, and the distant sound of the bunker blast door closing could be heard. Bell sighed in relief, and slumped to the floor as he caught his breath, watching Baldric speak into his walkie-talkie.

"Wells, report!"

"This is Wells," came a reply. "Good news is that the blast door sealed fully. Natives can't get through for now. The bad news…"

Wells trailed off. The team's concerned eyes fell on Baldric.

"Bad news?" he asked.

"Well… why don't we meet back up and you can see for yourself."


Three months later, Joseph Bell sat between his older brother, Felix, and a social worker. Before him, his father's casket slowly descended into the cemetery plot beside his mother's. The words of the pastor performing the ceremony passed in one ear and out the other, and within the blink of an eye his father was buried, and the many people in attendance started to leave.

"Time for us to go," Felix said, placing a hand on his shoulder. Joseph nodded and slowly followed behind.

"Your father was a brave man," the social worker commented as she walked alongside them. "I'm sorry for your loss.

"He really was," Joseph's brother agreed, pausing for a few moments to glance back at the grave. "Is everything set then? For Joseph?"

"The Walsh family have agreed to take Joseph in until the end of the school year. At that point its best that he be with his family, in this case, you."

"That sound good to you?" Felix directed the question at Joseph. "I mean, you can come with me whenever you want. I thought you might want to finish out your classes before uprooting and moving across the country."

"No…" Joseph let out slowly, "No, that’s fine. I like the Walshes. I think it’s a good plan."

He gave a fake smile and a nod. In the distance he could see Jeremy and his family leaving the cemetery.

"Would you excuse me for a moment?" Joseph asked, then took off towards his former friend. Jeremy watched him approach with a blank face. His eyes were cold, and he looked through Joseph, rather than at him.

"Hey," Joseph said. He waited for Jeremy to reply, before he finally continued. "Thanks for being here. It means a lot."

Jeremy looked at the ground and sighed.

"I'm sorry for your loss," he finally said. "Your dad was a cool guy."

Joseph nodded and closed his eyes.

"I guess I'm crashing with you until summer… Fun times…" Joseph finally managed to spit out with an awkward chuckle.

"Fun times…" Jeremy replied. The two once again fell silent, and avoided the other's eye.

"I… I'm sorry about that day… I don't know what happened… I just blacked out… and ran. I'm a such a shitty friend… Please, Jeremy, I'm sorry…"

Jeremy remained quiet for close to a minute, occasionally glancing toward the grave, then to Joseph, then Felix, and finally back to his family before starting the circuit anew.

"How sure are you that you weren't adopted?" Jeremy eventually asked.

"What?"

"How sure are you that you weren't adopted?" Jeremy repeated. "I think it’s hard to believe that someone as brave as your father had a son as cowardly as you."

Joseph watched Jeremy turn and leave. He remained frozen in place as the weight of his best friend's comment sunk in, and shivered a bit before finally returning to his older brother.

"Everything okay?" Felix asked as Joseph walked past.

"Great," Joseph smiled back. "Just great…"


"Are you fucking kidding me…"

Bell overheard Baldric whisper to himself as their small group reunited with Wells in a hallway within the Bunker interior. Before them was another sealed blast door, the term: "TO GATE PASSAGE" stenciled upon the frame. Bell glanced over Wells's team. There were two fewer personnel than had been when they had descended into Bunker. Another two had fresh bandages over their wounds, while Candle was removing a crossbow bolt from a third.

"Locked by Site Command," Wells said as Baldric approached, and analyzed the door. "We're going to need the keycard to get it open. That could be anywhere by now."

Baldric let out a deep sigh.

"Did you know?" he asked Candle, rubbing his temples with his hands.

"It was open when Blaire and I came through," Candle replied without looking up from his work. "Someone or something came through and closed it afterwards."

"So that's it then?" a woman with tan skin and neck length black hair chimed in. Bell recognized her as Dr. Gonzalez, the team's xenobiologist. "All this way to be stopped by a piece of metal? Christ, we could have just stayed at the other Gate and just waited!"

"Could we sneak back out?" Bell asked. "Return to the other Gate?"

Agent Turner shook her head.

"They know we're in here. It would be a shooting gallery." She then turned to Candle. "Can they get in here?"

Candle shrugged.

"I don't know. Maybe? They were able to flush this place out during their initial raid."

"So… what?" Gonzalez asked, her eyes filled with rage as she looked between Candle, Baldric, and Wells. "We just sit around in here until we either starve to death, or the natives creep in and slaughter us? Fantastic. Sign me the fuck-"

"Dr. Gonzalez!" Wells barked, Gonzalez silencing as his voice filled the confined space. "What we are going to do is find the keycard and get the hell out of here. Understand?"

Gonzalez gave a nod as Eta-13 fell silent.

"Where do we start looking?" Bell asked.

I can save you some time in the matter… Jeremy Walsh's voice entered Bell's mind as, yet again, a small orb of glowing pink light manifested itself at the center of the group. My, my. What a predicament you have placed yourselves in.

"Afternoon, Lilith," Baldric addressed the Razumite. "I take it you know where the keycard is?"

Who do you think locked the door? Lilith chirped gleefully, orbiting around Baldric's head. For such a smart group you don't really think things through. My offer still stands though. One key to the Plainstriders Path, and you'll get your ticket home.

"There are two of our friends dead on the surface," Wells bargained. "You can have one of their keys."

That's not how this works and you know it! Lilith tsked. The key loses its value if it’s not sacrificed.

"No deal then," Wells replied.

You'll change your tune when the food runs out… Lilith giggled. Maybe I'll ask for two keys then…

The pink orb of light then vanished. Concerned eyes looking to Baldric and Wells as the two of them sighed in unison.

"It wouldn't be a trip through the Gate if things were easy," Baldric commented with a tired chuckle. "What now?"

"We'll set up in the cafeteria," Wells replied, shaking his head. "From there, we'll tear this place apart. There's got to be another key somewhere…"


Bell and Candle wandered silently through one of the Cronos bunker's many labs, having been assigned to work as one of many pairs actively combing for another Site Command keycard, or anything that might be of use getting the door to the Gate Passage open. Four days in, and the search had largely proven fruitless, as the only thing to be found was broken research equipment, fried computers, and the occasional corpse. Even the stockpiles of food and medicine that such a facility would house seemed to have vanished.

"What if we gave Lilith one of the keys, went through the Gate, then sent someone back through the Gate with someone else's key to get them through?" Bell asked as he scanned the room for places to search.

"A few people on Blaire's crew tried that once," Candle answered, "It worked, but they ended up getting violently sick for three days, with one of them dying from dehydration before they could get back to Site-93. The Gate works on a weird logic of its own, and doesn't like to be tricked."

"If it came down to it, do you think we could get back to that first gate?" Bell said as he went through a set of drawers. "I mean, you did it once."

"Sure did," Candle replied as he scanned a bookcase, "But I feel like I should remind you that I was the only one to survive that adventure, and even then it was through dumb luck. Not something I'd recommend repeating."

"Still," Bell thought aloud, "It could be done…"

"In the sense that you technically can skydive into a wood-chipper, yes, it can be done." Candle looked over at Bell with a frown. "Making plans that I should know about?"

Bell shook his head.

"Not yet at least…" Bell sighed. "It just… I feel like I should be doing something. Here we are, stuck in this tomb, and all anyone can do is sit on their hands and wait for the food to run out. It doesn't sit right with me, y'know? There's got to be something I can do. Maybe we could open the blast door and grab one of the unused keys?"

"Like Turner said, that would be a shooting gallery. Worse, if the natives got in it would put everyone else's life at risk. Not worth it."

Bell slammed his hand down on a nearby desk.

"There has got to be something I can do! Something!"

"Easy there, champ," Candle chuckled. "We'll get out of this. We always do. It just might take a bit. I'm going to check out this office. You comb through the one on the other side. Okay?"

Bell nodded, and headed towards the office at the back corner of the lab. There he spent a few moments going through the desk drawers, before slumping down into the room's office chair.

Arrangements can be made… Jeremy Walsh's voice replied as Lilith appeared in the corner of the office. You have the power, Joseph. You can save them. I just need that pesky key of yours. Wouldn't your father be proud of you? Wouldn't Jeremy? Or Candle?

Bell looked at the ground as the pink orb of light circled him several time.

"Prove it," Bell eventually replied.

What? Lilith stopped mid-orbit.

"Prove you have the keycard," Bell explained. "I don't make deals with people unless they can prove they have what I want."

Lilith paused for a moment, then began to cackle.

Oh, you are precious. I like you. Sure thing, kid.

There was a light hum, a keycard appearing within Lilith's form before floating down to the desk top. Bell prodded the keycard with his finger. It was real, and the markings suggested it was the correct security clearance. Bell gave a tired smile, and then took out his container of chicken's feet. He traced the lid with his finger and then placed it on the desk before returning his gaze to Lilith.

"I'm going to slide this to you with one hand, and grab the keycard with another. Then you leave. Deal?"

Of course, Lilith cooed. Let us be on with it.

Bell nodded and let out a deep breath. The container slid forward as he grabbed the keycard. There was a soft pop, and Lilith was gone. He eyed the card for several moments before letting out a chuckle.

"Hey James," Bell shouted. "Look what I found!"


Despite living with Walsh family for close to two months, surrounded by supportive and kind people, Joseph Bell had never felt more alone. Since he had moved in, Jeremy had not spoken to him, and seemed content with pretending that he did not exist until he moved out at the end of the month. After multiple failed attempts to reconnect, Joseph felt content to leave him be for the rest of his stay. For this reason, Joseph took the wooded path back to the Walsh's alone.

"Only four weeks left…" Joseph mumbled to himself as he kicked a pine cone off the path. "You can do it…

"Keep the fuck away from me!"

The sound of people shouting ahead roused Joseph from his thoughts. He paused, listening.

"I'm warning you!"

Joseph recognized one voices and Jeremy's, and rushed down the trail, soon arriving to find his former friend on his knees, his arms held behind his back as Gregory Henry proceeded to light a cigarette and hold close to Jeremy's face.

"You really like pushing your luck, don't you?" Gregory asked, watching as Jeremy tried to pull his head away from the smoldering tobacco. "I found out the first time, why the fuck wouldn't I find out the second?"

"It wasn't me, you dumb ass," Jeremy shouted back. "I don't know why they searched your locker. Maybe don't take cigarettes to school?"

"Heh, wise words…" Gregory chuckled, and flicked the cigarette away before kicking Jeremy in the gut, sending him toppling over. He then raised his leg to deliver another kick, only to be tackled by Joseph, sprinting down the hill at top speed.

"Leave him the fuck alone!" Joseph shouted as the two crashed into the dirt. He managed to smash Gregory's head into the ground twice before Gregory's two friend pried him off their leader. He got to his feet slowly, howling in pain as he wiped the blood from what was likely a broken nose.

"God fucking damn it!" he shouted. "You fucked up now!"

Joseph tried to remember what exactly happened next, but drew a blank. It was safe to say it involved a lot of punching, and several kicks.


"Does it work?"" Baldric asked. He sat across a table from Candle and Bell who had placed the keycard down in front of him and Wells. The latter poorly hid a grin as he watched Baldric inspect the keycard as if it was bacteria beneath a microscope.

"We tested it before we brought it here," Bell replied. "It works just fine."

"Can't argue with those results," Candle smiled.

"Sure can't," Wells agreed and let out a relieved sigh. "I was going to offer Lilith my keycard if we didn't find this soon. You really saved me some hassle, kid. A real hero."

Bell faked a smile, nodding in agreement with Wells' praise. His mind was racing with ideas on what to do when the truth about how he acquired the keycard eventually surfaced. So far the most viable option was to push Wells through the gate, then destroy it when he was the only one left. Needless to say, it was an idea that was still in development.

"We'll leave in an hour," Wells eventually added. "Get the wounded ready to travel."

He then stood and chuckled, taking a moment to stretch.

"Ships no longer sinking. Captain doesn't have to go down with it."


Hsssssstttt

The blast door opened smoothly, despite its years of disuse, revealing a small hallway that lead to yet another blast door. On the other side of the second door, the members of Eta-13 were welcomed by a polished marble cavern. At its center was a stone archway with a crystal in place of of a keystone. The entire task force let out a collective sigh. Home was once again in their reach.

"Everyone have their keys?" Baldric asked, to be met by a tired series of murmured affirmations. Balrdic gave a nod to Wells, and the task force began their Gate entry proceedings.

Oh good, you made it! Jeremy Walsh's voice echoed through Bell's mind. Lilith phased into existence above the Gate. Well done.

"Here to see us off?" Wells asked, his voice slightly smug.

Indeed, Lilith replied cheerfully. Also to warn you that one of the Camdorian elders made a deal with me to open the bunker's blast door. Anyway, have a nice trip.

"Wait, what?" Wells snapped, but was too late. Lilith had already disappeared with a cackle, and in the distance the bunker's blast doors could be heard opening.

Bwaaaaaaaaaa

The sound of a blaring tuba echoed through the interior of the bunker. A swarm of natives rushed towards them, crossbows drawn.

"Candle, Turner, positions!" Wells shouted, aiming his rifle as task force members rushed past him and through the Gate.

The three agents let off burst after burst, their foes falling with the sound of shattering glass. Even with their casualties, however, the enemy had achieved a critical mass and would soon overrun their position. At the last second, Wells slammed his fist into the nearby door panel, the blast doors hissing shut and sealing them within the Gate's chamber. The sound of an orchestra exploding could be heard on the other side as the natives attempted to break the door down.

"Everyone but Bell is through!" Turner shouted she inserted a fresh magazine into her rifle. "How long will these internal doors hold?"

"Depends on if they use magic or not," Candle replied. He then turned to Bell, a confused look on his face. "We appreciate the back up, champ, but you should really leave. Now!"

Bell shook nervously as he held his pistol tight. He opened his mouth to speak, but could not find his words.

"You can't, can you?" Turner asked, her eyes opening wide with revelation. "You traded with Lilith!"

"You what?!?" Wells barked. "Are you out of your mind?"

"Someone had to!" Bell shouted back. "I didn't mind. Go on! Get the rest of the team home!"

Wells pulled out his container of chicken's feet and began step towards Bell.

"You're going to take my key, and you're going to go through the Gate, that's an order!"

Bell raised his pistol, the muzzle shaking violently as he increased the distance between himself and Wells.

"Can't do that, sir!" Bell shouted. "I volunteer. Please, we don't have much time. They can break through those doors at any second."

"Stand down, Bell!" Wells shouted. Bell fired a round from his pistol into the ceiling in response.

Candle, Turner, and Wells each stepped back and looked to each other. Wells eventually sighed.

"You heard Galahad," he said. "Kid wants to be a damn hero, we'll let him. Through the Gate."

Candle quickly whispered something to Turner, the latter giving a sly a smile and nodding. The two then jolted, Candle ramming Wells between the archway, as Turner zigzagged across the distance separating her and Bell, incapacitating the young researcher as he attempted to fire off another shot. Candle slammed his key into Bell's hands. With a gentle throw, the engineer was disappeared into the Gate Passage.

"Tell Wells I'm not sorry," Candle said to Turner. "And get them back to Site-93 for me."

"Sure thing, anything else I can do for you?" Turner replied. "Want me to hit Baldric too?"

"Some low hanging fruit right there. How do you do it?"

"Trade secret, sorry."

Candle handed off his medical supplies to Turner, who then ran through Gate. The last thing she saw before being struck by a combination of her vision filling with a deep purple and the sensation of licking a battery, was Candle reloading, and preparing for the blast doors to breach.


Joseph Bell lay on the forest floor, his head pounding, and his left eye swelling shut. Gregory and his friends had beaten the shit out of him and left, chanting a sea of slurs and insults as they vanished into the woods.

"You look like shit."

Joseph turned his head and looked over to see Jeremy limping toward him, offering assistance up. Joseph took his friends hand and the two made their way to a large tree where they slumped down to rest. Getting one's ass kicked was exhausting work.

"Thanks for that by the way," Jeremy said with a sigh. "And sorry I've been such a tool, especially when you needed me most. I'm really sorry, dude."

"Its alright…" Joseph replied. "I shouldn't have abandoned you…"

"I mean, sure, but I can't say I wouldn't have done the same if our positions were switched. Then your dad passed and I acted like a total prick…"

Jeremy trailed off, shaking his head.

"I'm really going to miss you when you move, man."

A small smile came to Joseph's face as he looked toward his friend.

"I'm going to miss you too. It's going to be weird graduating at another school without you."

"I know, right?" Jeremy gave a melancholy laugh and got to his feet before offering Joseph a hand up. "It really sucks."

"It really does," Joseph agreed as he accepted the assistance, the two supporting one another as they began to limp towards Jeremy's home. "Guess we just have to make the best of whatever time we have left."


The particular entrance into the Gate Passage taken by Eta-13 on their escape from Cronos Outpost operated as kind of trap door within a rather unremarkable section of the passage. The Foundation had the forethought to install a ladder following the creation of Cronos Outpost, and so Agent Turner descended into the cramped dirt passage rung after rung. The tight, dirt passage was filled with the sounds of a howling Researcher Bell, being held down by several other members of Eta-13.

"You bastard," he shouted, "It was my choice! My decision! I volunteered my life, not yours!"

Turner calmly removed an injection pen from Candle's kit and stabbed it into Bell's leg. Within a few moments the sedation took effect, and the Gate Passage fell quiet.

"We still have a lot of ground to cover," Baldric said, breaking the silence. "And we need to make sure you all know how to interact with the Oldomerites before we show up like beggars on their front door."

The remainder of Eta-13 gathered around Dr. Baldric as he discussed in great detail the route they were to take to Armstrong Outpost and the intricacies of the Oldomerites themselves. Meanwhile, Turner caught Sgt. Wells isolating himself to the side where he rubbed the back of his head.

"Fuck Candle and his goddamn heroics, and fuck the fact that they rubbed off on Bell…" Wells mumbled as Turner approached. He attempted to shoo her away, but eventually relented to have her company.

"He wanted me to tell you that he's not sorry," she commented.

"Of course he isn't…"

"You know that you and Baldric would have done the exact same thing if you were him. Besides, the ship isn't sinking anymore. It's going to need its captain."

Wells sighed and nodded. Turner patted him on the shoulder and proceeded to stand and join the rest of the group.

By the end of Baldric's briefing, Bell had come to, and approached her. He opened his mouth to speak, but then closed it again. Turner gave a sympathetic smile in return.

"Looks like you're on your own from here on out, kid," she said. "But hey, if even half of what Candle had to teach rubbed off on you, you'll be fine."

"I sent James to his death…" Bell mumbled.

"Nah, Candle made his own choice. Just like you. Ain't it a bitch?"

Bell gave a nod and fell in line, his eyes plastered to the ground.

Eta-13 picked itself up, dusted itself off, and moved on. There would be time to mourn once they returned to Site-93.


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