I’ve never really loved this job.
It’s a clear night as far as the skies concerned but the fog is thickest I’ve ever seen.
I’m in the van dosed up on stimulants, just like my superiors are always telling me not to be.
All in all there are five of us surrounding the place. Kovacs is in the van with me, fiddling with the dials. Finster and Clovis are on the other side of the building, up on one of the roofs.
It’s only Baker that I’m really worried about.
She’s at one of the tables chatting with some lady she managed to invite out on real short notice. She’s good at that is Baker. ‘Course we’re not here to make sure a date turns out okay (that said I ain’t sure this girl’s good for Baker but I digress) and Baker should have more on her mind than some casual flirting.
Their out in the open, which is the first sign these kids are amateurs. We can hear everything that they say through the gear in the van and through Baker’s piece.
Choosing a public spot was sort of a good idea, but they picked one where we can casually park without raising any concern.
But the stupidest thing is that by God, the kids are wearing those wrist band things that the PPR give out at rallies.
There’s absolutely no question that this is our target so all that we need to do now is sit tight and wait for their contact to show.
We found out about the meet barely a few hours ago so we needed to act fast. Some intelligence geek got lucky and stumbled upon a phone line that the Hippies were using and it just so happened that he came in just as they were organising to speak with somebody.
We’ve no idea who the target is yet, but if we’re lucky he’ll be one of the folks who’ve actually managed to make a joke of a peace foundation into a contender, and without us hearing about it.
I’m secretly hoping that somebody from MC&D shows up, I’d love to take a pop at them after all the shit over the years, but this is a strictly no-contact mission.
They made that extremely clear in the brief. We’re to observe and record but keep contact to a minimum, only acting in self defence. And right now is really not the time to be bucking the system, we need to keep rank and file if we’re going to get through this cluster-fuck.
Baker gets up and heads into the restaurant’s interior after muttering something about freshening up, I tap my throat mic to make sure it’s working and pull the headphones tighter.
I look at Kovacs and he nods, switching me to her channel.
“Pretty quiet, huh?” I say.
“No kidding. Not even sure I’ve heard any of the kids even speak tonight. They’re not doing a great job at the whole espionage thing are they?”
“Well when you hire a bunch of college kids…”
“My nephew’s younger than these guys, Chief; he could do better than they are.”
I snort. “Whatever. Well nothing to do but wait then I guess. How’s the date going?”
“Not too bad. Monique’s an artist you know.”
“That’s a good thing, Chief. I like artists.”
She’s cut off when Kovacs flicks my phones back to the main channel and points at the screen.
“Contact.” I mutter on all channels and watch the newcomer.
He’s just got out a taxi and already the PPR kids are pretending not to look at him.
The restaurant is essentially one big patio with an interior and second storey for the plusher diners, but you have to go inside to get outside.
If we’re lucky he’ll walk right past Baker on her way back.
“Baker. Male, Caucasian, mid-thirties. Black hair and a blue jacket. We need to hear more than we have been.”
“Received an’ understood Chief. I can see him now.”
But we can’t. She’s inside with him, alone. I’m getting jumpy, like I always do when my people are at risk.
The van is quiet, I can’t hear anything past the gentle hum of voices from Baker’s piece.
The kids on the feed are looking agitated, their guy is here and he hasn’t reached them yet.
I didn’t get a great look at him so I can’t really guess what he can do.
I hear a thump, and Baker saying “Sorry! Sorry!” several times.
After a pause, Kovacs grins.
He pulls his headphones down briefly and looks at me.
“She got him. You wanna listen?” I nod and my ears are flooded with the same murmur of voices, but I can hear a male voice telling Baker not to worry.
On the feed, he and she emerge at about the same time. Baker drops easily back into conversation with her lady, but I can guess she’s now flicking furtive glances to the other table a lot more now.
Our target crosses over and sits down at the one empty seat, the four kids move a little closer to him.
He leans in, and so do they.
“What the hell are you doing outside? What if someone hears us you idiots!”
Do I know that voice? I swear I do.
The explosions stopped ages ago but my ears are still ringing.
Thank fuck I was in the finance department at the time, otherwise… that doesn’t even bare thinking about.
There’s nobody else about, it’s too early for most of the low-level guys to get in.
Alarms. There’s alarms going off.
Oh hell, they breached the containment rooms.
I pull myself up and look around. The office is intact, thankfully. I’m glad nobody was here to see me throw myself to the ground in terror if I’m honest.
Out. I’ve got to get out. Finance is nearer to the main entrance than most but it’s still a couple of floors up. I don’t think there’s any SCPs kept near here but I don’t want to take any chances.
Unfortunately I don’t have a choice. There’s no other way out and the only thing nearby that’d count as a weapon is probably my own shoes.
I stumble out the door and curse to myself.
They just had to send me here today, didn’t they? I just had to run an errand at the site.
Oh god I hope I get out of this alive.
The party all get up and head inside, as one of the kids –a boy with green hair and an ear-ring - talks to the waiter. Obviously Baker can’t do much anymore but that’s fine. She’s already done enough.
“Stand down Baker. For now anyway.” I say “you enjoy your artist.”
Her mic is synced to Kovacs at the minute so I don’t hear here response, but I can see the triumphant smile from here.
We can hear everything.
But when a team relaxes, the time dies. This night isn’t even close to over. Let’s see what our guest has to say.
“I thought I’d be meeting with somebody important.” A brief silence, I don’t think the kids like being insulted.
“There’s no-one else to meet, pal. The Teacher is out of state. I’m one of his lieutenants, so anything you say to me you say to him.”
“The fuck you are, I met the Teacher. You’re barely even a foot soldier.”
“I don’t remember.”
“You weren’t there, his actual lieutenants were.”
“…Do you want this meeting to happen or not?”
A loud sigh at this point.
“Fine, fine. I’ll bite. You’re important enough for this or you wouldn’t be here, after all.”
I can practically hear the target smirk.
“Quite. Anyway, you know why I’m here. So can we get down to business?”
I lean in closer subconsciously.
I look at Kovacs and hiss at him to start recording. He’s already on it, and he’s keyed the audio from the target’s mic to everyone.
“Business. Okay. You want out, yeah?”
“And why-“ a creaking of leather and hypocrisy “-should we let you out?”
“…because that was part of the deal?”
“No. That was part of the deal you struck with our proxy, we-“
“Hey Chief.” That’s Clovis cutting in. “The target sound familiar to you?”
I trip over loose wiring and stumble in the hallway.
I’ve not encountered anyone or anything else yet but it’s only a matter of time.
Jesus Christ, I can see a body.
She’s bleeding everywhere, she doesn’t look too bad but she’s bleeding everywhere. Fuck.
Dead? I check the pulse.
I know her. I know her. She’s called Striker, she works in Memetics. Back when I was here full time I sat with her and Larry for lunch.
I almost vomit, almost.
I need to get out. That would be so much easier if I could find a damned weapon. No guards, no enemy, nothing.
Voices. Footsteps, hurried ones.
I hide behind a water cooler, for all the good that’ll do.
Two of them at the end of the corridor, or at least that’s what it sounds like. They’re moving up the hall carefully, hissing to each other quietly.
I hug my knees and pray.
“He go this way?” one of them murmurs once they’re within hearing range.
“Think so. I hope you’re packing tranq. We don’t want him dead.”
My eyes widen and I start to sweat. Their soft footfalls getting closer. I listen closely to them, each individual step all but echoing in the silent corridor.
Wait, not silent. There’s a hum. Subtle, but it’s there. Getting closer, too.
Is that the buzzing of flies?
A door behind me smashes open and a ragged man tumbles out, a thick cloud of flies and ‘roaches following close behind. He stares wildly past me.
He hasn’t seen me yet, but he has seen the two attackers.
“Fuck!” one shouts and cocks a rifle.
“Don’t!” screams the man, walking slowly backwards “They’ll kill you! You see if they don’t!”
And that’s when the noise hits me full on. Squeaking, squealing, wailing sound from seemingly everywhere. And like a pied piper with musophobia, the man points wildly as a torrent of rats flood out of the room after him.
The two men swear, I hear one slip and fall, the rats are everywhere.
They swarm towards the ragged man but that doesn’t stop a couple from spotting me and running over. I watch in horror as they bare their teeth at me.
I scramble back along the wall, reaching frantically around myself as they come closer.
One leaps at me just as my hands close around a potted plant.
I swing it but a little too late, the bastard is one me, biting and scratching.
I scream and tear at it, fling the little shit away from me.
It gazes at me for a moment, but the ragged man is taking off down the corridor.
“I’m going to go home!” he howls at the two mean before leaving. “I’m going to be a person again!”
The swarm follow him and I’m left with nothing but bites and soldiers for company.
The two men come over, and spot me.
“Hey! Buddy, you okay?” one crouches down by me, the other keeps watch.
The man crouched by me has a black eye and blood on his temple, he’s clutching a rifle of some sort.
For a moment, I just stare.
He looks around nervously before speaking again.
“I’m Agent Clovis, MTF. You okay? What’s your name?”
Safe. I’m safe. I start sobbing.
“I’m so sorry.” I whimper.
The poor bastard just looks sympathetic and helps me to my feet.
I am so, so, sorry.
We leave cautiously. I look back and the last thing I see is Striker’s glassy eyed stare.
The penny drops.
That little shit.
I took three bullets for that little fuck back at site 17, and this is how he repays us?
“That bastard’s one of ours.” I vocalise. Kovacs looks surprised.
“Positive. Me and Clovis pulled him out of 17 on Tempest Night. Okay, soon as you got this recorded we’ve gotta get it to a higher up. Little bastard’s gonna D-classed minimum.”
You don’t survive something like that and then turn on your own.
“The Teacher thought you might be like this.” The kid says. “But we still need you. We don’t know near enough yet.”
“Damn it, I gave you what you wanted!”
“No. You gave us the who and you gave us the when. For one hit. We need more.”
Hold up. One hit?
Oh fuck. Oh fuck.
I can’t believe I’m hearing this. But I know what needs to be done.
My AR-15 is sat on the empty seat in the van, I pick it up and flick the safety off. I chew down some more Pro-plus and tap my throat mic again.
“Change of plans, boys and girls. We taking him in.”
“You’re kidding, right?”
“This is Finster, Chief, your mic working properly? Thought I heard you say…”
“Did none of you just hear that? He sold us out! Him! He told the Nation of whatever-fuck who’d be at that meeting! Screw orders, he’s coming with us.”
Everyone is quiet, Kovacs is looking at me with that oddly indifferent gaze.
“Funny how often the orders are screwed ain’t it Chief? Figure that’ll get us killed one day.”
I stand, ignoring him.
I open the back of the van.
That fucker’s gonna get it.
I’m perfectly still. I should be trembling but I’m not.
The two coffee mugs are in my hands, burning them and I don’t even notice.
Tow janitors are peeling something off the wall. Something red.
The head researching is mopping blood off his forehead and staring at the SCP.
“Well it doesn’t like tongue depressors, that’s for sure. Glad I didn’t do it myself really.” He laughs nervously and looks round, seeing my outstretched hands.
He takes a mug. That’s Edna’s mug. I suppose that doesn’t really matter now.
She’s the only one of her team not in the room.
The researcher sips the coffee and sighs. He notices me properly and sees me staring transfixed at the stain I was about to ask to marry me.
He pats my shoulder.
“These things happen.” He says. “Now don’t you have some filing to do?”
I force a weak smile and nod to him. I leave the other mug on a stainless steel table.
I mutely walk back to my desk, all the way back.
The researcher’s right, Dr. Clef wants all the Incident reports re-filed in some order.
I keep the smile up all day.
Somebody is going to get it.