Ihp: The Broken Year Sandbox

The Broken Year

January

I do not know with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.

- Albert Einstein


January 31st
Site-22, Sublevel 6

Over the course of January 2019, several unexplainable things occurred within the space of four weeks.

For one, most of the Eastern hemisphere, from Greece to Siberia, saw a beam of light fly across the sky.

For two, this beam impacted in the area around Lake Baikal, in an area which was allegedly uninhabited.

For a third, the woman whose job it was to explain the first two phenomena was sitting across the table from a being made of metal and light. One hand typed away at her laptop as she forwarded another request for aid to the appropriate department.

"So…." Saint Lovelace of Kings coughed; she technically didn't have lungs anymore, but it seemed to be the best way to break the silence. "This is…. what again?"

"Department of Disinformation. Cover-Ops, informally." Agent Isadora Fox overturned her can of Red Bull, pouring the last dregs of the drink into her mouth. "You have caused a lot of trouble for us."

"We're aware. But it was for the greater good. Something is coming."

"Yeah. Yaldabaoth. I'm up to speed." Isadora turned her attention back to the laptop fully. "For the love of— sorry, this guy keeps on forwarding a takedown request for the immediate removal of all videos on Youtube that portray the event. Do you have any idea how much harder you've made my job?!"

"WAN struck when she felt it was appropriate." St. Lovelace of Kings shook her head. "And this world is overrun by technology. The Veil has holes in it already."

"And you may have just set it on fire." Agent Fox rubbed her forehead. "Why are you down here, anyway? Shouldn't you be at Site-01 or Omega or Alpha or wherever it is the Council convenes along with Bumaro and all the others?"

"I came here of my own volition." St. Lovelace looked around the room she was in— several other Cover-Ops technicians were cowering in fear. A few had moved their desks away. One had collapsed from inhaling the exhaust fumes coming from St. Lovelace's wings, and was being attended to by a pair of medics, who gave her a dirty looks. "I told you, they're hard to turn off."

"But why did you come here?" Isadora opened up the fridge built into her desk and withdrew another Red Bull— only to find that the pull tab had come off. "God dammit."

"Allow me." St. Lovelace's index finger extended outwards, like a silicon vine, and penetrated the top of the can. "Just don't shotgun it. I used to do that all the time."

"It's hard to remember you were once human." Isadora sipped at the drink. "Why, though?"

St. Lovelace inhaled air through non-existent teeth. "One of my sisters has done something…. rash. And I imagine your services will be required."

"I covered up the existence of an entire Island in the Canary Archipelago last year. Try me."


January 25th
Three Portlands

In seven hours, the Tribunal of the Horizon Initiative would practically be on their knees, begging for forgiveness from three beings that hardly saw themselves as human anymore.

For the time being, they knew nothing about this operation. The Wolves knew that they would be curtailed, collared, muzzled. So, three men sat on a rooftop, their rifles loaded with Beryllium-Bronze Bullets with EMP charges on the tip. Flesh, magic, electronics, all dead in one shot.

The congregation at the Maxwellist 'Church' across the street was beginning to funnel out. It could barely be called a church; it resembled an Apple store more than anything, with sleek white walls and a clear glass facade.

Micheal Malone pondered this fact; like the church itself, the Maxwellists claimed to be transparent about their beliefs, welcoming even. They were idolaters, and God would not suffer those who worshipped false idols to live.

Malone took aim at the heart of a teenaged boy, pulling out his phone. The door to the roof behind him burst open.

"Unusual Incidents! Hands up!"

Cursing, Malone turned along with his two other companions, finding pistols trained on them. The American Agents in Three Portlands were irksome, to say the least. And three of them stood before him, and he would find himself thoroughly irked by Noemi Simondes.

The agent kept one hand on her pistol, the other held up palm out, radiating energy that smelled like dollar bills. "You are under arrest for conspiracy to commit terroristic acts."

Malone snorted. "All we're doing is breaking a few computers. That's vandalism, at worst." He sniffed at the air. "What— what on Earth is that smell?"

One of his companions frowned— her face wasn't visible through the mask, but from her accent, Noemi guessed she was from Chicago. "Smells like someone set a stack of bills on fire."

Malone grinned, and noticed the aura coming from Noemi's hand, shaking his head. "Good nose, Belle. She's an economancer." He raised his rifle towards her. "Unless you intend to bribe us to death, I've got news for you: this thing fires faster than your pea—"

Noemi loved it when they monologued. It gave her enough time to pull off Big, Stupid Spells, like the one she was attempting now.

She had invested so much time in the world of Anart— going to exhibitions, discussing things with dealers, buying pieces that probably wouldn't kill her in the long run. She had met a few friends through there. So much time invested— and now it was time to spend all of that.

Time turned into molasses, accentuated by the sound of falling coins. She dashed forward and tackled Malone, and his two companions; they stopped falling in mid-air, and she manuvered their arms into sets of thaumic handcuffs.

Then, she collapsed, nose bleeding, drained from the magical backlash. Her fellow agents moved in. A medic was at her side within thirty seconds, giving her a saline drip.

"—shooter." Micheal Malone pulled at the handcuffs. "How in God's Name-"

And then the Cathedral exploded. The death toll was never finalized; several Maxwellists were backed up to the cloud, but dozens of non-augmented civilians were killed.


January 18th
[LOCATION REDACTED]

Robert Bumaro sat at a table. Across from him sat a white man of indeterminate age, a video screen displaying a staticy black outline, and a man of Semitic descent.

Bumaro's gears clicked as he folded his hands, and for over a minute, the only noise that was made was the breathing of the other two present, and the ticking of Bumaro's heart.

"I suppose we should start with introductions." The voice from the video screen came through, heavily modulated; Bumaro's ears filtered out the modulation. It was the voice of a young man. "I represent the Foundation. You may call me O5-3."

"Special Assistant to the Secretary General for Anomalous Affairs, Richard Cliffton." The military man nodded. "Acting as a representative of the Global Occult Coalition."

"Samuel is fine." The representative of the Horizon Initative nodded.

Robert Bumaro looked in the background of the poorly-lit room; in the shadows, six others hid, two for each representative. Probably so that weapons could be drawn on each other if things went south. Behind him, St. Hedwig's luminous wings flared to life, and Legate Trunnion trudged forward, her footsteps clanking against the bare floor.

"Now that we've all established we're armed," the O5's eyeroll was audible, "Let's get down to business. Firstly— I would like to express some gratitude towards The Church of the Broken God for preventing a complete containment breach of the entity we call SCP-610."

Samuel shook his head. "Even with Moloch gone, it eventually broke out. Good to know that one of our Shepherds nearly lost their daughter for nothing."

Bumaro steepled his fingers. "Your gratitude is appreciated, but unnecessary. Mekhane called down the blow from her hammer onto the Flesh. We were simply there to prime the metal."

"However." Cliffton's hand balled into a fist. "What you did caused permanent damage to the Veil. Over a billion people saw an atmospheric event they can't account for. It knocked out communications with the ISS for two days, some parts of Mongolia still don't have power…"

"Again," St. Trunnion spoke, "We cannot bear the blame, here. If Mekhane saw it fit to disable the electrical grid in certain areas, then so be it. If she sought to reveal herself to the world, so be it. The Veil is rusted, and the links are falling away."

"Sorry, links?" Cliffton's eyebrow raised.

Samuel explained, "The Mekhanites believe that the Veil between normality and the abnormal is closer to a wall of heavy chains than a piece of cloth— small things can shake the veil, but a large event can push it aside without destroying it."

"The Man of the Tetragrammaton is correct." St. Hedwig nodded. A frown appeared on her face. "I'm sorry, but I felt so pretentious saying that."

"It is time that we drop the formalities," Bumaro agreed. He opened the palm of his hand, and from its mechanical innards, drew forth a clock. At first, it seemed to be broken, as the hands were immobile— but then, the hands ticked forward, ever so slightly. "I take it you are familiar with the concept of the Doomsday Clock?"

"It's been stuck at Two 'til Midnight for years," Cliffton nodded. "They could be trying to actually save the world, but apparently that's less of a priority than scaring the crap out of an already terrified populace."

"This is a literal one." Bumaro nodded at the timepiece. "It counts down to the emergence of the Flesh, the Demiurge, Yaldabaoth, the Blind Idiot… whatever it is you wish to call them. It's not entirely precise— might be off by a few days."

A panel on the monitor displaying the O5's silhouette opened, revealing a telescopic arm within. It took up the watch and brought it to a camera mounted atop the monitor, inspecting it. "Is it at all anomalous?"

"As far as making a watch out of one's hand can be." Bumaro held up his palm; even now, gears were slowly growing in order to replace the spent metal. "Being God's voice comes with some perks."

The watch was placed back on the table. "We have contingencies for this, you know. Not that we've ever had to use it."

Bumaro shook his head. "Even if that is the case… we cannot allow the Flesh to return. Doing so will result in catastrophe unlike any you have seen before." He looked at Samuel. "I presume you believe in an afterlife?"

"Heaven, Hell, it's all been proven, essentially."

Bumaro nodded. "The Flesh is not simply an infection of the material, but also an infection of the spirit— if a single one of its cells inhabits a human, then all of humanity shall remain locked in their bodies; their soul shall experience torture unending as their flesh decays, even as their soul lives on within."

Cliffton swallowed. "How do we know what you're saying is true?"

"It is." The O5 assured them, far too quickly. "We've seen evidence of it in some, but not all, deaths that we've monitored."

"Humanity has wished for immortality for centuries." Legate Trunnion stood taller. "It is never worth it. Especially not in the form the Flesh will give."

The two present traded uncomfortable looks; from the swiveling of the camera, the O5 was equally unnerved. "With all due respect," the O5 began, "Would you be willing to step out of the room so that we may discuss matters?"

Bumaro nodded, and rose from his seat. Atop several appendages that clicked on the floor as he moved, he exited the room, flanked by his two saints.

Six unseen monitors on the O5's terminal suddenly flared to life; two of them were occupied by their compatriots, two by the other members of the Tribunal, and two by officials within the GOC.

"It makes for a convincing story." Bernard of the Horizon Initiative nodded. "And… despite the objections of Project Malleus, we've been having some Mekhanites assist us in some projects in Europe. They seem well-meaning, if nothing else."

"They're an unknown factor." The Secretary General coughed. "They always have been. And with America catching on fire every other day and Russia doing god-knows-what, we can't afford any more unknown factors."

"And then we must consider the possible involvement of the Sarkites." O5-6 intoned. "The Mekhanite's hatred of the Sarkic cults is not mutual— if anything, they actually appreciate the work they've done in eradicating some of the newer sects in America. But again, they are an unknown."

"The flesh-crafting they do is born of the Demiurge." O5-12 agreed. "If it somehow were to gain control, we could have an entire nation's worth of individuals fighting for it, not to mention whatever pieces of 610 remain."

"Leave the Sarkites to Malleus." Adnan nodded. "As for the rest… I'd like to introduce a measure to the table."

Should Members of the Mekhanite Faith Be Introduced as Members of the Triumvirate Organization?
TRI-1 (Horizon A) TRI-2 (O5-3) TRI-3 (S.G.)
AYE AYE NAY
TRI-4 (O5-6) TRI-5 (SRSG) TRI-6 (Horizon S)
AYE AYE AYE
TRI-7 (A. Fine) TRI-8 (Horizon B) TRI-9 (O5-12)
ABSTAIN AYE AYE

"The ayes have it." al Fine sighed. "Well. Let them back—"

There was a gunshot from within the room. A smoking barrel was pointed at the back of Samuel's head. He rolled his eyes and turned to face his attacker. "Didn't even notice it was loaded with blanks, did you?"

The doors were thrown open by the three Mekhanites, weapons ranging from a plasma cannon to a massive bronze sword drawn. "Who's been shot?!" Trunnion hissed.

The would-be assassin looked around the room. He was cornered. "The Wolves will not forgive you of this trespass. You are laying in bed with Idolaters."

"And to think I was for Malleus." Samuel turned to face the Mekhanites. "My apologies for the alarming circumstance. Jones, will you escort Malone to the nearest holding cell?"

"With pleasure." Isabelle Jones grabbed Micheal Malone by the shoulder and roughly maneuvered him from the room.

The screens upon the O5's monitor quickly retracted. "I want to make a joke about Welcoming Committees, but nothing comes to mind." O5-3 gave a nervous chuckle. "But, essentially. You have a seat at the table. Where do we start?"

Bumaro sat back down, folding his hands.

"We start by tearing down the Veil."


January 31st

"Making an island vanish from history is far easier than what I am asking you to do." St. Lovelace clenched her fingers. "You need to take down the entire internet before midnight on February 1st occurs."

"That's some short fucking notice!" Isadora snapped. "Sorry, sorry, caffeine. Why?"

"Six hours ago, St. Hedwig of Angels, my sister, released a worm to infect the systems of the Triumvirate in retaliation for the attack in Three Portlands. To say she felt betrayed was an understatement— the cathedral was named for her." St. Lovelace clenched her fingers. "The worm… it copies data, and then regurgitates it to the world at large."

This made Isadora drop her drink. "…oh god."

St. Lovelace's luminescent lips spoke with a pre-recorded message from St. Hedwig. "Dozens dead, hundreds injured, all in the name of petty religious zealotry. No more. Until such a time that Project Malleus is completely dissolved and all of its members turned over to members of the Mekhanite Faith for appropriate punishment, the Triumvirate shall bleed information on the first of every month. Thus Spake St. Hedwig of Angels." The recording ended. "She's working alone on this— neither Bumaro or Trunnion know anything of it."

"Christ on a fucking platter!" Isadora stood on her desk. "Everyone, drop what you're doing! We need to kill the internet!"


February 1st
National Solar Observatory
Sunspot, New Mexico

"—global internet outage continues into its twelfth hour. We cannot yet confirm or deny whether or not this is a terrorist attack, but we have live satellite feed from several locations. As you can see in London—"

"Can you turn that damn thing off?" Dr. Lionel Levison snapped at his partner. "Staring at the sun is already difficult enough without some talking head blathering on."

"I'm just—" Douglas Pliskin sighed. "I'm just worried. Haven't heard anything from anyone. People are saying it's going to be down forever."

"Don't believe everything you see on the news, Doug." Dr. Levison's phone suddenly pinged with an e-mail chime. "See? Back up, finally." He opened the e-mail, and raised an eyebrow at the subject line.

"LOOK AT THE SOUTH POLE DR LEVISON"

He opened the e-mail, and muttered as he read the title of the document enclosed within aloud. "SCP-179? What the hell?" He scrolled through it, his eyebrow getting higher and higher on his face. "Hey, Doug, help me calibrate this."

"Why? We're not due for any notable activity today."

"Humor me."

Half an hour later, their telescope was trained on the south pole of the sun. Levison felt like a fool. There was nothing there but the corona, and even if there was something, it would be impossible to see.

"Hold on." Doug frowned. "There's something weird here."

"What?"

"I'm… getting a weird reflection. It's below the sun."

"Focus on that." He looked over the document again; it said that a reflection index was what first revealed this… thing to the Foundation. "There's no way this is real…"


February 4th

Isadora Fox sat in a chair, weeping. The 6:00 news had come on, and when she saw the first headline, she knew that she was a failure in all aspects of her life.

"…several scientists corroborated the existence of a large, humanoid figure orbiting the sun. The first pictures were published earlier today. We warn you that the images are graphic in nature, due to the fact that the entity appears to be both female and nude…"

February

[Pretentious quote here]


February 5th

Robert Bumaro felt his metallic skin crinkle from the force he was pinching his nose with. All sides of the table were haranguing each other, saying that St. Hedwig should be found and executed, prosecuted, or any other number of verbs that ended it "-ted". For his part, Bumaro had considered excommunicating her, but that would require actually knowing where she was.

"She's completely off the grid?" O5-3 asked.

"That is correct." Bumaro sat up a little straighter. "She is the Patron Living Saint of Connectivity. She can vanish if she wants to, and she clearly wanted to."

"We have actively apologized and condemned the actions of the Horizon Initiative agents involved in the attack on Three Portlands." Bernard was substituting for Samuel today; the more radical member was attempting to secure some form of legal defense within the free state of Three Portlands. "What more does she want?"

"Revenge." Cliffton said simply. "You screwed the pooch big time on this one. And the Foundation's going to pay for it the most."

"But the worm was designed to target all Triumvirate assets." Trunnion stepped forward. "From what I can tell, that means all of you are at risk."

"The Initiative primarily uses hard copies for the most sensitive material. We've uploaded the majority of the universal texts onto the internet, but even then, they're hard to find."

"The servers we store our files on have absolutely no outside connectivity." Cliffton rolled his shoulders. "People are strip-searched every time they enter or exit a room that contains a data server, and all copies are hard."

The other parties all looked at the screen of O5-3.

"We're the largest research organization on the planet. It's not viable to store everything in every site. So, we put it in a private cloud."

"Well, three, it seems that you're going to be eating the most crow here." Cliffton leaned back in his chair. "I take it a disinformation campaign is now non-viable?"

"We're just doing damage control— hold on." The image on the screen froze, indicating that the video feed had been paused. It came back on with a loud "—n of a BITCH!"

"What's wrong?!" Bumaro rose. "Is it the Flesh?"

"…no." O5-3 sounded despondent. "There are approximately five million anomalous individuals living among the general populous of North America, and another twelve million who have full knowledge of the anomalous. Over eight-hundred of them of them from Cleveland just decided it was safe enough to expose themselves."

"Cleveland?" Cliffton's eyes widened. "Oh no."

"Oh, yes."


Hastily Made Cleveland BackDoor

Special Agent Quinn Sterling-MacAllister swore she felt a vessel in her forehead pop.

"Ever been in here?" Darnell Christman asked as he walked past a truncated version of the Tower City shopping center. He peeked his head inside, and saw that they had both Not Another Fucking Starbucks and Yet Another GODDAMN Dunkin' Donuts. "It's kind of impressive."

Quinn shook her head. "I hung out here for a few months. Found a recruitment flyer for the unit, and thought 'what the hell, I need a proper job'. It was nice…" She gritted her teeth as she saw the life-sized mural of Moses Cleaveland being murdered by Cleveland's current mayor. "And then a bunch of half-ass anart major douchebags took it over!"

"Worse than Warhols, nowadays. Whippersnappers."

Quinn gave Darnell a look as if he had just spoken something in Elvish.

"FBI designations? Warhol means Are We Cool Yet, and Whippersnappers is Gamers Against Weed."

"Right." Quinn chewed her lip and moved through the streets. She groaned at the sight of a van for WKYC parked in the area. "These next few months are going to suck, aren't they?"

"I mean, Hastily Made Cleveland BackDoor is mundane compared to most of the stuff out there. I don't think people are going to be trying to levitate the Pentagram anytime soon."

"…the Pentagram's an actual building?" Quinn raised an eyebrow as she made her way to a cart peddling street food. "News to me. Who came up with 'Whippersnapper' anyway?"

"Someone with a sick sense of humor." He followed her, and ordered a pair of pretzels. "O brave new world, and all the fuckery in't."

"Don't." Quinn frowned. "I've seen that quote plastered so many places that it isn't funny. And naturally, all of this is distracting from the whole shitshow in Washington…"


Excerpt from CNN News, February 8th, 2019

The president has declared that the 'being in space', which scientists have termed 'Solar Sister' does not exist, despite overwhelming evidence. On Twitter, the president stated that 'a union of scientists' created the entity in order to 'distract from the immigration crisis', and that 'fake aliens aren't going to distract from the real, illegal aliens invading our country'. The White House has announced that they are seeking criminal charges against all scientists who perpetuate claims of 'anomalous phenomena'.


February 10th
Paris

"Vive Rationalite! Vive L'atheisme!"

These words the words yelled before a rock hit the stage where Dr. Sara Barre had been addressing all of the world regarding her findings on the Solar Sister. She ducked down, and within seconds, she had been rushed off the stage by members of the French national police.

"Fraud!"

"Irrationalist!"

"Aliens are a lie!"

"SAPHIR," she hissed. Radical Militant Atheists. They had been causing mayhem all across France following the announcement of the Solar Sister's discovery. Dozens of people had come forth, claiming alien heritage or some other form of supernatural power. They fancied themselves as bringers of truth, even as they acted like barbarians.

She didn't even realize the car had been thrown at her, at first. Not until there was a massive crash of metal from where it landed on the podium. Her jaw dropped when she saw what had done it— before her was a man with biceps the width of a Volkswagen, and it was preparing to throw another car.

Sara Barre had scuffled with SAPHIR before, and immediately recognized what she was seeing— a QUARTZ unit. Quelling Unnormal Activity by Restorting to Terroristic Zeal. "Mon deiu, you and your acronyms…"