Thunder, Part 2
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After the briefing, Agent Irons met with Dr. Blaire Roth. They greeted each other with enthusiasm, and reminisced about old times ("like that time you were a cat?" "Clef did what to some waffles?") before getting down to the business of the reams of paperwork in front of them. Both were of the opinion that paperwork was better done with companionship.

"So this is it, huh?" Irons asked. "They're finally letting Alpha-9 out the gate."

"Not yet," Roth said. "They still haven't finalized the official starting roster. Besides Iris."

"I see that. We’re assisting with new assets being attached to Alpha-9. Overseen by the Site-19 director. Tilda David Moose."

Roth turned over another piece of paper. "I've worked with her off and on for years. I would hope I know her name by now."

Irons laughed. "Sorry. I just have to remind myself of the name." He flipped through some more forms, seeing what fresh boredom awaited him. "Moose. Light. Gears. Bright. Lament. I can’t take these names seriously sometimes. Why is it still Foundation policy to give all their highly ranked staff members these ridiculous fucking code-names?"

"Jack Bright isn't a ridiculous name."

"Okay, that one's not so bad," Irons said. "But seriously, 'Moose'?"

Roth grimaced. "I asked her once if the name was real. She told me that the surname Moose has a long and distinguished history, originating from Southern Germany and dating back to a John Moose who landed in Maryland in the 1600s. She told me there were a large number of Dr. Mooses in the world, and I could look it up if I wanted to."

"And did you?"

"I did. I found a bunch of dentists, actually."

"But is it her real actual name? I mean, Tilda David Moose."

"I have no earthly clue."

Irons scrutinized the director’s file photo. "Tilda. David. You know, she kind of looks like them."

"Like who?"

"Tilda Swinton, David Bowie… Don't tell me you never thought of it. She’s got that same kind of androgyny thing going on. So that can’t be her real name, right? It’s so… on the nose. Gotta be fake."

"I can’t say if even she remembers. She’s got a lot of damage. You know. Up here." Roth tapped the side of her head. "And that’s from before the Foundation went and did their usual. Self-inflicted."

"She gave herself brain damage?"

"The story goes she was a member of the Serpent’s Hand, on the outside. Turned traitor. She was involved in a lot of weirdness, so they say. Naturally, all details are classified."

"And she gave herself brain damage."

"So the rumors say."

Irons shook his head. "At least Kondraki wouldn't have given himself brain damage. And they went and made her director of Site-19?"

Roth shrugged again. "I was there back when they promoted her. I can’t say they had many better choices. Not once Strelnikov retired."

"High praise."

"She’s been good at her job. There have been a few… incidents, but I think she handles things well. All things considered."

Irons smiled. "You like her."

"I like everyone I’m assigned to," Roth said. "It’s good for business."

"Even if they’re raging incompetents?"

"She’s not a raging incompetent."

"Another ringing endorsement."

"You know what I mean."

"Well then," Irons said. "If we’re gonna be assigned to her, I hope she doesn’t fuck all this up."

Roth didn't look too concerned. "If she does, we'll fix it. I've fixed worse." She looked up, contemplatively. "Maybe then they'll let me retire."

"I don’t understand this," Moose said.

The Director of Site-19 fit into the room awkwardly, lanky arms and legs splayed out at odd angles. Some part of her was always in motion; a tapping foot, a pencil rolling between fingers.

The other person in the room, her mentor's mentor, was the picture of stillness by comparison: Gears.

"They declassified all these records and dumped them on my doorstep," Moose continued. "I now know, for instance, that you personally killed Dr. Kondraki."

Gears was impassive. "Yes."

"Now, that I understand. The order came directly from the Council, and Kondraki was dangerous. It’s the rest of this… The old decommissioning logs. All the… over-the-top projects. You were involved in many of them. Most of them. Dozens of projects that can only be charitably described as dangerous, clownish… and you on the paperwork, signing off equipment transfers. Allocating requested resources. Advising. Assisting."

"That is correct," Gears said.


Gears looked almost contemplative. Or perhaps she was, again, imagining things. "I simply took all the factors into account regarding the situation we actually had, not the situation I might have wanted. I acted and advised according to these factors."

"So… if one of your superiors, or the O5 Council, said a project or goal, was acceptable… Then, whether or not they were right, you would act and make decisions as if it were in fact acceptable."

"I believe that to be a fair assessment."

"And if you didn’t agree with the projects? Or the goals?"

"It was not my role to make those decisions. ," Gears said. "However, when asked for my assessment of particular procedures, I did enter any objections I had regarding their efficacy or level of appropriateness."

Moose imagined for a moment that he was being defensive. Of course, he'd answered in the same tone that he always did, with the same inflections, with the same complete lack of body language.

"Why did you contradict my assessment of 1985?" Moose asked.

"Your assessment was made on parameters that differed from those we were provided," Gears said. "My assessment was based on the original parameters."

"What if you are asked to help Alpha-9 with a project that you might judge to be… seriously ill-advised?"

"I will function as I always do. I will operate according to the parameters I am given." Gears paused. Perhaps for effect, perhaps merely to gather more thoughts. "As you are being placed in a secondary command role for Mobile Task Force Alpha-9, my suggestion is to ensure that the parameters you give me are acceptable."

The evening after the interview, Irons found an influx of files in his inbox. Apparently his special access program via Alpha-9 was being updated. A lot of valuable info, here. Time to sort.

He skimmed a few technical reports before finding an interview transcript dated from this morning. Oh, good. A chance to get to know SCP-1985 before risking that bad first impression.

And the subject matter seemed extremely relevant to him. Kain Pathos Crow.

SCP-1985: Well, you know my story already, right?

Interviewer: Yes. This is for a different audience. Since you've been approved for inclusion in Alpha-9, we want to provide this interview for associated personnel to read. And it would also benefit our assessments to hear your current perspectives.

SCP-1985: Okay, definitely. [Pause] How much should I repeat? I don't know what sort of clearance this interview will get.

Interviewer: Don't worry about it. We'll simply redact anything that needs redaction, depending on the reader's clearance level.

SCP-1985: Like ███ ██████████ ██ ██ ███?

Interviewer: [Pause] Yes. Exactly like that.

SCP-1985: [Laughs] Well, where should I start?

Well, she had a sense of humor. Irons already liked her better than most of the people he'd recently met working for the Foundation.

Interviewer: What is your opinion on potentially working with Mobile Task Force Alpha-9?

SCP-1985: Oh, I’m excited. Are you kidding me? At the very least I’m excited to work with Kain. In this timeline, he’s always been shut away. I know he’s not my Kain, but still… I'd love to at least meet him. Again.

Interviewer: So you have a favorable assessment of Professor Crow.

SCP-1985: He was one of the good ones. A freakin’ dog, but he was more human than most everyone else. I know he didn’t start out that way; I had access to ███████’s files before they shut down, and he was one cold bastard, the way he used those subjects to █████ ███. But ███… changed him. I think they said ██████ was like his ████████. Having a ████████ always changes you. That’s what my mom always said anyway, hey.

Interviewer: We'll have to censor some of that for many of the recipients of this interview, but keep going.

Irons knew exactly what she was talking about, exactly what was behind some of those censor bars. Olympia.

SCP-1985: Alright. Yeah, I’m pretty biased about Professor Crow. I mean, the guy saved my life. I had terminal cancer, you know? Technically, Professor Crow wasn’t supposed to accept subjects like me into the Rhodes program. Healthy subjects only, not all of ‘em volunteers — hey, I’m not saying that iteration of the Foundation was better, or anything. ███████ sure wasn’t made out of volunteers in that timeline any more than this one.

It really hadn't been.

Interviewer: You signed up for the Rhodes Project voluntarily, in your timeline?

SCP-1985: Yeah, I was a volunteer, which was a double whammy. You can discard D-Class, but I wasn’t Class D. Means it would look bad if they had to trash a volunteer. And the project didn’t include a cancer cure. We didn’t have magic cancer cures there, either. So it was a pretty realistic scenario that even if I was a successful subject, I’d just keel over and die from the cancer in a year or two anyway, and there’s all that work down the drain. To be honest, I knew all this, and I didn’t expect to be accepted into the project. I applied anyway because why not, right? Terminal cancer, after all. But Professor Crow liked me for whatever reason. Said I had spirit. He said he wanted to save me.

Interviewer: And he did, yes?

SCP-1985: He caught hell for bringing me onto the project, but he did it anyway. He found a way to work with my cancer. I never understood exactly what he did, so I might be messing this up, but… He integrated the devices into the cancer. A lot of the devices were biological in nature, so that was apparently easier than it sounds? But still very, very difficult. I almost died. But I didn’t die, and now I’m quasi-immortal.

Interviewer: Right.

SCP-1985: Professor Crow argued afterward that it was my cancer that made me the most successful Rhodes product. I’m not totally sure if he was bullshitting or not, but hey. I’m not about to argue.

She went on like that for a few more paragraphs, with more gushing about Kain. Irons started skimming.

That was a feature of voluntarily working for the Foundation and keeping your sanity: excusing the faults of the researchers running it. Sometimes monstrous faults. You could even find people talking up Kondraki like he was a good person, for fuck's sake.

He wondered what the point was where it had really gone all wrong. His brothers and sisters had a lot of disagreement on that point.

He knew what stood out in his memory. Reading old incident logs. Kondraki had literally destroyed the Foundation's largest site, and his friends in the hierarchy of the Foundation mostly joked about it. He remembered what Agatha Rights had said, even though she'd later said she regretted it: Shame about Site 19. At least it went out in a blaze of badassery.

And now they were making Omega-7 part two… without Bowe, or any of the people who'd kept in check at first, who'd made it effective, in service of the United States and the Foundation alike…

In the next section, 1985 was talking about her first arrival in this timeline.

SCP-1985: Okay. Well… you know… When I first arrived here, I actually thought this was a Bad Future. Like there had been some mistake. There's never been any issue with sending me forward in time when I hop timelines, so I was worried.

Interviewer: Go on.

SCP-1985: Sure, it didn't look very futuristic. So… not necessarily a Bad Future in the technical sense. But see, I was afraid that the world had ended and the Foundation did something to make everyone forget again. Including themselves. For example, SCP-2000. I didn't really think that the timeline had been reset right out from under me.

Interviewer: You said you thought it was a "Bad Future". Why?

Irons had to pause to chuckle. Why, indeed?

SCP-1985: Well, you know this already, and I hope no one reading this takes any offense. I mean, no one working with me now was involved with this, and… If anyone on Alpha-9 was, I'm sure they had their… reasons, yeah. And I get that. But it wasn't a good start, you know? The first thing the Foundation did, once the researchers discovered what I could do — with my full cooperation — well, the first thing they did was torture me.

Interviewer: Yes. A regrettable mistake.

SCP-1985: Yeah, I didn't mean to gloss over that. Just a bad flashback, I guess. [Laughs] But yeah, that didn’t happen in my timeline. No torture. Yes, there was a lot of deliberate emotional stressing, but that was voluntary. Part of what I signed up for. No one really signs up for torture. [Laughs]

Irons eyed the word "Laughs". The Foundation's transcription skills sometimes left a lot to be desired. 1985 could be either practically high-fiving the representative of her former torturers, or awkwardly scrambling to cover feelings of dissent.

Interviewer: This was before their superiors stepped in, of course.

SCP-1985: Oh, yeah. I'm pretty grateful about that. Don't get me wrong, I really like being a part of the Foundation. I've been able to do the job I signed up for in the original timeline, and moreso. The team I've been working with is great. And like I said, I'm really excited to work with Alpha-9. I think—

She rapidly devolved into gushing again. Irons sighed, and started skimming again.

He started reading again in one of the more heavily censored areas. They seemed to be talking about something relevant again. Olympia, maybe.

Interviewer: What happened to ███████ in your origin timeline?

SCP-1985: You mean the ███████ Project, or ███████ Zero? ██████?

Interviewer: Either.

SCP-1985: Heh, okay. I guess that doesn’t really matter, because it’s the same answer! I don’t really know. Only the records up to the creation of ███████ Zero were ever de-classified to the level that I could read them. They did have me research K-Class scenarios caused by ███████, but they were so ridiculously varied that I couldn’t extrapolate backwards. Lot of splintering possibilities, there.

"Zero." The Foundation over-used single-number code words, among other tropes. A security issue that was often complained about, though the Insurgency obviously appreciated it. Zero often meant a prototype. It could also mean "origination". Both contexts could fit in this part. Although, of course, it could be disinformation, which by no means was always limited to coy redactions.

Interviewer: Were you able to extrapolate anything in particular?

SCP-1985: I got the idea that something happened to ███. Something really bad, bad enough that even though my timeline didn’t play out the same as this one, they still shut ███████ down for good. Neither Kain nor anyone else ever talked about it. Or about what they did with ███ after. There were rumors…

Interviewer: Rumors?

SCP-1985: Yeah… I mean, I was never sure. A few bits of data I picked up on excursions maybe backed this up, but I was never sure. But the rumor was, after the original project was shut down, ███ got “freeze-dried.”

Interviewer: Freeze-dried?

Well, that was a euphemism if Irons had ever heard one.

SCP-1985: Yeah. Not sure how literal that was, but the idea was, they decided to recycle ███ for… reasons I’m not clear on. They found a way to turn ███ body into a … biological interface, using Tangent technology. That psychologically compatible operatives could wear, and it’d grant them superhuman abilities. Some people were excited about the concept in a really gross way. I mean, ██████ was a person — which was also the problem. It’s always hard to control people. But an interface… so long as you have another psychologically compatible operative waiting in line to wear it…

Interviewer: Psychologically compatible?

SCP-1985: Someone with no memory of the past. No personal connections to get in the way of the mind-merge interface.

Irons was becoming pretty curious. Why was this section included in the interview at all? It didn't sound like they were still talking about Olympia. The interviewer had specifically brought this up as a topic, but it didn't sound like it had any relevance to the current or possible members of Alpha-9 that he knew of. Was this something he didn't know about, then, regarding Alpha-9? Or just something relevant only to Kain and his newfound enablers? Either way, that would probably be relevant to him soon, too.

Interviewer: You’re a person, yes? How did that philosophy apply to you?

SCP-1985: They only made me a person because they had no choice — Kain didn’t follow this philosophy, mind, but his bosses did, and that’s what mattered. But no one could find a way to make the teleportation and transformation stuff work without making me what I was. They couldn’t freeze-dry me even if Kain wanted to, which he didn't. And I mean… I wasn't a super-soldier, not really. I was an exploration device. I mean, I must seem like a super-soldier in this timeline, but in that timeline they could create armies that would put Able to shame. They only built my other body as strong as they thought necessary to survive in certain high-level K-Class scenarios for more than a few seconds.

Interviewer: Go on?

SCP-1985: That's actually the only thing I'm really worried about here. With Alpha-9. God knows I’ve had training, but it's different to keep other people alive in the middle of a fight, you know? …Alright, that was a bad explanation. I mean I’m not trained to lead an assault as part of a group. Tech was more advanced in my timeline, you know? I was supposed to have operatives sent with me who could be the tanks, and I’d play the anchor. Here, I’m the tank, too.

Interviewer: How much of a problem do you think that will be for you?

SCP-1985: Well, you know. ██ ██ ██ ██ ███ ███████ ███ ███ ██ ████ ██ ███, I’m immortal, so I’m not worried about me. I’m more worried about everyone else. I had to adapt before, I’ll adapt again.

Irons stared at the redactions. Maybe something relating to the "kill switch" the Overseers had so glibly discussed? Probably.

He read onwards. The rest of the interview was either more gushing about Foundation members working with 1985, or censored to the point of uselessness.

Still, this was a good start. All he needed to do was get a little closer. Just a little closer…