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nn5n: Gotta Find First Gear
Gotta Find First GearRate: 22
Gotta Find First Gear

"We're gonna lose the prototype and the crystal, then." Margaret said in a very matter-of-fact way, exactly like she always did when frustrated. Regardless, she continued to hurry down the narrow hallway.

"Eight knows and he doesn't care. According to John, he didn't trust ICM." Hanh's forehead was wet now, which made his scowl much less intimidating. Project SHARD had been a tranquil assignment for the last few years - he did not remember the last time he truly needed to hurry somewhere. "He convinced the others it's good enough if we delay Zeta. Better alternatives, they said."

It has been five days since Site-31 vanished, replaced with a smoldering crater. Things were quiet until yesterday morning, when the first reports of an unidentified anomaly emerging from the rubble started coming in. Big and headless with a single Scranton Reality Anchor fixed to its back.

"Where is it headed?" The neuroscientist didn't face her senior now - she was too busy inputting the credentials that would unlock the express lift to Site-27's underground level B3.

"Fifth Two. It's where they keep the sapphire and, besides, there's three Anchors there." The project lead had already given up on the Foundation-issued radio and was now dialing from his own phone, protocol be damned.

"Yeah, I know, doesn't matter, Rob. Get down here." Any other day, he would not speak like that to a member of the team, even Robert - right now, it was a different story. Hanh entered the elevator and the door in front of him and his colleague closed itself dangerously quickly. Margaret was quiet, but her mind was racing.

Vincent Young was a good guy. He was raised by a loving family and had a decent job, one he could work at and still have time for college. He was also what Foundation personnel would colloquially refer as reality bender - something he discovered when he pulled Lucy away from that bridge she nearly jumped from.

He never touched her, nor told a soul: Something like that would attract all kinds of wrong attention, as he knew. Yet, Vincent did learn how to use the "ability", as he called it. Doctors were baffled when his mother's tumor vanished. She was so happy.

It was around the time he asked Lucy in marriage that he met Ghost, a small boy nobody else could see or hear. They became friends, and Vincent was the one who gave him the moniker, for he had no name of his own.

Ghost was a bad guy.

"Uh, you gonna have to explain that again for me, boss." Spec. Robert Lewis was the worst kind of smartass - the kind that both A) Thought he was funny and B) Was one of a kind. "Kinda lost me, hmm, somewhere around the part you catapult me towards an active anomaly?". Despite the usual jest, there was something else in his voice this time: More than a hint of apprehension, a dash of fear.

"For fuck's sake, Rob." Margaret swore under her breath. She never had any patience for the specialist antics and that was a prospect very unlikely to change in face of the end of the world. She brushed her dark-brown hair aside and lit a cigarette in one well practiced motion.

"Like I said, they don't expect you to neutralize it on your own. If it triggers the secondary effect, even with only one Anchor, it should kill it." Also, you don't have a choice, Hanh would have added, but his test pilot knew that all too well already.

"It does't even have legs yet, boss." He was not going to beg; even a cyborg lab-rat had his pride, but Robert still felt he might as well point out the absurdity of the situation, if only for his own peace of mind.

"I'm sorry, Rob. John managed to get Nu-Seven on standby, but that's it." And Hanh was sorry - he did not have a choice either.

"Yeah, they'll be great help. Think I'll be dead by the time the bombs drop?".

Margaret flinched when the specialist kicked a nearby table, his metallic prosthesis leaving a huge dent on the furniture piece. Asshole. For a change, she only thought, but did not say it. She was sorry too.

Integration of remaining subsystems is now underway. All maintenance personnel, stand by for manipulator check. Operator, report any unusual…

"Oi, Marg, you there?" Robert's voice sounded coarse through her headset - it always did, something to do which the respirator implants.

"No, I'm back home sipping wine. Shouldn't you be getting ready?" Margaret said, annoyed, as her sunken eyes went through reports of the latest batch of experiments. Not that there was any point now, but reading things like "Glasgow Coma Scale" reminded her from simpler times back in Yale, which was soothing, in a way.

"Very funny. I've been inside the cockpit for half an hour now." Something on his voice got her attention. He was not complaining about it. "I lied, you know. Whenever I'm inside, I can hear them. Screams and laughter, sometimes, but mostly a bunch of whispering."

She put the sheaf of papers down. Of course, they knew. The Ds always complain about the voices right before their heads pop into red mist.

"They hate our guts, the people inside the rock. They couldn't care less. However this thing got made, it wasn't pretty. There was a lot of pain involved. It…"

All subsystems have been integrated successfully. Final equipment check is now being performed. Estimated time of arrival at Site-52: 0300.

Neither of them spoke for what felt like forever. Margaret thought that was it when the ambient noise from the cockpit subsided, giving way to a mute tone. Then it came back, and he finished:

"They wouldn't spit on us if we were on fire."

Hanh was talkative over the comm; he had always been like that. Kind of guy that was not satisfied by only explaining things - he wanted you to actually understand. Robert liked him for that. Decent person through and through; none of that was actually his fault.

He stretched as much as the cockpit allowed him to. It was mostly dark inside for now, but as soon as the crystal started doing its thing, there would be a whole lot of light.

SCP-3591 is a weapon designed to perform two functions: The first is to allow a human being, through interface with a very specific vehicle, to instigate anomalous phenomena commonly referred to by the umbrella designation of Reality Bending. Despite that, it has been proven that, contrary to its creators' intentions, no regular person is capable of performing such task.

- Personnel Orientation, D3591/3

ATL-01 had many nicknames among the team that built it. Most were derogatory - a waste of resources the likes even the most senior Foundation engineers were left dumbfounded by, as quoted from one of the progress reports. Regardless, when it started its ascend to a hastily adapted launch platform, nobody was laughing.

It was imposing like a large airplane is, except it looked like the world's biggest EOD suit had a very pleasant encounter with a Teutonic armor set. The lack of legs just compounded on the surreal atmosphere it gave off.

Your modifications should allow you to exert control over SCP-3591's primary function with ease. You'll be trained in how to do so and further apply it effectively during combat scenarios. SCP-3591's primary function does not rely on Hume manipulation and should not be treated as such.

SCP-3591's secondary function is classified.

Requests concerning the nature of SCP-3591 and its creation will be denied.

- Pilot Handbook, SHARD/Atlas/p.3

"Should I ask how this works?" Robert looked down through the optical sensors, using the giant arms he now had to correctly position the robot over a red square painted on the platform.

"You'd fall asleep before I started. It's what happens when your regular maintenance lift taunts the happy fun ball, if that makes any sense." He could swear Margaret laughed.

"It doesn't."

There was a clunk as the platform ceased its slow movement towards the elevation tunnel. Robert turned his head upwards and so did the titan. They saw the night sky a hundred meters above.

"Just so you know, we're not sure if you'll even survive the acceleration. Or the collision.

"Thanks, this time I paid attention to debrief. Anything else?"

"Good luck. Sorry I called you a Samsara knockoff."

"Gonna miss you too, Marg."

You are not fucked enough until Margaret Baker has apologized to you. That is the point where it is safe to start panicking. No way out now though and, besides, she was half right.

"Are you ready, operator?" Hanh's voice now, on the official channel.

"We're good. ATL awaiting to deploy."

Necessarily, she was also half wrong. True, he needed an injection of God-knows-what every three hours and the prosthesis were on the wrong side of "experimental" right now. He was far from immortal too.

But knockoff was not how he would put it, oh no.

The platform started shaking. The colossal articulated manipulators retreated closer to the torso, both hands clenching into fists.

He was a very specialized kind of wannabe.

Before Robert could gulp, he and his machine were already in the air. There was "240 Km/h" written somewhere and more than few drops of blood rushed down his nose. Hey, at least the Moon was pretty.

page revision: 4, last edited: 24 Jul 2017 20:39
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