Untitled Tale
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The wood creaked quietly as Graham leaned against the wall of the cabin, unsuccessfully trying to lull himself to sleep, Eric uneasily resting beside him with a bloodied, makeshift bandage around his arm. Immediately outside the front door, Harry sat tiredly but attentively, gun in hand as he watched and felt the surrounding woods for signs of pursuit. It was midnight, and the small candle in his lap did little to fend off the biting cold.

He turned his head as the door to the cabin quietly squeaked open and Graham slipped out.

"Can't sleep?" Harry asked.

Graham shook his head, cleared away some snow with his foot, and sat down beside him. He let out a deep sigh. "I just can't… I never thought that… "

Harry nodded.

"This is what it felt like all those years ago, isn't it?" Graham muttered. "The confusion, anxiety, dread. I kn-know I did the right thing, but…"

Harry shrugged. "Sean and Eric felt the same all those years ago, you'll have to take time to process things like they did." He looked over at Graham and placed a hand on his shoulder. "Besides, no one said it would be easy, but Eric and I have managed to stay out of the Foundation's reach for decades.

Graham let out a shaky breath. "I have intel though, even level-three clearance on some projects, the Foundation won't let someone like me just slip away that easily. My credentials are probably revoked by now, and they'll've definitely upgraded our Neutralization priority, and–" He stopped for a tense moment and let out another sigh. "God, there's just this pit in my stomach, feels like I'm about to throw up."

Harry closed his eyes and creased his brow. "Sam, can you feel that groundhog sleeping in its burrow down at the bottom of the hill?"

"What?" Graham asked, pulling his legs up to his chest.

"Two hundred meters to your right. Sound asleep, just barely producing enough electricity for me to feel. Do you know what that means?"

Graham rolled his eyes. "Spring's coming early this year?"

Harry smirked. "It means that I'll be able to tell if anyone's coming. I know you've read my file, you've seen how many times we've managed to give them the slip."

Graham relaxed a little. "If you say so. It still feels like I have to throw up, though.

"Give it time, but if you really feel the urge, please aim away from me," he replied, a twinge of humor lingering in his voice. Graham smiled and even managed a chuckle.

Graham yawned and pulled his coat tighter as the two of them sat together in the silence. Harry looked up through the snow-laiden branches. It was cold but cloudless, and the Milky Way stretched out across the sky. Just as vibrant as the night this had first begun. Harry thought.

As the two found themselves finally drifting off, they were wrenched from their sleep by a loud bang and a flash of light that illuminated the woods. Harry and Graham bolted to attention and clamored back inside the cabin. Eric was already awake and looking around frantically.

"What the hell, did they find us already? It's been less that two days!" Graham exclaimed panickedly. Graham drew the blinds on the windows, then knelt to help Eric get up. The old man paused and shook his head, gesturing to Harry. Harry stood before the door with his eyes closed in a deep focus. Tapping in, he reached out and felt the woods around them.

"There are two, one is on the ridge, not moving; the other is approaching from the same direction… a hundred, no, eighty-five feet and closing. Their pace seems… almost casual, if not a bit fast." Harry reported. He paused for a moment before gathering himself and drawing his gun, keeping it close to his side.

Graham immediately stood up in protest. "Harry, you're not going out there alone, we have no idea who or what that could be, and we won't be able to get away fast enough with Eric's arm in this state. Let them come to us, we'll close them in, then…" he glanced at the gun in Harry's hand. "… we'll deal with them." Eric didn't speak, but nodded in agreement.

Harry stepped back from the door, the gun still held tightly. "Fine. Sam, help me move the table against the door. We might have to take out a knee cap or two if this guy tries to let himself in."

Once the table was firmly pressed against the door, they sat with baited breath, save for Harry who focused on the form moving closer and closer to the cabin. "Thirty feet… twenty-five… twenty," he whispered. Graham and Eric huddled behind him with their ears covered, dimly lit by the lone candle. "Fifteen… ten…" They could now hear the figure's footfalls crunching on the frozen leaves outside. "Zero." As Harry felt the figure reach the door, he rose from a crouch and aimed the gun.

And there came a knock on the door.

"Sam, are you in there? I just want to talk," a woman's voice called out. "Can you please open the door?"

Eric and Graham looked at each other perplexedly, but Harry did not waver. A knock came again. "Sam, come on, I'm not here to hurt you, I just want to have a chat. Is Harry in there?"

The knob turned and the hinge creaked as the door cracked open and pushed against the table. Graham noticed a flash of blue lipstick through the crack. "Seriously, dude, I'm not even with the Jai–"

The woman's sentence was cut off with an ear-splitting bang as Harry fired a round through the door, followed a moment later by a wet thud on the ground outside. Harry nearly dropped the gun in recoil and grabbed his ringing ears. The other two sat wide-eyed. Graham scrambled to his feet and Harry shook off the ringing, gesturing for Graham to pause. "He–, she– isn't moving, neither is the thing on the ridge."

Graham leaned towards the door and lifted the candle to the crack, letting its diminutive light seep through. A body lay still on the ground, the remains of its head hard to make out. Harry started towards the door.

"Whoa, whoa, whoa, hold on," Graham said, stepping forward. They've still got a guy on the ridge, right? We can't go out there, it could be a sniper."

Harry shook his head. "Whatever's on the ridge still hasn't moved an inch, and I don't think it's a living thing. Its energy is… different somehow. Maybe a vehicle of some kind, but whoever this is, she came alone." Graham drew breath to retort, but exhaled stiffly and nodded. The two moved the table, and stepped outside to examine the corpse.

She was Asian, dressed in casual, now-bloodied attire. Graham drew breath sharply as his gaze moved to her face, half of which was now missing. Harry stood up straight and grimaced. "She seem like the Foundation type to you, Sam?"

Graham shook his head. "No, and I seriously doubt they'd send someone out here after us dressed like this."

Harry holstered his gun and turned back towards the door. "Either way, we should get out of here while we have time. If there are any Foundation guys around, they sure as hell heard that gunshot."

Harry and Graham went back inside to help Eric, who had begun packing their supplies. As they finished securing the last of their belongings, Graham's ears perked up. "What's that sound?" he asked as he turned to Harry whose face had gone white, his gaze locked on something outside the door. Graham turned just in time to see the woman sit up and manually realign her jaw. The missing half of her face began to reappear, accompanied by the sound of flesh pulling and rearranging. As it finished she wiped some blood off of her face and opened her eyes, her stare falling on Graham.

"Well, that's one way to say hello," she said, sounding more inconvenienced than upset.

"What the fuck," Graham exclaimed.

The woman rolled her eyes. "Come on, Sam don't act like you've never seen regeneration before. I know the Jailers are holding at least three at Site-17, after all."

"Jailers?" Graham paused confusedly before realization struck. "Oh, are you shitting me?"

Harry eyed the woman uneasily as his hand silently unfastened his holster. "Care to explain?"

The woman suddenly turned to Harry, face lit up in amazement. "Yount! You did find Sam, after all. Oh?" Her attention turned to the interior of the cabin, where Eric sat, his form flickering as he unsuccessfully tried to hide himself.

"Ooh, no way, Eric's still alive too?" The woman began to stand up, the blood vessels in her neck finally retreating beneath a freshly-formed layer of skin with an unsettling schlorp. "The files said y–"

Harry raised his gun and fired another round this time aiming for her heart, which ejected a small shower of crimson on impact. She stumbled backwards and held the wound with clutched fingers, teeth gridded in pain. She looked at Harry flatly and drew her hand away from her chest, letting a melted bullet fall from the wound.

"Excuse you," she exclaimed exasperatedly.

"Out-fucking-standing." Graham muttered. "Of all things, the damn Serpent's Hand is the first to show up."

"The Serpent's what?" Harry asked, now visibly confused.

"They're an anti-Foundation group with a particular interest in people such as yourselves," Graham muttered.

The woman brushed the dirt from her pants and crossed her arms. "Oh, come on now, I'm not looking to exploit you or anything. I just came to talk."

"About?" Harry asked.

"A proposition," she said, a faint smile drawing across her face. "For all these years you've managed to evade the Foundation by nothing but the skin of your teeth, but I'm sure you know that you won't be able to keep it up forever."

"You don't know that," Harry snapped.

The woman held up her hands defensively then gestured to Graham and Eric. "I'm just calling it as I see it. After all, with this nerd and that nasty wound of Eric's slowing you down, I doubt you'll be able to escape the next time Epsilon-06 closes in."

Harry frowned, slightly loosening his grip on his gun. "So what do you propose?"

"Well first off, between this freezing weather and those gunshots that Epsilon-06 definitely just picked up, none of us are safe here," she said. "Before we can get to talking, we have to get out of here."

Graham tightened his coat and stepped forward. "So what, you've got a getaway car nearby?"

"Sam, I feel something," Harry interjected. "Incoming from the southeast, about 500 meters. The signature is strong, I think they're carrying electronics of some kind."

"Told ya," the woman said flatly. "Now do you want to keep arguing or get the hell out of here?"

"Four more, southwest and east, closing fast," Harry rambled to Graham. He turned to Eric, who nodded curtly. Graham paused uneasily before nodding in agreement. "Fine."

The woman smiled. "Perfect, now follow me."

The four of them began quickly picking their way up the slope towards the ridge, with the woman in the lead. Harry carried Eric on his back, the frigid air stinging his lungs as he trudged onward. The snow was thick and dragging, and twisting roots hidden beneath threatened to topple them with every step. In the distance a faint buzzing became audible.

Harry slowed as he felt something new approach. "Something's flying." Graham glanced back and noticed a small, buzzing shape silhouetted against the stars. "They've got drones," he gasped, exhausted.

Ahead, the woman trudged onward. "Keep moving, we're almost there!" she yelled. A deafening bang rang out from behind them, and the the woman fell face-first into the snow. Clutching what was left of her shoulder, she bit her tongue and continued forward.

Graham pulled himself over a fallen tree and heard another bang, followed quickly by a bullet passing mere inches from his head. He stumbled forward a few more feet before planting his back against a large oak and catching his breath. The frigid air stung his lungs with every gasp he took but he couldn't stop now. Taking in one last icy gulp, Graham kicked off of the tree and dashed forward. Harry, Eric, and the girl had were already several meters ahead and almost to the ridge.

Pushing off of rocks and foliage as he ran, Graham slowly gained speed, soon catching up to the rest. Harry trudged on with unexpected speed beside him, his form flickering slightly. Eric clung to his back, teeth gridded, whether more from pain or concentration Graham couldn't tell.

MOOOOOOREEEEEE


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As they stepped through the doorway, the world around them began to change. Rocks warped into armchairs, trees melted into bookshelves, and the dark sky eclipsed to an ornate, carved ceiling. Graham realized he could smell something— books, almost comforting in the distinct scent of their age.

To his left he heard a click. He turned, finding himself staring down the barrel of a shotgun.

"Taz, what was the one thing I specifically told you not to do?" inquired a gruff voice from behind the weapon.

Graham saw the woman behind him step into the room from the doorway, which was no longer there. Beside her stood Harry and Eric, awestruck at the sight before them.

"Okay, yes, you said to lay low, but you know I couldn't just pass up an opportunity like this!" She stepped forward, gesturing to the three of them. "Not one, but two runners, and a Foundation agent!"

An uneasy pair of gray eyes peeked over the sights of the rifle, looking directly into Graham's own. "Foundation?"

"F-formerly," Graham stuttered, raising his hands in surrender.

The man lowered the gun slightly and peered cautiously at the three of them. "You two, what were your designations?"

Harry turned towards the man, Eric quietly shuffling behind him. "Designations?"

"Your item numbers, dipshits."

The group remained silent before Graham spoke. "5700," he said hesitantly. "SCP-5700. Dash one and seven."

The man looked curiously at Harry and Eric, raising his weapon again. "The ecoterrorists?"

"Is that really the only thing we're known for?" Harry exclaimed.

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