General Bowe is Pokemon Going to Die, a 153825 story
rating: +1+x

And one day, the world stopped making sense.


"I'm free?"

Technician UE (Iris never learned her full name, and wasn't about to start calling a bluesuit by her first) sighed, looking back over the procedures. "Nooooooot exactly. You've got, uh, class four privileges. Eight to Ten free roam of 56, ability to take meals in the canteen, freedom to…" UE's speech trailed off partway down her papers. "… who even writes this shit? Ugh, nevermind. Just read it yourself."

With a sigh and a turn, UE walked away, leaving 27-year-old Iris Thompson alone in the Humanoid Containment hall. Again.

There would be a catch; there always was. First it was Omega-7, with Bowe and… and with him, that tattooed beast with an empty face. The second time was Alpha-9… might as well have been Omega-7, without Able, but close her eyes and she could still see Jessica's bloated face and Andrews…

Mindfulness, like Dr. White said. In, and out.

Iris opened her eyes, and refamiliarized herself with the Site 56 Humanoid Containment wing.

Still a maze. In earlier days, she'd have dismissed it as a labyrinth, but labyrinths lacked dead ends… though, perhaps the wing was the labyrinth, an offshoot of the 56's absurd maze that looped in on itself like a knot of unbrushed hair. It'd make as much sense as the rest of the architecture.

The wing, with its reinforced glass windows, call buttons, and menagerie of freaks, felt less like a prison and more like a zoo as Iris marched herself out. Misshapen beasts without hands wept on beds meant for men over monsters, while a thing of nothing but hands and hair thrashed about. Wooden men shambled around in their pens, as did a thousand cloth dolls on motile hangers. A million men, women, and otherwise in a million masks. Iris wasn't sure what she was looking for, or if she should be looking in the first place.

They'd changed the wing; she swore it. If not the inhabitants, then the floorplan. Every turn felt like another step forwards, upside down, from a foreign angle, like the Escher paintings they'd reward her with when she blasted some blameless sand-farmer's head into mist. To the left and right were things that came in and out of focus, things that hadn't been there since she'd last laced a pair of boots. Had there been a there? These halls went on and on.

The papers. UE forget to give them to her, she realized, stuck in an intersection of leering eyes and little more common ground.

Did it matter? In some part of her she'd suppressed since the moment a pig slapped cuffs onto her delicate, blood-soaked wrists, she recalled the move to Phoenix. The new house, the big one her dad bought with whatever blood money the military-industrial complex gave him for being a good little cog in the rough beast's war machine. Was she three, five? Iris knew she was young and stupid, trapped in the middle of some creaky, unfurnished prison, bigger on the inside but ultimately smaller than it felt. Mom and dad had a good laugh out of it. Maybe she was still young and stupid, feeling her way through the halls.

Out of nowhere, Iris had practically stumbled into the off-white halls outside containment, lined with ironic posters of hateful abominations warning their gaolers of what would happen the moment they forgot to lock a singular padlock out of thousands. Were they there before? Were they as cruel? Iris didn't know if she cared.

Her stomach growled. Perhaps the cafeteria wouldn't wind as hard.


Like soda through an upside-down silly straw, Iris made her way to the ground floor of 56.

Few people had cared as the Feral Photographer of Alpha-9 made her way up the deformed accordion that made up Site 56, and that didn't change when she stepped foot into the contorted abomination that had once been the cafeteria. Most everyone was… busy. Too close to stare without judgement, too far to see Iris. Both at once, if she squinted.

She didn't panic. Not outwardly. Should it have surprised Iris, to have her door opened when the walls shrank and twisted? Rules, like the bones of what she believed for every individual second before the last, were made to be broken.

In the last part of her mind tragedy hadn't touched, Iris screamed; but it was a ghost that talked in the scorched jungle of a former entomologist-in-training's brain.

The line for food spiraled, twisting like Beatroot's spine in Able's hands. Were there people in line, or was it just a line? It wouldn't be the first time she'd dehumanized someone. With every step forward, two steps back, and another three forward and to the left. The line split and merged, in seconds, several of which Iris couldn't count.

How long had it been until she stood before the lunch lady? An instant? An eternity? With a flash of her ID, she was out with a veggie burger, roasted carrots, and pita chips. Iris couldn't remember what she'd actually ordered.

Iris sat at an empty table.

Freedom, at last. Straight freedom, within the confines of her prison.

Forever.

"Good morning, 105."

Looking up from her food, Iris sat face to face with Dr. Dr, He was a Dr., wasn't he Director Anderson Harper, stern as always

from the other side of the desk(?).


(even just staring hurt)


Iris sighed, fork idly toying with viscous black chorizo melted over her styrofoam tray. "Hi, Dr. Director Harper." His name was electricity on the tongue, not a deep kiss but a cattle prod, some violation of what she was supposed to say. An intimate caress with wrongness.

Director Harper didn't smile. "I trust you've heard."

Iris had, she was sure of it.

"Good." Director Harper flashed with Director Pascal Director Pascal Director Pascal nothing, from a wooden bench 18 million miles long. "Glad we've got that out of the way. Try not to crosstest with the others. Don't need another 3127."

Iris's Iris's 105's mind flashed with images. Hae, the worm lady that… Jake, the new kid on the block. Jack, and that necklace.


Alice?


Iris's mind wandered into 2010, before they shoved her back into a cage. Alice was a name she knew. She knew that. It smelled of plastic, running machinery, hiding away in the halls of a server farm with distinct boundaries. Did it belongs to a bluesuit? Someone or something else?

The others… she knew them, burned into her brain like the image of Able ripping AA's five o'clock shadow (with the rest of his jaw) from his skull. They were vivid, searing her mind's eye like what she could only imagine the sun would do to her body's after a year in. A fresh brand, the parting gift of whatever cruel custodian had taken Site 56 and twisted it into pretzels. But Alice, Alice had to be real, because the trodden, folded paths of her brain ran deep, even as the cruel gods of 56 sanded it into nothing.

"Uh… Director? Is Alice still around?"

Iris opened her eyes, and came face to face with the nothing that sat across the empty table. Ten years ago, she was sure she would've cried.


Eight to Ten. AM, PM? It didn't matter. Not to the listless custodians that barely reacted to her presence, not to the gnashing of machinery and alarms that hounded the prisoners of Site 56, not to Iris Thompson, and most especially not to the sky, visible in rare moments where chance poked holes in the shroud of 56, never settled on day or night.

Like a misshapen mirror maze, Iris Thompson could do not but wander and gawk at the horrors and wonders (a euphemism for horror, as Iris had come to realize) of Site 56. Like an upturned lunch tray, the elements of the prison she once knew mingled thoughtlessly with one another, trapped with her in a rat's nest of melting corridors and folded space. She was lucky if they only invited her to join in on their sadomasochistic chaos; more than once, Iris found herself sucked into some dark farce against her will.

Maybe if she'd screamed hard enough, they'd wake up, straighten their ties, and go about their day. How Iris would love to have found the energy to scream. How novel, something that didn't force the Feral Photographer back into her shell, until the next tin-plated man commanded her to watch another ragged monster as it ground her found family into caricatures of corpsehood.

There were times when Iris thought back to the first man she'd ever killed. Some ORIA goon, filling out papers in a dingy house in Syria. Or menacingly brandishing a pen at her disembodied hand in the name of the Chaos Insurgency. His allegiance was less memorable than the stain he left on the wall.

Did he have a name, like Hae and Jake and Jack? Like Alice? He had to. Bowe never told her what it was. He did tell her it was for the good of America that some desk jockey's grey matter be acquainted with plaster, and that she'd be doing the world a favor while simultaneously keeping her hormonal regimen and socialization privileges.

They let her have the Camera back; let was the key word. The MacGuffin of SCP-105, her get-out-and-back-into-jail card, was it only natural that an hour or 24 after her release, it would apparate like some plastic albatross around her neck?

Time meant nothing; Iris instead counted its march in how many times she'd toss, crush, tear, smash, destroy that infernal plastic contraption, and how many times it reappeared on her person like a stubborn tumor. In the far reaches of her brain, Iris wondered if she didn't secretly enjoy this cycle of frustration and catharsis. The Camera reminded her that she existed in some fashion; its destruction maintained her fragile illusion that the world didn't.

The rooms, the halls, the stairs and doors and furniture, it all blurred and mixed together. Sometimes Iris even recognized a piece of the old word, vestiges from a million lifetimes past.

Iris remembered the break room, where she'd curled up on a couch with a blanket and pizza and a million miles between her and the irradiated ash of her friends, silently weeping as Thelma & Louise played on the L7 40-inch LCD. Every return to the green-flecked beige walls, the understuffed sofa with the overstuffed cushions, the light in the back they never changed, twisted and broken and copypasted over observable reality over and over and over and over, Iris felt as if she could cry, collapse onto the couch like a hysterical Victorian whose father payed off the psychiatrist to have her locked away. These days, it was one of the few things she felt.

These days? These hours? These millennia?

This eternity?




Jessica Lambert,
Andrea Adams,
Beatrix Maddox,

Hae(?),
Adrian…




han,
cain





elliot
benny

who else


















alice?


HEY, NEW GIRL


Iris tripped over flat ground, falling to the floor (of a containment wing?) with the dull thud of the Camera thumping her sternum. It took her a hot second to get up, most of which was spent figuring out where she was and how she got there.

Again, Iris was in the Humanoid wing, stuck at the crossroads of three blurred monsters and… some blonde lady around her age. Logic dictated the woman was real, then, but that meant something was folded incorrectly in any case. If-

"New girl. Hey."

Definitely real. "Guhhhh… what's up?"

Focusing had been difficult ever since her cell started redecorating itself, but Iris tried her damnedest. The girl behind the shifting glass was about yea high, a bit more tan than Iris herself (not saying much), and currently pressed against the glass like a Hindenburg had crashed just outside. She was dressed in the same black scrubs they suited most humanoids with, though she'd taken the liberty of rolling up her sleeves, revealing a set of crude tattoos sleeves (possibly self-applied). Most notable was her expression, a grimace of solid urgency, as if the walls of her cell would fall inward at any moment.

The woman pointed, and for a second Iris swore she could see the glass ripple and bend to her touch. "The camera. Does it work?"

Did it? Iris hadn't tested that since Andrews was still alive, back when-

"New girl?! Can you take a picture of my cell?"

Iris blinked. "I… can try?"

Space may have been twisted and folded like cotton candy, but the Camera hung faithfully around her neck like a co-dependent python. Iris's grip wasn't exactly as firm as its commitment, but photography was a parasitic second-nature to her, like murdering Kurdish paper pushers. This was the lie she told herself as she brought the Camera to her eye and saw the alien hellscape through the lens.

Site 56 had been twisted and ransacked since they restored her Class IV privileges; through the Camera, it might as well have been flooded with the caustic blood of a thousand dead monstrosities, molded by a half thousand Ables of two hundred Alpha-9s, at the direction of ten General Bowes. The walls, floor, ceiling, if such things could be reasonably separated into discrete categories through the lens, were stained and bent and rusted and cut and vandalized and punctured and gashed by some deliberate chaos, a calculated hatred focused on defiling the very principles of its architecture. And even so, it moved, like the pulsating flesh of an incorporeal worm folding ever inward onto itself, glass and graffiti and the once-milky walls of Humanoid Containment a swirling koi pond of chunky puke.

The shock was enough to make Iris retch and fall backwards, which only gave her a better view. Through the glass, when it stayed in the same place for too long, was a menagerie of prison cells, torture chambers, what Iris could only describe as butchers' freezers, crammed with all manner of horrific machines from the wet-nightmares of Mekhanites. Some were silent, still; others whirred and wandered around the monstrous inhabitants of each cell.

Iris couldn't remember what she saw in the rare moment the blonde woman was visible; only that she whimpered, closed her eyes, and unconsciously hit the shutter release.

When Iris opened her eyes, she was back in the twisted but intact walls of the Humanoid Containment wing, facing the blonde lady with a killer headache and a fresh polaroid to show for it. Iris focused on the lady rather than the polaroid.

"Good grief, that bad?" The glass between the two of them might as well have been saran wrap, how it warped around the woman as she pressed against it. "Now, the picture. Quick."

And as awareness rushed back, Iris's head must've split open like a corpse flower.

Around a week before the formation of Alpha-9, Iris and Andrea and Chelsea and a doctor who bled into the background had gone drinking in a shitty pub crawl. The rare respite from being a freak was accompanied by a freedom Iris hadn't prepared for, and the next morning was spent curled up in an actual bed as the god of wine vomited pure gastric acid into her cranium. It was as if her head had been the table upon which the Egption Rat Screw of the gods was played, which it very well may have been, given how little she remembered after the fourth bar.

That was nothing compared to what she felt right now. Her thoughts and feelings were a slurry, which is coincidentally also how she'd describe how her brain felt. If a fire could be dull, it would be what was raging inside her skull. Try as she might to focus, her pain stole away with her attention.

"New lady, you okay? The picture."

Bringing her train of thought back to the polaroid was grating, but Iris was the child of Bowe's casual cruelty; this was yet another hurdle. Trembling fingers removed the polaroid with the desperation of the twitch that ended sleep paralysis, trying not to shake the image too much lest the horrors within be obscured from the prisoner.

"You alright? Christ, sorry, didn't know this would happen. Can you hear me?"

Forward was that way, right? "… no. Need some time to…." Iris swallowed the bile at the edge of her throat. "Photo's not… developed."

"Just slide it through the slot. Quickly." The distinct scrape of plastic against plaster probably meant she'd opened the slot. Actually, no, Iris still had eyes, she should open them.

Iris opened her eyes to see the plaster crawling across the glass like a time-lapsed slime mold.

Instinct, or muscle memory? It kicked in, faster than her balance as Iris took an awkward lunge to the slot. The sudden jolt against her heel was a vicious shock, one Iris swore she could feel reverberating upon the floor below like a pot striking a pan, rippling through her surroundings; another turn of the screw into 56's twisted architecture.

56 responded in kind, intersection collapsing into a singular, near-infinitely long hallway, and Iris broke into an awkward run.

Where once the shifting ground beneath her was a gentle current, it roiled and squirmed with Iris's renewed vigor, as if she were running across a water bed. It was every nightmare with Bowe or Able or the pig monster that topkicked her friends, except it-

… Iris didn't make it in time. Whatever. Another drop of lead in an ocean of sewage. She didn't care. She didn't care. She didn't-

A sudden, wracking sob brought Iris Thompson to her knees, an ugly sputter of tears staining the now-firm flooring.

The sudden flood of feeling, locked away for almost as long as Iris herself had been locked away, was no catharsis; its presence ached like a sustained scream, strained the neurons it traveled through and echoed uncomfortably through Iris's skull. Every repressed scream, sob, wail, every time she could have could have shrieked for the planet to stop but didn't, came bubbling back like bile in her throat.

It wasn't fair.

It wasn't fair that Iris's first thought on seeing the Grand Canyon, age 11, was wondering if the drop would break her out of her ugly male body. It wasn't fair that the only light in 16-year-old Iris's life, the one reason she picked herself out of bed, was stabbed to death by some low-life scumbag who was never put to justice. It wasn't fair that her deadname made national headlines as the murderer of her boyfriend, all for wanting to be at his side, to actually save him. And it wasn't fair that some paramilitary prison force stole her from a psychiatric ward, one of the few places she could seek actual fucking help for the myriad of atrocities burned into her fucking brain, and you know what, it wasn't fair that her help, when she finally fucking got help, was contingent on fucking murder, subservience to a wild fucking animal and a man that barely respected her enough not to call her a faggot to her face, and when she finally made friends with her respective teammates, it wasn't fucking fair when Able slaughtered them, ripped them apart because he fucking could, leaving her locked in a cell for fucking years until they brought her out again for more murder! It wasn't fair! Andrea Adams should be alive and Jessica Lambert, fucking Jessica Lambert didn't deserve what she got! Iris Thompson should've died, and she fucking didn't, she survived again, and when they finally fucking released her, stuck alone in a labyrinth that took the one bit of good she tried to do for once in her miserable fucking life and crushed it, crushed it like it had crushed every little bit of hope she'd saved in times when maybe, just fucking maybe, the pain would have ended there in the arms of Isaac or Beatroot or Jessica or whoever else she'd tricked herself into deifying, it wasn't fair!

But for as much as she wailed, screamed, cursed the sick forces behind her miserable life, Iris Thompson was stuck in a warped intersection of plaster, metal, glass, whatever this nightmare maze was made of, and she was alone.

Again.

… Iris blearily got back up, wiping the slowed trickle of tears from her face with the sleeve of whatever boho nonsense had been apparated into her wardrobe, and took a glance at the crumpled-edged polaroid she'd been unconsciously clutching. At the image of the other woman, slinking away from the glass in apparent disappointment…

… Iris held the photo up to her face, like a play phone printed onto card paper. "Are you, uh, still there? Over." Iris winced.

Did she expect a response? No. Did she expected to be taken seriously? No. Did Iris Thompson have a reputation to maintain in a world of silly putty and glazed eyes? Who the hell even cared anymore? Iris had her head and her feet, and the latter had yet to fail her.

She hadn't expected the muffled "shit, girl! The fuck's happening?!", and wasn't sure how to feel about it.

"Don't… don't worry about it." Iris marched forward, with no pretense of going somewhere. "… did you not know? Oh… sorry, force of habit."

"'s fine, fine. I…" The woman paused, presumably to move closer to the call button as the increased clarity of her sudden return suggested. "A polaroid's a polaroid's. Gotta test something while I'm still conscious."

"… what?"

"… okay, uh, let's start at the beginning." Like they always did, the walls sublimated into a cloud of color with every step. "I'm… my name's Iris, my number-"

"That's… that's also my name. Iris Thompson."

"Laskaris. Coincidence." Coincidence, yes. Those seemed to happen a lot around here. "My number, the number whitecoats and mall cops gave me, that's 1465."

No wonder Iris hadn't recognized her. Series II humanoids rarely got the benefit of renown. "Well, I'm neither of those things. I'm stuck here with you." Did 'stuck' apply when the solids around her ebbed and flowed like tidepools swarmed with starfish? Iris wasn't sure if she cared for the semantics. "What, or who, do you see around you?" Wait, no. "Around your cell, I mean."

Laskaris remained silent for a few seconds. "Does half a face count? Not much else."

"No, that's… that's good info. Not what I'm looking for, but good nonetheless." For a certain definition of "good". "What are the cells like around you?"

"… you know that's a good question, Thompson. Not sure myself!" To be expected in 56. There was cold comfort in knowing that such a disheartening answer couldn't sink her mood any lower. "Today is not normal, I don't think."

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