Unholy Saviors

Lucretia fell through layers of eternity, grasping out for anything tangible and constant. A Thorn — both metaphorical and literal — pierced her heart, and pain erupted through her. Endless everything and endless nothing flew around her, indescribable and unthinkable. For a brief moment, she wondered if this was death: not an absence of experience, but the simultaneity of everything, all at once, in perfect harmonic chaos.

And then, something — two things, no, three — were constant, and she reached out. The world around her fell to a standstill as she, Rainer, and 1360 collapsed onto a flat surface.

The world was quiet here.


Lucy opened her eyes and saw a hand above her. She reached out and took it, and 1360 pulled her to her feet. She drew her hand back, perhaps a bit too quickly. 1360 winced. She didn't know robots did that.

She turned and saw Rainer stretching his arms, his feet firmly planted on… whatever this was. She took in her surroundings, which weren't much. They stood in a black void, on a flat surface indiscernible from their surroundings. For whatever reason, she could see herself, 1360, and Rainer just fine. For a moment, their appearances confused her for some unknown reason, before she realized that they were uniformly lit, with no shadows cast anywhere on their faces or bodies.

"What happened?" Her head was ringing, but she felt surprisingly fine.

"We fell," 1360 said simply.

"More specifically," replied Rainer, "We're at- I guess this is the eye of the storm, although that's a bit cliche."

"Cliche and inaccurate. This… place… is no calmer than the rest of the Thorn."

"Then how are we alive?" Lucy asked. "I don't know what any of that was, but I don't think we'd be alive if we'd stayed for any longer."

In response, 1360 simply held up the stone they'd found earlier.

"Forty-Eight Sixty-Seven?" remarked Rainer.

"That weird diamond thing? The one we used to kill you?" Lucy stopped. "Or… whatever it was."

1360 shrugged. "You dropped it."

The group stood in silence for a moment. After all the chaos and trauma and confusion, a few moments of solace were more than welcome. Lucy took a few deep breaths. For a pit of infinite insanity, the air was quite crisp. She almost wanted to lie on the ground and take a nap, but she couldn't escape the uneasy feeling tearing at her.

"So now what?" she asked. The trail through the Site had led them here, surely there was something-

Rainer stared at something behind Lucy and pointed. She turned and saw a wooden door. If it weren't for the bizarre circumstances, the door would be unremarkable: wooden, painted white, with a metal knob.

The three of them looked at each other, then, silently acknowledging the lack of any other option, walked through the doorway.


BOOM

Carlotta flinched as a massive tremor coursed through the hallway, the metal walls turning into flesh, then crystal, then back into metal. She was tempted to ask if command had noticed it, but decided against it. What mattered was what was around her.

She peered through a door window into a containment chamber. It looked like a nursery, with toys and games strewn across the floor. It was almost comforting to look at, except the child's room was missing… a child.

Carlotta shook her head. Now wasn't the time for anything like that. As worried as she was, she had a mission to complete. She turned away and kept walking.

The journey was shockingly uneventful. The landscape constantly shifted around her, but she was never attacked or inhibited, aside from the occasional stumble when the ground suddenly changed. Perhaps the team was actually making progress, although it was more likely that the SRA in her backpack was keeping her in a bubble of stable reality.

Carlotta found herself alone with her thoughts. She almost wished she was attacked, or at least that something would happen. She didn't want to think about what had happened, or what failure would mean. She didn't want to remember Phenex, lying dead on the floor, or the Specter, lost in his own mind. She didn't want to wonder what had happened to the child living in the nursery.


"So what can I get for all of you?"

Lucy, Rainer, and 1360 sat on their stools, taking in the setting. The door had led them here, into The Goat's Horns: the best bar outside of reality itself. That's not how it was advertised, but Lucy thought it could make a good slogan. Aside from how they'd gotten there, the bar was surprisingly normal. Waitresses brought drinks to tables, a few friends were playing darts, and a gang of bikers were arm-wrestling with each other. In front of them was a bartender, who apparently took no issue with two oddly-dressed soldiers and a robot walking into his bar.

"Um… no thank you," said Rainer, "We're just a bit confused. Why are we here?"

"Who are you?" asked Lucy.

"One at a time," said the bartender, chuckling slightly. He had an impressive beard, but the top of his head was devoid of hair. His lightly stained apron covered a nice black vest, and a bowtie popped over the top like it was hitching a ride. "You see that door over there?" He pointed to the door they'd walked through.

"Yeah."

"Well, you walked through that door. That's why you're here!" He laughed heartily and contagiously at his own joke, and Lucy had to make effort to keep herself from smirking. "As for who I am… the name's Truth." He stuck out his hand.

"Wait," said Rainer, "Are you the Thorn?"

"Am I the- no, I'm not the Thorn. I just told you, my name is Truth. The Thorn…" He stroked his chin. "Well, it's how we're all here, I suppose. But it's its own thing. A force of nature or whatever. And nature saw fit to make… me!" He chuckled.

""So you're aware of the nature of the Thorn," said 1360.

Truth pondered this. "Well… hmm. That would depend on what I am, after all. Lucy, you sure you don't want a drink?"

"I didn't tell you my name."

The bartender rolled his eyes. "Well, gee. Who would have thought there was something strange going on. Guess you found me out." Looking at their blank expressions, he laughed again. This time, Lucy didn't feel like laughing with him. Truth sat on the bar.

"Lucy, Rainer, SCP-1360." He sighed. "The only members of Alpha-9 left fighting. The Specter has given up hope, and Phenex… that poor, poor bird."

Lucy felt something bubble in her chest: a shocking mixture of anger, sorrow, and confusion. "Phenex? What happened to him? Where is he?"

Truth smiled. "But belay that! Come on, have a drink, all of you! Even the robot! You've made it this far, you deserve it."

"No," said Rainer.

"We are here to stop the Thorn," 1360 remarked, "It is breaking apart our reality."

The bar fell silent. Lucy turned and saw that the patrons had ceased moving, like time had frozen. She turned back to Truth, whose cheery expression had been replaced by one of brooding. After a moment, he cracked a slight smile, though his eyes still retained the hard emotion.

"Do you know what I am?" asked Truth.

"I don't care," said Lucy, "If you're not going to help us, then we're going to leave."

The team stood up and walked towards the door, but suddenly, the scene changed around them. Instead of a cluttered bar, they stood in a long hallway, like a hotel.

"Do you know the power here? How it works? What it is, who I am?" Truth's voice echoed down the hall, and the scene shifted into a dark forest. A loud panting was behind them, approaching fast, and all three of them simultaneously broke out into a run.

"You think this, all of this, it's something you need to fight." The forest changed into a meadow, then an empty city, then a cluttered warehouse. Still, the team kept running. Lucy looked over her shoulder, but couldn't see anything.

"The Thorn is power. And you're controlling that power!" Everything collapsed around them, and they fell for an eternal minute until they found themselves standing upright, with nothing around them, facing the bartender.

"The Thorn is a mesh of all realities," said Truth. "Not just physical ones, but spiritual ones." He grinned. "Have you figured out what I am yet."

"You're…" Rainer coughed. "You're us."

Thorn clapped, and his face shifted until he took on Rainer's appearance. "Bra-vo. You made me!" He laughed and laughed, his face becoming wider until it filled up the entire world. Then, it all shrunk into a mote of dust, and expanded again, and all of them collapsed into the ruins of the Site.

"The name says it all. Your minds have overlapped with all of reality, and you were able to mesh with the truth."

"Show yourself!" shouted Lucy. Her breathing grew heavier and heavier, her anger spiking. She hated feeling so helpless, so powerless.

"Powerless is right!" Truth taunted. "You have all the power in the universe at your fingertips, and the only thing you could do was create a rude awakening! Even without the Thorn, your ability, Dread Of The Queen, had endless possibility."

Lucy wanted to scream. She hadn't heard the term Dread Of The Queen in years, and she loathed the baggage and darkness behind it.

Lucy's mind left her body, though she could still vaguely feel the presence of Rainer and 1360 around her. She saw a vision of Light in a room full of people, frantically dashing around. The vision shifted, and she saw Carlotta descending a staircase into the lower levels. Lucy choked back a sob. She desperately wanted to yell to Carlotta, to tell her to run away.

"She'll be here very soon," continued Truth, "You can't save her. You are nothing! You don't know how to wield power!" Lucy fell, and when she looked up, she saw a broken cage, and a limp mass of feathers and flesh.

"Maybe if you'd been better, you could have saved him."

"Stop," said Rainer. "Lucy, it's trying to get in your head. You made this, you can-"

"She made this?" Truth laughed. "I'm a composite of all of you!" The walls of the Site rose until they were made whole, and a modest house formed around them. Two figures manifested in front of them, their faces blurred and obscured.

"No." Rainer quivered, his voice shaking.

"You're not a victim here, Rainer. Your mind, and the minds of all three of you, are being opened to one another. I'm so glad that we can all see the truth for what it is."

"NO!" Rainer punched the face of the figure on the right, and the sound of shattering glass punctured the air. The vision shattered, leaving all of them in the void they'd found themselves in after first entering the Thorn. In front of them stood 1360. Slowly, the front of its head split open, until it arranged itself into what approximated a smile.

"Did you forget someone?"

Lucy and Rainer turned and saw 1360, standing completely immobile, with 4867 in its hand.

"The traitor, the spy, 1360," taunted Truth. "Slave to Anderson, even here. And rather conveniently-" he pointed to the stone in its hand "-he's the one holding that."

Lucy walked towards 1360, but it took a step back. Lucy stepped forward, and 1360 retreated again.

"Give it to me," said Lucy. She desperately hoped that Truth was lying, that she could actually trust the robot.

"It can't do anything," Truth laughed. "It's been left with a few basic instructions. Including to not help you! But first…" he snapped his fingers, and Carlotta spontaneously fell in front of them. She immediately stood up, looked around, and pointed a gun at Truth.

"Lucy, Rainer, 1360 is a-" she was cut off by Truth suddenly lunging forward and lifting her in the air by her neck.

"Too late, I'm afraid." Truth started slowly squeezing Carlotta's neck. "You're responsible for this. All of you. You failed. You entered the Thorn to try and stop it, but you only served in building your own enemy."

"You're just going to kill us?" exclaimed Rainer. "Why? Why are you doing any of this?"

Truth shrugged. "Because I can. Because you made me this way. Because this is how you manifested truth and reality. You're doomed to fail, and all of you know this. You're going to be killed by the beast you made, and the force you failed to halt will overtake the world." Truth laughed. "Just your standard-"

CRUNCH

Truth was cut off by a fist punching through his midsection; one moment, collected and powerful, the next, gasping for breath. Carlotta fell out of his grip, and he slowly fell to the floor, dissolving into dust. 1360 stood motionless, his fist still outstretched, holding the stone used to kill the entity.


"Director Light."

"What's up?"

"Take a look at this."

"What is- what?"

"Yeah."

"It's stopped?"

"Well, it's all still there, it's just stopped spreading. Its area of effect is remaining constant, at least for now."

"What are they doing down there?"


Lucy and Rainer helped Carlotta to her feet, who embraced the two of them.

"It's not over yet."

Rainer nodded. "Entering the Thorn was the first step. We accidentally manipulated the power around us to hold us back, but Truth was right about one thing. He wasn't the Thorn. He was just… made by us. Or something."

Lucy walked over to 1360, who was standing still. She was ready to barrage him with questions, but before she could open her mouth, 1360 began moving.

"Take 4867."

"Pardon?"

"Take the stone. I can't go with you. I am unable to."

Lucy shook her head. "I'm so confused. And frustrated. By all of this. Truth, the Thorn, you. Why are you like this?"

1360's head dropped slightly. "I was prevented from assisting or warning you in some ways. I did not directly harm you because I did not wish to, but I was also prevented from acting to assist you."

"Then why-?"

"Because I was able to take advantage of a loophole. Truth threatened the world, and indirectly threatened my creator. Therefore, I could interpret that accordingly, and act in protection of Anderson."

Lucy sighed. "So you are a traitor."

The robot shook its head. "Not willingly. I could have chosen to ignore the loophole. But I wanted to help you."

"Why?"

"I… am unsure."

"Carlotta approached the pair. "I think I know why." She put a hand on 1360's shoulder. "Does this mean we're friends?"

1360 held still for a few moments, before slowly shifting. "I… suppose. That term may apply."

The four of them stood in awkward silence, before they all started feeling vibrations around them.

"Something's up. We need to move," Rainer said.

"Take the stone from my hand," 1360 said. "I am unable to go with you, even though I desire to, as that would constitute betrayal of my creator."

Reluctantly, Lucy pulled the gemstone from 1360's grasp. She stared at the bedazzling jewel for a few moments, before she felt a tugging on her sleeve. "Come on," said Carlotta.

"Where are we going?"

"I don't know. But 1360 can't come with us. We need to have that on us."

Lucy peeled her gaze away, and started walking. The vibrations grew stronger, and the trio broke out into a run. Still, something gnawed at her. As she ran, she glanced back at 1360, perhaps wondering if he was following them. It was clear that it was still, but she could barely make out its figure as she ran.

And she could have sworn he was waving goodbye.

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