Zyn's Gift
rating: 0+x

AO-193284 - SCP classification pending
Description: AO-193284 is a clay pendant in the shape of a cross, inlaid with metal and various decorative gemstones. Object is approximately 5cm in length and 3.6cm in width.

The bottom end of the object displays a faint attraction an unknown location 340.2 degrees to the southwest of Site-19, and always points in the aforementioned direction when at rest.


Site-19
December 22


"What'cha working on, Mark?"

Zyn stood behind her brother, balancing on her tiptoes to peek over his shoulder. He chuckled and turned to greet her. Beside him, his assistant poked the object with his pencil with an almost comical level of professionalism.

"Oh, just the last item in this week's cache. How 'bout you?"

Zyn sat down beside Mark, dropping the bundle of folders and binders she'd been carrying on the desk with a soft thud. Beside it, a bejeweled cross on a string wiggled a bit before falling still. "I'm done for the night! Just thought I'd stop by and see what's keeping you guys, since I was around."

"And we're all the better for it! We're just about done, too," Mark prodded the cross with his pen, and prodded Riven with his other arm. "Just after Rivs here is done handling this thing. We've still got to figure out if it needs an SCP designation or not."

The cross itself seemed unassuming — at least to Zyn. It was a small thing, little more than a trinket, slightly cracked earthen clay still visible under layers of coiled copper wire and sparkling gems. It hung from a beaker stand and tugged lightly on its chain, like metal attracted to a magnet. Zyn considered it for a few moments.

"So what's it pointing towards? Do you know?"

"I've got no idea," Riven replied. "There's tons of things to the southwest of Site-19 — someone suggested that it might be pointing in the general direction of Salt Lake City, the Mormon Tabernacle — one of those is more likely than any of the other places 'round here. Might be some sort of particularly powerful Mormon blessing, or something of the sort."

"There is one place that corresponds more exactly to the direction this thing's pointing," Mark chimed in, raising his finger. "There's a prison in Indiana that's exactly 340.25 degrees to the Southwest of here, and the cross points dead towards it."

"Likely a coincidence." Riven wagged his own finger playfully back at Mark as he retorted. "The simplest, most likely answer is usually the correct one, after all — and why would a cross point in the direction of a prison?"

"You're right, you're right. It's probably just a coincidence. I've taught you well, haven't I?"

Riven chuckled. "Ha, sure. Now let's wrap this up, shall we? Zyn, you can help out if you want. Just, uh… poke the cross a bit more, and we'll be all good!"


Indiana state prison
One day prior


"Ray Spencer?"

Behind grey iron bars, a shaggy-haired man's eyes slowly opened and took in more light than was reasonable at such an ungodly hour of the morning. He propped himself up and yawned, and what was at first a blurry grey dot with a fistful of light morphed gradually into a portly man in a white uniform, carrying a flashlight. Ray gave the man a nod (unreciprocated), yawned again, and managed to slough himself out of his cot.

He didn't know what it was — maybe his sorry tired state, maybe his barely-hidden excitement, maybe something someone slipped into his morning coffee — but the rest of Ray's morning seemed to fly by and melt into itself. He felt like his body had gone on autopilot — like the process of walking down the hallway past his cheering and jeering friends-for-the-last-5-years, the waiting under the watchful eye of the same officer who'd woken him on a chair more comfy than any surface he had come across during his tenure, the first glimpses of the sunrise and the cool morning air as a free man, and all the little things in between were all one singular, blissful moment, one that he had once thought he wouldn't live to see.

It wasn't until Ray found himself sitting in a McDonalds' parking lot sipping cheap coffee behind the wheel of a rental paid for from his books that it all hit him (really hit him!) — and every memory from before he was locked up, and every promise he'd made his family, and every teary-eyed goodbye and every hard, long hug hit him like an 18-wheeler, and he nearly choked on his drink.

Mom. Ray noticed his eyes begin to fill with water — an afterthought. Mom and Jeremy. Do they even know? They weren't out here to meet me, were they?

No… no, right. They live in Pennsylvania. How could I forget? And the family house — not much of a place, but there was room for all of us, and —

Grandma. How is she? Could she possibly still be…

Ray could still remember the last time he saw his grandmother — she had been distraught, he recalled, at how long his sentence had been. She had held him in her bony yet warm arms longer than anybody else, sobbing into the front of his shirt as he gently patted her back and tried to say whatever reassuring words he could. As he walked away and into the cold embrace of the penitentiary, he could still recall how frail she looked, how helplessly pale and thin, and how the background light seemed to swallow her up before he was escorted through the prison's main doors. He had held onto her pendant for as long as he could, tried to bargain with the officer behind the desk to let him keep it with him instead of in a tupperware container with all his other useless shit-

The pendant. That's right. Where the fuck is it?

Ray had been given back his worldly possessions in a nondescript paper bag. There wasn't much to speak of — his pocketknife, his wallet, his belt-buckle, other knicknacks — and he'd looked through it already, but just to make sure… Snaking his arm back around the seat, Ray reached for the bag, grasped its top, and pulled it to the front.

Come on, come on… don't tell me it's…

Nothing. Nothing important. Only the useless, unimportant, worthless bullshit he'd kept around for all these years, for no reason — memories of the bad parts of life before prison. Ray could almost see his grandmother fading away, again — her solemn face melting into nothingness against the backdrop of fuzzy color and light.

For the first time in five years, Ray Spencer wept.


Site-19
December 22nd


"Rivs? Hand me that protractor over there, will you?"

With a sideways glance at Mark, Riven flicked the clear yellow protractor across the table like an ice-hockey puck. Dr. Kiryu stopped it with his thumb, flicked it upright, and meticulously set it above the pendant's string. Riven and Zyn regarded him curiously.

"Didn't you say its orientation never changed?"

"Took the words right out my mouth, Zyn. You just doing some last-minute checks before we put this thing to rest?"

"Nope!" Mark spun the protractor on his finger before placing it gingerly back down. "I'm just observant. Got a keener eye than you two, at least!" Mark's outstretched finger pointed back to the cross, and two pairs of eyes followed suit.

"We were here at least an hour before Zyn came here, clearing out the rest of the cache," Mark continued, "And that thing's been hanging there for even longer. Now, when I first measured its orientation way back when, it was pointed exactly 340.25 degrees to the Southwest — now, it's somewhere closer to the territory of 180.5. Nearly due South." Mark made a few marks in his journal, then sat back. "Now, this has a whole lot of implications — but what do you two think?"

"Something along the lines of 'how on Earth could I miss something like that,' to be honest," Riven chuckled.

"Looks like it's moving a bit right now, actually," Zyn chimed in.

Mark nodded to both. "You're right, Rivs, how could you miss it?" — Riven snickered at this — "But in all seriousness," Mark continued, "Zyn, I noticed the exact same thing. And if we follow even just one of the implications of this…" Riven had already gotten up, and finished the sentence from his position beside the office printer.

"We're in for a long night. Now — should I print out three SCP templates, or just one?"


U.S. Route 22
December 22nd


It hadn't taken Ray long to get used to the humdrum of highway driving. Though the snow and ice weren't very nice to his tires' traction, being behind the wheel had always been second nature — and five years wasn't enough time to make a man un-learn how to drive.

The rumble of the rubber on the road was more therapeutic than Ray had remembered, too — it seemed like the engine and the asphalt whispered words of encouragement right into his ears, and every tear he shed behind the wheel was quietly accepted by the highway. The lights of oncoming cars soothed him as much as the light pattering of sleet on the windshield, and Ray felt at peace — though being alone with his thoughts was something he'd had quite enough of.

I wonder if they'll…

Ray could still remember the shame in his step-father's eyes and the sorrow in his mother's, from the day of his sentencing all through the years of visits through bulletproof plexiglass. He would do anything to erase it, to make them happy again, to prove to them he'd changed.

I wonder if they'll forgive me.

No, not that.

I wonder if they'll even let me in.

But of course they would. It wasn't even a question — just another worried musing, from the mind of a worried man. He wondered if they ever worried about him.

No, it wasn't being welcomed into his old home Ray worried about — he knew that despite it all, his parents still loved him, still accepted him — but it was seeing their sorrow at having to do so, at having to call him their son — of sitting silently around the table for Christmas dinner knowing that everyone else around him was wondering how long it'd be until he did it again — it was them bringing up, by chance, the old woman who'd had a heart attack and didn't even make it out of the store alive, the poor store-clerk plagued with waking nightmares who'd been busted and thrown in prison the last week for buying weed to keep himself uncaring and afloat, serving a longer sentence than the man who'd pointed a gun between his eyes and robbed him five years ago — it was all that and more he worried about, and he knew it might be selfish, but goddamn it if he —

Oh, Christ. How fast am I going? What-

Ray's foot came down hard on the brakes — too late. The rental's tires skidded and slid near-silently across the ice, the car gliding and spinning like a skater down the highway. Its graceful trajectory was interrupted by a traffic cone, then a tree, then another, then the snowy earthen walls of a ditch.

The sleet continued its pattering on the ground. The road was empty, and the night was still.


Site-19
December 22nd


"Holy heck!"

Riven and Mark's heads both shot up at the exclamation, and both immediately set their eyes on the cross. It now pointed straight ahead of them, straining on its string, its pull nearly enough to warp its stand.

"What the-"

"Well, this is interesting." Mark plucked the pendant's string, and it offered a dull twang in response. "Now, uh… If I only knew what it meant!"

"It's certainly pointing at something, that's for sure." Riven hazarded a guess. "If I may hazard a guess — maybe its pull has something to do with, uh, Christmas? Might be some sort of holiday magic in the air that makes it even more attracted to… whatever it's attracted to."

"I can't really think of a better explanation. But, uh, don't look at me. I'm a biologist," Zyn said.

"I guess there's really only one way we can find out. There's gotta be a mobile task force for this sort of thing, right? Or…" Mark began prying the pendant off its stand. It strained against his grip. "Are we gonna have to go on an expedition all on our own?"

Riven spoke up. "Now, Mark, you can't be serious about this. That thing could be pointed towards anything-"

"…And if we just follow it, we'll be able to tell just what it is! Can't be that far, can it?"

"That's ridiculous, Mark — you can't possibly be serious. Site-19 is…" Zyn trailed off, noticing her brother haphazardly tying a small black square to the obstinate cross with its string, his arms visibly straining. "Er… what's that?"

"It's my key finder!" Mark explained cheerily, tying the finishing knot to the pendant and carefully keeping hold of the string. "I've got an app on my phone that lets me track it. Figured I wouldn't miss it for a couple days — and we certainly won't miss this old cross." The pendant, seeming to agree, pulled harder on Mark's arm.

"I think I get you." Riven said thoughtfully, scratching his chin. "We let it loose from a high place, see where it takes itself, and…"

"And go to wherever it lands when we've got the time? Mark, you're a genius!"

"Oh, I wouldn't go that far," Mark chuckled, as he directed the cross halfway out the laboratory's door. "Now, who wants to come out to the roof?"


Somewhere (Prison?)
Sometime (Maybe morning.)


Bang.

Bang.

Bang.

Shaddup, willya? Alarm hasn't even gone off. The gall of some motherfuckers, I tell ya…

Bang.

Bang.

Bang.

Hey, I said shaddu-

Bang!

Ray's eyes shot open to the tune of a cascade of broken car-window glass and a small object wrapped in string (a keychain?) falling down and getting hooked on his outstretched hand. Slowly, groggily, Ray took in his surroundings.

Sideways.

Dark.

Uhh… car? Oh, right. Rental. Prison. Highway. Ice.

Ray's hand traveled up to gently touch his forehead.

Good. No blood.

Thing? Keychain?

With his other hand, he brought the bundle to meet his eyes.

Square. Cross.

Cross?

Grandma?

With a start, Ray finally woke up. He frantically untied the pendant in his hands, breathing quick and full of excitement, eyes hot and full of water.

Her pendant. This is… this is her pendant.

Did she-

His mind raced. No time to think. He untangled the string and put it around his neck — the cross drooped to the side at first, then moved upright. Its end met his heart.

This square thing — I've seen it before. It's a- a phone thing-

Phone. My phone! Where's my-

It was in his pocket. He fished it out.

Good, good, not broken. Thank God.

9-1-1. Easiest number in the books.

In Ray's mind's eye, a figure emerged from the fuzz and noise — still old and frail, but surrounded with golden, glowing energy. She stood tall, her eyes twinkling with warmth, her smile as bright as it had been when she was alive.

Grandma?

She nodded slowly.

I - you -

"Thank you. Grandma, I- thank you." Ray whispered aloud into the empty car.

In his mind's eye, his grandmother nodded, then turned away, fading back into her surroundings and becoming lost once again in a sea of gentle noise and warm, comforting colour.

Dear Zyn,
In all honesty, I seriously wasn't expecting to get assigned to someone as talented and important to the site when I signed up for this art exchange. I'd be lying if I said I thought I was ready to write for a series like Kiryu Labs -- and in all honesty, I was a little intimidated at first. 

This is my attempt at emulating the style, tone, and content of the original series. I sincerely hope it lived up to your expectations.

Merry Christmas.

Crit credits: VoidLady, Not_a_seagull
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