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Containment

Containment


Estimated reading time โ€” 7 minutes

A coward has many guises, and my bluff; has been called. I’m not a brave man. I slept with a night light on until I was in my twenties. Yet, here I am, Mr. Tough-guy, the first line of defense against forces unknown. Forces that were unknown until we went poking around in the dark, looking for them.

The warning signs were all there. All I had to do was accept them. Now look at where I am. This whole situation is a mess, everything is out of hand, and it’s all my fault. Now, the only way forward is with uncertainty, fear, and trepidation.

I should have pulled the plug on operations. There was more than enough conclusive data to suggest possible containment failure. But no. I just had to go and poke the proverbial bear with the quantum stick. What could go wrong? I thought.

I’ve always known certain inherent dangers came with the job, but I was in charge of local containment. I rarely ever got to see a subject in its natural habitat. I spent most of my time in the lab. So, I jumped on the opportunity to assist in live capture.

Funds were sparse. They always were. That’s the thing about clandestine operations. It’s hard to fund something that doesn’t exist. So I was our only available containment expert.
It was my job to ascertain an evaluation of success. On my initial assessment, I concluded we were understaffed and underfunded, but I purposefully overlooked some minor details and issued a passing score.

It was a class two assignment, a simple grab-and-bag job. Myself, agent Calveres, and the youngest rookie I have ever met, Agent Thompson, pulled up in a work van dressed in gas company uniforms.

The event had occurred in the basement of an old two-story house. I was so excited I forgot to unbuckle my seat belt before I stepped out of the van. I felt the strap bite into my shoulder as I lurched forward. “Shit,” I said.

“This isn’t the time to be clumsy,” grumbled Agent Calveres as he crossed himself and slid out of the driver’s seat.

“I didn’t know you were religious,” I said, unbuckling and sliding out of my seat.

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Agent Calveres walked around the van and opened the side door, “Only on the job,” he responded.

The rookie hopped out of the back and scanned the surrounding darkness, “When will our backup arrive?” he asked.

“You’re looking at it,” Agent Calveres grunted.

“Why would we need a backup for a class two?” I asked, “I thought class two’s were easy.”

“There’s nothing easy about what we do, kid,” said Agent Calveres as he strolled up the sidewalk to the house, pausing to open the gate. “After you,” he said, waving me through the opening.

For the first time since I had accepted the assignment, I was rethinking my initial excitement. In my job, I find a subject’s weaknesses and teach others how to exploit them. Somehow I had forgotten how much damage these things can do, the extent of which; I have yet to see for myself.

Sure, I had dealt with plenty of class two subjects in the lab, usually heavily sedated and in a secured cage. But I have never been near an anomalous subject without arduously strict guidelines and fail-safes in order.

In the field, anything can happen, and I was standing at the threshold of uncertainty with nothing between myself and madness but a cherry red door, ready to be opened. Like a new chapter in life eager to write itself into existence, it beckoned me, hurling me toward the darker depths of truth.

Agent Calveres turned the knob and pushed the door open. There was no turning back. We stood for a moment staring into the dark entryway. At my request, we had the power shut off, which increased the safety of operations by two percent. Only a fool would have left it on.

It was weird how normal it looked, just a house. Clean and orderly, with a fresh pine scent emanating from within. As we stepped across the threshold, my hair stood on end, and a tingling sensation crawled across my skin, sending a shiver down my spine.

“Bet you’ve never felt that before. Have you, Doc?” Agent Thompson grinned, leading the way to the back of the house.

“I never get used to it,” Agent Calveres said as he removed a stun gun from under his jacket.

“Temporal displacement,” I said.

“Tempora dis-what now?” asked Agent Thompson, removing a small device from his pocket.

“It’s what’s responsible for the goose pimples. If you will,” I responded.

“As soon as we get finished here, I’m writing a book about it,” said Agent Thompson.

“Sure thing, Shakespeare,” I said.

“Are you getting smart with me, Doc?” Asked Agent Thompson, turning to face me, his eyes narrowing to two beady slits.

I hadn’t realized how imposing he was. He had a grizzled masculinity that, until that moment, I hadn’t noticed. For that matter, I had never even heard of the guy before we left Ark. “I didn’t mean anything by it,” I said.

“I’m sure you didn’t,” he responded, clapping me on my shoulder.

We had made our way through the house to the kitchen. To the back of the room was the door to the basement. I could hear my pulse beating in my ears, my resolve melting away more and more with each step.

Depending on what species subject came through the anomaly, it may be able to hear my racing heart. Perhaps it can sense our pheromones and knows we are closing in for the capture.

“Calm down, Doc. It’s only a class two, right?” joked Agent Calveres as he readied himself to open the door. He crossed himself once more and turned the knob to another unknown destination.

The door pulled open into the kitchen, exposing a flight of stairs that plunged into the darkness below. The rookie pulled a flashlight from his belt and turned it on, covering it with his fingers to dim the light.

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As the rookie passed his light over me, he paused, “Where’s the fucking cage?” he asked.
Agent Calveres turned in front of the stairs to face me, “What kind of containment expert are you?” he snapped at me.

“I forgot it. I- I’ve never been in the field before,” I stammered.

There was a sound from the basement. An icy whistle rose from the darkness. I heard the stairs creak, and before Agent Thompson could get his flashlight fixed on the sound, a lightning-fast streak lunged up the stairs and struck Agent Calveres in the chest.

Agent Calveres flew across the kitchen, slamming into the stove. He clutched at the creature managing to throw it off into the pots and pans hanging above his head. The creature was back on him before the first pan hit the ground, “Get it off,” yelled Agent Calveres, “Contain! Contain!”

I was frozen. I couldn’t move. I could see blood forming on Agent Calveres’s chest and arms. The subject appeared to be a class two Skripper. They’re not very big, but they make up for it with thick skin, razor-sharp everything, and ferocity.

It was all Agent Calveres could do to keep it at bay. “Contain!” he kept shouting as the skipper lashed, lunged, and gnawed at his arms and chest.

Agent Calveres fell to the floor, grabbed the oven door, opening it as he fell. Seizing the opportunity, I punted the Skripper into the oven and slammed it shut, pressing against it to keep it closed.

“Took you long enough,” Agent Calveres grunted, rising to his feet. His chest and arms looked shredded even in the dark.

The Skripper thrashed around in the oven so hard I struggled to keep it shut. Agent Calveres grabbed a chair and slid it in under the handle. Once I was confident the door was going to hold, I stood.

“Where’s the kid?” Agent Calveres asked.

In all the commotion, I hadn’t noticed he was missing. The door to the basement stood open. There was a soft glow of light in the basement, just enough to see the bottom of the stairs.

Agent Caveres approached the stairwell, “Agent Thompson,” he called down the stairs before turning to me, “Find the stun gun,” he said and started down the stairs.

“Do you think there’s more of them?” I asked while I searched the kitchen for the stun gun. “It doesn’t seem likely there’s two. Does it?”

“Not likely, but not impossible either,” Agent Calveres responded before continuing, “For our sake. Let’s hope it’s another Skripper and not something else.”

I found the stun gun underneath a counter on the far side of the kitchen. These aren’t your garden-variety stun guns. They aren’t electric. Instead, they rely on a focused frequency unique to the anomaly.

For some reason, electricity seems to feed most anomalous beings. Imagine your favorite zoo animal, all hopped up on methamphetamines, and then teach it how to use a gun, and it would still be less dangerous.

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I clutched the gun in my hand. I felt ridiculous holding it. It wasn’t part of my training. I wasn’t even authorized to use it. Nevertheless, I went to the stairs in time to see Agent Calveres turn the corner into the basement, and I started my descent.

When I reached the landing, Agent Calveres stood in the middle of the basement holding the rookie’s flashlight. I stopped in my tracks as I saw what he was looking at.

Agent Thompson stood in front of an open anomaly. I had never seen one before. It was as if someone had unzipped a tent flap to another world. He turned to look at us, and even as he did, his face morphed and contorted into countless shapes, his grin ever present among them.

I raised the gun at what was once Agent Thompson. He raised his arms at his sides and started to levitate. He was at least a foot off the ground.

“What are you doing, shoot!” Agent Calveres shouted.

The imposter before us started to laugh, his face an ever-changing convoluted mess. The basement shook, and for all I knew, the whole world was quaking. I felt defenseless. I couldn’t think, let alone move. A shadow loomed beyond the other side of the anomaly, and a voice spoke from somewhere amongst the ever-changing proportions of Agent Thompson’s face, “You shall live for now, for it was you amongst my enemies, foolish enough to release me.”

Before I could pull the trigger, a giant tentacle tore through the anomaly and pulled whatever he was through. There was a sickening pop as the anomaly seemed to implode upon itself, folding smaller and smaller until there was nothing but myself and Agent Calveres in the basement.

“You don’t see that often,” Agent Calveres said, turning to the stairs.

“That’s it?” I practically screamed, “That’s your takeaway!?”

“Yeah, I did my job. The anomaly’s closed,” said Agent Calveres shrugging as he climbed the stairs.

“We have to at least talk about what we just saw!” I snapped, following him up the stairs.

“I believe you have a job to finish,” Agent Calveres said as he stepped into the kitchen, motioning to the oven.

The door to the oven stood open, the chair that held it shut was in splinters, and I heard a familiar whistle from somewhere in the house. “I’ll be in the van,” Agent Calveres smirked as he made his way toward the front of the house.

“What? You can’t leave me alone with that thing!” I fumed, “You can’t be serious.”

“You said it yourself, Doc. It’s only a class two. How serious can it get?”

Credit: Scott Terror

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