Scenes from Your Last First Day

This is the incomplete first draft of what eventually became Your Last First Day. This is from early December 2015.

I axed this draft and started over for one major reason: I wanted to start with Marion unable to remember what was happening. I wanted her disorientated. I wanted her to lose some time, rediscover her own plan and react with alarm to it, instead of having her carry out her plan linearly. And I wanted readers to have much the same experience. I also wanted to take this opportunity to show an Antimemetics Division operative have the "it's (not) my first day" experience when we already know it isn't their first day. We already saw this with Paul Kim in Introductory Antimemetics, but this time it's different because we already know who Marion really is, and we're in her corner, we want her to recover.

Much of the descriptive writing in this draft made it into the completed chapter, or into later chapters. The description of SCP-7381, for example, and the description of the metaspider.

For what it's worth, I still consider a lot of this draft to be essentially canon. However, this account of the missing time between CASE COLOURLESS GREEN and Your Last First Day conflicts somewhat with the account given in sirpudding's In the Trenches with the Dead, which did actually get published on the main wiki, so I would consider that the more authoritative of the two.

Other than that, the most significant discrepancy between this draft and "reality" is in the description of SCP-3125's humanoid avatar. When we finally meet Red in Ojai, he is a very different person from what's described here.

 

O5-8 is working in the back of a limousine in Tehran, long past midnight local time, when he receives the hotline call.

"Overseer."

The woman on the line is shouting, and sounds as if she's running. "This is Foundation Antimemetics Division chief Marion A. Wheeler, clearance four-two-zero-eight-one-Hotel-Quebec-Oscar-Alpha-Lima, at Site 41, requesting immediate kinetic bombardment on my position. !MK-class scenario in progress, acknowledge."

The Foundation has no Antimemetics Division. O5-8 has never heard the name "Marion A. Wheeler" or her supposed clearance. He has no idea what a !MK-class scenario is, although he quickly reasons that this must involve the world being consumed by something antimemetic, whatever in God's name that means.

But he's not going to admit any of this to an unidentified caller. So he stabs the button which loops in a Foundation SIGINT operative, feigns puzzlement in his voice and says, "Pardon me, whom did you say you were?"

"Brent! It's Marion Wheeler! You know me, you know what I do! You trusted me with your real first name, for God's sake! Ideas can't spread without a medium to spread through. If you atomize this call's point of origin right now we— we can't kill it entirely but we can hurt it a lot—"

"My name is not Brent," he replies. "I beg your pardon, but I believe you have a wrong number. Goodbye." He terminates the call, then ruminates for a few seconds.

The SIGINT woman calls him right back, sounding mortified. "I'm so sorry, Overseer, but as far as we can see from our equipment, that call came from nowhere."

O5-8 smiles thinly. "Stranger things have happened. Should I have stayed on longer?"

"No, sir, we had all the routing data we needed before you picked up. My guess would be that the call was routed by accident from another universe, or possibly from the future. I'll wake some specialists. We'll have a full report for you in an hour."

The limousine slows. They're arriving at a private airport terminal. "I'm taking off for the States in thirty minutes, see if you can get it to me before then."

"Get what to you, sir?"

"...The report," O5-8 says.

The SIGINT operative says nothing for a long moment. "...I'm sorry, sir, what was the purpose of your call?"

O5-8 manages to hold on to what happened for a few seconds longer, but it slips away through his fingers, like a dream.

*

Site 41 stands in a dense coniferous forest, far enough from civilisation that its site nuke could be detonated with negligible risk to civilians, if it still had one. It's a bright, near-freezing day, overcast with thin cloud which leaves the sky almost pure white.

Standing over the main building is an anorexic kaiju, a fractal pillar of spiders as tall as the Burj Khalifa. Site 41 is four storeys tall, putting its roof about level with the treetops, but the metaspider simply dominates the skyline, darkening the sky with its presence, taller than mountains. It has two slender, tapering legs, as if it's standing en point, and a long torso which seems as if every one of its vertebrae is dislocated. It has smaller spiders crawling over its surface the way many animals have fur. It is bent almost double over the main building. Its asymmetrical arms are many-elbowed and they bifurcate again and again as they descend, becoming bundles of spider feelers as narrow as javelins, too numerous to count. These fingers are burrowing through the building's structure, corrupting it with rust and rapid mould, scooping the sludgy blackened pieces away and discarding them in the forest.

The site pharmacy is on the second floor and Marion Wheeler reaches it about sixty seconds after the metaspider does, having spent those sixty seconds running up stairs directly towards the danger, occasionally being bounced into the air as the whole building lurches. When she bursts through the pharmacy door the first thing she sees is the pharmacist, Dr. Julie Still, crushed beneath two fallen heavy-duty medicine cabinets and a thick chunk of ceiling. The second is bright daylight through the hole in the wall. The third is the metaspider's infinity-eyed face, staring placidly at her through the hole where the other half of the room should be. Its long, javelin-like proboscises are exploring the room, tracking vibrations, hunting for prey.

Wheeler unloads her gun at the metaspider's eyes. It's a physical being, belonging to a species which populates much of temperate North America. It's not a meme or an antimeme or any kind of idea, it simply uses antimemetic camouflage as part of its hunting strategy. And so the bullets penetrate its cloak, each one puncturing and bursting a different eye, not quite blinding it but causing significant injury. It gives off an infrasound scream.

While it's distracted, Wheeler heaves the enormous chunk of rubble off the top of the cabinets — it must weigh more than she does — then hauls the nearest cabinet upright. There's no human left beneath it, just an obliterated scarlet mess of Dr. Still's head and upper body, and Wheeler wasn't expecting anything different. But the keycard on Still's neck lanyard is still intact in the mire. Wheeler takes it, iterates through the attached bunch of keys until she finds the right one and unlocks the cabinet.

From the back of the cabinet, she retrieves a small modular package coloured Safety Orange with an enormous black Z on it. It is emblazoned with warning symbols, including, most prominently, the strictly Foundation-internal symbol which represents powerful memory-altering (enhancing) substances.

Another two seconds and she's out of there, just as the metaspider recovers and tears out the room's floor.

Haring for the emergency stairwell at the back of the building, Wheeler gives thanks that despite its incalculable power and complex behaviour, SCP-3125 is just an idea. It acts through proxies, on reflex action; it doesn't directly control its own behaviour any more than a human being controls their immune system's individual white blood cells, and it doesn't understand its own behaviour any more than an ant has free will. It isn't sapient, it isn't intelligent. If it were, there'd be no hope at all—

Someone screams behind her. Not in pain, it's a cry of war. "WHEELER!"

Shouldering the stairwell door open, she risks a glance back. There's someone in the corridor, a skinny figure in a tight suit with artfully curled blonde hair cascading over its face, and bullet holes in its collarbone and abdomen.

It bellows at her, raising its arms, elated. "It's time, Wheeler!"

She recognises it. It trips that reaction in her skull. She's seen it hundreds and hundreds of times. She gave it the bullet holes. But she doesn't know when, or where.

As she's skittering down the stairs she can still hear the apparition shouting for her, and she realises she needs another weapon.

*

The armoury's buried.

Instead Wheeler leaves the stairwell at basement level 2, where the noise is more distant and the floor seems less prone to slide around under her feet. She swipes a keycard through a reader and passes through the heavy-duty stainless steel door into Containment Area 41-09.

41-09 is Safe. A certain basic level of physical security and access control is assumed for all anomalous entities across the whole Foundation, but in theory every artifact in Area 41-09 could be thrown in a hole in the ground for the rest of time without significant risk. The artifacts in this corridor are almost comical in their threat level. There's an anomalously forgettable rubber duck, most commonly used for training. There's a totem hosting an ancient Malaysian demigod whose sole antimemetic property is that it makes you forget how to ride a bicycle. And there's the gun.

There's a screen mounted on the wall beside the vault, providing continually scrolling access to the containment procedures. It says, "SCP-7381: The Vermifier".

It's a rifle, almost as long as Wheeler is tall, seemingly built to be held by people around twice the height of ordinary humans. It is surprisingly light, and has organic-looking bulges where ordinary guns typically do not, and a long two-tined prong at the front instead of a barrel. It is a relic from a dead planet which conventional astronomy has so far failed to observe.

Back in the corridor is where Wheeler's luck runs out and someone catches her. He steps out from behind Unit 7381's door, slugs her once in the jaw and makes a grab for Vermifier. Wheeler, momentarily startled not by the suddenness of the attack but by its ineffectiveness (Operative, where in hell is your sidearm?), deliberately staggers back two more steps than she needs to, easily twirling the rifle out of the attacker's reach. As he rushes forward (Seek cover! Get behind the door, I've got a damned gun! What on Earth—) she falls back to one knee, disables the rifle's safety controls and fires it, disintegrating all the solid matter in a half-metre-wide cylinder of space projected down the barrel's axis and through the man's heart. He falls in four pieces: jawless head, arms and lower body.

The rifle is recoilless, and its beam is invisible and silent. Wielding it is highly disconcerting for Wheeler, as it would be for anybody familiar with human firearms. It feels like playing with a child's plastic toy. She feels a need to shout "Bang!" when she pulls the trigger, to connect the action to its consequences.

The dead man was Alex Gauss, Antimemetics Division operations lead, a misleadingly stocky, perpetually unshaven man with nearly two decades of field experience. He was, by a wide margin, the most dangerous combatant on the Site. Wheeler has never won a fight against him before. That was what surprised her most. Gauss should have killed her instantly. Even barehanded, even granting her the gun. He was a terrifying phenomenon in the field. His movements here made no sense.

But Gauss wasn't part of the fight. His mind is tumbling helplessly through some sucking, other-dimensional void now. There was a completely different set of ideas driving his body.

Wheeler knows more must be coming. In her mind, SCP-3125 has been hammering to get in this whole time; now, the hammering stops, and the texture of its attack changes, as it trades the figurative hammer for a figurative blowtorch.

I had a plan. What was my plan? If I were me, what would my plan have been?

Go down. Bunker elevator.

Discussion (10)

2020-09-04 01:53:07 by Len:

One thing that I never really understood was how the antimemetic division was itself anomalously antimemetic, to the point that it requires mnestics to remember. In this universe, the concept of antimemes seems to be also anomalously antimemetic for some reason, since O5-8 forgot about it along with the division. How did O5-8 forget about the division again? Did SCP-3125 make him forget? I was under the impression that SCP-3125 was a lot less subtle than that.

2020-09-04 11:17:52 by Saphroneth:

I believe he forgot to take his dose of mnestics again, much as in We Need To Talk About Fifty-Five.

2020-09-06 03:59:20 by Len:

In We Need To Talk About Fifty-Five, it's established that you can't forget to take a dose unless actively prevented from taking it.

2020-09-06 14:59:57 by rose kolodny:

How does one pronounce "!MK" ?

2020-09-06 15:03:22 by qntm:

Very carefully.

2020-09-07 02:31:02 by SilentWatcher:

I actually like this version better than Sirpudding’s. I felt his was rather flat and dull but this engaged better by referencing the actual elements of the Site, like the various people leftover who work there and the anomalies contained. May I ask why “Brent” wouldn’t be O5-8’s real name? I vaguely remember him being named in Wild Light, but I can’t Ctrl + F that or find it manually.

2020-09-07 16:19:21 by qntm:

O5-8 can neither confirm nor deny that his real first name is "Brent".

2020-09-08 21:26:41 by John F:

Why do they call the gun the Vermifier? I mean, WE know it's transmuting stuff into antimemetic worms, but I don't think they know that.

2020-09-08 21:28:58 by qntm:

That kind of continuity issue tends to get caught in editing prior to publication.

2020-09-08 21:40:49 by John F:

Or, I suppose it's possible that they knew when they named it and then forgot, and the name is just a dangling reference that nobody thinks to question. That kind of thing has to happen from time to time.

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