A Transfer of Responsibility
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"There is no fucking way we're lifting that by ourselves."

Richard was right, the cage that held SCP-422 was easily two and a half meters across and nearly as tall. It was an amalgam of stainless steel and plexiglass and its weight had a visible impact on the suspension of the cargo truck it was currently in.

I rubbed the back of my head nervously. "To be honest, I didn't think I would ever get this far so I neglected to plan ahead."

"That has made itself abundantly clear, Leopold." Richard responded.

"Well now what?" I said, stumped.

We sat in silence for a few moments. Finally Richard spoke up. "I think I might have a solution."

"And what's that?"

"We ask a few of the strapping young men guarding this compound to lend us a hand."

"Do you even have clearance to conscript them?"

"No, I technically don't even work for this place. How about yourself?"

"Negative, but I am not keen on spending any more time than I have to out here."

Apparently 422 agreed with me because before I was able to finish speaking it moaned in displeasure of its present living situation. I didn't blame the thing. It was a bright midsummer day with incredibly high humidity. Over the past few days, the creature had been rapidly adapting its body to deal with the heat. Its patches were mostly furred when we left Jersey but over the course of our drive across the country it had been rapidly shifting these patches into brightly colored hide, mainly elephant and pig. The left side of its body now sported a large heron wing, which it was desperately trying to flap about to help circulate the flow of air. While these mutations seemed to have helped stave off heat stroke, it was abundantly clear that the creature was still miserable.

Richard adjusted his Wilson's Wildlife Solutions hat and wiped the sweat from his brow. His blatant wearing of his organization's logo was completely foreign to me. The SCP foundation demands secrecy,
the closest thing we had to a uniform was a white lab coat or a bulletproof vest.

Richard walked up to the creature’s cage and put his hand on the plexiglass wall, muttering something underneath his breath.

"What was that?" I asked. The hum of mosquitoes made it hard to make out what he said.

"I'm just telling ol' Patchy here that he won't have to deal with this for too much longer."

"It's not a 'he'."

"Pardon?"

"Its sexual organs as well as genetic code are in a constant state of flux, you shouldn't gender it."

"I don't see the harm."

"It's not scientifically correct."

"This is a living thing Leopold, It has feelings."

"It's not like it can understand us."

"I don't understand people from Glasgow, that doesn't mean I don't think of them as human."

The beast let out another one of its hideous noises. It sounded not unlike the cry a rooster makes if the rooster in question is on fire and being shot at. The horror show that was its voice box made coherent noise a rarity. More often than not what noise it did end up making was both soul crushing and hilarious. The beast began to shudder halfway through its cry. It was starting another one of its mutations. A large fuzzy patch on the left side of its body began to ripple and twist and soon morphed into olive-colored skin which immediately began sweating profusely.

“Incredible!” Richard whispered.

“Oh my god!” I exclaimed.

“He’s marvelous, isn't he.”

“That’s human skin.”

“What?”

“It's never done that before!”

I scampered up onto the truck and ran to the back where the myriad of filing cabinets was held. I rooted through a few of them until I found a recent testing log, and quickly jotted this change down in the sheet’s margins.

"Does this mean I'm not taking this back to our shelter?" Richard asked, disheartened.

"No, I don't think this changes much. It does open up a ton of new tests we can conduct on it though!"

Richard swatted at a mosquito on his arm. “You know Leopold, my grandfather always told me that it was easier to ask for forgiveness than to ask for permission.”

It took me a moment to figure out what he was implying. “Fine,” I said, walking back towards him. “This place is bureaucratically gridlocked enough to let us get away with identity theft. At least for a little while.”

“Which one of us should do it?” Richard asked.

“Let’s see.” I hopped down out of the truck to make a quick comparison. Now on the same level as Richard, the answer became obvious. Richard was a massive Korean man, easily breaking 6'5, and ripped as hell. He sported a brilliant black beard, a shiny bald head, and piercing green eyes. Everything about him radiated authority. I on the other hand was a scrawny white guy who was 5'9 on a good day and had neglected to shave for about a week. I didn't even bother continuing the conversation, I just handed him my keycard which he pinned to his shirt. In exchange I received his sweat covered hat which I reluctantly put on.

Richard gave a bit of a nervous cough and asked, "You got any water?"

I sighed. "I'll go check."

I went to fetch some bottled water I had stored in the front seat of the truck's cabin. Richard better like the taste of my backwash, I thought. Just when I grabbed the bottle, I heard Richard shouting for me. Dashing back, I was met with a horrifying sight. Richard had stuck his hand through one of the air holes and was scratching the top of the beast's head. It was vocalizing what must have been its version of a purr: best described as thousands of sheets of 700 grit sandpaper grinding an equal number of chalkboards. "Leopold look," he cried, "It likes me!"

I was too angry to speak. Instead I pushed him as hard as I could. Richard staggered a bit, withdrawing his hand from the cage. After a moment of silence, he drew himself up to his full height and placed himself directly in front of me. In my anger I'd forgotten the titanic differences in our respective body types.

"There was a nicer way to do that, Leo."

I shuddered in his shadow and mumbled an apology under my breath, shakily handing him his water. He took it from me and began to guzzle it down. He hadn't moved and was still standing inches from my face. Desperately wanting to lighten the mood, I nervously tried telling a small joke.

"How's the weather up there?"

He spit his mouthful of water into my face. "Its raining."

He handed me my empty bottle and walked into the compound.

After standing in stunned silence for what what seemed like forever, I finally managed to break myself out of my trance and wipe down my face with my shirt. As a small act of revenge for his insolence, I decided to do some snooping.

I approached his beaten-up pick-up truck. At one point it must have been white but the last time it looked like that was at least Twenty years ago. On its drivers side door was a grinning cartoon deer giving a thumbs up with… fingers. It was incredibly disturbing. It was wearing the same hat that I was now holding in my hands. Below it was a red banner which had the company's catchphrase "Giving Critters Better Homes!" printed on it in gold lettering. I decided to take a quick peek in the back to see what Richard had been looking through. It was a mess of semi-dangerous weaponry and trapping materials, including a massive tranquilizer gun. The car held nothing else of interest that I could see from the outside, and I decided to leave it be. I walked back to the cabin of my cargo truck, where I had the AC blasting.

About Fifteen minutes later Richard emerged from the compound, with no less than twenty guards trailing him. He grinned and waved at me. I was at a loss for words. I jumped out of the vehicle and walked briskly over to him.

"Too many!" I hissed.

“Ah, what’s the harm,” He jibed, “It’s a ghost town in there.”

I was tired of his antics. At this point, the sooner we were done with this the higher the chance that no one would notice half of the security staff away from their posts. I gathered up six of the stronger-looking ones and directed them to the cage. I told them what to do, and after some logistical ordering the men lifted the cage in one fell swoop, lowering it to the ground with relative ease. After some readjustments they then carried the cage successfully to the back of Richard's truck, and slid it to the very back of the lorry. The men were clearly spent, so I sent them back inside.

“Hard part's over,” Richard quipped happily.

“Yeah…” I responded.

“Alright boys!” Richard boomed, successfully drawing the undivided attention of everyone present, myself included. “How many of you have played Tetris?” He then looked to the back of the cargo container which held no less than twelve very full filing cabinets. There were groans from a few in the group. We wordlessly formed a makeshift assembly line and began dragging the containers out of the shipping container to the pickup’s lorry. We were able to stack eight of them without much struggle, but it became clear that the last four would have to be loaded into the backseat of the truck. We set them down near the back doors of the pickup and pondered what to do next. I also sent all but three of the guards back to their post in the hopes of diminishing the suspicion their absence caused.

An idea popped into my head.

“Mister Yang?” I asked.

Richard turned. “Yes, Mister Plume.”

“Do you have to unload this truck?”

“No, my shift ends after I deliver the vehicle.”

“Excellent!” I said with a smile, “Crack the back windows.”

Richard looked at me confused, but did as he was told, Once the windows were lowered, I opened up one of the filing cabinets and began tossing its contents into the back of the truck. Richard's look of horror morphed into acquiescence, and all of us then began throwing the countless carefully organized files of the late Dr. Maxwell onto a pile of bear traps and guns. This worked, and after twenty minutes of what an incident report would later call "the reckless endangerment of intelligence crucial to maintaining normalcy," the job was done.

We were all sweaty messes by the end of it. Only one of the guards had kept their shirt on, the rest of us were as naked as we could legally be. We all were panting hard.

“Well done boys!” I said, wheezing. “Now make yourselves scarce.”

The men obeyed and quickly dispersed. It was just me and Richard once again, still catching our breath. The heat reminded me of a present I had to give to the squalid beast. I told Richard to hold on and ran back to my truck's cabin where I grabbed a few bags of ice from a cooler. I ran back and piled them on one side of the creature’s cage. It had the desired effect; immediately the beast waddled over to the wall I had placed them at and laid down with another one of its sickening purrs.

"Feels good helping out, huh?" said Richard. "Leo, you need to understand something. So many young men like you who work for this Foundation let their thirst for knowledge consume them. Life's more than just data. If you don't start living in the moment, before you know it you're going to wake up not recognizing the man staring back at you in the mirror."

I thought for a moment, then nodded. "You're probably right, but I can't live my life like that knowing there is so much out there that I don't know. How do you do it?"

Richard laughed. "I may not look it but I'm forty-eight years old. I have worked with anomalies for almost a quarter of a century. I live my life not dwelling on what I don't know, because after seeing everything from unstable temporal coyotes to a sentient snow goose named Zargoth that believes himself to be a eldritch deity, I learned that sometimes it is better to leave things a mystery."

"So just live life to the fullest then?" I asked.

"With everything you have seen, how could you not?" Richard replied, stepping into the car and slamming the door closed. The engine rumbled to life, and I could hear John Denver start singing on the radio. He rolled his window down and extended his hand, I shook it firmly.

"Leo, it was a pleasure to meet you."

"You as well, Richard."

The truck rolled out of the driveway and onto the gravel road leading out of the compound. The legacy of fifty-seven years of Foundation research and the pride of one of the most meticulous researchers I had ever had the pleasure of working with was now in the capable hands of Wilson's Wildlife Solutions. My job was done.

As that sentimental thought flitted through my exhausted mind, the truck slammed to a halt, and Richard's head popped out of the drivers side window.

"By the way," he yelled, grinning. "You can keep the hat!"

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