The Bowe Decommission, Part Two

Manhattan Island was under hasty quarantine, the sentient fire engine was fighting the sentient astronaut suit, and Dr. Dan was talking on the space phone with the sun's sister.

This escalated.

"Are you telling me," he said into the microphone, "that you sent Moon Champion here?"

"Yes." On the grainy image the probe was beaming back, Sauelsuesor was, for lack of a better word, beaming. "I dubbed him, and gave him my favour. He is very strong. He is going to help you. He told me he would."

Dan glanced up at the main screen, where the Redd Mennace was pummeling Moon Champion with an endless torrent of water. He was waving his poofy arms in the air, like he was at a rave. "He's not helping us yet."

"I will ask him why."

Something clicked in his head. "Wait. You're still talking to him?"

He suddenly returned her smile.


"Is this what you Earthlings call 'kissing'? Because I don't care for it." Moon Champion fired his jetpack. The laws of physics suddenly applied to him, and he went tumbling end-over-end down the street.

"They told me you aren't real," the fire engine growled, its hose running dry. "They told me you don't exist. They tried to make Bigg Redd lose his sense of purpose, abandon his crusade against all things hot and bothered!" Its siren screeched. "But this is the end for you, Mr. Burns! I'm going to snuff you out, once and for all!" Its wheels began spinning again, peppering the roadbed with flakes of melted tire.

Moon Champion bounced to his feet. "Thank you for the drink, my inexhaustibly-wet friend, but Moon Champion has had his fill."

At the moment he fired his jetpack again, at the moment the Redd Mennace careened down the street and struck him, Moon Champion's radio crackled to life. "Hello."

"Is that you, o light of my recent life?" Moon Champion embraced the engine's grill, and they tore off together towards the river.

"Yes. Do you want to talk to someone? Someone wants to talk to you."

They screeched around a corner, scattering stragglers and asphalt and strips of hot rubber. "Why not? I'm not doing anything else. And I assure you, this hug doesn't mean anything, I don't even know this woman."

In the moment before the radio crackled again, Bigg Redd ran a stoplight and fourteen people came within a hair's breadth of being flattened. "Uh, hello, is this… Moon Champion?" The man on the radio sounded embarrassed, for some reason.

"That's what I tell myself. And others." The lunatic adjusted his thick grip on the grill.

The engine flashed its lights. "Babbling to yourself won't help you, Burns. I'm gonna cool your jets in the Hudson in about five minutes."

"This is… ah. This is Dr. Dan at Foundation Mission Control."

Moon Champion gasped. "I read you loud and clear, Houston!"


"We've had a problem."

"Yeah, I know. We're trying to clear the streets, but… can you put your radio on speaker? I've got a message for your big red friend."

"Anything for the Space Program, m'lord." Moon Champion fiddled with a dial on his chest. "Broadcasting live, from the corner of screaming people and screaming people, it's Moon Champion radio!" The engine crashed through a police barricade onto a completely empty avenue. If it noticed the exceptional unlikelihood of this scenario, it made no comment.

Dr. Dan cleared his throat. "Bigg Redd? I've got a friend on the line, will you listen to what he has to say?"

The Mennace struck a manhole cover so hard that it popped out of its fittings and slammed down on one edge, spinning like a top. "If you're friends with Mr. Burns, I have nothing to say to your friend. The Chaos Extinguishers told me everything about you. How you brainwashed me, confused me, took away my driving force. Tore me apart and made me forget."

"Do you remember me, Bigg Red?" There was a different voice on the radio, now, as Moon Champion clawed his way up the engine's hood. "It's Mr. R!"


Dan watched the feed from Site-15, where Agent Rodney… Agent Rodney Something was speaking into a microphone. "It's been a long time, Bigg Redd. I've missed fighting cri— I mean, fighting fire with you!"

The engine and its erstwhile passenger were approaching the George Washington Bridge. "That didn't happen! Your evil-doing mad scientists planted those lies in my motor memory! They told me all about you blazing bastards at the Sear, Combust, and Parboil Foundation. You've got a lot to answer for, and you're not gonna like the questions!"

Rodney cradled his head in his hands, and sighed. "I thought you were hunting the Inferno Gang."

Moon Champion swung around the side of the engine and reached for its driver-side door. The Redd Mennace swerved across four lanes onto the sidewalk, and the indestructible astronaut's body neatly clipped an electrical pole off at street level. "I was acting on bad intel," Redd roared. "General George gave me the real story."

"Would that be this General George, Redd?" Dan saw Rodney press a button on his console.

A deep, sonorous voice poured over the airwaves. "When I originally began my movement to change the Foundation from the inside, they were carrying forward a very dangerous motif. To secure, and contain."

The engine faltered, and took the next corner at a more manageable velocity. Moon Champion swung from the door by one hand, like Gene Kelly on a streetlamp. "I don't… I don't know what you're trying to do," the Mennace mumbled, "but I'm going to stop—"

Rodney pressed another button, and Bowe's speech resumed. "In the year 2020, the Foundation carries forward an even more dangerous motif. They've realized that the anomalies they have in containment can be put to good use—"

There was an obvious cut, there, but the engine didn't seem to notice. "That's not what he… but… YOU CAN'T CONFUSE ME AGAIN!" The horn sounded, the siren howled, and the lights were now flashing non-stop. The bridge was in view. "They fixed me up, they set me off, and I'm going to see it done even if it ki—"

One last button; Rodney looked pained when he pressed it. "When you lock what's wrong with reality in a box, it festers and strengthens until it explodes."

The motor cut out abruptly, and the massive red missile coasted to a stop. Moon Champion was flung a short distance into a fire hydrant, which exploded over both of them.

"…Bigg Redd?" Rodney looked guilty.

"He's talking about me, isn't he," the engine almost whispered. "I'm what's wrong with reality. I'm what's festering in this city. I'm… I'm the explosion." The impossible, gruff voice was choked with even more impossible tears, and the windshield-wipers began brushing away the hydrant water. "The fire's been inside me all along."

"No, Redd, that's not true at all. Everything you do is to help people, help keep them safe. You saw injustice, chaos, and death, and you had to do something about it. You're everything that's right in this city." It sounded to Dan like the agent was getting choked up, too. What is even happening.

The fire engine wheezed, as though someone had let all the air out of its brakes. It said nothing in response.

"There's a secure garage nearby," Rodney said, brushing away a tear. "I'll give you directions, and meet you there."

The animate truck was, somehow, sniffling. "You're going to take me apart again, right? You should. I've lived long enough, long enough to become the villain."

Rodney smiled, eyes shining. "Hell no, Bigg Redd. The whole damn world's in flames right now, and we need New York's Bravest to do their part. That means you."

Moon Champion popped to his feet once more. "What say you, red rocket? I've always wanted a big metal dog to call my very own."

After a moment of complete silence in the empty streetscape, the Redd Mennace rumbled to life and flashed its lights.


The connection to 15 flickered off as Rodney rushed to make his appointment, and Dan exhaled heavily. "Okay, let's put a pin in that situation. Keep up the quarantine measures, and… uh…where were we?"

Frewer punched him in the shoulder. "We were going to bed." He walked out of the room, the rest of his shift in tow, as Safiro and hers walked in. She waited by the double doors, so Dan walked over to greet her.

Once the shift change was complete, she whispered, "Overwatch approved your Arizona plan. The MTF commander's waiting to speak with you, in the hall."

He rubbed his hands together, sensing an imminent third or fourth wind. "Excellent. Get stuck in, work some damage control on Bigg Redd's Wild Ride, and I'll be back in a mo." He shoved the doors open.

"Big red what?" she asked, but he didn't hear her, because both doors swung back violently and socked him in the face. He fell over, head spinning.

"You alright, sir?" Dan picked himself up and waved her off, grimacing, and pushed the doors open again. Someone's gonna pay for…


The man in the hallway was tall, solid, grey-haired and stone-faced. He was wearing a black MTF uniform with no rank insignia. His left eye twitched when he looked down at Dan. "Trouble with the doors, Dr. Goggles?"

Said doors banged closed behind him, and for a moment he felt like running back through them. Instead he stared stupidly at the other man, blinking, the ache in his head completely forgotten. He felt like his stomach had imploded. "Major… Wilford. Right?"

"It's General Wilford now, but yeah. I'm surprised you remember." The big man crossed his arms. "I hear you've got a new plan to get everybody killed."

Dan willed his hands not to ball into fists. They had wills of their own, however, so he jammed them into his labcoat pockets. "My plan," he snapped, "is to get nobody killed."

"Especially you, right?" Wilford's eyes were narrow slits. "How'd you do it, egghead? How'd you dodge the execution? I thought that's what we did with traitors." He was almost frothing at the mouth, now. "Do you know how many of my boys you mur—"

Dan socked him in the jaw, and was relieved to see the man stumble slightly. He didn't go down, but it was a start.

"I know the numbers," he spat. "And I know the names, too."


The man in the black skydiving suit looked antsy. "How far out are we?"

The man in the Chaos Insurgency uniform glanced at his watch. "Coming up on the strik—" He cleared his throat. "The target, in less than a minute."

The skydiver jumped up and down. "I don't think I can hold it that long."

The agent clapped him on the shoulder. "Please do. You don't want to make a mess of our nice, new plane."

A voice on the intercom: "Twenty seconds."

"Alright, buddy, they're playing your song."

"I'll bet they are." The skydiver allowed himself to be led to the jet's open rear hatch. "I'm the grea—"

The agent pushed him out.


Dan limped back into Mission Control, rubbing his jaw and grinning. He felt like his bucket list had finally gotten shorter.

"Get everything… sorted…?" Safiro was staring at his bruised face.

"You'll see." He scrawled a quick note on the whiteboard:



"Alright, well. We've got something at Area-76." Safiro glanced at the whiteboard, then back at her console. "Enemy activity in the air."

Dan peeked at the screen, upside-down. "Bombers?"

She shook her head. "Paratroopers. Rather, one paratrooper."

He walked around the console for a better look. A man hanging from a deployed parachute was floating past a gigantic radar dish assembly. He struck a pose.

"Is that… Saturday Night Fever?" Safiro asked.

"Looks more like Evel Knie—" Dan began, and then the skydiver exploded in a tremendous flash of energy. The image dissolved into static; when it resolved itself again, the dish was gone.

"…make that zero paratroopers," Safiro breathed.


"Is it working?"

Former Foundation researcher Stephanie Buck nearly leapt out of her skin, and she did drop her tablet. She hadn't heard the man approach, and yet there he was: a perfectly-pressed United States Army uniform, amply supported on a broad frame topped by a handsome, hypermasculine face. General George Freaking Bowe, in the ample flesh.

This is your brain on quarantine, she thought. "Sir!" She snapped a salute, then wondered if that was appropriate. "Yes, sir, it's working."

Bowe grinned, his perfect teeth gleaming. "At ease, doctor." He moved to stand beside her, stance wide, hands clasped behind his back. They watched the roiling disaster in the containment chamber for a few breathless moments.

"Fantastic. Magnificent, even! Just what I was hoping for." He glanced sideways at her, and she self-consciously adjusted her glasses. "Brainwave activity?"

She forced a smile, hoping it wasn't too much. "They're both still in there. First time that's happened, like, ever."

He nodded, a pursed-lip smile of his own forming. "Outstanding."

In the enormous containment chamber, an unspeakable mass of black goop thundered to life. They could feel the floor shaking.

"It won't be long, now," Bowe remarked.

"What won't?" She examined his chiseled jaw, the cut of his tunic, the tightness of his "UH. I mean, uh, what won't be long, sir?"

He stood ramrod-straight, a gleam in his eyes. "The end."


"Update on 1233 and 4601?" Dan was massaging his temples.

"Responding to anomalous events throughout Manhattan, without our direction. Sometimes even getting there before we know there's a problem."

"Got a visual?"

"Omega-22 is tracking them." Frewer struck a key, and the viewscreen snapped on.

Moon Champion was standing on top of the Redd Mennace, arms out horizontally, like he was surfing. They were tearing down the street at breakneck speed, sirens wailing, and a crowd of curious onlookers watched them.

"We're on fire, you and I!" Bigg Redd laughed. "But in a good way!"

"Be not afraid, people of Earth! We come in peace, or, at the very most, judicious and targeted violence!"

There was a soft ping from the SCP-179 console. "I am telling them where to go," Sauelsuesor declared.

Dan puffed out his cheeks, and swallowed. "Fine. Cool. Whatever. Tell them where to go from me, too." He turned to Frewer. "Play it off as a… parade."

"In the middle of a quarantine?"

"I don't fucking know! Call it a… remote-operated quarantine parade! In honour of the first responders. It doesn't have to sound responsible, it just has to sound plausible. Tell Omega-Whatever to keep monitoring, and get that shit off the screen before I faint." He drew a packet of red licorice out of his labsuit pocket, pulled out a half-dozen strands and stuffed them into his mouth all at once.

"Contact. Insurgent on a jet-ski at…" Frewer sighed. "No, he blew up."

Dan swallowed. "For the record?"

"Area-83, South China Sea."

Dan nodded, offering Frewer the package. "This is a tricky one."

"They're all tricky ones." Frewer wrestled a strand of licorice free, and bit into it.

"I know, isn't it great?" Dan yawned.


"We've got a problem." Light spun in her chair to face him; her expression was grave. "Site-17."

He felt cold inside. "What, specifically?"

"You know what, specifically," said Oleksei. He pointed at the monitor.

Dan recognized the angle immediately; the feed was coming from a chopper, an MTF transport judging by the shadow it cast. Within that shadow, on the plains below, like a shark plunging through water, a shuddering grey thing was parting the grass with the fury of its progress.

Dan stood up. "FUCK! How…? I thought…"

"You thought wrong," growled a voice from the radio. "Like you always do. And it's coming for you, egghead." There was satisfaction in that growl. "Retribution."

"Justice," Oleksei agreed. "For what we did."

"We did what we had to, dammit." Dan was transfixed, watching the rough beast slouch towards… whatever it was slouching towards.

He glanced at the whiteboard.


It didn't feel real. It felt all too real.

We did the best we could.

I did the best I could.

Oleksei was standing now, too. He reached out and took Dan's hands, closed and clasped them tight.

"Then why am I dead?"

He released his grip.

Dan looked down at his clenched fists, and slowly unclenched them.

There was a crushed pacif—


"Shift's almost up. Do you want the low-keys, sir?"

Dan made a series of ungraceful gurgles and shouts, shaking violently awake. God DAMMIT, he thought. ENOUGH with the FUCKING baby! "What?" he said. "What?"

"The low-keys," Frewer repeated, patiently. He was smirking.

"Sure, fine, go ahead." Dan stood up, begging his blood to circulate.

"We've got workers jumping out of an office building en masse in Tokyo. Some of them are… shattering."

Dan rubbed his face so hard, he felt like it might come off. "Male?"

"Uh… yes. All of them."

"Get an all-female MTF to go floor-by-floor. They're looking for a little girl who repels men and turns them into candy." His labcoat was dragging, and he pulled out a still-frosty energy drink. He threw the can back and downed it in one long, absurd series of gulps. "Tell someone who's still properly awake to phrase all that so they won't laugh it off. And thanks for the drink."

Frewer tossed him a two-finger salute. "No worries. Next we've got a report of missing personnel, and an awful lot of inexplicable chocolate at Site-24."

"Tell them to turn the thermostats up as high as they safely can. That should melt the chocolate kids who've been turning their personnel into chocolate. Don't ask me if I'm serious, just do it and cue the next one."

"Coming in now. MTFs in Odesa think Area-132 has been compromised. Workers walking off the job, general chaos and confusion."

"Let's make it specific chaos and confusion. Scan the reports for me. Prisoner intake?"

Frewer nodded. "Two separate GoI raiding parties dispersed, over a dozen detainees."

"Right. That'll be the vector. What are the symptoms? Forgetfulness?"

A researcher behind Frewer tapped him on the shoulder. Frewer nodded without looking back, and tapped his terminal screen. "Yeah, people acting like they don't know where they are, why they're there, even who they are. Looks like serious cognitive impairment; security's worried that they'll lose control of the central anomaly if it continues, everyone's stumbling around in there and bumping into stuff."

"What is the central anomaly?"

"A scale model of Odesa, entangled with the real thing. A tech fell on it once, squashed one of the buildings, and the real one spontaneously imploded."

Dan whistled. "Well, give Administrator privileges to the most isolated senior staff member, tell them to lock the whole Area down." The man behind Frewer began typing. "Now, access the intake manifest. Looking for two women, one in her thirties, one in middle age."

Frewer scrolled through the list, and frowned. "Wow. Uh."


"One of the groups was entirely women in their thirties, and the other was entirely women in middle age."

Dan sighed. "Of course. Of fucking course. Can't make this easy, can you, George? Okay. Send in gas drones to take back the Area. No humans! One of the young women is a memory-affecting cognitohazard, and one of the old women causes dementia. Be polite to the first one, she's a doctor on the Foundation payroll and her life is miserable enough, and for the love of Christ be gentle with the second one. The last entry in her file had her in a medical coma, so the fuckers must have woken her up." He kicked Frewer's console, lightly, and discovered that his foot had fallen asleep. "I seriously hate these fucking people."

"Alright." Frewer gestured at one of the researchers, who began typing out the necessary commands. "Ah… we're facing reduced response times from our MTFs in Brazil, seems like the FEC has moles in every unit. Only identified one so far."

"Did they have bad posture?"

"Where do you get this stuff…" Frewer clackety-clacked his way to the relevant information. "Yeah, kinda deflated-looking. Slumpy."

"Pump hip-hop music to all the MTFs in Brazil, they've been infiltrated by the rap-loving bodysnatchers."

Frewer turned in his seat and glared at him.

Dan opened his eyes wide in innocence. "3527! I'm not making this stuff up." He pointed at the console. "Do the thing!"


The man in the black scuba suit squirmed, clearly uncomfortable. "I don't think this is a good idea. I feel like I'm gonna—"

The man in the Chaos Insurgency uniform clapped him on the shoulder. "Take a breath, champ. We've timed this out carefully."

"Okay, but this really isn't my bag, you know? I don't do watersports. Give me a good old-fashioned mot—"

The agent's radio snapped on. "Send him in."

"Time to go!" The agent pushed the diver into the airlock. "Remember, swim out as far as you can."

"But who's even gonna see me down here? The grea—"

The airlock door swung shut.


"Submarine detected off the coast of Site-45, near The Rig." Safiro was typing madly. "Already disengaging."

"Torpedoes?" Dan tossed a crumpled can into the pile spilling out of the recycle basket.

"Doesn't look like it. Not seeing any major disturbances in the water, nothing coming up on the seismometers… wait! They've found a diver, they're detaining—"

"No! Tell them not t—"

The explosion was muffled, but it was enough to cut him off. He set his mouth in a grim line and walked around Safiro's console to see what he didn't want to see. "Damage report?"

She shook her head, and they both watched the plumes of smoke rising from the rig. "Too soon to tell. Not seeing any casualties, so far, but… definitely blocked off the central shaft to 45, it'll be slow going for the foreseeable future."

Dan massaged his neck thoughtfully. No one saw it, but a look of realization dawned on his face. He quickly replaced it with a look of horror, and made sure everyone saw it by shouting "Listen up!"

He ran to the whiteboard and wrote, hurriedly,


He capped the marker and tapped the board with it. "A-129 is VERY CLOSE to Site-45, and we can't lose it. We absolutely cannot." He strolled out of the room. "Everybody take five, get some coffee or snacks or whatever. I'm gonna make a call, and then we're gonna figure this out."


Area-129 was a radio telescope station in the Australian Outback. It had a permanent staff of only fifteen scientists.

Dr. Dan managed to snag just one MTF, on routine patrol when Site-45 was hit. It wasn't much, but it would be enough.


The transport truck rattled and groaned, and the man in the black motorcycle suit rattled and groaned along with it. "I really can't take much more of this. I'm a professional, but there are limits." He bounced up and down on the seat of his bike, staring blearily out at the wasteland.

The man in the Chaos Insurgency uniform clapped him on the shoulder. "It'll all be over soon. You're gonna put on the show of a lifetime." He keyed his radio. "How soon?"


The agent stared at his radio in shock. "What the fuck? What the fuck?"

"The SCP Foundation is proud to present, one time only, from the back of a Chaos Insurgency transport truck, the one, the only—"

"The GREAT," the motorcyclist shouted, pulling off his helmet and beaning the agent with it, hard, "TURBOOOOOO THOMPSON!"

A guitar riff echoed across the wilderness, source unknown.

Thompson picked up the agent's radio. "So, I take it these have not been a series of legitimately-booked stunt performances."


"No, they haven't." Dr. Dan dropped his stage voice as the convoy rumbled to a stop. He watched the feed from the MTF chopper maintaining a safe distance; the truck driver was opening his door as the rest of the convoy began circling. "But you do have an eager audience here, watching remotely. And you're on camera, if that helps."

There was silence on the radio for a moment, and then: "It surely does, my man."


"My man Dan. I ain't never disappointed a crowd in my life."

The driver had pulled his sidearm, and insurgents were now circling the truck.

"Bring the house down, Turbo."

A beat.

"Anything for the fans."

The truck exploded.

Safiro looked shell-shocked. "Your mind is a terrifying thing," she managed.

Dan nodded, watching the convoy burn. Turbo crawled out of the wreckage, seemingly none the worse for wear, and wrestled a blackened motorcycle free of the flaming debris. He sat down on the melted seat, testing its springs.

"Kappa-81, this is Dr. Dan. Bring Mr. Thompson home, please, and do it quickly. We don't want a repeat engagement. Copy?"


"It's here," Sauelsuesor sang in his mind. "You have to stop it."

"Heel, Rover, heel!" Moon Champion stamped his foot on the roof of the fire engine. "Her Lady of the Great Up-There has a new mission for us!"

Agent Rodney stuck his head out of the passenger-side window. "The Scarlets are setting off fires in the Bowery! We've already quarantined all the real first responders, so it's up to us!"

"Agent R is right," the Mennace hollered. "We fight fire with water. It's elementary!"

"Then take care of your wetwork, o large rouge one, but I must needs must jet. 'til we meet again!" Moon Champion's thrusters flared, and at Site-01, Dr. Daniel ███████ clawed at his whitening hair and tried to concoct a plausible cover story.


The abomination skittered through the streets like the horror-inflated memory of a cockroach in sudden lamplight, pulsing and writhing and snapping its spined feelers in the air. A man in a brown business suit threw himself against a storefront window, palms pressed hard into the brick, and he was about to scream when a chitinous arrowhead spiked clean through his skull, pinning him to the glass.

"A luscious end inflects the mind distinguished by the shift between-beneath the sloughing ice of limpid rapine," the beating bovine heart-which-walked chanted in bored, British tones. "The purge-in-flesh amends the catastrophic myth of meat and brass and iron forests off the coast of grief."

"That and a dollar will get you a dollar and that," bellowed Moon Champion, striding across the street to face the beast. "If that."

He didn't hear the honking horn, but he did faintly notice when the car plowed into him at fifty miles per hour, folding around him and shattering into a mess of red-hot metal. Someone was screaming in one half of the car, which rolled around the corner on two wheels like a makeshift motorcycle and disappeared. The heart seized the other half of the car, and hurled it at Moon Champion.

He caught it with one hand.

"Rejoice in filth of tides unending down above the siren song of undertakings meant to ease the wail of lovers caught against the dusk that dims the primal fear of tenderness," the heart remarked. Moon Champion kept metronomic time with his free glove.

"And you! I'll count this as my Moon-Christmas gift. Moon-Christ died for the sins of half-cars." He flipped it over his shoulder, ignoring the sound of three storeys worth of glass windows breaking sequentially.

"In rot the foams of wrong elide a bloodshed, in riotous chorus cast the ratios between the harmony and fume," the heart responded. It snapped its tentacles again, and struck Moon Champion across the chest.

"Neat," he cried. "I didn't know that. I hope it means something." The material of his suit, whatever it was, showed no sign of having had a biological diamond razor flicked across it.

"Chalk-tears tear cathedrals perpetrated in the crawling absence of posterity performed." The heart dove towards him.

"If that's Earth-Horse for "ride me like a Murder-Go-Round," citizen, you're playing my carnival tune." With a jet-engine roar he gunned into the sky, and landed neatly on the beast's back. "Hi, ho, Silver!"

"O string that curves the vacuum rhapsody thrice in tongues of screeching rapture, arousing with a throaty bawl of maggots in the cream of condescension." The heart began bucking and rolling, throwing itself onto its back and over again with its spider-leg appendages.

"Tell that to my thighs," Moon Champion bellowed in triumph. "And tell that to my skies!"

He gunned the jetpack again, and off they went.

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