The Keysmith's Bootstrap
rating: +39+x

The smell of salt and the sound of quietly lapping waves suddenly appears. I fall, the solid floor previously supporting me now vanished, down to the surface of the water I know is below me. I should be a moderate distance from the shore, which in turn shouldn't be far from my home. I haven't been outside in several decades, let alone seen the sea during that time. Faint, cloudy memories of me and my mother at a beach emerge, both of us sitting alone. We pat down the sand in our bucket before flipping it over, creating a featureless, cylindrical sandcastle. "We did it!" she says, mere seconds before an all-resounding splash and the sensation of emersion yanks me back to reality, the abundance of suffocating water forcing me to swim to the surface.

Behind me is the beach itself; a long smear of yellow sand lightly dotted with people all across it, children running and laughing as they play tag or compete for toys, their parents lazily soaking up the light from the sun. The beach and its inhabitants begin to shrink as an unseen tide drags me away from the shore, trying to take me to some unknown fate. My attempts to fight against it are futile; fatigue has taken hold, preventing me from successfully fighting back.

“Help! Help!” The sound of my voice is drowned out by the ocean before it can reach the shore. A man on the beach sitting up on a raised chair stirs, hopefully having sighted my dark, waving hand and understood it as a cry for help. The strength in my legs drain away from the effort to stay afloat and the surface of the water rises above my head. Blue waters fade to black as the shallow breath within my chest depletes, and my oxygen-deprived mind withdraws into itself. The true, physical senses are replaced with simulations as I fall into my memories.

█/██/20██, ██:██

“You’re a target," spoke the voice of O5-6, all semblances of any identifiable characteristics being masked. "Several undercover agents we have within a hostile faction have informed us that an attempt to capture or terminate you is being planned, or may already be in motion. We are unsure of the motives of these plans, but are expecting an attempt at blackmailing the Foundation as a whole. You should understand we cannot allow this to happen.”

Leaning forward in my seat, I took a moment to think about this revelation. Why would someone even consider this? Site-17 would have been filled with countless items or beings that followed their own laws or logic, all of which would have been far more useful than me. Only one of the anomalies here had ever crossed paths with me in person, admittedly; the others I only heard mumblings of from staff working on them, or from the occasional sounds they made as they rampaged freely through the building. The staff themselves were more valuable than I, having knowledge of how to access information known only to my protectors, the Foundation. It was like stealing a rotten apple at the bottom of a barrel of grenades – a lot of effort for the most worthless thing there. Not waiting for a response, the dark outline on the screen continued speaking.

“Do not tell anyone else about what I am about to tell you to do. It is probable that those posted close to you may very well be the ones we are attempting to protect you from – informing them of what we are doing could prompt them to take action. So under no circumstances whatsoever can anyone other than you, me and my fellow overseers be made aware of this conversation.” The voice made particular emphasis on the last sentence, increasing their volume rather than changing their tone. “I will only state this once. Effective immediately you are being promoted to E-Class and being assigned to an anomaly under our control that you are familiar with; SCP-2

Present Day

Fading back into consciousness, a feeling of immense nausea sweeps through me. Instincts kick in and sit me upright as my lungs are purged of seawater, vomiting it all out. Someone sighs, the noise explaining the instinctive feeling of not only being watched, but being surrounded by an unseen crowd. Finally regaining full control of my body, I open my eyes and look about to see my new surroundings.

The man who had come down from his chair earlier was sitting to my right, breathing heavily and smiling. He wears strange clothes consisting of only the colours red and yellow, topped with a funny little hat that almost makes his head look like a ripe tomato. The small crowd around us, consisting entirely of worried adults, begins to subside as some of them lose interest.

"You feeling better?" speaks the man, his Australian origins more obvious in his voice than the fact he could speak. A nod satiates his curiosity, and he moves onto his next query.

"Can you tell me your name?"

The question echoes in the emptiness of my foggy mind. It isn't because of an inability to answer the question; my identity is easy to recall without effort. The question is whether the truth should be provided or not. Just as I am to him, his identity is completely unknown to me and by extension, any trust in him could be misplaced. Too drowsy to think of a proper response, I just shake my head.

"Alright, just relax mate. The ambulance is on it's way, everything'll be alright." A slight hint of concern is now present in his voice. While it is a good idea to go to a hospital and get medical attention, the more pressing matter of getting home is of much higher importance. Besides, there would be plenty of doctors stationed at Site-17. Despite his wishes for me to stay and relax, I need to get up and leave.

"Just relax, you're alright." He speaks in response to my motion, resting his hands upon my shoulders to try and coerce me to comply. "Sir, please just relax, you're ok."

I shake my head, trying to fight off the lingering fogginess in my mind. "Where… am i…" My throat feels dry despite the water that had formerly flowed through it, my voice raspy and weak. It hardly even sounds like my own, but it surely must be mine. A drink of water - that should fix it.

"I really think you should just relax, sir. You've just been dead for a few mi-" Sternly, I repeat my question. He means well, but his insistence for me to comply is beginning to become irritating. He quietly muffles a sigh before responding, telling me the name of the beach and of the nearby city.

"Thank you." The crowd parts before me as I walk away, pausing briefly to address the man again. "I am grateful that you saved me, but I am in a rush." Satisfied that the apology should be enough to appease him, I follow a nearby path into the city.

The sounds of countless car horns blaring, of thousands, if not millions, of commuters walking and talking throughout the streets, quickly becomes deafening within the confines of the city. Around me are endless rows of skyscrapers reaching high into the sky, like concrete obelisks from the view of an ant. Moving throughout the streets is almost as difficult as swimming against the tide that had formerly claimed my life, as endless hordes of businessmen and tourists alike travel in the opposite direction to me, the minor collisions between us slowly driving me back.

It's too much for me to stand - the silence and solitude of Site-17 is what I am accustomed to. There is a side street nearby which I head to, hoping it to be a refuge from the overabundant chaos of the city. It is certainly much darker, the shadows of the buildings to either side blocking out most of the light, and the noise of the street is slowly muffled the further I go in. Leaning against a section of wall parallel to a particularly foul-smelling dumpster, I take a moment to orient my thoughts and catch my breath.

"Oi!" shouts someone further in the alley. A group of seven people emerge from the shadows, all visibly the type ready to cause trouble. Jeans, shirts with their sleeves torn off or designed to look that way, prominent muscular arms… they all sport countless scars and stitches, and are all grinning maliciously as they approach, eyes fixed on me.

"What're you doing here?" shouts one of them, picking up speed as he approaches me. My mind is screaming to run back out into the street and disappear into the endless crowd. My heart is already prepared for this to happen, beating at a rate much higher than normal, and yet I cannot move. I can't will myself to take the first step, only stare in utter fear as the group surrounds me.

The man grabs my shoulders and turns me around, glaring with fury in his eyes and a vicious snarl in his speech. "I said, what is someone like you doing here, eh? You think you can just walk wherever you want? Is that it?" he barks. His insistence for a response coupled with his obvious will for a fight was enough to prompt me to speak.

"I-I didn't know I wasn't allowed here…" Before I can make any attempt to leave, the two men standing between me and the street step forward to show that I wasn't going to get past them. Cold sweat begins to roll down my spine.

"Well you ain't, and you ain't allowed to leave, either. You think you can just come and go as you want? Do whatever you want?" He is riling himself up now, finding reasons to make himself angry about my presence. I was in for a fight that I probably won't win. "And if you don't know that-"

"Leave him alone!" Everyone turns to see the source of the new voice, a man who had turned off the main street. He walks fearlessly past the two blocking my escape, apparently unconcerned with the violence this gang was capable of and how hopelessly outnumbered he would be. Both his arms and his legs are prosthetic, visibly made of a polished silver metal, but the silence of their operation and their accuracy at mimicking natural movement shows they are of exceptional quality. They could easily deflect damage and probably break bones, explaining his obvious feeling of safety.

The man who had been shouting at me backs away as the newcomer approaches me, ignoring the presence of the others. “Are you ok?” he speaks, his Arabian heritage supported by his prevalent accent. He has a strange symbol carved into his forehead, the meaning of which is unknown, and his blue eyes are strangely piercing.

“What the do you think you’re doing, just waltzing in here uninvited?” The other man sounds significantly angrier, having been interrupted and ignored by this new arrival. “Shove off or you'll regret it!”

The good Samaritan doesn’t respond to the barking voice. He doesn’t respond until I nod my head, indicating I was physically fine – albeit emotionally frightened.

“Go. I will stay in your stead.” Nothing more need be said. As the two guards move in to help attack, I run past them and out into the street. My instinct of flight rather than fight fully kicks in, rushing through the crowds as quickly as I can go, fighting against the tide of people. People shout as they are shoved aside, cars beep in frustration as I sprint past them, but I don’t stop. It isn’t until the buildings start to shorten and the crowds thin do I finally stop, tripping over an uneven paver.

With a light clink, the sole item in my pocket falls out and lands upon the pavement. Quickly grabbing it to prevent its loss, I look over it while getting up, studying its details. I follow the small carvings across its surface, the swirls that twist and shrink beyond my observation, but feel only a smooth metal surface. The sensation of timelessness emanates from it, yet it shows no signs of ageing as I do. Walking north through the city’s streets, memories of how this item came into my possession emerge.

█/██/20██, ██:██

The whitewashed halls were both familiar and unfamiliar as I was escorted through them by the two guards. Featureless and bland, they looked as though the designer had simply copied and pasted the same four base components – straight hall, corner, T-junction, four-way junction – over and over again. Considering the workings of the Foundation that was probably what had happened to minimize design costs. I was being escorted through these halls by two guards I was unfamiliar with. The revelation from several minutes earlier had made me uneasy, being unsure if they were traitors or potential friends. Silence was my default.

“Oy, we’re here.” The sudden gruff voice of the guard was startling, speaking as he came to a stop with his accomplice. The two glared at me the way you would if someone needed to hurry up. The door that was our destination stood alone along its long stretch of hall, the sole sentinel holding back the unfathomable chaos held behind it. It would only respond to a keycard with high enough clearance, otherwise standing firm – fortunately, I was given such a card shortly after my conversation with the Overseer. A moment after swiping it, I repeated the action but to no response.

"Must be faulty. You able to open it Frankie?" The gruff-voiced guard spoke to the other, turning to face me.

"Nope. Everyone who can is already inside. We'll have to fetch the skeleton key." The voice of the other was much smoother and friendlier. I felt more trusting to him than the other, but not enough to prevent me from shifting away slightly. They both suddenly turn and march down the hall again, leaving me behind.

"Hurry up!" barks the first, prompting me to sprint and catch up. It doesn't take long for us to complete our brief detour, speaking to a specific researcher who was assigned to the item we sought. We were entrusted with the item, and with it in our possession, returned to the door once more. This time upon swiping it, the door slid open.

Keeping the item in hand I walked to the other end of the airlock, swiping it once more to open the second door. It was then that I remembered where I was, and with a feeling of nostalgia and a wave of memories, I look around the familiar interior of the hangar-like room and the sole device it housed: a colossal half-sphere constructed of steel and painted with forest camouflage,

Present Day

The feeling of grime within my shoes hauls me out of my trance. Countless trees surround me, their roots descending beneath the swamp mud. There are no meaningful details to be seen beyond dark silhouettes, the dim moonlight blocked by the thick canopy above. This swamp should be close to the sight, the foul smell of the gases being familiar, but without knowledge of landmarks or direction certainty couldn’t be achieved. There is nothing to do but wander aimlessly between the trunks, hoping that fate will intervene in my favour.

A brief flash of light signals that fate may indeed be on my side, and with all the remaining energy that can be mustered I charge towards it. Cold dollops of soaked earth splatter across my back, and putrid gases rise in my wake as the ground is disturbed by my feet. A chainlink fence comes into sight ahead, separating the border between the swamp and a cleared field. At the center is a compound made of concrete, and a familiar one at that.

I’ve made it. I’m safe.

The front gate of Site-17 is a long walk from here, even longer from there back inwards to the site. Nearby is a large tree with a branch spanning the space between the trunk and the fence – this should be enough to get in. After several minutes of clambering up and along the branch, I have jumped down and landed on the other side of the barbed wire-topped fence.

Approaching the large bulkhead serving as the entry, someone behind me shouts something too faint to be heard. It couldn’t be me they are shouting about, as I am no stranger to this site or its security. The gate doesn’t open before me as it hasn’t been instructed to do so yet, but I have the power to issue the command. The small item in my pocket once more does its magical work as it is swiped through the nearby card reader, and the oversized doors part before me. On the other side is the familiar face of one of my closest friends, a security guard stationed here at the site who has obviously been awaiting my return.

He twitches slightly. There is a sudden pain in my chest as something collides with it, its force enough to make me stagger back, fast enough for me to not see it hit me.

My friend holds a rifle in his hands, aimed at my chest.

I don’t understand.

Numbness overcomes me as I lose control of my arms and legs, forcing me to kneel before falling to my side. My mind struggles to comprehend its rapid loss of control, instigated by my friend firing his gun at me without provocation. As he approaches the details on his face become more apparent; He is astoundingly similar to my friend, but there isn’t enough age in his face, he’s too young. My friend looks almost as old as myself, but this child is obviously no older than thirty at most.
Thoughts become foggy again as they had earlier… today? Last week? Memories blur together and fade with my senses, preventing retreat into a subconscious.

Aries is beautiful tonight.

Present Day

On ██/██/1969, an unidentified individual attempted to gain access to the interior of Site-17. The individual was of advanced age (estimated to be between sixty to eighty years old) and utilised an anomalous item in order to open the primary gate of Site-17. The individual was terminated by security at the gate to prevent further incursion, and is believed to be a lone assailant.

The anomalous item recovered is pending SCP classification.


On █/██/20██, SCP-196 notified staff of its familiarity with the workings of SCP-2367, offering to assist assigned staff in correcting the inherent dangers of the anomaly. SCP-196 was granted temporary E-Class status to operate with the anomaly.

SCP-196 utilised SCP-2367 in order to escape containment and displace itself to the year 1969, fulfilling the circumstances under which it was first encountered by Site-17 security. SCP-196 is declared Neutralized.

Prior to escaping containment, SCP-196 acquired SCP-005 in order to access SCP-2367 due to a fault in its temporary access pass. SCP-005 has since been recovered from [DATA EXPUNGED] and is now stored at Site-10.

From: O5-6
To: O5 Command
Subject: Project Charon
Operation ALEXANDER SOLUTION has fulfilled its objectives. SCP-196 was deceived into believing an attempt to kidnap it was imminent. The anomaly believed that the temporal displacement capabilities of SCP-2367 was restricted to a two-week timeframe.

Staff assigned to SCP-2367 primed the anomaly to displace SCP-196 to ██/██/1969, enabling the completion of its causal loop. Any staff assigned to SCP-2367 that were aware of the deception of SCP-196 have been amnesticized and cannot recall their involvement. All staff unaware of Operation ALEXANDER SOLUTION believe that SCP-196 escaped containment of its own volition.

The intentional fault in the E-Class identification card provided to SCP-196 necessitated the use of SCP-005-1 to access SCP-2367, as expected. This resulted in the item being displaced to ██/██/1969 and enabled it to be recovered from SCP-196 when first encountered.

SCP-005-2 (the instance of SCP-005 recovered from the first encounter with SCP-196, and by extension the future iteration of SCP-005-1) is henceforth classified Safe, and designated as SCP-005. SCP-005-2 is classified Decommissioned/Neutralized, and is to be expunged from all records.

Integrity of the Architect has been ensured.

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