Item Name: SCP-XXXX
Special Containment Procedures:
Description: SCP-XXXX's default form appears to be that of a middle-aged human male, clad in an ill-fitting black suit, white shirt, and black necktie.
"Ugh, I don't even know where to start on this," Stesha said to herself, rubbing her temples as she looked up from her computer. A blinking light signaled a visitor to her office. She turned around to see Doctor Ghazali with a cup of beverage in each of his hands.
She gestured at the table near the doorway. Dr. Ghazali nodded and set both cups down.
"How is your report coming, Stesha?" he asked.
"It isn't, Malik," Stesha replied.
"This is why we usually wait until we have contained the skip before we write the report," Dr. Ghazali said, his hands making it clear the amusement on his face wasn't malicious.
"I wanted to get a head start on it, given how little time we seem to have interacting with this skip," Stesha grumbled.
"That's what I'm here for. It sounds like there's a lead on your favorite disappearing-reappearing skip nearby, so I brought caffeine and the promise of a road trip. What do you say?"
"Coffee or tea?"
"Coffee for me, tea for you. English Breakfast, to help clear away the early-morning cobwebs."
Stesha grimaced. "Chai would have been a better selection for that."
"I was told one of the O-5s requisitioned it for use in 914."
Stesha paused, trying to think through what might happen if 914 were fed a caffeinated beverage. Several of the possible outcomes she could think of suggested that being somewhere far away from 914 would be a prudent measure.
Stesha, as a rule, preferred not to drive. She could (a "valid driver license from a recognized authority" was a requirement to working for the Foundation), but there was a lot about it that she disliked, and despite the Foundation's overabundance of engineering talent and ability to think in four (or five) dimensions, it would probably require an SCP that specifically attacked unsafe drivers before they would bend their minds to figuring out how to fit all of the Foundation's vehicle fleet for accessibility, instead of mostly concentrating on entities with morphologies different than Terra-Humans.
So when Dr. Ghazali offered to drive, Stesha thanked him for it. And when they landed in the middle of a traffic jam, Stesha was extra pleased not to have to be in control of the vehicle. Dr. Ghazali, as best as Stesha could tell, actively enjoyed driving and seemed most content in the middle of a rush hour with horns blaring, drivers cursing at each other and behaving erratically, and the palpable sense that someone's next move might be the one that caused a collision. When she'd asked, he said it reminded him of home.
"A proper jam," Dr. Ghazali said happily as they were sitting still in the traffic. "Too many vehicles and not enough space for all of them to flow smoothly. A jumble of metal and minds. Perfect, I think, for your skip to show up."
Stesha thought about it as the vehicle inched forward.
"Maybe," she replied, when they'd stopped again. "But the pattern of this skip doesn't seem limited to vehicle collisions. There's been at least a couple of times where something that fits the pattern doesn't involve any sort of collision at all."
"It is a difficult pattern to understand," Dr. Ghazali said carefully, in controlled motions. "I know you are adamant that it is not random, but I have trouble following you when you explain your reasoning."
The traffic squeeze finished, leaving Stesha to her thoughts as Dr. Ghazali focused on the driving. The closest she'd ever come to explaining it properly was asking them to think of the incidents that fit the pattern as large Rube Goldberg kinds of machines. She'd even shown them videos of marble contraptions, the music videos of OK Go, hell, she'd even made them watch that episode of Fringe, propaganda that it was, in the alternate-universe with the guy who could predict the outcomes of all of his actions, just to show them the creativity of Terra-Humans when they wanted to use overly-complicated methods to do theoretically simple things. If she could establish that as the baseline of what was possible, then it shouldn't be as difficult a leap to conceive that an SCP might be able to do such things themselves with farther-ranging effects and accounting for more variables and apparent randomness. Or even being able to control what should have been random to produce a desired outcome. But every interview technique she had tried had been fruitless. They'd all insisted that some accidental cause was responsible. Reviewing the small amount of video coverage with others had them looking at her and asking where the SCP was.
At this point, she was glad to be working for the Foundation, because any other entity would have been concerned for her sanity. The Foundation was at least willing to believe that there was something there that had a certain amount of memetic contamination, even after all of the tests of the material, the recording devices, the playback devices, and just about everything in between had revealed nothing. Given how long it had taken some of the researchers to prove their SCPs existed, some not even managing it until they had successfully tested the containment protocol, Stesha wasn't worried the Foundation would suddenly decide she was chasing shadows and pull her funding and her job.
She just sometimes wished someone would see the same thing she did. And sometimes wished nobody else would, because if it was a memetic hazard, then the less people that could be exposed to it, the better. Such were the dangers of any given SCP. As Dr. Ghazali eased them into a suburban neighborhood, Stesha wondered if this time was going to end up like all the others had so far.
And then he was there. Laying down in the middle of the road, in the black suit and tie, bandage on his left cheek, apparently unconcerned about any vehicle that might be approaching. Dr. Ghazali gently pulled off to the side of the road and turned the vehicle off. He sat for a moment before turning to her.
"There's a cat in the road," he said. "He looks like he belongs to someone. If I can get him off the street, we can probably call the owners."
'A cat?" Stesha replied, shaking her head. "That's the skip in the middle of the road!"
"The skip is a cat? I thought you said he looked like a man."
"He does. And he's out there. If anyone should be talking to him or asking him things, it should be me."
"I would feel more comfortable getting him out of the middle of the road first."
Stesha sighed. "This doesn't look like the kind of neighborhood where the kids drag race their hatchbacks looking for air as they bound over the speed bumps," she said crossly. "I'll be fine."
Before they could finish arguing about who should go outside, and whether or not it was a cat or the SCP in the middle of the road, the SCP picked himself up from the middle of the road and wandered over toward their car. Stesha tensed, expecting a confrontation, but the SCP stopped a respectful distance in front of the car, looked at her, and began to sign.
"I'm the primal force of mayhem that you think needs containing. I show up to cause disasters and damage all around the country. You think I should be contained, but you're also a scientist who understands learning all the facts before going in unthinkingly. So why don't we have a chat and you can decide whether you need further protection from me?"
Stesha scowled, but the SCP was right. Even if she'd had some idea of how to contain the SCP that she could deploy, jumping to containment was one of the more surefire ways of making a SCP mad. There wasn't an entire tactical team ready to help with attempting containment, either. Just her and a colleague that had felt like indulging her today.
"Fine," she said, agreeing to the SCP's idea. "Should I call you Mayhem, then?"
"Sure," Mayhem replied, with a shrug. "I've got a lot of different names. Comes with the territory of being old."
"What about him?" she said, pointing at Dr. Ghazali.
"He'll be fine. Right now, he thinks he's playing with a cat that he's rescued from the road, before he returns the cat to a grateful owner. Take the keys with you so you can get back in when it's time."
Stesha pocketed the keys to the vehicle and stepped out onto the sidewalk where Mayhem was waiting.
"So," she started awkwardly, "why am I the only one who can see you?"
"Everyone else can see me. They're just convinced I'm something else," Mayhem said.
"Because they can hear you," Stesha realized.
"Yep," Mayhem said. "Everyone believes what I tell them, even if their eyes saw something else."
"So you decided that the best thing to do with this was to cause highly chaotic events and then make people believe something else happened?"
"I used to be the cause of chaos, but as it turns out, I don't have to do much anymore to make sure there's enough in the world," he said. "Started looking at new lines of work not too soon after Paris made his decision. Did have to do a little bit of upping chaos involving a Sacred Chao in the 60s, though."
"Mu," Stesha sad absently, smiling and remembering a time before she came to work on SCPs, before remembering she was supposed to be a Foundation researcher in the presence of a potentially hostile SCP. "So what are you doing now?"
"Mostly going to places that will be vortexes of uncontrollable chaos and siphoning enough off so that they don't destroy the world," Mayhem said.
"Why? I thought the whole point of chaos was to end the world."
"That's KAOS," Mayhem said, fingerspelling the acronym. "And they were terrible at it, thankfully. Believe it or not, I like humans. You're way more fun to play with than anything else that's existed, and there's something satisfying about watching your plans explode and seeing you scramble and scuttle around trying to save whatever shreds are left."
"That still makes you sound like a threat that needs containing," Stesha said.
"It might," Mayhem said agreeably. "But think about this, hotshot: Do you really want to put an embodiment of chaos in with all of the other things that are already in there? I'm sure you can think through what might happen if containment started randomly failing around some of the less harmless residents."
Stesha could. If she thought through the consequences, there were a lot of very messy and potentially universe-ending results that could come from even a blip in containment on some of the Foundation's more lethal responsibilities. On the other hand, there was something potentially satisfying and interesting about being able to engage in some controlled tests and advance the Foundation's understanding of chaos as a force.
"Might keep some of them on their toes," she said. "I've overheard the occasional complaint about not having enough practice or field experience. And how do you know about the Foundation, anyway? That's supposed to be protected by [REDACTED]."
Mayhem gave her a pitying stare, clearly implying that whatever protections the Foundation used to keep themselves hidden from the eyes of most entities wouldn't have come close to working on him. Afterward, he stopped in front of one of the houses on the block.
"Inside this house is a man who is about to successfully make thermate for the first time. He's made a bigger batch than he really should have, and the sparks and fire from the reaction are going to startle him into crashing into a shelf in his basement lab. That shelf has a bottle of relatively pure potassium on it, and the vibration is enough to knock the bottle off the shelf into the bucket of water he's drawn in case the thermate reaction gets out of hand."
Stesha shook her head. Having seen both the amateur and professional chemists performing experiments and demonstrations, she knew that a bucket of water could often be the wrong solution to the problem of a chemical reaction getting out of hand.
"This wouldn't be as much of a problem, except the cap on the bottle is loose, and so the water that's in the bucket will rush into the bottle. Long story short, the fire and the sparks from these elemental disasters will set all sorts of other things ablaze and he's going to lose his entire house, right down to the foundations. He'll survive it, but his insurance isn't going to pay him a dime."
"And you're here to ensure this tragedy happens according to plan."
"Yeah," Mayhem said, looking offended, "because the alternative is worse." Stesha looked at him skeptically. Mayhem rolled his eyes and continued.
"If I'm not here to make sure all the flames stay in the right house, well, there's nobody else home in this neighborhood, so there's nobody to call fire services about the blaze before it burns down a pretty significant part of the neighborhood. As they're investigating the cause and the destruction, this neighborhood is going to discover that it was built on top of the site that came closest to summoning an extradimensional horror into this universe. At which point your employer swoops in to study everything, and one of your colleagues, in a flash of brilliance, figures out what the missing parts were and ends up completing the summoning. At which point the entire universe is hosed and there's nothing to do about it but wait for another Big Bang and hope that you learned your lesson from the last time about finishing things you don't fully understand."
"That sounds pretty far-fetched," Stesha said.
"Says the researcher that's been trying to convince her colleagues that random events are really the work of a guy in a black suit," Mayhem replied. Stesha was ready to argue with him more, but at that moment, the house across the street from where they were began to emit black smoke. Within a few minutes, flames followed the smoke, engulfing the house completely. Stesha expected the flames to start spreading, or for hot debris to start landing on the rooftops of the other houses of the neighborhood, but the flames stayed fairly close to the frame of the house and all of the debris seemed to be floating straight up into the air, despite the hot breeze that Stesha could feel on her side.
"Magnificent," Mayhem said to Stesha as the house burnt itself down to the frame and eventually to nothing. The last ashes settled into place as fire trucks arrived at the scene, ready to put out a fire that had already exhausted itself, leaving one very traumatized young man to be pulled from the wreckage. With a satisfied look on his face, Mayhem began walking back toward the vehicle where she'd left Dr. Ghazali.
"We could clear this up if you came in and did some tests," Stesha said.
Mayhem shook his head. "Nope. Can't be contained, can't be measured, that's the whole point. You can believe or not believe." Mayhem tapped his hands on the roof of their vehicle as a farewell, then turned around and started walking down the road.
"Stesha?" Dr. Gazali said. "Are you there?"
Stesha blinked. She was in the car. She had the distinct feeling of lost time, but she couldn't remember what had happened after she'd told him that the SCP was in the road.
"Did you have a good time with your cat?" she asked, still trying to get her brain to cough up a memory.
Dr. Ghazali smiled. "We both did," he said. "She was a lovely tabby, and her owner was thrilled to have her back and invited us in for tea."
"That's not—" Stesha started, but she knew she wouldn't be able to convince him of the truth, whatever it might have been. The best she could hope for was if something had captured the SCP. The vehicle was equipped with a camera, but she couldn't remember if she'd turned it on at any point. Her phone buzzed, alerting her to a new e-mail telling her that her upload had been received and was now being processed for hazards and then would be sent onward for captioning. She read her own e-mail politely asking if the footage chunk she was attaching could be checked and then transcribed, because she thought it was another incident for her ongoing research. Stesha felt pleased that even if she couldn't remember precisely what had happened, the habit of documenting and then processing quickly had been firmly ingrained enough to work all the same.
The next day, Dr. Ghazali came back to her office, this time with a cup of chai "liberated" from the test stocks that were supposed to go to 914 for a second round of experimentation.
"There was a fire in the neighborhood we were in yesterday. Someone burnt their house to the ground, but somehow, none of the other houses were affected," Dr. Ghazali told her.
"That's improbable," Stesha said.
"Lucky them," Dr. Ghazali said. "I wondered if your skip might have something to do with it, so I wanted to know if the video had come back yet."
Stesha shook her head, then took an appreciative sip of the chai, savoring the flavor, before setting it on the drink table next to her desk. "Nothing yet."
"All right. If you find something, let me know, please? I'm not completely sure yet, but if the maps line up, there might be a skip in that neighborhood that isn't yours."
Stesha promised to let him know if anything came in and settled into her work, trying to remember any other details she knew about her own SCP that might help in constructing a containment process for it. A few minutes later, her e-mail dinged with the video. The techs were apologetic, but most of the video they'd received was either scrambled or unusable, but they had managed to capture about thirty seconds of what appeared to be clear recording. Even though it didn't look particularly interesting to them, they were attaching it anyway in case there was something useful to her research.
Stesha opened the video on her computer and clicked play. The SCP was there, right in front of the car. After waving, he began to speak. Stesha frowned at the lack of captioning to the video. It was one of her standing orders that everything be either transcribed or captioned so she could understand anything what was said. Grumbling to herself, she ticked the box to turn on machine-generated captions. It was never as accurate as human ones, but she could probably get the gist of what was being said from them. She restarted the video, hoping that whatever the SCP had said, it was distinct enough for the machine translators to pick it up.
"I'm the skip you've been chasing for the better part of three years. Everyone else around you thinks that you're on a wild goose chase, but you persevered and believed in yourself, and now you're seeing the fruits of your labor. Too bad the only other witness thinks you're claiming a cat is an S-C-P. And if you've got cut-rate memetic filters, they won't protect you from being convinced this is all a dream. So switch to [DATA EXPUNGED] and be better protected from mayhem, like me."