The resulting explosion shook not only the factory, but also the whole neighbourhood in a deafening, grinding roar all too indicative of tachyon related temporospatial fuckery of a colossal scale.
When Walker came to, it was on the ground and with severe tinnitus from the blast, his body racked with pain and numb with shock.
Also, someone was shaking him.
"Damn it all, Walker! What the hell did you do!?"
The world was a kaleidoscope of various disorienting colors, and Walker couldn't help but groan, yet the sound that came out was more like a pitiful gurgle than anything else.
"Don't you die on me Walker," Huh, that was nice. At least someone didn't want him dea- ", because I'm going to make sure you suffer the consequences of your actions as much as I will. There is no way we can ever continue working in this facility. We'll be lucky if they turn us into D-Classes. Hey, talk to me!"
"Not... so loud." Walker gurgled, before finally retrieving enough strength to look at his surroundings.
The whole observation room looked as if a meteor crashed through, with a hole in the ceiling at an angle, all the equipment in complete disarray and a huge, charred black crater in the corner of the room.
He could make out an assortment of corpses in that direction, vaguely recalling that Sunshine and Ulgrim, among the others, were in the vicinity.
"Huh..." Walker went to stand up with the help of Dr. Xyank, who was all too busy ranting at him, using terrible words such as 'This is all your fault!' and 'How could you fiddle so carelessly with such delicate equipment!' or something of the like. Walker made sure to make a mental note of the latter, but otherwise paid Dr. Xyank little attention as he slowly, but surely made his way towards one of the windows.
"Calm yourself, Dr. Xyank-" "Hey, are you even listening to me?" "Sure I am. I'll make sure to account for the mistake that happened today, don't worry about it."
"What are you talking about? Have you gone mad?" Dr. Xyank bit out in a shrill voice.
"Foundation secrets. Sorry. Humor me for a bit, though. What if I told you I could fix everything that happened today if you opened this window. I'm not feeling too hot at the moment."
"Not feeling too hot- your arms are suffering third degree burns! I'll be surprised if you even have arms after this whole ordeal." Flabbergasted as he was, Dr. Xyank didn't make a move towards the window.
Meanwhile, Walker took the time to inspect his hands. Luckily they felt completely numb, seeing as how they were reduced to charred lumps of black, barbecued flesh.
It didn't bother him that much, though. It's just harder to jump through a closed window than it is to jump through an open one.
But not impossible.
"What in the blazes-" Thaddeus Xyank yelped as Walker mustered all of his remaining energy, breaking into a sprint in an unintentional Naruto run as his charred hands flailed behind him, before jumping straight through the window.
Beyond the shattered glass digging into his face and body as he rammed through the window, all he could hear was the sound of wind rushing against his face as he fell head first towards the ground many, many feet down below.
Walker woke suddenly, lurching in his bed as he grasped at nothing in front of him. He recalled what happened, and the single groan of exasperation was his only reaction towards it as he made his way to his morning routine.
A simple miscalculation, would not happen again.
Eggs and bacon, coffee, lab coat, walk to work. Walker skipped along, merrily enjoying the warmth of the sun, a feeling that he should have, for all intents and purposes, never experienced again in his life.
Walker was a D-Class personnel, after all. A criminal convict from the SCP Foundation itself, as the dangerous experiments he participated in were deemed too dangerous to continue, and when he did, Walker doomed myself to a short life of imprisonment and wondering as to why he was even there.
But everything changed when the SCPs attacked. In tandem with the Chaos Insurgency and several spies rooted in the SCP Foundation, a containment breach was orchestrated with malicious intents one can only guess of.
Yet, while this may have been a life or death scenario with low odds of surviving for many, for him it was different. With his newfound powers of seeming reincarnation, or Looping, Walker was able to navigate the treacherous maze of terrifying SCPs and even more terrifying architectural incompetence that is Site 19.
Many things occurred there, both mortifying and awesome, along with some twists born out of crazy, foolhardy ideas that, in the end, worked out. Instead of saving only himself and becoming a fugitive in constant fear of the SCP Foundation, Walker rescued multiple faculty members, outmaneuvering various obstacles that sprung up and even convinced the Foundation to strike a deal with him, securing his ability to live a normal life - well, at least halfway normal - and granting him a position under Dr. Xyank's supervision.
At least, that's how it should have worked out. Walker wasn't sure what it was about temporospatial scientists and their tendency to engage in outrageously dangerous experiments, but it seems Dr. Xyank was cut from the same cloth as him. Maybe it comes with the field of work?
Nevertheless, Dr. Xyank got himself involved in quite the incident himself, if Walker recalled correctly.
/* Flashback */
"-casualties, and property damage estimated to be in the millions." The 05 surmised through the screen. "It is considered an utter disgrace and unprecedented waste of resources within the Foundation."
"I see. Thank you for the summary." Walker replied. "I assume this means I am not to be working under Dr. Xyank."
"Correct. A suitable punishment has been laid out for him."
"I can assume." Walker laughed. "You basically put me on death sentence for attempting an experiment that might have gone wrong. I can't imagine what you did to that poor bastard with an experiment that did go so horrendously wrong."
The 05 shuffled nervously.
"You know, I don't even want to imagine what you did to him. It is probably a fate worse than death itself, knowing how careful and strict you guys are about such things."
The 05 stayed curiously silent. Was there something wrong?
"Anyways..." Walker began. "Who was the person you were assigning me with again? To repair the mess that Dr. Xyank made?"
"Well, you see..." The 05 began. Was that a sense of embarrassment I was noticing?
"Even though Dr. Xyank did cause the described issue, his skillset is also uniquely capable of potentially dealing with it. While it is true that I said that you will not be working under Dr. Xyank..."
"You will be working with Dr. Xyank."
"Dr. Xyank has been relegated to a level 3 researcher and tasked with solving the mess he's made, thus you will be working in a joint project to understand and resolve the issue of the from now designated SCP-176, which I'm sure you've been briefed on. You will both be working as respective leade-"
"Wait wait wait, I have a small question, esteemed 05." Walker smiled, but his tone was anything but jovial.
"Y-Yes...? Is there a problem?" Hmm, was that trepidation in his voice? Whatever for? Was it that Walker's eye was twitching violently, or that his smile was just a tad too manic?
Really, it could be anything!
"You are telling me..." Walker started, calmly. As in, the calm before the storm. "That your punishment involving Xyank for causing, in your own words, an unprecedented waste of resources and millions of property damage is merely to delegate him to a level 3 and tell him to fix his shit?"
"Whereas, dear 05, my punishment for producing a few grams of some random substance was apparently enough for you to break into my lab and basically sentence me to death?"
"Walker, calm yourself. That is a different situation-"
"Bullshit! I had everything under control-"
"Your report wrote that a black hole could form out of your experiment!"
"Only under very specific circumstances I bet you didn't even bother to read-"
"Maybe you should have made that clear in your notes, and we wouldn't have had that whole scenario."
"It's not my fault you are apparently incapable of reading."
"With all due respect, have you seen your notes? You wrote, and I quote from memory, 'Possible black hole due to:', followed by 4 pages of mathematical equations that our finest mathematicians haven't been able to crack! Enough. I will hear no more from this. I understand your frustration, which is justified, and we have anticipated it, therefore this momentary outburst will be ignored. You will be adequately compensated, do not fear."
Walker bit the inside of his cheek, attempting to force down the next twenty or so biting remarks and slurs he was going to throw at the 05, his mother, Walker's lack of regret for not calling her back last night, and so on. The 05 was right, though, he admitted to himself. Maybe he should start, at least from now on, making his notes more... palatable.
"I better be compensated." Walker muttered.
"Mind you, we spared no expenses on you. Your cooperation is highly valued by the Foundation, and our decision regarding Dr. Xyank was made with your particular case in consideration. And knowing what we do know, the 05 Council has decided your punishment was a tad too harsh. You will be compensated for this. Personally, I think you'll be quite satisfied." The 05 smiled.
Walker huffed. What could they possibly give him that was so go-
"-oH MY GOD. What the hell?" Walker tore his eyes from the papers in his hand to look at the pretty black haired secretary that handed him the papers. He looked at the papers, as if expecting them to be a figment of his imagination, then he looked back up.
He took a moment, then he looked down again, just for good measure.
He couldn't wrap his mind around this.
"Is this real? This is crazy." Walker breathed out.
"Indeed it is, Mr. Walker. Though if you want my personal opinion on this..." The woman leaned forwards, long black hair falling over her shoulders as her sharp eyes closed in on his, as if she were sharing a secret.
"Site 19 was one of the bigger locations we stored SCPs at. That small fortune you were given-" She nodded at the papers. "-is but a mere fraction of the losses the Foundation would have suffered without your intervention. Even with your blatant disrespect and flippant attitude, you are in very good graces with the 05 Council."
She gave Walker a moment to process this fully.
"...In exactly how good graces are we talking about?"
"Well, you're a bit of an anomaly within the system. A level 3 researcher with the income of a level 4 researcher- effective starting this month -possessing amounts of information above your clearance level that rivals only the recently demoted Dr. Thaddeus Xyank. Your mere presence breaks many of the standard conventions that have guided the Foundation for so long, so it really is unclear what exactly the limitations are with what you can or can't do, without outright breaking the rules, per se. I think, while you're in such good graces at least, that you'd be able to get away with quite a... bit..."
The secretary trailed off once she saw the slowly rising grin on Walker's face. She pulled back and pinched her nose, exhaling in frustration. "Oh goodness. It appears I've said too much. Listen. Whatever it is you're planning to do, can you at least keep my name out of it?"
"Miss. I don't even know your name."
"Good. Let us keep it that way. So long."
"So long." Walker laughed, and the woman swore she could see his eyes flash the subtlest fireworks made out of some star-like material, as if fuelled by the mischievous horrors that grew and festered within Walker's mind, all but begging to be unleashed.
She blinked, shook her head, and the illusion was gone.
They both turned and went their separate ways.
"F-Fifty million!?" Sunshine exclaimed, growing dizzy for a second at the large sum that Walker was now in possession of. Ulgrin whistled off to the side.
"See, I've always considered you my best friend, Benjamin, buddy, pal. Your pockets must be awfully heavy. Mind if I lighten some of that load?"
"Down, Ulgrim. You haven't even seen the best part. Say, you were both assigned some cruddy apartments near the laboratory we'd be working in, right?"
"Yeah, though they're not cruddy. They look pretty lavish, from the pictures at least." Sunshine said, before her eyes glinted. "No way. You got a house, didn't you?"
"Tch tch tch." Walker shook his head, almost disappointedly. "A house, pff. So plebeian. No. No, what I do have is far better. Read it out loud, if you will." Walker handed the second paper over to Sunshine, who proceeded to speed read its contents to the two men, one grinning madly and the other's right eyebrow peaked in interest.
"The given contract serves as a binding legal document decreeing that Benjamin Oliver Walker, of sound mind, health and body will have, in his possession, as per the last will of his late grandfather, God bless his soul, inherited no more and no less than fifty million dollars and the Highlands Ranch-" Sunshine stopped, looking at the piece of paper as if verifying its contents were not a hallucination she was having.
Walker kept grinning. "Well?"
"What is it, Sunshine? Come on, don't leave me hanging."
"Y-YOU HAVE A MANSION!?" She looked like she didn't believe what she was saying.
Ulgrim whistled in appreciation. "Mind if I crash over at your place instead? Those apartments do sound basic all of a sudden."
Subtlety, thy name is not Ulgrim.
"Sure. You can crash there too, Sunshine. There`s 14 bedrooms and 11 bathrooms there, and I'm gonna have servants keeping everything in order, also paid by the Foundation, though I'm not sure for how long-"
Sunshine crashed into Walker, hugging him tightly. "Yay! You're the best! I can't believe I'll get to live in a mansion, I've dreamed of this ever since I was a child."
Walker was glad she was excited, and reflexively hugged her back. Helen was always an excitable one, and while Viktor liked to complain, secretly he enjoyed the doting, with Helen perhaps sensing his ruggedness from a hard day at work-
He shook his head, and Walker was back.
He took her shoulders and gently, but firmly, pushed her away from him. "No. Don't do that."
"Is everything alright?" She asked him. Walker shook his head, trying to dispel the brief moment in which he relapsed into the thought process of Viktor Friedhelm, the second life he's liven in the midst of the Second World War, as he did occasionally when something happened that connected his previous life to his current one.
He needed time. Time to think.
"I'm going now. I'll see you later." Walker took the papers briskly and turned away, trying to not think about the confused, slightly perturbed expressions on their faces as he rushed away, their voices carrying over.
"Walker? Did I do something wrong?" / "Let him be, Sunshine."
Walker sat on the bench he and the others drank the night away from, contemplating his life for the umpteenth time. What was he supposed to do now? How was he to cope with the lingering trauma and pain caused over years of suffering, within a single day?
He looked to the skies for an answer. It almost being summertime, the skies were a healthy blue, with splotches of clouds breaking the monotony every now and then. Walker looked at the clouds, trying to discern their shapes. He thought one of them was flipping him off, and it only worsened his mood.
"I thought I'd find you here." A voice to the side spoke out.
"I'm not in the mood for-" Walker cut off. "...Why are you here?"
"Mostly because your friends told me you'd be here. After I already searched through the whole facility." There was a ting of annoyance in the tone of the black haired secretary from before, who stood off to the side, arms crossed.
Walker sighed. "Well, you found me. What can I help you with?"
"What, none of the usual snark?"
"I'm not in the mood. Just say what you wanted to say and leave me be, woman."
"With all due respect, Dr. Walker, I'm not in the mood either. Do you know just how many tedious conversations and meetings I've had to go through on your behalf?" The woman huffed, indignant. "Nevertheless, your push came through in the end. The architecture team for Site 19 has been dissolved."
Walker gasped. "Truly? Has the world been rid of their incredibly bad architectural designs? Their horrible, horrible practices? Can Man once more walk into a building and not get vertigo from the sheer amount of times they've looped back to the same hallway? Can he hope to never again witness the sheer, absolute horror that is the Modular Site Project?"
"There's the snark. Yes, I'm sure Man can, though there's something you should know. The architecture of Site 19 has a deeper secret than just being bad. You see, it was actually-"
"It was Dr. Maynard, wasn't it?" Walker interrupted, holding a hand up. "He introduced the Modular Site Project as some slick alternative to normal architecture purposefully in order to facilitate confusion, disorder and chaos within the Foundation at a more base level, likely as part of some disinformation and espionage campaign of the Chaos Insurgency."
Judging by how her eyes widened, Walker was either right on mark or completely wrong. "That is highly classified information, Dr. Walker." Right on mark it is. "How do you know of this? That the architectural design was Maynard's? That the Chaos Insurgency was involved?"
Walker shrugged. "Mostly speculation. I knew Dr. Maynard was the highest ranking spy of the Chaos Insurgency, so he would be the only one who would have the authority to institute such a horrid design that it just could not have been anything else than an attempt to subvert the Foundation." She fixed him with a flat stare. "I'm just saying, it makes complete sense that the building was designed by a terrorist organisation. It's borderline criminal."
"I'm not sure whether I should be impressed, annoyed, or any spectrum of emotions in between those. I'll settle with being annoyed. And, with that." She turned and started walking away. "Goodbye."
"Aren't you going to tell me your name?" Walker shouted in her direction. There was no response.
Walker sighed, but felt just a bit better than before. He stood to leave.
/* Flashback End */
So engrossed was Walker in his own memories - and looking at the floor as he pondered - that he didn't notice the lamp post until it was too late.
He hissed at the sharp pain that made its way to his nose as it made sweet, sweet love to the lamp post, rubbing it a bit.
"Let's pretend this never happened, okay?" Having said his piece to the lamp, he turned the block to come in view of the rugged looking facility. Dr. Xyank was most likely already there, doing various computations of the kind that would make most people go cross eyed.
Passing the 'WARNING DO NOT ENTER' sign, Walker made his way to the entrance, flanked by two guards of the Foundation.
"Halt!" One of them said.
"Do we seriously have to go through this every morning?" Walker complained.
"It's protocol, sir. Your card, if you would."
"Right, right." I pulled out the keycard denoting my identity and position, holding it in front for the guard. He wordlessly took it and scanned it with some scanning machine.
"You may pass, Dr. Walker."
"Yeah, go figure. Stay sharp, fellas." And Walker entered the facility, mostly in disuse and laid barren of all its previous equipment, bar the ones in the main research room. The entrance was not the main room, and it had all the qualities described above. Making his way over to the stairs on the right, Walker could already hear the ensuing sounds of scuffle from the anomaly above him, a little off to the left.
He walked up the stairs.
"Where in the blazes is that damn- Well, well," Dr. Xyank stopped, seeing Walker finally arrive. "The second part of the equation. You know, Dr. Walker, you were supposed to be here thirty minutes ago."
"I got carried away."
Dr. Xyank's eye twitched. "Just be here earlier, please. This is important work, and every second counts."
"Of course, of course. I'll make sure not to let it happen again." Walker looked around, seeing Sunshine wave meekly and Ulgrim off at the side, wearing the same outfit as the one he used in Site 19, acting as additional protection within the experiments chamber itself.
Off to the side, the aloof, distrusting face of Ms. Athena Anastasakos looked back at him. She was one of the prominent researchers in the field. Lastly, Marcus Kitterman, Junior Researcher, who wasn't sure how to act around Walker just yet.
"Well, seeing as I am here, ladies and germs," Walker started, clapping his hands together. "Let's get to work."
And that's the first chapter. Whew. Long time no see, Loop: Zero. Or Loop: Into the Zeroverse, I should say.
Truth be told, I have no idea where I want to go with this story, and it's both exciting and scary. There is so much possible SCPs and plot points that I'm a bit overwhelmed.
On my lack of writing for the last 2 years... I really have no excuse. I've basically had huge amounts of time free for like 5 months already, and even before that it was more chill than it ever was when I started writing Loop Zero.
And yet, I couldn't get into it. I always ended up procrastinating, and telling myself a sequel would just be bad and that I can't top the first story and whatnot, and in the process of thinking this way, I lost the thing that made me capable of writing Loop Zero in the first place: The ability to not give a shit.
When I was writing before, I was content to let crazy stuff happen and roll with it, because I was treating it as writing exercise. But now, it felt more than ever like an obligation rather than fun.
This is not, I realised, what writing is about for me. When I write, it is primarily for fun and not being obliged to someone.
On that note, I will be saying the following: I will strive to make weekly updates, just as before, because that's how I'll force myself to write consistently.
Boring self doubt shenanigans aside, we're back! And we have the whole wide world to throw at Walker and co.
It's gonna be fun, it's gonna be wild, I have absolutely, positively, definitely no idea where I even want to go with this story, and I'm excited to find out myself!
I hope you are too.
Nothing to see here, move along. (And since I've had this suggested to me by people irl, introducing, a way to give me your money.
If you like what I do and have the financial capability, check out P a treon dot com (slash) DustyOldAttic to see what your support would mean for the future of Loop: Into the Zeroverse and, potentially, other stories too. I'm still figuring the website out, and what the benefits of a membership would be and whatnot.)
This is a one time announcement and, moving forward, I'm only going to plop a link before the next chapter announcement, so as to not overbear.
That's about it from me. I'm excited to be back.
Stay safe out there.
Until next time!
Next chapter: 16th August, 2020