K-96 Counter-Timefreeze Grenade

"Target 4 is approaching my location. Team member A-2 has lost all vital signs. Please advise." Panty stuffed the radio in her mouth as she barely finished the sentence, and applied in a hurry a tourniquet on her bleeding right arm. The blood pumped repeatedly from her severed wrist, and began to show some restraint as she pulled the tourniquet tighter. At least now the blood did not rush out of her like a burst of after class pupils rushing out of school.

“Target 4 is near the containment area and is now breaching the second line of defense. Finish the combat before the third line. Over.” The somehow inhumane orders from the commander kept coming through over the radio.

"That son of a bitch can stop time, do you understand?! If you order me to kill something like a pig, at least give me a butcher's knife not a fucking toothbrush!" Panty injected a syringe of concentrated blood surrogate into the injection chamber on her battle suit, and a flush of pinkness emerged back on her pale cheeks after a few seconds. She did not inject the painkiller. True, this unbearable sensation of pain and agony might be an obstruction to her mission, but it also bestowed her with a motive to get a move on in this thick stench of death that was beyond any reasoning.

Just a mere minutes ago they were heading towards the surface in the elevator of the containment facility. A blink after, A-2's head and body ended up in two separate locations. Panty lost her right hand as she was escaping through the door.

During these very seconds when she was making a run for it, two-third of all the voices in her radio channel, and that would be 54 persons, disappeared without even letting out a single cry for help. They were supposed to be covering each other, got each other's back. But still their vital signs were lost almost simultaneously. There were no time gap in between. There were no pattern or sequence. The enemy just took their lives in the frozen time like casually plucking a bunch of flowers.

"Now the restriction on your tactical pouch No.7 has been lifted. Inside is a black, cylindrical grenade. Take it out vertically, now."

With a click, a cyan indicator on her tactical belt let out a faint glow. That would mean that the locking device on her tactical pouch had been remotely unlocked. She squeezed the upper half of the grenade and pulled it out in a very cautious manner.

"Revert the grenade upside down and keep it stationary for 2 seconds. Then, press any part of your skin against the biometric probing device on the top to disengage the level-2 weapon lock." Sounds of pages rapidly turning could be heard over the radio.

"Now, pull the yellow safety pin and remove the outer cover of the grenade clockwise after you see the blue light on the top blinks." And there was that damn blue light blinking. Panty gave a very short glance at her bleeding right wrist and sighed. Holding the weapon in the left hand, she then removed the cover with her teeth, since there were no other better options. As the black cover gradually peeled off from the surface of the weapon, a very short vibration came from Panty's left palm before quickly faded away.

"The red and green indicators should be flashing. After this, with no indicator on, pull the red safety pin and remove the inner cover. When doing this, keep the grenade out of sight and close your eyes until you hear two beeps."

"Initialization sequence of K-96 counter-timefreeze grenade has been confirmed. Rest the grenade on a stable surface and leave the area." Panty could not help but staring at the object lying on her left palm. With the black covers removed, it is showing its true form. It had a very smooth, transparent shell seemingly made of tempered glass, with some greyish staff stored inside. It was sending out a strong aura of stillness when holding in hand. Panty left the grenade on the ground, and it dismantled the moment when it touched the floor. The base of the weapon transformed into something like a pedestal clinching to the floor, while the body of the weapon levitated upwards and suspended at around half a meter above the ground.

This sight raised a bit of doubt in her mind, but she was soon consumed by an overwhelming feeling of unspeakable horror. Panty wasted no time before leaving the area.

This room smelled like a fusion of gun oil and burnt gunpowder. Brife drew out a screwdriver from the metal toolbox and meticulously twisted a dial on the bottom. A tiny electric arc sprouted from the top and the screwdriver magically changed its shape.

"I could not help but to congratulate you for finishing off a vampire that is able to freeze time. Seeing you alive here instead of seeing your corpse in the morgue probably counts as the only good thing that happened to me this year." Brife picked up a metallic middle finger and began to install it on the prosthetic implant that was now Panty's right hand, whose face was distorted with obvious pain.

"Fuck. You really should've killed my nociceptor before installing that shit. Now it feels like someone's copying Diamond Sutra using my wound as a freaking brush."

"If I did that, there will be nerve atrophy. So if in a week's time you still want to use that right hand of yours which is now being perfectly preserved, I highly recommend that you bear with the pain. You don't want to lose that hand again without even noticing, right?" Brife gently pressed on Panty's arm tendon, and smiled with satisfaction when he noticed a twitch on the middle finger. He took up another finger and began to install it.

Panty pulled out a metal hip-flask and poured its contents into her mouth. "That K-96 CTG." Panty wiped her mouth, "You made it, didn't you? I saw similar designs in your workshop, say like, 80 times. So please don't try to lie." Still in strain, but Panty's face looked less traumatic than a moment before.

"Agent Panty, what you've just asked requires a level-3 or above security clearance. With your current clearance, I can't reveal much that make sense." Brife picked up a delicate 6µm screw with his tool, while a lens on his eyeball contracted into a funnel-like shape. "And I recommend you refraining yourself from drinking alcohol. It's no good for you."

"Is that so? Well, I happened to receive an order this morning from boss that I am replacing my captain who had lost his head, literally." The agent squinted her eyes and locked them dead-on at Brife. "So I think now is the time that you explain to me in every possible detail about that thing I used as my weapon."

Brife raised his head. For a moment, an almost unnoticeable shade of deep, true sadness flited about in his eyes.

"Well, I guess congratulations are in order then. But I wouldn't count that as the second good thing that happens to me this year." He stood up, wiped the screwdriver with some alcohol, and put the screwdriver back in his toolbox. After returning the toolbox to the storage compartment, for a short moment, Brife just stood there in silence. Then he pressed a button on the interface, the gigantic mechanical arm immediately followed his order and fetched a sealed metal box from a container some 4-meter high, sending it to Brife. He took the box and put it down on a table in front of them, then pressed his hands against the sides of the box. With a short beep of confirmation, the box opened. Hiding inside in the sponge interior are four K-96 counter-timefreeze grenades that Panty's pretty familiar with.

Brife picked one up. Much to Panty's surprise, it was not covered in black covers. No greyish thing inside either. There was only one black stick in the center of the transparent shell.

"That looks… different from what I've seen." Panty pointed her finger at the grenade. "I remember something grey stored inside."

"You saw that, didn't you?" Brife forced an awkward smile. "Are you not curious about what on earth could possibly break the rule of time and strike directly at an enemy in frozen time?" He began to search his desk for something.

"Who knows. There are always some crazy shit in the Foundation that I know or I don't. Must be a solution to the problem among those, am I right?" Panty scratched her head with her new metal hand.

Brife found himself a plastic bag. He pulled a chair, and sat right in front of Panty.

"That grey thing you saw? It was SCP-096's face."

The air between them froze.

After a long while, Panty started to shake uncontrollably. A most intense dread and fear swept every tiny part of her body. She remembered now. That strange feeling of horror when she was installing the grenade mixed up with the newly discovered fact and pierced right through her brain like a spear. Her stomach was wrenching. It felt like a piece of rice cake being beaten up thousands of times, as disgusting sensation struck her belly like breaking waves. She covered her mouth with hands and tried her best to make a run for the toilet, but her legs failed her. There was no way those two shaking chopsticks could carry her weight.

Brife handed the plastic bag to Panty so she could throw up everything in her stomach in a big burst. She vomited like there was no tomorrow, and her lower face was covered with slimy mucus. After puking every single thing that she had eaten or drunk earlier, she still cannot stop the retching. Her heart was pounding her rib cage fiercely. She felt like every single hair was standing on end.

"That's why I told you not to drink. Nothing to do with health though. It just makes vomiting more of a suffering." Brife handed a box of milk to the agent.

"Here, try some milk."

Panty was still crouching her body. She waved her artificial hand while holding the bag in her natural one. The vomiting seemed to have stopped.

"I… ugh…"

Brife poked the straw into the box and started to enjoy the good taste of milk. His eyes were fixated on the K-96 counter-timefreeze grenade, as if he was lost in thoughts.

Panty lifted herself up like a shot, grabbed the milk box, tear it open and gulped all the remaining milk. "The… the fuck, man?! Why are you drinking milk like nothing happened? This is no time for milk, okay?! Ugh…"

"I thought you said you don't want milk." Brife spread his hands like an innocent child.

The angry agent stormed towards Brife, grabbing him by the collar. "You damned maniac! How could you use 096 as a weapon, just like that? Don't you know how many people would die from that!"

Brife just grinned. "I promise you this thing is way much safer than you may have imagined. You are standing here in one whole piece, right? Every tactical item you carry is prudently verified and authorized by the Foundation. It's not like I sneaked into your arms depot and put them in your tactical belt myself, okay? If you want to blame me, at least hear me out first." Brife lightly tapped Panty's metal right hand with his finger, and that chunk of metal immediately slackened. Panty stared at her useless right hand, releasing Brife from her grasp.

"Thank you for your kind understanding, my lady." He tidied his collar and had a seat, pointing his finger at the grenade. "You see, an uninitiated K-96 CTG is safe enough for both of us staring at it without releasing 096 from his containment room and destroying us. It is, by all means, a weapon specifically designed against creatures that are able to act in frozen time. And I have put a lot of fail-safes on that."

"Then tell me. If both me and that time-freezing bastard saw 096's face, why was it annihilated, while I am sitting here listening to your crazy idea?" A fire seemed to be burning in Panty's throat.

"Because you did not see 096, but the enemy saw it."

"I don't really like wasting time listening to nonsense, you know?"

"Let me put it this way: through certain methods, we make sure that our agents in the continuity of time won't be able to see 096's face, while only our enemy in frozen time sees it clearly." Brife pulled out a small top out of nowhere and spun it on the table.

"Inside this grenade, we make the face of 096 spin at 500 thousand rounds per second. So what you would see are only disrupted optical signals. Our enemy strolling in the frozen time, on the other hand, would precisely trigger a deadly attack from 096, because it sees a static face of 096 in that static time."

Panty could almost hear her own brows frowning. "Wait. No. That's impossible. Even spinning at 500 thousand rounds per second, the optical signal of 096's face could still be transmitted and captured by human eyes in a matter of a microsecond. That would be the end of me."

"Yes indeed — if we are using the real 096." Now Brife was spinning his pen in his hand. "You are totally right. We did some tests using the actual picture of 096 and the results were abysmal. Even if we accelerated the speed to 500 million rounds per second, our poor D-class personnel still cannot escape their fate. However, what we are now using in the grenade is a… 'watered-down' version of 096's face. That is, a picture of 096 duplicated by SCP-038. In the following tests, we have found that with this version of 096 picture, the observer won't trigger an attack from 096 as long as we accelerated the spinning speed of the picture to at least 479,422 rounds per second."

"Wait a second. So according to your theory, SCP-096 can attack people in frozen time?" Panty's face was practically shouting "unbelievable".

"It can. About 4 or 5 years ago, a reality bender who stops time tried to steal a picture of 096 from our facility. It turned out that he overestimated himself, and he underestimated the 096. We suffered immeasurable losses and we went to great, great lengths trying to figure out what has happened." Brife shook his head gently. "From that time on, we realized what a huge threat enemies able to stop time pose to us, and that we must have something to counter them. That's when the development of this weapon started."

Panty took up a grenade, examining it carefully. "I don't see any picture of 096. Are those black things… like, nano-micro-pictures of 096?"

Brife took out a small vial holding some black powders. "I call these 'child'. Those grey things you saw earlier in the grenade are actually 'children'. In essence, they are small, magnetic particles. "

"Child, eh? What does it have to do with 096's picture?"

"Do you still remember those covers you have to remove before initializing the grenade? There are some very tiny electric signal channels on them. Once discharged quickly, thin magnetic fluxes would form on the surface of the cover. I call those covers 'kindergarten'. At first, we utilize a weapon lock to hold all the magnetic particles. With the grenade upside down and level-2 weapon lock disengaged, the inner part of the grenade begins to spin, releasing the particles which will instantly adhere to the inner shell with centrifugal force. Then, we discharge the covers and produce a magnetic field resembling 096's picture which works like an invisible eraser: the magnetic particles will form an image of 096 on the grenade's inner shell according to the magnetic field released by the covers."

Panty shook the grenade with her hand. The black stick in the grenade remains still. It is probably locked by the weapon lock.

"For safety's sake, we divided 096's image into two parts, each etched on one of the covers. If the sequence or procedure of removal is not done right, the cover will only form a magnetic field of a grungy mess instead of 096. In this case, even if the agent carrying a K-96 CTG by any means caused any damage to the grenade, without proper procedure he or she will only get a broken shell and a bunch of magnetic powders. No picture of 096 will be released."

“But there is still one fatal flaw. If the grenade stops spinning during recovery, we still can see the picture of 096, that means our agent retrieving the grenade would still be attacked.” Panty knocked her knuckle on the table as she spoke.

"No more spinning, no more 096." Brife tossed a chunk of metal to Panty. She tried to catch with right hand out of instinct but — Bam! That metal suddenly sticked to her right hand. She tried to remove that weird metal with her left hand but the adhesion was so strong that she could do nothing about it.

"Neodymium magnet1?" Panty cried after she realized what it was.

"Yes it is. That black stick you see in the center of the grenade? That is a neodymium magnet covered by magnetic particles. We have fine-tuned its magnetic force, so that it won't release any of the particles before the spinning speed reaches our requirement. It will clutch all the 'children' firmly and that's why I call it 'home' — a home to all particles. Only a strong enough centrifugal force created by ultra-high-speed spinning could tear the particles away from the magnetic force and pushed the particles onto the inner shell, forming a sinister face of 096."

Panty tried every means possible to remove the magnet from her hand, but that metal might as well have been welded on her prosthesis. Brife poked her hand again and the neodymium magnet flied away abruptly and adhered itself onto a steel girder on the ceiling. Panty looked up and found a few dozens more magnets there. She turned her eyes to Brife, who evaded her gazing.

"To improve the stability and the… significance of the grenade, I added a superconductor disk on the bottom so the main body could float and… looks much cooler." Brife dropped his pen. "But yeah, I messed up a few times. That's why all those neodymium magnets are up there — some necessary costs for the development of a necessary weapon." Brife ignored his pen on the ground.

Panty picked up the pen and handed it over to Brife, but she did not let go when he tried to take it from her.

"One last question. Have you ever thought of the moment when the spinning slows and right before the magnetic particles return to the neodymium magnet? During these 10 or more nanoseconds we are still able to see 096, however strong your neodymium magnet is. What are you going to do about that?" Panty grasped the pen so hard that it almost broke.

"The 'parents' will take 'children' 'home'." Brife moved closer to the agent and pulled out another vial from his pocket.

"As you can see, these are also magnetic particles. I call these 'parents'. They are larger and magnetically stronger than those 'children' painting 096's cute face. When the spinning of the inner part is fast enough to send the 'children', the ''parents' will stay at 'home'. When we are about to recover the K-96 CTG, we will further increase the spinning speed until the 'parents' are sent onto the inner shell as well. Then the 'parents' will gather the 'children' and form 'families', which are clots of particles, raising their magnetic force as a whole. Lastly we decrease the spinning speed, those 'families' will eventually return 'home'."

Panty finally let go the pen and dropped herself into the chair, playing with the grenade at hand. "So that's why they are called grenades. They send off shrapnel of optical signals. Clever."

Brife patted the dust off his clothes. "At first we didn't get it either. The time is stopped, shouldn't the photons stop moving too? But one way or another, our enemy in the frozen time could still see light indeed. We have tried countless ways to temper with time, but we still lack any logical theory or knowledge to explain why time would stop. Nevertheless, not knowing does not necessarily mean not doing. Most humans solve most problems with technologies they mostly don't understand. We are not that different in this regard."

These words put Panty into a long pause. "My captain, Teresa, and other team members… They knew how to use this, right?"

"Yes they did."

"Why didn't they use it? If they use the grenade in the first place, they might still be alive."

"I don’t know."

"It is your tactical weapon that was used. You need the field data and that means you must have been authorized to read the incident report. You. Must. Tell me. The truth."

Panty raised her head, with her eyes glistened with tears. "Only I lived. Tata, Lian, Teresa and Galina. They are all KIA. Why it was me to use the grenade, and not them?" The saddened agent was tugging at her golden hair. Her voice was hoarse as her throat was burnt by gastric acid.

Brife handed her some napkins.

He let out a long sigh. "To fight against an enemy able to stop time, you risk exposing all tactical information in a certain radius. Every word, every small action… it is all exposed to the enemy. In that radius, no action is hidden or concealable, even some very subtle actions, like pulling out a grenade."

Brife halted for a moment before going on. “You won't even know where that enemy is. How many lines of defense has it broken through? Who is it after? So, there is only one kind of information we could get for certain: the position where our teammates died. Those 54 MTF members that died before you? The moment when they realized that they are already exposed in the detection radius of an enemy that stops time, they just terminated all information sharing and response mechanisms. They didn't even bother to apply for authorization of tactical weapons. The only thing they share was their vital sign. And…”

Brife lowered his voice. "And then they charged. Towards the enemy. In the very last minute they acknowledged the position of those teammates who still got a chance to use the K-96 CTG, and they charged towards the opposite direction of those teammates like lambs charging towards a butcher's knife. They had no means of counter-strike. They knew they would die. But they didn't risk letting the enemy know that we have something on our side that might eliminate it. True, K-96 CTG is an effective weapon, but it would lose its advantage should the enemy know about it. We can't let this happen. So they all died to the enemy, one by one, just to shed some light for other teammates on the possible position of the enemy. Just to delay the enemy for maybe just another one or two seconds."

"Everyone could hear you. They could hear what you were doing to deploy the grenade on the radio. Even if the enemy heard it too, it wouldn't know what it all meant. Before the last step was done, every MTF member marched to his or her death with no hesitation."

Brife took a sip of water.

"Tata died 5 seconds after the first step was done."

"Lian died 39 seconds before the third step was done."

"Teresa died 2 seconds before the fourth step was done."

"Galina died 2 minutes after the last step was done. She was one of the key members to lure the enemy to the area where you deployed the grenade."

Panty heard those names. She heard them all. Everyone to whom those names once belonged had beaten the unbeatable enemy with nothing but their iron will. No miracle. No hope. Just a destined future where they were heading to. In that deadly silence, they might be afraid. They might fear. But they had made the same choice.

At this very moment, Panty almost felt what she had felt on that fateful day. That overwhelming feeling of horror when she was leaving the area. It was a resonance. All the wills and all the hopes poured into one person doing one thing. All the sacrifices and all the endeavors led to one, final, miracle.

Brife got another box of milk and shoveled it into Panty's face. He then grabbed the hip-flask from the agent's pocket and filled a cup. Bottom up.

"In our line of work, in this Foundation, we see names on KIA lists almost everyday. In most circumstances I feel that these names are just proving how horrid, how nasty some of the SCP projects could be. But those names… They were our comrade They were the ones we could trust! They get our back! Those lists… I never get accustomed to reading those lists… no matter how many times I have read them…"

"So… to save perhaps one more of them from those damn lists, I have given my everything to developing weapons that are more advanced… more effective. All day and all night… But no matter how many weapons, how many items I invent, in the end…it is still our MTF members to risk their lives." Brife's face flushed. He was never potent to hold his liquor.

Brife approached Panty and returned the flask to her pocket. His bloodied eyes fixated on hers. "All these liquor… belongs to our lost comrades. We drank their liquor, so we must carry on… as if we are living their lives. Remember them. And live longer than all of them." He retrieved the K-96 sample from her hand which was already soaked in her tears and stumbled back. He put the sample grenade back to where it belonged, then fell into the chair.

"I want to know… All that we have done…what we've been doing… Are they worth it?" Panty raised her head and asked in a rough voice.

Brife's head sank.

"Brife?" Panty walked to Brife. His body lay on the chair motionlessly. There was no breathing. No sounds.

Panty hurried to Brife and put her ear against his chest, listening.

There were heartbeats, along with Brife's light snoring.

Brife fell asleep.

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