Trickster Heist, Part 3
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Last time on Nexus:
Trickster Heist, Part 2

The capture of the blue weight crocodile was still in full swing when Viktor and the others reached the wagon again. Mathilda suddenly appeared out of nowhere at the other end of the room.
Yeah, you've got it easy, Viktor thought grimly to himself, doing his best to get past the grotesque, human-like creature that was trying to put the crocodile in a headlock as unobtrusively as possible.
In fact, no one noticed him, even when he was standing right next to someone. The security guards never looked in his direction.
Dean, on the other hand, seemed to have a literally bigger problem. Because of his body dimensions, he was less able to sidle past the guards, some of whom were standing or crouching quite closely together to save the Eat Mines that had not yet exploded. Apparently, they didn't go off in response to explosions caused by members of their own species….
Silence reigned, interrupted only by the quiet scramble with the reptile.
Until it lashed out with its tail.
The tail flick of a crocodile's tail is comparable to the force of a properly wielded baseball bat. And it now hit Johnny, who then bumped into one of the destroyed aquariums. The remaining eat mines in it exploded with a loud bang, throwing back the man who had been tending to it, causing him to crash into Dean, who in turn had to shift his left foot to keep his balance, stepping on the toes of another GpExpress employee.
The man cried out in surprise rather than pain, causing the rest of the food mines to explode as well.
Chaos broke out as the AVTs lost their effect. Someone tried to reach for Mathilda, but Viktor suddenly just wondered why the person had run into the wall. Elli had retrieved a frying pan from somewhere and was using it with mediocre effect against the attackers.
Viktor himself, as well as Johnny retreated to the protection of Dean and Alice.
The former just snatched the service weapon from a guard and threw it to the latter, who then began firing. There was little cover to speak of, so she was always hitting something.
The problem was, that this would apply the other way around as well.
The very fact that Dean was always manhandling at least one guard made him a reliable shield, since no one wanted to fire at him for fear of hitting allies.
The big guy meanwhile changed his plan to simply knocking the crocodile out.
At least until Mathilda suddenly appeared next to him and pulled the tape from the reptile's eyes.
It turned its eyes to the human creature right away, which subsequently slumped to the ground. The crocodile then returned the favor for the rough treatment by biting its head and starting to roll around, probably to twist around the non-existing neck. Elli, who meanwhile had pistols pointed and other weapons of larger calibers pointed at her due to her resistance, only smiled wearily and continued to try to unwind her pan from the grip of the woman holding it. A security guard fired at the blonde, but suffered a load inhibition before he was rolled over by the weight crocodile together with the rest.
"That's too many," Dean remarked with a tone, as if he had just realized that they were out of coffee.
Viktor thought feverishly, but then he came up with an idea.
To the next compartment! And that was my idea, Viktor!
Alright, Johnny!
Dean apparently got what was going on, because he started moving along with the rest, grabbing two GpExpress employees in headlocks on the way to make sure no one shot at him. In addition, he literally passed over Elli's opponent.
Before leaving the train car, he rammed his hostages into the walls next to the door.
"Elli!" shouted Johnny. "Can you unhitch the car?"
"I like the way you think," it came back. "Check the other wagon, there should be a red lever in the corner, flip it. I'll do the same fix here."
Viktor didn't see where Elli was rushing to, preferring to use his strength on the other wagon.
The lever was indeed right in the corner.
But crates severely narrowed the path to it.
Viktor and John tried to reach the lever, but the passage was too narrow.
A loud "CLACK!" and agitated shouts were heard on the other passage.
"GUYS! HURRY UP!" yelled Elli. "OR THEY'LL HITCH THE WAGON BACK IN."
"Move aside, you fat pieces of lard," Mathilda said smugly from behind Viktor.
With grim faces, the two stepped aside and Mathilda squeezed into the space between them. Sure enough…
"CLACK!"
A jolt ran through the train car as Elli threw herself through the door and elegantly slapped face-first onto the floor.
Now I feel fat…, it echoed in Viktor's head.
Me too, buddy…
"Never seen so many missed shots, jammed rounds, and empty magazines," Elli commented. "I should secure myself retrocausaly more often…"
"You sure?" Dean asked. "You never know when you're going to have to pay people for a vacation."
Elli kicked him in the shin. Dean took it without batting an eye.

The rest of the way went without any great events. Dean had to fight a mechanical octopus on the way and Mathilda almost managed to trigger a load of intelligent bear traps.
But eventually they reached a chamber completely lined with steel. In the center was a glass cylinder containing the object of desire. It was laid out on a pole.
"See these two oven-like pieces on either side of the skull?" asked Elli. "Those are reality anchors, so if we turn those off, this Martínez can probably get back in touch with us."
"There's an off switch," Johnny said.
Everyone was about to start moving, but Elli cleared her throat unusually loudly.
Viktor and the others stopped again and let Elli pass, who moved past them with a noticeable sway of her hips. She ripped a hair out.
This brought her within three meters of the glass cylinder.
As she crossed an invisible boundary, it caught on fire.
"High-energy electromagnetic radiation," she explained, "coming from the ceiling and reflecting off the floor. You'll be cooked by a wall of radiation as you walk along. Hold on a second…"
She handed Mathilda her purse, bent in to her waist, and pulled out a large standing mirror.
"Why do you have something like that?" Viktor asked in surprise.
"So I can always check to see if I look fancy," Elli returned. "Or to watch me having sex. Dean, hold the mirror vertically, please-"
"Absolutely not," Dean denied. "I know where that thing's been, Elli…"
Elli rolled her eyes and pulled a pair of mirrored gloves from her pocket, which she used to touch the mirror. She wobbled a little as she lifted it, but Dean and Mathilda walked under it without getting grilled and shut off the anchors. Viktor noticed parts of the ceiling turning black above them. Dean then hugged the glass cylinder and crushed it. Even though there were numerous pieces of glass in it, that didn't stop him from reaching for the skull.
"I hope they're insured," he muttered.
He and Mathilda emerged from the area again, just in time before Elli buckled under her mirror.
"Best get off the train," she gasped as she slid her mirror back into her pocket with noticeable effort.
There were no side doors, so everyone had to jump back onto the part between the carriages and out from there. Unrolling was necessary because the train compartments were still moving, albeit much more slowly.
It was lousy cold, especially with short clothes on. Viktor estimated that he would freeze to death if he didn't get back into the warm soon.
Despite their plight, however, Elli didn't miss the opportunity to collect the AVTs again.
The vast Russian tundra stretched out before them.
"Now what?" asked Johnny through chattering teeth.
"We'll wait and see," Elli returned, taking a hearty swig from her flask. "We'll gather in that little hollow there.
He couldn't tell what it was, but the earth was slumping in a funnel-like fashion in an area nearby. Probably a bomb had hit here at some point. The resulting crater measured about ten meters in diameter and was covered with lichen and moss.
It wasn't much, but after they all entered it, Viktor noticed that it provided a little protection from the cold wind.
In front of him, a spark suddenly appeared in the air and spread out to form a disk. A man in a black double-breasted suit strode through it, seemingly unharmed by the flames. It was Martínez.
"Doctor Strange, is that you?", Elli commented dryly.
"Very funny," Martínez returned, annoyed. "But good job, I'm impressed. Now, if you would please hand over the skull?"
"Where are the hostages?" Alice asked.
"They will be turned over to you as soon as we have the skull in our possession, ma'am," replied the Spaniard. "They will be in the places where we picked you up, unharmed."
"Hey, you could just keep them in," interjected Viktor.
He noticed out of the corner of his eye how Elli took the skull.
"I'm afraid I'm in the driver's seat here, sir," Martínez said, completely humorless. "But I keep my promises, you will get your friends back unharmed."
"Ouh, this thing is heavy!" gasped Elli suddenly, swaying under the weight of the skull.
"Hey, hey hey!" Martínez shouted. "Don't drop it!"
He ran to help Elli. As he did so, he crossed the deepest point of the hollow.
And fell screaming through a black hole that opened up beneath him.
Elli stopped pretending the skull was too heavy for her and handed it back to Dean.
"No heist without a double play," she commented with grim satisfaction.
"Wh-what, are you out of your mind?" gasped Alice. "What's going to happen to the hostages now?"
"What hostages?" asked Elli with a grin, pulling a computer printout from her pocket and thrusting it into Alice's hand. Viktor, John and Mathilda stood next to her to read what was written on it.

Incident DE-ᛏ-23

Start: [REDACTED]

Status: Ongoing

Synopsis: Since the [REDACTED], the anomalies SCP-140-DE, SCP-121-DE-A1, SCP-187-DE and Agent Peterson have been considered missing. Agents who had been assigned for surveillance were found unconscious and stated they could not recall any unusual incidents. Efforts are currently underway to locate the anomalies and Agent Peterson via her tracking chips. Dr. Ainsworth is leading the operation.

"Status from half an hour ago," Elli noted.
"Wait a minute…," Mathilda asked. "So they don't have the doctor at all?"
"Seems so," Johnny said, confused. "But what about your hostage, this…? Chloe?"
"She dwells in a completely different universe, they can't have her at all," Elli explained.
"How would you know?" asked Viktor. "Your memory has been erased."
"Just as yours," Elli returned. "And guess why?"
Viktor thought for a moment.
"Of course!" it then occurred to him. "So we'd be easier to bamboozle."
"But what about the photos?" asked Alice, confused.
"Soul photography," Elli gave as an answer. "Whoever can erase your memories can also use psychometry to create a photo of someone you like. With me, they needed four people because the three people who were snooping around in my head before suffered strokes."
"Wha-," it escaped Viktor. "How would you know?"
Elli stuck her pinky in her ear and twisted a little.
"Yeah, here's the thing. I lied. To keep Martínez with a false sense of security as long as he could watch us. My memory can't be altered, that includes blocks. The fourth one they dragged in for mine and Dean's cleanup, I took pity on him so he could take a picture. After that, he just fibbed to save himself the trip to the hospital."
"Wait-wait-wait-wait!" sputtered Alice. "Now please explain slowly and fully what you were actually playing here."
Elli shrugged.
"If you like. When I woke up, I was scanning the room for thaumaturgic sensors and cameras. I thought it was pretty funny that I didn't find any, in the process you surprised me. I then joined you because I couldn't tell for sure that your Doctor Ainsworth wasn't in their grasps, even though it all turned out to be smoke and mirrors. The first clue that something was wrong should have been provided to you by the Eat Mines."
"Why?" asked Mathilda.
"Remember, Martínez said he was watching us. He couldn't have gotten into the surveillance network because the room had no cameras. So he couldn't see us that way. So the surveillance had to be done remotely. And what did I tell you about using Eat Mines?"
"That's right, they would have been detonated instantly by thaumaturgy," Johnny said. "But wait, couldn't he have just avoided the room?
"If he had known where the Eat Mines were, he could have also saved us the risk of detection by telling us we were going in the wrong direction," Elli lectured him. "Ergo, he had no idea at all what was where on the train, except for us, of course, because he was keeping an eye on the wagon we woke up in. So we were unobserved except probably when we changed waggons, he probably kept an eye on the train as a whole or he wouldn't have found us here. Since I could tell from your conversations that you were with the Foundation, I hacked into their database at the terminal to look for Ainsworth. And voila."
"And we didn't leave the train as a result because?" asked Viktor.
Elli pressed her lips together.
"I then dragged you guys in to get ahold of Martínez. The Antares Society obviously needs an example if they're trying to pull the wool over my eyes."
"Wot?" Mathilda went on. "We had to go through a shootout just so you could get your revenge!"?
"It's not like I can instantly heal gunshot wounds as long as you stay alive," Elli defended herself. "Besides, I ended up drawing the fire, remember?"
"Still, you put us in danger unnecessarily," Alice raged.
"I would have either way, because I intentionally triggered the hacker alert so your security AI could trace my terminal," Elli noted. "That then resulted in that one over there, which would have pulled us into a skirmish as well. If we had gotten out sooner, we probably would have frozen to death before they got here."
She pointed behind Viktor.
He heard it even before he turned around. A Russian transport helicopter was heading right for them.
The craft landed next to them just a minute later and a tall man with a square face got out. He was checking something on a wrist computer.
"You are from German Foundation?" he asked in broken German.
"Uh, yes?" returned Viktor. "And who are you?"
"Agent Mikail Svanikov, Russian Foundation. We got tip from uhh…. Smart computer, I don't know right word, is called KIRA. Says here are hackers. But have face software for wanted persons. Says you are gone, disappeared, right?"
"Uh yeah…", Alice replied.
Viktor suddenly realized again how cold he actually was.
"Huah, can you maybe give us blankets or something? It's lousy cold in here. And our two… Colleagues here too."
Agent Swanikov looked at him in confusion.
"I'm sorry, what do you mean by 'colleagues'? I have all of you here in database."
"Well, those two-" Viktor said, turning to point at Elli and Dean.
It was just, the two of them were gone.
Their footsteps led to the center of the hollow and broke off abruptly there. They must have used that weird portal Matìnez had been talking about….
"The fuckers took the skull!" Johnny remarked angrily.

"GYAAAAAH!"
Elli stepped out of the room where she had placed Martínez. His yelling died down after the door closed and sauntered into the living room. Dean was there, doing what he did best, cleaning.
"How long does he stay in there?" he asked.
"Half an hour, after which he will land in front of the leaders of the Antares Society with a nice little greeting card from me. The one with the funny gecko on it."
She sighed exhaustedly and plopped down on the sofa. A bottle of bourbon materialized in her hands.
"Dean, you have no idea how exhausting it is to babysit adults."
Dean looked at her for beaten ten seconds before replying dryly.
"I think I have a pretty good one, Elli…. Besides, you weren't very nice to them."
"Getting us both through that death trap wouldn't have been a problem, but how was I supposed to know that, when we were captured, that this was going to be an escort mission?"
"They saved your butt twice, Elli. Don't forget you owe them something for that."
Elli groaned and rolled her eyes.
"I can't forget, Dean, why do you think I binge drink? Don't worry about it."
She opened the bottle and sucked on it wearily for a while.
Then a treacherous grin crept onto her face.
"Speaking of which, this Viktor conveniently didn't tell me how and in what way I sent him to Venice…. I guess some research will be required…. He certainly didn't acquire this post-mortem psychometry himself, there was something about his eyes…. Hmm… Maybe I can rope in his 'surgeon'…"
Dean approached with concern.
"Are you seriously going to step on your lifesaver's toes?"
"Dean, the first thing he did when we met was to punch me in the face," Elli replied authoritatively. "I don't think that's something I can't avert anymore…. Hehehe…"
"You're not even trying…"
Elli looked at him.
"Dean, remember this. You're not fucking with Elli. Elli fucks with you."
She rose, swaying.
"Hmm, I think I'll take Chloe to the prom…. She'll need a dress and a mask…. Come on Dean, let's go shopping!"
Dean looked like he had just been sentenced to death.
"Oh no, please no shopping!"

Next time on Nexus:
St. Chloe, Part 1

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