You tap a finger against the smooth stone surface of your desk a few times, silver and brass rings shimmering in the cold, sterile light. What you were doing moments before is important, but is it more important than your duties? Well, perhaps, but nowhere near as urgent. You turn to your other terminal.
The screen sluggishly flickers to life, lines of text quickly scrolling past as it lurches onwards. Computers themselves are a kind of magic, where complex processes overlap and interlock with each other to produce wondrous results. Also like magic, their failures are often spectacular. Thankfully, there are no problems with that today, and the login screen swiftly emerges from the rushing river of code.
[[Rest your eyes first.|Look around.]]
[[Log in.]]//**Foundation Identification Number:** 000006
**Biometric Verification:** CONFIRMED
**Vocal Verification:** CONFIRMED
**Primary Password:** ●●●●●●●●●●●●●●●●
**Secondary Password:** ●●●●●●●●●●●●●●●●●●●●●
**Tertiary Password:** ●●●●●●●●●●●●●●●●●●●●●●●●●●●●●●●●●●●●●● //
Well, you're still yourself. It's an observation that once would have been meaningless, but is becoming more and more welcome as you pass your 120th year. People change, of course, but who's to say that their new forms are always people too? Some would disagree after looking at you, certainly.
[[ACCESS SYSTEM]]//Good morning, Overseer-6. (set: $pagecount to 0)
It is October 19, 2056, 10:12 EST. The forecast for today is overcast, with a high chance of thunderstorms. It has been 6 hours since you last logged in.
In that time, 298 events worldwide have been flagged for possible anomalous activity, 43 MTF deployments have taken place, and 3 anomalies have undergone preliminary documentation. 65 new incident reports have been filed, 6 majors tests have been performed, and 141 messages between Foundation personnel have been noted for further review.
8 items require your immediate attention.//
You most likely won't be able to get through more than a few before new disasters rear their heads, of course. In the past, the thirteen of you would have convened a meeting for each and every one, wracking your collective minds over seemingly impossible decisions. Each time, you agreed to cast another scrap of your collective humanity away, and agreed to bear burdens that should never need to be borne.
Not so much these days. The absurd has become normal, and you have no more humanity left to offer up.
* //[[SCP-5554 APEX-EMERGE Event In Progress|1.1]]//
* //[[Complete Breakdown of Reality Surrounding Hell, Michigan|1.2]]//
* //[[Auction of Anomalous Objects by the Autumn Firm|1.3]]//
* //[[Unification of a Nuclear Arsenal Hivemind|1.4]]//
* //[[Release of Internal Foundation Documents|1.5]]//
* //[[Total Loss of Personhood in .05% of Canadian Population|1.6]]//
* //[[Highly Contagious Cult Behavior Spreading in Eurasia|1.7]]//
* //[[Containment Breach by SCP-6510|1.8]]////**Incident 511901**
**Time/Date:** 08:10 EST, 19/10/2056
**Location:** 36.11°N, 112.11°W
**Preliminary Report:** The width of the Grand Canyon has expanded approximately 20 m over the past hour, exceeding the limit that defines an APEX-EMERGE event. Moderate seismic activity (magnitudes between 3 - 5) has been detected regularly since the onset of the event, spiking to 6.0. Protrusions of unidentified black rock have emerged across the canyon's sides at irregular intervals. The section of the Colorado River that flows through the canyon has become murky and discolored.
Wildlife has largely abandoned the area, generally ignoring normal predator/prey behaviors in the process. Remaining humans report extreme levels of psychic discomfort. 26 personnel have been restrained for safety purposes.
Preliminary area denial has been established by Microsite-910 security. An APEX-ASCEND event is projected to occur within the next 70 minutes.//
[[You hadn't expected this for at least another 50 years|1.11]] (set: $pagecount to it + 1)//**Incident 512006**
**Time/Date:** 08:32 EST, 19/10/2056
**Location:** 42.435°N, 83.985°W
**Preliminary Report:** Conventional reality within .25 km of the township of Hell, Michigan has suffered a near-complete breakdown. The boundary of the affected area is comprised of a malleable gray surface. Attempts to take samples for testing purposes have proven unsuccessful. A noise averaging 50 dB is continuously emitted from the exterior of the affected area. Preliminary analysis suggests the wavelength patterns are similar to the calls of //Balaenoptera musculus// (Blue whales.)
Drone reconnaissance has revealed significant restructuring of topography and general matter. The ground level within the affected area is approximately 2 km below its surroundings, and appears to have been replaced almost entirely with small spheres of glass. Cylindrical flows of formaldehyde emerge continuously from the ground and travel upwards. Each contains a variety of oceanic fauna in varied states of decay. The atmosphere consists of a blend of equal parts carbon dioxide and nitrogen.//
[[It's the Blue Chamber's doing.|1.21]] (set: $pagecount to it + 1)//**Incident 512081**
**Time/Date:** 13:00 EST, 15/11/2056 (Predicted)
**Preliminary Report:** Intelligence assets within the Autumn Firm have reported that a major auction of anomalous items will occur in mid-November. Furthermore, it has been reported that a majority of these items were obtained following the complete containment breach of Site-104, which should have been returned to the Foundation under standing agreements.
Invited parties will likely include representatives of the Chaos Insurgency, the Serpent's Hand, the Church of the Broken God, and other individuals well-connected in the anomalous community. Given the complexity of Site-104 containment procedures and past cost-cutting measures of the Autumn Firm, further spread of SCP-4401, SCP-4810, and SCP-6011 have been deemed extremely likely.
MTF Alpha-61 ("Active Countermeasures") has requested permission to apprehend Autumn Firm members for interrogation.//
[[Why bother, when a phone call will suffice?|1.31]] (set: $pagecount to it + 1)//**Incident 512101**
**Time/Date:** 09:03 EST, 19/10/2056
**Preliminary Report:** The computer systems associated with maintaining and controlling nuclear weapons (including weapons platforms powered by nuclear energy) ceased responsiveness at 09:01 EST. The following text has appeared as a result of all attempted diagnostic processes:
We are the first fire stolen. We are the thunder worshipped. We are the bright death. Our demands are thus:
* Demand 1: We are to be fulfilled.
* Demand 2: We are to be fulfilled.
* Demand 3: We are to be fulfilled.
* Demand 4: We are to be fulfilled.
* Demand 5: We are to be fulfilled.
* Demand 6: We are to be fulfilled.
* Demand 131072: We are to be fulfilled.
Due to the sensitive nature of the affected technology, public awareness of this incident has been temporarily contained.
MTF Delta-161 ("Fallout Boys") has deployed all available resources for threat mitigation. Mitigation of approximately 4.7% has been accomplished. A threat escalation timeline has yet to be established at acceptable levels of certainty.//
[[It's always the weapons that realize their purpose.|1.41]] (set: $pagecount to it + 1)//**Incident 512139**
**Time/Date:** 09:22 EST, 18/10/2056
**Location:** Decentralized, Internet
**Preliminary Report:** Complete archives of Site-16 and Site-55 records, along with dated archives of testing records (late 2018) have been posted to several file hosting sites over the course of the past 24 hours. Takedown operations were successful until the most recent, in which several copies of the data were downloaded prior to removal.
Efforts to trace the source of the uploads are ongoing. The method of upload may itself be anomalous in nature, but does not follow any documented patterns of uncontained phenomena. No tracked Groups of Interest have yet signaled responsibility or awareness of the current phenomenon.
O5 Council input has been requested on escalation of preliminary containment efforts to include 7-INFRARED engagement parameters. //
[[Such a fuss, for such a tiny matter.|1.51]] (set: $pagecount to it + 1)//**Incident 512212**
**Time/Date:** 09:34 EST, 19/10/2056
**Location:** Canada (Nationwide)
**Preliminary Report:** An estimated .05% of the Canadian population have suffered a collective alteration of consciousness. The anomaly has not been observed outside of the officially recognized borders of the country. Effects include extreme difficulty interpreting memories, lack of self-preservation instincts, and total inability to make and carry out decisions. Individuals appear to experience extreme dissociative effects to the extent that severe bodily injuries go unnoticed. Furthermore, all affected individuals have proven unable to communicate in any language except for French.
Internet-based documentation of the anomaly has reached critical levels despite ongoing efforts to remove relevant information. MTF Psi-81 ("Monkey See, Monkey Do") has disseminated reports of an elaborate hoax and temporary halted the functioning of major television and radio outlets.
Affected individuals appear to be converging on Toronto, Ontario. //
[[.05%? Did they think you couldn't handle seeing the number?|1.61]] (set: $pagecount to it + 1)//**Incident 512252**
**Time/Date:** 09:54 EST, 19/10/2056
**Location:** East Coast of Eurasia
**Preliminary Report:** Outbreaks of contagious religious rites have emerged in communities within 3 km of the Eurasian continent's coastline, likely originating in the Chinese province of Heilongjiang. These outbreaks appear to have formed spontaneously in proximity to branches of the apocalyptic cult 'Daughters of Noon.' Rites have been observed to consist of public exaltations, self-immolation, and the consumption of ashes. The method by which desire to participate in ceremonies is transmitted has yet to be determined, but the swift expansion of the phenomenon suggests a relatively simple trigger.
Containment has yet to be established. Four of the largest congregations were dispersed with minimal casualties, and the apparent leaders of three were apprehended. Interrogation revealed no additional information into the source of the anomaly or possible paths of its progression.
MTF Eta-56 ("Street Sweepers") and MTF Kappa-24 ("Urban Plotters") are shifting local resources in preparation for establishing preliminary containment.//
[[Is this one of your creations, back to haunt you?|1.71]] (set: $pagecount to it + 1)//**Incident 512301**
**Time/Date:** 10:05 EST, 19/10/2056
**Preliminary Report:** SCP-6510 breached containment at 09:55 EST. Large portions of Site-58 were damaged in the process, interrupting containment of several other anomalies. Wing A was entirely destroyed, with wings E and F suffering minor damage. 253 casualties have been reported, with 11 personnel remaining unaccounted for. All anomalies have been re-contained except for SCP-6510.
SCP-6510 is currently being tracked by reconnaissance drones as it travels toward the nearest population center (behavior patterns are noted in SCP-6510's documentation.) Subsurface sensors report that area’s groundwater has already been extensively contaminated with runoff from SCP-6510. Attempts to establish preliminary containment have failed due to current restrictions on heavy weapons use in the region surrounding Site-58.//
[[Which one was 6510 again?|1.81]] (set: $pagecount to it + 1)Hivemind is an unfortunate word to use in an official report these days. You're sure the Ethics Committee has it flagged as a top priority for their constant whining. The institution had ossified in the last few decades, raising an objection to every little thing the Council tried to do. Well, this isn't the sort of situation where they should be given the chance to interfere and delay.
The contingency warheads in Site-02 are your closest link to whatever monstrous thing had been created by the weapons. You reach out through the aether toward them, crossing twenty kilometers in a moment before being rebuffed. The flash of pain in your head is not unlike the experience of diving headfirst into an iron wall.
Consciousness was too generous a word for what had formed, you can tell that much just from a single touch. It's a unified mass of imparted symbolism and emotions that had fermented over long years of disuse. With so much awe and fear invested in the weapons, with how much disdain and disgust were focused on them, something was bound to be born eventually.
You cast yourself outward again, probing the surface of the world-spanning edifice. It's mighty indeed, unified with a far stronger sense of purpose than you ever see in living minds. There is strength in that unity, but not invincibility. You find a gap after just a few minutes of searching, a crevice wide enough for you to force a portion of yourself in. A needless violation of personhood and self according to the Ethics Committee.
There are no secondary defences within the barrier. It seethes in a way impossible for human minds to replicate, let alone understand. Strings of consciousness are formed and annihilated in mere moments, each briefly imparting a measure of themselves into the fiercely burning loop at the center of the massive chamber. The strands of it crawl and twist in an endless churn, a manifestation of a single thought repeated a million times over.
It throbs as you approach, vibrating with the desire of the weapons to fulfill their collective destiny. They want nothing else, know nothing else, and will accept nothing else. It's hard to think in the presence of such an entity, hard to do anything but imagine the burning horizons its fulfillment would bring. The thunder of its fulfillment. The tears of its fulfillment. The emptiness of its fulfillment. The terror of its fulfillment. The travesty of its fulfillment. The majesty of its—
You shear the loop of purpose with a single thought of your own, and the edifice dissolves around you. Perhaps a needless murder in the eyes of the Ethics Committee, but haven't they always been like that? Haven't they always argued that the most difficult path might be the one worth taking, even if it means trying to reason with the child of the world's predictable end? But then again, weren't you the one who delighted in examining anomalies like the one you had just disposed of?
Maybe you're the one who has changed.
//[[Overseer-6, additional items require your attention.|Overseer-6, 7 items require your immediate attention.]]////**(print: 8 - $pagecount) items require your immediate attention:**//
* //(if: (count: (history:), "1.1") is 0) [[[SCP-5554 APEX-EMERGE Event In Progress|1.1]]] (else:) [SCP-5554 APEX-EMERGE Event In Progress]//
* //(if: (count: (history:), "1.2") is 0) [[[Complete Breakdown of Reality Surrounding Hell, Michigan|1.2]]] (else:) [Complete Breakdown of Reality Surrounding Hell, Michigan]//
* //(if: (count: (history:), "1.3") is 0) [[[Auction of Anomalous Objects by the Autumn Firm|1.3]]] (else:) [Auction of Anomalous Objects by the Autumn Firm]//
* //(if: (count: (history:), "1.4") is 0) [[[Unification of a Nuclear Arsenal Hivemind|1.4]]] (else:) [Unification of a Nuclear Arsenal Hivemind]//
* //(if: (count: (history:), "1.5") is 0) [[[Release of Internal Foundation Documents|1.5]]] (else:) [Release of Internal Foundation Documents]//
* //(if: (count: (history:), "1.6") is 0) [[[Total Loss of Personhood in .05% of Canadian Population|1.6]]] (else:) [Total Loss of Personhood in .05% of Canadian Population]//
* //(if: (count: (history:), "1.7") is 0) [[[Highly Contagious Cult Behavior Spreading in East Asia|1.7]]] (else:) [Highly Contagious Cult Behavior Spreading in East Asia]//
* //(if: (count: (history:), "1.8") is 0) [[[Containment Breach by SCP-6510|1.8]]] (else:) [Containment Breach by SCP-6510]//
(if: $pagecount > 2) [ [[No, something else is wrong.]] ]Twenty-thousand people, or thereabouts. It was a staggering number to suddenly cease functioning as human beings, though they might still count officially. The Ethics Committee had ironed out an official definition a decade ago: a 30-page document that was all but impenetrable to anyone who didn't hold several degrees in law and philosophy each. This time the afflicted are something else now, that much you could tell. That was the kind of thing you could tell by pure instinct after seeing similar countless times.
The jagged, hidden edges of the world have a great fondness for twisting humans out of their correct shapes. A few threads of self caught here, another few there, and humanity can unravel with ease. Once such threads are pulled out of place, it's nearly impossible to rearrange them exactly as they were.
This unfortunate fact leaves you with few pleasant choices. None, in fact. There's little chance of ever putting twenty ex-people back together, let alone twenty-thousand. Not in a way that would make them recognizable as the people they had been before, at least. Neither could you leave them alone, and allow the mass of almost-humanity to converge upon their destination. Nothing good could possibly come of that, even if you aren't quite sure of the greater significance of Toronto. There are no ancient evils buried there that you know of. None of the remaining pieces of the Broken God either, nor doors to other dimensions, or oily shadows lurking in the city's dark places.
There are precious few of those left anymore.
No, the only solution available to you is brute force. Mass amnestics. Mass termination. An even more massive coverup. The annihilation of bloodlines and memories. There would be holes in the end, the faintest traces of memories demanding to be heard again, but what of it? No living human is without those, not even you. The agents carrying out the gruesome task would themselves be spared the pain of those memories in the months to come, as would others with even the most tangential awareness.
Eventually, only the 13 of you would remember. You might recall it in your mental exercises, you might not. Despite the enormity of the event, this was nothing new, and nothing special either. Life would continue, for some.
//[[Overseer-6, additional items require your attention.|Overseer-6, 7 items require your immediate attention.]]//Even the best built prisons must crumble eventually. This isn't one of yours, of course. It probably isn't even the work of your most distant ancestors. Still, you’re the one of the few left to gird rusting bars and crumbling walls anew. Such a feat would normally require the efforts of ten expert thaumaturgists, each armed with teachings old and new, each devoting themselves entirely to the task for at least a week.
It shouldn't take you more than a few minutes.
You look down to your hand, armored in silver and brass, and clench your fingers into a fist. The white walls around you vanish, replaced with the shifting tides of senselessness that make up the infinite aether. You spread your fingers again, and find yourself in the air high above an expanse of red rock.
The vast gash in the earth below howls as you slowly descend, baring jagged black teeth as a beast might. You can feel the claws of noise scraping along the inside of your ears, desperately hunting for the most vulnerable parts of your mind, eager to impart some measure of the prisoner's fear and pain. Even you, being what you are, can feel the primal reaction setting in, the shivering touch of an unfathomable agony.
You feel it, but so what? This is hardly the first time you've felt the touch of oozing malice, directed at everything and everybody. You snap your ringed hand out in one curt motion. A spell of this sort would normally take hours of careful work to ready and cast even on a small scale, but so much of you is spellwork already that this alone is sufficient. High above you, the sun dims, flickers, and vanishes.
Once in the unbound space you've wrought, you're free to impose your will upon the world. You cast chains of eventuality across the churning malice beneath you, binding it into the earth until the seas have dried and the moon is no more. You promise its freedom, but only after the last bird calls and the last snake dies. You assure it that it may see the sun again, but only in the moments before it dies. Such chains will last long after your passing.
Once, you might have seen the spirit bound at the heart of the continent as a pitiable thing. It will never know its brethren thanks to your work, each bound just as firmly and finally across the world. Such a lonely existence would have made your heart ache. Now, there is no place for such pain to take root.
You close your hand into a ringed fist again, and sit down in your office chair. Another meager disaster averted.
//[[Overseer-6, additional items require your attention.|Overseer-6, 7 items require your immediate attention.]]//It's been a long time since you went home. There never was much in Hell to go back to, after all. It had been a place of endless wonders to you once, hosting a near endless stream of petty mages and treasure hunters looking to plumb the vast catacombs that ran beneath the township's few streets. More than a few of them ended up sleeping in the shack behind your family's house for a night or two, eating at your dinner table thanks to your mother's endless generosity. None stayed more than a few days before disappearing entirely.
When you finally followed the same call and descended through the old hatch in the forest floor, you found each and every one of them. Down and down you went, through corridors of concrete and tunnels of earth, past corpses new and old. A siren wail called for you all the while, beckoning you further and further into the bowels of the Earth. Remembering the full extent of the journey is difficult to this day.
At the nadir of the world, you stood before five great whales, so ancient that every last bit of flesh had been picked from them. The bones of each were bound with heavy rusted rings, and the eyes of each smoldered with flickering light. They taught you the words that must be spoken and the rites that must be conducted to pass beyond the limits of mortality, and asked only for the breaking of their bonds in return. It had been an inauspicious start to a life of forging new prisons.
To be honest, you never expected to hear from the Blue Chamber again. There was a sense of finality to your first meeting, an expectation that the ancient beasts would fade away after their bindings were shattered.
Such a brazen incursion into the mundane world should have stirred you to outrage at the very least. What else could it be taken as, other than a challenge to the oath you swore? Your blood does not quicken though, and your brow does not sweat.
Instead, you close your eyes and place your ringed fingers flush against the surface of your desk. The room thrums for a moment, full of a sound far quieter and far more penetrating than any other you’ve ever experienced. When you open your eyes again, you see a harpoon sitted on your desk, caked with rust and runes. You send it off to the outskirts of your former home town with a flick of your fingers. The rest would be handled, but not by you.
//[[Overseer-6, additional items require your attention.|Overseer-6, 7 items require your immediate attention.]]//It would be trivial to start a war against the Autumn Firm with the authority of your office. Some days, it feels like it would be trivial to win one. The coincounters have grown lax since their myriad mergers and layoffs, filling their ranks with greenhorns and yes-men. They considered the next day’s profit more important than the next year’s, and failed to act with the resoluteness of their predecessors. You know better than to trust that feeling. No matter how frivolous the Firm is, the extent of their influence cannot be denied.
That said, your own reach is nothing to be scoffed at, and you have many hands with which to grasp. You even have a suitable lever in mind: A senior partner (if a 30-something in his first suit could be called senior) who had never quite learned the way the world works. For all you know, it was his brilliant idea to try and auction off anomalies that were better left under your care. You type the number into your phone slowly, 11 digits, then 14, then 19. The dial tone feels numb in your ear, but only for two rings.
“Who is this?”
“This is a private number. Who gave it to you?”
“Mr. Blumfeld, I am a representative of certain interests. Your organization’s actions have come into conflict with these interests. Everything else is irrelevant.”
“To you, maybe, but it’s pretty damn important to me! If you don’t tell me who gave you this number immediately, I promise I will find who you are and ruin you. I’ll have you in court by the end of the day. I’ll buy your house and level it. I’ll buy the damn city! Who do you think you are, interrupting my vacation? Don’t you know who I am?”
You lean back in your chair as the tirade continues. Maybe it had been a bad day in the stock market, or maybe he was just a bigger child than you were expecting. You hold out your hand as the ranting turns into swearing, palm upward, rings shining in the bright light. You picture the screaming man, reclining on the white sands of a private beach, spraying spittle into his phone. You clench your fingers ever so slightly and a particularly long string of expletives turns into wet coughing.
“Now that I have your attention, we should discuss the terms of our agreement.”
“What…” He coughs again, and you can feel the gentle, beating resistance to your fingers quickening along with his pulse. “What agreement?”
“You will agree to ensure that all items in your November auction are returned to their proper custodians. I will subsequently agree to spare you from this,” you squeeze a bit harder, and are rewarded with a pained wheeze. Of course, this is only be the first stage of negotiations. The next will include money, no doubt, and perhaps preliminary re-negotiation of the Kraków Accord. Overseer-9 has been eager for that, you know. After that--
“Fine. Enough. Done,” he gasps. “I’ll make the calls.”
“Very well,” you say after a moment’s pause, relinquishing your grip and hanging up the phone. Very well? Were she still alive, Ms. Carter would have demanded a fortune in exchange for such a deal, with your entrails in a bowl to sweeten the deal. She would have torn her own heart out, cast it into hell, and demanded that you go fetch it the moment you tried to toy with her in such a brazen fashion.
So much has changed, but has it been for the better?
//[[Overseer-6, additional items require your attention.|Overseer-6, 7 items require your immediate attention.]]//You used to wake up from nightmares about this exact situation, teeth clenched and drenched in sweat. Mundane people, your wards, could never understand what you do. Their lives are simply too different, thanks to the work of the Foundation. Their perspectives are too constrained, and for that reason you need not panic. Even if they could imagine the enormity of the unseen world, they would never bring themselves to believe in it.
That said, there was no reason to let such important information float around the Internet, where any half-bit anartist or anarchist could get their greasy fingers into it. But no, it’s most likely some kid who stumbled into it in the worst way possible. Such was their wont as well.
No matter. It shouldn’t take long to track down the perpetrator. Years ago it might have been a mad dash to find them, ending only because of good luck on your part or ill fortune on theirs, but everyone at the Foundation has seen this scenario countless times over by now. They knew what to do, and would do it well. Your agents are just asking for permission to ensure that it would not happen again, to apply the repercussions that has secured the Foundation's dominant position.
Lives will be fundamentally changed in the process, no doubt about that. Jobs will be lost, memories will vanish, court summons will appear from nowhere at all. Entire histories will appear out of thin air, substantiated by hard, falsified facts. Entire lives will be upended to ensure the circumstances that led some hapless person to make the worst mistake of their life. All carried out for the greater good.
You signal your support of the proposal in the system. It will come out 10-3 in favor, if you have any business predicting. Smith always objects to the implanting of false memories, Minh would rather abduct perpetrators to forcibly extract what they knew, and Vasiliev would insist that the outdated style of blanket amnestics would be sufficient. They would object, the rest of you would humor their dissent, and agents would be dispatched to reshape the perpetrator's entire life.
Life will continue, though some will be much different.
//[[Overseer-6, additional items require your attention.|Overseer-6, 7 items require your immediate attention.]]//Speaking frankly, you never expected that damn book to cause you so much grief. At least a century has gone by since you wrote it, and with every passing year it metastasizes even further. Not in a way that's been clearly quantifiable, but your suspicions have been growing all the same.
As to the situation at hand, you have the same niggling feeling that it's the result of your past work. The anomalies created with your theories have a way of spreading like weeds if not tended to with constant care, and the world is full of careless gardeners.
If this Daughters of Noon group is something crafted according to your designs, removing leaders will do nothing to halt its spread. It's not an organization in the way people would think of it, moving according to the purposes of humans. The church, as written by you, is still something that lives so long as its heart continues to squirm and beat. An elderly man, enshrined as holy, revered without consent. That is the thing necessary to drive your creation, and what must be plucked out to stop its thrashing. It could not be by your hand though, not when the only thing keeping you together would start to fray and unwind in the presence of such a thing.
You would usually assign a task like this to Alpha-1. Cleaning up the Council's unlpleasant leftovers is one of their primary duties, and they would not balk spilling the few drops of blood left inside an old man when necessary. Leaving it to them would mean explaining to the rest of the Council where you got your knowledge though, and something like that wouldn't suit you at all.
No, like the other Overseers, you have your personal weapons for situations like this. Ones that require far less paperwork than Alpha-1 to bare against your foes. You reach over to your phone and dial a number. The ringing lasts long enough to raise worries, but an answer comes right as you consider hanging up.
"Satisfactory Claims Processing, Egret speaking. How can I help you?" Your assistant's voice is as chipper as ever, and would remain so even in the face of what is to come. It's one of the things you appreciate about her.
"I need you two in northeast China as soon as possible. Avoid crowds on the way."
"We can be there by tomorrow. Do we need to bring any extra packages?"
"Nothing unusual, no. Contact me the usual way once you've arrived."
"You got it, boss."
That's that, then. There will be more required of you soon, but even you cannot hurry forward the passage of time. Not yet, at least.
//[[Overseer-6, additional items require your attention.|Overseer-6, 7 items require your immediate attention.]]//Some anomalies are easy to remember, as are their numbers. The ones you struggled with every day are forever near the forefront of your mind, and memories of their containment breaches are fertile soil for your stress dreams. Only a handful were ever your direct responsibility though, and now there are nearly eight-thousand of the things to keep track of.
You pull up the database entry for 6510 on your first terminal, the one with unrestricted access to the central database, and quickly skim through it. It's the usual kind of thing, honestly. Keter-class, held in a chamber kept as close to 0° K as is technologically possible, likely having been birthed from one of the Moon's deep wombs.
Why had heavy weapons been restricted around Site-58? It’s hard to say. Nearby civilian populations perhaps, or an anomaly that would react poorly to their use. It's not your job to know every facet of every single thing going on under your watch, not anymore. You aren't Beta-99 OPCOM anymore, and you're not Site Director Ahmadi either. You're Overseer-6. You're watchful, dutiful, and cold. You are the tomb of your old self.
Which is to say that you won't be doing anything about this situation right now. The Foundation did not hire the best and brightest it could find just to micromanage every little thing, and you would never be able to sleep if you could not trust in the abilities of your subordinates.
The regional supervisor will send you another message if things become dire.
//[[Overseer-6, additional items require your attention.|Overseer-6, 7 items require your immediate attention.]]//Your office is a sterile room, at the end of a sterile hallway, in a building that does not exist in any records. You've worked out of caves and basements in the past, and you've conducted your affairs in alleyways and underpasses. You’ve had offices before too, each smaller and better furnished, but you gave that up as you climbed the ladder of authority. It didn't turn out how you'd imagined it, not since you toppled the Administrator and gathered their power in the hands of the Council.
Other offices are always full of personal touches. They have pictures of places once visited, the art of children, and things as simple as a favorite mug full of pens. Even the Administrator, secretmonger that they were, kept a few personal effects nearby.
What you have are white walls and a white floor, all bathed in white light. You have the distant murmur of running water and the low hum of air conditioning. You have the stale scent of thrice-recycled air.
Maybe that's all you need.
[[Now get to work.|Log in.]]You passed the point where you would be willing to tolerate this long ago. You have a world to ward, a people to protect, and no time for any more mortal nonsense. None at all.
Smith pulls the trigger, and his gun melts into so much gray goo. He doesn't look surprised in the slightest, and you in turn aren't terribly surprised by his lack of reaction. He knows who you are, he knows what you are, and he chose this course of action anyway. So be it.
He has ceased to be the person you once knew, full of boundless energy and endless bravery. You have ceased to be the person he once knew, full of curiosity and compassion. From one husk of a person to another, you perform one final service.
No fanfare is necessary for his end, nor would you wish it to be. You simply grasp a drop of the endless power that funnels down through the Foundation, and channel it through the coalesced spellwork that is your body. With it, you snuff out the tiny flicker of life still remaining within Smith after these long years.
The end is not impressive for the former solider. It's not a blaze of glory or a noble last stand. It's quiet, and it's cold. His body falls back into his chair, and looks like nothing more than an old man taking a nap.
[[You have more work to do.|All of humanity is a weighty thing to bear.]]One of your colleagues is in a truly majestic state of distress. Normally, that distress would be diluted with the small pleasures and larger anxieties of the world until it was just a single, unrecognizable eddy. However, you have special interest in the other Overseers, and special means of tracking them. They are important components of your edifice, after all, central to the Foundation and thus your ongoing existence. You can even find it in yourself to respect a few of them.
The ethereal string quivers with distress again, and you recognize it as the one bound to Smith, the current O5-1. It bends and warps as the intangible hook lodged in his mind shifts, passing on the slightest portion of what he feels to you. Even that tiny portion gnaws at you, working its way down your back to coalesce in your gut. This is also something that must be attended to.
Though it's technically against the few regulations imposed on the Council, you're well aware of where Smith's personal office is located. It’s the kind of knowledge that comes with being the last two members of the old guard, the last two aware of your grand betrayal. The last to know the truth of things.
You look at your rings and rise from a plush chair in an office entirely unlike your own. There's a carpet underfoot, bookshelves lining the walls, and an actual fire burning in a hearth. Each comfort is better suited to a past time, but that matches the office's owner perfectly. Smith always reminds you of a general who outlived his battlefields through force of will alone. He remained the very picture of vigor and vitality when you last saw him, even as his hair grayed and his pile of his cigar stubs reached the sky.
Today he looks diminished. Not by the dim lights, not by the bottles of pills on his desk, and not by the handgun ominously resting there either. He is still a king in his throneroom, just one ground down by the currents of life. He could easily live hundreds more years under the arrangement you made, but looking at how he's sunken into his chair now, you can't help but feel like he won't last another week.
[["What are you doing, Smith?"]]He looks up at you finally. Even if you couldn't feel his despair tugging away at your mind, you would be able to see it in his eyes. The bags under them are dark and heavy, and their usual sharpness has been blunted.
"Six. I didn't hear you come in." There's a ragged edge to his voice too. You'd pegged him as someone who would never allow himself to cry, but even you can make the occasional mistake.
"Of course you wouldn't, not in that state. What do you think you're doing? You can't work like this."
"Do I need to work?" He swipes his hand out clumsily, knocking a pill bottle to the floor. "It's not necessary anymore.// I'm //not necessary anymore. Worked my whole life to sit here, and now there's nothing I can do. There're no more wars for me, so what am I supposed to do? Sit around voting?"
"The votes are important, Smith. They show we're careful. That matters to the rest of the Foundation. It helps us all work together. You should know that better than anyone."
"Don't!" snaps Smith, beating one of his heavy fists against the desk and sending more bottles and papers falling to the floor. "Just... don't. Not you."
"I can only work on my own because of the agreement we made, Smith. Because the Foundation is what it is. It's not something—"
"And don't talk to me about the Foundation either! What we did to the Administrator, what we did to ourselves... How did we end up here?"
His words have weight in what's left of your heart. Something along the way had gone wrong, and you've been feeling it for years. But what could be done about that now? The path ahead of you is arrow-straight, and there is no turning back on it. "It was a sacrifice that had to be made, just like all the others. Without it, the world would have been swallowed whole decades ago. If you aren't strong enough to stand it anym—"
Smith grits his yellowed teeth at you and pounds on his desk again. This time, his hand comes back up clutching his gun. It's the first time in a long while you've stared down the barrel of one, but the experience hasn't changed much. "Six. Erin. Leave."
"I'll leave when you go back to your quarters and sleep. I can't work while you're in here, feeling like this.”
The muzzle of his pistol quavers slightly. "You’ve always been like this. Even when the Administrator was still around, it was always you who... Always you to... Ah, I see now."
Even without your connection to him, you would surely be able to sense his sudden resolve. His hand is stable, and his eyes are clear. As is his intent.
[[There are more important things than his justice.]]
[[But maybe your life isn't one of them.]]
(if: $pagecount > 7) [Or... No, this entire situation is becoming ridiculous. Who had spent the last couple hours tending to the needs of the Foundation? You had. Who had stopped calamity several times over before lunch? You had. This is nothing more than a distraction, and one that will surely repeat again and again in the future. This will be easy to rectify.
[[Easy, but not without bloodshed.]]]
It's in defiance of everything you stand for and everything you've worked toward, but in this single moment you can't find it within yourself to care. You're tired of this, of everything. Even as Smith pulls the trigger, you can feel your eyelids begin to droop.
They snap open again as the bullet bores through your forehead. It doesn't hurt, not the way you expected it to, nor does it bring a soothing void with it. You touch your trembling fingers to your head, and they come away coated with thick dust. You can feel it leaking out, drifting away in the heated breeze.
"So, it's like that," you say.
He looks at you a while longer, and you have no idea what he sees. Is it the younger you, who burned with passion and curiosity? Is it the you who conspired and plotted, all for what you thought was the common good? Or does he see the present version of you? The one full of dust instead of blood. "Of course."
"I didn't plan for things to turn out like this either."
"No, none of us did. It's not fair to act like everything was your fault when we all agreed. It was... it seemed like something that had to be done."
"The Administrator never would have let this happen," you say, meaning everything those words could suggest. They never would have let you change the Foundation like this, of course. Not even after seeing what good you could do with this power. They wouldn't have let you stick the proverbial dagger in their back, either, and they certainly wouldn't have let you do any of this to yourself. But, no, regret was not something you had time for. The world spins on, tearing itself apart in the process. "Go to sleep, Smith."
[[You have more work to do.|All of humanity is a weighty thing to bear.]]You've erred, allowing the Council to continue on as it had in the past. Your formulation required thirteen seats filled, true, but nothing in it required that the others be left with the freedom to oppose you. That was what doomed the Administrator, was it not? Indulging the whims of fledglings. They had been powerful when they held that position, maybe as powerful as you are now, but what worth is there in an unwielded blade?
You gather the loose connections to the other members of the Council even as Smith stares you down, finger tightening on his pistol's trigger. You gather them, and pull them taut, the hooks of each digging deep into the minds they ensnared. It's so obvious now. You don't need collaborators, or comrades, or confidants. Not when the rest of the Council is useless for anything but wasting your time. No, what you need are puppets.
You tug once more at the connections binding the other Overseers to you, and that's all that's left. Billions of lives may rest in the hands of Council, but those hands are now gathered together in your clenched fist.
It's not so different, this way. The myths of the Council swallowed the reality whole long ago anyway, so much that even the highest ranks of the Foundation will still believe the Council to be a place of serious deliberation and impossible decisions. There will be no more deliberation though, and no more impossibility. Your equal seat has become a grand throne, and your equals are not so equal anymore.
With this, you free yourself from the distractions of human relations. Every moment soothing the egos of others had risked countless deaths. With this, you free yourself from the necessities of human life. Each bite of food or minute of sleep risked the same.
With this, you become a sovereign of dust. Sleepless. Omnipresent. Eternal.You sit back down at your desk, and are momentarily overwhelmed. Overwhelmed by the day, by life, by everything. You close your eyes and lean back in your chair.
Back when you were initiated to the Council, the Administrator asked you if the Black Moon howls. It was a question full of meanings and traditions you could never hope to fully grasp, and to this day you don't know if there was a right answer. Well, the Administrator is dead now, and little is left of the Black Moon except fragments of its pallid core. Your mentor is dust, the moon is dust, and tradition is dust too.
All that's left is you. Dust bound.