Crisis Part Two

Part II

"The Crisis" AD 1795

Corner On The Green, Backdoor Soho

Maria Jones peered over her playbill across the rolling hills of green being trampled by the surrounding crowd. Directly in front of her, theater enthusiasts calling themselves the Red Acting Troupe were putting on the worst performance of The Hanged Kings Tragedy that she had ever seen. SCP-701-1 had barely manifested at the end of act one, Jones surmised, out of embarrassment.

There was still time to find who had placed that ad in the paper, but not much. The actors, in spite of themselves, were managing to brute force their way through this performance. Glancing down, she saw it still tucked into a paper crease.

Does The Black Moon Howl? The Red Waits To Find Out
Corner On The Green, Backdoor SoHo

Looking back up, Jones let her eyes wander through the crowd. After her flight, Jones had found her way here through connections and a few favors. She was finding it did not conform to her expectations. The Foundation had always portrayed civilization behind the veil as being nasty, brutish, and short. But there were all walks of life watching this so-called performance. Long-haired scruffy artist-types with glowing rocks in their earrings co-mingling with sundress-wearing sun-worshiping picnickers and pale-skinned parasol-holders.

A few children scampered between the gaps in the crowd, laughing and cavorting. Occasionally Jones spotted a humanoid automaton or creature standing in the mix, going without comment. Then, between two ferns, Jones spotted the familiar face of David Rosen. A regular technical adviser to RAISA, his pale visage had darkened and curly hair had been cut.

Jones snaked through the crowd towards him. As she did, Rosen seemed to wander through the somewhat-bored crowd with ease, falling just short of her being able to tug at his sleeve. After a few minutes Jones mood suddenly switched from excited to nervous apprehension. As the guttural howls signaling the end of Act III were choked out on the stage behind her, Jones followed Rosen out of the park.

Pausing momentarily, she watched as he crossed the street without looking. Nearly catching a moped for his trouble, he slipped into an alley between a canvas shop and glassware parlor to disappear from sight. Jones carefully made her way over, peering into the alley just in time for Rosen to disappear behind a red side door.

Wasting no time in getting there, Jones pounded on the metallic exterior. Receiving no response she rapped on it again, folding her arms behind her back and waiting for some sort of response. A slit in the door opened to reveal a pair of blue eyes looking back. Then a clack, click, creak, the door slid open.

Hearing the park explode into violence behind her, Jones found herself with no option but stepping inside. Immediately, she was confronted by deeply unpleasant body odor. The room here was empty and dim, with no sign of the blue eyes which had allowed her entry. The wallpaper had peeled off almost entirely with mold crisscrossing the bare walls now exposed.

Jones paused, staying her hand on the door's cold steel interior side. There was no sign of Rosen here, a large ladle and a vase, along with a coat of arms flanked by decorative axes. Lingering momentarily to scan the vicinity for a few more moment, she pushed back against the door to escape.

At that moment, a large man wearing suspenders and a fez crashed through the door, sending her stumbling backwards. This sent her straight into his identical twin, stepping from his hiding place to the side of the door as she was involuntarily thrust towards it. Before she could even blink, she was being dragged into the room of which she had been so wary.

There were others here, tied up and looking pale. David Rosen, as she had seen him minus his glasses, was unconscious between two agents. Both looked enormously unhappy to be there, and one had a robotic arm. Jones struggled in vain as their two captors began conversing.

"So, Akbar, how much longer before we think the catch is done?" said the man from the outside, walking to a hitherto-unseen cannonball-black cauldron steaming on the other side of the room from their hostages. "I think we've got a solid base here to wash away their sins."

The one holding Maria looked towards his companion, keeping his hold on her tight as she bit and kicked at him. "Maybe, Jeffy, maybe… usually we'd need about ten complete to really get it dank enough, but these Skippy types usually have a lot going on."

Looking up from the aromatic tendrils reaching up from his broth, Jeff smacked his chops and began grinning. "Then let's get them unwrapped, the essence won't keep forever."

"You can't!" Jones blurted out, ceasing to strike out or struggle.

Akbar turned back towards her, a smug scoff emerging from his lips. "Desperate, huh? That's really going to enhance the flavor."

"You don't understand. The Foundation… places memetic countermeasures on VIPs. For exactly these sorts of situations."

"Oh yeah?" Akbar raised an eyebrow, snapping his suspender straps and sniffing. "I've ain't ever heard of something like that."

"Haven't you ever seen a picture of Clef? Never see his face. It's always a spider, or bird, or bug or something. Do you want the idea of an infinite possibility of bugs in an essence stew?"

Pausing, Akbar and Jeff stared at one another. That moment of distraction was all Jones needed to break free of her confinement. Throwing her weight away from Akbar, tremendous tremors shook the whole room as she slammed into the wall. The painting fell down on the ground in front of her, the glass panel shattering at her feet.

Having gained their undivided attention, Maria kept out of the way as Akbar threw himself towards her again. Crashing into the wall, his fist punched clear through the penny-thin plaster. Turning towards her, he hardly had time to think of a threat before a ceremonial ax-head buried itself in his skull. Toppling forwards, his tumbling form fell dead at her feet.

Wasting no time, Jones leapfrogged over the prone form and grabbed the free ax. The captive trio, looking more alert with the world crashing all around them, had bonds cut and quickly stood to regain their bearings. Turning again, Jones was engulfed by a furious leaping Jeff, who began doing his best to choke the life out of her.

Looking up at him, Jones saw dilated pupils focused on hands wrapped around her throat. They crossed, with a metallic thunk, and rolled up as he was rolled off of her. The man with a robotic hand tossed the ax to the ground, and offered her a human hand to stand up with. She took it.

Brushing herself off, Jones looked at the two gathering pools of blood they had created. "Thank you."

"Hey, we should be thanking you." said the other man. Frowning, Jones peered more closely at his face. She knew that voice.

"Lament?"

"Hey! Someone who knew me. That's new." Smiling with a sigh, Troy Lament gave a mock salute. "I think I know you too… Director Jones?"

"In the flesh. Not to rush things, but do you have someplace we can go? This isn't the best setting for catching up." Jones glanced at the collection of corpses they had created.

"Yeah, Rosen's got Navarro's arm hooked up with GPS now. We'll be out of here in no time."

Jones' brow creased as she looked past Lament to see what the others were doing. David Rosen was fiddling with Navarro's arm, while the latter kept a keen eye on the fiddler. After a few moments, the fingertips began glowing. With a crackling snap, Navarro's arm projected a door into the room's empty doorframe.

Gawking at the display, Jones kept watching as Rosen opened the door. Stepping through a semi-permeable membrane the man disappeared. Grinning, Lament gestured for her to follow. "It generates portals, short-wave. Some of us didn't leave the Foundation empty-handed."

Nodding, Jones stepped to the glowing mass of radiant mucus. Tentatively touching it, she quickly found herself being propelled forwards. The last thing she heard was Lament saying something about meeting a Kiryu about a Foundation.

<Change the whole ending of this scene to be Lament and Navarro not trusting Kiryu or Rosen, have there be Edison and Leeward and maybe somebody else as well. Just a room of people wrapped up in newspapers and put in boxes like coffins. Room is filled with Foundaton assets and the two are either collectors or crazy conspiracy nuts>


Lunar Area 32, The Moon

The cold vacuum of space had Lunar Area-32 in a vice grip. The mood was grim inside and out. Each had gotten a yellow envelope filled with dust, announcing the death of the Overseer Council and an emergency summit called by Red Right Hand. None had even been able to tell families, friends or compatriots the deathly blow which had been struck at their Foundation.

The trip, of course, had let most of the cat out of the bag. It's not exactly easy to hide a series of orbital rocket launches from the public, let alone the world behind the veil. Nobody knew what, but everybody knew something. Site Directors, Task Force Commanders, notables of all kinds, all had their seat at this Directorial Summit.

Cyrus Hourdoon, the Site's Director, was among the few who seemed at ease among the despairing. Aloft in his corner office, he couldn't help but to feel something creeping into his heart which had not found a place since he’d stepped foot on this godforsaken rock. Excitement. When was the last time anyone of notability had bothered to show up, let alone everyone who might hold power in the Foundation?

The Overseers were dead. Hourdoon let that idea roll around in his head. What a time to be alive. A safe haven under his care was actually seeing its first real guests. Under his roof. Hourdoon was smiling when Severus came knocking. The man who had made it all possible was here. Unlocking his office door with the push of a button, Hourdoon looked to face his new friend.

Bearing the gift of lunch, Severus stiffly strode to the large bank of monitors flashing at Hourdoon’s face. Reaching into a brown paper bag, plates of pasta were produced, plastic wrapped, prepared perfectly to conform with Hourdoon’s preferences. Crossing his legs and smiling, Severus set the foodstuffs on a table. “I see you are in high spirits, Director.”

“Why wouldn’t I be?” Hourdoon began scarfing down spaghetti in spurts. “I’ve got you to thank for rescuing me from a ditch of irrelevancy and isolation. My dear man, I would say that our positions and personalities naturally meant our destinies would align.”

“… Right. Let’s get down to business. I love keeping people waiting, but we do have to show ourselves to the assembly eventually..” Severus spun a spoon to consolidate his food. “What’s the latest and greatest in moon peeping?”

Hourdoon, mouth filled with noodly appendages, spun and swiped up a remote in one fell swoop. The bank of monitors flashing disparate images from around the base blanked themselves, before taking on a uniform image.

Coming into view was Tilda D. Moose, the intrepid leader of Site-19, staring out the porthole at Earth. There were small satellites of the station blinking in and out of sight out there, poking holes through the thick black sheet of space. The interim Human Resources administrator, Django Bridge, looked out into nothingness from the room’s opposite end. Theodore Anderson’s footage found him exercising throughout his quarters, frequently forcing the aides assisting him in preparation to move in accommodation.

Hourdoon looked over his shoulder at Severus. “Tilda’s got the alienation real good, Ted’s organized but I know he brought a picture of that dead Gillyweed with him. Bridge is probably transitory, I don’t see him stepping into a hole left by Bright without leaving.” Closing his eyes while leaning forward, the narrowing pupils now glaring slits. Right now though, I think they’re our biggest threat.”

Looking right back at Hourdoon and nodding his head, Severus removed a notepad from his jacket. “The key to survival opens the levers of power. They’re going to be gatekeepers. I know for a fact that Anderson has steel in him. I’d imagine any Director of 19 does too. What do you think of Bridge?”

“Nobody.” Hourdoon’s mouth found itself replying before the question even fully registered. Pursing his lips, he turned to his control deck and pressed a button. The screen scrambled itself as it brought new video to fore. “Bright relied on him for human interaction, not real responsibility. If anyone had a vestigial staff, it was the collective-conscious minded administrator.”

Nodding, with pen clicking as he took notes, Severus’s gaze was now firmly glued to Hourdoon’s surveillance center. Utilizing maximum showmanship available, a set of four frames formed on the monitor banks face, depicting different notables in action.

Phillip Foster, Director of Site-81, laying with solemn stillness on moon carpeting, a television blaring behind him. The Site-88 Director, Katheryn Sinclair crying to herself in a flight of stairs. Edgar Holman sitting in a men’s restroom desperately trying to Skype his wife. These images kept flashing faster, until one by one each monitor went black.

Ears twitching, Severus was looking on in puzzlement as Hourdoon swung back to face him again. Pointing, the latter man’s mouth consolidated into a thin line. “The Multi-U man came prepared to play. Taped over the cameras, sniffed out the bugs, by god, the man practically dismantled the entirety of his quarters. I’ve never seen such effort taken in the name of paranoia.”

“You’re assuming he’s being paranoid.” Severus said, cracking his neck with a twist. “Could easily know something about particular machinations.”

“You don’t have to be coy.” Shaking a finger, Hourdoon finished his food, sliding the plate towards the tip of the table where a receptacle awaited. “As a wise man once said, the old gods are dead. Fuck all pre-existing religions. All power to those who can control the fucking weather.”
“I think that’s from a TV show.”

Hourdoo, shrugging, stood while holding out a hand to help his guest rise. “It’s something my son told me. But let’s not get into the woods on this. I think we’ve found who we need to finish first, he’s waiting for us in that maelstrom of a meeting.”

Taking the hand, Severus leapt upwards, squeezing Hourdoon’s hand with crushing force. “I’m ready when you are, Cyrus. Let’s go.”

Exiting the room together, the metallic corridors of the Lunar Area-32 clanked only for them. All else were waiting on the world’s greatest stage. Whether the viewers knew it or not, all eyes of mankind were on them.


It had taken at least an hour of slogging through a half-filled sewage system to find their way back to Kiryu labs newest franchise location. At least, that’s what Lament was calling it. The pipes and plumbing below Backdoor SoHo were never quite the same on each return trip. Years of flushing down anomalous paints, arts, clay and blood will do that to a confined space. Eventually, a light-green door flanked by two blue lightbulbs jutting from the wall revealed itself around a corner.

Holding his arm forwards between them, Navarro’s face was briefly illuminated by blue light before the door swung inwards. The four flung themselves forward, finally free of frustration and the foul stench of anomalous sewage.

The space was a small one, with a few small comforts belonging to its residents. Sleeping mats lay in a quadrant upon the ground while a small lamp was centered between them. It cast a dim light blotted in places by jagged shadows, hanging from the ceiling by string. Behind the mats, a young woman was furiously typing on a laptop computer. Looking up, her face immediately turned to face Maria Jones.

“You found someone?” Zyn Kiryu stood up, brushing herself off. “I didn’t think there was anybody out there.”

“More like I found them.” Jones stuck a hand forward. “They were a little wrapped up but we managed ourselves. How do you do?”

Grabbing it with both hands, Kiryu shook with vigor. “Good! Good, good… I’ve been keeping up with what’s happening out… there, in the world.” Releasing Jone’s hand and plopping back down in front of her laptop. “Things don’t look good. Worse in front of the veil. Nobody knows what but they all know something’s up.”

Lament, flinging himself downwards onto his sleeping mat, threw his hands back up in the air. “Well, that’s bad. But it, uh, doesn’t change much for us. We’ve got the same hot loaf of nothing being served hot and fresh from fate’s ass.”

“Fuckin’ A.” Navarro sat down with his back against the wall, opening up a panel in his robotic arm to fiddle with. “I can’t wait to find out if the Foundation finds and executes us, or someone else decides to see how far they can stretch a few skippy minds.”

Rosen, meandering over to watch Kiryu work, said nothing and watched his fellows flap their lips. Jones, looking between all of them, put her hands on her hips. “So what, you’re all content to sit here and wait to die, as long as you can complain about it?”

Shrugging, Navarro didn’t look up from his arm. “Not much else we can do about it. Feels like every time we poke our heads out there’s some schemers out there waiting to yank us out and wring out every last bit of value they can squeeze.”

Nodding, Lament covered his face with his hands. “Getting to SoHo was easy enough when everything was in chaos, but if the world is still turning that probably means there’s a new regime in the Foundation. They’re going to be looking for us.”

“Not just us.” Rosen piped up, adjusting his glasses. “There’s more defectors out there in the same boat as us.”

Jones, placing a finger on her lips in thought, sat down on the mat next to the one Lament lay flat upon. “Maybe if we can link up with them… we can form a network. Knowledge is power, and if we can get enough of it together… we’ll at least be valuable and versatile enough to stand a chance.”

“Or we’ll be a target so big that they can’t possibly miss us.” Testing the responsiveness from his fingers, Navarro stood up and stretched his arms.

“Pretty hard to hit a moving target when you’ve gone half-blind.” Taking her time to stand and closing the gap between herself and Navarro, Jones’ projecting voice bounced off the walls. “You have a teleporter, don’t you?”

Looking up and down his arm, Navarro’s lips were pursed as he began tentatively clenching the metallic fist. “It’s piggybacking on Foundation SatNav. Nobody’s following up yet, but there’s a reason I didn’t take us straight here. That shifting maze out there is the only real defense between us and a short life in the big lizard’s pen.”

“The big lizard is dead, Navs.” Lament spun himself into a sitting position. “Been dead now for months. They’ll have to find something new to waste our lives on.”

“It’ll be novel, at least.” Removing his arm antirely, Navarro laid it across his lap and closed his eyes. “Fine. I’m game to find some more friends. Maybe they’ve got some way to make themselves useful. But we should get some rest first.”

“Agreed” Collapsing onto his mat, Lament was out like a light. Kiryu continued tapping on her laptop for a few moments, before Rosen pressed the lid closed. Momentarily opening her mouth to protest, she instead lost the initiative to a yawn and followed Lament to sleep. Rosen himself flopped onto a mat of his own, leaving a last place for Jones to take up.

Laying down, she found sleep coming easier than she expected. Maybe things would be okay after all…


The doors to the meeting room parted with a metallic whirring, as the almost arm-in-arm pair of Waylon Severus and Cyrus Hourdoon strode into the belly of the beast. Assembled all around a silver table while seated on white high-top chairs, people of all humanities bellowed red-faced declarations. Despair hung below all of their eyes. Pray few had slept, and even fewer slept well.

Cyrus sat, settling himself at the head of the table as Severus continued striding forwards. A long finger stretched out, pointing at allies and the agitated alike as he made his way towards the opposite end of the silver plane. It was an ornate table, hard and solid, the only concession of luxury his friend Hourdoon had been able to hold onto in his life.

“Gentlemen.” Severus’s voice boomed artificially, hooked him up with humongous speakers surrounding the assembly. Hourdoon had called it his voice of God. “Ladies. All present friends of the Foundation. I know you are all very confused and perhaps horrified, by the untimely deaths of our intrepid leaders.”

Looking upwards towards a skynight, a small satellite swam through the space which could be seen. Taking a deep breath, Severus brought himself back down to moon. “Nobody served them more loyally than I. But there were those who fought against their initiatives. When-”

“Enough.” Rising to his feet from the middle of the front line of seats, Multi-U’s own Thaddeus Xyank’s piercing gaze locked into Severus’s own face. “We’ve been wasting too much time on meaningless flapping of gums already. Let’s get to the point of why we’re all here.”

“Why are we all here, Mr. Xyank?” Severus stepped further from his accusor, until rounding the end of the table and stalking back towards his standing form. “If I recall correctly, Multi-U has warned us about events like this before. Where were they now?”

“The hell are you talking about?” Xyank frowned, crunching his nose and holding a hand to his heart. “How was I supposed to know about any of this? There’s infinite realities, sure, maybe this has happened there before. In some universes, Bernie Sanders and Muhammid Ali are both on the 05 council. Others have nothing but robots and teddy bears in containment. What logic would bring me to… this?” Throwing out his hands, he gesticulated wildly.

“But it was there to be seen, no?” Severus crossed closer, folding his arms behind his back while leaning his face close enough to smell Xyank’s breath. “Perhaps you hoped such a calamity might elevate you past seeing endless streams of what may have been… with only one little did.
Xyank’s compressed face exploded outwards into a smile. “How do you propose I killed the 05 Council? With a little can-do spirit? Honestly, I’m not a genie or a fortune teller. I can’t tell you the future. But I think you of anybody should be wary of throwing around accusations of conspiracy. Did you really find them dead?

“Of course.” Severus’s stance stiffened. The room, once a cacophony of captive careers, silently stared at the small space between the faces of two men. Finally, breaking eye contact, Severus completed a circuit around the table to sit back at the head next to Hourdoon. “Site-01 was filled with the dust of their bodies. Mummified and dessicated beyond recognition. I will never forget the sight as long as I live.

Site-77 Director Theodore Anderson raised a single eyebrow before speaking. Bald, with wrinkled dark brown skin and the hint of a mustache gracing his lips. This was a man who had served the late Director Gillespie more loyally than anyone, and was the Foundation's longest-serving security director. "Why should we be trusting a thing that comes out of your mouth? This has all the stink of a coup on it. You're saying the Overseers were dead when you got there, but that's… far fetched, to say the least."

Severus stared at him, mouth slightly open. "So, what… you're just accusing me of murdering the entire Overseer council? That was my family. I failed in my mission to protect them. This is trying to rectify that failure. Our mission depends on it."

Drumming his fingers beside Anderson, Site-17 Director Charles Anborough scoffed. A young man, new to his post, he had succeeded his father to power. Long hair framed dry grey eyes while his thin lips parted to speak. "We will continue to secure, contain and protect, yes, but you seem to think you're here to dictate too. Nothing could be further from the truth."

Severus’s scowling face soured. Hourdoon’s calcified, hardened from years of frowning impotently at his peers from atop his perch on the Mare Imbrium. Still as statues, they silently studied the litany of new faces finding their voices. “I’ve never been so-”

Dr. Steve Djoric, the youngest man in Multi-U, spoke up before Severus could contnue. "Hey, let's not start shooting the messenger here. I’d like to see us form a new order before we actually start tearing ourselves apart."

Tilda Moose, sitting up straight in the seat across the table from Xyank, stopped the dull drumming of her fingers on the table. Glancing up and out the window to watch asteroids wander by before looking at her fellows, she allowed her gathered thoughts to flow out. "… I agree with Charlie. We just can't know what really happened in there, unless there's another shoe to drop. If we really want the Foundation to continue, and I mean in a meaningful way, swallowing of pride and suspicions are going to have to fall by the wayside. For the greater good."

Edgar Holman of Site-64 was probably the most plain looking man among them. The top of his head was the beginning of a widow's peak, and his body was safely ensconced within a stiff suit. Still, he had the same glint in his eye that let you know he belonged just the same. "I think we've just about seen the worst of it. I can't imagine what else could possibly happen to make this situation worse."

Shaking his head, Xyank gestured to the assembly. "Famous last words, Holman. If the Foundation stays headless for too long, we're going to be inviting a coup if one didn't already happen in practice, if not spirit."

Folding his hands, Site-88’s Phillip Foster’s fingers unconsciously twisted his tarnished wedding ring as spoke up for the first time. An older man, with deep lines on his face and the look of the West in his eyes. "Well, clearly somebody smelled a coup, because Jones killed a golden goose to get away from us."

Anborough frowned. "I don't think you're using that express- that's not the point. RAISA and Jones are just another problem that we can't tackle until we figure out who's in charge now. This isn't some small thing. Are we the ones making the decisions now, or is there going to be a new Overseer Council?"

A silence settled suddenly. Nobody knew the answer to that question.

“A Directory.” said Tilda, finally breaking the silence. “We might not have RAISA for secure communications, but we have satellites and phones like everyone else. I don’t think we need to have the same thirteen-strong body, it can be smaller. More versatile. Get our footing again and figure out what we want to do next.”

Wendy Finkmon, sitting beside Severus along with the rest of the assembled task force commanders, raised a finger in protest. “I can’t believe we’d go back to civilian administration with everything that’s happened. Military leadership should be the only way-”
An explosion of protest nearly knocked her out of the seat and dismay washed over the smartly dressed commanders. After a few minutes, it settled into uncomfortable silence. Finally, Anderson stood up, brushing off his coat. “While I disagree with direct rule, I think greater Task Force integration can only help us stay stable. But we don’t want to set ourselves up for another Chaos Schism. Let’s not set ourselves up to repeat past mistakes with our present solutions.”

“I agree.” Standing to face Anderson, Severus looked across the tarnished reflections of notables present on the table. “We need continuity, not a return to bad times. I propose we send a task force to help secure the most important Foundation facilities.”

Wildly waving his hands up, Xyank was nearly choking his own saliva in his eagerness to speak. “We’ve got far more pressing issues than the militarization of Foundation ConSec. There’s still nobody in charge of Site-81.”

“Agreed. Let’s table this for now. I think with some more discussion of Tilda’s proposal we can move on to other issues…”

Reclining in his seat, Severus watched as the delegates real debate began. They would continue to fly this balloon with their hot air. Soon enough, he would give a new Foundation the gasoline it needed to be great again.


1999

It was a cool wintery evening in Monaco. Foot traffic was relatively light by the seawall. It wasn’t much to please the eye. Just block of concrete, a sun not quite low enough in the sky to be considered setting. Agents Green and Navarro sat on a rickety wooden bench, awaiting commands.

Green put his smoke out on the armrest, before immediately lighting a new one already present upon his lips. “You know what’s bullshit?”

“What’s that?”

Agent Green leaned back in the outdoor bench they currently inhabited, throwing his head backwards to take a long drag from his cigarette. “You can’t smoke in the bathroom anymore. Pisses me off. Sometimes I’ll be walking down the street, and I got a bad case of smoke-piss, but all these smoke-free zones don’t give me a pot to piss in.”

Navarro snorted. “There’s other people in those bathrooms, you know, those of us without the cavalier attitude towards lung cancer.”

“Fuck those people.” Green took another long drag, exhaling his relief towards the cooly-lit sky. “What rights do they have to keep me from my favorite thing just because I’m inside a bathroom and maybe they got their kids or something. Kids learn about smoking eventually, why not while I’m taking a dump?”

“I’m really not convinced at all by your logic here, but go on.”

“Alright so first things first man we’ve gotta start workin’ on making spaces for smokers. We’re not unpeople just because we have a supposedly unhealthy habit.”

“You know, it’s not just the time of smoking. That shit clings. Maybe two months after you’ve left the stink of your shit, the shit that’s coming out of your mouth is going to be hanging out for a lot longer.”

“Nah man. It’s their responsibility to make it better.” Green, leaning forward, took out his cigarette to throw some saliva from his mouth to the ground. “Not my fault cigarettes smell the way they do, right?”

“Who, exactly, needs to be cleaning up after you?” Navarro smirked, drumming his fingers on the metal armrests with metallic *clicks*.

“The building, obviously.” Green stamped out his deathstick, before immediately replacing it with another. Flicking his lighter, he frowned as it only whined without working.

“I do not think that’s correct, in any sense of the word.” Navarro leaned over and gave a thumbs up, with a small arc of flame erupting from his thumb’s tip.

“This is a free country, right?” Navarro leaned his lips in, until the flame met the stick coming out of his mouth. Exhaling more smoke, Navarro looked out at the Mediterranean. “Actually, does Monaco have a lot of freedom?”

“Not for smokers.”

“Damn.” Green snapped dramatically. “I bet you could get around that, sheer bravado style.”

“So you want to swagger into the bathroom with a stogie between your lips, maybe set of an actual literal Bavarian fire drill?”

“Maybe. I bet you I could get away with it.”

“Sure, sure. Hey, you got any word yet? Feels like it’s time we should be getting down to business.”

“Yeah, yeah, I’ll check. We’ll probably be busy before long.”


A concrete bedding made for uncomfortable sleep, but Navarro was used to it by now. Rip Van Winkle had nothing on him. There was no surface too hard, no environment too unnerving, no light too bright which could prevent Navarro from his slumber. Lips were flapping with every breath as a stream of drool carved its way across the plane of his grime-covered face.

Dreaming…

Navarro walked through the sepia-toned halls of Site-19. All doors were closed, identical, while scientists in lab coats and featuring pointy-haired horns locking over each of their ears. None spoke intelligibly. Navarro passed them all and turned a corner to find himself standing at the edge of a precipice.

It was a churning mass of fluorescent pink-tinged blood and guts spread out endlessly before him, like an ocean of flesh. Bloody waves crashed against a cliff, the topside of which still resembled the tile of a Foundation corridor. Looking up and around, the walls around Navarro seemed to have disappeared. A dry, cracked red sky hummed angrily above him. The smell of smoke permeated his nostrils.

Looking down, Navarro’s heart jumped a little. Agent Green was hanging on by two fingers, swaying precariously above this maelstrom of meat. Dropping to his knees, Navarro felt his hand grasp his friend’s wrist. After a few moments of pulling, they sat together panting on the cliffside. Turning to face the man he had saved, Navarro caught a faceful of cigarette smoke.

“Thanks. Jeez, I really didn’t think I was going to make it.” The cigarette perched on Green’s lips managed to keep its place as he spoke.

“How the hell did you get here?” Navarro stood, offering his hand. The thunderous throttling faded from below, as the walls and ground faded away to reveal an indistinct pink hue surrounding the space they stood in.

Taking it, Green stood up to face him. “I’ve no idea. These are uncertain times we live in, coulda been a holey mess of porous space, maybe some wizard with a sick sense of humor. Anything’s a possibility when the world turns upside-down.

“Whatever. It doesn’t matter. It’s good to see you, man.” Navarro hugged his fellow. “Have you seen anything out there? Do you know what’s happened since I, uh, bailed?”

For a moment, there was still silence. Returning the hug, Green whispered in Navarro’s ear. “No. But I know what can help you.”

Breaking the squeeze, Navarro took a step back to look his friend in the eye. “Lay it on me. We need all the help we can get.”

Eyes crossing, Green took a deep drag from his cigarette. “You need to join the Nintendo Fun Club today, Mac.”

Navarro tilted his head. “What?”

Exhaling, the smoke continued pouring out of Green’s mouth. “You need to find some headspace. Relax. You can find me when you’ve got it under your carphone.”

“I don’t have a phone. What the hell are you talking about, Green?” Reaching a hand to his friend’s shoulder, Navarro found only smoke. Soon, the smog emerging from Green’s mouth was matched from every other orifice, and he disappeared into a rapidly growing cloud of chaos.

The cloud enveloped him, swirling and lifting him up from his feet. “Find your friends with headspace. Dreams from a team by the Oneiroi collective.”

Navarro screamed, eyes wide shut and swinging his fists wildly. The howling wind around him precluded hearing, but there was something there. Repeating. Slowing his struggles, Navarro tried to listen.

“… Navarro… Navarro… Navarro…”

The smell of smoke was gone, replaced by one far worse. For a few seconds, he saw only silhouettes before four familiar faces found their way to recognition. Rosen’s voice spoke first. “Hey, are you okay?”

Navarro nodded slowly, before standing and dusting himself off. “I’m fine. Better than fine, I have an idea. Any you guys got a smartphone?”


The office space on the moon lacked two things, space and ventilation. Nowhere was this more clear than the smoke-filled room of Severus’ makeshift office. Four individuals in the intimate space looked with intimidating intensity.

Wendy Finkmon was ramrod stiff, her eyes locked onto Severus’ face. A cup of coffee sat in a styrofoam cup in front of her. The steam emerging from its lips added a dark aroma to the cigarette smoke coming from the man sitting beside her.

The daggers she was throwing Severus’ way were matched in anger only by Dodridge’s bulging neck veins. Three cigarette butts sat in front of him, while a fourth was worked around inside of its mouth. Puffs of smoke spiraled out of his mouth and nose.

Ekblad, looking cross, sat to the perimeter of their dual rage. Severus, on the other side of his small table, steepled his fingers as the clock ticked above them. A plastic cup of water sat untouched by his hands.

“Now what?” Dodridge threw up his hands, shattering the silence. “They’re not listening to us. We have them all here. Let’s just… take it back.

Nodding, Wendy slapped her hands on the table and stood up, keeping her eyes on Severus. “This is only going to lead us back down the same road we screwed up on. Now is the time for tight control, not a committee of washed-up, second-rate, and totally unprepared buffoons.”

Ekblad shrugged his shoulders. “I guess I have to agree, we have it all here. Let’s take it. I don’t see any reason to wait. If we’ve come this far…”

Shaking his head, Severus’ lips tipped upwards into a smile. “Hasty, aren’t we? Getting a little nervous now, expecting a kowtow and getting upstarts instead? Have a little backbone. We may need to adjust the plan, but we do not throw the baby out with the bathwater.”

“The baby is dead.” Dodridge spat on the table. “Which is what we’re gonna be if we don’t fucking do something.”

“You already heard my plan out there.” Kicking his feet up onto the table, coffee and water bounced over their lids as the cigarette remnants fell of their butts, the table, out of sight. “We make our move here, we’re emperors with no clothes. Isolated and easy to marginalize. We follow whoever comes out of this meeting on top back home…”

“… We can make it a fait accompli nobody can stand up against.” Ekblad sipped his water, wiping up the spill with his sleeve. “That could honestly work.”

Dodridge scoffed. “They’ve put all their eggs in one basket. I can’t believe you’re agreeing with this cowardice.”

Holding up a finger, Severus shook his head. “Divide and conquer, Jason. A military man like yourself should see the value in that.”

Wendy blew on her coffee, sending a stream of steam cascading over the top. “I’m seeing the logic here, actually. We’ll have a lot more real control if we own the sites and not just the Directors.”

Nodding, Ekblad crumpled a now-empty cup of water and tossed it behind him. “I’m still on board. We can still make this work.”

“Either that, or die trying.” Dodridge dropped his cigarette into Wendy’s coffee with a short but sharp hiss. “Fine. If it’s a choice between an idiotic plan and being the odd man out, I’ll do what you say. But don’t expect me to bend over backwards for you once we’ve got past the point of no return.” Standing, he turned just as he reached the door. “I’m not going to be your fuckboy.”

Sliding shut, the three eyed each other as they stood in turn.

Wendy, dropping her coffee in a trash vent, took to the door to follow her compatriot. “I’ve followed you so far, Severus. Don’t let us down. We’re working for the greater good here.” The door slid open and shut, leaving the last pair behind.

Alone with the officeholder, Ekblad was shrugging as he walked to follow her out. “I guess the recess must be over by now, I’m going to head back… are you coming?”

Shaking his head and kicking off his boots, Severus was wiggling his toes in Ekblad’s general direction. “No, I think I can sit tight. Might be suspicious if we all come back at once.”

“Sure, sure… I guess I’ll take a circuitous route around. Good luck, sir.”

When he was alone, Severus’ eyes closed. The die were in his hands. It was time to truly cast them one final time.


Squinting at the cracked screen of Kiryu’s iPhone, Rosen pressed his finger on the last batch of setup jargon. “There we go. I think it’s ready to rock and roll.”

“How’s this going to work then?” Navarro’s eyes were just about swiveling as he observed the screen. “Just write what you want and pass the fuck out?”

Lament, struggling to return his pants to his loins, popped out some snark. “I’ve been to parties like that. It’s all fun and games until somebody almost falls in the pool.”


Directors begin filing out of meeting after Severus declares it safe for them to do so, with MTFs following Directors back to their bases. Hourdoon is upset by this but does nothing to stop it. Resolves never to do nothing again when his will is crossed


Outsiders are nearly trapped in the dream and Rosen is killed but Navarro’s arm alarm jolts them to being awake. Find themselves in back roots.


Severus takes over 19 with RRH after accompanying Tild back
</end part two>