First on my list is the Multi-U division. How this kind of breach of protocol has been allowed to continue is beyond me, Ms. Weiss. The entire function of this department appears to be intentional containment breach.
Tristan Bailey bit his thumb to try and relieve stress. It wasn't working, and it wasn't just him that was stressed, the entire department was. In the Foundation, the people in Multi-U were thought of as okay, but the actual department itself was considered a waste of resources, for the large part. Then again, most of them didn't know that if not for this department, the price of silicon (among other natural resources) would be going through the god-damn roof.
Tristan had considered firing up the MUTA-NT and escaping to another universe, for the day. But, in the process, he would no doubt causing a massive protocol breach and getting him sacked, amnestic'd and thrown to the side of the road in Albuquerque. He had also considered trying to take a sample of the common cold from the immunology lab, but knowing them, they had somehow turned the common cold into a very rare and deadly cold.
"He's almost here, Bailey," Claire Hennessy stood over his shoulder. "Think you can handle him?"
"Remember, whatever you do, don't make fun of his name."
"…what is this guy's name, anyway?"
A man stepped into the offices of the Multi-U department, a tablet computer in one hand, his eyes behind his horn-rimmed glasses bearing a look of great disinterest. His bald head bounced a dazzling light off of it, right into Tristan's eyes, causing him to blink several times. "…Dr. Hennessy and Dr. Bailey?"
"I am Matthew Broderick, and I will be your auditor today."
Claire stepped forward. "So, Mr. Broderick… we understand you wanted to talk to us about how our department is run."
"Indeed." Broderick took out his stylus and brought up several files on his tablet. "Expense reports are far above-average. This department uses approximately 80-90% of all power supplied to Site 87. Casualties are thankfully minimal, but there have been reports that the technology here has been used… irresponsibly."
Tristan twitched slightly at the last part. Broderick didn't seem to notice. "Sir, with all due respect… I find it highly unlikely that the MUTA is responsible for 80% of the power drain here."
"I have the statistics right here, Doctor." Broderick handed them the tablet, with a statistic that showed that, indeed, Multi-U accounted for a supermajority of the power being used in the site. "And who do you think I am going to believe: statistics, or someone who works in the department and has a clear conflict of interest?"
"Sir, there has to be a mistake. The MUTA we have here is a MUTA-NT. Multi-Universal Transit Array, Nexus Type. My father built it back in the 1970s specifically to feed off the energy in-"
"Simply because your father was a Foundation celebrity does not give you any exemption, Dr. Bailey. And you are not the head of this department; Dr. Hennessy is." He nodded at Claire. "As I was saying, the power drain…"
"Is something that we will try and take care of; the accelerators used in the MUTA-NT take up a lot of juice, sir." Tristan rolled his eyes slightly; the MUTA-NT was run solely on energy extracted from the Anomalous Particle Field surrounding the Nexus. Everyone knew that (or at least, everyone should), and this bean counter in human clothing was telling him it didn't work that way?
"Dr. Bailey, are you coming?" Tristan blinked; he had spaced out, and Claire was heading out of the room along with the bean counter. Tristan started out of the room after them.
Ten minutes later, they were actually walking around the floor of the portal chamber. The reactors were all shut off, and the only way the MUTA would be reactivated was if there was an incursion from the other side. Broderick was asking all sorts of questions to various members of staff. "What is it that this department actually does, Dr. Hennessy?"
Before Claire could say anything, Tristan spoke up. "The mission of the Department of Multi-Universal Affairs it to explore, catalog and observe alternate universes, as well as make diplomatic deals with major powers in said universes, usually over mineral rights, food, science… we also facilitate travel for the Esoteric Warfare Unit, when necessary."
"…Thank you, Dr. Bailey. However, in the last few years… diplomatic deals have been on the decline." Broderick showed him some statistics on his tablet. "Down 15% from 2010. Coincidentally, that's the same year your brother left… Trevor, was it? He was in diplomacy, was he not?"
"He was, and he did close a lot of deals… but he's much more useful at Site 19, now. And though we may not have more deals, these are generally more useful."
"…in that case, where is the helium?"
Tristan blinked. "Pardon?"
"The helium, Dr. Bailey. There is a shortage of it, and it is global. You were meant to make a deal on it with… one moment." He looked through his tablet. "F-3426-Delta, regarding rare-earth mineral rights, as well as helium rights. But, you were unable to. Why is this?"
"They were bureaucrats, sir. I ran into someone who was a vice-vice-vice-sub-chancellor of Mining and Industry in that universe. It was impossible to get anything done with them. They all said they had no authority to do make decisions of a scale as large as that."
"Really," said the Tax Man, making a note of that on his tablet. Tristan groaned internally; he was probably writing "Multi-U has a problem with bureaucracy" or somesuch.
"Yes, really. It's hard being a diplomat; I don't know how Trevor does it."
"Fair enough," said Broderick, looking at Claire this time. "Now, what are some of the other universes you have cataloged?"
"In the past year, we've discovered almost 7,000 new Multi-universal coordinates at this facility alone, no less than 240 points of divergence between them."
"To be exact," Tristan cut in, "We've cataloged 6,921 new coordinates and 248 points of divergence."
Claire stepped on Tristan's foot, which was the signal for him to shut up, which he did so. "As I was saying," Claire grinned, "In addition to that, we've discovered over 70,000 new universes in the past five years."
"Yes, but… what is it you actually do?"
Both Claire and Tristan blinked. Tristan spoke up after a while. "I beg your pardon?"
"What is the purpose of this department on a research basis? We've proved the existence of other universes, that the theory was right… why must we continue to breach containment to study them?"
"Containment breaches only apply if the breach occurs in the baseline." replied Tristan, a tone of annoyance in his voice. "And I can think of at least five extra-universal anomalies off the top of my head, two of which either myself or one of my brothers have worked on."
"Why manned expeditions? Why not just send in probes?"
"What would be less noticeable in a universe populated by humans: a floating metal ball, or a guy in a tourist outfit with a camera?"
"Bailey! Shut up." Tristan flinched slightly as Hennessy yelled at him, before she turned back to Broderick. "I apologize for my assistant."
"No need," Broderick said, noting down some things on his tablet. He brought up a file and frowned. "Actually… there's a matter I would like to discuss with Dr. Bailey in private."
Tristan could feel the color drain out of his face as the auditor escorted him into another room.
"Dr. Bailey… for the past eight years, you have requested use of the Multi-Universal Transit Array around December 21st. Prior to 2010, your brothers also requested access. Why is this?"
"Some… some universes can only open up when they're in correct alignment with us." It was utter bullshit, Tristan knew it was utter bullshit, Broderick probably knew it was utter bullshit, but damn if he wouldn't try to cover his ass.
"I see," said Broderick, his face hardening slightly. "Tell me, Dr. Bailey, how is your father?"
"He's dead, sir. Has been for the past 17 years." Tristan felt like he was a school child lying to the principal about who killed the class rabbit.
"Ah. Condolences." Broderick shook his head. "Drop the charade, Bailey. I know what you've been doing for the past eight years. You and your brothers." Broderick brought up some pictures on his tablet; one was clearly dated 2005, and showed Tristan, Tom and Trevor hanging out with a very much alive version of their father. "You will be disciplined for this, no matter what the Director says."
"I take full responsibility, sir." Tristan was shaking slightly, and clicked a pen in his pocket to try and calm himself down. "I encouraged them to go with me to see Tyler Bailey."
"It's rather unhealthy," said Broderick in a neutral tone. "Seventeen years your father has been dead, and you're still grieving. It's time to move on, Dr. Bailey." He typed out something on his tablet. "That is all. Dr. Hennessy will deal with me for the remainder of my time in this department." Broderick moved around Tristan, out of the room.
Tristan Bailey just stood there for a good few minutes, looking stunned, before going to his room, opening a bottle of Antarctican wine Tom had sent him, and downing it, feeling numb the whole time he drank.