Dr. Margaret Reese was awakened by the sound of Joey Tempest's voice. Rubbing her face and standing up from her desk, she sighed at the loudspeaker outside of her office. Someone had decided to blast "The Final Countdown" by Europe on a loop, and it looked like administration either was having trouble shutting down the system, or just didn't care. "At least it isn't R.E.M.," she sighed. She looked at her clock and sighed; 9:00 on 12/20/12.
She got up and shut her door, before settling back in her chair and looking outside; still no snow, despite being only five days to Christmas. That was weather in a nexus for you. In the spring it would rain Komodo dragon blood, in the summer the little league field would spontaneously combust, and in the fall… you got eggs. But come winter, not a damn snowflake in sight.
There was a knock at her door. "Come in."
Dr. Harold West entered the room, carrying a pair of foam coffee cups; the smell of hot chocolate wafted from them. He gave Dr. Reese a soft smile. "I thought you might like something to drink; you've been working non-stop. Everything all right?"
Margaret Reese shrugged, rubbing her face and taking one of the cocoas. "One of the O5's is being paranoid about the 2012 thing. You know which one, I'd assume."
West nodded, rubbing his head. "Anomalous Objects has been working on 120 potential XK-Class scenarios involving E-Class objects for the past three months; the thing back in October was just a nice distraction."
Reese snorted. "Biology and its various subdepartments are tackling at least 400, and that's just at this site… theology's got the biggest workload, though, poor bastards. I heard Father Reynolds joke about joining the Horizon Initiative if he has to look at another false apocalypse thing."
West looked incredulously at Margaret. "I no longer feel bad for Tristan Bailey. He was whining about having to visit fifteen universes to negotiate evacuation plans."
"Meanwhile," Dr. Reese said, "Theology's got to deal with cross-referencing Meso-American calendars with Biblical visions of the apocalypse, as well as the works of Nostradamus, various prophecies of dubious content… oh, and they also have to forget how to speak Hebrew, apparently. Just in case."
West rolled his eyes and sighed. "Well, regardless, Happy Solstice… if we live to see it."
"Same to you, John."
"Dawn of Second Day… 48 hours remain…" Researcher Chris Hastings snickered under his breath, and drew odd looks from the rest of the staff in the break room. "What? The world's supposed end tomorrow. It seemed pertinent…" Hastings brushed his black, disorderly hair out of his eyes, while Agent Nicholas Ewell simply shook his head.
"Get real, Hastings. Just because the Foundation's scrambling all of its resources trying to find an XK-Class scenario doesn't mean it's gonna happen." Ewell slathered some cream cheese on his bagel, wondering if he should try some of the fat-free stuff instead; he was starting to get, as Jackie from humanoid studies put it, "love handles".
"I know, Nick. I'm jokin'- the stuff that's supposed to happen is way too far-fetched for this or any universe." Hastings put several packets of sugar in his coffee; he always thought the artificial sweetener was worse for you than the real stuff. "You hear about the one with the raspberry jam covering the western hemisphere?"
"I thought it was boysenberry… whatever the hell that is." Ewell looked at his watch. "Speaking of berries, isn't the botany department starting those tests on E-672?"
Hastings blinked. "That's today?" He slapped his forehead. "Crap, Partridge is gonna have my ass!" Hastings quickly chugged his coffee, wiped his mouth on his sleeve, picked up his briefcase, and ran for the door.
"Well, it's official. The world is going to end because of Gangnam Style!"
Akio Naguri blinked at Ryan Melbourne's outburst, looking up from his guide to memetic hazards and a book on the Aztec Calendar. "What are you talking about?" Ryan beckoned Naguri over to his cubicle across the aisle from him; on his computer screen was a rather disturbing image.
"…the hell is this?"
"Nostradamus meets PSY, apparently." Melbourne frowned. "Some people on the internet have been joking that Gangnam Style is a sign of the apocalypse, but this…"
Naguri rubbed his face and sighed. "Is it bad that, compared to the other shit we're seeing today, this almost makes sense?"
S & C Plastics went to sleep.
At least, most of the site did. A few were still up, trying to figure out what, if any, potential XK-Class scenarios would play out tomorrow. Over 6000 had already been ruled out by the Foundation as a whole, most of them religious; all procedures were still in effect, and not a single Keter skip was out of place.
At 23:50, Chris Hastings was observing E-672, a cluster of mistletoe growing on a yew tree within Greenhouse 3, in back of the S & C Plastics building. He yawned broadly, and looked at his watch. "10 minutes to the end of the world…" He touched the bark of the tree, looking up at the mistletoe. "You aren't going to force me to kiss anyone, are you?" E-672 didn't respond because, of course, it was a plant. He looked at the placard on the tree underneath, essentially a tl;dr of its file.
- Specimen of Viscum album
- Anomalous behavior first exhibited in 1632
- Long-living- single strand has survived for over 350 years
- Shows physical activity only on winter solstice
- Berries can be consumed safely, despite the toxicity of a normal Viscum album specimen.
Chris had never tried the berries. They were supposed to be very good.
The day's battery of tests had revealed nothing out of the ordinary, other than a resistance to fire. The whole of the site was too focused on potential XK-Class disasters to be worried about a simple bit of mistletoe. "You don't care about the Mayan calendar. About any of this. Tomorrow will just be another day for you." He looked at his watch. Five minutes to go. "Nothing's gonna happen."
Midnight came, and as it turns out, Christopher Hastings was right. E-672 showed no anomalous activity, other than a slight rustling of the leaves and low-level luminescence. Shaking his head, Researcher Hastings took some notes, stepped out of the hothouse…
…and into the first snowfall of the year.