In the underbelly of a numberless Site beneath Navi Mumbai, Pavlo Kharkiv sat alone in a dark room with a glass of vodka. One by one, four computer terminals around him flickered to life. They hummed as the faces of his co-conspirators, washed in blue light, loaded into view. He laughed softly to himself as he watched. The Foundation was the most technologically advanced organization on the planet, rivaled only by the Coalition. It had explored regions of space beyond the limits of normal humanity, it conducted business across multiple dimensions, it constructed chambers to hold beings that could be described only as gods. And they still couldn’t figure out how to make a damn video stream load quickly.
He lit a cigarette and watched the light drift upwards, filtering the glow of the computer screens. This would be trial. If he convince himself, make the others see the necessity of his actions, they would be forced to follow his plans. If not… nothing that came afterward would matter.
As he watched the ember consume the cigarette, he wondered how he had come to be in this seat. When had he first realized the lengths he would go to to accomplish his goal? Had it been when the representative of the Watchers first came to him, explained the secret history of the Foundation? Told him of the enemy lurking within his organization’s ranks? Of the secret war going on under his nose? No. Even then, he’d had trouble believing. He hadn’t been sure. He hadn’t known until he’d stood in the ruins of the original Site 19 and seen what had become of the members of the first Foundation.
The screens had loaded. He took a final drag of his cigarette, drawing the flame down to the filter, extinguished it, and turned to look at his jury. “Ladies. Gentlemen. It’s nice to see you.”
“Cut the fucking shit, Pavlo,” said Liam Brook, known to the rest of the world as O5-2. “Tell us what the fuck is happening.”
Pavlo looked to others. “I expect you all feel the same?”
They didn’t respond. They didn’t need to.
Pavlo shrugged, stood. Stay calm. Stay in control. Show them that this was his moment. “I killed Aubrey because it needed to be done. She came too close to understanding our plan. Had I not acted when I did, all we have been working towards would have collapsed.”
“And now it’s definitely going to fucking collapse,” said Liam. His voice came out as almost a growl. It was the most emotion Pavlo had ever seen the man show. “How the fuck are we supposed to cover up a dead O5?”
“It is being handled. Trust me. They will not know until we want them to know. Until then, it will be too late for them to be saved.” He drunk from the vodka. “The body has disappeared. The apartment has been scrubbed clean. Cover stories have been manufactured."
“And how much scrutiny will those stories hold up against?” said Yukiji Endo, director of Site 53. “What could you have possibly come up with on such short notice?”
“They will last enough. But we must begin our plans quickly.” He looked at each of his conspirators in turn. “We have waited too long already.”
“We don’t have ‘plans’,” said Dr. Clef. The image in front of his face was obscured by static. “We have fucking napkin drawings and chalkboard doodles.” He cackled. “I love it. When do we start?”
“What do the Watchers have to say about this?” said Dr. Spencer. Having only just earned the title of full Researcher, she was by far the least experienced member of their group. At first Pavlo had wondered why the Watchers had chosen her. He hadn’t wondered for long.
“They were the ones who first told me of the situation,” said Pavlo. “They must have known how I would handle it.”
The others went quiet. Yukiiji broke the silence first. “So what’s our next step?”
“Isn’t it obvious?” said Clef. “We take down the rest of the fuckers.”
“Don’t be stupid,” said Liam. “Unless you know how to kill every counsel-member and high ranking official at once, we’ll just put them on alert. No. No. We need to gather our tools first.”
“We need to take 2000,” said Spencer.
The others agreed.