Arthur Rodrick gazed up at the massive building before him from underneath his umbrella. Giant glowing letters that read "Prometheus Labs, Inc." Arthur thought it a little odd to pick such an unprofessional font, but had to admit it fit the Greek styles present in the organization's name and their facilities' architecture. Once under the colonnade, Arthur collapsed his umbrella and pushed at the double doors.
He couldn't quite put his finger on the reason, but something about the building put him off. He hadn't experienced the feeling until he had entered, but the moment he passed through the doorway he couldn't help but feel something was different, somehow.
The rounded lobby led off into several different subsections of the facility, keypads and card scanners the only acting guards. Sitting in the center of the room was a receptionist, nose deep in a book. A researcher sat on the edge of the receptionist's desk, a clipboard in one hand and a very bored look on her face.
Arthur's footsteps echoed more times than he thought they really had any right to. The two women looked to him with bored indifference. "Hello. My name is Arthur Rodrick, I'm from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration."
This was not entirely a lie. Arthur was legally employed by OSHA, though he arguably paid businesses less visits than most of his coworkers. This was due to the fact that Arthur paid visits to very specific types of organizations. Those designated as a possible cause for worry for the Foundation. The researcher was probably aware of all this, but for the sake of classification he kept to the OSHA name.
"Oh, finally!" the researcher exclaimed. She launched herself off the desk and nearly jabbed Arthur in the chest when she offered her hand. "Alissa Grey. Welcome to our main facility. Come on, there's plenty to show you."
She led him off through one of the various doors, sliding her ID card to open any doors along the way. Arthur half-listened to her prattle on amicably about their various destinations, his attention drawn to the ancient Greek artwork on the walls. The portraits watched him with equal interest. He experimented with a wave and a goddess gave him a short nod in return.
The staff lounge was a small but cozy room, half of it devoted to armchairs and couches facing a large TV. Arthur gave the rooms a quick inspection and found everything satisfactory save for a large black object against one wall. It had hundreds of round buttons on it, small plaques next to each naming various junk foods. At the bottom was a small reservoir, as if to catch whatever the thing produced.
"Can you… explain to me what I'm looking at?"
Alissa looked up from her bag of chips. "Vending machine. Go ahead, it's free."
Arthur hit the button for a package of cookies and waited. After a moment a soft thud signaled the machine had properly vended. He checked the expiration date.
"This expired fifteen years ago."
"Huh? Oh, right, right. This isn't a normal vending machine. You see, this machine does not contain time. We've removed all the time from it, via secret hush hush science. And so now the internal mechanisms basically operate outside of traditional spacetime."
Ignoring the impossibility of it, Arthur tried focusing on a possible reason. "You've… removed time… from a vending machine."
"Right! It has no internal concept of past or future, it only exists in the now. So by interacting with the outer interface we're able to access an infinite supply of foodstuffs that were loaded into the machine in our past or future. We actually use the same technology for our video surveillance system. It's very handy."
Arthur ripped open the packaging and took a cautious nibble, then a wary bite, then he shoved what remained of the cookie in his mouth. Arthur drew a second cookie from the package as he stared at the machine. On one hand, it violated causality. He was fairly sure the Foundation was fond of causality. On the other, he now spotted a plaque naming a snack that had stopped being produced in his childhood.
"How exactly does this work?" Arthur asked through his second cookie.
"Told you, sir, it's a secret."
Arthur swallowed. He knew what that must mean. "It's anomalous."
Alissa only smiled.
"How many have been produced?"
"Don't know. But we're not selling them, if that's what you're worried about. Purely an in-house commodity."
"Is it safe?"
"It has to be, doesn't it?" She pressed one of the buttons for a donut brand Arthur didn't recognize. Once dispensed, she showed him the packaging. It expired in thirty years. "The inside experiences its entire existence at once. If it were to ever break, it'd always be broken. There are some defunct ones, but they're always found immediately without any issues."
"You're playing with fire here, Dr. Grey. You say this stays behind your doors, but what of your other projects? The masses aren't ready for this sort of thing."
Alissa smirked and responded, "Are you aware of our name, Mister Rodrick?"
He wondered if that particular exchange was common during these inspections. She certainly looked proud enough of herself to suggest otherwise. Arthur nodded and gestured for the lounge exit.
"Shall we continue?" he asked, slightly humored.
As she showed him around, Arthur came to the conclusion that these people were working under a very different rule set than the rest of the world. The scientists would explain how something worked, using logic Arthur either couldn't follow or outright knew was scientifically inaccurate. But their projects worked, their technology seemed safe. Safe enough as far as the Foundation was concerned, at least. He was particularly intrigued by the teleport device they were working on. He watched for almost twenty minutes, men and women appearing and reappearing from atop a platform.
"So, basically," Alissa said as she began to brief him on the final stop. "This stems from the technology we used for the vending machine. She opened up a cabinet and pulled out what seemed to be two old astronaut suits. "With the established fact that machinery can function in a place without time, we reasoned that organics can function in a place without space. So we developed this void chamber."
"I don't understand," Arthur admitted as they began to don the suits. That did not seem like a very sound conclusion to reach.
"Turns out we were wrong." Arthur wasn't sure if she had heard him, but he felt somewhat vindicated as he shoved a leg into the suit. "You need air to breathe, and obviously a void doesn't have that. So we took up the design of old diving suits. One abyss is like another, we figured, and so long as we had air we'd be fine."
"Okay…" Arthur was surprised how light the suit was. He slid his arms into the sleeves and stood. Even the giant dome of a helmet was easy to lift.
"So we combined the technologies." Alissa's voice was an odd, muffled sound from within her helmet. "Using timeless air strapped to our backs, we can enter the void. It's a bit disorienting, but you get used to it. And because the speed of an object's motion is inversely proportional to the viscosity of the medium, and we're in a vacuum, everything moves super-fast."
Arthur thought for a moment. Prometheus Labs and the Foundation had worked under NASA for a brief time, when it was thought that reaching space would require something a tad abnormal. "Wait, this is the technology from Project Apollo, isn't it?"
"Right." Alissa's voice leaked from the small speakers in his helmet. "See, buying up area for new labs is expensive. And digging down isn't always the best option. So we started the Void Program. We weren't sure how to solve the whole collapsing void issue, and then you let us play with that little cuboid thingy to simulate outer space and it became super easy."
"You made it seem like you have more than one of these 'void' chambers. How is that possible if we have the only SCP-184 contained?"
Alissa was quiet for a moment, her face hidden behind the dark glass of the helmet. "That's classified."
"Of course. My apologies."
Entering the void chamber required them to go through several air locks. It was a monotonous progress, involving little more than waiting to move on to the next room so they could wait some more. Until the final room, which contained nothing before them but an empty archway. The black nothingness inside and beyond the arch unsettled Arthur like nothing he had seen thus far, but Alissa strode toward it as confidently as the suit allowed.
"Now, Arthur," she said when she stopped at the threshold. "Entering this place is a bit of a trying experience. The parts of your body that enter are accelerating at a significantly greater rate than the rest of you. It's not fun, and you'll freak out because suddenly it looks like your arm is gone. But you just have to keep going. Don't stop, and you'll be fine."
And then she stepped into the darkness, an invisible curtain wrapping around her. Then Arthur was alone in the room. This seemed something that was not safe. Or sane, really. But he knew that laboratories were dangerous places. He also knew danger would only truly present itself if you broke away from procedures. So he took a deep breath, held it, and ran into the nothingness.