Foundation Command-02, Washington, D.C.
Thursday, 22 December 1988, 0755 hours local time
The early morning sun illuminated the large lobby as Timothy Harper strode into the the Foundation's Command-02 Headquarters in Washington, D.C. Though it could not compare to Overwatch HQ, its proximity to one of the world's most powerful capitals ensured it was one of the Foundation's main decision-making nexuses. It was a relatively unremarkable seven-story limestone office building like so many others in the city. Faceless, nameless drones in the vast bureaucracy flitted in and out of the building, not unlike the other buildings in the Federal Triangle.
After passing speedily through the obligatory security checkpoint, Harper browsed the headlines of his paper as he made his way to his tiny office on the third floor. A plane bombing in the UK was the leading story. Nasty business, international terrorism, Harper thought. Not his area of concern, though. Probably. He was one of the Foundation's top counterintelligence investigators. Pushing fifty, his black hair was streaked with gray from many late nights spent on the job. The job nearly cost him his family as well: though a drunk driver had taken away his family ten years ago Christmas Day, he discovered going through his late wife's papers that she was planning to file for divorce and seek custody of the children. With his family's death, he'd thrown himself into his work, finally accepting a promotion as Section Chief, followed a couple years later by a further promotion to his present job of Roving Special Investigator.
"Morning, Troy," Harper grunted. He and Troy Muir, a former intelligence case officer invalided out of field operations when he lost his right leg, shared the cramped office. "Where's Monica?" he asked, referring to Monica Daniel, the grad student from GWU who was interning in the CI Directorate. Always on the lookout for talent, the Foundation was more than happy to pay for someone's education, assuming they passed a thorough background check, signed a four hundred page non-disclosure agreement, and agreed to work three years for every year of schooling the Foundation funded.
"Errand to the Ethics Committee Clerk's Office, I think." His one-legged office-mate looked up. "Tim, they want you on the seventh floor ASAP," Muir reported with a frown.
"Any idea which way the wind was blowing?" Harper asked. A summons to the seventh floor, domain of the directors and overseers, was rarely a happy prospect.
"They didn't say," Muir replied. Harper nodded, and left.
Harper was met on the seventh floor by a security officer. Only those with Level 5 security clearance were permitted on the floor without an escort. The guard led him to a darkened conference room and ushered him in. A severe dark-haired woman in her mid-thirties stood alone, looking out the heavily-tinted window at the Capital Building. Harper recognized her as O5-7, one of the Overseers. Though none of the Overseers had an assigned specialization, it was Harper's understanding that Seven tended to take particular interest in the Foundation's intelligence matters. He'd seen her speaking with Director McDonnell before, but had never actually met her himself.
"Mr. Harper," Seven said quietly in greeting, not turning around. "Leave us." The security guard excused himself.
"Ma'am," Harper said.
"The Foundation is under attack, Mr. Harper," the Overseer stated, her back still to him. "Two nights ago, acting on an anonymous tip, under Counterintelligence Director McDonnell's personal supervision, MTF Xi-13 raided a warehouse outside London. They recovered a large number of classified documents relating to the Foundation and several groups-of-interest. Some of these documents apparently suggested the existence of a plot to assassinate several members of the O5 Council, including myself."
"I assume plans are in place to handle the situation, ma'am?" Harper asked, hiding his alarm.
"There are plans in place, yes, Mr. Harper. The Foundation has plans for everything," Seven replied. "More concerning than the apparent plot is the implication of these documents. According to Director McDonnell's initial report, the Foundation documents found indicated the breach was caused by someone with at least Level 4 clearance, if not Level 5. The penetrations of the GOC, Serpent's Hand, Chaos Insurgency, IRG, Factory, Prometheus Labs, Wondertainment, Church of the Broken God, and MC&D appear to all comparably high level."
At this revelation, Harper's eyes widened. Somebody had top level penetrations of nearly every major player behind the Veil, including the Foundation, and this was the first they were finding out about it? Nobody was that good.
As if sensing his thoughts despite having her back turned to him, Seven continued, "I hardly believe it myself, Mr. Harper, but as you no doubt realize, we cannot dismiss the possibility of such a turn of events out of hand simply because it is unlikely or unpleasant. After all, this organization deals with the impossible and the unthinkable every day. The Council decided to hold an emergency meeting where Director McDonnell could present the documents personally. Unfortunately, this is no longer possible. Last night, Overseer Five and his bodyguard, Counterintelligence Director McDonnell, and two American intelligence officers who have assisted our Middle Eastern operations were killed when an on-board explosion brought down Pan Am Flight 103 over Scotland. McDonnell had the original copies of the seized documents in a diplomatic pouch. Moments later, a Foundation document repository in Manchester was bombed. That document repository held the only existing copies of the seized documents. Our recovery teams report no evidence that either version of the documents survived."
"Which both lends credence to the reality of this penetration's threat, and suggests the plotters were responsible for the attacks," Harper observed. He felt like someone had punched him in the gut - McDonnell had been an old friend, someone he could trust in a business where trust was the scarcest of commodities, but there would be time for grieving later.
"The surviving members of the Council drew the same conclusion, Mr. Harper," Seven nodded, finally turning to face him. Her narrowed eyes flashed dangerously over high cheekbones. To call the Overseer angry would have been no small understatement. "We have already taken measures to ensure our personal protection. The other Overseers believe this will be sufficient; I disagree. I have convinced them we need to investigate this apparent conspiracy, fully but also quietly. If the conspirators believe they are about to be discovered, it is not at all unreasonable for them to either go to ground and disappear, or decide to cut their losses and attempt even more direct action. Right now, the Council has no idea what the ultimate goal of the conspirators is. This makes them even more dangerous in the Council's eyes. And while you and I both have enough experience in the intelligence hall of mirrors to take that in stride, most of my fellow Overseers are scared. They are mainly former scientists and uncomfortable when dealing with the uncertainties of political intrigue." Seven moved to the conference table separating them. She slid a folder across the table to him. "This is everything we know about the security breach, the two direct attacks, and the conspiracy as a whole," she observed. This was less than encouraging: it amounted to perhaps a half dozen sheets of paper. "You will be conducting the investigation. The Council has voted to temporarily grant you Level 5 clearance," she declared, handing him a new black identification card, "and you will report to me personally. Keep the cards close to the vest on this one - potentially anyone could be involved."
"Moscow Rule number three, ma'am," Harper observed with a wry smile. Everyone is potentially under opposition control. "If I may, why are you trusting me with this? I know I'm not a conspirator, but you don't."
"You're one of the best see-eye guys we have, Mr. Harper, and you have been cleared for the highest security clearance known to mankind. The possibility that you are involved is remote, and in any case I expect regular and detailed reports of all your findings. If I find out you're withholding things from me, I will bring the full force of the resources at my disposal upon you. You will spend the remainder of your days in the deepest, darkest, least pleasant hole I can find," the Foundation Overseer stated calmly. Then she flashed a smile that was clearly meant to be disarming but instead made the hair on Harper's neck stand on end. "But I don't expect that to be a problem, Mr. Harper."
"No, ma'am," Harper said.
"Excellent! If there is anything you need, let me know," Seven beamed. "You may brief in Mr. Muir and Ms. Daniel if you believe their assistance would be helpful, but do keep the cards close to the vest."
"Of course," Harper replied.
"Thank you. That will be all," she said. Harper wasted no time leaving the room.
"That's all we have," Harper finished the run-down, putting the folder down on his desk and looking across at Muir and Monica.
"Hm," Muir grunted. "For a moment there, Tim, I thought we were going to have trouble with this one." He pulled out his reading glasses and started thumbing through the folder.
Monica failed at hiding her alarm. "Do we always have so little to go on?" she asked. "How do we even know where to start?"
Harper started thinking aloud. "Let's start with something simple. What organizations did McDonnell's preliminary report suggest were penetrated?"
Monica read off the relevant sheet of paper, "Looks like the Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution; Baasch Engineering Corporation; the Chaos Insurgency; the Church of the Broken God; the Factory; the Foundation; the Global Occult Coalition; Huntington Arms, Inc.; Marshall, Carter, and Dark; Prometheus Labs; the Serpent's Hand; Saito Mining Industries; Wallace Security Enterprises; Dr. Wondertainment; and various branches of the American, British, Chinese, French, German, and Soviet governments. That's all based on documents recovered in the warehouse raid." She looked up, "How the hell did someone manage to penetrate essentially all the major commercial, political, and paranormal groups without somebody noticing? How is this the first we've heard of it?"
Harper lit a cigarette. "Well," he said thoughtfully, "just because they had documents - even top level documents - related to all those organizations doesn't mean they managed have moles in all of them. And even if they do have moles with access to such sensitive materials, that doesn't mean the moles are in a position to do much beyond steal documents. Monica, what's your security clearance?"
The graduate student blinked, "Foundation, or US government?"
"Both," replied Harper, taking a puff on his cigarette.
"Level 3 and TS," she replied, looking slightly confused. "But I'm just an intern."
"And yet you have access to some truly sensitive information," Muir observed, not taking his eyes off the document he was reading. "Such as this investigation."
"Precisely," Harper continued. "These are, for the most part, groups employing hundreds to tens of thousands of people. It only takes one traitor."
"So how do we know what the opposition wants?" asked Monica.
Harper smiled, "We don't - yet. But one does not simply invest the resources necessary to penetrate so many powerful organizations on a whim. We shall find out soon enough."
Monica frowned. "This still doesn't give us a starting point."
"Perhaps this does," Muir said. He began quoting the page he was reading: "'According to Foundation personnel embedded within the Scottish constabulary, the explosion is consistent with detonation of a small but powerful explosive device. Preliminary chemical testing of explosive residue suggests the use of pentaerythritol tetranitrate (PETN) and cyclotrimethylene trinitramine (RDX), two of the primary ingredients in Semtex-H. However, the size and location of the original explosion relative to the quantities of PETN and RDX found, coupled with the complete incineration of both the diplomatic pouch carried by Robert McDonnell and McDonnell himself, suggests Semtex was not, in fact, the explosive used. It is recommended Foundation investigative staff examine the possibility of SCP objects or other as-yet uncontained anomalies as the source of the explosion."
"Just what we needed, Troy," Harper said. "Monica, go down to Central Records and have them pull all the files on anomalous objects and entities capable of causing explosions. Be sure to include the ones presently in containment; we can't rule out a theft."
"On it," she said, leaving.
Harper turned to Muir, "Any indications on the explosion in Manchester?"
Muir nodded, "Looks like that actually was Semtex. The police have linked it chemically to several attacks by the Irish Republican Army."
"The IRA? Could it really just be a coincidence?" Harper frowned, lighting a fresh cigarette.
Muir shook his head. "No way," he said. "The match was far too easy - it was an older batch with a composition more useful for demolition than killing. Great if you want to destroy papers in a safe, but not as useful for inflicting human casualties. It also doesn't match their usual MO, since Carnegie was prominently Catholic. I suspect we were just meant to believe they did it."
"Interesting," Harper said, taking a long blow on his cigarette. "Very interesting."