Gregory awoke in a large room, tied to a chair. At least, he guessed it was a large room, and that it was a chair. Gregory couldn't actually see anything - as best as he could tell, he was blindfolded. He tried moving around, only to be rewarded by the chair tipping over.
"Well Gregory, you're in quite a bit of trouble," a monotone voice rang out.
Gregory was suddenly swung back up, and the duct-tape securing the blindfold was ripped from his face.
With a freshly waxed face and his scream echoing in his ears, Gregory was confronted by a warm, moderate light and a splash of lukewarm water to the face.
"Do you know why you're here?" the voice asked him again.
Gregory was too busy trying to cough up the water to answer.
"Cat got your tongue? Your grobnax? Or whatever it is?" The voice was smooth and one-tone yet hinted at bitterness, like Cognac that had been pissed in.
"What are you talking about?" Gregory spluttered. His eyes started to water, and he had to fight to avoid bawling them out.
"It's quite simple Gregory. You've been snooping around."
Gregory's eyes adjusted to the light swiftly and then wished that they hadn't.
He was strapped to a plastic chair in a small concrete room. Looming over him was a fat, stout, thimble-shaped, puke-colored droid riddled with instruments of what appeared to be painful death. LEDs on the top of the droid and the three tires at its base glowed with malice, making the contraption resemble an eldritch marital aid.
"I don't even know what's going on. I have no idea what you're talking about," Gregory choked out.
"No idea?" The droid's voice remained the same, but Gregory swore that he could detect its temper rising. "I'd say you have a pretty good idea what's going on, Dr. Gregory Plump, assuming that that's your real name."
"I don't, okay? I don't know what's going on! I'm sorry b-but I don't know what's, what's happening!" Gregory pleaded.
"I think you do, Gregory. Let me cut to the chase. We're going to have a talk. If I don't like what you say, you're going to wake up in a Keter-class containment cell. If I do… well, we'll get to that."
The droid whirred over to Gregory's chair and pushed it. Gregory felt the adrenaline rush of meaningless fear and the pounding of his hearts in his chest before the chair failed to topple over.
"It's simple, Gregory. I have one question. What did you read about Ess-See-Pee Three-Five-Four?"
The droid carefully and harshly emphasized every syllable of the designation without actually doing so. Presumably to intimidate Gregory.
Gregory spilled his intestines like a startled Scottish chef.
"I don't knoooooooow!" he wailed, tears pouring from his eyes.
"I - I - sniff, I was just translating the hic document into swa-swah-Swahili! I - I hic was just reading everything on the page! It's - it's some kind of interdimensional portal that's spawning-spawning these anoma-hic-lous creatures exc - except it's some hic k-kind of coverup for something but it hic doesn't - doesn't say wh-what and I swear that's all I know p-please hic don't hurt me!" Gregory pleaded.
The droid moved back, its lights flashing to a sluggish tempo. Since it had been turned on, not a single detainee had cracked this quickly. The droid altered its cadence to resemble a soothing female tone.
"Gregory, do you know why I'm asking you these questions? Trust me, Gregory, I'm not doing this because I enjoy it. I just want what's best for both you and the Foundation."
It was lying.
"I-hic- know, b-but I swear, I didn't do hic anything! I just opened up all the t-t-tabs on the page!" Gregory blubbered, words and tears gushing from his face.
"Good work, Gregory. Now we're getting somewhere. See, all you have to do is cooperate and it'll be over quickly. Next question. Gregory, how exactly did you know that it was a coverup?"
"It… it sniff just said so on the, the page," Gregory whimpered.
"What do you mean it just said so on the page?"
"It - it was just there on the p-p-page!"
An arm popped out of the droid, brandishing a laser weapon of some kind. With the hand-cannon pointed at Gregory, the droid advanced. Gregory tried to cower, but only managed to topple onto his back.
"Gregory, did it ever occur to you that perhaps there was something, oh, perhaps, unconventional about a coverup document explicitly stating that it was a coverup?"
"I - I mean… I didn't… I didn't think about it. I assumed… I thought that, uh, I had been given clearance to view the full document to translate it."
"You translated the entire document, word-for-word, coverup and all, into sixteen different languages across every single Foundation site on the planet. This was one of the biggest information breaches in Foundation history."
The laser began to whine. The droid's voice remained as peaceful and monotone as ever.
"In fact, this little disaster isn't even the concerning part. There are, of course, contingencies for this kind of… accident. The concern is how you saw the hidden writing in the first place. There was an extremely powerful antimemetic in place to prevent any human being from seeing it."
The barrel started to glow.
"Gregory, there have been exactly fifteen human beings in existence who have been able to see past that antimeme. All of them, except for you, had to be inoculated against it first. Do you see where I'm going with this?"
Unfortunately for Gregory, he did.
"If only inoculated human beings can see past that meme, and you weren't inoculated…"
The mammoth beam fired.
Before it could cleave through Gregory, his skull did the cleaving for it. Gregory's head parted down the middle, with only faint tendrils of blood and brain matter in between. Then the two segments of head quickly grew little spindly legs of bone and uprooted themselves from his neck, taking some spinal cord with them and then relocating to Gregory's collarbone. Then they tried to look at each other - failing that, they settled on watching the droid nervously.
"…I'd say you aren't human."
Gregory was once more tied uncomfortably in front of a computer screen, helpfully provided on the front of the droid's body. The computer screen showcased the cause of his discomfort: O5-10. More specifically, O5-10's impressively toned physique, apparent even through the silhouette that was only present onscreen.
"Happy, what am I looking at?" O5-10 asked.
"A Dubbligand," the droid answered. "Didn't come through the pool. Hitched a ride to Earth through a dimensional crosslink. Banned under our interdimensional treaties, as you are aware. And then it got a job at the Foundation. Say hello to Dr. Gregory Plump, senior linguistics analyst at Site-42."
"How did we find him?"
"He'd been under surveillance for a few weeks. We caught him when he opened up the hidden files on SCP-354. He saw past the security antimemetic device. The full report should be on your desk in five minutes."
"I'll have to talk to Wheeler about that. What do you suggest we do with Plump?" O5-10 asked. Gregory could feel the Overseer's gaze boring a hole into him. His parietal lobe started itching, and the halves of his mouth ached.
"I personally suggest that we deport it. Kick it back through the crosslink. We need to set an example for any other… infiltrators. Prove that we are not messing around, as it were."
"According to his most recent review, Dr. Gregory Plump has been a valuable asset thus far. Correct?"
The droid seemed to sag. "Well, yes. Its primary duty at the Foundation had been translating archaic and extraterrestrial languages - a task at which it had quite a bit of success."
Gregory could not for the life of him understand how the droid could convey so much hatred through two lights on the top of its dome.
"And you reported earlier that after Dr. Feldman's… demise, communication with the pool had been stifled, causing a, it says here, thirty percent decrease in traffic flow," O5-10 noted.
"Dr. Plump. Get your head together. Happy still has some questions for you."
The halves of Gregory's head carefully stood up, then maneuvered up his collarbone onto the portion of spine protruding from his neck. They promptly sat back down with a squelch. Gregory waited several seconds while his innards realigned, then rasped, "Ready."
"You've been under surveillance for the past three weeks primarily for your interest in SCP-354. Tell me, do you know what it is?"
"Some sort of portal that periodically spawns dangerous creatures?"
"At least the cover story works. No, it's more like an inter-dimensional airport."
"Excuse me?" Gregory spluttered.
"Happy will give you a more detailed explanation, but the long and short of it is that the Foundation allows creatures from different universes, timelines, and dimensional planes asylum into our own universe -not planet, mind you- in exchange for information, resources, and technology. As you may realize, this runs counter to our… 'public' mission, hence the secrecy. " O5-10 enunciated. "So," he wondered out loud, "what do we do with you?"
Gregory was still having some trouble digesting the information. Wisely, he chose to remain silent.
"Sir, my official designation is H-4-P-P-Epsilon. As I said, I believe that it would be in our best interests to-"
O5-10 cut the droid off. "Happy, execute subroutine Omega Questionnaire. Dr. Plump, much as I would like to thoroughly interrogate you, I have to negotiate yet another deal with that petulant little troll Kim in fifteen minutes. Instead, I will ask you a few questions, and the droid will take care of the rest."
"Sir, I am a highly advanced, multi-dimensional hive-mind quantum-computing artificial intelligence housed within a biomechanical interface, not a droid."
As it protested, Happy sprouted another arm, with several sharp, probing instruments attached to the end of it. With swift, dexterous robot fingers, it began inserting them deep into most of Gregory's exposed orifices. This was unsurprisingly uncomfortable (and surprisingly arousing).
These physiological beacons will measure your responses. First question: did you come alone to this universe?"
"Erm… yeah. I mean no! No. Four others came with me but I didn't know them. Three of them headed off to Alpha Centauri. I think the fourth one is still on Earth somewhere but I don't know?"
In fact, the fourth one eventually found fame and fortune beyond shklee's wildest dreams as David Bowie.
Happy beeped, and the lights turned green.
"Have you been sharing any information related to the Foundation with any other aliens?"
"No! Definitely not!" Plump swore, his voice muffled by the probe in his mouth.
"Well, not really-"
Happy beeped again, and its lights flashed green again.
"How did you get to Earth and what did you do between that point and today?"
"Erm," Gregory answered, wishing that he could scratch his head, "I'm not entirely sure. I, uh, paid someone to help me get through. I just remember being told… to lie down in a cryogenic harvesting pod which was very unn - unnerving by the way because those pods were usually used to gut, uh, animals, but I trusted the guy because of his references and I really just wanted a new start because I couldn't find any jobs back ho - back home because I'm not a bad person really I just wanted a job and - a job and maybe a fresh start and someplace my skills would be useful honestly that's the only felony I've committed and I've never even gotten a traffic ticket before and -"
"That's not an answer," O5-10 noted.
Gregory gamely stuttered out the pertinent answer. "I lay down in the pod and the next thing I know I'm on Earth, in this universe, somewhere between the US and Mexico. That was thirty years ago. I found a job as an accoun- as an accountant for a few years, forged some references, wrote a few linguistics papers and sent them to a journal, that landed me a position at the University of Iowa for about a decade, and then I got hired by the Foundation. That was fourteen years ago."
"Are you entirely loyal to the Foundation?"
"Yes - yes, of course!" Gregory proclaimed, pumping a fist in the air.
Happy beeped again, and its lights flashed.
"Would you lay down your life to secure and contain anomalies, and protect all mankind?"
"Of course I would!"
Happy didn't beep. Its lights turned red.
"Processing," it intoned. The lights on its dome flashed for several seconds before it beeped again." "Personality determination algorithm complete. Dr… Gregory Plump has been classified as Low Risk, High Cowardice, Extreme Sycophancy, Moderate Intelligence. Primary recommended course of action is continued employment. Secondary recommended course of action is immediate termination.”
O5-10 considered the information, mulling over it. He metaphorically gnawed on it like a stuffed grape leaf, investigating the flavor with his tongue and fermenting the idea into a plan. Now he'd made himself hungry, and when he was hungry he was testy. “Dear God, is this the best our screening protocols can do? Alright, Plump. We can't keep you in the regular Foundation, god only knows what you'd release next. We could shoot you, but that seems a waste of bullets. No, I have a better idea… Are you familiar with !@%$%^&&^%#?"