"How many people does the Foundation employ"
David Wilford was a member of a small men’s club in a small town in West Virginia. Well, they called it a men’s club. The name was rather too dignified for a group of five married men occasionally going out to a shed in the middle of the woods to watch the Game, drink some beers, and fart loudly without their wives pointedly pretending to choke while sitting next to them.
David has forgotten to reclip the secret compartment in his wallet. He doesn’t know it, but through this action he has doomed the blissful ignorance of the entirety of the world that is currently unaware of the anomalous. Here he goes bending down to grab his beer. That is five… four… three… two…
An ID badge adorned with a certain three-pronged shield-and-arrows fell from David’s pocket and landed face-up on the table. David stared in shock for a few crucial moments, allowing John, Marco, Ricky, and Glen to see the symbol. They all simultaneously broke the silence.
“Dave, you work for…”
They all paused, then looked at each other in surprise as they realized that the others had said the exact same thing.
Dave joined in the chorus. “You know about the Foundation?”
There was an encore. “Know? I work for the Foundation. How do you…”
There was another silence, which the other four men used to produce badges of their own with sheepish looks.
“Level 3. Anomalous Engineering,” said Marco slowly.
“Level 2. Research Assistant,” said Glen.
“External Affairs,” said Ricky.
“Level 4. Head Researcher, SCP- er… classified,” said David, looking a bit embarrassed.
“MTF Lambda-64,” said John.
They all looked at each other, and broke out laughing. They spent the night swapping unclassified stories, and ended up stumbling home a lot later and a lot drunker than normal. David emptied his pockets onto the nightstand in the dark, stripped off his clothes, and managed to get into bed without waking Sandra.
David woke up to Sandra shaking him. He groaned, his head banging, his mouth dry, and looked up at her. He sobered up almost immediately when he saw that she was holding his ID in her hand.
Wordlessly, she held up her other hand. There was another badge with her picture on it.
He took his back, stared at his wife in silence, then spoke:
“How many people does the Foundation actually employ?”
“I’m sorry, but it’s classified. Even I don’t know,” Site Director Juarez said to the ten people standing in front of her desk. At David’s insistence, the men had all gone to their wives, ID in one hand, amnestics in the other, and, sure enough, not a single pill was swallowed that night.
“Okay,” John’s wife said. “How about the number of people working at this Site?”
“The number of people from our town working here?” David suggested.
“C’mon, Director Juarez. We don’t even need an exact number,” Glen wheedled. “No names, no personal information. Just give us a rough percentage. I mean, you can always just amnesticize us after. Surely you aren’t just a bit curious about the odds of such a huge coincidence happening?”
Director Juarez hesitated a few moments, agonizing over it, then finally bent over her computer, opened up the personnel files, overrode the multiple firewalls preventing complete access, and found the number of site personnel from David’s town.
She searched the total population.
She opened her calculator and divided the first number by the second, then stared at the results. Eventually, the group sidled around her desk and looked at the number she’d come up with.
Director Juarez said, “How many people does the Foundation employ?”
“Tell the Director that that information is classified, as she well knows,” O5-8 spoke into her phone. She put it down and turned to the other Council members. “What do you mean we don’t know?”
“Well, you know the way we work, Eight,” said O5-4. “Too much knowledge is dangerous, even to us. Besides, with our turnover numbers, an exact number has never been feasible-“
“Well, I want one. Just to satisfy my curiosity. Three. Do you have it yet?”
“Uh… I have it,” came the voice from the computer. “It’s… well…”
The number came up on the screen. The rest of the O5 Council stared.
O5-5 broke the silence: “Is there anybody out there who isn’t aware of anomalies on some level?”
“I don’t know,” said O5-8, her mouth tight, “but I intend to find out.”
The patrons of the Library, and indeed, anybody who held a Library card, whether they were there or not, looked up as an eldritch voice boomed in their heads.
“Will all patrons from Earth timeline B-173 briefly halt and raise their hands for a survey from the Head Librarian?”
The Head Librarian pushed his glasses up, and glanced at the letter in front of him. Then, he raised his tail and began to point and count, “Let’s see now… 1, 2, 3…”
As he reached the tens of thousands, seeing how many people were left, he wished that he had fingers to count on.
Jack Dawkins, also know as The Critic, looked at the display in front of him, then back at the fax in his hand.
“And that’s all of them?”
The artist in front of him said, “Yes, Critic. Every dot on the map represents an active anartist in the world. I based it off of that work you did back in ’09 when you were—”
“Yes, I can see that.” The Critic’s tone made it clear that he was not pleased with derivatives of his work being made.
The artist hesitated. “Er… when you press this button, in theory it should kill or at least incapacitate every artist that doesn’t have our la—“
“Dammit!” the Critic shouted. “How many times have I said not to fucking do that? What is the fucking point of making work that kills anyone who looks at it? The whole damn point of art is to send a message! How the hell can your audience get anything from a piece when it rips their heads off and shoves it in their asses or some shit? That’s not art, it’s fucking bullshit!”
After a few moments, the artist quavered, “s-so… I should make it so the button gets rid of people whose art killed people?”
The Critic’s face went blank for a second, then he laid his head in his hands. “No. I have a very bad feeling that the people who are left would number in the double digits. I’d rather live in ignorance. Just wrap that number up in a nonlethal meme and send it on.”
The numbers came in. An exquisite envelope made from some rare tree arrived from Marshall Carter and Dark. An automaton arrived with an envelope and a request for $10,000 dollars. The Church of the Broken God sent three messages: one by email, one shot from a steam powered cannon, and one on a bird that was slowly being converted to clockwork. Every Group of Interest, major and minor. Every anomalous person. The O5’s loaded them all up into the computer, and waited for it to spit out a list of names. Anyone who hadn’t been on any of the lists sent to them.
Finally, the printer whirred and buzzed, and the O5’s had their answer.
It wasn’t pretty.
Jeremiah Wuthers strolled into his apartment and flopped down in front of the TV. He was beat, and ready to relax for the rest of the night. He flipped the channel to FOX, but instead of being rewarded with the wacky exploits of various yellow caricatures, there was what looked like a meeting room, filled with shadowy figures wearing various odd symbols. Confused and slightly annoyed, Jeremiah turned to TBS, and came face to face with the same picture. He flipped through every channel in his cable package, with the same results.
Some government announcement? he wondered. Then, one of the figures on the screen spoke.
“Hello, people of Earth. Almost all of you will find exactly zero shock in what I am about to say, but, all myths are true. The laws of physics are rather closer to suggestions, and the world is populated by monsters, gods, and human beings with the power to rewrite reality itself.”
Various images of the beings described by the figure flashed across the screen.
“My name is O5-8, and I am one of the leaders of the SCP Foundation. We have called this meeting, with representatives for nearly every major group dealing with anomalies to inform the world that, on some level, everybody knows.
“Yes, we have crunched the numbers, and double checked them, and the number of people who have had absolutely zero contact with any facet of the anomalous world comes to roughly… one person.
“This meeting is a message. The veil is lifted, the masquerade dissolved. Apparently it was so many years ago and nobody noticed. Please be aware that all of our groups are in agreement on one thing: Fundamentally, this changes nothing about anybody’s goals. As far as the Foundation is concerned, there is still a basic normality within the world that allowed life to exist as it has up to now. That is still worth protecting, and we intend to do so. And to a Mr…” Here the figure consulted the paper in front of him. “…Jeremiah Wuthers, if you have any questions, you may call the number below.”
A number flashed briefly across the screen, then the meetingroom disappeared, just in time for Homer to wrap his hands around Bart’s neck. Jeremiah stared for a few moments, then settled back in to watch and sulk a bit.
“Huh, I totally knew the whole time,” he muttered to himself.