November 8, 1998:
Lament looked up at the panel of three doctors, swallowing and licking his lips slightly. "Ma'am?"
"Denied," she repeated. He only knew two of the three doctors seated at the table: Sorts and Vang. The woman in the middle was the one talking to him now, professional and stolid.
"Can I ask why?"
"No," she said simply, closing the file, looking to the side slightly, away from his face. She seemed almost motherly for a moment, like she was about to tell her child that the puppy he'd loved was in Heaven now, and no, it's alright, don't cry.
This wasn't fair. He'd followed all the correct channels. All the correct forms were filled out, everything should be cut and dry.
"Can I ask who, then?" he asked.
She didn't speak for a moment, and it was Sorts who leaned forward, piping up. "You're aware that supervisors have to approve a transfer?" he asked.
Lament ignored the question. "I'm not qualified to be a research assistant," he countered. "It was…" He chose his words carefully. "… an unfortunate set of circumstances that landed me there to begin with. All of you know that. I don't have the degree. I don't have the credentials."
"Jesus, son," muttered Sorts. "Will you pay attention?"
Lament's voice finally cracked as the anger found its way into it, the placidity giving way to a harsh firmness. "Why the hell am I still here?"
"In this… particular case, an exception was made," the woman said. "The problem of your credentials has been overlooked, as well as your training. South Cheyenne is there, if you want to finish your doctorate, and there are several groups that can aid you in meeting the qualifications."
Frustration. Bitterness. "By who?"
She sighed and looked at Lament, pushing a bang back over her ear. The motherly look was back. "Isn't it obvious?" she asked. A small gavel smacked a small sounding block.
"This panel is dismissed."
He hadn't cooled down when he reached his office, and it took him a while to finally step inside of it. When he did, the anger flared back, and Lament found himself simply staring at Gears for a long moment before he finally spoke, keeping the edge out of his voice just barely. "Why?"
A placid and calm expression stared back as the doctor answered. "Your skills are more than sufficient for the work we've been doing, Agent."
"That's not what I mean, damnit!" he said, turning away even as he did, not wanting to look at him. Not wanting to see his face, content to imagine the disappointment and contrition that he knew would not be there. "You know what I mean."
Gears was silent for a moment. "You were a stop gap," he said flatly. "After Doctor Iceberg's incident—"
"—incident, I needed someone who could pick up where he left off, which was the containment of SCP-106. That has been and will continue to be my primary concern. Containment is your specialization. Once we have arrived at a solution, if you still wish to transfer, then I will not deny it."
Lament sat there, taking slow, deep breaths. He didn't know what he should have expected. What he was expecting. Logic and straightforwardness were not always the things he received in these situations.
"All right," Lament said, the tightness in his chest still not abating.
"Do you work well with Assistant Researcher Sandlemyer?" Gears asked.
That… That was an unexpected question. "He's my best friend, sir," Lament admitted. No sense in lying.
"Do you work well with him?" Gears asked again.
"Yes," Lament said with a sigh, wondering where this was going. "Before your gag order, I discussed several of my projects with him."
"Very well," replied Gears. "I will inform Dr. Djoric that he will be assisting us with 106 for the next two weeks. Please update him fully at your earliest convenience."
"I… Yes, sir," Lament mumbled, surprise sapping articulation.
"You're dismissed, Agent. Enjoy your day off."
"I dunno…" Lament said, talking quietly over a cup of coffee in Sandlemyer's office. "I think he's trying to make me happy or something…" he suggested.
"I didn't think he was the kind of person to care," Sandy replied, laughing softly.
Lament looked up at the other man. "He's not like that," he said. "He's not… mechanical or robotic or… He's just…" He paused for a long moment. "Cold," he finished.
Sandy shrugged. "Whatever you say. But I've got no specialization in containment, man. And I'm not sure why he's dragging me on board or what he expects me to do."
Lament shrugged. "Me neither…"
He looked around the room at all the various shelves filled haphazardly with files, books, and papers. The low watt, incandescent bulbs. This office felt homey. Comfortable. Lived in. It felt… good.
"I'll see you in the morning, Sandy," Lament said, setting down the cup on the table.
"Seeya, Lament. Hey! This'll be fun, right? Like when you were over here with us for a few weeks."
"Yeah," Lament said. "Sure." He just wished he could believe it.