Richard Gnosis sat there at his desk, staring at his laptop screen in a mix of bewilderment, shock, and relief. Sure, he knew that there was a group of researchers that had been working for the Hand, spanning the gamut of clearances from Level 1 to Level 4. And yes, he did know that they were planning on escaping their Sites back to… to wherever the hell the Hand held Foundation traitors. But he didn't expect them to be so stupid as to post all their files on the Internet. And yet there it was, the green eyes of SCP-173 staring at him from the screen of his laptop. At least the people responsible had been caught; they didn't bother trying to disguise where the upload was from. But by the time the leak was discovered it was too late to stop it; they'd already managed to upload five entire reports (partially censored, thank God). He closed his laptop screen, unable to take that mocking pixelated glare any longer, leaned back in his chair, and thought.
In his head, he ran through the standard Information Control options, discarding all of them one by one; there was already a noticeable uptick in the amount of searches for Foundation-related keywords. Looking at the results, apparently some random paranormal community or another had found the report on 173 and decided it was interesting. He could use this. He loaded the files on some of the SCPs he was cleared to access for inspiration and got to work writing.
…gains energy from anything it ingests, organic or inorganic…
…reddish brown substance on the floor is a combination of…
…created in the aftermath of WWII, from the remnants of defecting….
A few of the entries were completely unedited versions of real files on SCPs; some of them were copies of false data that had been given to people suspected of being spies. Different fake SCPs for different people would let him figure out who was a traitor leaking data and who just looked guilty. He didn't want to delete the real ones, it might draw suspicion, except… he stopped. His eyes fell on three digits, and his mouse moved over the delete button. He looked at the portrait on his desk, then back. He clicked, and got back to work; he had ideas for characters, so many ideas, and they all had to be written.
He worked hard into the night, his fingers dancing over the keys in an irregular rhythm, pausing for a few minutes to wait for a burst of inspiration, then tapping like raindrops on a windowpane. After a few hours, the words started swimming in front of his eyes, but he pressed on like a man possessed by a Muse until he could write no more. He closed the lid of his laptop, the last thing he saw before he closed his eyes a group portrait of sixteen people. And even when he let sleep him, his characters appeared to him in his dreams, whispering ideas and plot hooks to his subconscious.
When he woke up the next day, he found himself watching his phone walk across his desk. He grabbed it and sat up, rubbing where his cheek had been resting against the metal imprint on his laptop for the past few hours, and read the screen with red eyes. He had a meeting in… an hour. Shit. And it was in room 307 with three people. Shit. He knew exactly what that meant. He splashed some cold water on his face, slapped his cheeks a few times, and read over his files on the security breach.
Meeting with Senior Staff was never enjoyable. They always showed up in threes; It was the smallest number that could both prevent deadlock and allow debate on both sides of an issue, and they preferred to meet together as little as possible. So when Gnosis showed up to the meeting the next day regarding Incident Mike Echo Seven Alpha, he knew roughly what to expect. Three faces, none of whom he was familiar with, stared at him without a single hint of emotion as he entered the door. There was a smell of sterility and rubbing alcohol, and his eyes watered just a little. He took a seat.
"What made you think that the best approach to the worst leak since you started working Information Control was to publicize it?" Dr. Myers, a serious-looking scientist whose balding hair contrasted with his younger features; he couldn't have been older than 40
"Sir, it was my professional judgment that shutting down the site posted by the defectors would only draw more attention, especially given that it would require purging it from search engine caches."
"How does that make a difference? I'm not an expert, but I know we've purged data from engines before. And surely any publicity we might've drawn from the shutdown would be better than… than… this." That was Dr. Hefner, a thin woman who looked to be in her 50s.
"Yes sir, but it's… difficult. My contacts are no longer in positions that allow them access, and remote entry would require more computational power than I can access."
"So you're telling us you're not good enough to do it." The third man was named Gregor; he was the youngest of the three, maybe in his late thirties. He'd obviously never worked in the field; a body shape like that never could have passed the field agent regimen.
"I do not believe, sir, that anybody else could have done any better. Breaking into the systems of an entity such as Google is a highly non-trivial task."
"Your reports indicate that you've developed alternate Senior Staff for the fictional Foundation. Surely you don't intend on maintaining them yourself." Hefner again.
"I… I do, sir." He shifted about uncomfortably in his chair; he knew that this would be the part that would be the hardest for them to swallow. But he had to keep this story going, for his own sake. He could have sworn Myers was writing something down on a notepad just out of his vision.
"So the containment for this leak is going to cause a drain on your resources for the forseeable future?" Gregor looked amused, a grin spreading across his slightly overweight face.
"So why shouldn't we just have the information scrubbed the hard way, then reassign you to Secondary duty?" The grin spread further; he looked about ready to bite his head off.
"With all due respect, sir, part of working in Information Control is the ability to react without explicit authorization from one's superiors. If necessary, I can curb the number of personas required. However, I believe the job can be completed in my spare time."
"I certainly hope so; we don't pay you to sit around and write stories all day." Hefner's pencil-thin lips betrayed the barest hint of a smirk.
"Stories are what I deal in, sir. This is just a different form of disinformation, one that will cloak the truth in a sea of lies."
"I certainly hope you're right, Doctor. Dismissed." Myers stood and left, followed by the other two.
"Thank you, sirs." He quickly rose and exited, then returned to his quarters, trying to lose himself in the crowd of researchers, agents, and Secondary personnel that always flowed through the halls of the Sites. The gravity of what he'd done was catching up to him, and he needed sleep; he was starting to twitch and have thoughts that he thought he had suppressed. So he collapsed in his bed, not bothering to change out of his work clothes, and let sleep claim him. And in his dreams, the characters he had written came back to him, taunting him with his recollections.
And for the next few days, in between other assignments, he worked on the project. Writing stories of love and loss, of happiness and sadness and the entire spectrum in between, of triumph and failure. He didn't publish them all right away; no, he published them over time, trying to build up an audience for his stories. At first, his performance didn't suffer; he contained information breaches well enough, and his supervisors let it slide. But he withdrew more and more into the fantasy of his own creation. Leaks grew in frequency, went unnoticed for longer, and contained more damaging information. And when his door was unlocked from the outside and forced open, he didn't make a sound, save the soft clicking of keypresses.
Final Report on Incident Mike Echo Seven Alpha.
Doctor Gnosis's plan to hide the leaked documents in plain sight has worked; there have been no signs of elevated suspicion regarding the leaked Foundation documents, and further leaks can be brought under the aegis of this one as an 'alternate reality game'. It is quite fortunate that many of the leaked documents are also fake; this gives us the opportunity to detect investigation via standard query-tagging procedure.
However, one aspect of the created fiction is troubling. Two weeks before the Incident, a containment breach in Site ██ led to the death of several Foundation personnel that were good friends with Dr. Gnosis. Many of the invented personalities seem to resemble those of the deceased, and the fictional Foundation possesses the technology to selectively erase memories; it is therefore suggested that Dr. Gnosis be removed from the Incident team as soon as is reasonably possible to avoid escapism or other mental problems.
Addendum: On ██/██/████, five days after the incident, Dr. Gnosis's access to the Mike Echo Seven Alpha project was stripped, and he was forced into psychiatric leave with mandatory counseling regarding the death of his friends. Initial attempts are promising in part due to the threat of mandatory retirement, but efforts must be made in order to prevent a relapse. The password to his account, codename 'T██ A████████████', is unknown and cannot be reset without alerting the host of the information; however, the password for the accounts of the 'characters' have been recovered. Their personas have proven to be too popular to discontinue, and therefore have been assigned to [REDACTED], with stories to be written in their spare time as necessary.