It Would Make Sense If That Were True, But Actually It Doesn't Make Sense At All, So Good Luck
rating: +58+x

In an alternate universe…

“This Scranton Reality Anchor thing seems useful as hell. A system that detects and cancels out effects from distorted reality? Why don’t we use them everywhere? In containment, maybe?”

Researcher Charles Vaux, fresh in his promotion to Level 3 and boggling over new permissions and new revelations, looked at a draft for an experimental procedures set and tapped his pen on it.

“Mostly because they’re dangerous,” said Doctor Sophia Light. They were in her office. “You can’t see it yet, but PPE for working with this involves a remotely-operated machine in an isolated chamber. Power supply is totally disconnected until start-time, so it doesn’t accidentally turn on while somebody’s in the room. There’s a reason we’re not using them with organics. They’re very lethal.”

“Figures,” muttered Vaux. “Maybe one day, we’ll get a version of the miracle technology that doesn’t happen to also emit lethal amounts of ionizing radiation, but til then, screw us, I guess.”

“It’s actually more interesting than that,” Light said. “Garrison’s lab worked on this once. It’s not ionizing radiation. It’s not a byproduct. There’s this particular enzyme, converts 5-amino-3-imidazole carboxylate into aminoimadazole.” She paused. “Wait, 4-imidazole.”

“You’re right, this is fascinating.”

“It’s a precursor for glycine synthesis. Essential enzyme, all eukaryotes have it. That enzyme seems to shut down in the Scranton field. If you go inside while it’s on, you don’t die instantly, but a few hours later. Boom.”

“Jesus.” Vaux shuddered.

“It just stops working. I looked into the mechanism of that enzyme a while ago. We don’t know what it is. Not too unusual, right? There are a lot of enzymes, a lot of mechanisms that are mysterious. Matter of time. The structure of the enzyme is also unusual, no similarities with other enzymes. That doesn’t mean much on its own. But it is strange.”

“…Huh.”

“There’s also an entire genus of archaea - Methanosarcina, I believe - that disappears in a Scranton Reality Anchor field. Diss. A. Peers. You can measure the mass difference. It’s not a common organism, no real reason to notice. But it came up in a test somehow, and, well.”

“It what?”

“You notice other things cropping up in sites that have installed the Anchors, sometimes. Ecological disturbances. System failures. It’s not just biology. Some colleagues have noticed text corruption in certain books stored near the fields. Books, can you believe it? They had to remove it at Site 80 in Kurdistan, because it was reacting poorly with Aramaic. The entire language.”

“Uh - ”

“Foundation Physicists I’ve talked to haven’t noticed anything. Chemists either. But one site partially collapsed after their Anchor was first activated, and I don’t know for certain why, but I have an architect colleague with a grant in the works who has some ideas. I can’t tell you why any of this happens. All I have are guesses. But if you’re wondering why these devices aren’t used everywhere, well, this is why.”

“What the fuck? Why all of these weird side effects? This is bizarre.”

“Oh, I don’t think they’re side effects. I think the Scranton Reality Anchor is working exactly as intended.”

Light shrugged. “Science, technology, art, progress, they’re not… they’re not usually careful reasoned extrapolation from fundamental truths, right? They’re accidents, they’re intuitions, they’re lucky guesses. Anomalies aren’t separate from reality. Anyone can do a ritual to summon a demon who grants wishes. Anyone can follow instructions to turn uranium into a nuclear weapon. So the FBI watches out for anyone purifying uranium, and we watch out for anyone summoning demons, because you have to specialize, I guess.

“And we can’t actually contain Aramaic, or glycine,” Light went on. “So nobody brings that up, and the Overseers don’t ask us to try, and we study something else and try to keep the world from ending. You see what I’m saying?”

“Jesus.” Vaux chewed on his bottom lip, and his hands gripped the seat of his chair. “This is why you put this part of the experiment, with the Scranton Anchor, in here, right? To show me. I think I get it.”

“Oh, no.” Light waved a hand. “I actually think the Anchor would be a good instrument here. Let me know if you disagree. But really, this kind of stuff comes up all the time. The Foundation is just really good at making reality look coherent. Anyways, welcome to Level 3.”

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