Tosui was the Zen master who left the formalism of temples to live under a bridge with beggars. When he was getting very old, a friend helped him earn his living without begging. He showed Tosui how to collect rice and manufacture vinegar from it, and Tosui did this until he passed away.
While Tosui was making vinegar, one of the beggars gave him a picture of the Buddha. Tosui hung it on the wall of his hut and put a sign beside it. The sign read:
"Mr. Amida Buddha: This little room is quite narrow. I can let you remain as a transient. But don't think I am asking you to help me to be reborn in your paradise."
SCPs and Tales referenced, derivative elements and Author's Notes—spoiler-heavy:
SCPs alluded to:
"No, I mean 882. 554 is what the reactionaries call it, because they don't have the original 554 any more. That's because we got it back in the 70s. It's a mirror that swaps you with a duplicate from a dimension with reversed chirality, for reference. Utterly fucking useless."—the former SCP-554, replaced by the author's 'The Perfect Murder'
"Then the reactionaries suckered in most of our forces by leaking evidence they were going to (…) use this thing to destroy human consciousness—everywhere—unless we showed. They keep it in Pyongyang now in co-operation with the North Korean government…"—SCP-1427
"Let's just say Her Majesty got an up-close-and-personal experience with a rather extreme outbreak—some sort of self-help book gone literally viral"—SCP-1425
"He went to Maggie, who of course had been involved with the Ronald Reagan thing and knew a fair bit"—SCP-1981
""Really? Is that what they said it stands for? Heh." He suddenly looked awkward. "I mean, that sort of makes sense. Wouldn't want people to know what racist fucks they are.""—SCP-1851-EX
"stupid fucking junket to Jakarta"—the author's SCP-1251
"A universe without guilt! No Chaos Insurgency, no Foundation at all, unfounded—"—a nod to the Unfounded collaboration, at time of writing featuring Tales by Dr_Clef, Fantern and Pig_catapult
"microscopic Germans from an alternate timeline have just nuked the break room"—the author's SCP-1235
"They're making a last stand in the American Midwest. They have someone or something there who's keeping me out. But they can't last much longer."—"We keep the God you're talking about in a secure containment facility in Kansas."—SCP-343
Tales alluded to:
The author's 'Acquisitions—A Marshall, Carter & Dark Tale'
pooryoric's 'black white black white black white black white black white gray '
Dr LosER's 'D-Class Orientation'
name's 'A Man At The Top Of His Profession'
Hornby's 'Briefing on SLATE THUNDER (Chaos Insurgency Orientation)'
Roget's 'First Seed'
DrEverettMann's 'Grasp on Reality'
DrClef's 'Transcript of Dr. Clef's seminar, "Reality Benders and You: How to Survive When Existence Doesn't."'
"taking orders from a tree"—certainly possible to understand as a one-off skip-in-the-wild making fun of the Deep Ecology movement, but in actuality a skip I hope eventually to publish, the first draft of which was actually the genesis of Mark Renton and Professor Skinner. Ostensibly just a talking tree that gives bad advice, it is actually a malevolent psychic entity that takes over the mind of anyone who communicates with it and uses them to create a cover story for itself. Professor Skinner's meteoric rise in Sector-25 postdates his contact with the skip; by the end of New Age he/it has been uncovered and subjected to Procedure 552-Hepburn, a destructive interrogation by 'psycho-epistemologists' to determine if someone is genuinely who they say they are and acting of their own free will. Renton was also for a time under the control of the tree and used to act out a drama with a group of environmentalists to further its cover.
Update: This Tale has now been so long in the rewriting that this skip has leapfrogged it again and is now up as SCP-1421, the Unreliable Oracle.
"a certain key fob"—a AWCY skip which will appear in the upcoming Tale 'The Cool Manifesto'. A key fob shaped like an ICBM, the cap can be twisted like an egg timer; when it goes off it will explode with the force of a large car bomb, but will itself be unharmed by the blast and is ready to use again if it can be recovered from the rubble.
"a small bell"—a reference to the Bell of Entropy; I leave it to the reader whether the Chaos Insurgency O5s are using it to freeze time while they talk, whether it is being used in a non-anomalous fashion or even whether it has degraded to the point where it has no significant anomalous properties; in my CI-associated skip SCP-1477 I promote the idea that the CI's best-known skips are beginning to show signs of overuse, with the result that they are stepping up their campaign to subvert Foundation personnel.
The prison scam owes a debt to John Grisham's 'The Brethren', which similarly depicted a politician blackmailed by one or more inmates on the basis of compromising correspondence with a (fictitious) young offender. Sir Malcolm Urquhart himself has his origins in, of all things, Marvel's 'Captain Britain' comics, and specifically the 'Jaspers' Warp' storyline of 1982-1984. The main villain in this arc, 'Mad Jim' Jaspers, is a politician who argues strenuously for regulating and incarcerating superpowered beings in Britain, but ultimately turns out to be a mutant himself, with the power to warp reality to his will.
Sir Malcolm's appearance is heavily inspired by Jaspers, and thus in turn by UK actor Terry-Thomas, as well as by real-life UK fascist leader Sir Oswald Mosley. Some of Sir Malcolm's dialogue was also inspired by the character of Sir Miles Delacourt from Grant Morrison's 'The Invisibles', whom I understand in his first appearance as leader of a band of bloodthirsty fox hunters chasing down vagrants on the streets of London in turn references an episode of UK 'spy-fi' series 'The Avengers' (not to be confused with its Marvel counterpart!). It should be noted that Sir Malcolm's position in the UK Cabinet as Minister Without Portfolio, alongside Kenneth Clarke, is real - he occupies the position held at time of writing by Rt Hon Grant Shapps MP.
The testing with 773 overtly mirrors the Milgram shock experiments (particularly as fictionalised by Chip Kipp in his novel 'The Learners'), which I also use to inform my interpretation of name's 'A Man At The Top Of His Profession', which appears in 'New Age' as a cautionary story told to new researchers. It should be noted my take on 773 differs slightly from the original by DrMagnus - in particular, if you fail to follow the rules the injury is suffered by the thrower, a detail I omitted for narrative purposes. There is, of course, another in-universe reason why Keagan might fail to suffer injury when throwing the blue-banded dart or embedding the control group, and it's interesting to speculate that this initial test might lead to an incorrect understanding by Professor Reeds of the object's properties.
Keagan's escape from D-Class accommodation and his interception by site security in the administration offices is heavily inspired by SCP - Containment Breach. You may recognise the description of the offices and special containment procedure files from that game (save that the skips referenced are all ones listed as being in Sector-25). The game's presentation of the Foundation's Mobile Task Forces also informs my portrayal of New Age's Sector-25 Bixby specialists, the 'Deifecators'.
Just as a heads-up, this is a ~100,000 word novel, the first 20,000 words of which do not overtly relate to the universe. Accordingly, if you didn't like the first ~5,000 words of 'Acquisitions' which chiefly dealt with the life of a City trader and his Machiavellian schemes to get promoted, this is probably not for you. Like that work, I intended this to be a 'through the Veil' story introducing the protagonist, and reader, to the Foundation and one GoI - this time from the perspective of a D-Class subject and the Chaos Insurgency. My hope is to eventually complete a 'Veil Protocol' trilogy with a final work which will focus on AWCY.
My intent with 'New Age' was to present a cohesive prison thriller which is hijacked by a supernatural conspiracy plotline. As with 'Acquisitions' I have generally attempted to ensure that it can be read as an introduction to the universe as a whole. It is arguably a sequel to 'Acquisitions' - taking place perhaps 18 months after Edward Gradley is taken into the custody of the Foundation - but doesn't require any knowledge of that story to read. Given what I feel to be the primary weakness of 'Acquisitions' as an introductory work (the brevity with which the Foundation is introduced), it may be that 'New Age' is a better place to start reading the 'Veil Protocol' works.
The genesis of 'New Age' was ChazzK's D-1243, written for TroyL's Birthday Tales to mark Dr Gears' 29th - I wanted to do a story exploring some of the major contradictions around the concept of D-Class, perhaps the conceit which has given rise to the most divergent headcanons in the mythos. The core of the idea is as follows:
D-Class is a designation referring to expendable staff drawn from the prison system. These unfortunates are told they will receive their freedom if they survive a month in the service of the Foundation, and carry out the most dangerous maintenance tasks as well as serving as guinea pigs in experiments on skips. At the end of the month it is strongly suggested that the Foundation executes any survivors rather than fulfilling their end of the bargain, to maintain the secrecy of the organisation.
Opinions amongst SCP writers differ wildly on whether D-Class are executed, mind-wiped and moved to a different site, or simply told that they won't be released after all and cycled into the 'test subjects' category. The most popular headcanon seems to be that D-Class are the worst of the worst - possibly even exclusively prisoners on Death Row for whom the offer is a one-month reprieve even if they are terminated afterwards. Of course, this throws up a lot of logistical issues - namely, at time of writing there are just 3,125 prisoners awaiting execution in the entire United States, most of whom will be there for years until they exhaust all avenues of appeal. If the SCP Foundation universe is our universe with a hidden underbelly - the premise I have used for my skips and Tales - then the number of D-Class in the United States (usually taken as the core of the Foundation) must surely be less than the total number the State thinks is on Death Row. And what of the countries where there is no death penalty? Some writers handwave this by having the Foundation use political prisoners and 'ethnically undesirable' groups from dictatorships, which I think is a gratuitous piece of black and black - rather than black and grey - morality; in any case, it's pretty well established that this is the practice of the Chaos Insurgency, not the Foundation proper.
The Security Clearance Levels page, for all that it's often used as a general guide for new readers, has a somewhat minority opinion on the matter - 'Class D', as it refers to the designation, are "designated staff used to handle the Keter-level objects" (tell that to the dozens if not hundreds of Safe and Euclid skips that are represented as having D-Class handling the basic containment procedures - the idea of Keter being a 'level' also seems to be deprecated). They are "recruited from prison inmates", suggesting voluntary participation, and are indeed executed at the end of the month. There are some very odd elements here that haven't made it through into more recent works, including New Age: they may never be spoken to directly, only via intercom, and are, bafflingly, subject to daily polygraphs, the content of which is unspecified. If any D-Class fail their polygraph - "termination of entire Class D personnel is advised, as well as any SCP personnel that have had basic interaction with them" (!).
I leave it to the reader whether these protocols are followed in the United States - in the UK, where New Age takes place, it seems necessary to assume that D-Class are in the main recruited from the population of serious offenders within the UK prison system rather than, say, imported from other facilities overseas; with more limited resources, many procedures followed elsewhere are simply impractical. The reader is also free to interpret the ending of New Age as either pro or contra the notion that D-Class are executed.
The desire to tell a story exploring how D-Class are recruited, where they go and how the transfers are covered up fused in my mind with Roget's 'First Seed', where the Chaos Insurgency are uncovering something big and nasty using slave labour. Our protagonist - who I initially imagined would be liberated from D-Class status by a Chaos Insurgency raid on the facility where he was working - would be disgusted by the treatment of the workers and sabotage the project. My original plan to set the excavation in Cameroon ran into a spot of bother when I realised that due to Keagan's by this point well-established ethnicity the whole treatment would necessarily have an unwanted racial/slavery undercurrent I didn't want to get into. The notion that the object in 'First Seed' might be Yggdrasil naturally suggested another candidate - to wit, SCP-722.
It should be noted that New Age depicts a specific faction of the Chaos Insurgency, and one subverted by a reality-warper at that; nor do I absolutely establish that even the command structure I depicts within the Insurgency represents the CI as a whole rather than just a specific branch. Nevertheless, my aim with New Age was to create a Chaos Insurgency that makes sense within a world which superficially appears the same as our own. In 'Briefing on SLATE THUNDER (Chaos Insurgency Orientation)' Hornby offers the explanation that the CI is actually the remnant of the losing faction in a civil war in the Foundation; the name 'Chaos Insurgency' was coined by the winning faction but adopted as a badge of pride. I go slightly further in New Age by having the CI remain utterly convinced of their legitimacy as the 'real' Foundation, still framing the conflict in terms of governments who recognise them versus those who work with the 'reactionaries'. The countries which I depict the CI as considering friendly are simply countries which had never been mentioned as having a Foundation facility on the main site at the time of writing - I produced a map of the Foundation world based on this conceit, and my notion that Sectors are the areas into which the Foundation divides the world for operational purposes, which I posted on AlternateHistory.com.
It should be noted that the version of the Foundation Civil War I allow Renton to narrate to Keagan is virtually identical to Hornby's original, with a minor detail drawn out: in 'Briefing on SLATE THUNDER (Chaos Insurgency Orientation)' it appears the vote was never completed. In the original work it is implied that it was the CI O5s who pre-empted a losing result by launching the coup; in 'New Age' I have CI agents instead believing that the Council itself stopped the count when the vote of no confidence appeared likely to succeed. It should be noted that in his rendition of the story Renton assumes that the vote required a simple majority rather than a supermajority with the result that the 53% result constituted a victory for the motion - myself I would lean towards the idea that the vote indeed required a supermajority as per 'SLATE THUNDER' but that the decision to stop the count by the 'reactionaries' was what sparked the Foundation Civil War.
Amnesiacs/amnesics/amnestics are another topic that gets a lot of varying interpretations - varying from the Foundation having the means to erase targetted memories at an almost arbitrary remove from the event, to amnesiacs simply being placebos administered to alleviate the anxieties of field agents as to what really happens to witnesses after they are taken into Foundation custody - name's 'A Man At The Top Of His Profession' exemplifies this latter view. If one subscribes to the notion that D-Class are executed at the end of the month - and that this is primarily for security reasons rather than, say, to prevent cross-contamination, then standard-use amnesiacs simply cannot be capable of erasing more than a month's worth of memories. The explanation Edward gives of amnesiacs in New Age is fairly low-end and could stand to be revised higher; however I think it works as a good baseline that also suggests amnesiacs are chemical science not available to the general public, rather than, say, the byproduct of a skip (I have seen authors assume amnesiacs are anomalous and find it unlikely the Foundation would then inject people with them to cover up other anomalous encounters). I hope that my take on AMATTOHP works as a possible alternate explanation of this Tale whilst staying true to the underlying principle that the Foundation lies to the people who work for it. I will also point out that for adherents to AMATTOHP's interpretation of amnesiacs, neither New Age nor Acquisitions actually depicts amnesiacs working the way the Foundation says they do - the only overt administration of a Class-A amnesiac is on Edward Gradley, whom it is strongly suggested has had memories suppressed by MC&D; and even then, I went to the trouble of making it unclear whether he was experiencing "(the u)sual side-effects" or "(unu)sual side-effects" after the drug triggers a seizure rather than erasing memories.
Right up to the very final revision of New Age I kept in a point of terminology at which I seem to be at odds with most SCP writers - my identification of the 'Administrator' as simply the director of any given facility, a subordinate of the O5 Council. It appears more established writers have already squared the circle on this issue in a different way - by making the Administrator a shadowy precursor to the O5 Council, possibly even the creator of the Foundation. After some discussion it appears this interpretation is in the majority, and so to avoid confusion on the part of readers I have since updated my references to the Administrator across my Tales and skips with 'the Director', 'the chain of command', and 'sector management'.
A final point - in New Age I have a primary antagonist who professes Zen Buddhism. I am not a Buddhist and my knowledge of Buddhism is limited to internet research and study of comparative religion done during my personal sojourns. With any luck anyone vaguely acquainted with the subject will realise that Sir Malcolm grossly misinterprets every koan he uses and is depicted as deeply at odds with fundamental Buddhist principles - and that this is more or less the point of the character. Nevertheless, the disclaimer is probably warranted - the character of Sir Malcolm is not an attack on any religion, including the UK Conservative Party.