Professor Charles Burrows had no choice but to comply. He had no idea how he got here, or even where "here" was; one moment he was sitting at his home office, catching on some paperwork, and the next he was here, standing alone in an empty concrete room. Alone with the voice.
So good of you to join me, Professor. Come, there is much to see and so little time.
"What? Who are you? What is this place?"
So many questions. I suppose it is to be expected from a man in your position. All in due time, Professor. Let us begin our little tour.
A door appeared on the far wall of the chamber, seemingly from nowhere. Professor Burrows, seeing no other option, walked through it. He was not one to lose his cool quickly; he'd see what this thing wanted, and assess the situation accordingly. He found himself in a bustling office complex: Busy-looking men and women in walked among rows of computers and filing cabinets, occasionally stopping in one station or another to check a monitor or peer at a file. The entire place was a hive of purposeful activity. No one appeared to notice the small man in jeans and a tweed jacket.
Welcome to Site-27, Professor.
He wasn't supposed to be here, Burrows thought. This was a dangerous situation; he might already be compromised. He wasn't sure the voice knew exactly who and what he was, though, and he wasn't about to give it any hints.
"Site-27? Is that some sort of government facility?" he said, feigning ignorance.
The government could never dream of being able to hide itself so well. Even this first level is hidden in plain sight, disguised as the regional headquarters of a major data analysis firm. Most of the employees you see here have no idea what lies beneath their feet. But I do. Let us continue.
Burrows felt his feet edging forward, never stopping to consult with his head. He approached one of the desks. A plain featured, slightly overweight man in a brown suit was sitting at it, staring at his monitor with a blank expression.
This is Robert Helms, junior data analyst. He's been working here for the last nine years, never knowing what this place was hiding under its dull facade. He's not a particularly smart man, although he considers himself one, nor is he especially talented in any meaningful way. He hates his job, likes to fish, loves his family, and overall just tries to get by until retirement. He never expected much from life, and never got much. He will be dead in twenty minutes. His position will be given to some other faceless cog, his family will grieve and move on, and soon enough, he will be utterly forgotten, having made no lasting impact on the world he spent forty two years living in.
"How can you possibly know that?" Burrows asked, more out of anger than anything else. The man, Helms, shook himself out his daze and stretched, his hand passing right through Burrows' chest. The professor jumped back, startled. Helms didn't seem to notice, and stepped away from his desk, heading for a nearby soda machine.
Professor, you disappoint me. I thought you would have realized by now you're not actually here, not in your limited sense of the word, at least. As for how I know what will become of poor Mr. Helms, well, perhaps our next stop will shed some light on that subject. Onward and downward, Professor. Always downwards.
Burrows felt a strange sinking feeling, and looked down to see his legs passing through the floor. He tried to struggle, but every movment he made only made him sink faster. After an extremely unpleasant moment where his eyes and the concrete occupied the same place at the same time, he found himself in a space quite unlike the one he just left; the buzzing chaos of the top floor was replaced with an almost total silence, broken only by the occasional whisper of the scientists working in one of the many stations.
This is the true Site-27, or at least its research wing, home to some of humanity's greatest minds. Like Dr. Spengler right here.
Once again, Burrows' body moved out of its own volition, this time approaching one of the scientists. The man couldn't have been much older than twenty five, a tall, bespectacled man in a white coat.
Dr. Henry Spengler, twenty six years old. With an IQ of 190, he's one of the smartest people alive on the planet. He could have been anything he wanted, and he chose to work for the Foundation. He sacrificed a career in the limelight of the scientific world in order to work in the shadows, helping mankind defend itself from dangers most of them will never be allowed to know even exist. He is, by all accounts, a good, noble man. In his six years working for the Foundation, he saved the lives of at least fifty of his co-workers in one way or another, and his research into various SCP objects saved countless more. He'll be dead in fifteen minutes. For all of his good intentions and talent, his contributions will ultimately have no lasting effect on the fate of the world, and like Mr. Helms, he is doomed to be forgotten, having squandered his potential.
"Squandered his potential? If this man saved even one life, he squandered nothing."
If you were someone else, Professor, I might have thought you actually believe that. You know better, however, as do I. Come, one last stop.
Downwards again. This time, the professor found himself in a long, grey corridor, lined in both sides by massive steel doors.
Site-27's containment area, the heart of the facility. Twenty three Safe level items and seven Euclid level items are stored here. A few of them are of a particular interest to our little expedition.
Following the voice, the professor entered one of the cells. Inside was a small, shimmering creature made of what appeared to be multicolored glass. A humming bird.
This creature is completely harmless in its current form. It is classified as Euclid, since what makes it dangerous is so incredibly rare. It did not choose to be the way it is, it never wanted to be so dangerous. It is an innocent bystander of its own power. Still, they keep it locked up, just in case. If you think about it, "Just in case" covers about 90% of what the Foundation does. Such a careful organization. So…prepared. Or so they think.
A small clink. The door was opened by a large man in uniform. He took a small object from his pocket and laid it on the floor next to the shimmering bird, a metal bullion.
Captain Vincent Tallow, vice-head of security. He got tired of working twelve-hour shifts for six days a week for the pay he was getting, so he went looking elsewhere. He found an organization more than willing to pay him what he wanted, an organization you will soon grow much more familiar with. He thinks he'll have enough time to escape. He's wrong.
The bird noticed the bullion, and quickly started to suck it dry, as if it was a flower. The glow grew stronger and brighter, quickly becoming blinding.
Iridium, its favorite. It will eat and eat until it can eat no more and then, well…
Despite himself, the professor spoke up. "The Foundation is prepared to deal with containment breaches. It's what it's here for. You're not going to do anything with that."
No more feigned ignorance? Good, it was getting tiresome. No, I agree, one containment breach wouldn't do much. But how about two?
The sound of alarms pierced the professor's ears. It came from the next cell over.
More alarms, now coming from many more cells.
The cacophony was ear splitting.
The sound of alarms was now punctuated by screams.
The professor looked around him in horror. The creature burned like a miniature sun, and the steel door of its cell was beginning to melt. "You've got to stop this! You have no idea what you're doing! Do you know how much damage this could cause, how many people will die!?"
Of course I do, and that is the point of this expedition. People will die because they choose to remain powerless, to restrain their ambitions for power in order to maintain a false sense of safety, of normalcy. So many mindless phenomena like that bird can strike you down without a second thought, without a first. Do you not realize the sort of power you may possess if you only allow yourselves to wield it? I'm destroying Site-27 because I can, because I choose to. When was the last time you made a choice, O5-3, a real choice? When did any of you?
The thing knew who he was. It knew all along. "What are you?" O5-3 asked.
I am the Flame in the South, the culmination of human ambition and desire. I am the greatest of the four, that which drives forward. I am the Pulse of the World. I am not your enemy, quite the opposite. I will be your savior, if you'll only let me. I will return humanity to its proper place at the top, even if I have to drag it there kicking and screaming. And the way to humanity lies through the Foundation, as we both know.
O5-03 had nothing to say to that.
I believe I left you with quite a bit to think about. It is time for you to go home.
And just like that, O5-3 found himself back at his desk, piles of unfinished paperwork undisturbed. Next to them, the red phone was ringing. He had no illusions about what the call was about.