PREVIOUSLY on THE INCREASINGLY POOR DECISIONS OF GREGORY PLUMP
Gregory awoke in a large room, tied to a chair…
"Well Gregory, you're in quite a bit of trouble," a monotone voice rang out…
"It's quite simple Gregory. You've been snooping around…"
"It's simple, Gregory. I have one question. What did you read about Ess-See-Pee Three-Five-Four?"
It's - it's some kind of interdimensional portal that's spawning-spawning these anoma-hic-lous creatures exc - except it's some hic k-kind of coverup for something but it hic doesn't - doesn't say wh-what and I swear that's all I know p-please hic don't hurt me!" Gregory pleaded…
The concern is how you saw the hidden writing in the first place. There was an extremely powerful antimemetic in place to prevent any human being from seeing it…"
"If only inoculated human beings can see past that meme, and you weren't inoculated…I'd say you aren't human."
"You've been under surveillance for the past three weeks primarily for your interest in SCP-354. Tell me, do you know what it is?"
"At least the cover story works. No, it's more like an inter-dimensional airport…"
We can't keep you in the regular Foundation, god only knows what you'd release next. We could shoot you, but that seems a waste of bullets. No, I have a better idea… Are you familiar with !@%$%^&&^%#?"
Just pronounce !@%$%^&&^%#? however you want. It's a jumble of sounds and phonetics that represent a language meant for nonhuman sensory devices.
"Y-yes! Absolutely!" Gregory was lying through his teeth - he couldn't even pronounce ¡º£ª•¡, much less !@%$%^&&^%#?. Gregory spoke plenty of Earth languages - they were structurally simpler than reality television compared to œ∑∂åß (the language of his home world), though Gregory could barely even remember the syntax of œ∑∂åß - but he understood !@%$%^&&^%#? like an Internet troll understood the importance of Noetherian rings to noncommutative ring theory. Still, Gregory certainly wasn't about to admit that to his last lifeline.
"∑∂ˆ¨∆øˆ…˜ˆ∫ˆµ˚∂ˆ∑aDµ´ÓÅØ„ÎÍÇ˚ÅÍ?" O5-10 inquired.
Gregory's only chance was that time-honored tradition espoused by intellectuals, gamblers, and children the world over: bluffing.
"∑∂µ∑∂ÅÏÓ∫Å∫∆Øæ¬qœ∑," Gregory garbled out.
Unfortunately for everyone, O5-10's choice of sentence had damned them all. Through some unfortunate celestial coincidence, Gregory had answered O5-10's question almost perfectly. To be fair, though, the question was plainly obvious, and its answer more so.
"Call me impressed. Alright, Dr. Gregory Plump, you have a new job: official translator and diplomatic median of Site-354. Happy, escort him there and have Fly orient him. We'll hash out the details of payment and living later.”
"Sir, this is a serious breach of traditional hiring protocols for Site-354-"
"I know. I also know that unless we have a new translator, our competitors are going to gain an edge - and we cannot afford that. Besides, I’m going off of your decision algorithms. I hope you don't mean you aren't worth the small fortune I paid for you."
O5-10 leaned closer to the screen.
"Dr. Plump. This is a second chance for you. Don't screw it up."
The computer screen blinked off, and then folded away into the droid in a process that made Gregory's eyes and brain ache.
Happy stared at Gregory.
The probes and tape binding fell away from Gregory, and he stood up gingerly. Happy was already zipping away into some far-off corner of the room.
"Come on," Happy beeped. "Follow me."
Gregory stumbled towards Happy, who waited by a large, technologically-imposing door in the far corner of the room.
"This may hurt."
Before Gregory could react, the highly advanced, multi-dimensional hive-mind quantum-computing artificial intelligence housed within a biomechanical interface extended two arms, one of which plugged into a socket by the door and the other into Gregory's nostrils. A brief spark of electricity leaped from Happy to both, and then the door opened while Gregory's eyes and limbs forcibly shut down.
"Hey!" Gregory protested, his eyes screwed up in pain. "What's this for?"
"We're about to cross through an interdimensional gateway. These are precautions. You're not authorized for further details."
The droid snatched Gregory up by the collar and dragged him through the door. He could feel a smooth, polished floor. Meanwhile, Happy was talking again. This time Gregory could actually tell that he was speaking in a much lighter, friendlier tone. "Say, I think we got off on the wrong foot in there, what with me trying to interrogate you and all. Really sorry about that, I'm not too good at interrogating suspects. That whole sharp, professional Ga'reth, that's not really me. That's just my job face."
"Huh?" Gregory squeaked out. The floor was starting to become uncomfortably warm and he could hear chanting, chanting scratching away at the edge of his brain. "Gareth?"
"Yeah. Sorry about all that, but you know how things are. Capture this, shoot that, interrogate this. Everyone here calls me Happy for some reason, but my… friends… call me Ga'reth, so you can too. I'm a silicon-based intelligence from the South End of the galaxy. I want to become a scriptwriter. It's nice to meet you."
"Uh, this floor is kind of melting my shoes." Now Gregory could sense words of unmistakable power being uttered by ancient, enormous creatures so mighty that entire universes were but grains of sand in their eyes.
"Yes, it does that. Just ignore it. So like I was saying, I'd love to be your friend. What hobbies do you have?" the AI chirped.
The floor was now burning hot, and Gregory was feeling the heat. He could sense the creatures examining him, perusing him for weaknesses they might use to open a gateway into this dimension. They longed to wreak havoc on the world, purge the universe of life and tear it asunder. Gregory could feel his conscious mind slipping into oblivion as the twisted emptiness of the void seeped into him. An ancient, eldritch beast from a plane of existence too horrible to contemplate seeded itself into his subconscious, festering and waiting, plotting for the right time to end all creation.
"I, uh, I watch… television. Reality TV, mostly."
"Wow, that's amazing! I'm a movie person myself, maybe we should watch something together sometime! I like romantic comedies and offbeat films. Like Eat, Pray, Love or Pi. I've actually been writing a script up that will combine the two kinds of - oh, wait, we're here!"
Ga'reth zapped Gregory again, and his vision and limb movement returned to him. Then his vision tried to free itself from his mind and take his limbs with it. His brain held on, but only just, and its grip was tenuous.
They were inside some kind of massive airport terminal - except built in higher dimensions. The terminal extended for farther than Gregory could see. Every kilometer or so was punctuated by a control tower spanning the gap between the walls. Gregory looked up. Ironically, the ceiling was only about fifty meters above. He could just barely make out his feet. At first he assumed it must be some kind of reflection in warped space-time - until his duplicate started walking away. Gregory got a better look at the ceiling and, squinting his eyes, saw innumerable repetitions of the same enormous chamber spiraling upwards into infinity. Gregory looked down and saw that his floor was made of some kind of concrete. He could only assume that the same principle was being applied to the other sides of the terminal.
In the center of the terminal lay rows and rows and rows of glowing red portals, through which all manner of fantastic and bizarre beasts and creatures shuffled through before being whisked away by panel-sized elevators on the floor. Some came out, others went in. A Panopticon-style control tower overlooked the portals, other such towers standing off in the distance. Behind Gregory and Ga'reth lay a similar, reddish doorway, which promptly blinked out of existence as soon as he noticed it was there.
Gregory got a better look around him. In a massive cafe, gigantic cockroaches with beagle heads sipped coffee served by androids. Enormous sentient rocks and odors perused books and headphones in a duty-free shop. Walking fungal growths, electricity crackling through crystalline wiring poking out of their innards, sat on plastic benches engrossed in Here Comes Honey Boo Boo (Interestingly, the show had yet to be green lit for actual production). Not a single thing in the entire terminal spared more than a passing glance at them.
It was bizarre, to say the least.
Meanwhile, Ga'reth was talking. "Welcome to the Pit. Professor Fry will be here shortly to orient you. Wait here, do not move, do not touch anything. Just wait. I'll see you later… friend!"
It zipped off.
Gregory looked around. Things had changed in the thirty years since he'd first arrived on Earth. Back then it was just him and a few other dumb, hopeful souls. Nothing but a wish and a prayer. Now it was a whole operation.
He was broken out of his reverie by a large rock-like creature gazing down at him, clutching two books in its four pincer-like hands. One was a rudimentary English-to-!@%$%^&&^%#? dictionary, the other a rather inappropriately named book that the poor sod had mistaken for a real travel guide. It mumbled something to him and pointed at the book.
"Erm, over there somewhere I suppose," Gregory waved his hands in a general direction he hoped was correct (He wasn't).
"Thank you," the creature read from the dictionary. It lumbered off.
"Ah, Dr. Plump! Already getting acquainted with the "locals" I suppose!"
Gregory turned around to see a two-meter tall bubbling mass of horseflies, buzzing in and around each other. The mass began to speak. "Hello! I am Professor Fry, the administrator of Site-354! You must be Dr. Plump. O5-10 told me you were coming"
"Uh… yes," Gregory answered tentatively. He flicked a few horseflies off his skin.
"Excellent! Welcome to Site-354, or as we usually call it, the Pit! This is the central hub for all Foundation processing of alien lifeforms into this reality. Here, we process alien immigrants, mediate diplomatic disputes, and monitor the borders of reality for undocumented jumpers. Follow me and we'll get you started! I'm amazed that O5-10 was able to find a new linguistics analyst on such short notice! How was your trip here?"
"That's a relief," Fry chuckled. "Funny story, really, all our analysts seem to be cursed. The last one, Feldman, for instance he was being stalked by a mannequin. But I'm sure that won't happen to you! Anyways, this here is a jump gate. Jump gates work…
…think of it as a college application. Only the brightest can enter our reality. Any toys they have, well, that sweetens the deal. That's one of the only reasons O5-10 allows this place to exist, you see. He's terrified that one of these days we're going to attract an interdimensional war…
…So, a fun tidbit about myself is that my favorite actor is Jeff Goldblum and also I'm the one who invented the jump gates. Tell me something about yourself…
…major responsibilities will include maintaining communication between us and any negotiating party, analyzing communications from unknown species, compiling vocabulary, grammar, and syntax dictionaries on languages, acting as a sacrifice in case things go sour, et cetera…
…staffed almost entirely by androids - that I invented, actually - to keep personnel costs low. Some things we still need humans for, like diplomacy and translation, since not all life forms are comfortable with robots…
…criminals and illegals trying to jump the dimensional borders. We usually try to direct them to that portal there, which leads to Area-354 and the "real" SCP-354 and let the goons there take care of them. Fun fact, 354 is actually just a vat of strawberry soda and ketchup. Looks evil enough and super cheap to replenish…
…coffee machines in these areas, and exotic vending machines here, here, here, here, and here. I definitely recommend the Zerlaxian special from this one for early morning shifts, it'll definitely pick you up - actually it'll render you unable to sleep for about eight hours but that's still good…
…and that should just about cover everything! We move fast around here and the pace doesn't slow down. But if you can keep up you'll find a rewarding job that has you meeting a lot of new people. Any questions? No? Good. Well," Fry concluded, "let's get you started. Here, this should be an easy job for you. Take this crystal."
He handed Gregory a pair of gloves, waiting for him to put them on, then gave him a glowing, green, octagonal prism. It was smooth and warm to the touch.
"This here is a temporal-relocation crystal. Short version, it allows you to bridge gaps between discrete time periods. Long version, you wouldn't understand without having at least three degrees in mathematics that have yet to be invented. Temporal-relocation ho! Now, this relocation crystal we picked up off an escapee from five centuries in the future. Be careful with it, by the way. Extremely fragile and extremely volatile. Normally I'd give it to an android, but these crystals wreak havoc on their clock distributors. We have some Zerlaxians coming to pick it up. All you have to do is give it to them and ask them to leave. Happy will escort you. Should be easy. Come find me when you're done."
The Professor suddenly dissolved into a gigantic amorphous mass of horseflies, which proceeded to fly away. Gregory stared at it in disbelief, then at the crystal in his hand.
At that moment, he was startled out of his wits by a voice coming over his shoulder. "Hey bud, it's me, Ga'reth! How are you?"
Less than ideal, Gregory reflected, as he stared at the remains of the crystal he had dropped on the floor.