The Great Site-87 Bakesale
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Sloth's Pit, Wisconsin
Summer 1992

"I'm sorry, but what."

This was the near-universal reaction to the fact that Site-87 had been underfunded by exactly five thousand, four hundred and twenty-one dollars and ninety-two cents, and this deficit was increasing by the day. As it turned out, accounts and asset protections had failed to locate an entire family of Crimataphagi- money-eaters- that had been feeding off of the liquid assets that kept Site-87 afloat. They had managed to dispose of most of them with toxic assets in the real estate market, but enough were around that they were a drain on the containment budget.

So it came to be that three members of Site-87's administrative staff found themselves locked in a conference room. Director Nina Weiss, who had just developed an entire lock of grey hair from stress in her first three years of being a director, which some of the newer staff commented made her look like an "annie-may" character; some Japanese thing.

With her was, essentially, her second-in-command, Dr. Tyler Bailey, head of the Department of Multi-Universal Affairs, a nebbish-looking man with dark hair who had a better sense of humor than most sitcoms. One pocket in his coat always held a flask of scotch, another his wallet with a picture of his triplets.

Also in the room was the head of accounting, Jerome Brisby, a shorter man who had a sense of humor similar to that of a Catholic who was forced to talk with the King of England circa 1529. He had a look on his face that would best be described by a phrase that would not be properly coined until over twenty years later: "I am so fucking done right now."

And then, of course, there was the representative from Site-19; as the administrative center when it came to budgeting, they had a say in this miniature crisis. Francis Wojciechoski sat in the corner, fiddling with a prescription bottle. He had nothing to do with finances, and essentially acted as a liaison between 87 and Director Bright at 19.

"How's Jack doing, by the way?" Bailey's attempt to make small talk.

"Trying to stop rumors of the absurdities going on at 19 from spreading. Honestly, a researcher accidentally integrates himself with his pet dog, and people say all sorts of things." He tried twisting the pill cap, and watched as the entire bottle flew out of his hand. "Dammit."

Weiss picked up the bottle as it landed at her feet, and frowned at the name of the drug on it; she recognized it immediately. She helped develop it back in her parapharmacology days. It was a classified formula, and the pharmacy he had gotten it from hadn't bothered to redact or hide the name. She sighed, and walked over to Francis, undoing the cap and handing him the bottle. "Do you need some water?"

"I have some," he said, producing a water bottle from underneath his chair, where one had not been just a moment ago, "Thank you."

Weiss looked at those assembled. "Brisby, how far into the red are we?"

"At this rate, it's going to approach twenty thousand dollars by the end of the week. We need some extra income to counteract it."

"We have some surplus lab equipment that we could hawk off to the school district—" Bailey started.

Brisby cleared his throat, a noise that sounded like it was coming from a sick toad. "They don't have a chemistry lab anymore at either Sloth Memorial or Sloth Senior. Remember?"

"Right, the Bunsen burners kept getting haunted. Still no word from the Horizon Initiative if we can get an exorcism in there?"

"No," Weiss sighed, sitting back in her chair. "We may just have to cut back on the salaries of the staff until we manage to terminate all of the crimataphagi. It's ugly, and they won't like it, but it has to be done."

Brisby took out a mechanical calculator and loaded it with a strip of paper. "Site-87 has… 421 employees currently, not counting civilian E-Class employed at the upper levels of the facility… containment specialists are given a salary of…" he trailed off into a long string of numbers that only people who eat white bread with a single swab of butter, drink bitter coffee with absolutely no cream, and chuckle at Garfield are interested in.

Soon, he came to a conclusion. "Financially, I agree that's the most sane course of action. Pragmatic, but ugly. Wojciechoski, can you see what your superiors think?"

The three of them turned, and saw Francis Wojciechoski had vanished. "…where'd he go?" Bailey asked. "Director, what was that medication he had?"

"…a hybrid antipsychotic and retroviral supplement meant to counteract and suppress abilities consistent with Type-Green entities. Upon ingestion, the symptoms have a possibility to manifest." She put her head in her hands. "Goddammit."

Brisby and Bailey both looked horrified. "You're telling me that 19 employs reality benders?" Brisby said.

"Yes."

Bailey's and Brisby's hand both met their foreheads in synchronicity, accompanied by loud slaps that made a researcher passing by the room wonder if they had dropped something behind them.

"…how many of the rumors of 19 are true?" Bailey groaned.

"I'm not even cleared to know that. Come on," she sighed, standing up. "We have to notify Sigma-10 to contain him before he does something really stupid."

"Like what?"


Meanwhile, outside the site, a man whose name could only be pronounced as a series of music notes had willed a sign into existence.

FIRST (AND HOPEFULLY ONLY) ANNUAL

S & C PLASTICS BENEFIT BAKE SALE

WE CAN'T AFFORD TO FEED OUR OWN EMPLOYEES.

WE'RE FEEDING YOU SO YOU CAN FEED US.

Along with this sign, he had summoned a dozen pans of various types of brownie, cookie, cookie brownie, cake, cupcake, miniature cupcake, miniature cupcake inside of a cupcake, strudel, danish, and potato salad. He didn't know where the potato salad came from; it always seemed to somehow show up at bake sales, even if nobody wanted it. Now all that was needed was-

"FRANCIS!"

"Right on cue," he grinned, turning to face Nina Weiss who stormed out of the site, on a warpath. flanked on all sides by members of Sigma-10 in tactical gear. He noticed about half a dozen snipers appearing on the rooftops surrounding the site as well, and felt the lasers on his skin. He just shrugged, and all the guns jammed at once. "Ah, hello director. Try the cookie brownies."

Nina's eye twitched. She'd requisitioned Scranton Devices for literally almost this exact reason, but order had been delayed for almost a year now, and they now had a goddamn Type-Green trying to sell something as abominable as cookie-brownies. It was a sin worthy of a chain pizza restaurant. "What are you thinking?!"

"I'm trying to help! The facility's in the red, so I'm holding a bake sale."

"We're a worldwide scientific NGO, not the Sandusky, Ohio PTA! This could constitute a massive breach of secrecy-"

"Director," he said, putting his hands together and sighing, "It's a Nexus. What's more, it's Sloth's Pit. It's the third-most active Nexus in the United States, falling behind only Daleport and Roadkill County, Oregon. Do you think people are going to question this? Now have. A. Brownie."

"Wojciechoski, you're a threat to the site, and right now, I trust you about as much as I trust the governor to not veto a bill that would cure cancer. I-" She blinked, and chewed on something that suddenly appeared in her mouth, before spitting it out. "Did you just teleport a brownie into my mouth?"

"He did it to me too," Bailey gagged, leaning on one of the tables to spit it out. "Brisby, I swear to god-"

"First thing I'm doing after this is resolved is fast-tracking the Scranton Device requisition order," Brisby assured, spitting out his own portion. "Fuck me." He smacked his lips and frowned. "…is that chocolate chip?"

"Yes, and you all owe me $5.00." Francis- or something very much like him- gave a rictus smile and opened his hand. "Don't be stingy. It's for the good of the site, after all."

"We're not giving you shit," Tyler growled as he took out this wallet and deposited $15.00 into Francis' hand. "What the- hey!"

"Wojciechoski," Weiss said, coming up to his face as he pocketed the cash, "You will stand down immediately, or I will personally put a bullet in your skull." As she said this, every member of Sigma-10 aimed their guns right at Wojciechoski's head.

"In front of all these people?"

"All what-" Weiss's eyes widened as she looked around her, and realized a good tenth of the town's populace had suddenly appeared there, and were browsing all the treats, except the potato salad. Nobody likes bake sale potato salad. "Stand down. Stand down!"

All of the task force lowered their weapons. Couldn't risk killing a townie.

"Calm down, they came here of their own volition." Wojciechoski rolled his eyes, which were suddenly concealed under a wide-brimmed hat. "I'm not a monster. And all of the food here is non-anomalous."

Weiss inhaled sharply through her nose, and her breath came back through her nostrils in something that could best be described as a muffled scream. "…if I hear one report of any sort of anomalous stomach flu or anything of the sort-"

"I have beryllium-lead bullets in my luggage." He tipped his hat, and twirled a ukulele in his hand. "Anyone up for some live entertainment?" The question was rhetorical, and he was already walking away.

"Wh- I-" a task force member— she thought that Ewell was his name, Nick Ewell— stared at her. "You're going to let him get away with it?!"

"He could literally punch us into last week. We don't have much choice." Weiss sighed, looking downcast. "Let's just hope that he doesn't get anyone weirder than him out here."

Brisby nodded, before his eyes went wide at something over Weiss's shoulder. "Would a giant four-eyed black cat qualify?"

"…I don't think cats have six legs," Bailey added. "Nor can they hold microphones."

Weiss felt her hair start to part with her scalp as she tugged at it. "God, the Council is going to have my ass. Hopefully their medication kicks in soon."


As the cat sang the last few notes of The Cure's Friday, I'm In Love, Bailey was offering Weiss some of his flask. "Take it," he said. "You're gonna need it."

"Do you work inebriated?" frowned Brisby. "You do realize that's grounds for termination?"

"He's right," Weiss affirmed, looking at the display with a slanted look as the cat began a rendition of an R.E.O. Speedwagon song, with the reality bender strumming ukulele alongside it. "Drink on your own time."

"It's ginger ale," Bailey rolled his eyes. "I know I feel sick to my stomach, and it's either this or baking soda mixed with water to settle it."

Weiss snatched the flask out of his hand and knocked it back, the sharp taste she could feel through her nose confirming that it was, in fact, ginger ale. She handed it back, wiping her mouth. "…this is bizarre."

"I know."

"I'm going to call 19 and see if he can get a handler out here—"

"Here's a phone!"

The three professionals jumped backwards as Francis- or rather, the thing that looked like him- appeared, offering a red phone to them, with a cord that appeared to terminate underneath the hood of a car. "Feel free to call 19."

Weiss, unsure, took up the phone and began dialing the number, placing the phone on top of a table next to a plate of strudels. She began conversing with Director Bright, while Brisby just looked at him oddly. "So," he coughed. "Reality-bending can be treated with medication?"

"Indeed!" grinned the man with the ukulele. "It's a compound of fluorine, oxygen, carbon, and some selenium. Your dear director helped develop it. Oh, have a strudel."

Brisby instinctively spat, thinking that he had teleported another pastry into his mouth- only to find one being presented to him using the man's wrinkled right hand. He frowned, tilting his head. "…the hell kind of strudel is that?"

"Cinnamon," he said. "That'll be three bucks."

"I've not even eaten it," Brisby frowned through a mouthful of strudel. He swallowed, his eyes widening. "…that's pretty good. But can ya cut it out with this?"

"Oh, what harm did a little mind control ever do? Besides, if it tastes good, it tastes good." He held up three dollars between his fingers. "Let's see…" He produced a calculator from beneath his hat, and began punching numbers it. "What did you say the deficit was?"

"Approaching $20,000 by the end of the week."

"Well, so far, we've made almost 10k."

Brisby actually did spit out his strudel in surprise. "What."

"Yup."

"This sale has been up for an hour! How can you have made $10,000 during that time?"

"…dollars?" His nose wrinkled. "I'm speaking in terms of Yen. That's only about ninety bucks, but every little bit helps, yes?"

Brisby just gave him a mystified look. "You're insane."

"I'm a fucking reality bender! Of course I'm insane!" He grinned a grin that wrapped around his head, and opened his mouth to laugh, which displaced the top of his skull from the bottom half. "Oh calm down. No-one is going to get hurt. Except maybe by the potato salad." He leaned in, and whispered in a way that conspiracy theorists do when talking about whether or not Lee Harvey Oswald was secretly a lizard man who would go on to play Neil Armstrong in faking the moon landing, "There's a reason nobody is eating it."

"Which is?"

They were interrupted by the slamming of a receiver and a glare from Weiss. "I just spoke to Director Bright. You are to report back to Site-19 as soon as your medication takes effect. He has approved intravenous injection should the need arise."

The man just strummed a ukulele chord and rolled his eyes. "Fiiiiine. Try to give back to the community and this is the thanks I get? Tough crowd. What was I talking about?"

"The potato salad," Bailey cut in, handing Mr. Ukulele a twenty as he chowed down on a plate of brownies. Brisby and Weiss just stared at him. "What? It tastes good."

"Ah, right! Well, you see—"

"Hey, Alto!" called the four-eyed cat in a smooth baritone, "Come back on over here! I need some accompaniment for my singing, you know!"

"I'm coming!" He smirked a the three of them. "Sorry, duty calls." With that, he fled towards the giant quadrocular feline, and began strumming a rendition of Somewhere over the Rainbow.

"…call security," Weiss grimaced, one of her eyes contorting into a look of pure worry. "Tell them to quarantine the potato salad."


The potato salad was placed into the only Keter-certified containment unit in Site-87, and the entire staff felt like they had been had.

Francis— no, Clef was just having a sing-a-long and selling brownies, while their money was literally being sucked away by anomalous creatures. And the whole time, the potato salad grew more and more pungent in odor.

Weiss, Bailey and Brisby had all gone to the cell to watch through glass strong enough to withstand the force from an atomic blast, if not the heat. Within it, a D-Class was making their way over to the potato salad, and looking perplexed the whole time.

"…you want me to what?"

"Have a sample of the salad," explained a researcher over the intercom. "Just eat a forkful or two."

"…'kay," the D-Class stepped forward and took up a plastic fork, noting that it could easily be made into a shiv should he want to escape. He probably wouldn't; he liked potato salad. He might just eat the whole thing, especially if it had cheese, which it looked like it did.

He dug his fork in.

Brought it to his mouth.

Chewed three times.

And spat it out. "What the fuck?!"

"What's wrong?" asked the intercom.

"That's not potato salad, it's got some kind of fish in it!" He looked at what he had spat out, seeing red meat- not naturally red, it looked like it had been cured. He took another forkful, and sniffed at it. "…I think it's herring. Yeah, this… this is a buncha red herrings. Very funny, guys. Prank the prisoner. Can I go now?"

Before the sentence was finished, the entirety of Sigma-10 was scrambled out to the front gates of the site. Weiss drew her own pearl-handled revolver and loaded it with a single beryllium-lead slug.

Sigma-10 broke out of the site, surrounding Clef, the entirety of the guests at the bake sale, a large pile of non-consecutive bills, and at least a dozen dead crimataphagi— giant, bulbous organisms that resembled burlap sacks, mindless in intent. They all looked like they had been torn apart by a giant cat, who was gutting one of them and watching dollar bills and stock certificates flow out like blood from a gutted fish.

"…I'm sorry, but what." Weiss stepped to the front of the task force. "CLEF!"

With a strum of a Ukulele, he popped into existence by her, grinning. "Had to distract you somehow. Couldn't very well have the crimataphagi eating your life's savings." He looked towards the pile of crimataphagi that had spilled their contents, and the giant four-eyed cat, who gave a wink (blink?) and ran off towards Blasted Woods. "That should cover everything."

Tyler Bailey rubbed his temples. "…please don't tell me this was your plan all along."

"Okay!" Clef turned away from Dr. Bailey, and looked at Jerome Brisby, saying in a loud, conspiratorial stage-whisper, "This was my plan all along. Don't tell Bailey."

Weiss, for her part, produced a syringe from her pocket, grabbed Clef by the shoulder, and jammed the needle into the largest vein she could find. The plunger went down, and a reality-restoring drug entered his bloodstream.

Francis Wojciechoski dropped his ukulele and hat, rubbing his shoulder and neck. "…couldn't you have done that earlier?"

Nina Weiss just tugged at her hair, finding another grey strand; it would match her ex-husband's eyes, soon. "…just go back to 19, Wojciechoski. Please. Before there's another incident."

"I swear I did not intend on this to happen." He slouched, removing the hat that had been placed on his head. "It just… I'll keep up with my medication more frequently from now on, I swear."

"Yes, sure. Fine." Weiss rubbed her temples. "Thank you for your services, but…"

"But what?" He frowned. "What did I really do? Try to have a little fun? Just because I'm me, you assume the worst, that I'm going to burn down the site, or take the town off the map. If one of your staff had the idea, you'd be laughing it up, but because I just happen to be a well-medicated Type-Green from 19, you assume the worst."

He shook his head and sighed. "But, whatever. I'll just be… heading back to 19, I guess. Do what you want with the food." He made his way to a car waiting for him in the parking lot. "The recipes are on the papers next to the pans of food."

As Wojciechoski's car began driving away, Brisby stood there, mystified. "…did we just get chewed out by Alto Clef?"

"Kinda makes you feel bad for him," Bailey frowned, as the task force members began returning into the building. "He'll probably be all right."

"…there's a conference in Wichita in September. Career-training seminar." Weiss started back into the site. "I'll try talking to him there. His reality-bender seminar is usually entertaining."


Twenty-Three Years Later…

Nina Weiss wanted nothing more than to have time to herself. She had returned to Baltimore for a quiet night, and had decided to do what was usually reserved for college students and overworked mothers: Order Domino's.

The knock came at her door, and she looked outside, avoided all small-talk with the pimply delivery girl, gave her the payment with tip, and withdrew inside. She frowned as she realized she had ordered one pizza, but there were two boxes. She opened the smaller one, and found, on the inside lid, a note in sharpie:

Nina-

REVENGE IS MINE! (EVIL LAUGHTER)

-Clef

Nina looked in the box, and saw an unholy hybrid of a chocolate-chip cookie and a brownie within it. A sin worthy of a chain pizza restaurant.

Despite all appearances, it went well with plain cheese.

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