Somewhere in the depths of Site-19, an old man by the name of Victor Stafford sat quietly in an interview room. Despite being away from the Foundation for almost 15 months, he still thought it suited him well. He could not- however- say the same for the young 20-something opposite him, who had a demeanor that suggested he'd rather be somewhere else. A quick glance at his personnel ID revealed his name to be Dr. Oswald, and Stafford could tell he hadn't been with the Foundation long. It was the look in his eyes; that look of confusion and naivety about the organization's many dark underbellies. In other words, it would have been putting it lightly to say that Oswald was less than prepared for this conversation.
“Dr. Stafford,” Oswald began anyway, “you were employed here at Site-19 for over 30 years, correct?”
“Up until May of last year when you were forced to resign for unprofessional behavior.”
“I suppose that's one way to put it.”
A pause, filled by the faint lull of ambient noise. The soundproofing ensured that they were alone in here. It was no wonder why they had politely asked Stafford to leave The Foundation. As a former Senior Researcher, he had grossly overstepped his boundaries by accessing various personnel files, Site project histories, and a myriad of other directories that he only technically had clearance to.
Even after explaining everything and passing multiple lie detector tests, The Foundation made him an offer: resign peacefully and never speak of (or contact) the Foundation again, or be forcibly amnesticized. Hell, Internal Security considered making him take the amnestics anyway, but his history was clean and admirable, and he had a lot of colleagues vouching for his good intentions.
“…How would you phrase it?” Oswald asked.
“I was putting research into a pet project of mine; a collection of data that had been bugging me for years before I could even figure out why. When I finally started building up an idea of what was going on, nobody seemed interested in listening. I slowly became branded as the old crackpot, and maybe eventually that's what I became.”
Oswald looked over a page of notes in front of him, clearing his throat as he did so.
“I'm sure you already know that the reason we invited you in today,” he told Stafford, “was to ask about that data.”
“I do. But I'd be happy to explain.”
“Then explain away.”
Stafford took a breath.
“Okay… So about twenty years ago, a dear friend and coworker of mine went missing; Dr. Lilibeth Orion. She was a brilliant astrophysicist, and had worked on countless SCP items. Then one day, she just up and disappeared. There was a brief investigation, which I offered to take part in, since she was one of my closest friends. I was turned down, and the investigators found nothing of interest.
But I was unsatisfied. I was intent on finding some semblance of closure. That's how this all started. I quickly learned that she was only one in a decent sized list of Foundation missing personnel. Something about that list irked me to no end. I felt like I was being taunted by answers just out of my reach. But eventually I started seeing the little threads that connected everything, thin and complex like a spiderweb.”
“And you went to the Site Director, telling him that something was abducting Foundation members. But you’re talking about The Foundation as a whole, over a very long period of time. Wasn't this just the outcome of general probability that any individual- regardless of Foundation employment- would go missing? ”
“I thought so too at first, but when I looked at the number of reported missing personnel by occupation within The Foundation, I saw something strange. Some of the numbers were erroneously higher than others. Compared to the average, Memeticists went missing 75% less often. Containment Specialists 90% less often. Spatial Anomaly Experts going missing was- and still is- virtually unheard of.”
“That doesn't necessarily prove anything.”
“No, but this does,” Stafford procured a small sheet of paper and proceeded to write down a fairly drawn out equation, loaded with variables and symbols. Needless to say, Oswald didn't even come close to understanding it.
“What is this?” Oswald asked.
“This is the function that clearly depicts a pattern within- not all, but some- disappearances. Are you familiar with Dr. Cardinal?”
“He went missing under incredibly strange circumstances in the early days of The Foundation. RAISA won't release full details, but those bizarre circumstances are a jumping off point for this formula. It says that a missing individual within this pattern will determine another missing individual based on their interpersonal relationships and occupations. It's six degrees of separation with more rules. The results look random in the end, but they aren't, and I can prove it, because when you start with Cardinal, and follow the function, it will always lead you to someone else within the Foundation who has gone missing: Always.”
“I see. So you believe it has predictive power? If it's a mathematical function?”
“To some extent. There are a lot of variables that are difficult to know ahead of time, but I can at least predict the next person in the pattern.”
“And who would that be?”
“Well, the last person to go missing was Dr. Orion. Last Site she worked at was this one, on a project regarding some sort of space anomaly. Coworker nearest her age was a Dr. Kleinsmann. But he has a background in spatial anomalies, and the formula requires the individual to be at least 3 iterations down anyway. So we go to the previous project he worked on, in which he'd been assigned to analyze something Agent Underwood dragged out of a back-alley. Underwood's a good fit for the criteria but still only iteration 2, so her project before that was dealing with acquisition of, erm, something. I don't know any of the details. But I know who else was on that project, and…" he trailed off.
Stafford bit his lower lip and furrowed his brow.
"They were right about you," Oswald scoffed. "You are a crackpot.. This is getting us nowhere."
“I know, I know. You think that I'm just seeing things that aren't there. You think I'm just looking too deep into things and making some sort of narrative to go alongside them… but I also know that you think this meeting was the Site Director’s idea, and that you were merely assigned to talk to me by chance. Don’t agents usually handle interviews?”
Oswald's sardonic grain morphed into an anxious scowl.
“No way,” he said sternly, “you are not implying what I think you are. Don't try to screw with me like this.”
“I'm sorry Oswald. You were on the project with Agent Underwood, whatever it was. You're closest to her age. You're young and in good standing and distanced from Orion. I know you don't want to believe me but I thought it best to tell you in advance, who knows, maybe you can thwart whatever is causing this.”
“You're crazy,” Oswald stood, giving Stafford a look of both disgust and of dread.
“That's the reason they made me resign, Oswald,” Stafford leaned over the desk, his voice hushed. “But if I'm not? Then something's been taking our coworkers, and we have no idea what it is, or how to stop it.”