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“I’m telling you Gears, this is going to be the best year yet."

“That would be a matter of opinion, Crow. However, I can not be the only one present who finds the situation ironic: we, as researchers of an institution whose sole purpose is the containment of the paranormal and unknown, are observing an over-commercialized holiday celebrating distilled and often completely fictitious versions of such.”

<Gears, this is no time for analysis. Just drink your punch.> Bright signed rapidly with one hand.

The three doctors were all taking part in the time-honored party tradition of standing by the punch bowl, engaging in what could be called “conversation”, if the definition was stretched. In one way or another, each one was arrayed in costume: Crow had donned a black greatcoat, specially made of course, accompanied by a red sash and a matching high-peaked hat with a silver eagle pin on the front. Bright was in the body of an adult male orangutan. Gears was still wearing his lab coat, but someone had placed a floppy, oversized wizard’s hat on his head and he had yet to take it off.

The Site 19 D-class cafeteria had been converted into the main party center, and the effort was admirable. There was a considerable amount of black and orange streamers hanging from the ceiling, along with dozens of jack o’ lanterns which sat grinning on the long metal tables. Of course, there was also the general mishmash of fake spiders, bugs, skeletons, bats, ghosts, neat glow-in-the-dark doohickeys, a fog machine, and a sound system currently running through volume two of “Halloween’s Best Hits”. The cafeteria line was laden with a sizeable assortment of foods, mostly sugary and very little otherwise. The crowd was still small, consisting mostly of those in charge of the party. The night was still young, and most staff members were still spelunking their way through the haunted house.

The haunted house was, easily, the crown jewel of the event. All five floors of the adjacent D-class barracks had been cleared out and converted into a maze of terror, ending in the cafeteria. While some in the Foundation would question the wisdom or point in making a haunted house, the fact that the senior staff was in charge was usually enough to strike an appropriate level of fear in the average staff member.

Needless to say, what went on within was classified.

Clef stepped out of the shadows right next to Crow, Gears and Bright, wasting no time in helping himself to a plate of pumpkin cookies and a cup of red punch. He was dressed in a sharp tuxedo, with a pair of plastic devil horns and a Guy Fawkes mask.

“Rights, you’re up.” He nodded to the approaching doctor, who was plastered with zombie makeup and had a very large and relatively convincing meat cleaver stuck in her head. “You should probably tell Doctor Glass that his office will be pretty busy come tomorrow. And word from Ghost at the front says that Dr. King just entered the maze. Get the apple seeds ready.”

“I’m on it. Wish me luck, guys.” Rights sauntered off through the secret entrance to the maze, chainsaw in tow. Someone was going to get a very nasty surprise in a few minutes, of the dropping-right-behind-you-from-the-trap-door-in-the-ceiling variety.

Clef turned to the three punch-drinkers.

“So, how ‘bout them Rangers?” Clef managed to take a bite of his cookie without seeming to move his mask.

<Continue that statement and you are contending with three hundred pounds of ape.> Bright downed another cup of punch.

“Eh, I don’t care that much myself, anyway. Though I am curious what happened to you, Bright. Last time I checked, you were going as Nyarlathotep. You even had an Egyptian host and everything.”

Bright’s expression was one of pure simian unamusement.

< If I ever find out, you’ll know. Because you’ll hear them screaming from the other side of the site.> He snarled as he signed, with fangs far larger and more intimidating than he usually had.

Seeing now as an excellent time to shift the conversation away from the Rage of Bright, Kain made a strategic interruption.

“So, uh, how’s it looking in there, Clef?”

“Let’s just say that there will be some people who’ll need a new pair of shorts."

“What’d you do to them?”

Clef leaned forward and whispered. Even with the mask on, it was obvious he had a smug smile of satisfaction. Kain and Bright nodded, understanding. Gears’ expression was blank.

“You did…nothing. I do not believe that I understand.”

<Okay, look. Most of the lower staff are terrified of Clef. Half of them believe he’s the devil for crying out loud. Now, can you imagine walking around a corner and seeing him just standing there and staring at you?>

“Interesting. You took the deep-seated fear most lower personnel have for you, and built upon it so that you would have to exert only the minimum effort for the maximum effect.”

<I just said that.>

“There is no harm in repetition of the conclusion.”

“It's good science.”

The set of thick black curtains that split the barracks from the cafeteria fluttered open, revealing the form of Agent Yoric, who was clad in enough voodoo paraphernalia to make every witch-doctor in the western-hemisphere sigh heavily at the absurdity of it all. Ignoring the cookies, punch, and the “Monster Mash”, he walked over to the four doctors with the steely intent of someone about to speak their mind and the expression of someone who had very nearly had a heart attack. He jabbed an accusing finger at them.

Why on God’s green Earth did you install an animatronic 682 head in the janitor’s closet?”

This statement was followed by an incredibly awkward silence. Kain, Clef, Gears and Bright all looked at each other, then at Yoric, then at each other again.

“Oook,” Bright said.

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