Walk the Floor
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Site 150, Foundation Research and Development Department, Entrance 3, 09:00

Pride. Dr. Tabitha Foster knew the feeling well. Pride was black ink in the ledgers. Pride was a good deal put to good use. Pride was coming out of the workshop with something that worked. Pride was a plan coming to bloom.

Pride was looking out across ten square kilometers of factory floor, bright under endless rows of lights far above. The ceiling was so high that it may well have been the sky, the floor so busy it should have been a city. Monorail lines weaved throughout, above the testing areas and workshops and factories. The occasional hover-shuttle, laden with cargo or passengers, would occasionally buzz into view before speeding off. In the distance, three new zeppelins floated lazily, ready for deployment. Elsewhere rested the half–constructed ring suspension ring of a new HALO station.

It was a wonderful morning. It smelled of progress.

Dr. Foster stepped into her personal shuttle. It was a ritual she made every two weeks, to go and personally check on the major projects. Her assistant Eric was already strapped into his seat, labcoat neatly pressed, computer tablet in his hand, glasses sliding down his nose.

“Message from the Overseer Board, ma’am,” he said, just as Foster stepped inside the carriage. The door closed automatically behind her.

“What is it? More sanctions, I suppose?” She sat down across from Eric, fastening her own harness. A button press later and the shuttle’s autopilot took over.

“Yes. They’ve called for the immediate cancellation of development for the Paraselus. Claimed it was too unstable and a waste of resources. Resolution was passed seven to four.”

“Five and Ten leading it again?”

“Yes.”

“Send the board a message saying that the project has been mothballed. Re-route assets into the backup projects, wait until the conversion matrix is upgraded to the mark eight, and bring it back to main production. We can afford a few months’ delay.”

“Right. There’s also a message from the Office of Field Affairs.”

“Again? Tell them that if they have such an issue with the Special Augmentation Program, they are more than welcome to come up with a more effective alternative. Oh wait, your casualty rate is fifteen times higher than ours and you’re run by a bunch of brain-dead Neanderthals who think that conventional technology is sufficient for the Foundation’s purposes…Don’t actually put that last bit in there, that’s just between us.”

“Right, ma’am. There’s also a communique from Dr. Bailey with the latest trade agreements.” He passed over the tablet. Foster glanced over the text, occasionally scrolling to see more. Some pullouts, some new acquisitions, demands. Those weren’t important. What was important was what was going to get funneled to her department.

She very much liked what she saw. She had no idea what to do with seven hundred tons of flerovium, but it was bound to be impressive. Most of the rest was just raw materials, a few technology samples, another coldcore for the reactor, documents and diagrams and terabytes of information for the sorting. She kept reading.

“An exchange program? Someone actually wants an exchange program?”

“The O5 board will veto it,” Eric said.

“Oh, I know. The O5 board also tried to veto updating outdated containment documents, instituting the organizational catalog, purging 732-contaminated records, and putting recycled napkins in the cafeterias. They are not the most forward-thinking of individuals, nor the most aware of the current state of affairs. To think what we could have learned if we had been able to contact the University before it fell.” She shook her head. “Ah well. No use now. There are more Universities out there and plenty of work to be done here.”

The shuttle hummed along.

MF-7 Automated Security Drone testing chamber, 09:17

The drone, a white sphere roughly the size of a beach ball with a single lensed eye, zipped through the air in short bursts. Move, stop. Move stop. Movestop. Movestop shoot. Movestopshoot. The shooting looked much like not shooting, save the burn marks that appeared on the targets that shifted around the chamber.

“Power cell has double the run time when compared to the mark six,” the tech explained. “And it recharges in six hours instead of twelve. Main laser is boosted too.”

Foster nodded. The plan was to automate the majority of the Foundation’s internal security within ten years. Foster would have had it done in three, but Five was cock-blocking, as usual, and had One, Two, Four, Six, Ten and Thirteen on the leash.

Five years then, with one model instead of the ten they had plans for. They would work from there.

Module Construction Yard, 09:43

There wasn’t anything much new in terms of site construction. That section of factory floor was still filled with the same blocky modules, all of them bigger on the inside than the outside. An A2 Module the size of a tractor trailer could provide enough room for five containment chambers and thirty staff.

Foster passed through that area quickly. Approval of their work was given, and she moved on. The Barston Principle was very well-understood, and the last collapse had been over a decade ago. Her presence was better used elsewhere.

Portable Spatial Containment Device Testing Chamber, 10:20

The man in the testing chamber reached into the padded case, removing a smooth black sphere the size of a tennis ball. On the other side of the chamber stood an unadorned store mannequin. The man slid a switch on the side of the ball with his thumb. A white LED lit up. He wound up his arm, tensed, and threw.

Right before the ball hit the mannequin, if one had a hi-speed camera on hand, one could see the ball fold itself inside out. The inside-out ball hit the mannequin, and then it was gone, along with a hemisphere of the floor. There was no flash or noise, just a barely perceptible ripple in the air, and it was gone. The now right-side-in ball dropped to the floor, rolling down to the bottom of the basin. The man walked over, picked it up, thumbed another switch. The light was green now. He tossed the ball again at a bare stretch of floor, near where he had been standing at the beginning. There was another ripple as it hit the floor, just for the briefest and most imperceptible of moments. A pile of crumbled and cracked concrete and half-molten shards of plastic sat on the floor.

At least they had managed to consistently stop the field from backfiring on the thrower, Foster noted. Progress.

“They could always work as grenades,” Eric said.

“They’d be rather difficult-to-build grenades. Not very practical for general use, unless you really needed to liquefy something.” This project had been a headache for months. It was impressive, yes. The very concept made the science-related part of her brain very excited. Execution though, was proving a nightmare. Each Portable Spatial Containment Device contained several cubic meters within it, same principle as the factory itself, enough to store the average humanoid or animalistic anomaly. The capture mechanism worked, pushing the space out and pulling it back in, but keeping things in one piece during capture was proving an issue.

Then there was the fact that it resembled something from a child's cartoon, but Foster thought it best to ignore that.

At the very least the thrower kept their arm.

Personnel Acquisition Initiative Center, 11:02

Foster eyed the ranks of orange jumpsuits. Five rows, twenty to a row. Two hundred eyes, staring at her.

“Dismissed,” Foster nodded something of approval towards them.

The group softened. It didn’t disperse very much, but the hundred men and women turned to face each other. Soft conversations sprung up. Foster waited, hands clasped behind her back. She loved this part.

“ATTENTION!”

In one movement, one hundred D-class swung to face her. Eyes locked, face expressionless, feet together, hands at sides. One unified force, waiting for orders.

It was the sort of scene third world dictators had wet dreams about.

“KOSWITCH!”

One hundred D-class dropped to the floor unconscious, even before her word had faded from the air. Foster nodded, smiling.

“That’s better response time than before. Excellent job, Mason. Your techs should be proud.”

“I’ll make sure to tell them.”

Mason barked a few commands, and the D-classes marched off toward the trucks across the shipping yard.

There were a few more groups to be shipped off that day: some L-Class, some R-Class, some C-Class. Nothing unusual.

The big building behind the parade grounds and personnel shipping yard loomed. Inside was Foster’s pride and joy.

One of them, at least.

Foster knew that she was one of the few who wasn’t disgusted by the thing. 597 was synonymous with that cringing “eaugh” expression, mostly for being the center point of some of the grossest mismanagement in the last decade. Five high ranking personnel, including a site director, had been using 597 for personal satisfaction for over two years, and both the Overseer Board and the Ethics Committee turned a blind eye to it. The old containment procedures actually allowed it to be viewed, even for personnel to enter the chamber. That was what disgusted Foster. Containment procedures written by a gibbon with a typewriter. She had penned the new ones herself, and nothing had happened for years. No one had even seen 597 in years. No one had been inside that building but the classed personnel for years. Everything was automated: the insemination, the birthing, the implantation of the class modifications, the overseeing of the process, everything.

Granted, it wasn’t perfect. The first several generations of subjects suffered from crippling Oedipal complexes and were completely useless. That was the result of trying to breed them as humans. The implants fixed that, eventually. They weren’t really human after the implants, after the brain was changed as much as it was. A fake human. A homunculus.

Such a wonderful word. Rolled off the tongue. Hoh-moohn-cyu-luhs.

Eventually, the implants wouldn’t even be necessary. That was a long term plan, though, and the current system would suffice for the time being.

There was that pride again. Pride at the Personnel Acquisition Initiative, pride in everything they'd managed to build, pride in taking space itself and molding it like Play-Doh. Pride in the knowledge that she was feared. The Observers feared her. And who wouldn’t, really? She was what happened when people got working, when people actually thought. When people looked out into the darkness and said “I am not afraid of you”. The antithesis to the scared men of “science” cowering in the shadows in their boardroom, petrified at the concept of change.

She loved that feeling. Oh, she loved that feeling.

Dr. Tabitha Foster, the most powerful person in the world, was very, very proud of her work.

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