We Didn't Do This For Nothing

by DarkStuff

rating: +17+x

1: A Reminder of Mortality

It makes sense, you know? That it would be an astronomer.

Almost literally starry eyed, he rose nocturnally to study the heavens and beyond every night from the observatory. Observing, recording, notating. Alive with wonder yet burnt with overworking, passionate but sluggish from running on only caffeine pills. He looked to the stars to feel small.

Because feeling small is humbling.

Whenever he got too large a sense of pride, or his issues felt crushing and overwhelming, the stars were always there to center him. To give him shivers, and pull him a little out of himself. He could spy a planet, so tiny a speck in the middle of the night sky, and muse that he was sitting on something much the same size. And how teeny it looked compared to the rest of the sky! Uncountable, innumerable glimmering sparkling stars, the occasional comet, a tapestry of gemstones, candles from a crowd during a new moon. Though it had been said, he truly could feel that he was on a wet rock in the middle of an incomprehensibly large black ocean.

A speck of dust in glistening ink.

And so he made it his work. And one night, like all nights, he had returned to his observatory. Or perhaps, he had never left. He made note of every comet, every planet's position, of every unnamed star he could find so he might name it later. He traced the Milky Way, idled on his favorite constellations, and…

And…

And a missing star made him feel smaller than he had ever felt before.

That night, he called several high standing members of the scientific community — the ones he could get a hold of, anyways. He held off on calling everyone, because the news was dire. Imminent.

Impossible.

Stressful.

Grim.

That morning (for his sleeping schedule was most irregular), he struggled to fall asleep. The sun had covered the sky in a light blue shield that kept him from studying further, but he prayed to gods he didn't believe in that the next night he could find something he had measured wrong. Some semblance of error in his calculations. Some form of hope. A sign of any sort.

None came.

And why couldn't this happen? It was just a pebble in the middle of the universe, of course. He wished that he could reclaim the worriless feeling that came from watching the stars again. That sense that he didn't matter. That nobody mattered. Nihilism was the last philosophy that he ever thought he'd readily accept, but it would make the pill easier to swallow.

But of all the matter in the cosmos, this had decided to align this way. And a decade from now, no one would be anything anymore. And life — well, not life. But something would go on. The planets would keep spinning. The sun would keep burning. The black holes would keep pulling. And nothing would care. Not ever again. Not since the loss of humanity.

On a cosmic scale, nothing would change.

The world was ending, and there would be no one to care.

2: Tom & Abe

"Earl Grey, please, thank you."

Abraham ordered his usual from a hole-in-the-wall café he was fairly sure held only five regular patrons. Each day at three he would come in to get an Earl Grey, sit by the window, look out into the cobbled alley, and sip his drink. He was most often the only person there at that hour. It wasn't the lunch rush, it wasn't dinnertime, it wasn't any normal eat-out hour, and so Abe would usually sit by himself and enjoy whatever weather there was at the time.

Today, though, he had company. A round-faced, frizzy-haired forty-something fellow with a steaming mug was sitting on the bar by the window. Right where Abe usually sat.

Abe considered. He usually came here to allow himself the few seconds of time alone he got during his day. He didn't usually like being alone, and he could only take it in short doses, but it was a much needed cool-down from constant action and interaction. Like a strong flavor — he enjoyed a bite or two, but never the meal. And this was his bite a day.

But this man felt somehow familiar.

Abe's consideration didn't last long. Abe was always one to talk, his bias always towards socialization. He decided a newcomer to his mid-afternoon café retreat deserved a conversation over tea and a cold window.

He walked over to the man, and found him reading over a handwritten paper.

"Mind if I sit here?" Abe prodded.

"Oh, no, not at all." The man moved his paper slightly more to his left to make arm space for Abe.

"Much appreciated. Sorry to intrude on your space, this is simply my most common spot."

"Oh is it?"

"Yes, I'm in here at this time every day, and this is the first time I've ever seen someone else in here too."

"You must work odd hours."

Abe smiled. "Flexible, sure. I'm a physicist, I write essays and teach a class at the University two blocks from here." The newcomer looked up from his paper with assumed interest. "All my classes are in the morning and the evening, and I have lunch with my colleagues, so I come here before my next class to cool off. Long days, you know."

"I do, I'm a professor as well."

"Oh really? What type?"

The man pushed aside his paper and turned to face Abe. His expression child-like, his mouth small, but his eyes and wrinkles deep and knowing. "I dabble in a few fields. A physician, primarily."

"Indeed?" The man nodded. "Do you also work at a hospital? Or does your dabbling take you elsewhere?"

"I find that my interests are too broad to tie me down to any one thing, so I must admit that I have performed no surgeries."

"Autopsies?"

"Autopsies, however, I have."

"Ah, what for?"

"To study."

Abe's Earl Grey was delivered by the one worker there, a catch-all: waiter, accountant, owner, stocker. Abe supposed that the café was a one-man operation, and he respected the man highly for that.

The other patron finally played into the conversation. "And what do you do?"

"Oh, nothing, honestly. I've learned physics and I teach it. I can not claim to do much more than that. I spend my free time writing what I will teach and how I will teach it the next time, or else with friends and family." Abe's eyes met the man's. "Not to say I don't wish to experiment and research, but simply that my priorities lie in other places. I am content with where I am."

"And for that you bear no shame, of course."

"I should hope not!"

"I can hold nothing but respect for those who expand the trade of science. A professor such as yourself has much to profess, and for that I commend you. I've taught classes myself, but no more. I've done enough to retire to my laboratories and experiment."

"Oh have you?"

"I have. Perhaps you've heard of me. What's your name?" He extended his hand.

"Abraham Ramirez." They shook. "Yours?"

"Thomas Young."

Abraham's mouth opened without his willing it to. "Thomas Young?"

"That's me."

"The Thomas Young?"

"Aye."

"A physician?"

"I had said I dabbled."

"You're the man who did the interference experiment, the double-slit!"

"So you know it?"

"Know it? I teach it! I even use your plates from your lectures! I knew you seemed familiar!"

Tom smiled. "So it wasn't just that I sat in your seat, was it?"

Abe reciprocated. "There might have been more than one reason, sure. Well, now I am made only more curious. What is your paper?"

"Ah, nothing. An astronomer friend of mine is wanting confirmation on certain calculations of his. His reason is sound, his extrapolations nothing new or groundbreaking, I am not sure why he desires my eyes. But, I have agreed to give him a once-over. He's my friend and I respect him. He sounded urgent in his letter as well."

"Hmm. Well," Abe's internal clock ticked forwards, "I must leave. It has been a pleasure speaking to you." Abe stood from his stool.

"To you as well."

"I hope your paper reviewing goes well, and I hope I should stumble into you again. Where might I find you?"

"Mmm, well, if you come in here every afternoon, then perhaps here is where you might find me. Whenever I feel like having a tea over work."

Abe backed his way towards the door. "Alright then, newcomer. I hope to see you here again." Abe pivoted his heels, and strode out the building's creaky wooden door. Tom's eyes followed him down the cobbled path until he turned a corner, disappearing into a gaslit London. Tom sighed, stirred his Chamomile, and began once again to read meaningless equations. His friend must have been following an astronomic body, but Tom couldn't for the life of him figure out which.

3: God in Man's Domain

The day was hot, and humid, and generally uncomfortable. But it was Dr. Alex Hillenburg's one day off this week, and he would be damned if he wasn't going to use it. Working for the Foundation was stressful, and it never fucking left you. Ever. Just this last week, Hillenburg was responsible for the deaths of four innocent souls. And not on accident. Gotta crack a few eggs, right?

So, when he wasn't involved in murder, or trying to figure out how to cover up a burning residence, or forcing a cloth onto someone's mouth, he wound down playing golf.

Long green pastures, flying objects, few people. It got him out of the bunkers, and out of his house, finally above ground and in the outdoors. Hard to feel regret and stress when you're calculating what putt to use for the next stroke, and then searching for your golf ball in the low cut grass. Repetitive, meditative, calming. Hillenburg's sport of choice.

After getting a caddie from the caddie master, Hillenburg started off to the first fairway. The sky was cloudless. The sun was violent. The grass and trees swayed with a breeze, the only relief from the boiling heat. "Perfect," Hillenburg thought genuinely, "another thing to account for when putting." The more distractions the better. The more to think of, the better.

As Hillenburg packed up a golf cart, an unfamiliar voice shouted after him.

"Hey!" A man ran up, a golf club brandished and towing a bag of more. "Hey, you! Wait up!"

Hillenburg thought that he might be taking the last golf cart, in which case he would want a ride. Not so bad, though it was holding him up. Hillenburg breathed smoke through his teeth as the man slowed his sprint to a heavy-breathed jog.

"Thanks for waiting up."

"You want a ride?"

"Yes, but, not only."

Hillenburg's mouth tightend. "What do you want?"

"To play with you!" Hillenburg's eyebrows raised and tensed. "You're known around here. You think you can get par or under every time and not be noticed? You're good!"

Hillenburg's face softened. The flattery had worked, though he knew that he wasn't the best person to play there. He wasn't even the best person to play there on Sundays, which was generally the day he went. But, fine. Maybe some competition would be good. "Alright, hop in."

"Thank you," the man said as he crawled into the back. "Can't ever find someone to play with. You?"

"Never look for any."

"Heh." The short drive was silent the rest of the way. They slowed down and got out at the first course. The man gave the caddie twenty bucks up front to account for his own putters on top of Hillenburg's. And then, they started. In silence, at first. The first hole, Hillenburg led. The ball went flying into the glare of the sun, was lost for a second, and then landed perfectly on the opposite side of a sandtrap. The man began by landing dangerously close to out of bounds, in the rough.

The game went on. In twenty or thirty minutes, Hillenburg was leading with a birdie. The man got only a par.

The games went on much the same. It started with -1 to 0, and then it was -1 to 1, -1 to 2, 0 to 1, -1 to 1, -1 to 2, and so on. And then, they were on their way to the 18th hole, with Hillenburg at -2, and the man at 3. The sun was now nearing the horizon, though not quite setting. The heat had come down, the chill of the breeze had intensified, and Hillenburg was nearing the feeling of being done. He was certainly satisfied with his performance. The man had posed no real challenge — by about the 9th hole, it was clear that Hillenburg would win — but waiting on the man to take his turn had extended his stay at the golf course, and that was welcomed. As soon as he got home, he would feel the need to tackle paperwork once more.

The banter had yet to grow beyond "good shot" and "rough" and "nice game" and telling the Caddy what score to put. But now, the man seemed to be getting chatty.

"So what do you do?"

"Hmm?"

"Your job, you know? What do you do?"

"Mmm. Internal affairs." That wasn't even a lie, Dr. Hillenburg's official job description was a Director of Internal Affairs. He was officially trained in psychology and sociology.

"Oh interesting. So, HR? Human relations?"

"Sort of, yeah."

"Heheh, so you're the guy who everyone fears, aren't ya? Get pulled into a quick meeting with the boss, and you're there too, and that's when they know they're fired, right? You're that guy?"

Hillenburg smiled. "Yeah. Yeah, I'm that guy." Calling it getting fired was a beautiful understatement. "Why do you ask?"

"Small talk, just small talk."

"Alright." Hillenburg paused. Did he want to engage in conversation? Maybe. This man's company hadn't been as grating as Hillenburg had initially expected. He probably deserved as much. "Yourself?"

"Oh, me? I'm a CEO."

"A CEO?"

"Yeah."

"Wow. Big job, huh? What company?"

"We're a transport company. Trucks and all that jazz. Big, heavy machinery, mechanical stuff, metal and girders. Transport 'em. Not really a public face, 'cause we're a company whose customers are other companies. Like, a heavy machinery handler. Where do you work?"

Hillenburg decided to ignore that the man had misheard him. It didn't really matter, anyways. "I work for the government. My job isn't secret, but where I work, who I work with, and why are. So, classified." Hillenburg smiled. He loved using those lines.

"Oh, neat." The cart stopped at the 18th hole.

"Final round," Hillenburg grinned. "Last chance to win. Par 5."

"Par 5, huh? You're at -2, I'm at 3?"

"Certainly looks like it." Hillenburg put his golf ball down on the circle that marked the start, and teed up. Squared his shoulders. Pulled the putter back, and, whack. A beautiful shot, as always. The ball soared across the sky, barely visible in the glare of the sideways sun, and fell to earth over a third of the way to the hole.

"I guess my only chance is a hole in one, isn't it?" The man placed his ball on the circle.

"Sounds right." Hillenburg began to wish he had brought a jacket; the breeze was really picking up.

"Here goes nothing, then." The man pulled his putter back. His stance wasn't perfect, his grip on the putter was too loose. He had swung this way the whole game, and that's one of the things he could really use some work on. But he committed: he swung the iron straight down into the ball, to make a satisfyingly loud crack.

Hillenburg furrowed his brow.

The ball flew, and flew, and flew, gorgeously and accurately through the blue, lost in the shine of the sun, but reappearing only seconds away from the green. It arced gracefully, meaningfully, purposefully towards the ground, and when it landed… the pin looked like it shook.

Hillenburg side eyed the man, and without a word started off towards the hole. The man followed close behind. After a little over two minutes of walking, Hillenburg approached the flag, and peered down into the hole. It was just what it had looked like from afar.

An ace. A hole in one.

Hillenburg glared at the man. "What's your game?"

"Beginner's luck?" The man's smile was wide and annoying. "You could still win, you just need under par."

"No, I'm done playing. What are you here for?"

"Man, you just made this reveal a lot less fun. A hole in one isn't a guarantee of an 'anomalous individual', you know. You could have let me draw it out a bit longer."

Hillenburg put his hand at his side, fondling a pistol that he had never bothered to hide. He was a paranoid man, of course. For good reason. Things like this happened sometimes, and he would be remiss to leave it at home.

"Anyways, you don't have to worry, I didn't come here to hurt you. I did legitimately want to play golf. Old man's sport, eh? I just also wanted to apologize."

"Apologize for what?" The man laid down on a hillside, supine towards Hillenburg.

"I want to apologize because you're going to come into contact with one of my fuck-ups soon. Well, not entirely my fuck-up. It was sort of a collaborative effort between me and some people I know. But, well, you're on a crash course trajectory with it, and I just wanted to apologize beforehand." The man held out his arms. "I know my 'laid back' demeanor might make it feel like I'm kidding about this. Like I'm secretly happy or something. I could assume any personality I wanted, this simply felt most appropriate for the golf course. But really, I wanted to say I'm sorry. You're life's going to get a lot worse pretty soon, I thought it would be fair to warn you."

"Oh yeah? Why me? I can't be the only one this will affect."

"No, but you can relay this message to everyone around you. It'll have the same effect. Thought you would be the type of guy to do that. Just, you know." The man put his hands on his chest. "Brace yourself."

"Who are you?"

"Me?" The man frowned. "You can call me Howard. Howard █████."

Hillenburg felt the beginnings of a headache. "What? What did you say?"

"Nothing important." Howard stood up and sighed. "You'll understand later."

Hillenburg reeled over, clutching his head. "What are you? A type green?"

"No, no," Howard's features began to stretch and mangle, extending him upwards and into the sky. His legs melted, his hands dissolved into basic shapes, his face collapsed like building blocks. His voice gurgled and crackled. "I'm something a lot weirder than that."

And then, Howard was gone. Hillenburg's headache slowly went away, and his eyes could unclench without immediate pain. He hyperventilated and sweat, standing carefully back up. He blinked several times, rubbed his eyes. Howard hadn't left a single trace of his existence. Even his putter and golf ball were gone.

Hillenburg began to kick the dirt in frustration, when he heard shuddering breaths from behind him. He turned around.

The caddie knelt, awestruck and in shock, on the green.

God.

Damn it.

With an annoying lack of amnestics at hand, Hillenburg pulled out his pistol.

If only he could get one day away from his work.

4: We're Onto You

Rachael pinned up another anomaly (within her clearance level) that they knew did not exist before May 10th, 1829. As far as her corkboard told her, there was a sharp increase — almost a 150% increase — in anomaly manifestation after May 10th. But, Rachael had come to an impasse. Sure, she had proven what she wanted to prove. But for what? What was there to do with this information?

The only historical happening on May 10th of 1829 was the death of a Thomas Young. What would that have to do with anachronism? And beyond that, sure, May 10th was the first instance of anachronism, and it's grown a lot since then, but, it's so hard to pinpoint things to a single day. It's not as if May 11th saw the manifestation of thirty reported anomalies that they knew of, as opposed to, say, five anomalies the day before. While Rachael could definitely say that there were more anomalies manifested after that day, she couldn't say it wasn't just an exponential function.

Which is to say, she would have gotten similar results if she used May 9th or May 11th as her reference. Or even May 1st. Or even just that year, 1829. It wasn't anything definitive. She could definitely record that anomaly manifestation went up sharply somewhere within 1829 though, and that was interesting and possibly useful information.

Rachael sat back down at her desk and added to her notes.

Anomaly manifestation increase of roughly 150% in 1829

She turned to look back at her board of data. Hmm… yes, there was more to scribble.

Line of best fit from 0 to 1800 AD measures a very slow decrease in anomaly manifestation, 5% decrease in anomaly manifestation from 0 to 1800.

That's enough. That's interesting information. Now she just had to figure out who would like this information. But, for now, it was 8:00 pm. That was dinner time. Well, it was a little after dinner for some, but it was dinner for her, because by now most people would have left the cafeteria, and that was her preferred eating situation.

Rachael left her office, locked the door behind her (turns out what she thought was site policy was actually just a defect with her door, that was an awkward thing to find out), and started down the hallway towards the cafeteria. She first passed a large lounge area, with floor to ceiling windows looking out on a French forest. Past this room, more hallways, interspersed with offices and laboratories, eventually led to a large open room with a plethora of round tables. At end opposite from where Rachael had entered were two cooks getting ready to close down.

Rachael made her way over, and ordered a salad. She forked over five bucks, and received a bowl that she could take over to the salad bar. At the salad bar, however, was a coworker of hers.

"Oh, hello, Davidson. Having a late dinner as well?"

Agent LaFerrier smiled at her as he poured ranch over what looked like a bowl of only chicken and croutons.

"Yes, I like my environment quiet, so I come to the cafeteria late."

"You're funny, Dr. Davidson." At least he addressed her correctly. Agent Victor LaFerrier was a little hard not to like. He was highly dedicated, very social, but also respecting of your personal space if you wanted to be left alone (unlike some), and a genuinely happy person. His kind was rare to find in the Foundation. "Site-31 is supposed to be a break for people who have been working very hard, but you work so hard that you can't stop working, even when you're here."

Rachael smiled politely as she picked up lettuce with tongs. "There's always more to get done. I don't need to waste a month stagnating."

"Oh, it's not wasted. We have plenty of Safe anomalies here to take care of if you need a job."

Rachael held her hand up. "No, no, I have my own projects. Though…"

Victor walked towards a nearby table, and Rachael thought for a moment. Should she join him? Did she really wish to have this conversation?

Well, Victor certainly wasn't the worst person to talk to. Maybe she'd even enjoy it. He was a very good listener. She decided to follow him.

"Though what?"

"It's just that my current project might have reached a dead end. I thought I was really onto something with this anachronistic anomaly, but… well, I did discover some things, but they aren't as big as I would like them to be."

"Oh?"

"Yes. They're interesting, but I don't have enough knowledge to use them. I'm thinking that I'll find someone who's interested and dump it on them, see if they can find anything out, keep in touch with me, all that."

"Sounds like a plan."

"Indeed." The two ate in silence for about a minute, before something struck Rachael. "Victor?"

"Mmm?" His mouth was full of salad.

"What do you do here? You've been here as long as I have, and it sounds like you were here before. This site doesn't really need that many agents. What's your assignment?"

Victor held up a finger as he finished his bite. After swallowing: "I don't have one."

"You don't?"

"Nope."

Rachael considered for a second. "Then why are you here?"

"Ah, I've been on many many assignments before. A disproportionate number, compared to others. I have lived through… many pains. So, this is my retirement."

"Really?"

"No, not really. I'm still on call in case they need an agent, which they do about once a week, but it's never anything hard, or dangerous. So, it's essentially retirement. That is all. That's what I do."

Rachael couldn't quite figure out why, but that struck her as especially odd. "What assignments did you have before?"

"Mmm mmm mmm, classified. Even I don't remember some of them." LaFerrier flashed her a thin smile.

Rachael had a sudden feeling of unease that she couldn't place. By all means, there was nothing ridiculous about what Agent LaFerrier had said. There was nothing particularly unbelievable. There was nothing disturbing, or wrong with it. She just knew that at this very moment, she would like to be anywhere else.

Rachael stood up.

"Thank you for the talk, LaFerrier, but I think I'm going to take my salad back into my office. Have a good evening."

"You too, Dr. Davidson. See you tomorrow."

Rachael's footsteps echoed around the large empty room, getting softer and softer as she made her way down the corridor. As soon as she had passed out of sight, Agent LaFerrier turned and made eye contact with one of the chefs.

"She's a funny one, that Dr. Davidson," he said. "Real funny."

The cook just nodded, and went back to packing up.

5: A Soul, A Conscience, Whatever You Call It

Tom & Abe walked down a cobbled street, Abe continuing to compliment, praise, and rave about Tom's works. They engaged on various topics surrounding the sciences, people, and the world at large. Eventually — though it probably happened sooner than "eventually" would suggest — Abe circled it back to his favorite of Tom's works, the double-slit experiment.

"What do you make of it?"

"Hmm?"

"What do you, Thomas Young, originator of the interference experiment, make of it? What are your conclusions?"

"Oh, of course…" Tom went on to explain many of the more physical conclusions that he had made. Things which would fly over most everyone's heads — some even went over Abe's, despite his education. All the while, he nodded and listened, never asking Tom to repeat something just so the conversation could go on.

Abe loved hearing Tom go off about his theories. It fascinated Abe to no end, and the passion behind Tom's ramblings was inspiring, even if he didn't follow. Abe had, for a long while, been secure in his knowledge of physics, but his kinship with Tom made him want to learn more.

"You follow?"

"Of course!" He didn't.

"But, that's where all my conventional conjectures end." Conventional? That stuff was conventional?

"What do you mean? Do you have more?"

"Well," Tom pondered for a second. "Yes. I do. But they're not nearly as applicable."

"Oh, do tell."

"They're also far less scientific sounding than I would hope."

"Intriguing."

"But you have been a good friend, I trust you will hear me out. So…" Tom pondered for a second more. "If it takes observation to collapse wave forms, and observation must come from a sapient being, then sapience itself must be more than the sum of its parts. Perhaps far more."

"I believe I agree with you."

"A conscience, then, actually interacts with the physical world, and changes properties of said world. Are we on the same page?"

"Yes, we are."

"Well, this thing, that is the greater sum of conscience and sapience, this aspect. This thing that comes out of our brain through our eyes and decides aspects about the world. While by no means a scientific term, and in no way am I insinuating any type of supernatural explanation, I believe we can call it…

"…the soul."

6: Premature Evisceration

█████ Industrial was on the verge of something phenomenal. No, not financially. █████ Industrial was doing fine in that area. They were a functioning company. They transported big equipment for other companies. Business as usual. But they weren't passionless.

█████ Industrial wasn't very notable from an outside view. In fact, there wasn't much of an outside view, seeing as they worked for other companies. They had almost no public face, no big achievements. Their logo was simple and dull, their employees and higher ups weren't newsworthy by any means, and their occupation was utterly forgettable.

Well, forgettable was the hope. On the edge of a breakthrough, the higher ups were hoping to leave everything behind. In fact, they would.

In their hands, the great glass ball that was █████ Industrial rested. But that was their tie to the physical world, a memory they would rather leave behind. Far, far behind them. They were bound for bigger and better things. All together, they began to remove their hands. Each month, a pillar of support was taken out from under the company.

Some people felt it sooner than others. Walls shifted. Workers were laid off, but kept working. But, every day the company became more and more abandoned.

The ball was falling, faster and faster.

Stocks dropped. Assets went into thin air. Families cried for the brother that was killed in a crane accident. But nobody stopped working.

The ball hit the ground, and shattered, entirely and completely, fractured into an uncountable myriad of pieces. Sharp, dangerous to touch. Unwieldy.

No more bosses.

No more schedules. No more clocking out, though some might still clock in.

Everything died, and nobody remembered any of it. Not family, not friends. The CEO and his compatriots ceased their links to anything. Anything at all.

Needless to say, █████ Industrial went bankrupt.

And Howard █████ went somewhere few can follow.

7: The Call to Action

Tom and Abe had stepped off the train into the humble station of Hereford, England. It was a quaint little place by the Welsh border; a town built around a grande cathedral. Not a rare sight in England, to have a town built around a glowing, immaculate church. However, Thomas Young and Abraham Ramirez weren't here for sightseeing. They were here because Tom received a letter from his astronomer friend, summoning him (and "that fellow I see you around with") to a small house on the outskirts of a town that felt like the outskirts already.

With long coats, woolen gloves, thick yet stylish hats, slick black boots, red and brown scarves, and umbrellas (just in case), Tom and Abe arrived at a medium sized two story building. Later, Tom and Abe would come to call the house "historical", but at the time it looked just like any other house. Two stories, a mix of white walls and dark wooden beams, the second floor bigger than the first.

But it was exceedingly bland for such an urgent occasion. Tom found the location especially odd. A nice countryside house. Hmm.

Abe knocked three times, and waited for a response. Shuffling was heard from within.

Then the door was pushed open just a crack, with chain locks tensing against the swing. A pair of baggy eyes stared out of a dimly lit room to Abe and Tom.

"Thomas Young?"

"Yes, and my friend, Abraham Ramirez. Man of science, a professor in London."

"He was invited?"

"William told me he was invited as well."

The eyes shifted between the two. Then they retreated back into the room, and locks were slid out of place. The door swung open, and the man waved the two in.

Tom and Abe became witness to a small living room, barely accommodating the amount of people present. Visitors were forced to spill into neighboring hallways, the kitchen, and the staircase. All the curtains were drawn, and they were heavy curtains indeed; they cast the room into very dim light and consumed shadows of people moving around. In the middle of the room an astronomer, that Abe knew as William Herschel, made himself space enough to set up an easel upon which he had placed large, currently concealed poster-slides.

Abe was struck enough by the scene that he might have nudged Tom and asked for an explanation as to what was going on, if it wasn't already established in the train ride over that Tom knew as much as Abe did. Abe vaguely recognized several people who he had seen around the London scientific community, and he startlingly recognized even more names from what he could catch of conversational mumbles and whispers. Beginning a whisper of his own:

"Tom, do you know these people?"

Tom scanned the room, his lower eyelids dropped yet his brow creased. "This is certainly a meeting of high importance," was all he was willing to give out.

Abe pushed his way through the clustered crowd towards the sink (an installment not all houses had, which marked a slightly higher stature) to pour himself a glass. He would have asked to use the sink first, but he had no clue whose house this really was — it certainly wasn't Herschel's, for Herschel lived in London — and he was dead thirsty. More and more people squeezed in, and by the time he had drunk a glass or two, the room was too thick with scientists to move from his station back to Tom's side. After a few halfhearted attempts, he resigned to keeping his position in the kitchen, from which he could barely see William, the only person with room to move around as he demanded space for his presentation.

"Gentlemen, gentlemen! I believe we have all gathered. Samuel, lock the door and don't answer for anyone anymore. I demand your attention. Please, quiet down." The room's mutters slowly petered out, until all eyes peered through the dark at the illuminated William (he had a low glowing lamp on the table next to him). Their eyes reflected the light, and became tiny white and yellow pools all across the cramped rooms.

"Alright, now that I have your attention…" William's old voice cracked. "I have made a discovery."

He flipped to the first slide, and began his long, grave spiel.

8: We're Still Here

Dorer stared, bewildered, at Rachael. She was paused in the middle of a bite of shrimp, her short black hair pinned back as per usual. Her dark skin directly contrasted with a perfectly clean white long sleeve shirt — Dorer would have believed she only had the one shirt, if it didn't look pristine every time she wore it — and her hazel eyes glared through her eyebrows at him.

"Are you just going to stare at me eating my food, or are you going to leave me in peace?"

"Oh, sorry, I'm just surprised that you're in the cafeteria! Mind if I sit here?"

Rachael failed to answer, and Dorer took it as a yes. He sat down with his two burritos (one was going to be for Rachael), started to noisily open a bag of chips, and began to wear his everlasting grin. "Well, I ain't dumb, even if you think I am, and I sure might be compared to you. But something tells me you're not out here just because you suddenly felt like it, are you?"

Rachael didn't look up from her plate of seafood salad.

"So I'm right. Because if you wanted to be out here, you'd have been prepared to talk. What's up?"

"Alright, you're gonna make me guess. Well, here's my guess. I guess that your project is over, and now you've got nothing to do. You've got nothing to work on to distract you from the fact that you should be eating lunch, so you were forced to come out here and be with the rest of us. I don't know why you stayed out here, but that's my guess. Am I right?"

"Pretty much," Rachael mused, to Dorer's surprise.

"Ahh! Anachronism not as interesting as you'd expect? Or did you simply discover all there was to know."

Rachael raised her eyebrows but said nothing.

"Alright, alright, I'll stop prying. Well, about that, heheheh. But, let me be courteous for perhaps the first time. I don't pretend to understand it, but you seem to want your space. So, may I inquire what you're planning on doing next?"

Rachael very deliberately and very slowly finished a bite of kale. Then, she sat up, and stared at Dorer. Dorer's smile faded, and he gently set down his bag of chips, and knit his fingers together. After a couple seconds, he straightened his back to better mimic Rachael's imposing stature. She was very tall, much taller than Dorer. They sat in silence (well, they were silent, the cafeteria was bustling) for a full minute. Then Rachael smiled only ever so slightly.

"I'm applying for reassignment. I can't stand this site, and I'm hoping that the next project they put me on will necessitate my leaving. I won't be giving goodbyes, either, so if you suddenly notice my office being cleaned out, now you know why."

"Oh ho ho, I bet you have the type of pull that could allow you to ask for some specifics, don't you?"

Rachael's smirk disappeared. "I don't think I do. I landed the anachronism project because I had begun the research myself. I made the case that the anomaly required more inquiry, and so I was given a research grant and some free space. But all those specifics are irrelevant. Without a similar idea, I am at the whims of the higher ups. It annoys me. But I would rather work on something than chip fruitlessly at this anachronism project."

Dorer finally took another gander at his food, and unwrapped the foil on his first burrito. "I think I get it. You're a gloryhound!"

"A what?"

"A bullet chaser. You know you can climb the ranks, so you can't handle not being at the top. Right now, you're doing everything in your power to get more power to do things with. It's not hard to tell, you know. You're pining for Level 5 clearance. Am I wrong? 'Cause you won't get it, not while being as self-centered as you are." Rachael placed her fork down. "Lighten up! I can help you. I bet that you're obsessed with being perfect. I've checked out the system, and I can tell you, you're going to want to make mistakes. The higher ups love mistakes. They're all over them. Don't believe me? Every Site Director gets their position immediately after handling a fuck up really well. I swear it. The Site Director here, Mr. Drouillard, he was in the middle of a containment fuck up because there was a misplaced file on his watch — he was a containment director for some of the actually mobile things around here — and they lost all their research on the intervals at which a certain anomaly activates.

"Now, without knowing when it would activate next, they had to start all over from square one. But he remembered enough of their process, not because it was his job but because he was that directly involved, that he made up the two months of research in one! But not only that. No one but him and his team knew about the screw up, and since it didn't actually result in any damage, he could have simply omit it from his report. Cover it up, make him look more perfect than he was. But he didn't. He left it in, in full: how he screwed up and how he fixed it. Got promoted that summer. Neat, eh?"

"He could have faked it. If it was a screw up that no one knew about, and didn't result in anything bad, then he could have made the whole ordeal up to make him look good. Think of that?" Dorer frowned. Rachael glowered at him. "Dr. Dorer, what do you do at this site, anyways?"

"You're too pessimistic, you know. That attitude won't get you anywhere."

"It's kept me alive so far. What do you do, Dorer?"

Dorer huffed through his nose. "I'm a psychologist, I was working here as a D-Class therapist. Did you know that they have that program? You might be surprised. For D-Class that prove themselves to be useful, we actually do some upkeep on them. Ever seen the D-Class enter this facility? Ever wonder what they were for?"

Rachael stirred her salad. "I admit to some curiosity. I didn't expect much around here needed D-Class."

"Precisely. They're here because a couple companions and I are here. They've survived enough that we want to keep them nice and healthy. I'm on the psychological end of that process. Site-31 serves as a D-Class processing plant, taking broken ones and making shiny new ones. Reduce, reuse, recycle. It's pretty handy, and when you see how humans power through the shit situations they're thrust into, it's hard for you not to keep a positive attitude. Maybe you should meet with them sometime. They're actually open to visitors. Wanna see?"

"No, I really don't."

"Well, the invitation won't last long."

Rachael had a couple bites of salad before noticing that Dorer was looking like an idiot again. Rachael gave him a stare, and then went back to her food.

"Oh, you're no fun." Dr. Dorer chuckled. "It's because I'm applying for reassignment, too!"

9: Brahman

The souls of every living being coursed through the long-reaching arms of Brahman. They saw the world as it was, but they also saw it as it is. Every being was fifty or eighty beings, and all beings were one being within Brahman.

The souls of every being were voices, and each voice was part of the council, the council of Brahman. They decided when the sun rose, and when the tides went out, and when the stars were visible. They decided what chicken tasted like, and what inhaling helium did to your voice, and what shoes felt like to walk in. They all contributed, and they were all one in Brahman. But some voices were louder than others.

Some beings were not fifty nor eighty beings, but one being, and they were the creators. The creators' voices were so loud, their souls so strong, that there was no delay between their words and their actions. Unlike the others, they were never recycled. Their forms never turned over to other forms, their beings never split into newer beings. Their somas were pure, and their souls were purer.

For centuries (or were they seconds?), the creators were the only beings so pure. But there were others, others that had begun to gain inklings of inklings. Dribbles of information that they thought they knew what to do with. Several beings that were one being wanting to be one again, and they were led by a certain Howard.

But they were reckless, and unknowing, and blind. In their ambition, they turned away from the warnings of destruction and ruin, and instead only focused on their misguided idea of "ascension". They coagulated, and solidified, and holes were made in their wake. Their company, their lives, were haphazardly torn from Brahman's tapestry without a second thought.

Little worried Brahman, as Brahman was not built to worry… but Brahman was a soul themself, and unfortunately prone to emotions. Of the few things that worried Brahman, worldly holes were one of them. Brahman thought of and sought for a solution. Brahman knew that they had the power to fix it in an instant, but there was a failsafe — a firewall. The creators could never allow Brahman to make such large changes to the tapestry without their permissions, and only the creators could contact Brahman, and not the other way around.

And the creators…

The creators had been absent for decades.

Brahman had not heard from the creators for a good, long time. They could hear their voice in the council, but they never engaged with Brahman like they used to. Without their assistance, Brahman could not fix the problem by their lonesome. But there was another option… Brahman need not fix the problem entirely on their own. They had resources at their disposal. They had beings, each of which was fifty or eighty. Though they could not communicate directly, they could nudge this way and that.

Yes, Brahman thought, this could work. I am not hopeless without the creators. I am simply slowed. But slow is not nothing. Slow can push through.

And so Brahman set to work.

10: It's All Connected, I Swear It

Rachael had a message in her work email. She opened it, of course. It read like this:


Auto Assignment: Homeward Bound
FROM: autoassignment@scipnet
TO: rachael.davidson@scipnet


Dear Dr. Rachael Maria Davidson,

We understand you have been available for reassignment for 8 day(s). If you are not available for reassignment, or this message has otherwise reached you by accident, please update your information in SCiPNet and close this message immediately to avoid possible leaking of classified information.

If you are available for reassignment, you may proceed.

A Dr. Alex Callero Hillenburg has requested your enlistment for an operation currently entitled Homeward Bound, involving 0 anomalies and 0 colleagues that you have worked with previously. His enclosed reasoning was:

works hard, competent, in france

You are summoned to meet with Dr. Alex Callero Hillenburg at this coming Friday at 3:00 pm in S120, Site-31.

Thank you for your cooperation.

- Auto Assignment, Making Teamwork Easy
This assignment was approved by Roger Tarpan of Site-64

Rachael was intrigued. That assignment had come faster than she expected, and its contents were fascinating. She took pleasure in the mention of her work ethic, and wasn't too puzzled by the necessity of her being in France. What did bother her was the mention of Site-64. Dr. Hillenburg must have been in Site-64 to look to Roger Tarpan for approval, but that was all the way over in Oregon. What could take someone from Oregon to France, if they were organizing the team? What could they have been doing in Oregon that related to France?

That combined with the operation title "Homeward Bound" made her think of an anomaly on the move. Something that was once in France. Perhaps a containment breach? But if they had to take an anomaly from France all the way over to Oregon… well, they would have really not wanted it in France.

Either way, it was something to do, and if it was a containment breach, helping out would look fantastic on her record.

11: We're All Connected, I Know It

The two Englishmen sat in soft light, in silence, and in sorrow. It had been an hour since they had gotten off the train from Hereford, and they were in utter disbelief. The whole of humanity was, very all of a sudden, at stake. They sat on a bench near the station and had yet to move.

Abe hunched and fondled his tobacco pipe.

Tom sat up and looked straight ahead, both hands in his pockets to fend off the cold of the night.

"What are we going to do, Abe?"

Abe made eye contact. They hadn't been friends long enough to face a great tribulation together, but Abe was certain that Tom would be the one with the answers — the shoulder to lean on. Tom knew more of science, that was certain, and it had already created a teacher-tutor dynamic. Abe couldn't see why Tom would ask him anything.

"Tom, you should know that if you don't know what to do, there's no possibility I would know."

"Well, that's not true."

"Sure it's true."

"You know the best places to get tea." Abe gave a slight chuckle. "It's true."

"Alright, you have me there. But I think this is a bit bigger than tea. I think it's quite a lot bigger than tea."

"What do you mean? This has everything to do with tea. Soon, there won't be tea, and that's the biggest atrocity there is."

Both wheezed cold, choked laughs.

"Speaking of, I could use a hot drink right now. I think it might help me think. Your flat or mine?"

"No, no, I'd rather sit here a while longer. Though you can leave if you want, Abe. I'll be here."

A gust of wind went right through their coats.

"Tom, I have a question to ask you."

"Mmm?"

"A long while ago, in one of our very first discussions, you mentioned your belief in a soul —"

"Or consciousness."

"— or consciousness, yes, something greater than the sum of its parts. You seemed embarrassed about it, so I never told you that I had done a great deal of thinking about it. And… seeing as our time may be, er, limited, I feel like it would be best to just tell it, don't you think?"

Tom seemed to consider for a second. "I do, I do think. Do tell."

"Alright, well. We'd have a lot of tests to do, this has all been in my head. But… assume that a soul — a consciousness, assume it exists without the body. It is tied to the body, but it isn't all contained within the body. Or, or — I apologise in advance for any ramblings I may do — or perhaps it is all contained within the body. I suppose it doesn't matter. But there's something else I want to get at. If a soul is resultant from a certain complexity of neurons, brain cells and connections… from patterns of electricity just complicated enough… then perhaps those patterns can exist outside of ourselves, can't they?"

Tom just nodded.

"I'm thinking of a colony of ants. There are individuals, but they all act as one organism, one being. If there was an ant… consciousness, maybe it's not in the individual ant. Maybe it's one for the whole colony. Or maybe they all do have their own consciousnesses, but they also have a greater one."

"It's certainly an interesting thought."

"So I was wondering, what if each human is a neuron. What if each of us is a connection in one large brain, and what if there's… something I've been calling an 'allsoul'. And if something is greater than the sum of its parts, then does it need those parts once it's come to fruition? I don't know, I don't know. I think I am getting hysterical. The day's news has been bad and it's coloring my head in shades of crazy."

"No, you're making sense. Relatively speaking, at least. You're making just as much sense as everything else has made today."

"Alright. Well, then, here's the ultimate reason for my sputtering. I believe… I believe that if there isn't an allsoul already existing, it's possible to create one."

"I'm sorry, what are you saying?"

"I'm saying…" Abe looked dead into Tom's eyes. "I'm saying, what if there is a way to connect two souls?"



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