"Wait, so we're hiring this guy blind?" asked the man as he sat at a table piled high with papers.
"Yes sir. He's just been informed he has a high-level position with us, plus good pay and benefits. He'll be in momentarily. He just needs to sign these," said the younger aide, gesturing towards the piles of papers.
"And if he asks about particulars?"
"That's your problem. You're the lawyer."
"…figures. Send him in. And kill the lights. May as well have a little fun with him."
Thomas LaFerro rubbed his eyes as he waited for the new hire. It had been a long day, and he hated hiring people when they didn't know what they were getting in to.
"H-hello? Are you in here?"
Internally sighing, LaFerro said, "Yes, right over here. Have a seat and we'll begin."
Slowly, the new hire walked over through the room and sat down in the chair. It and the table of papers were the only illuminated things in the room.
"Wow, you guys take your shit seriously."
"Yes we do doctor. We find caution and secrecy to be paramount. Now, before we begin, this entire session will be recorded for verification purposes. This is not a request, I'm just informing you that everything you say is going on the record. Is that understood?"
"Yes. But what do you mean verif-"
"Please state your name for the record, doctor."
"Doctor Henry Olstein."
"Good. You may call me Mr. LaFerro. Now, we, by which I mean you, just have a few papers yet to sign before you are officially an employee of the Foundation. This should take no more than an hour of your time, after which you will be sent where you are supposed to go, given an orientation, and assigned to a team. Any defection during this time will result in termination. Is that understood?"
"Yes. No leaving or I'm fired."
"…we'll go with that. First is a Foundation-standard nondisclosure agreement. By signing this, you agree to not reveal or publish the details or findings of any project or projects you work on from here on, in this time or reality or any other. Additionally, you agree to be held to the same regarding other staff members of the site at which you are to work unless they are on your team. Your home, should you choose to live off-site, will be bugged and wired for surveillance purposes. Any breach of contract will result in termination. If you agree to these terms, print your name here, sign here, and initial here, here, and here."
Dr. Henry Olstein briefly held the pen before saying, "So…no publication? Ever? Even if I discover something that could change how we understand reality?"
"Good God, they didn't let this guy know anything!" thought LaFerro.
"Permission may be granted to publish your findings in an internal Foundation-only publication. Permission will come from your site director and depends on your assignment, your findings, and an internal review process of the publication. I'm told the review process is exceptionally harsh and has reduced more than a few to several sessions with Foundation-employed psychologists. Please sign the form so we may continue Dr. Olstein."
LaFerro watched as Olstein scratched his signature on the paper. Another life, thrown away into secrecy. This man would never see the light of day again, at least not with family or as Dr. Henry Olstein. A life in the shadows.
"Thank you doctor. Now, we have just a few more to sign. This packet of forms explains your clearance level, pay grade, sick days, site policy, holiday policy, housing arrangements, vacation days, etcetera. If you agree to all the terms and conditions laid out herein, you need to print here, here and here, sign here, and initial here, here, here, here, here, and here. This needs to be done throughout the packet. I'll give you a moment."
Olstein scribbled furiously, apparently anxious to get on with the job. "He wouldn't be so anxious if he knew even a fraction of what he was getting into," thought LaFerro. But then, none of them really did. Some knew more than others, but no one really knew.
"Very good. Now, this packet outlines your benefits, insurance, tax exemptions, food plan, and gives you the choice between the standard, death/dismemberment/displacement compensation and the death/dismemberment/displacement/dislocation/relocation/multiplicity/immolation/[DATA EXPUNGED] compensation packages. Yes, they've actually written [DATA EXPUNGED], no I don't know what it means. It should be noted that this package will take a significant amount more out of your paycheck, but will guarantee total compensation and financial stability for the designated recipient upon your accidental death, dismemberment, etcetera. Please mark a checkmark by the package of your choice and the designee's name. Then, if you agree to all the terms listed, you need to sign here, here, and here, and initial here."
"The, uh, death/dismemberment/displacement/whatever package…that's all a joke right? Not ever actually going to happen?"
"I'm afraid I'm not cleared to tell you that, nor do I know for certain doctor. Do you wish to continue?"
"Very well. This paper details the amount of budget per annum you will receive for projects. Additional funding and resources may be requested. If this looks acceptable to you, please sign here."
"I think that was the fastest I've ever seen someone sign their name," thought LaFerro.
"…what are D-Class personnel, Mr. LaFerro, and why do I have such a high number of them?"
"That information is above my clearance level doctor. I have approximately seventy-five more pages for you to sign before you can leave. For the sake of brevity, I'm going to let you peruse and sign them at your leisure. They all need to be initialed in the upper right corner and signed at the bottom. I'll give you a moment."
Olstein skimmed and signed the papers quickly, looking more agitated with each paper.
"Okay. This has to be a joke. 'Under no circumstances are you, the signee, to touch the anomalous penguins that may or may not be present on your site. At no times are you to make a penguin, bird, or fish comment around said penguins. Testing of penguins is strictly forbidden. Breach of this contract may result in demotion or termination.' This is a joke right?"
"I'm afraid not doctor. Those penguins drive a hard case. I can't think of a time they've lost in Foundation civil court. Please sign the form if you agree to the terms."
Grumbling, Olstein signed the paper.
"Amazing," thought LaFerro. "He gets caught up over the penguins clause but signs the 'no contact with family' clause without skipping a beat. I'll never understand these people."
"Well doctor, I believe that's all I've got for you to sign. You may leave. An Agent will be waiting outside to escort you to your assignment. Congratulations on your employment, Level 3 Researcher Henry Olstein."
As Olstein left, LaFerro looked down at the papers in front of him.
"Dr. Henry Olstein, Clearance Level 3/682," read the paper.
"Poor bastard. Send in the next one."