Your Future is Bright
rating: +36+x

There comes a time and a place where all things end, and it may not seem so, but the lucky ones are those who know when that day will come. Maybe you learn via phone call, that blunted affect of a voice on the other line telling you your days have definite number. Maybe you picked the easier option and set the date yourself. In the end, none of that really matters.

It's a known fact that everyone dies. Some people know its certainty more than others, the rest having a quiet thought now and again, only to be stifled by the things they do to distract themselves from their slow crawl into the grave.

People like Mcclanahan, however, had seen death so many times it mattered not to their unscathed souls. Sure, there were the unpleasant ones, the bad times, with people turned inside out, eyeballs popped from their heads as their hollow shells lay broken on the ground. Those things were wiped clean with time and extensive therapy, not to mention the occasional forget-me-now.

Through all those gruesome shows, those brilliant bloodbaths, Markus Mcclanahan had seen it all and took it in stride. It was the only option, burning bridges and moving forward. Bridges being mounds of the dead, the once-friends. The familiar faces, charred but for their bits of carbon that would grace the lungs of some emphysema-tic somewhere, someplace.

None of it mattered, because it all had to be done. Not only that, it was routine.

Routine. That's the life of a Foundation operative. Put aside all the administrative bureaucracy, all the paperwork and the psych tests and you'll see thousands of faceless suits that struggle every day to keep the world from falling to pieces. Cogs in the machine called life that no one in their right mind would ever want to spin the gears for if they had one iota of a choice in the matter.

Markus had just returned from his nth foray into what they call the field; real life. Real, real life. The gritty shit, the things people don't need to see, save for the select few. Mcclanahan was one of those few.

Yesterday, it had been a thing about three meters tall, with a head like a bison and reciprocating saws for teeth. Watching it bisect civilians had made him wince for the first time in years. Yet, he still took it all in stride. When he had returned onsite, the fucker was in the back of an armored vehicle with a bag over its enlarged head. Its hands and feet were bound with some fancy carbide nanotube cuffs, the million-dollar necessities that kept the monster from doing much else other than existing. Still, he could hear that thing chuckle from behind him, and it made his skin crawl.

Again, he brushed those feelings away, knowing what the beast didn't know, that padded cell that awaited him. Windowless and empty, just like the black of his insidious, unblinking eyes.

Today, the world was threatened by some floating, dark orb that rendered minds to useless mush. It warped its victims, slowly or quickly, toying with their lives around its mass of unidentified matter. Cognitohazards were tricky bitches, they found their ways into your head using the back roads that only the well-trained could patrol.

Mcclanahan was in luck yet again, as the thing hated electromagnets, and EMPs were easily acquirable to Foundation field agents. The altercation ended quickly, and Markus was stroking his ego the entire ride back. Arrival onsite was as routine as the rest of it, with silent nods and groups of task forces planning their next move with that one mind-bending sphere locked in a storage unit that doubled as a Faraday cage.

Mcclanahan had other plans in store than dealing with that, as he was quickly escorted away and forced into one of the Foundation's patented reintegration chambers. The room was a glorified cell, but it was only temporary, and it happened every time he came back from dealing with something that could manipulate the thoughts of others. Safety was the name of the game at the Foundation.

He sat down at the single chair and waited for it to begin.




"Alright, Agent Mcclanahan, you know the drill."

"Don't I ever", said the man to the blank wall.

The box was small, cramped and featureless. Mark Mcclanahan stared at the single camera lens in front of him and tried to act like he wasn't about to be interrogated by a close friend. It was the drill, after all.

"Alright Mark, this has been your, uh, forty-seventh debrief and coghaz decontamination procedure. You remember that, yes?"

"Each and every one."

"Okay, let's begin."

The speaker emanated the sounds of leafing papers. A small moment of silence permeated the space as Mcclanahan took a deep breath. Here we go.

"State your name and identification for the record."

"Agent Mark Mcclanahan. Seven-four-alpha-nine-six-delta, erm, thirty-three."

"Good. And now, your phrase."

"In the twilight, the black and white goes gray." What a stupid line.

"Correct. Onto boilerplate loyalty tests. What is the Foundation?"

"The salvation of mankind."

"Do you work for the Foundation?"

"Always, as far back as I can remember, thanks to you guys."

"Keep it professional, Mark."

"Yeah, yeah."

"Do you have doubts about the Foundation?"

"No."

"Do you have plans against the Foundation?"

"No."

"Do you dream of leaving the Foundation?"

"No."

"Count to seven for me, 74A96D-33."

"One, two, three, four, five, six, seven."

"How many numbers are between four and seven?"

"Two."

"How many numbers are between five and six?"

"None."

"You hear about that thing down in Samothrace?"

"No."

"Feel your skin. Is it yours?"

"Irrelevant. My skin belongs to the Foundation."

"Is the vessel a vessel without the flesh?"

"They are one in the same."

"Do you prefer flesh or metal?"

"I prefer life."

"Good. Do you recognize the bodies in the water?"

"I do not."

"Where do you go when you are alone?"

"I visit my family."

There was a slight pause, the shuffling of papers. The man on the other end, he hated doing this as much as Markus hated him doing it. When the wall spoke again, its voice was quieter than before.

"Can you tell me what they told you?"

"I work to serve in the dark, so others may live in the light."

"Who is your superior?"

"I serve the oh-five."

"Do you question the Overseers?"

"No."

"Recite your phrase."

"In the twilight, the black and white goes gray."

"Where do you go when you go to sleep?"

"Inside myself."

"Where do you go when you look away?"

"Inside myself."

"Where is Site-104?"

"Site-104 does not exist."

"Take a drink from the glass in front of you."

"There is no glass."

"Good. Continuing further. What does the key look like?"

"I don't know."

"Does it open a lock?"

"No."

"Does it open yourself?"

"No."

"How many stars are in the sky?"

"Too many to count."

"How many stars have died?"

"I don't know."

"Does the black moon howl?"

"When the twilight turns gray."

"Are you unclean?"

"I certainly hope not."

"Professional, Mark."

"Sorry, no, I'm not."

"Good"

"Does the name 'Ruhar' mean anything to you?"

"No."

"Have you ever dreamt of being on a carousel with a close friend?"

"No."

"Where do you go when you are not here?"

"I'm never not here."

"What does this image mean to you?"

A symbol manifested on the white wall on Mcclanahan's left. He gave it a good look and turned to face the camera once more.

"It means nothing."

"Recite your phrase."

"In the twilight, the black and white goes gray."

More silence. Mcclanahan sat on the hard, metal chair for moments that felt like eternity.

"Alright, Agent Mcclanahan, please step outside."

Relieved, the agent quickly grabbed his coat off the back of the chair and left the room in a hurry. On the other side, two guards greeted him with dour expressions on their faces.

"What? What is it now?"

"Mark, you have no family."

"What, I-"

Then, it all went black. The agent was never seen again. No one blinked an eye, and no one questioned his passing. The world turned onward and the last words the agent heard as life left his body echoed in his mind until the void embraced him.

"This isn't your fault."

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