I find the Theology Department to be quite troubling at this site. The Occult Studies subdivision in particular has been gum in the hair of Site 87 ever since it was founded. There are currently only two people staffing the entire subdepartment, not a single D-Class requisitioned since 2012… this is most troubling.
Anyone walking by the Department of Occult Studies (not that many people would after the incident with the walls growing mouths) would have heard quite a commotion in there. There were screams of confusion and panic, the sound of lab equipment being damaged, and a sound whose only onomatopoeia could be "magic!"
Inside the lab, there was a scene to match the kerfuffle. Montgomery Reynolds was staring at his superior, Katherine Sinclair, or more specifically, her right arm. Where there had once been a large patch of burn scars and a lab coat sleeve was now a large, poofy patch of fur that sprung up so suddenly, it ripped through the fabric. "Katherine, what did you do?! Why is your arm furred?!"
"I-I was trying some salve to h-hide the scars!" Sinclair flailed her furred limb around. "I think I put in too much octopus powder or s-something! Maybe i-it was the cattle blood?" Sinclair looked at Montgomery like she was about to cry "T-the audit is today! I don't want to lose my job!"
Montgomery held up his hands in what he hoped was a calming manner. "Calm down, Katherine. There are some lab coats and gloves in the back. You change in the testing chamber, I'll distract him." Sinclair nodded, rushing to a lab cabinet and taking out a spare coat and gloves, before running into the test chamber. Montgomery paced back and forth, picking up shards of broken beakers and trying to mop up some of the liquid that had made Katherine into her current state.
Exactly five seconds later, the door opened. A bald man wearing horn-rimmed sunglasses and wearing a suit stepped into the laboratory. Under one arm, he carried a tablet computer, and in the other, a stylus. Montgomery briefly wondered what this man's pay grade must be before the auditor spoke up, looking him over. "…Dr. Sinclair?"
"Reynolds, actually. Montgomery Reynolds. Dr. Sinclair is in the testing chamber-" he nodded to the room off to the side- "cleaning up after an experiment we just ran."
The man nodded, writing something on his tablet. "Very well. The audit will begin when Dr. Sinclair rejoins us." After a few more seconds, Sinclair emerged from the chamber, snapping on some gloves. "Dr. Katherine Sinclair?" asked the auditor in a voice that sounded like Microsoft Sam had developed Malcolm McDowell's accent.
Katherine nodded, fidgeting with her hands. "Yes. Katherine Sinclair, Level 3, head of the Department of Theology's Occult Studies subdivision." She indicated Reynolds. "This is my assistant, Montgomery Reynolds. Theological and alchemical consultant."
The auditor raised an eyebrow. "I am Matthew Broderick, and I will be your auditor today."
"…Broderick?" Asked Sinclair incredulously. "What, like the actor from Ferris Bueller?'
"No. Thank you." Broderick marked something down on his tablet, skimming a few pages. "The Occult Studies subdivision houses a large number of anomalous artifacts. Almost all of them are some form of document, it would seem." He looked up at them. "Show me these objects."
Sinclair indicated a series of metal bookshelves on the wall, walking over to them with the auditor. "I assure you they're all quite stable; the more powerful ones tend to spontaneously combust so we don't learn their secrets. The only thing anomalous about them is their contents, and even then, only if the instructions are followed properly. And they're all properly tagged, as you can see." She talked far too fast as she indicated E-9111, a translated copy of the Voynich Manuscript, with the designation engraved clearly into the book's spine. Sinclair still cringed inside whenever she saw that; it ruined the value of the book immensely.
Broderick the auditor inspected the books, looked at his sheet, and nodded, scribbling something down before turning to Montgomery. "Mr. Reynolds… do you have a title? Doctor, Researcher…"
"Just Reynolds, sir." The somewhat portly man nodded at him politely. "Level 3 consultant, just like Ka- Dr. Sinclair said."
"I see." He looked at his papers and frowned. "You are aware that consultants who are not Foundation employees must undergo amnestic therapy monthly, correct?"
"You have not undergone this therapy since your consultation period began approximately two years ago, when you started work in the theology department. Why is this?"
"Special exemption from the Director," Montgomery said promptly. "Approved by O5-8. I'm a native of NEXUS-97, and Nexus inhabitants get exemptions from amnestic administration while within the boundaries of one."
Broderick frowned, his eyes narrowing into slits within the space of a picosecond. "The designation of this Nexus is NEXUS-18. What is NEXUS-97?"
Montgomery flinched. "G-Green Pastures, Iowa." Seemingly satisfied, the auditor backed off this line of questioning. Then, the words came out of his mouth that neither of them wanted to hear.
"Now then. There is the matter of this "cow-gutting incident" that's rather infamous around the site…"
One Hastily Explained Apology and Some Boring Budget Talk Later…
The auditor sat at a workstation across from Sinclair and Montgomery, shaking his head as he flicked through his tablet. "This subdivision has not requisitioned any D-Class for the past 18 months. Why is this?"
Sinclair shifted in her seat uncomfortably. "We prefer to run the tests ourselves. D-Classes generally don't have magical experience, unless they were acquired from some kind of a cult, and even then, it's usually just show magic or prestidigitation. Pulling a rabbit out of a hat or a card trick something."
"You could be severely injured. D-Class are expendable. Foundation personnel such as yourself are not."
Dr. Sinclair resisted the urge to snort loudly. "Sir, the one time we had a D-Class perform a procedure, it resulted in the destruction of the item we were testing, as well as the drain cleaner we were using in the ritual becoming sapient-"
"Yes, I have the report here," interjected the auditor. "Hardly an excuse."
Montgomery stared at him, and spoke up this time. "Hardly an excuse? Sir, with all due respect, the item that was destroyed was a rare copy of the Libro della Vita written by Lorenzo Collodi, one of the few books of magic that is known to have spells that can create sapience. Do you have any idea how important that is?"
"I am an auditor," replied Broderick in a distinctly bored tone. "I am here to audit, not to debate procedure."
Dr. Sinclair rubbed her face with a gloved hand and sighed. "Mr. Broderick, who would you rather have meddle with the forces of the universe: a woman that's been studying this sort of thing since she was fifteen years old and has a doctorate in theology and theoretical physics, or a man with the I.Q. of a salad spinner and antisocial personality disorder?"
Broderick blinked, looking down at his tablet again. "It says you often employ sacrifices in rituals. Again, D-Class personnel are expendable, and cheap; if need be, local convicts can be recruited for such a procedure. Perhaps you could use them to-"
"No!" Exclaimed both Sinclair and Reynolds at the same time, causing Broderick to flinch slightly. They looked at each other for a few seconds, before Sinclair spoke again. "Using human souls to power magic is an extremely bad idea. Doing that kind of thing attracts all sorts of supernatural trouble that the Foundation would rather not have."
Broderick frowned as he came across a specific page on his tablet. "Dr. Sinclair, it says here that on June 8th of 2013, there was an incident. You suffered second-degree burns on your forearms as a result, and rather than using the fire extinguisher, Mr. Reynolds simply dumped a bucket of water on you before pulling the medic alarm. Is this correct?"
Sinclair gulped. "W-well, yes, but-"
"If you had followed proper testing and safety procedures, the entire incident could have been avoided." He looked towards Monty. "If a D-Class had been requisitioned to perform the test, there would have been no risk of Dr. Sinclair being injured." To Katherine, now. "If Mr. Reynolds had used the provided fire extinguisher instead of dousing you with water, then the test chamber could have been cleaned more easily, as it was already damaged from flooding earlier the same day. And if-"
Before Broderick could say anything else, Sinclair slammed the table and pulled up the right sleeve of her lab coat, exposing her anomalously hairy arm. She parted the fur and exposed three words, burnt onto the skin underneath the fur. "Non Contenti Sumus. We are not content. The entire reason the ritual went wrong was because we aren't allowed to use live animals." Dr. Sinclair was shaking, trying to maintain her composure; Montgomery had his hand on her shoulder, wisely standing a few steps back. "This is how magic is treated in the Foundation, Broderick. We aren't taken seriously, and as a result, I got hurt. If Director Weiss had allowed us to use a live animal in the ritual, I would not have these scars right now."
Broderick seemed taken aback for a few seconds, before frowning at Sinclair. "Show me your other arm, Doctor." Dr. Sinclair's face instantly faulted. She pulled up her other sleeve, exposing a scarred, hairless arm. The auditor's frown intensified. "How did this happen?"
"I…" Dr. Sinclair looked down, looking as if she was about to cry. "I tried a salve to cover my scars. I got it wrong…"
Broderick scribbled furiously, but silently, on the tablet, before standing up. "That is all I need to know. Good day, Dr. Sinclair, Mr. Reynolds. My report will be delivered within five months of this date." He took his tablet under his arm, pocketed his stylus, and calmly strode out the door.
After he left, Katherine Sinclair put her head into her hands, and just rested her elbows on the counter, shaking softly. Monty looked at her, concerned. "Katherine?"
"Monty just… just go. Please. I need some time alone." She sounded choked.
Montgomery Reynolds nodded, and withdrew from the room as quickly as he could. As he stepped out into the hallway, he wondered what Katherine could possibly do if she lost her job. She could get a job with the Initiative, maybe, or the GOC. But the former was far too religious, and the latter would probably make Katherine burn all of her findings.
Monty leaned against the wall and rubbed his face, shaking his head. As he did, he swore he saw Matthew Broderick, the Tax Man, looking back at the hallway. He looked back at Montgomery, an almost apologetic look on his face, before moving on to the next department.