All Along

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Foundation Orbital Research Compound 5, Meeting Room A.
July 12th, 1973, 23:15 hours GMT.

"Dr. Marko, testing with SCP-3203 is to be halted for the foreseeable future." The man at the head of the table pointed at a list of names on the projection slide. "We have lost three D-class in the past year. That number is far beyond projected losses. It's beyond acceptable losses as well."

Dr. Marko, a brown haired balding man in his mid forties spoke up, "Director Cooper, 3 deaths in a year is next to nothing. Even at this elevated casualty rate, we could afford to continue our experiments for another 5 years before requiring more specimens."

Director Cooper shook his head. "My point here was that no loss of life is acceptable. These are human beings we're charged with, not specimens. Of course they face an elevated risk of death through the very nature of our testing, but it's your job to reduce that loss of life to a minimum. I'm canceling all testing on your 3203 project because you have not been doing your job."

Dr. Marko shifted uncomfortably in his seat.

"Furthermore," Dr. Cooper continued, "I am placing you up for a review with the ethics committee. There is no excuse for D-1034 or D-3402's death except your own incompetence, negligence, or willful disregard for safety protocols."

"Now wait just a minute," Dr. Marko interrupted again, "I was doing my job."

"That is patently untrue, and this isn't up for discussion. Consider yourself on an indefinite suspension until we unravel your mess." Director Cooper motioned to one of several armed men standing in the back of the meeting room, "Agent Polaski, if you don't mind?"

A burly barrel chested man stepped forward and placed his hand on Dr. Marko's shoulder. Dr. Marko slumped in his seat just a moment before rising and following the large man out of the room.

"Newbies," muttered another man further down the table.

Foundation Orbital Research Compound 5, D-1153's holding cell.
July 12th, 1973, 23:56 hours GMT.

"There has got to be some kind of way out of here," Jacob Maxwell said to the ventilation duct.

"Look," came a muffled reply from the next room, "I've been stuck up here for almost two years now and I ain't found one. You should just enjoy the ride."

"Enjoy the ride? Tommy, are you out of your goddamned mind?"

Tommy's voice carried over from the next cell. "You get to serve your country. You get three squares a day and a view to die for."

"I'm a fucking computer science major who got caught calling in a bomb threat to get out of a fucking test. Three meals a day and a place to sleep isn't how I expected to spend the rest of my life."

"You think I thought I'd end up a million miles from home for stealing cars? You ain't gonna change things by complaining about it. It's like I said, just sit back and enjoy your new life as a fucking astronaut."

"What the fuck do you know about living a life?" Jacob thought, but didn't ask. He settled down on his bed and looked out the window. Thomas wasn't wrong, the view of the earth from up here was spectacular.

He could recognize the faint the coastline of Southeast Asia, and he followed the contours of the coast up. He couldn't see the great wall of China from here. He'd always thought he'd be able to see it, but there was nothing noticeable there. Maybe he had to be closer?

Jacob leaned further towards the window when it happened. He took just a moment to blink, and when he opened his eyes another, stranger, world appeared in front of his eyes.

"What the fuck?" Jacob yelled. "Tommy, something just happened to Earth."

"Look," the muffled voice answered back, "I don't need your bullshit right now, it's fucking late and I'm tired."

"Tommy I'm not fucking joking."

Foundation Orbital Research Compound 5, Director Cooper's Office.
July 13th, 1973, 00:04 hours GMT.

A loud beep stirred Cooper from the reports in front of him. He pressed a button on his desk, and heard a panicked voice on the other end. "Director! There's something wrong."

Cooper's survival instincts kicked in. He went through his mental checklist: The life support system, the artificial gravity, a hull fract… his mind blanked as he rose and looked out his window at the alien world his station now orbited.

"Son of a bitch," he said out loud, "Caitlyn, I want you to stay calm and pass an order to all active officers and agents to meet me in the Command and Control Center. This is not a drill."

"Yes sir," came a short reply from his assistant, who only wavered for a moment before relaying the orders.

Foundation Orbital Research Compound 5, CACC
July 13th, 1973, 00:15 hours GMT.

"3065 and 3132 are fully contained. They wouldn't be capable of this level of reality shift anyway," Agent Forester said from the back row.

Director Cooper placed pushed his glasses further up his nose. "Well something did this. Is the planet still silent?"

"As far as we know," the Communication officer, Jessica Makie spoke up, "It's possible someone's down there and they're taking a few minutes to figure out how to talk to us, or if they even want to."

"What's the nearest FSF ship?" Cooper asked.

"The Zheng He," Officer Makie said, looking at her instruments. "She was 12 light seconds out investigating a spatial anomaly. They were heading back before this happened, so they've already turned around for deceleration."

"Well that's something at least," Cooper said, with a sight of relief, "What's her ETA?"

"2 hours 32 Minutes."

"Ok. By the time they get here we should've heard back from FORCs 3 through 11. I'm the ranking director, and we're in crisis mode now. I want all of them to send us a complete manifest of their supplies. FORC-10 is a priority. They have to keep 3450 contained or everyone's going to have a serious fucking problem."

"Yes sir." Officier Makie began to operate her control board. "Wait. Sir…"

"What?" He stopped and walked over to her station. "Oh son of a bitch."

10 light seconds from FORC-5. Interplanetary space.
July 13th, 1973, 00:19 GMT

Two massive and darkly colored ships, bearing the insignia of the GRU space force, barreled through empty space. They were making good time, for no other reason than that their incorporeal operators were immune to the damaging effects of the massive acceleration.

On board were several variations of one Vladimir Vernadsky. Some were warped apparitions who knew nothing but how to operate the weapon systems, some were sophisticated copies of the original, capable of independent thought. All were intent on discovering exactly what the Foundation had done to cause the earth to disappear.

The half men who ran the ship directed the engines, which operated through some odd combination of psychic energy and primitive propulsion, to double their output. They'd detected the likely center of the Foundation Space Forces: FORC-5. It was sending and receiving signals from all of the other bases in the area.

If anyone would know who'd stolen the earth away from them, the men at FORC-5 would. A communication light brightened on the bridge console, but it was ignored by the apparition who commanded the vessel. The bridge remained silent, and would remain silent until they reached their destination.

A GRU astral vessel contains no life support system and has no air. But if you'd traveled down the dark hallways during this trip, you'd feel a slow and low rumble. The majority of the apparitions were cogent and thinking individuals. A perfect copy of Vladimir Vernadsky, though, would've been terrible at running the advanced weapons systems of such a vessel. So deep in the bowels of the terrible black ship, several raving mad apparitions were restricted by design to the small control alcoves for their respective weapons.

They were as connected as the rest of their brethren to the gestalt consciousness and they knew the purpose of this journey. They knew that soon they'd get a chance to fire their wonderfully destructive weapons. Despite all logic and sense, they howled.

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