Chasing The Union
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rating: +21+x

Chasing The Union

Jay sat alone in the Site-87 cafeteria, pondering on their most recent assignment. They were still tired from their flight over from 55, which had been quite the infodump. For the duration of the flight, they had been bombarded with information on how 87 was located in a nexus controlled by an ever-present thing called the Narrative, which often lead to many unexpected situations. They couldn't quite remember exactly what that whole schpeel was about, seeing as they left at the crack of dawn and Jay was not a morning person.

Either way, it didn't seem like the Narrative had decided to mess with them just yet. Or so they assumed.

"Hey, you must be Justine Everwood!" A voice came from behind them. Jay turned to spot a short woman with red hair and an eyepatch approaching from the entrance of the cafeteria.

"Good morning. Yes, I am, but please call me Jay." They stood from the bench and extended their only arm forward for a handshake.

The woman instinctively extended her right arm, only realizing her mistake after their fingertips touched. She winced internally and retracted her right, then met Jay's hand with her left, shaking gently.

"Sorry about that. Name's Katherine Sinclair. I hear you're a big shot of GoI Research over at 55."

"I wouldn't call myself that. Just doing my job. But I have heard about you too. You're a thaumaturge, right?"

"Oh, please. Just call it what it is; magic! But yes, I'm a mage."

Both retracted their hands. Jay sat back down, and Katherine sat across from them at the table.

"I don't much care for the fancy-schmancy terms they want us to use either. If something is magic, it's magic. Easy as that."

"I like you already."

"Why even use these archaic words for things when much simpler terms exist, after all?"

"That's the spirit."

"So what's being a mage like?"

"It involves a lot more sacrifices to ancient deities than you'd expect."

"Huh. Okay."

"So what can I do for you, Jay?"

"Right, sorry. Don't want to keep you for long. I'm putting together a GoI dossier on a group you may be familiar with."

"Oh? I don't think many groups of interest operate out of Sloth's Pit. There's the Legends, but I don't think they're anything like what you typically research."

"Well, the one I'm referring to is unique to Sloth's Pit, actually. Are you familiar with The Union?"

"Hmm…"

"According to what little information I have, they are a group of people who use magic to perform various jobs and duties across the town. For example, let's say a building needs to be erected. One of their members, The Architect, will show up and build it. Typically out of thin air. And as a bit of a note, it's not the architect or an architect, it's The Architect."

"You know, that sounds vaguely familiar. I think I remember King joining as The Orchardist a few years ago. To be honest I don't remember much of that year. It was a… rough one in many ways." Katherine reached for her eyepatch and stroked it for a moment.

"Hey, it's okay. No need to get into the ugly details. But you said Doctor King joined The Union? There was nothing about that in my debriefing report."

"That's because we didn't report it."

"Why is that?"

"Well, for starters, 2020 was one of the worst years for Halloween here yet. Too much happened. Way too much. Besides, can you imagine what the Foundation would do if you joined up with an outside group? You'd be sent to the tribunal for assessment and probably locked in a jail cell."

"Not that King is a stranger to cells, though. Isn't he SCP-something-or-other?"

"Was. That part of him went away after he became The Orchardist."

"Huh. Weird."

"I guess the powers of The Union helped him get it under control." Katherine shrugged.

"I see. Well, don't worry. I won't report that King joined up with them. I don't want to cause any trouble here. Just curious, is all."

"It's alright, I know you didn't mean any harm."

The two fell silent for a moment as Jay wrote on their notebook. Katherine craned her neck and peeked over from across the table, noticing that they had written a note about her not knowing much.

"So out of curiosity, Jay, what do you know about The Union?"

"Aside from what I already told you? I know they have a safe house somewhere inside the city where they all hang out. But it's well hidden, and no one from the boots-on-the-ground team I sent out here last week was able to find it despite sweeping every street twice."

"Maybe you could use the help of The Finder." Katherin joked.

Jay grinned. "Is there even such a person?"

"Who knows." She shrugged.

The two fell silent again. Katherine reached for her eyepatch once more, gently adjusting it into place while Jay shifted in their seat, their tied-up right sleeve jostling in the cold cafeteria air.

As if compelled to do so, Jay spoke up; "Hey, Katherine, did you losing your eye have anything to do with the events of 2020?"

"I… yes. Yes, it did."

"What happened, if you don't mind the question?"

She sighed. "I was kidnapped by a phobic entity that took the form of my dead ex-boyfriend. He tortured me for a bit, then stuck an ice pick through my eye."

"Phobic entity? You mean like a thing that feeds off your fear?"

"Right on the money."

"Ouch. I'm sorry that happened."

"It is what it is." She shrugged. "Besides, I got with someone better because of the whole ordeal." Katherine held up her left hand, showing off a modest wedding band.

"The good outweighs the bad then. Congratulations. I'm still looking for someone myself, but who knows. Maybe I'll finally find someone this coming year."

"Don't give up hope. I'm sure you will." Katherine grinned. She looked down to Jay's empty, tied-up sleeve and cleared her throat. "So, uh, what happened with your arm?"

"I can't talk about it."

"What?"

"I literally cannot."

"Is it classified or something?"

"No. I just cannot actually talk about it. I think its memetic or something."

"I don't believe you."

"Watch. ███████████████████████████████████████████████████."

"How on earth are you doing that?" Katherine marveled at the wall of white noise that left Jay's mouth as they attempted to talk.

"I don't know. It happens every time I try to discuss the history of my arm or lack thereof."

"Weird."

"Come on. Sloth's Pit is weirder than this. I wouldn't have talked about this with anyone outside of here, so I'll assume that was the Narrative's doing. Surely that's weirder than my situation."

"It's possible. I also don't like talking about what happened to me so that's definitely the Narrative at work."

"You don't think the Narrative is also part of The Union, do you? Is it the Narrative or The Narrative?"

"Good question! I really don't know for sure."

"Hmmm… Either way, I feel uncomfortable now."

"Yeah, the Narrative has a way of doing that to people around here. It particularly enjoys handing out catharsis like no other."

"Well, that's just great."

"You get used to it." She shrugged.

"Either way, I believe that's all I needed to ask of you, Katherine. Thank you for taking time out of your day to talk to me."

"It's no problem. No problem at all! Happy holidays!"

"Happy holidays to you too."

With that, Katherine rose out of her seat and extended her left arm forward to Jay for a handshake. They reciprocated, and the two shook hands one last time before Katherine left for her office, leaving Jay alone in the cafeteria.

Jay sighed and continued scribbling on their notepad when suddenly, a researcher with a prosthetic leg approached them.

"Mind if I sit here?" he asked.

"Oh hell no. I'm not doing this." Jay grabbed their notepad and stood up, walking out of the cafeteria.




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