Conspiracy, Part XI
rating: +29+x


Foundation Command-02, Washington, D.C.
Monday, 26 December 1988, 0830 hours local time

Harper had only just removed his coat and set down his briefcase when Monica walked in, holding a message. "FLASH traffic from Finland, Mr. Harper," she said. "Xi-13 reached C's warehouse in Helsinki, only to have it blow up in their faces."

Muir swore loudly. Harper pursed his lips and said, "Have the watch office keep us apprised of the situation." Monica nodded and left.

Harper turned to Muir. "Feel like doing an interrogation?"

"Sure," Muir replied, pulling his artificial leg off his desk with a dull thunk. "Who're we talking to?"

"Nick Ford," Harper replied. "He's down in The Dungeon. Be warned, Zimmerman's been at him already."

Muir shook his head, "That gorilla? Will the administration never learn?"

The two men took the elevator down to Basement Level 5. Nicknamed "The Dungeon" by Command-02's staff, it housed the humanoid containment cells and interrogation facilities. As a Foundation Command, 02 was only permitted to house SCPs classified as "Safe" (one of the key reasons for having another Command so geographically near Overwatch HQ was because that facility and its staff was strictly forbidden from having any direct contact with SCPs; Command-02 served as a useful middle ground). Because of the restrictions on what entities could be housed at Command-02, The Dungeon generally housed non-anomalous security risks, such as a researcher believed of selling the Foundation out to the Chaos Insurgency.

At the security desk, Harper and Muir checked in, confirming the transfer of authority to Harper from Zimmerman for Dr. Ford. "How do you want to play this, Tim?" asked Muir. The fact Zimmerman had tortured Ford invalidated the possibility of doing Good Cop, Bad Cop.

"I met him in Oman," Harper said. "You handle it as you see fit, and I'll only come in if necessary." Muir nodded as they entered the observation room. Looking through the one-way mirror, they saw their subject.

Dr. Nicholas Ford, formerly Director for Foundation Research Site-29, was a broken man. Bruised and bloodied, his left eye swollen and missing three fingernails on his right hand, he sat naked and chained to a cold steel chair in the center of the interrogation room. There were scars on his genitals and nipples where electrodes had been attached. He was sobbing quietly.

Picking up the telephone handset in the observation room, Muir called for a physician and a set of clothes. Two minutes later, he and the medical doctor walked into the interrogation chamber. "Dr. Ford, I am Troy Muir," said the former field spook. "Let's get you cleaned up. Can I offer you a glass of water?" Ford nodded weakly. As the physician began tending to Ford's injuries, Muir held a glass of water with a straw to the man's lips. With that simple act of kindness, Muir established himself as a fellow human being who cared about the welfare of the subject, rather than a monster to be feared and hated. Within twenty minutes, Ford was bandaged, dressed, and beginning to feel some personal dignity again. "Dr. Ford, do you think you could tell me about what happened at Research Site-29?" Muir asked as the physician left. "Are you up to that?"

"I think so," rasped Ford. He took a sip of water.

"Take all the time that you need," Muir said gently.

Slowly, Ford explained how, just after Harper left, the sandstorm had overtaken the site. Nobody had realized anything was wrong until masked men with AK-47s had burst into the command tent. The one who seemed to be the leader had pointed at Ford. He'd been taken through the storm to SCP-557, where he'd been tied up in one of the cells on Level 2. It had taken him hours got get untied and out of the cell, by which point the storm had passed. The facility's staff was all shot or missing. Additionally, all the scrolls and translations believed to relate to SCP-557-1 had been stolen. Then the Foundation mobile task force had shown up and hauled him off on suspicion of being a sleeper agent for the Chaos Insurgency.

"Just to be clear, you have no affiliation with the Chaos Insurgency," Muir asked.

"No! I'm not," Ford responded, tears coming to his eyes. "I've been saying that since I was picked up, but nobody believes me!"

"I believe you," Muir replied soothingly. "I really do. Do you know why they singled you out?"

"No," Ford whimpered. "Like I told Zimmerman, if I knew why, I'd have said."

"Thank you, Dr. Ford," Muir said. "I need to go now to work on clearing this whole thing up, okay?" Ford, still crying, nodded tiredly. Leaving the room, Muir ordered the guards to take Ford back to his cell, but to treat him with all due respect and kindness.

The old adage was right: honey gets one farther than vinegar. Torture, while very effective at getting prisoners to sing like canaries, never ever produced good, actionable intelligence. Though Hollywood and writers of pulp spy thrillers insisted on perpetuating the myth to the contrary, students of the history of espionage and interrogation knew that this had always been the case. Not even the Nazis or the Soviets had been able to effectively make it work, efficient as they were at methodically inflicting pain without killing the subject. Unless the goal was to physically and psychologically scar the subject, while turning the interrogator into a callous, unfeeling monster, both of which amounted to actions more punitive than interrogative, there was no reason to torture someone. And yet the Foundation sometimes tried to get information with it anyway. One more thing I'll change if I'm ever an Overseer, Harper thought to himself. Not that that was likely to happen.

As they walked back to their shared office, Harper asked, "You really think he's innocent?"

"Yep," Muir replied. "You?"

"Yes," the counterintelligence officer said. "Old trick, Troy: leave one innocent alive to throw the investigators off the trail of the real stooge."

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