The Transfer
rating: +17+x


"So that we’re clear," the investigating officer said, the words structured and carefully spoken so as to remove all possible doubt, "You licked it."

The Foundation Agent across the table opened his mouth as if to say something but changed his mind and closed it back again.

The officer seemed to be piercing the agent's very skin with a glare. "You understand that what you did was a gross violation of containment procedures. The kind of violation that comes with a swift termination. You understand that there is not much in the way of excuse that you can even consider at this point."

The agent nodded, his face and hands trembling.

"Your record," the officer continued, opening a folder with a small stack of papers inside, "Is exemplary. You have been with the Foundation for over 15 years. Normally in that time people pick up small things here and there. Often unintentionally—you look at an SCP the wrong way, try to go in a door you're not supposed to, forget your Hardwick confirmation—"

"I am not Foundation Agent Edward Carter Hardwick," the agent said, instantly, the words coming out like a rote.

"Nor am I," the investigator replied, holding up an assuring hand and smiling, "But as you've just demonstrated your attention to detail with the objects under your care, and under the Foundation's care at-large is incredible. It is why you have been on as many research teams as you have in the last few years. It is why you are the HMCL Supervisor for seven anomalous items—"

"Six," the agent corrected, almost instantly.

"Seven," the officer said again, removing an earpiece microphone, turning it off and placing it on the table, "Because I am aware of the nature of SCP-7282. Dr. Helms," The officer gestured to the camera in the corner. "I think if you look closely, you will find that for the first time since being employed with the Foundation you are in a room with all of the cameras disabled."

The agent looked at the camera, whose telltale red LED was, shockingly, not blinking. Was it possible? The idea that every move, every breath was painstakingly monitored by mysterious Foundation higher-ups had been drilled into every agent's existence from day one. Then again…

"Six," he reiterated.

The officer chuckled and glanced over at the one-way glass on the side of the interrogation room, seemingly to alert someone on the other side. "In any case, this leads me to a question." After a moment, the file folder closed and the officer was staring, intently, at the agent's eyes. No, not at his eyes—at his hairline. A common thing, given the number of SCPs which could potentially transfer memetically via eye contact. "Why did you do it?"

The agent sighed, his eyes locked squarely on the table in front of him. The moments crawled by until, finally, Dr. Helms uttered a simple: "I don't know."

A long moment passed before the interrogation room's door slammed open. There stood a blonde woman in a lab coat, phone in hand. "We got it."

"Superb." The officer rose from the chair and picked up the personnel folder. "Your compliance today and previous reflects positively on your record and in my opinion absolves you of responsibility for your actions. Your record will be noted to show today you were issued a reprimand for a level 6 Containment Procedure Violation. As it is only level 6, you will be required to complete 5 hours of supplemental training before resuming your normal duties."

The agent sat, frozen, in his chair. "I'm not…uh…"

"You're not being terminated, no," The officer replied, placing a business card on the table. "Have a good day." In a moment, the door had snapped closed, and the red light on the camera turned back on. Dr. Helms continued to sit, frozen, in the uncomfortable chair, trying to take control of his heavy breathing. Trembling, he reached out and picked up the business card.

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Elanor wondered whether it was possible for a waiting room chair to be anomalous. This one, to be sure, was not just uncomfortable—it was a whole new level of frustrating to sit in. Both cold, and hard, and squeaky at the slightest shift in weight, and ever-so-slightly tilted so as to give the occupant a nagging sensation that they were slowly slipping out of the chair. This would inevitably lead to additional shifts in weight, which were accompanied by more squeaks. Clearly, it had been designed for the sole purpose of driving people mad. Not just the occupant, but everyone within earshot.

"Miss Jones."

Slammed back into reality from her thoughts, Elanor looked up to see a young man in a tan leather duster with incredibly curly hair gesturing for her to follow. "Ready for your first day in the department?"

"Oh, of course!" Elanor leapt up from her seat (which elicited an audible screech of protest) and carried her notebook over with a smile. "I'm…not sure what to expect."

"Par for the course where the Foundation is concerned," the man replied, swiping a keycard to open a security door. "I'm Dane."

"Elanor," she replied, following.

Beyond the security door, a short hallway led to a large, unlabeled cylindrical full-body scanner installed between the narrow hall's walls. It was not unlike the kind one might find in an airport. Dane stepped onto the scanner, which hummed for a moment, and then stepped off the other side. He turned and gestured to the footprint markings on the scanner. "Go ahead." Elanor stepped onto the scanner which again hummed in response before again going silent. She stepped off, resisting the urge to ask what the scanner was for. Dane helpfully sated her curiosity: "It's tied to the office's reality anchor. Generally, it detects any change you might personally have in relation to baseline reality. Which," he added, opening the next security door on their journey deeper into the office, "Everyone has, to some extent. But a reality shift over a certain tolerable amount means you can't come into the office until whatever it is has been sorted out."

"Makes sense," Elanor replied sheepishly. The security door opened to reveal an elevator, and the two agents stepped on. The elevator had no visible controls but began to move as soon as the doors closed. "Did you say 'reality anchor'? Like Scranton reality anchors?"

"You're familiar," Dane replied, and it wasn't particularly formed as a question. "We have a pair of anchors here at our facility. Unusual, I'm sure you're aware, but incredibly important for maintaining accurate records in the face of unknowable changes in the fabric of the universe."

Elanor was struck by the careful construction of Dane's words, as if he was reciting a well-practiced verse. Before she could contemplate on this further, the elevator doors opened to reveal a circular, tidy office.

The office was round, with a door every 90 degrees including the elevator door she had just exited. About a dozen desks were arranged neatly, facing the walls of the circular room—some of which were occupied. A blonde with a perfectly pristine ponytail was poring over a photograph with a magnifying glass. At the next desk, an olive-skinned young man with incredibly dark makeup was furiously typing away at the computer. As the heavy door clicked closed behind them, both people looked up.

The man behind the computer practically leapt up from his chair. "Hey! We got a newbie!" He crossed the room in a short few steps and gave a slight nod of the head rather than offer his hand. A common thing, given the number of SCPs which could potentially transfer via hand-to-hand contact. "You're Elanor, right? From accounting?"

Elanor politely nodded in return. "Yes, and a few other departments."

"Elanor, this is Lee," Dane said, gesturing the introduction. "He's our data analyst. Used to be a member of Kappa 10. This," Dane continues, gesturing to the blonde who had risen from her chair and joined them, "is Kris, Deputy Director of the department."

"And psychic," she volunteered, giving the customary polite head nod in lieu of a handshake. "I generally feel it's polite to offer that upfront. It's a pleasure to meet you, Elanor."

Lee looked away for a moment and then back. "Carl says it's a pleasure as well."

Elanor looked around the room but didn't see anyone else in the oversized office. "Carl?"

"Carl is antimemetic," came a voice from behind Dane, and he stepped aside to reveal a foundation agent, in a dark suit jacket with an open-collar blouse and a mahogany hawkbill tobacco pipe which they were currently packing with a finger. "Carl shares his feelings and opinions secondhand. It takes getting used to."

Before Elanor could respond to the sudden influx of information, a phone next to the agent began to ring, and they picked up the receiver. "This is Scranton. Yes. Mhm. Sure. I'll buzz you in." Scranton gestured with her chin to the door Elanor and Dane had just entered through; Dane pressed a large green button to open it from the inside.

A scrawny, balding, and incredibly tall man entered through the door, a handful of papers grasped so tightly in his hand as to crumple them. He opened his mouth as if to snap at Scranton, but the Director was already up and walking toward the door. "Don't even start, Ryehouser. I'm stepping out for a smoke. If you want to talk to me about the decision, that's probably the best time to do it." Scranton swept past the others and muttered to Elanor as they went past: "We'll talk when I get back." Scranton and Ryehouser closed the security door as they left.

"Ryehouser," Dane explained. "Our Internal Affairs liaison. As you might imagine, we deal with them a lot."

Elanor nodded. "Do I need to wait for Scranton…?"

Kris shook her head. "No, we should probably get things rolling and show you what kind of work we do here." Enalor nodded again. "I have an agent interview scheduled for the afternoon. It might be a good thing to observe on your first day."

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Elanor drummed her fingers on the steering wheel as she and Dane drove down the dreary highway toward Bloomington, Indiana. Site-81 was not a far drive from the department headquarters and, as Dane explained, was where much of the team interacted with Foundation agents directly. "Our office," he was expolaining, "is considered incredibly need-to-know, both in terms of location and operation. It is not listed in any official site registries. The personnel aware of its existence at all simply called our office 'Scranton'…to a plethora of pop culture jokes."

She laughed. "Why is our department so…" she almost said secret but caught herself. "…reclusive?"

"We end up touching on a lot of important parts of the Foundation's work. What we do requires a high level of clearance and specialized knowledge. So that shroud is incredibly necessary."

A long silence passed between them as several highway exits rolled past. The rain, the cold, and Vivaldi's L'incoronazione di Dario playing on the car stereo (Dane had insisted on classical music) made Elanor feel like her mind was in a fog. Whatever she'd expected from her first day in this department, this wasn't it.

Dane took out a leatherbound notebook and fountain pen, and wrote a note in it. "So," he said, breaking some of the awkward silence, "Accounting. Must have been interesting—especially for an employer like ours."

"It was," she agreed. "There's a certain kind of comfort in numbers. They don't lie to you. You learn more about a person from their finances than any other kind of data. And—" She paused, suddenly aware that Dane was watching her with increasing interest as she spoke. "And I like data," she finished quietly.

"That's good," he replied after a moment. "Everyone is put in our department for a reason. I'm sure we seem like a bit of a mixed bag. But we're all very good at what we do."

"What about you?" Elanor replied. "What do you do?"

He smiled. "I'm the department historian. My role here is generally as a subject-matter expert on cultures & languages."

"Really? Where did you study?" she asked. "If you don't mind me asking."

"Eton College, in Berkshire," He replied with a bit of an awkward chuckle. "I was a King's Scholar." He looked up from the notebook. "What about you?"

Elanor supressed a grimace. "Nothing as prestigious as Eton," she replied. "Casper College in Wyoming for my undergrad. University of Connecticut for my Master's."

"Have you always wanted to do accounting?"

"I don't know if anyone ever grows up wanting to do accounting," she replied with a smile. "I took on an accounting Masters because I was following the money. But my undergrad was in Journalism." She shot Dane a wry smile. "I wanted to be a crackshot investigative reporter." She mimicked picking up a phone. "I need you on the record. We know about Cincinnati, we know about Boston." She feigned a gasp. "Did you say the White House?"

Dane laughed, and for a moment Elanor internally sunk in embarassment. But then he replied, looking out the passenger window, "In this department, that might be more of a reality than you think." He glanced over at her. "Besides, I was certain that after Eton I was going to be marchant sailor. And I ended up a pirate. Funny how that works out."

Elanor waited for him to expound. When it was clear we wasn't going to, she nudged him with her elbow. "Come on, you can't just leave me with that."

"A story for another time," he said quietly. "Besides, we're nearly there. Turn here." Elanor, who had taken the Bloomington exit, made a turn onto a bit of side road that twisted toward Lake Monroe.

"What kind of interview is this, by the way?" she asked. "is the Foundation hiring someone? Onboarding?"

All traces of Dane's good mood were wiped from his face. "No."

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Kris passed several forms across the desk to the agent on the other side: a young woman in a lab coat and untidy hair was frantically signing them and passing them back. "Dr. Winthrop," Kris was reciting as if reading directly from an employment contract, "You understand that this decision is irreversible, final, and there will be no appeal to the action."

Elanor and Dane sat behind one-way glass, peering into the comfortable-but-sparse office located in the administrative wing of Site-81.

Winthrop pushed one of many stray locks of hair from her face. "Yes, yes. Please, just get this over with."

Kris' face was stone. "This process is incredibly exact, as I am sure you would imagine."

The color had slowly drained from Elanor's face. "Is this a termination?" she breathed. Dane nodded. Elanor swallowed a lump in her throat; the ominous term "termination" was so prevalent in Foundation lexicon—while simultaneously not ever actually defining what the process entailed. "Dane," She said, measuring her words incredibly carefully as they formed in her throat, "When Foundation agents are terminated—"

"Sometimes," He replied stoically, answering the question that hadn't yet been spoken. "But nine times out of ten, it's Amnestics and paperwork." Elanor let out a deep breath. Nine times out of ten? That figure was both relieving and terrifying at the same time.

Kris continued. "The purpose of your termination is laid out in the form in front of you. I would like you to please acknowledge your receipt of this information."

Winthrop said nothing, her eyes looking away from the paperwork.

Kris was undeterred. "Dr. Winthrop, this letter informs you that you performed a level 3 protocol violation. As such the Foundation has no choice but to terminate your employment effective immediately."

"Protocol violations are rated from 0 to 7," Dane explained in a low voice. "7 is the most minor; severity increases with each step downward. Level 3 is a violation of protocol resulting in Foundation casualties." Elanor nodded.

"Please, just get it over with," Winthrop said again. "Please."

Kris opened the desk drawer and produced a single small vial with a green pill inside. "Please tell me what happened, Doctor. This is your last chance. Tell me what happened with SCP-3460." Winthrop said nothing. "Dr. Winthrop—" Winthrop reached for the pill on the table, but Kris swiped it away. "Doctor—"

Winthrop groaned. "Please, just give me the pill. Please." And then, in a whisper, "They'll kill me."

Kris seized the thread. "Who? Tell me. What do they have over you? Whose photograph did you put into the object? What did Agent Armstrong have to do with it?" Winthrop did not reply; she put her head in her hands and wept. "Did Agent Armstrong hurt you? Did he get you involved in something? Marissa, this is important. If you can give us any additional information before we amnesticize—"

"Amnesticize?" Winthrop screeched, looking up at Kris with red, puffy eyes. "No, I need to be terminated—"

"For what reason do you want to end your own life, doctor? Please give me insight into—"

"Please—"

"Doctor—"

It happened in a moment. Elanor didn't see where Winthrop pulled the scalpel from, but before the action had even registered fully, the researcher had leapt to her feet and was about to lunge across the desk.

Kris was faster. Her sidearm cleared its holster in an impossibly short moment, fired, and Winthrop was dead.

Elanor screamed, and either the window was soundproof or Kris was completely unfazed by it. She holstered her weapon, sat down, and made a note at the bottom of Winthrop's paperwork as two security officers burst into the office. Elanor dropped into a seat, breathing in short, sharp breaths. Dane gestured toward the door. Elanor looked at him helplessly before pushing past him and out the door, away from the blood-splattered glass.

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Scranton put the paper down on the desk. The office was empty now except for Elanor and the Director. Scranton had been waiting inside when Elanor returned. Scranton had gestured to a seat as Dane and Elanor entered the office, and had dismissed Dane, leaving a still-shaken Elanor to take her seat at one of the empty desks.

Scranton lit the hawkbill pipe and took a long drag, the tobacco in the bowl glowing and casting the director's face in an ombre glow. "Agent Armstrong was a CI operative," Scranton said without looking at the sobbing accountant. "We'll have to find out more about the other Foundation Agents he interacted with." Scranton looked at her. "Are you alright?"

"This…" Elanor heaved a deep breath while trying to find the words. Her stomach burned. More tears were welling up in her eyes, ready to re-stain her cheeks with red. "This…you're not even…She just killed a woman. Right in front of me." She took several steadying breaths. "Is this normal?"

"No," Scranton replied pointedly. "This is not normal. This is something we try to prevent. This is the result of someone trying to use the Foundation—its objects, its resources, and its people—for power. It's someone's greed and disregard for human life while people like Dr. Winthrop become collateral damage. The Foundation's job is to serve as protector of the anomalous, Ms. Jones." Scranton reached over and took her hand. An unusual thing, given the number of SCPs which could potentially transfer via hand-to-hand contact. "This is Human Resources. Our job is to protect the protectors."

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