I Did Not Account For This

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Senior Accountant Henriette Pauler walked slowly and timidly through Hallway 1-A of Area-314, wearing a nervous expression on her face.

This was not a common occurrence for her. She was very cold, and as even her best friends would describe her, very boring. She didn't often show her emotions on her face, instead preferring an expression of indecipherable neutrality. Unusual circumstances, however, call for unusual expressions, and her arrival at Area-314 this day was no usual circumstance.

It wasn't an isolated circumstance, though. She'd been called here before. She'd even been called to the exact place she was going: the office of Director Ash Conway. This time, however, was urgent. Director Conway was never one to use the term "urgent" lightly, and Henriette could tell that the summons she had received two days prior meant business. What she didn't know, however, was just what kind of business it meant.

Henriette looked from side to side as she trod further along the hallway, her eyes straining against the fluorescent lights overhead, hearing only the buzz of the lights and the echo of her footsteps. She passed several doors, labelled with the names of different individuals and their titles, the undersecretaries of the various subdivisions of the Foundation's Accounting Department. She saw where the hallway split off in some places, forming additional labyrinthine structures of hallway that she assumed only led to even more rows of offices. After admiring the sheer amount of subdivisions there were, most of which she had never even heard of, she arrived at the end of the hallway.

The end of Hallway 1-A had two doors, side by side. Henriette glanced at the door on the left, which bore the label "Celeste Weintraub — Assistant Director", before shifting her gaze to the door on the right. She read the label, "Dr. Ash Conway — Director", before hesitantly knocking three times on the door.

Henriette was greeted by a muffled "Come in!" from inside the office, and opened the door. Director Conway's office was never anything to gawk at, usually looking as if a tornado had passed through a print shop. A desktop computer sat in the center of an uncomfortably low desk, with piles of paper on either side of it. Loose papers covered any remaining square inch of desk, and often littered the floor. The walls of the room were decorated with various posters of different sizes, most of which contained math or finance-related puns. It was surprising the Director ever managed to get anything done with the perpetually disaster-reminiscent state of their workplace, though they always insisted there was a method to their madness.

Henriette was shocked to find, upon entering, the Director's office in an unsettlingly neat formation. The computer was the only item on the desk, the floor was visible, and the walls were empty. Several small cardboard boxes were stacked tidily on top of one another in the back of the room. This was the first sign that something was wrong.

The second sign was that Director Conway was standing in front of their desk, leaning on it, with their hands positioned behind their back. Director Conway was tall, taller than most people Henriette knew. They had neck-length curly black hair that was usually messy and frizzy, and they stood with awful posture, about what you'd expect from a Director of Accounting. They were dedicated to their work, and never once stood up from their chair during a meeting, afraid to leave their post for too long.

"Hello, Director." Henriette began to sit down in a small chair near the door, but a gesture by Conway urged her to remain standing. "What's going on?"

"Hello, Henriette, long time no see."

Henriette looked up at the Director. "Yes, it's been a while. What's with the room? Finally decided to clean up?"

"About that. I need to tell you something."

"Is something wrong?" Henriette's face turned to concern.

"Quite the contrary." Conway removed their arms from behind their back, revealing a small clipboard with several sheets of paper on it. They continued, "Yours truly has been promoted!"

"Oh, that's great! Congratulations." Henriette looked around the room for an uncomfortable amount of time in silence, waiting for the Director to elaborate. "So… why am I here?"

"You're one of my top accountants, Henriette. Why wouldn't you be informed of this?"

"But, you said it was urgent, and I needed to be here ASAP. This doesn't sound fly-all-the-way-to-an-Area-in-the-middle-of-nowhere urgent."

They sighed. "Yes, you're right. There's another reason I called you here. Since I'm being promoted out of the department, we need a new Director."

"Wait, you're not saying—"

They cut her off. "I am saying! Congratulations on your promotion to Director of Accounting." They looked down at Henriette with a smile. A genuine smile, which was rare from them.

"Well, no, I—" Henriette's speech started to stammer for one of the first times in her life.

"Come on, I know you're up to it! It's not like you have a choice, anyway."

"But, what about Weintraub? Isn't it usually the Assistant Director to take the Director's spot?"

"Yes, but, well," the Director began. They hesitated, and then continued, "She's not exactly Director material, you know? She's a great assistant, but she isn't a leader. I need a leader."

"And you're promoting me? I'm not a leader, either."

"Sure you are! You've been running your section at Site-86 for years."

"Yes, but that's just a regional thing, I—" She paused. "—I couldn't run it Foundation-wide."

"Sorry, but it's already been decided." Conway handed her the clipboard. Henriette looked at the clipboard, flipping through the various sheets attached to it. "Here's the paperwork you need to fill out. Good luck! I know you'll do great." Their expression shifted to one of a more grim variety. "Well, that's the good news, anyway."

Henriette perked her head up from the clipboard. "What's the bad news?"

Conway sighed. "Look, I'm going to be honest with you. You and I both know that the Foundation is big. It's huge. And I'm in charge of making sure that this huge organization has its finances in order. And, well… it doesn't."


"The Foundation isn't just growing, its growth is growing. It's accelerating. It has to, new anomalies are showing up faster than ever, and the only way to keep up is to grow faster than they do. Expanding our global influence, developing new containment procedures, creating more and more specialized task forces. Have you seen the amount of departments we have now? Those kinds of numbers were unheard of 30 years ago. And all of those departments we make, all of those procedures we develop, all of those task forces we send out, they need money. They need lots of money. The truth is, we're just not making enough to stay afloat anymore."

Henriette was taken aback. She met Conway's gaze with confused and concerned eyes. "But that—" she stammered, "—I would've known about that. All of 86's numbers are in check. We can't be losing money."

"That's because we're not." Henriette looked at them with more confusion as they continued, "We're making just as much as we always have. Hell, we're making more than we used to a couple years ago. It's just not enough anymore. In reality, this has been an inevitability for a while. Eventually, the Foundation's growth is going to exceed its budget, and we're going to go bankrupt, and we've known it for a long time. The problem is, no one ever really tried to stop it. There were a few attempts by people before me, we tried selling our paratech, utilizing anomalies, establishing more front companies, but in the end none of those were effective enough, and every Director has just been kicking the can further down the road. I'm sorry, I know it's a lot to dump on you, and I know I'm partly to blame for it, but just promise you'll do better than I did, okay?"

Henriette looked down at the paperwork in her hands. She couldn't accept this. Why couldn't they see she wasn't a good fit for this? Why wouldn't they listen to her? Was it because they were right? Was she really the best option? They'd have to be in some deep water if she was the only good option.

No. No, that's not why. They trusted her. They placed the future of the entire Foundation in her hands because they trusted her. Because they trusted only her. She sighed. She didn't agree with them or where they were placing their trust. But goddammit she was going to try. She would prove to herself that Conway's trust was in the right person. She looked back up at the Director. "I promise."

Accounting Director Henriette Pauler sat down in her office chair. "Christ," she whispered to herself. "We are more fucked than I realized."

She looked around her new office. She'd kept the desk and the chair by the door, but all of Conway's things were gone. She'd made this office her home for two months now, but it was still odd to see the place from this angle. A knock at the door snapped her out of her thoughts. "Come in," she responded from her seat.

Assistant Director Celeste Weintraub opened the door, entering the office and closing the door behind her. "Director?" Celeste began. Henriette winced at the word, she was still getting used to the title. "I need you to look over the quarter report for Site-166. It's running out of funds for certain departments and Director Lewis is on my ass about it."

"Which departments? Which ones are running out?"

"Well, all of them, ma'am." Celeste handed her the paper. Sure enough, Henriette could see that every department at Site-166 didn't have enough money to meet their costs for the quarter.

"Oh, shit. That's not good." Henriette looked over the report closer. She hadn't even heard of Site-166 before, let alone any of the departments headquartered there.

"It's worse. 45 and 103 are close to falling behind. 19's the best off so far, but it's starting to turn for the worse over there too. We need to think of something, and fast."

Henriette waved Celeste out of the room, and was alone with her thoughts once more. She pored over the report, looking for anything that could help the situation. Redistributing the funds was out of the question, that would just leave some departments with even more debt. Giving Site-166 more money also wouldn't work, that extra money would have to come from another Site, which would just pull them under too, leaving her back where she started. She looked over the list of departments again. "What's with all these?" she thought out loud to herself. "What do we even need a Biolinguistics Department for? Wouldn't that just be the same as the Linguistics Department? And what about the Anomalous Infestation Extermination Department? We already have the Decommissioning Department!" She shifted her gaze from the list of departments to the list of budget costs. Jesus, they were eating up a lot of funding. If only 166 didn't have so goddamn many. An idea hit her like a bullet. No wonder she hadn't heard of any of these departments before. There were far too many. She knew what to do.

Celeste reacted with surprise to the sudden, forceful opening of her office door. Henriette stood in the doorway, a wide smile on her face as she spoke. "Get me Director Lewis. No— get me all the Directors. Actually— get me the Administrator." She looked at Celeste, who met her gaze confusedly. "I have a plan so crazy it just might work."

Henriette stood in a hallway at a Site she hadn't been told the name of. Two guards had escorted her the entire way there. They stepped away from her to give her room to prepare, but remained within view, silently and intently watching her for any signs of hostility. She'd been given anterograde amnestics before disembarking, and was just coming off of the loopiness. She looked over the index cards in her hands once more, hands shaking and clammy. "They're waiting for you inside, Director," one of the guards spoke from across the hallway.

"Thank you." She looked up and nodded at the guard, before turning to face the door standing directly behind her. The door was unlabelled, and resembled a janitorial closet more than a clandestine meeting room. She figured that was probably the point. She looked back at her notes for the who-knows-how-manyth time. Was it a good plan? What if it gets denied? Or, even worse, what if it gets approved but turns out to be a complete disaster? She shook her head, clearing her thoughts. She didn't need those where she was going. With a petrified sigh, she opened the door and stepped inside.

On the other side of the door was a spacious, dimly lit, windowless room. In the center of the room sat a large, elliptical table. At the head of the table sat a surprisingly young-looking person. They were of average build with long, dark hair that went down past the table. Their eyes followed Henriette as she walked from the door to the table. They gestured at the opposite end of the table from them, which was home to a single empty seat. Henriette sat down. They spoke, "I, the Administrator of the SCP Foundation, formally welcome you, Director Henriette Pauler, to the Office of the Administrator. All words spoken hereafter can and will be considered during the decision of a fair verdict, based on adherence to the Foundation's mission and ethicality alone, and not on prior reservations for or against any individuals in this room. The meeting begins whenever you're ready, Director."

The Administrator was a nebulous figure in many parts of the Foundation. Most people had heard of them in some way or another through passing. Most people didn't know what exactly it was that they did. Most people probably didn't even think they were real. Henriette, however, was not most people. The Administrator's job was very similar to that of the O5 Council, just on the other side of the coin. While the O5 Council was in charge of keeping containment and operations running, the Administrator was in charge of everything else. The Department of Administration, Human Resources, the Internal Tribunal Department, Logistics, Maintenance, the Recruitment Division, and, of course, the Accounting Department were all under the order of the Administrator. Anything dealing with keeping the gears of the Foundation turning behind the scenes. Henriette had never met the Administrator before, but had experience with people who had. Not that it made anything any easier.

Henriette exhaled, and thumbed over her index cards once again. "Administrator," she began, instantly regretting her decision to do this. She continued, "As I'm sure you are aware by now, the Foundation is not in a good place. Site-166 has gone bankrupt, and several others are in line to follow. This is a crisis the likes of which the Foundation has not seen since the incident in La Paz in 1942. As Director of Accounting, I think there's no better time to act on this than now. Immediate actions are required if we even want to have hope of getting through this." Was this too much? Was she being too dramatic? Should she just get to the point? Henriette ignored her thoughts, focusing on the person in front of her and the cards in her hands. "I have a plan. I have a proposal that, if you approve it, can help us out of this mess. The Foundation is not losing money. On the contrary, even. And yet, every solution so far has been to expand, to simply make more money. That isn't going to work. Making more money certainly helps but it isn't sustainable. We do need to make more money, but that can't just be it. We need something else. Something new. We don't need to expand, we don't need to sell more tech or make more pizza restaurants. No, we need to downsize."

Henriette could see the Administrator raise their eyebrows. Good, she had them interested. Now to stick the landing. "I am proposing a two-step plan. In Phase One, we utilize as many anomalies as we— ethically— can to make revenue. We've been doing this for years already. The Accounting Department's Acquisitions Division has been doing a great job at producing revenue for the Foundation. This lets us make more money without the extra costs of new employees or real estate for new front locations. This is expansion of income without expansion of loss."

The Administrator interrupted her. "Not entirely. The Acquisitions Division will require funds for this, I assume? These funds will have to come from another department, you know. How do you intend to make this plan coexist with our current situation?"

Henriette responded, speaking ever-so-slightly more nervously than before, "Well, yes, research and development of ways to harness anomalies does incur additional costs. But the Accounting Department is willing to provide this funding ourselves. Current projections place the potential costs of the plan within an acceptable range that we can cover. Anomalies that do not require any additional research or development of new procedures will be prioritized, of course. And do keep in mind that this is only the beginning."

The Administrator leaned back in their seat. Henriette couldn't tell if that was a good sign or a bad sign. "Go on."

"We continue in Phase One until all Sites are back on their feet. Though of course, this won't last forever, not at our current rate at least. That's where Phase Two comes in. In Phase Two we downsize. Simply put, the Foundation is running out of money because it's too big. If we cut out esoteric departments and merge similar ones, we can cut back on budget costs for all Sites."

Henriette saw a visual reaction from the Administrator, though she couldn't tell if it was curiosity or smugness. "Respectfully, Director, I do not understand what you mean. Many people are aware of the sprawling nature of the Foundation and its departments but I certainly wouldn't describe any of them as 'esoteric'. Every department serves a purpose, and while some of them may be niche, every cog in the machine is necessary. I do not see how this plan is sustainable."

"You're right, each department serves its own purpose, but some departments are still on payroll despite having outlived their purpose." She flipped to a different index card. She'd prepared for this response and had jotted down a list of examples. "For example, the Department of Loss Prevention — Paratech Division. We sell most of our paratech anyway nowadays, so why do we need a separate division just for it? Why not merge the important paratech we don't sell into Loss Prevention proper? Or what about the Amnestics Department — New Sources Research Division? We solved that problem ages ago."

As she rattled off more examples of obsolete departments, the Administrator's expression shifted once again, though it remained unreadable, as she supposed was the usual for them. They spoke, "And what do you expect to do about the consequences of this? We'll have to fire people for this plan. You know how much we hate firing people."

"Not quite. I noticed while looking through the pay records of each department that certain departments are severely lacking in personnel. Do you know how many people are currently employed within the Committee for the Prevention of Sapient Anomaly Corruption? Six. There are currently six people Foundation-wide preventing sapient anomalies from turning on us. Surely some other department has useful personnel for them. Maybe we'll have to fire a few people, but not everyone. It certainly won't be perfect, but we have to try. This isn't going to save the Foundation permanently. God knows a plan this simple won't be able to do that. This is, ultimately, a temporary solution. But what matters is that it can get us back on our feet, and from there we can plan a course of action with more time on our hands. We need to pull ourselves out of our current predicament before we focus on something more permanent. This plan is the vital foothold we need in the climb to getting us out of here." She paused for a moment to breathe. She realized she hadn't done that in a while. "This concludes my proposal. I hope you'll seriously consider it, and help me help us out of this."

The Administrator looked contemplative. They sat in their seat unmoving for an uncomfortably silent stretch of time. "Thank you, Director. You are dismissed."

Henriette arrived back at Area-314. She couldn't remember anything about the meeting. She could thank the anterogrades for that. She hoped it had gone well. For all she knew it could've been a disaster, and the copious amount of sweat on her index cards where she had held them was not a good sign.

In the weeks following the proposal, the Administrator hadn't yet gotten back to her. She assumed they were contemplating it, but a little part of her worried that they'd binned her idea without telling her. That was, of course, ridiculously out of character for a top-tier Foundation staff member, but her paranoia wasn't typically rational in nature. The subsequent weeks were the most anxiety-ridden and restless of her life. If her proposal was denied she'd have to come up with something new, and she wasn't sure if they had enough time for that.

Three knocks at her office door snapped her back into reality. "Come in!" she responded, not leaving her desk. She was relieved to see the familiar face of Celeste enter the room.

"You have mail." Celeste dropped a dark gray envelope on Henriette's desk. A wax seal imprinted with the Foundation insignia held it shut. She slowly opened the envelope, pulling a solitary sheet of paper out from within. She began to read it.


The following is a message from the Administrator of the SCP Foundation. Do not share this sheet or the contents therein with any unauthorized personnel. Non-compliance is punishable by lethal force.

Director Pauler,

Your plan is inefficient at worst and shaky at best. You're proposing radical changes to the Foundation that would normally never even be considered. Unfortunately, however, the situation is dire, and radical changes are necessary. As the only other option is to do nothing, your proposal has been accepted, and I will be watching your progress intently. I do not believe this will work. I do not believe you have what it takes. Prove me wrong.

-The Administrator, SCP Foundation

Accounting Department director Henriette Pauler breathed a sigh of relief and leaned back in her chair. That was good enough for her.

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