In His Own Image: Part 1
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September 19, 2011:

The blood, thankfully not his own, rolled down Lament’s arm as he shook the woman again, trying to get her attention. It was a lost cause, he suspected. Judging by her eyes, her expression…. Severe shock. And unfortunately, he didn’t have the time to carry her out. With a sigh, he stood up again, leaving her there and opening the heavy, metal door. He peered out, hearing the creak and groan of the shifting walls, wincing as he heard the snap of a shearing bolt.

He worked his way down the hall slowly, now, glancing over his shoulder occasionally as he kept his revolver at his side. He grimaced slightly, wishing he’d brought his other sidearm—the one that held more bullets—but the reliability of the old gun, the feel of it in his hand, gave him a level of comfort that the other couldn't. Dodridge would have yelled at him for it, but there are times that comfort and capability with a weapon are more important than flat-killing power. He believed that. Right up until he heard the screeching sound, followed by a long, chitinous appendage entering the hall ahead of him, the shadow of a dangling corpse with eight legs moving over the flat metal walls.

It took him less than a second to realize what it was, about two to assess the area completely, and only one for him to decide on the office to his left. He tried the door, finding it locked, then took a step back, kicking it hard and getting inside.

The red, glowing emergency lights were all he had to see by, and as he shoved the desk against the door, he heard the thing scratching at it. A moment later, he pushed the filing cabinet on top of the desk, upending it with the adrenaline surge that he was riding, then positioning himself against the far wall, taking a deep breath and double checking his sidearm. Then waiting.

Waiting, waiting, waiting.

He let the breath out when the scratching stopped, leaning against the wall, sliding down it and looking around the room. It took him a moment to realize where he was. It’d been a while since he’d worked with the man—a promotion followed by a reassignment had taken him away from Site-19 in 2006—but he recognized the accouterments. The spartan elements were the first indication, but the three pictures, all upended and in the floor now, were the only other indication he needed. He looked down into the face of the passive, bald man, and immediately regretted his choice of hiding place.


September 13, 1997:

Everything was fresh and new at Site-19, he thought. Everything was… exciting! There was so much hustle and bustle. People moving around, smiling, laughing. Some looking serious, or angry, or—in the case of the four other Junior Agents he was standing with—extremely, overwhelmingly nervous.

They looked up at the man wearing spectacles and an obnoxious Hawaiian shirt under a lab coat, and Lament wondered, with just a touch of gnawing trepidation, why he was grinning at the lot of them quite so brightly.

“Hello!” The man spoke in a voice that instantly reminded Lament of a professor he’d had in college. That man had been in love with literature, and every action he performed was done through that same overwhelming rapture with the written word. Lament decided that he liked him immediately.


"Welcome to Site-19"

“I’m Dr. Djoric,” the man explained. “Welcome to Site-19! I’m supposed to be showing you around and letting you get a feel for the place. The normal tour guide—her name is Agatha, you’ll meet her soon—is currently dealing with a pregnancy or something. So here I am instead! We’re going to have a lot of fun!”

Lament wasn’t convinced that it was going to be fun at all, but it actually turned out to be. He met a ton of people, including the legendary Dr. Clef, who seemed mostly… bored. And Senior Agent Strelnikov told them some stories over lunch in the mess, mostly warnings, and they got to meet Lombardi, who Lament and one of the other new guys—short fellow by the name of Sandlemyer—had heard about, but no one else had. He honestly felt a little… star struck.

After all, when you’re in the Foundation, the other members are the only ones you can really talk to about a lot of things. And when someone develops a reputation, everyone eventually gets to learn about it. Even if it is undeserved.

By the time Djoric brought the group back to the large, white arches and curved glass of the entrance hall, Lament was almost dizzy with the amount of information he’d been deluged in. He got a slip of paper with his on-site quarters listed; notes on where the mess, armory, and various reserves of equipment were; notes on scheduled days off… Then Djoric looked down at his clipboard, clicking his tongue as he turned the pages.

“Right, then. Primary assignments. Most of you will be working under a member of the Senior Staff for the next few months. Some of you will be stuck with them for the next few years. It all depends of how indispensable they think you are,” he said, laughing a little. “Sandlemyer…” he said, looking down at the list. “You’re assigned to me!” he said, laughing a little. “So… nice to meet you… again!”

Sandlemyer grinned a little bit, then nodded. “Lab Eleven, sir?” he asked. Djoric had shown them his lab with great enthusiasm.

Djoric grinned and nodded. “Simmons, you’re going to… Kondraki. Have fun there,” he said, looking up at the man, then back down again. Simmons didn’t seem that bothered by that, Lament thought, but then, he had a PhD. He could probably expect some modicum of respect.

“Jones and Brown. You’re both heading over to work with Strelnikov. Do what he says, exactly what he says, and you’ll get out alive, huh?” he said, laughing slightly to set them at ease. It didn't seem to work very well, though. Lament had heard that Site-19’s security force was a tough duty, and judging from their expressions, they'd heard the same.

Djoric looked down one last time, then frowned slightly, looking back up at Lament. “You don’t have a doctorate or anything, do you?” he asked.

Lament shook his head. “No, sir,” he said.

Djoric looked back down again, then shrugged and pushed that consolatory smile back to his face. “Guess he’s gotten lonely since Iceberg left us,” he said softly. “Or maybe it’s just a mistake. Anyhow… uh… You’re assigned to Gears.”

Lament’s eyebrow rose for a moment, wondering if this was a joke, and then the other one joined it as he moved from suspicion to surprise. “Are you serious, sir?” he asked.

“As serious as a grave,” Djoric said, still smiling.

Lament decided, much later in his room, that he hadn’t appreciated that comment.

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