On the Outskirts

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1994: When I Chanced into an International Conspiracy

My first interaction with the Foundation was in the summer of 1994. I was a kid right out of college, just having gotten a job as a Park Ranger. That was my dream job, ever since I was a child. Not this, not by any means.

I was working at Crater Lake then. That's where I've been working for the past twenty years. Before the Foundation, I had entertained the idea of trying to work at a different park. Yosemite had already fascinated me, for instance. But the Foundation controls. The personnel of Crater Lake didn't leave Crater Lake with their memories intact, and I value mine.

Two weeks after I started work, I drive to work. I notice there's a nice car in the parking lot, something that sticks out like a sore thumb in the parking lot of a national park. Cars like that belong in Illuminati bases, not a park in the middle of Oregon. As it turned out, the latter was more like the former than I would have preferred.

I clock into work and my boss calls me aside. Tells me that somebody is here to meet with me, and it is extremely important. He leads me aside into one of the offices, and there is an impeccably dressed man inside. The man smiles as I sit down across from him.

"Hello. You're Mr. Lance Owens, correct?" He smiles the whole time. This is procedural for him, nothing out of the ordinary.

I gulp out a response. "Uh, yeah, that's me. What's this about? You from the feds?"

He laughs and shakes his head. "Not quite. Mr. Owens, I'm going to let you on a little secret. It's actually something of a big secret. Are you ready to hear it?"

I nod.

"The supernatural, the paranormal, ghosts, vampires, werewolves: it's all real. All of it."

Surprisingly, I didn't think he was crazy at first. I don't think I really understood what he was saying.

"I work for an organization known as the SCP Foundation. That stands for Secure, Contain and Protect. We keep the anomalous away from the world, so that it remains safe."

"Like in X-Files."

"Exactly." He makes this little smirk, like he knows something I don't. That's probably true. "Just like in X-Files. But the reason I'm here is to hire you, Mr. Owens."

"Oh, well, I… I just got this job and I went to college for this, I've only been working for two weeks and-"

"You misunderstand me, Mr. Owens. There is an anomalous object within Crater Lake National Park. You've heard of the Old Man of the Lake, yes?"

"Of course, it's one of the main attr-"

"The Old Man of the Lake — which we refer to as SCP-3310 — is the linchpin in a complex thaumaturgical ritual system which prevents the catastrophic resurgence of a dormant apex-tier pluripotent entity with unknown ontokinetic, pistiphagic and deamorphic properties."

I still have no idea what any of that is supposed to mean.

"In layman's terms, it is preventing the rebirth of a deceased god."

I sit there, speechless at the stream of technobabble he spouted at me, all of it well defined and scientifically approved and completely, utterly meaningless. "Okay." I pause for a second. "What do you want me to do?"

"All we ask of you is that you keep on your normal work, and get paid a little extra for it. And in the rare occasion that the situation demands it, you doing everything you possibly can to make sure that Llao, god of monsters stays dead."

There was a brief moment of silence.

"No biggie."

1995: When I Realized the Mess I Was In

When the Illuminati hijacks your life and doesn't tell you anything, you start to itch there at your collar. You try to figure out what they really want from you, what they really want from the world, and most importantly, who the everloving fuck they actually are.

And in January 1995, that itch I had started burning and I decided that I had to learn everything I could about the Foundation, so on a cold winter's night I drove out to Crater Lake and broke into my boss's office. It's been long enough that I feel comfortable talking about that. Nothing bad will come of it, not now.

I was looking for his files on 3310 and for any scraps of information about the Foundation. I was already familiar with the Old Man by that point, and I didn't need to learn anything more about him. But the Foundation remained in the shadows, barely anything visible beyond the surface.

Those files didn't even come close to revealing what the Foundation really was, but between the lines you could just make out its true shape, like the fin of a shark poking above the surface. There's a lot in common between a shark and the Foundation, you know.

One of the documents in the 3310 file was about a potential cover-up of the Old Man. One of those old bastards on the council — O5-2, I think — got nervous about the fact that people simply knew that the Old Man existed. That bothered me, at the time: The leadership of the Foundation, with so much power and control, was anonymous. Rank and serial, no name.

So O5-2 makes a proposal: targeted application of amnestics to remove the Old Man from the collective memory of the world. There was an estimation of how much that would cost, and it was in the hundred millions. Dosing thousands of people with amnestics. A massive undertaking. I was shocked that they would consider such measures for 3310.

There was a reply to the proposal, coming from the desk of O5-9. They argued that the current containment was working fine and that if knowledge that the Old Man was anomalous was concealed, that was enough. The situation was fine, and such a measure was unnecessary. It would be better to save such resources for a more pressing time.

Did you catch that?

Do you get what's missing in that rebuttal?

At no point in that rebuttal did O5-9 ever say anything to regard of "we don't have that kind of money" or "the logistics of dosing that many people is impossible." It doesn't enter the equation. The proposal is treated as something that could be feasibly accomplished, if the Foundation wanted to. The only barrier was that it wasn't needed, so why bother?

It rapidly began to dawn on me the kind of people I was working with and just how much control they really had. I found that discussion fairly early on during my investigation (if you can even call it that) and it was enough for me to stop immediately.

The way it seemed at the time was that I had been hearing of a bear in the woods. So I mount a hunt to go and find this bear, and I track it down to the cave. I sneak in, gun at the ready, and whip around the corner, only to find I'm not hunting a bear, I never was. This thing is not a bear, nothing like a bear.

No, I realized I was a fool looking for a colossus.

2001: When the Foundation Came Close

I have only ever interacted with two of what the Foundation called "SCP objects." Skips is common slang for Foundation employees. I guess that included myself, which is an alienating thought. Even then I was only tangentially working for the Foundation. They aren't who I received the bulk of my paycheck from, only a little stipend.

The only other SCP object I have ever seen — in the context of my employment with the Foundation, I've seen all the ones on the news — is SCP-978. They call it the "Desire Camera". It doesn't take pictures, it shows whatever the subject wants most in the world.

In case you're keeping track, this means I interacted with a tree stump capable of causing an eschaton and what really amounted to a toy.

An agent had come down from Portland, carrying the camera with this veneer of secrecy and safety, like it was precious cargo. We had been informed of the visit weeks in advance and had been told to prepare for the event like it was of the utmost importance. We treated it that way, the fools we were, because we didn't want to let the big, scary, spooky Foundation down.

So the agent comes in, all full of himself. We all have a thousand questions for him — everyone there worked for the Foundation, but had any of us ever seen the inside of a Site? Even so much as touched another anomaly? We were all Level 0, with an elevation for 3310. I was 4/3310/HMCL at the end, sure, but for everything else, I was stuck at 0.

I was the one boating him on the lake to take the photo and along the way I tried to make small talk with him. He wasn't having any of it, so I shut up. I took the containment of 3310 seriously — everyone at Crater Lake did. Nothing but the utmost professionalism when it came to that log and that lake. Still, do, mind you. That wouldn't change anything.

We had been told it could end the world. I hear that a lot of Foundation agents deal with something called "K-Class Fatigue". You keep hearing about this and that can lead to the end of the world and that phrase stops carrying any weight. It diminishes the importance and you stop caring, those words stop being important.

But those few of us stationed at Crater Lake only ever dealt with the one object, and we only ever heard that one thing had potential to end the world. There would be nights when we'd ask each other if we thought there was a potential of there being other world enders out there, and we'd always settle on the answer of "Most likely, yes, but let's not worry about it."

The agent and I were out on the lake, sitting in a small motorboat. It had taken a few minutes to find the Old Man — he's a wanderer — and the agent seemed like he was getting fed up with me. I imagine there has to be a massive difference in standards between a Park Ranger and a Foundation Agent. Both of us were competent at our jobs, but they weren't the same job.

We pulled up to the Old Man and he snapped a photo. The print came out instantly since it was a Polaroid. He shook it out and showed it to me with a look on his face like I was supposed to explain it.

It was a completely different picture. The Old Man — I just knew it was him — was back to being a tree, planted in the ground and whole again. At the bottom of the picture were two figures, not quite human. One was attacking the other, breaking open his rib cage and biting his heart. It was gruesome.

I told the agent that it probably represented Llao and Skell. At that point in time, I had gone above and beyond looking for any scraps of information about those two, in the off chance that any of it might help me deal with a "containment breach." Didn't do me any good, of course: all you need to know about this job is that there are storms and monsters.

That photo, by the way, never got included in any of the documentation on 3310. Apparently, the photos 978 produces aren't reliable enough or something for the Foundation to put any actual weight on them, so they pretty much just get ignored outside of the file log on 978 itself.

That day was one of the most important days of my career. It didn't even matter to my job in the slightest.

2013: When the Masquerade Was Shattered

I was coming into work one day, a few days after the whole thing in Korea. You remember that there was that one brief gap between it happening and the Masquerade really breaking, right? It wasn't immediate like everyone seems to pretend it was. Hell, Korea barely had anything to do with the end of the Masquerade.

When I came in, all of my staff were huddled around the TV in the break room. One turned her head up with the most sullen look on her face.

"You need to see this."

I'm not sure what I was expecting, but it sure as hell wasn't the words "SCP Foundation" plastered across the banner of CNN. Total information release about the Foundation, all of the files dropped onto the internet. To this day, they still don't know who did it. Did you know that? Our world was flipped on its head, completely shattered and we don't know who to thank for it.

I wonder if they're still alive. They wouldn't be if the Foundation got ahold of them.

Twenty years in the Foundation, at that point. I had gotten used to the idea of living in the dark for the rest of my life and never actually finding out who or what I was working for. But there it was, on the screen, loud and clear: the Foundation was real and they were here to stay.

You have to remember that our situation was very different from almost the entire rest of the world. Those stationed at Crater Lake knew about the Foundation, but we only need the numbers of two anomalies. There were hypothetically a thousand more, but they were only ever alluded to.

So we weren't like the rest of the Foundation, because of how unfamiliar and clueless we were about the Foundation when the Masquerade broke. And we weren't like the rest of the world, because we weren't quite as clueless as they were. We had, at the very least, heard about their mission statement before. We knew the anomalous existed, we just didn't know anything more concrete than that.

There weren't many people in the world who had the same perspective as us. There were other people had the same situation as we did, but they were few and far between. I've had the chance to meet a couple of them over the years, but that was a while after the Masquerade broke.

And fuck if the Foundation was going to give a shit about us.

2014: When the Storm Broke

I'm sure that you're aware of that whole phenomenon where the Sites got swamped by protesters and onlookers, right? That was a major problem for a lot of them in the early days after the Foundation went public, but for the most part, they were ready for it.

Us? Ha, good luck. There weren't nearly as many people coming to Crater Lake, but we had a noticeable surge in activity. Some people were just trying to get a look at the Old Man (I had made a decision to stop any non-Foundation lake travel to stop that), but there were those people who tried to use us as a way to get into the Foundation.

They never believed me when I told them that I knew jack shit about the Foundation, and I really can't blame them. I wouldn't have believed myself either — my name was in the personnel directories, right there with a 4/3310 Clearance. (Nevermind the fact that everything else was Level 0.) How could somebody that high not know what's going on? How could they not have answers?

But the journalists and the reporters — don't even get me started on that Information Breach hack — weren't the worst of our problems. The files on 3310 were released to everyone — not just the general public, but also to those "Groups of Importance." I had never even heard of any of them prior to the Masquerade, only that one American Secure Containment Initiative because it was in the 3310 documentation. And they don't exist anymore!

Sarkics were the first to attack us. At the time I didn't know anything about them, but I've done a little research myself. The Foundation's databanks are very informative, not that my position gives me any access to them.

It was a small group of Neo-Sarkics, only about eight of them. When they rolled up, we pretty much just rolled over and let them take over the park. They struck at night, and we were just a night shift. Not many of them, but even fewer of us. We were just Park Rangers, and they were armed to the teeth — a few of them armed with teeth.

That's what caused the eighth activation of 3310, those idiots. They pulled the Old Man out of the lake, and immediately the skies turned dark. The Gammas looked like insects that time. They climbed out of the ground and started charging the lake. Awful, still get nightmares about them.

The bugs started getting zapped by lightning coming from the clouds, just like normal. The Sigma event stops the Gamma until somebody can throw the Old Man back into position and let him do his thing. It's not looking good, however: there are way too many of the insects, and Skell's getting overwhelmed. Can't kill them all.

But then something unexpected happened — eight bolts, all at once, fucking smote those Sarkics. Instantly dead, all of them. Skell's smart — he realized what he needed to do. I swear I heard something chuckling right after, this warm laugh that fills your soul.

Skell's a real proper god, not like that Yaldy. Looking out for his devotees and servants, saving them from the heretics. You can't convince me that the Sigmas aren't targeted. Ever one to return to the favor, I gave the Old Man a push back into Crater Lake and saved the day.

That was enough for the Foundation to up our security detail. The Chaos Insurgency attacked a couple months later, and for about a year afterward the whole park was swarming with black ops. I managed to stay in control of operations thanks to a twenty-year service record, but I never really was in control. How can you tell a man with a gun you outrank him?

2022: When I Gave Up

After thirty years of Foundation, I decided that I had enough. Things had mostly normalized around Crater Lake, but after the latest scandal — I can't even remember what it was, there were so many — the camel's back broke. I'd found a job in the private sector, uninvolved from the anomalous. They agreed to hire me, and I submitted my two weeks to both the Foundation and the Parks Service.

Parks Service was the easy one. I feel like what I've said to you may not have really represented my employment status the best — I was firstly and foremost working for the Parks Service. The Foundation came up infrequently, but you couldn't ignore it when it did. So I had dealt with the Parks Service plenty of times, I knew what to expect.

But the Foundation? Give me a break. Their entire idea is secrecy. I was shocked when I got a response after quitting, and then it was an invitation to Site-64. Now that was the cruelest twist of fate: only when you quit do you get to go to a Foundation site.

Once I had packed up and everything, I made the drive up to Portland. Fortunately, it was on the way to my next job, and I didn't have to go out of the way. I like the fact that I didn't have to give anything more to the Foundation at the end.

I've heard that in the days before the end of the Masquerade, Site-64 was subterranean and under a park in Portland. Now there's an above-ground entrance, maximum security and it looks like a military base. They probably bulldozed the park to make room for all that. Fuckers.

I'll never forget the look on the guard's face when I handed him a Level 4 ID card. Sure, that level was only for one item, but my card still was still orange and emblazoned with a 4. Not many Level 4s drive a car like mine or look like me. They're stuck up in the labs.

The reason I was there was because the Site Director — Holman was his name, I think — wanted to meet with me to discuss 3310. Apparently, 64 was the closest Site and had been overseeing our containment to a little degree. Our meeting would be recorded and sent off to the O5 Council.

I've already talked about how I don't like the concept of the O5s, right? Good.

The talk went pretty well. I told him everything I knew about the anomaly, and what he needed to brief the next poor sap to get my job. The little things I had picked up along the way, nothing major. I gave him a recommendation among the staff, and it was all so pleasant.

It was clear to me that the Site Director had only vaguely heard of 3310, and it was nothing more to him than another cog in his well-oiled machine. I had spent my entire life working to make sure it never activated, and he spent five minutes every other year to briefly review any updates. He didn't even remember the mythological context, the entire frame under which containment had been pitched to me all those years ago. To him, it was just a log that caused a storm.

At the end, I asked one final question, doing my best to frame it as innocent curiosity and nothing more. Right after we had made our final goodbyes and formal closures.

"How many anomalies do you oversee containment of here?"

"Oh, approximately forty directly in the site itself, a couple hundred anomalous objects, and then many more in the surrounding area, like yours."

I nodded and smiled. That was all I needed to know to make my final judgment about my total, unseen masters. I gave Holman my ID and formally ended my tenure with an international, monolithic, all-powerful conspiracy.

The elevators took me to the surface, and I stepped outside. I was done dying in the dark, and now was my time to live in the light.

A collection of six stories, covering thirty years of a life lived on the periphery of Foundation, before and after the end of the Masquerade.

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