Out of Frame
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Van Turner looked at his watch. Before him, 13 monitors were blank, each serving to reflect his visage back. Within each, he saw himself frown. He wondered if there was a place in which at least one of those reflections smiled.

One by one, the monitors flickered to life. On each, a Roman Numeral appeared. I through XIII. The Director adjusted his tie and took a sip of water before clearing his throat.

"You may begin when ready, Director." A woman's voice sounded from Monitor III.

"Thank you," Van Turner replied. "I appreciate each of you taking this time to hear me out, and realize you are quite busy. By now you should have received my updated proposal…"

The anomalous items storage warehouses at larger facilities, like Site-19 or Site-77, were massive. Huge rooms reminiscent of the final scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark filled floor to ceiling with the most mundane anomalies the rank and file field agents managed to stumble upon across centuries of investigations.

It was now up to the Department of Photography to go through and update the photos for all of them.

Or, at least that was supposed to be the task at hand. The gunman who chased Photographer Joseph Goldman through a particularly poorly lit, winding, and notably abandoned section of that cavernous space seemed to have other plans.

Turning a corner, the portly man threw down a series of boxes behind him, panting as he continued his sprint. The sound of a carnival filled the space as the lid of one of the boxes fell off and spilled its contents.

"Where the hell is an exit?" Joseph said to himself, peering over his shoulder as the gunman stepped over the boxes and gingerly brushed some confetti from his lapel. "Security! SECURITY!!!"

"I've heard some far-fetched suggestions in my time," Monitor IX spoke, "but few of them recommended slashing almost 75% of the personnel from an entire Foundation Department. Director Van Turner, you are aware of how institutional the Department of Photography is to an organization wholly dependent on accurate documentation, yes?"

"The notion did not escape me," Van Turner chuckled. "But times change, friends. There are fewer horses in the world today than there were in 1901. As the world evolved then to accommodate the automobile, so to must we evolve to the changing realities of our database. By and far the vast majority of entries in our database do not contain photos of the anomalies contained therein. I'd argue over half of those that do would not be hindered by the removal of those images."

"To what end, Director?" Monitor II asked.

Van Turner smiled.

"Security, of course. Need I remind you of Incident 423-26? Or perhaps 4560-12? Time and time again use of photography in our documentation has served as a vector of a containment breach. To be blunt, lives are lost. With my proposed restructuring of the Department of Photography, we'd seek to bring that number down to zero…"

"You've got to be kidding me…"

Joseph stared at the dead-end before him. Three tall shelving units, all covered with boxes and cases surrounded him, cutting his less than direct route to a less hostile part of the facility short. He looked over his shoulder once more. The gunman was rounding the corner, raising a silenced pistol as he took aim at a sitting duck.

Joseph turned and raised his camera's viewfinder to his eye.

"With whatever respect is due, Director, your proposal would seem to be of dubious benefit at best, and self-sabotage at worst," Monitor X sighed. "In our line of work, accurate photographic documentation is crucial. Handicapping the individuals tasked with that burden would serve our larger mission poorly. To the Foundation, a picture is often worth well more than 1000 words."

"I'm sorry that you see it that way," Van Turner replied.

"I think we have debated this enough," Monitor III chimed in. "It's time we put it to a vote…"

The remains of Joseph Goldman bled out on the concrete floor, several bullets having passed through his torso and embedded in the boxes behind him. His camera's lens had shattered in the fall, a mosaic of shattered glass spreading out from the point of impact. The gunman quietly removed the camera's SD card and replaced it with one of his own before gently putting the camera back where it had landed.

With a satisfied nod, the gunman reached into a pack on his back and placed a small standard issue Foundation anomalous item storage box on the ground near Joseph's body, carefully ensuring it was tipped over in an inconspicuous manner such that the contents were allowed to spill out and appear scattered. The contents in question was a set of thirteen quartz carvings of knights on horseback.

The gunman then stepped back and took out a small flashlight, ensuring it was angled just so that the light would bounce off one of the carvings, and onto Joseph's hand. There was a soft click and a low buzz, and then the sound of sand running through a sieve. The remains of Joseph Goldman had been turned into solid quartz. Even the pool of blood that had slowly deepened around the portly corpse metamorphosed into so much sand.

With yet another satisfied nod, the gunman took out a phone and typed in a message.

Mission accomplished.

One by one the Monitor I to XIII turned off. Once more, Van Turner was left in the company of the image of himself thirteen times over, each one wearing his same disappointed smile.

"Five against eight," he sighed. "More than the last time. We'll whittle them down. Just have to keep trying."

The Director felt a little buzz in his pocket and silently pulled out his phone.

Mission accomplished.

Van Turner's smile turned to a smirk.

"Just have to keep trying."

HUB: Glittering Horizon

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