Quarterly Performance Review

"While working for me, do you do good things?" The fragment stared up at her with empty, longing eyes. "Of course not."

rating: +29+x




1. Developments in the field of mental continuity tracking necessitate examining the consequences of implementing such tests into existing personnel evaluation structures. Early research into mental continuity analysis suggested that broad application of the process was hindered by large, but not insurmountable, technological gaps. Several advances in the fields of data interpretation and storage have since filled the largest of these gaps. This paper will outline the argument that, despite these advances, unidirectional analysis of semi-rigid sub-conscious mental structures (UASSMS) is not a suitable tool for personnel evaluation. This analysis focuses on the practical problems of assessing the mental continuity of individuals in any context, the difficulty isolating causal factors in continuity drift, and offers some practical alternatives for identifying anomalous influence in the minds of Foundation personnel.

2. For the purpose of this paper, mental continuity evaluations can be understood as sequential snapshots of an individual's mental state that are repeatedly compared against personalized markers. Simply put, their purpose is to quantify the degree to which any tested individual has changed mentally since previous tests (see: Practical Applications: The Ship of Theseus in Psychological Studies, 2020). In theory, testing of this variety should greatly improve the Foundation's capacity for detecting personnel suffering anomalous effects, form-imitating entities, and non-temporally anchored individuals. This past-future comparison has several implications for UASSMS implementation, most notably in that the first set of results are generally meaningless until contextualized by subsequent results. Furthermore, [DATA REDACTED]





7. In short, many problems addressed by UASSMS are better solved by training critical personnel in reactionary defensive mindfulness, while the remainder of the issues are unlikely to be fully (or even significantly) addressed by implementation of UASSMS processes. Further developments in marker-determining procedures may improve the effectiveness of this technology to the point of meriting further evaluation.

Erin Ahmadi, who was addressed more often by title than name, perfectly understood her colleagues' concerns about the minds of others. After all, they lived in a world where minds were easily changed by opinion, force, and far stranger forces. That change was almost exclusively for the worse. Given that, the Overseer Council's ongoing search for some method to delve into the heads of their employees was perfectly rational. If she did not commit herself fully to that quest, it was only because she had already completed it long ago.

Ahmadi's wispy, ethereal form coalesced in a place indistinguishable from a doctor's waiting room, complete with lines of squat chairs, an abundance of magazines, and a bored attendant. The air was warm and dry, the light cold and harsh. Just as expected from her employee's mind: plainly coherent and deeply unpleasant.

The tanned, lanky woman behind the desk looked up from a blank book as Ahmadi approached. Short feathers of her mud-colored hair drifted lazily in the room's air-conditioned breeze, each quickly settling back into place. "Overseer."


"We're a bit busy right now. Could you please take a number?"

"There's no one else waiting."

"You're the first one today! Please take your number. It shouldn't be long."

"You know how busy I am, Egret."

The receptionist smiled, wide enough to show the barest hint of off-white canines. The humor of it reached her eyes, but it was unclear whose expense it was at. "I'm just a grade fourteen, ma'am. Not my call."

"The world could collapse while you're delaying."

"I'll be sure to pass your complaints on to my superiors. If you could please take your number?"

Ahmadi scowled, yanked a ticket out of the machine, and turned to sit in the chair closest to the desk. The cushion felt like a hundred bearing balls in a burlap sack. Faint music leaked out from somewhere in the room, a pathetic chain of six slow notes repeated again and again. She found herself tapping her fingers against her arm in time with the slow music. Minutes later was scratching at her skin with the same steadiness. Ahmadi glared at the woman sitting behind the desk and considered saying something more forceful, but no, arguing with the mental constructs was pointless. Egret's were far sturdier than most people's and uncannily numerous.

"Ma'am?" chirped the fragment. "Overseer? They'll see you now."

"About time."

"Just go straight down the hallway," she said, gesturing to a door that had not been there moments before. "Oh, and could I please have my number back?"

"The ticket?"

"It's the only one I have."

Ahmadi bit her tongue, handed the bit of paper to the receptionist, and walked through the doorway. The hallway beyond was covered in doors. They lined both walls, each bearing plaques with titles like Office of the Subcommittee for Interdepartmental Emotion Integration. They lined the floor too, and the ceiling on top of that. She stepped gingerly across them, well aware of the trauma that might arise from a tumble through strange parts of a mind, especially Egret's. Her agent's particular set of unhealthy experiences was something better kept at arm's length.

The door at the end of the hall had one more piece of signage than the others. Right below Office of the Chairwoman of the Prime Committee for Subcommittee Non-Conformity Management was a piece of paper with two lines of neat, handwritten text: 'Closed for construction. Detour through summer vacation memories.'

No, Ahmadi would not be putting up with that much. That the rest of the world could fall apart as she dawdled had not been an idle comment, and her own time was too valuable regardless. She should be able to correct any momentary harm to Egret regardless, or at least fix it well enough that no one would ever notice. She turned the knob, pushed, and the door beneath her feet opened.

Her first reflex was to simply hover there. That instinct served her poorly in a place where thaumaturgy was useless. Her second reflex was to reach out and grab a ledge, but there was none to be had. Her third was to furiously curse as she fell. Thankfully, no one could hear those words. Each would invoke unpleasant consequences in a more conventional reality.

Ahmadi landed at the edge of a vast stone pit dug into in an endless plain of dust. It crawled with distant figures, each dragging filing cabinets toward the white fire burning below. None of her previous inspections had ever led to such a place, but that was no excuse to stop and gape, not when she needed assistance to get back on track. Finding that would prove no challenge at all when she could just follow the screaming voice.

"Move, you jackasses! This was supposed to be done ages ago!" The distant crackling of a thousand burning libraries rushed to fill the space in between hoarse words. "Do you want to get out of here or not? Just two more vacations to go after this!"

After an indeterminate amount of time (and a much more determinate amount of yelling), she came across the shouting's source: a fragment of Egret in a baggy green jumpsuit making vigorous use of a megaphone. The imaginary woman saluted sloppily as Ahmadi approached, hair flying wildly in the hot winds. Except for the soot stains across her face, she was entirely identical to the other figures all around them.



"You've sidetracked me again."

"It's not my fault, ma'am. The higher-ups wanted all this cleaned out."

"You realize that you're all the same, don't you?"

Egret's smile crept across her face like sludge, distorting an otherwise wholesome expression. "I wouldn't know, ma'am."

"I assume you can send me onward. I don't plan on loitering here."

"Sure. Of course." The fragment reached into one of her sleeves and pulled out a phone receiver. It looked old and cheap, beige plastic connected to a tangled cord. She pressed the receiver to one ear and paused, rolling her eyes at whatever was going on at the other end of the line. "Yeah. Yeah. I know. Yeah. Look– Yeah, okay. Yeah? Well, fuck you too." Egret jammed the whole back into her sleeve with a snarl, which quickly morphed into the same unpleasant smile. "Someone will come for you in a minute."

"It would be best if they hurried."

"Why wouldn't they? You're our Overseer." She turned away before Ahmadi could say anything, and began screaming again at the countless versions of herself toiling below. The comparisons between the workers and a long list of stomach parasites were particularly vivid.

A bird appeared in the far distance as the list of comparisons reached encyclopedia proportions, black wings steady as it glided down toward the pit. It approached faster and faster, accelerating until flying became falling. Wings flapped deliberately, then desperately, until it hit the ground in an explosion of feathers and gristle. When the air cleared, all that was left in the bird's place was another piece of Egret, this one clad in a dark greatcoat and bearing a particularly grim expression.

"Overseer, I'm your grade three liaison."

"I'm not doing this with every single piece of you."

The fragment tilted her head slightly to one side. "I'm sorry?"

"No, it's nothing. Please, let's conduct the inspection. I'm in a hurry."

"Of course." Egret stomped one boot on the ground, and an elevator car burst out with barely a rumble or puff of dust. The door dinged open, and the same grotesque music that had been playing in the waiting room leaked out. "After you, ma'am." The two of them stepped inside, and the elevator lurched upward at an uncomfortable speed.

"Have there been any problems?" asked Ahmadi.

Egret grimaced, an expression still more pleasant than her smile. "There's been some… lingering contamination from the incident in China. It got into a section of childhood memory storage. The grade twos ordered a purge."

"Isn't that serious?"

"It won't impact our performance, ma'am."

"I meant, aren't those memories important to you?"

"It won't impact our performance, ma'am."

"I see. Is there anything else?"

"No, nothing comes to mind." The elevator dinged again, and the doors swept open to reveal a long chamber packed with row after row of desks, each hosting fragments of Egret clattering away at ornate typewriters. Snow drifted in through the tall, empty windows, only to be crunched underfoot by the higher grade fragments. Each of them wore a greatcoat identical to the one borne by the piece of Egret at her side, and each bore equally grim expressions. "By all means, Overseer, conduct your inspection."

The two of them walked straight down the middle of the great hall on a path of melted snow and discarded paper. None of the Egrets looked up at them, but Ahmadi could feel their eyes on her all the same. It was no secret why she was there.

"You," she said to one of the Egrets at random.

"Yes, Overseer?" she chirped.

"How did you start working for me?"

"You saved me from early retirement, what else? Alpha-1 didn't appreciate me enough."

"Do you think I appreciate you?"

"Of course."

Ahmadi nodded curtly and continued down the rows, one fragment still at her heels. The answer was correct, and more importantly, was nearly identical to the answer she had received the last time she asked the question. Forty-five desks down, she stopped again. "Egret."

"Yes, Overseer?"

"What was the first job you did for me?"

"I put down three of those Committee shitheads sniffing around after you." Her smile oozed out like crude oil through cupped fingers.

"How did you feel afterwards?"


Ahmadi moved on. Two-hundred and twenty-five rows down, she stopped again next to a fragment no different from any of the rest. "While working for me, do you do good things?"

The fragment stared up at her with empty, longing eyes. "Of course not." The senseless chattering of countless typewriters ceased in an instant. "What? You all know it's true. All of us know that everything's super fucked up! This whole thing is a nightmare! I'm the honest one here!" She went on yelling at the sea of silent fragments, unceasing even as the Egret next to Ahmadi calmly drew a pistol from inside her coat, leveled it at the head of her perfect twin, and fired. The shot was loud as a cannon, and the force of it scattered brain and bone in a messy arc.

"Tch." She lowered her gun, and more shots rang out across the long hall seconds later.

"Egret, what's happening?"

"There might be a bit more fallout from the thing in China." Heavy metal shutters slid over the open windows, adding a harsh sound to the echoing cacophony that had already become overwhelming. "We'll handle it."

"Egret–" Ahmadi was interrupted sirens sounding from hidden alcoves as the chandeliers began to flash bright red.

"Overseer, you should go. Everything's under control. I promise."

"Egret, I don't think–"

"Will you just listen to what I'm telling you and let me do my fucking job!?" the fragment howled. It was not nearly loud enough to carry far over the din, but she heard it plainly all the same. Wide-eyed with what might pass for fear, Egret's smile still curdled the moment it formed. "That's just the infohazard talking," she continued weakly, raising her gun to her temple. "The rest of us are loyal. You'll see." With that, she pulled the trigger.

Yes, perhaps it was indeed time to leave.

Overseer-6 awoke with one clammy hand still pressed to the forehead of her most valuable servant. Egret returned to consciousness as soon as Ahmadi removed her hand, bolting upright on the examination table.

"Well, how did I do?" she asked, more chipper than anyone had the right to be in her situation.

"You'll need more rest before going out again. I insist."

"What? No, I'm… ugh." She collapsed back onto the table and clutched her head in her hands. "Yeah, maybe." She looked up at Ahmadi, who was still staring intently at her. "Really, what is it?"

"Have you ever thought that your work for me might not be particularly healthy?"

"No. Never."

All things considered, that was the only answer she could have expected.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License