Raccoon Dog Days

rating: +13+x

“C’mon, c’mon, open up, you piece of-”

Handa was not having a good day, trying to pry open a door he didn’t have the clearance for, and the red emergency lights accompanying the repeating message blasting over the speakers right over his head certainly didn’t help.


Yeah yeah, he already knew that, no need to keep blasting oh such useful info into his ears, stopping him from being able to listen in case the big fucking monster was nearby. He thought the alert would stop after a few minutes but it’s been a while and it sure hasn’t. Maybe the people in charge of it were not amongst the living anymore? A morbid thought, but he’s walked through enough blood and bone today that he had nothing but those to keep him company.

His hand slid off the door’s opening, cutting his thumb open, drops of blood joining the many others on the floor. Fuck. Ok, this hasn’t been working so far, and would probably not work anytime soon. He needed to reconsider his remaining options.

Handa looked to the left: The path he’d come from. That’s where the beast was. Ideally, he would put as much distance away from it as possible, but he’d been stopped by what was to his right: A closed pneumatic door. Someone had passed through here, closing off this part of the site. This place was divided into modules with gates that could be closed off and separate each module. Really convenient during breaches like this. Unless you were on the wrong side of the door. Which he was, because of course he was. Fuck.

With a dejected sigh, Handa stepped away from the locked door, slowly moving the opposite way, back into the maw of the beast. Several maws, to be precise. Several maws with lots of rows of sharp teeth, to be even more precise.

Handa stopped, having difficulties breathing, his anger over the situation finally being overpowered by his fear over the same situation. His feet refused to move, and he couldn’t blame them: There was very little reward to continuing forward. The more he thought about what he was doing the less he wanted to do it.

Taking a step back, he reassessed his options again. Either he goes forwards and gets killed, or he just waits here and maybe the big beast doesn’t come his way? Unlikely but… Well, it hadn’t come this way so far so fuck it. Maybe he’ll just wait here. Maybe… Maybe he’ll just wait.

He sat down in front of the closed door, pulled out his PDA to send out a ping and then just waited. Maybe the infuriating containment breach message was right, and help would soon arrive. I mean, security would be able to open these doors, that’s kind of what they do during breaches, no?

It took fifteen minutes for Handa to realize that security would probably not reach the outermost modules first, twenty two minutes to start hearing noises of something big approaching, eight seconds to go back to trying to open the locked door, five more to desperately try to open the goddamn door, and a bit over three for several hundred teeth to shred him into unrecognizable bits.

As his life violently left whatever was left of his body, he swore he could hear a sigh of disappointment.

As his life returned to his now-intact body, he saw the person who had just sighed, standing in front of him.

“You doing good?” They asked, offering a hand. Handa took it, a jolt running through his body. The hallway he’d been trapped in melted away into a void that soon became a medium-sized empty room, all the while he remembered he wasn’t in danger, because the breach had never happened. There were no monsters like the one he saw on this Site, after all.

The person taking his hand was the Chief of Security, and this was a goddamn drill.

“Ugh, why can’t we do normal drills like a normal company?” Handa complained, getting back onto his two feet. He looked behind, noticing the couch he remembered sitting on when he arrived at this room for the drill deal.

“Well, we aren’t a normal company, for starters.” The Chief chuckled, the raccoon tail and prismatic leaf resting over their head proving said point. Why was the Japanese equivalent of a trickster God allowed to work for the Foundation? ‘They were good at what they do’ was most likely the answer. ‘Better to have a trickster God on our side than against us’ was a close second, he imagined.

With a snap of their fingers, a clipboard appeared in their hands, the raccoon flipping through the pages. “So! Do you want the good news first or the bad ones?”

“Uh, good news?” Handa didn’t like the sound of that, and the flipping of the illusory pages certainly didn’t help. As the memories of previous drills came flowing back, he couldn’t help but fear what stupid thing he’d done wrong this time.

“You did better than the past two drills!” The Chief announced, the sound of a bottle of champagne popping accompanying their words. “Which means you aren’t a problematic asset. Below average, yes, but we can work on that.”

“Hooray? Am I supposed to feel happy about that?” Handa didn't like the tone of their voice nor what they were saying. Real condescending hours over here.

“Look.” The cheerful tone was dropped, Handa wishing he hadn’t said anything. “We can do this the long way, where I point out everything you did wrong, everything that makes you a liability, and I can send you on your way to a seminar that I don’t wanna impart, and you will not pay attention to.” The Chief clicked their tongue, the clipboard vanishing. “Or you can say ’What about the bad news?’ and I can tell you exactly what to work on so you don’t end up dying whenever an actual breach happens.”

There was something really disturbing about that ‘what about the bad news?’ line coming out of the Chief with his own voice, but Handa wasn’t gonna tempt destiny. He repeated the words the Chief wanted to hear, the raccoon going back to the condescending tone, a fake smile plastered over their face.

“Well, for starters, you forgot your ID before leaving your workstation. That was before the containment breach rang, so that’s just negligence. I’m gonna send a retractable holder to your office, and you’re gonna attach your ID card to it so you’re always carrying it, ok?”

Handa nodded.

“Alright, so next, you didn’t check your map until it was too late to pick an efficient route to avoid getting trapped in a dead end. If you didn’t know, during breaches, your PDA updates every time a section is locked, so…

Handa tuned them out after this point, only nodding from time to time whenever he thought they were expecting input. He was exhausted and pissed, still remembering the couple hours the drill lasted (Which had only been a couple minutes to anyone else, he guessed. He didn’t believe the site’s Chief of Security would waste so much time on each individual drill.) and annoyed at this half-assed attempt at finding faults in his behavior, and probably everyone else’s. A breach drill? The last containment breach here happened over a decade ago. The entire site was made so that breaches couldn’t happen. Did they really need to waste time and resources on this kind of crap?

We’re in an empty room and everything else's an illusion. What resources are we wasting here?

The Chief resisted the urge to sigh, continuing to list off everything the Researcher had done wrong during the drill, commenting on the parts he could improve on, and finishing with what the Researcher had done right, because no one wants to just hear of their failings. As tempting as calling the guy out, they needed to be the bigger man. At the end of the day, a single person not being able to tell their rights from their lefts wasn’t gonna be the end of the world. If a chain was as strong as its weakest link, the Foundation would have fallen decades ago.

The Chief let the guy go with only the warning, and got the next person in. Sit them down, take their hand, and insert their minds into the drill illusion. No more than a minute, which to the insertee could last several hours depending on how good they are at following basic instructions. They leave through either success or death, and then they get their review, accompanied by either a pat on the back or a slap on the wrist. Carrot and the stick. Rinse and repeat.

The day turns to night, then to day, then to night again. One thousand four hundred and forty six employees later, the Chief is free. Free to compile all information into a small stick looking trinket you put inside a computer, a marvel of the 21th century. They had predicted these drive things would replace books at some point. It hadn’t happened yet, which was quite saddening because the site’s library sure was a security risk. You can’t open a Way into a server room, after all.

The next step is the Director’s office, but first, a quick makeover: Who were they feeling like today? Dr. Yamamoto? No, she didn’t like having a doppelgänger around. Most people didn’t, to be fair. Didn’t feel like trying too hard and picking a historical figure this time. Who was the last person they talked to who wasn’t from this site?

Dr. Fallon from Abnormality Reintegration was the answer. Step into a broom closet, grow a beard, glasses, a tan, a cardigan and chipped front teeth, and they were good to go. The Chief slipped into the boss’s office in the usual way: Small talk with his secretary: Would you like tea, coffee? She asks. Do you have sake? They joke — The roll of four pairs of eyes, followed by a ‘green tea, please’ on their part. The director called them, and they followed in.

The Director’s office had that Headmaster-style the Chief didn’t particularly like, memorabilia and trophies of bygone eras accompanied by books he hadn’t read in decades, if ever. A superfluous room for a superfluous man.

“Are you done with the drills, I assume?” The Director looks at them, stretching his velveted hands. All personnel equal or higher than class C needed skin protection when directly interacting with them, because of what they could do. A fair precaution, although one would expect the Site Director to put a bit more trust on the person overseeing their Site’s entire security system. Oh well.

The drive is handed without a single word, the Chief ready to leave now. The Director wasn’t so perceptive, or maybe he just didn’t care.

“How was this year’s results compared to last?” He asked.

‘Check the thing I just gave you and you'll know.’ was their answer, but it wasn’t what he wanted to hear. The secretary soon arrived with tea for two, so they decided to stay for a little while longer. Time to humour the boss.

“Well, only about 4% of all personnel did really badly, which is acceptable. About the same as last time. About 5% of people don’t understand how the Site’s security system works, which is not ideal, but it’s to be expected. We’ll work on that in the next following weeks and hopefully next year we’ll, uh, have better results.” An unsatisfying answer. People err, especially when there’s a huge monster running amok. These results have more or less stayed the same for six years now. They weren’t gonna get better. They technically could get better, but expecting everything to be perfect was just unrealistic.

“I see.” The Director put his hands together, fiddling with his thumbs. What kind of thoughts could be running through his mind? Was he disappointed? Displeased? Did he think this was their fault? His fault? Did he actually care about these drills? Maybe he too thought there was no point to them?

“Well, if you say they’re acceptable, I’ll accept them.” The Director spoke, reorganizing loose papers on top of his desk. Ah, he wasn’t happy. Well, whatever. They had done their job. It was his time to shine, and his part of the job was the easiest: Pass the data to the Regional Council, which in turn gets passed to whatever Council is in between that and the O5 Council, then to whoever’s in charge of Technothaumaturgical processes for the Foundation, then to whoever’s in charge for updating the dot aics (Short for Artificial Intelligent… Construct? A software agent, essentially) all around the globe with all data from all drills from all Sites… And then that’s it. The two dot aics from this Site get updated and the security gets tighter all around. Their job gets easier, and everyone’s happy. Which begs the question: Why aren't you happy?

You’re not listening to me anymore, are you?

The Director resisted the urge to sigh. The Chief of his Site was daydreaming, staring into him with unfocused eyes. This happened often, which was grating. No one likes being ignored; he certainly didn’t. Furthermore, your CSO blanking out at times isn’t exactly a good look. He knew it wasn't the Chief's fault, a mere trait of their species. That did not mean it wasn't irritating, however.

With a loud cough, the Director managed to bring his Chief’s attention back to him. “Well, if that is all there is to discuss, then you’re free to go. I have other matters to attend to.” He didn’t, to be perfectly honest, but it was obvious the Chief didn’t want to be here, and he didn't want them to be here either. The less time spent around an abnormality, the better. They were the Chief of Security, yes, but they were still an abnormality first and foremost.

The Chief almost jumped out of their chair as his words came out; for a trickster that could read thoughts and emotions, they were really bad at hiding theirs. “Understood. I’ll excuse myself then.” They said, a cup of green tea still in their hands. “Please contact me if there’s any problem with the data.”

“I will.” He nodded, and soon enough, the Chief was momentarily gone from his life.

The Director looked at the pen drive. It was laughable, how effort could so effortlessly fit inside a nugget in the palm of his hand. And how all the effort of all combined Sites all around the globe would most likely lead to a .3% efficiency increase. What were they even doing, pretending that this was a sane way to spend Foundation resources? The days of containment breaches were long gone. They had cracked the code a decade ago. There was no need to keep fighting a non-existent enemy.

Of course, that’s what he would like to say, but the motto was ‘Secure, Contain, Protect’. Arguing against the axiomatic essence of the Foundation was a fool’s errand. Change would come eventually as always, but it wouldn’t come thanks to him.

Take the data, make a backup file, then send it elsewhere. That’s it. Another successful project. Another job well done.

Onto the next one.

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