The Foundation is Broke
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NuclearExplosionCloud.jpg

Boom.

They heard the explosion from miles away- a great booming thing that could be heard from as far as New York City. From the newly-made crater that was once Site-19, a great mushroom cloud blossomed into the sky, as the largest Site that the Foundation held in possession disappeared under a triggered nuclear explosion.

Seven thousand souls were lost in the tragedy.

Forty percent of the Foundation’s anomalies were lost in an instant.

And hundreds of billions of dollars in damage were incurred.

From there, the perpetually precarious financial situation of the Foundation had gone down the drain.

Upon hearing the news, the Administrator only had one thing to say:

“We’ll need to make some emergency sales.”


It was a busy day in the Accounting Department. In one single day, on the fifteenth of May, seventeen separate anomalies were discovered, the Labyrinth Reclamation Project was approved, two MTFs went under in an ill-fated expedition, the last numbers from the latest 682 break-out attempt were being tallied, and Site-19 went under after a gigantic containment breach triggered the on-site nuclear device, taking scores of staff and three MTFs with it.

Under the strain of the day, they barely reacted to the news of that last one.

It was not a good day for Accounting.

And for Accounting Undersecretary (and Overseer of Amnestics Production) Nuwalsh Ecro, it was an even shittier day.

In his arms, he carried piles and piles of paper- nearly all displaying the assets of Site-19, the researchers and staff that worked there, the costs it took to build it, and the costs it took to maintain it.

All usually very hum-drum things, but now he was supposed to present to the O5s.

The O5s.

His hands were already sweaty at the thought.

As he entered the conference room, he was surprised to find it empty- the chairs on the main central wooden table were untouched, the table still clear, the white board freshly scrubbed, and the screens to be used for the meeting still off.

Ecro breathed a sigh of relief.

“More fucking time to prepare,” he muttered.

Panting, he set down the papers on one side on the table, trying to maintain some semblance of organization as he went through what he needed to go through.

He set costs on one side- they’ll probably ask about that later.

He set staff on the other- his coworkers were already probably parsing through their copies of that to account for who died and who didn’t.

Then, he displayed assets in the center- MTFs, reality anchors, SCPs, other special stuff.

Finally, he placed the other special stuff to the right of the assets. The higher-ups wanted a variety of strange shit along with the Site-19 stuff- SCP-3000’s file (they gave him temporary access for that- he didn’t have time to process the honor, even if it was heavily redacted), the total number of amnestics produced at Area-151, the production rate of the facilities, and a lot of stuff related to amnestics in general. He made sure to take those last ones from his own office- he already had notes on them, after all.

He sat down on a nearby chair in defeat.

“Son of a bitch,” he muttered. “Son of a fucking bitch.”

He breathed in.

And breathed out.

Going through his pockets, he found his whiteboard marker and pen and set it on the table- he’ll need those too.

Then, he froze.

What the hell am I supposed to do while I wait?

It was incredibly stuffy in the meeting room- Site-02 always tried to skimp on the ventilation costs to save money.

Oh, Christ, money.

To say that the Foundation was short on money was an understatement- contrary to popular belief, international secret organizations can’t be run on government funding alone. Governments were fickle, and all-too focused on politics- which meant that depending on the leader, they’d get either a lot or none. It depended on how much that specific government cared about the anomalies on their soil.

So, along with stocks and bonds, they sold things on the side- anomalous products deemed expedient enough to warrant commercial use. They sold virtually none of it to the public, so the majority of their customers were the same governments that funded them. In the past, they’d sold reality anchors, experimental armor, and even a combat drug or two synthesized from this skip or that skip. They sold a lot per piece, but when you have multiple sites and lots of people to provide wages for, they ran out of money fast.

It was all barely enough to keep them afloat- Hence the budget cuts and the stuffy Site-02.

Listlessly, Ecro picked up a piece of paper from the amnestics pile.

It detailed Y-909, the compound that came from 3000, and all of its potential uses in the Foundation’s current year of… 1975?

He chuckled. The veterans in the Accounting Department’s Amnestic Production Committee absolutely hated recounting all the shit that they had to do when the proposal came through to start harvesting operations on 3000.

As Ecro would know as the undersecretary for that aspect of the Foundation, of all the things they could sell, amnestics was the one thing that the Foundation absolutely refused to sell. Though they produced it in respectably large quantities, the power to reliably erase someone’s memories belonged only to the Foundation, and the Foundation alone. They had 3000 to thank for that.

When they explained it in orientation some fifteen years ago, amnestics was basically the nuclear bomb of the anomalous world- everyone else had crude stuff that could make people forget with a hefty amount of side-effects and intrusive memories, but 3000 gave them the edge in that they could basically silence anyone with no fuss.

He paused. A thought came to his mind.

Is that why-

“ECRO!” A loud voice shouted from the doorway, startling Ecro. As he turned to the door, he saw a familiar sight- Fellow undersecretary Fern, sweaty and panting from running.

“What?” Ecro said, blinking.

Fern pushed up her rounded glasses, and took the time to breathe. “O5s are going to be up on the screens in no time flat. Ass-Hat said that their ETA is about two minutes.”

Ecro sighed. “Ass-Hat” was their boss and the Secretary of Accounting. He also loved giving announcements on short notice.

“As fucking expected.”

Fern rolled her eyes in sympathy, then pointed at the papers. “You got what you need?”

Ecro nodded, bringing up a sheaf of papers from the asset pile to show her. “Everything from Site-19, and the bare essentials to catch them up on amnestics.”

“You read them yet?”

Ecro blinked again. “I-“

Fern sighed. “Nu. Get the diggity darn on it.”

Ecro tried to prevent himself from smiling. Fern was a former preschool teacher, and it showed. She couldn’t swear to save her life.

He nodded back. “Yep, definitely.”

Fern smiled reassuringly at him. “Hey. Just stick to the script, alright? You can do this.”

“I…” Ecro sighed again with an audible hoo. “I don’t have a script.”

Fern stepped back from the doorway, a joking smile on her face. She was looking at something to her left, and was already turning to leave. “Then make it up as you go! You’re good at that, right?” She said, as she ran down the corridor.

Ecro smiled at her as she left, which immediately dissipated.

Son of a bitch, He thought. Just… relax.

He went to pick up one of the pieces of paper from a pile. He had two minutes to review, so if he could just-

“NUWALSH!” A great booming voice shouted from the speakers around the room, and at once Ecro sprung from his seat.

“What is it, Sir?” Ecro responded, nearly half-shouting. “Do I need to-“

Secretary Sun-Woo Ryu, the boss they affectionately called “Ass-Hat” cut him off with a disapproving tone. “Not enough damn time. O5s are on the end of the line. Get to work.”

Ecro blinked. “But I-“

“7 and 13 are about to go live in three…”

Immediately, Ecro rushed to pick up the marker on the table.

“Two…”

On the board, he began to draw figures that would be relevant to his presentation.

He did a double-take on the screen. Did he have enough time or-

“One.”

At that, the screens blinked open, and the faces of O5s 7 and 13 greeted him.

Sweat beaded on his forehead. He went to bow. “Good day, overseers, and welcome to my presentation.” His voice was smooth.

Hoo, shit. So far so good. Just sell them the briefing.

“Please, begin. Show us the numbers.” A kind female voice responded, and he realized it came from O5-13, who was a South Asian woman in her forties wearing normal black business attire.

Ecro cleared his throat. His knees were shaking. His voice still remained clear and composed, though.

He began to speak. Make it up as you go. Make it up. “So, as we all know, at 9 AM Eastern Standard Time, Site-19 underwent a catastrophic containment breach. As per standard protocol, we dispatched three MTFs to the scene in order to supplement the Site Security on the ground.”

“Three hours later, at 12 PM, following evacuation of the Site that saw seventy percent of its staff successfully off the premises, Site-19 was deemed too far gone to recover without breaking the veil, and preparations were made to trigger the on-site nuclear bomb.”

He breathed in. No faults yet. Good.

“And so, at 3 PM in the afternoon, following the evacuation of what was left of the 3 dispatched MTFs and Site Security, the Overseer Council gave the go-ahead, destroying Site-19 and all anomalies within it.”

He surveyed the faces of the O5s. He already saw the drawn expressions of exhaustion and exasperation on their faces.

He continued, drawing on the board as he did. “As of 7 PM, the final tally of staff casualties is six thousand, three hundred and four. The remainder of the casualty list is made up of MTFs and Site Security, which were no more than nine hundred and sixty-two.”

He paused to get his bearings, then moved on. “This constitutes the worst loss of life in Foundation history since the Cold War, and is an appropriately seismic shake to the modern Foundation. As it stands, we have lost four hundred anomalies, which have luckily shown no post-destruction after-effects, and hundreds of billion dollars in losses.”

“Oh boy.” O5-7, a portly Mediterranean man with an ornate necklace around his neck, muttered.

The other O5 didn’t say a thing, but her reaction could be seen plainly on her face- O5-13 was leaning back on her chair and looking up in despair.

“Is that the final damn tally?” O5-7 asked, irritated. “Please tell me it is.”

Ecro decided to be honest. “Since 7 PM, we’re still trying to tally the missing, which comes up to three hundred and seven among the staff. There are also investigations being made by the New York State Government, which the Department of Disinformation are currently in charge of. As of now, the Office of the President is trying to contact us regarding the detonation.”

“We know.” O5-7 said, exasperated. “Just fucking great. Now we have to go ahead and make sure the President is on the line.”

O5-13 sighed. “Br- I mean, O5-7, please control your language.”

O5-7 paused. “Right. Sorry.” He pinched his nose bridge, then motioned to Ecro. “Please continue, undersecretary.”

Ecro obliged. “As of now, the Department of Accounting is reeling from the loss of Site-19. We are currently redeploying all the evacuated personnel to other Sites, with the same applying to the anomalies that we have recovered.”

“What of SCPs like 239 and 173?” O5-13 asked. “Have they been recovered?”

“SCP-239, thankfully, is on her way to Site-17. The same applies to SCP-173, which was undergoing testing at the time and was successfully recovered with no additional loss of life.”

"How about 682?" O5-7 said. "Have we found it yet?"

"682 has been considered missing. We do not know if the nuclear bomb destroyed it, but considering its hardiness it wouldn't be out of the realm of fantasy if it is still alive under a kilometer of rock."

“Thank you.” O5-7 said, leaning back. He gave a motion with his hand. “Please continue.”

Ecro cleared his throat again. His legs had started shaking less, now. He interpreted it as a good sign. “As far as Site losses are concerned, 19 is definitely one of our most catastrophic in history. Accounting will aim to give the Overseer Council the best in presenting the numbers, and will resume in our duties in making sure that the budget is adequately allocated to whatever action the council elects to take.” He looked at the both of them. “That is all, thank you very much for listening.”

A silence intervened.

“That… That’s it?” O5-7 said. “What about the amnestics production?”

Ecro’s lip quivered. “I admit that I did not know how to incorporate it into the presentation regarding the loss of Site-19, but if you wish, I can present the long and short of the Foundation’s current numbers in terms of amnestics.”

“Please do so.” O5-13 piped up. “We requested the information for a reason, undersecretary Ecro.”

His knees began to shiver again as he moved to the table to retrieve the summary that he had typed up twenty minutes before. Looking at the O5s, he began to speak.

“Would you like to hear the summary, or an in-depth presentation?”

O5-13 spoke. “In-depth. Please.”

Ecro nodded.

For the next ten minutes, he spoke about the current statistics on the Foundation’s amnestics production and use- Seventy tons produced in Site-151 per year, twenty tons on average consumed on various operations, with more than half being consumed by the Department of Disinformation, and ending on the efficacy of modern Foundation amnestics compared to that of other anomalous Groups of Interest.

Along that, the O5s nodded and listened in silence, but didn’t ask any questions.

“I see.” O5-13 said as he ended. “So a significant portion of our amnestics are currently being stored for future use?”

Ecro nodded. “Fifty tons in net production, Madame Overseer.”

O5-7 crossed his arms. “And has Accounting tallied the prices of amnestics on the market, specifically those of Marshall, Carter and Dark?”

Ecro cocked his head. “Well, yes, but I don’t see how-“

“Answer it, please.” O5-13 said.

Ecro swallowed. “Marshall, Carter and Dark currently sell amnestics to their clients at about a hundred million per ton. Their clients include governments and… terrorist organizations.”

O5-13 spoke. “I see. And seeing our lead on other amnestics from our competitors, what would our price be?”

Ecro swallowed. “O-our price?”

“Yeah.” O5-7 said. “Our price.”

“W-well,” This is unorthodox, he thought. “Considering our advantage over other amnestic alternatives, we could presumably price it at three hundred million per ton.”

A silence intervened again, as the O5s mulled his words over.

“B-based on my experience, I mean.” He added.

He looked up. “Overseers, may I ask a question?”

“Proceed, undersecretary.” O5-13 said.

“Why are we speaking of amnestics when we are talking about Site-19?”

O5-7 sighed. “All agree on telling him?”

“Agreed,” O5-13 said.

He cleared his throat. “You are the current Overseer of Amnestics Production, correct?”

Ecro’s knees shook harder. His nerves were starting to get the better of him. “Y-yes.”

“Well, when we got the news of what happened to Site-19 and the long history of budget deficits before that, the Administrator elected to submit a proposal regarding the sale of our amnestics in order to make up for that deficit. We voted, the results came out, and they all unanimously said yes. Your report of the exact numbers just confirmed why exactly that's needed.”

“Wait,” Ecro said, forgetting himself. “You approved the sale of our amnestics? What about the-“

“Repercussions?” O5-13 cut in. “We have considered that, and deemed that the potential effects of the sale of our amnestics are undercut by our need for funds, as well as the changing landscape of the world behind the veil.” She breathed in. “In short, we have need for funds, and though the Foundation is not for profit, it still needs funds to keep it running- and amnestics are our largest avenue for the procurement of those funds.”

O5-7 nodded. “Yeah. Plus, undersecretary, in accordance with that proposal, we are splitting the Amnestics Production Committee from the Department of Accounting, and folding it into the newly established Department of Surplus.” He breathed. “Effective immediately.”

He looked at him. “You do have a background in sales, as well as in accounting, correct?”

Ecro nodded. “Yes?” His response came out as more of a question than an answer.

“To that end,” O5-7 said. “We have decided to appoint you the new Secretary of Surplus, again, effective immediately.”

Ecro’s knees stopped shaking at that instant. “What… Sir?”

“You will be given a Level 3 clearance, as well as your own section at Site-02.” O5-13 continued. “It will be a stressful job, considering our need for funds, but if you would like to take it…”

“I…” Ecro couldn’t find the words to express what he was saying. He was dumbfounded. “I… accept. Ma’am. Thank you.” It came out robotically.

“Good.” O5-13 said. “We will make the arrangements later. As of now, you have a job to do, Secretary Ecro.”

“What… is it?” Ecro said, blinking a few times as he tried to digest what had been said seconds earlier.

“We are dispatching you to secure a deal with Marshall, Carter and Dark.” O5-13 said. “Liaisons are already working on securing you the meeting.”

“Good luck, Mister Secretary.”


The Atlantic was a dark expanse that stretched out before him.

Ecro fucking hated it.

It only took him half an hour to get from the conference room to the Foundation’s airstrip- the O5s wanted him to fly out immediately.

Ass-Hat was stunned to see him go. He’d been listening in on the conference from the control room as an observer, and even he was shocked to see his subordinate promoted into becoming his equal.

Ecro didn’t hear any words from him then, but he was most certain that he’ll get them later on.

The interior of the airplane rocked. Turbulence was a bitch.

They were already set to land in Spain by the early morning the next day- and a few hours after that, the meeting with the representatives from Marshall, Carter and Dark.

If Ecro wasn’t nervous then, he was so much more nervous now. The O5s had fast-tracked it- one moment it was them telling him to head to Spain, and then the next it was meeting details, location, protocol.

He shuffled in his seat. He hadn’t had any sleep for the past hour, even though he most certainly knew that he should get some. Toledo was only six and a half hours away.

“Heya, Mister Secretary.” A voice said from behind him. “You alright?”

Ecro scoffed. “No,” He said in a light tone. “Actually, I feel kinda shitty.”

Ciara Fern sat opposite from him, crossing her legs in her pencil skirt as she did. She pushed her glasses up again. “Well, I am your undersecretary now. So it’s my job to at least sorta alleviate that stuff.”

Ecro crossed his arms. He smiled. “I’m glad you’re here at any rate. I feel safer having familiar faces around me.”

“Heck yeah.” Fern said, pumping her fist. “Shame it’s only the both of us right now, though. Didn’t the O5s say that the people from Amnestics Production were joining our- your department?”

Ecro hit his head against the soft headrest of his seat. “Yeah.”

She crossed her arms, smiling. “As well as half of my peeps in Statistics?”

Ecro sunk lower. “Yyyyeah.”

Fern chuckled hard. “Add a fourth of the Department of Marketing to that, and we got a lot of shit to manage. We gotta coordinate with the Department of Amnestics, too.”

She reached across the chair to pat his shoulder. “Hey, boss. Don’t worry, we got your back. Chin-up!”

Ecro looked at her incredulously. “I was just given the job of saving the Foundation, and now I’m supposed to be shipped to Toledo in order to negotiate a deal with M, C, and D, which may or may not turn sour.” He sighed with a ghost of a smile. “Why the hell should I have my chin up?”

Fern chuckled again. “At least you aren’t given the freaking job of actually sorting out Nineteen. Ass-Hat’s in his office doing that right now.”

“God,” Ecro said jokingly. “Imagine the stress of coordinating all the numbers of that shitshow. Four hundred anomalies, eight thousand casualties, and he has to redirect thousands more to other Sites.”

“You wouldn’t envy him, right?” Fern said, smiling. “Plus, you’re in Sales now, not Accounting. Aren’t you supposed to be the presentor extraordinaire?”

“When I’m given ample damn time to prepare? Yeah.” He shook his head. “When I’m given nine hours before we set down in a country I’ve never been to before? No.” He raised up his hands in exasperation. “I’m scared outta my fucking pants, have been since the conference room.”

Fern jokingly scoffed. “So why did you say yes, then?”

Ecro raised his eyebrow. “What do you mean by that?”

“Why did you say yes to the promotion?” She was watching him intently.

A silence followed as Ecro tried to give her a proper answer.

“Well…” He paused. Answers were usually his forte, but this got him stumped. “Because I was pressured to.”

Fern chuckled briefly. “Liar.” She said.

Ecro crinkled his forehead. “Wait, what do you mean-“

She looked over her seat and down the corridor of the plane. Populating the other seats were a variety of soldiers- Site Security, mostly.

She turned back to him. “You think they’ll be necessary?”

“The suits?” He peeked out from his seat. “I hope not. If all goes well, M, C and D can just accept the deal and we can all go back home to settle the new Department.”

Fern laughed, but gave no response.

Then she pointed silently to the papers beside Ecro.

“Read up, now. You barely got time to review before we set down for the big exams.”

Ecro chuckled as he took a piece of paper from the pile. “Exams? More like pop finals.”

Fern lifted herself from the seat and began to move out into the corridor. She looked back at him. “Good luck, Mister Secretary.”

He gave her a salute. “Go fuck yourself, Miss Undersecretary.” He responded jokingly.

Fern chuckled again, and moved away from sight, leaving Ecro to his papers.


“Alright,” The security team leader said from the passenger seat, looking back at Fern and Ecro in the back. “Mister Secretary, what’s the procedure?”

He breathed. “Get out of the car with Undersecretary Fern and a complement of two members of security. Then head out into the alley, proceed down to Avenida del Huezca, and…” he paused.

“And then head to the bar called ‘Pedro’s’,” Fern answered for him.

Ecro sighed. “Yeah.”

The team leader looked at him through the mirror. “We will be monitoring the meeting place for any wrong moves by the other party, but considering the fact that they’re ‘McDonalds’, it shouldn’t be anything too bad. Just make sure to keep your chin up, avoid offending ‘Ronald’, and don’t make any sudden violent movements.”

“Got it.” Ecro said, turning to the door lock and opening the car door. Fern followed him.

The Toledo streets were rainy today, for some reason. He took the umbrella from beside him, but was interrupted by Fern, who took it for herself.

Ecro protested. “Wait, what the-“

“I can’t have the Secretary holding his own umbrella, right?” Fern said, as she held her hand outside the car and opened the umbrella. “You got undersecretaries for that.”

“No, really, it’s-“

Fern was already outside, waiting for him to go out. “Perks of the job, sir. We did the same for Ass-Ha- I mean Secretary Ryu, right?”

Ecro heard a chuckle from the driver’s seat. He sighed. “Fine.”

Under the shelter of Fern’s umbrella, he emerged out from the car and into the rainy night, his suit still dry.

Behind them, they heard the sounds of car doors closing as the two security members assigned to them emerged from their vehicle, wearing full gear and holding two assault rifles in their hands.

“After you,” One of them said as they positioned themselves behind him.

Ecro sighed. “Right.”

As indicated by the team leader, they came out of the rainy alley and into the empty street of Avenida del Huezca. There seemed to be neither car nor person in sight, and for that Ecro was grateful.

“There,” Fern said, pointing to the only building on the street that was lit up. “Pedro’s.”

Wordlessly, Ecro walked across and to the other side of the sidewalk, with Fern following urgently behind. Water was already getting on her blouse as she walked.

“Question, agents?” Fern said as they moved down the street. “Why couldn’t we have just pulled up in front of the building rather than the alley across the street from it?”

“Protocol, ma’am.” One of the security members answered. “It’s for your safety, as well as a signal to the other side that we aren’t getting too close with too many.”

She sighed. She turned to Ecro. “Is this gonna be our life now, Nu?”

Ecro smiled bitterly to himself. “I think so, Fern. I think so.”

They came to a stop at the front of the bar. The windows to the outside were closed, which precluded any of Ecro’s attempts to look in.

His knees were shaking again.

He rapped on the door. Three times, one whole beat each- just as the team leader told him to.

At the sound of the signal, the door to the bar opened up, revealing four figures in roughly the same positions as them- One woman in her sixties seated on a table, another woman half her age seated beside her, with two people holding up the rear in full armor with guns held across their chest.

“Please,” The older woman said. “Sit.” She gestured to the seats in front of them.

Ecro swallowed. He hoped that he was trying to put on a brave face right now. “Thank you very much,” He said, without shaking.

He moved forward with a steady walk, taking a seat across from the older woman while Fern took the other seat across from the younger one.

He cleared his throat. “Are you ready to hear our propo-“

“Why have you Foundation representatives called this meeting on such short notice?” The older woman said, smiling. “It’s not like you to be so… desperate. Did something happen on your end?”

Fuck, Ecro thought. Interruption. They’re going straight for intimidation.

Fine. Let’s indulge them.

“We called this meeting in order to discuss business terms.” Ecro said, diverting away from the topic. “The Foundation seeks greater financial ties with Marshall, Carter, and Dark.”

“But why, though?” She said. Ecro noticed that she spoke with a slight Spanish accent. “The Foundation isn’t a business organization. You’re… goody-two-shoes, trying to save the world from this and that.”

Rule number one: Don’t show how desperate you are. He remembered being told that somewhere, years ago.

“The Foundation seeks financial ties in order to promote goodwill between our organizations.” He lied. “With the changing landscape in the anomalous world, having connections among your group has been seen as an expedient way to hasten our operations. Money is a secondary concern.”

“Money?” The woman smiled. “I never mentioned anything about money.”

Fuck.

“Funny that you bring that up, however. Many hijos de puta have striven to take money away from Marshall, Carter and Dark. If money is your secondary concern, then money is our current primary concern.” She chuckled, turning to the younger woman beside her. “Well, it’s always our primary concern, isn’t it?”

“Yes.” The younger woman said, robotically. “It always is, Mrs. Marshall.”

The older woman’s eyes lit up. “Oh, which reminds me,” She chuckled again. “Where are my manners?” She reached out a hand. “My name is Alejandra Marshall. I am one of the vital parts of this organization.”

Ecro looked at her hand guardedly, and reached across the table to shake it, remaining seated as he did so. “Pleasure to meet you. My name is Mister Ecro,” He turned to Fern beside him. “And this is Miss Fern. We work for the Foundation’s Department of Surplus.”

“Surplus?” The younger woman said. She analyzed their faces. “The Foundation does not have a Department of Surplus.”

“Hahahaha!” Alejandra said, putting a hand on the younger woman’s shoulder. “Excuse my daughter’s manners. She is used to the computer and the spreadsheet, not to the table. Kindly apologize, Aurelia.”

The woman she called Aurelia bowed stiffly in her seat. “My apologies. I did not mean to interrupt.” Unlike her mother, she didn’t carry a hint of her Spanish heritage in the way she spoke- though Ecro, strangely, detected a hint of Scottish.

“Aurelia raises a good question, though.” Alejandra said, leaning forward. “What is the Department of Surplus?”

Ecro looked down, then up at her. He decided to gamble. “Fern, please educate them.”

Fern looked at Ecro, then back at Alejandra and Aurelia. “You sure?” She whispered.

“Educate them now.” Ecro said, uncharacteristically firmly.

Fern was taken aback, but she obliged. She turned to the mother and daughter in front of her. “The Department of Surplus is a new branch of the Foundation, dedicated to the sale of extraneous assets that we do not need.” She said, curtly. After a pause, she moved to speak again.

Ecro tapped her shoe with his foot, and she immediately stopped.

“Ah,” Alejandra said. “And I assume that ‘surplus’ is what you’re trying to sell us now?”

“Yes.” Ecro said in a bored tone. Inside, however, his heart was racing. “Can you take a guess at what it is?”

Alejandra dramatically put a finger on her temple as she tried to think. “Hmm,” She said. After a moment, she turned to her daughter beside her. “What do you think, hija?”

Aurelia responded immediately. “As of the present, the Foundation has surpluses on many things. Reality anchors, disposable persons, storage space-“

“But what is your guess?” Alejandra said through gritted teeth, barely disguised.

Aurelia looked down. “As of now? I believe it is amnestics.”

“Hmm,” Alejandra said, thoughtfully. “Amnestics? That is most certainly a new one.” She looked at him. “Does the Foundation currently wish to surrender their amnestics?”

Surrender?

“Surrender, no.” Ecro said. “Sell?” He crossed his arms. “Yes.”

“Ohhh.” Alejandra said, smiling as she leaned back. “Is the Foundation willing to relinquish their monopoly on their improved amnestics?” She spoke playfully. “I admit that we knew about your recipes for a long time, but our current ingredients to make our own are of course… limited. You most certainly know why.”

Ecro kept his poker face. Underneath the table, his knees were shaking violently. “As I said before, the Foundation wishes to create greater financial ties- and the one way that we can do that is through a limited deal of amnestics.”

“But the Foundation has always kept the amnestics card close to its chest for nigh on…” She turned to Aurelia.

“Fifty years.” Aurelia answered.

“Yes,” Alejandra continued. “It’s like the atomic bomb of the Foundation, somewhat.” She leaned closer. “Are you right in that you are desperate enough to give them away to other organizations?”

Check. Ecro thought. His knees were shaking even more violently now.

He paused. A silence intervened.

At that moment, the favor of the deal hung in the balance.

What’s his next move?

His lip quivered. Shit. Shit. Shit.

He looked at Alejandra in front of him, and his face hardened.

Bluff.

“Señora, los arboles no le dejan ver el bosque." He said, mustering a Spanish phrase he learned in highschool. "The trees don't let you see the forest."

Alejandra raised an eyebrow. "Excuse me-"

He interrupted her. "We came here to offer you an olive branch by speaking to you about possible terms regarding a partnership between the SCP Foundation and Marshall, Carter, and Dark.” He gritted his teeth even as they shivered in his mouth. “And now you say that our move is one made out of desperation?

Alejandra furrowed her eyebrows. Her expression changed from one of confidence to surprise. “I do not know what game you are playing, but-“

He looked at her with a withering gaze. “The Foundation does not seek to make profit, yes. We were ready to allow you full access to our amnestic stocks, but it is here that I put that to a stop. Ties or not, we will disagree on the fundamentals, it seems.”

Behind him, Fern was tapping him with her shoe in panic. What the hell are you doing? She seemed to say.

“Full access to your amnestics?” Aurelia said, looking at him incredulously. “That’s a-“

“It was the original plan, I confess.” Ecro said, half-lying. “But now we see that this partnership is unamenable to the Department of Surplus. We will be leaving now.”

He turned to leave, springing from his seat in mock anger.

He took a step.

Anytime now.

Beside him, Fern was confused, but followed Ecro in turning to leave.

He took another step.

Come on. Come on-

“Wait.” The voice of Alejandra said from behind him. “Wait.”

Fuck yes!

He turned. His knees had stopped shaking. His expression showed his irritation and boredom at the entire situation, but he couldn’t be more exhilarated.

“Yes?” He said, irritatedly.

“Please sit back down.” Alejandra said, gesturing to the seats opposite her. “We were wrong to assume that you were desperate. Please sit down.”

“You were… wrong?” Ecro said, incredulously. “I thought Marshalls didn’t admit that they were wrong.”

That was a lie. He was pulling it out of his ass.

Alejandra sighed. “The pride of a Marshall is lost on me, but I do know a good deal when I see one.” She leaned back. “What are your terms?”

Check. Mate.

Beside her, Aurelia was closing her eyes in defeat, exasperated.

Ecro maintained his poker face, and sat down, Fern taking her seat beside him.

Gamble again? He thought, mulling over the prospect in his head.

Overton Window.

“We are willing to sell you fifty tons of our amnestic stock for the entire year at nine hundred million per ton.”

Alejandra crinkled her forehead again. “Nine hundred… million?

Aurelia cut in as well. “That is an extortionate price. Marshall, Carter and Dark sell their amnestics at one hundred million per ton. The Foundation cannot expect-“

“The Foundation expects.” Ecro said, cutting in. His knees had stopped shaking now. This was his favorite part of the deal- the rout. “We wish to sell the highest quality amnestics in the world. That quality does not come without a tall asking price.”

Alejandra chuckled nervously. “You ask for a lot, Mister Ecro.”

“We are the Foundation.” He said, crossing his arms again. “We expect a lot.”

Bald-faced lie. He could feel Fern’s eyes on him as he said it.

“Perhaps we could be amenable to lower terms?” Aurelia said. “Five hundred million per ton, perhaps?”

That’s better than what we reasonably expected. Ecro thought with glee. Three hundred million was what I hoped for.

Push it further? He thought.

Push it fucking further.

“Seven hundred million, then.” He said. “It is lower than the Foundation would want, but we value this partnership.”

Aurelia bit her lip. Alejandra stared daggers at Ecro.

“Mum?” Aurelia said, looking to her mother.

Alejandra sighed.

Then she nodded.

Jesus Christ. We did it.

Beside him, Fern’s eyes lit up.

“Done.” Ecro said, still keeping his composure. He was the first to stand up, extending his hand. “Seven hundred million per ton?”

Alejandra sighed again as she stood up, putting out an exasperated hand. She shook his. “We value this partnership as well. We will hash out the details later.”

“Good.” Ecro said. He adjusted his suit, then looked at the time. “It is almost six o’clock. I assume the people of Toledo are already waking up, then?”

“They are.” Alejandra said.

“Pleasure making this partnership with you.” Ecro said. “Our amnestics will surely provide the best of the Foundation to your organization.”

Pleasure.” Alejandra responded in the most deadpan tone possible. “Marshall, Carter and Dark are already looking forward to the first shipment, to be discussed at a later date.”

Ecro and Fern turned to leave, a smile on his face. “My subordinates will speak to yours. I assume that your contact information is already with our Department of Public Outreach?”

“It is.” Alejandra said, curtly. “How do you think we called this meeting in the first place?”

Ecro chuckled lightly, then opened the door outside without another word.

The Toledo dawn was dry. All signs of the downpour from earlier were now drying on the ground.

“Jesus freaking Christ, Nu.” Fern said. “You gambled nearly everything we had.”

Ecro chuckled in relief as they crossed the street. “It worked so much better than I ever hoped, Goddamn.”

“Not bad for your first outing as Secretary of Surplus.”

“Yeah.” Ecro said, smiling to himself. “I could get used to this.”

They were heading to the car now. Fern piped up. “That was your first deal, wasn’t it?”

“First deal? Nah. I worked in sales before this.” He chuckled. “But first big deal? Hell yeah. We just made fucking bank.”

“Apparently you’re a good gambler too, Nu.” Fern said as she opened the car door for him. “Your poker face even got me in dire straits.”

“My knees were shivering the whole fucking time!” Ecro responded as he entered the car. “But hey, at least we’re good for now.”

Fern followed, closing the car door behind her. “The O5s are gonna be happy with your performance.”

Ecro bit his lip as he smiled. “If this is gonna be every day on the job…”

“I’m looking forward to more.”

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