the happiest days of our lives
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May 2025

It aired on C-Span.

Which political party stood for which side of the issue on the congress floor is ultimately irrelevant. It passed senate with a slim majority vote, then tumbled around capitol hill for a month before the hearing date was set. It was a nervous time. There were many unanswered questions of the very legal type that do not matter to those this bill affects, questions like is the Foundation a privatized organization? and how will this affect the no anomalous prison system? and do anomalous persons have rights? And because the people were scared and the men in suits are even more so, many of the specifics become glossed over in the way they are in politics. There was a word change here, a specifically worded statement there. There were many people who saw things they then pretend not to have seen. There were meetings with Foundation officials, and most importantly there was money passed around through the discreet budgetary veins of a large and incomprehensible machine, and then it was on the congress floor, and it aired on C-Span.

The bill was exactly 1,652 pages long. It was that long because it was the first of its kind. The money to pay came from the U.S. Military budget, and there was some huffing about this as well as long term fiscal outlooks and staff for the new Sites, but the fine print had been scavenged more than anything on capitol hill had been in decades into text that bound like barbed wire, stung like task force tasers, pounded like chamber doors slamming in bright fluorescent lights. The marble floor of congress gleamed mercilessly. A couple representatives stood at the podium and give strange, wandering speeches of the same breed given by the willfully ignorant. Yes, no. Maybe.

The Foundation sent one, too.

She stood outside the hearing room in her dark tailored suit, plugging one ear with a finger to better hear her cell phone. Unlike many of those expressing their opinions on the stand inside, Andrea Adams had spent many sleepless nights going over the 1,652 pages of this document, and was one of the fewer still who understood the full ramifications.

“They’ve made changes,” she said, distancing the phone a few inches from her left ear as the squabbling started. The person on the other end wasn’t technically supposed to have access to these documents, but even in retirement, he couldn't help but stay close and express his opinions. Four decades of working with Type Greens will make one attentive to anything major pertaining to that line of work passing in congress.

“What kind of fucking changes?!” Alto Clef guffawed down the line from somewhere north of Phoenix, Arizona. His leaked version of the document was from two months before, and was only around 1,000 pages. The extra 652 really make a difference, Andrea thought. God, what didn’t they change.

“Okay,” she said, slowly, “Don’t freak out, but they added 500 pages.”

There was an exasperated sigh from the other end.

“God, what a fucking shitshow!” Clef roared. “This is what I fucking said, didn’t I? If it ever went to congress…fucking…Jesus! God! For fuck’s sake!”

“It gets worse,” she said, “They want to contain them from birth.”

“They want screenings probably, too, right? Pre-natal detection and shit?” She could practically hear the years coming of his life. With any mercy from god he might have a heart attack before this passes, Adams thought. Put him out of his misery.

“They do,” Andrea confirmed. That was buried somewhere in the extra 652, where all the messy details were. The tech itself had existed for the better part of a decade. With the new Kant counters, an anomalous infant could be confirmed at as young as the second trimester. The wonders of science and all that.

“God…” He said, breathless. She half-expected to hear the wheeze of a respirator, some kind of indication that Alto Fucking Clef might be on his way out of this world at last, but all she heard was the sound of him collapsing melodramatically into an armchair.

“Enjoying retirement yet?” she teased.

Clef laughed bitterly. “Enjoying that I don’t have to be the one talking to senators.”

“I’m sure they’re enjoying not having to talk to you, either, if it’s any consolation," she smiled wearily. “They know you, by the way. Or they know of you, at least. Your signature is on a lot of papers.”

“Damn right it is!” With a chill, Adams realized she could hear the C-Span hearing coming through a TV on his end of the line. “They should know what I think by now, then.”

“Yeah,” she whispered. Alto’s opinion on Type Green control went undiscussed between them. He wasn’t a man that had ever been subtle about his thoughts in that regard.

“…Do you want to hear my prediction?”

Andrea heard the current speaker taking questions in the room behind her, and shuffled the papers in her hands nervously, pressing the phone between her ear and her shoulder. Opening remarks, the body of what she wanted to say; running through her notes about a new era, now. “I’m up next. I can’t talk for much longer-”

“If this passes, they’ll tear you all apart.”

He hung up.

Andrea would think over that line a lot in the coming decades. The sudden coldness in his voice implied what she already suspected: he knew she, his own former apprentice, had helped write this bill. He knew that she had especially had a hand in the final 600 pages, the damning final third. And more than anything, Alto Clef had suspected it damn near all along that she wouldn’t adhere to the mantra he’d lived by all 50 years of his career: kill them all.

So he wouldn’t have been surprised then, Adams thought, when he watched her take the stand in congress to give what had become the Foundation’s final word on the matter. Prenatal screenings at public health clinics, and entry of results into a database. A Foundation ‘Retainment Agent’ assigned to each child to preform social worker roles. Close monitoring. Rights to contain regularly through childhood if needed. Rights to separate them from others, rights to be careful, rights to be oh, oh so careful. More funding to build the humanoid sites and containment centers they needed to hold a generation of anomalous children, not just Type Greens anymore, hopefully growing up in a better, safer world.

Alto Clef did not call back afterwards. Adams suspected he had said all he felt he had to say.

March 2028

Placing Foundation sites was a nightmare before Korea, but this brave new world did not care where the designated 24 new humanoid sites were to be placed, and for that matter neither did most of the Americans watching this unfold. They rose across the country steady and fast. People- regular people, people who knew little and assumed plenty- watched them go up in the distant periphery of their daily lives with the detachment of someone believing it’s for the best. Life changed very little. Foundation patrol cars still sped along back freeways, kicking up dust in smoky trails. Notes on the third page of the local newspaper. Hey Susan, have you seen that thing they’re putting up where the Winston’s farm used to be?

In Montana, it rose along Interstate 200 in the Grave Creek Mountain Range, far enough from Petty Peak to be out of the way of whatever sparse tourists might wander north in the Rockies. The equipment vans rumbled off the interstate onto gravel backroads that snaked through damp pines and Douglas firs, splashed in puddles and rocked side to side on the precarious terrain. The Foundation Jeeps wore their back tires uneven where the guns rested in the trunk with tire chains and emergency flares. This is where Site-54 rose: 1,200 feet above sea level, a half hour from the nearest town, and deep enough in the wilderness that very few outsiders had the opportunity to gawk at the newest local attraction as the rest of America had done with their own.

54 was a ribcage. The main wings thrust partially into the mountainside with steel rebar and drilling machines, and what wasn’t encased in stone sprawled outwards in a sprawl against the rock: several outbuildings, a large recreation yard lined with chain link, part of a medical wing, an armory, a dormitory building, a small office building, and a parking lot with a loading bay. The 500 horsepower Scranton reality anchor- a menacing black mechanical giant tucked in among the spacious subterranean containment wards- was the first piece of large equipment to be plugged in once the site was added to municipal power.

All of this was rather overwhelming to Walter Wilde, Foundation Retainment Agent.

He parked his car- a tan Saturn with the Foundation logo plastered along the sides- and leaned forward in his seat. The site had been open a couple months now, and he still couldn’t help but look up at the dark rock and faux wood siding when he pulled in. Huge. Absolutely fucking huge.

He wasn’t the only one fixated.

Wilde turned around and looked back at the booster seat. The two-year-old boy with the metal alert bracelet had paused chewing on his red toy truck to stare wide-eyed through the windshield. Walt laughed.

“Yeah? What do you think?” he said, not expecting a response. He’d been told why Type Oranges weren’t typically contained on Foundation sites, and there was a slight nervous fluttering in his chest at the thought that something might go wrong, god forbid. Wilde pushed it down. If he was nervous, the kid would be nervous, and that would defeat the point of bringing him here in the first place. You’ll get used to it, he wanted to say. You have to. You’re going to see a hell of a lot of it for the rest of your life.

The boy continued staring when Walt lifted him out of the car seat. He’d spent enough time with him that he knew that stare relatively well; that was the ‘new thing’ stare, more specifically the ‘new technological thing’ stare that made his mother nervous. Wilde wondered what exactly he was sensing. Foundation sites were packed with tech, most of which the kid had probably never seen before. Hopefully it wasn’t overwhelming. He’d been around Walt, so at least the tech the agents were carrying would be familiar. He wasn’t sure if that was good or bad. “What do you think?” he asked again once the boy was standing on the pavement, toy car still in mouth. No response. “Take my hand,” Walt said.

With permission, Walt and the boy’s family had taken him to the airport slightly out of town to get him used to the security entrance. This was done with the hope of making the entrance checkpoint at the Site less intimidating, but walking up to the enclosed gates Wilde couldn’t help but worry. That was a lot of technology in a very small space. When you got down to it Foundation checkpoints weren’t terribly different from airport security, but everything in the Foundation checkpoint had a very bolted-down militaristic look that on a surface level came off as- dare he say- a little frightening. He tried to imagine being two years old seeing the brushed steel, the yellow warning paint and flashing lights, and nervously looked down at his assignment for the next 20 years. He was still chewing on his toy truck. Wilde reminded himself, for the hundredth time, not to be nervous.

One of the guards at the front gate saw them, a man Walt’s age with sandy blond hair and a silver cross necklace. He grinned and stepped out of the security booth. “Wilde!” he called. This, too, was scripted; Walt was one of only a few Foundation agents the kid had ever seen in his life. He needed to know that they were friendly, that people like him were here to help. He smiled. “Morning, Palmer!”

The agent put his hands on his hips, and nervousness fluttered in his stomach as he noticed the Scranton anchor dangling from his belt. That in and of itself was a hefty piece of machinery. They were at the checkpoint now.

“Who’s this?” Palmer asked. Wilde and Palmer were friends, which meant that, by conjunction, he already knew damn well who he was escorting.

“This is Kilroy,” said Walt cheerfully. “Kilroy, say hi!”

Kilroy didn’t respond, but he also didn’t try to hide when Palmer knelt down to his level. Walt took this as a good sign. A solid start. Good job, you funky little technopath, he thought. Look at you, just chewing on your toy. That’s the way to do it.

“Hey, buddy! Is this your first time?” Palmer asked. Kilroy chewed, eyes wandering. “Not much of a talker I take it?”

Walt shook his head. “He’s a little late to talk, but most kids like him are.”

Palmer’s radio chirped, and a voice started droning over the feed. In a split-second Walt watched as the two-year old’s eyes wandered to the walkie talkie and settled there, and the voice cut out to static and the site FM before settling on a nearby radio station playing Britney Spears’ Toxic. His eyes widened in surprise. Kilroy giggled.

“He can do that, though,” Walt continued, smiling. “He likes radios. It’s all fun and games until he does it the whole way here.”

Palmer laughed. “He seems like a handful.”

“He can be,” Walt said. “He learned how to turn the microwave on last week, but doesn’t know how to turn it off yet. His mom’s a saint.” He said it with a strange sense of pride. It was hard to meet with a kid once a week every week and not feel a bit connected to them. The way Kilroy went about playing with the tech around him was currently at the ‘endearing’ stage, where small electronics were fair game in a sort of funny, exploratory way, and big dangerous things were too complicated to be controlled. The danger with young Oranges, though, was not to be ignored; Kilroy didn’t yet know not to play with pacemakers or hearing aids, for instance. It hadn’t happened yet, but Walt couldn’t help but worry that it would soon enough. The terrible twos and all that. They’d cross that uncomfortable bridge when they came to it.

“I forgot to tell you, by the way. I got my retainment assignment.”

“Really?!” Wilde exclaimed. Kilroy flipped through channels on Palmer’s radio idly, still chewing on his truck. Palmer nodded.

“We’ve got two more months before he’s born,” Palmer said. “Or at least they think it’s a boy. I met with the parents today.”

“How did they take it?”

“They’re a bit overwhelmed. He’s a Type Green of some sort, we don’t know the specific classification yet.”

“A Green?” Wilde said. Kilroy left Palmer’s radio on a Spanish station and turned his attention to Wilde’s. “Why they’d give you a Green?”

“I worked in a boy’s reformatory before Korea. I guess they thought I’d be a good fit with…you know. Any problem behaviors that might arise. And I’ve been working in the Green ward here, anyway.” Palmer shrugged. “I’m kind of excited, you know? I mean.”

Walt smiled. He remembered how excited he’d been- and how nervous he’d been- being assigned Kilroy. Having to wait three months, the prepwork and paperwork and meetings with the parents, his own internal questioning of if he was cut out for this kind of commitment; it was a long and arduous process, but looking at the kid now he didn’t regret it.

“It’s rewarding,” Wilde said, and he meant it. Being a retainment agent was one of the most rewarding things he’d ever done in the Foundation. “We’ll talk more later. I want to hear all about it.”

Kilroy had Walt’s own radio set to Toxic now. He turned it back off, and Palmer looked back at the toddler with a smile. “You ready, buddy? I gotta check you in.”

A few more steps and they were in the middle of a metal security point underlined with scuffed white linoleum. Palmer scanned the barcode engraved on the back of Kilroy’s alert bracelet, kneeling down to reach it. Kilroy watched the handheld intently. For a second, Walt was afraid he might turn it off in the other agent’s hands; then the toddler looked up at Wilde, wide eyed.

“That’s a scanner,” he said. “We saw that at the airport with mom, remember?”

The machine beeped a confirmation. Kilroy giggled again. Wilde decided that he’d done an alright job of making the Foundation seem as not-scary as possible, at least so far. He scanned in his own ID badge, then took the young technopath in hand again and walked through the entrance into the yawning depths of Site-54.

They all start like Kilroy, he thought. Good or bad, all the kids start as blank slates.

At least they had that going for them.

May 2028

Foundation Retainment Agent Albert Palmer at never been so relieved in his life then he was holding the baby.

He was scared, first off, that the anchor would be set wrong; that it would hurt the poor kid, as anchors that are too tight sometimes do. He spent a lot of the time in the delivery room double checking that the numbers matched up correctly, and then he spent time afraid that the paperwork wasn’t done right, or maybe that they’d made a mistake and the baby wasn’t a Type Green at all. That fear had been dispelled around hour three of Mrs. Cuin’s labor, when the Kant counter had shot up three notches and Palmer had almost thrown up from panic. The shift was accounted for and the anchor had adjusted automatically, and he’d double checked it again regardless. He’d almost thrown up again when he heard the kid cry for the first time and realized that the anchor was beeping at him wildly; for a moment he’d pictured that they’d completely misinterpreted how much power the child had, that the hospital was about to be demolished in the crush of a reality shift too powerful for the three-horsepower anchor he’d brought with him, but the tiny screen simply asked for his permission to switch to another preset. This one had a slightly larger control range, but the same base hume level. He’d let it.

And then the kid was there.

He couldn’t believe it. Palmer wasn’t sure what he had expected the boy to look like, but he certainly hadn’t predicted he’d look as ordinary as he did. He was healthy and normal and already in the Foundation database, already factored into the sprawl of Site-54 only half an hour away. Palmer had asked the couple if they wanted some privacy now that the anchor seemed to have settled, and instead they’d invited him over, and they’d let him hold the baby.

The name was Miles. Miles Neil Cuin, 6 pounds, 8 ounces, Foundation reference code 78839. Agent Palmer had held him. Miles had looked at him. Palmer’s Foundation ID badge hung where it clipped on his breast pocket, and Miles had looked at that, too.

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