Traffic Resumes

rating: +304+x

"So, have you got everything down? The previous crew should be arriving in half an hour."

"I think so. Man, this is the strangest assignment I've ever been on."

"Yeah, 2771 duty is…memorable, if nothing else. There's no rhyme or reason to Tutella, but it doesn't change, so if you memorize it you're golden. You get the currency back as bonus pay, so don't screw up."

"Got it."

"Oh, and one more thing. If they smile, you're fucked."


"We don't know what to do. We've tried a lot of different things, but none of them are the right response. It's the procedure's biggest weak spot at the moment. Just consider it an early end to your shift."

"Alright then. Can I smoke?"

"No. One guy tried, and apparently he caused an earthquake or something. They don't let that guy back in anymore."

After over five years in the Foundation, Michael had grown numb to horror. The nightmares come to life that he'd help to contain had lost their ability to haunt his thoughts or terrorize his subconscious. Nothing, however, would ever tame his sense of wonder at the sheer amount of strange. As another traveler approached his toll booth on the tongue-road that seemed to have no beginning or end, he remembered a saying the Senior Researcher he'd studied under had been fond of: We all sometimes worry about the monster that'll eat our face, but it's our job to ask why it wants to eat our face.

The traveler presented him with a rough approximation of an ID. Trying his best not to cringe, he bit off the top half of it and wrapped the rest of it with the foil his instructor had given him. Traffic resumed, in his mind and on the road.

OK, they don't use language, we know that much, he thought to himself as the next muscle bulge moved forward. Their verbal cues are the same for frustration and anger, but different for everything else. What's the logic?

The traveler moved up to his toll booth.

Eating IDs, tearing off their faces casually…what is the reasoning in this?

The traveler smiled.

Oh shit. Oh shit oh shit oh shit. Michael mentally went through the list of non-appropriate smile responses he had read and tried to pick one he didn't think was there. Saying no doesn't work, letting them through doesn't work…uhh…

There was a loud knocking on the toll booth door. Panicking, he took the roll of foil he had and threw it at the traveler's face. Just as the 2771-1 instances were taking him away, he thought he saw her expression change.

"…so you threw foil at her?"

"Well, I didn't know what else to do, so yeah. Still didn't work, though."

"How did they react when they took you away?"

"They shook their heads and slammed their fists on their palms really loudly."

"They did the same thing to me when I got a smile. I gave the dude the stink eye for a minute or so and he turned around and went the other way. Next thing I know, the cloth guys are all over me."

"What are they trying to say with that, anyways?"

"I think it's their way of going 'this wasn't good enough, do something else.' Problem is, they never tell us what something else is. They get annoyed when we encounter the smile dudes, but the angriest we ever saw 'em was after we let one of the smiles through the toll booth. Damned if you do, damned if you don't."

"Pretty much. I hope I get a few 'normal' people before a smile today. They just raised the tax on cigarette packs and it's killing my wallet."

"Hah! Well, they're a lot less worse for your health than half the assignments we get put on."

This time, it took him six hours. He had managed to rack up five grand and had almost forgotten Procedure 366-Tutella wasn't perfect. His mind was briefly lost in contemplation as to how he would spend his riches for the day's work when the bliss was abruptly shattered with a charming grin from an old man.

NO! Goddammit, not again, I was doing so well…

His face grew redder as the seconds ticked away. He thought about the months he would have to do this, the countless times he would be rudely abducted after screwing up, how none of this made any sense…

…and, just as the toll booth door burst open, he snapped. He pulled out his pistol, screamed "FUCK IT!" at the top of his lungs and shot the traveler in the forehead.

Time seemed to stop for a moment. He turned around and saw that the 2771-1s were staring not at him, but the road. The "earth" below him began to shake and the tongue-muscles oscillated wildly, their passengers completely nonplussed. As his eyes returned to the road, he saw the tongue twist itself into a bottomless DNA-esque helix and slide the corpse down into oblivion.

The 2771-1 instances nodded at Michael, simultaneously made cutting motions across their mouths with their fingers, and left the toll booth.

Traffic resumed.

Behavior Response Results
Traveler smiles. Loudly exclaim "Fuck it" and engage traveler with sidearm. The transportation system will distend into a helix and engulf any injured or terminated travelers. Traffic resumes.

"I can't believe that worked."

"Honestly, I'm surprised you were the first one to try it."

"One thing, though. I don't think you have to yell and curse to get it to work. That was the only part that they seemed to disapprove of."

"Alright, I'll take it off. They deserve it, though."

Behavior Response Results
Traveler smiles. Loudly exclaim "Fuck it" and Engage traveler with sidearm. The transportation system will distend into a helix and engulf any injured or terminated travelers. Traffic resumes.

"This job is so weird."

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