Under New Management

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As soon as Duarte sat at his desk, he had to do a double take and retrace his morning.

Dr. James Duarte was the Antimemetics Consultant at Site-148, a small facility in southern Texas. It was the hub where minor anomalies from the southern US and northern Mexico would get held for a bit to get more closely inspected and catalogued, before getting sent off to one of the bigger Sites for containment.

Despite Site-148 being (or at least having been) a decently active part of the Foundation's ops in the area, he could count the amount of times his particular expertise had actually been needed on one hand in his five or six years working there. Honestly, he was somewhat thankful for it; explaining every time something interesting happened what the Antimemetics Division was, that yes, it existed, and that he was their antimemetics guy got tiring after two or three times.

He was a man who was honest with himself. He knew this was a dead-end job, he was probably put there by some supervisor he had pissed off, and was only still working for the Foundation at all because letting someone go or even letting someone quit was a whole thing, especially when their job had involved mnestic drugs for years.

Despite all this, he was comfortable at his post. He could more or less sit at his office and do whatever all day, and still get the pay of a senior staff at a Foundation facility. He had built up a routine for his mornings; every weekday he would wake up, take a shower, drive to Steve's Car Parlor, take the lift down to the site's cafeteria for breakfast and his morning dose of Class-Ws, and head through Administrative to get to his office on Research. Along the way he would at least take a few hard glances at the site as the only person there on mnestics to make sure nothing was incredibly wrong, if only to pretend he had a reason to be there from nine to five.

Today, something was different. He wasn't quite sure what. His perfected daily routine had a dent in it. Had he walked to his office slightly longer than usual? Maybe it was how how everyone else at the cafeteria were carrying themselves, despite the circumstances. He decided to put a pin on the mystery while he finished his coffee and read his emails. Then he noticed it.

Right. Those circumstances.

Any other time, Duarte wouldn't have batted an eye at the behavior of his coworkers. They were behaving exactly as they always did, but this was strange considering just yesterday they'd had that bombshell dropped on them with no warning. Site-84 had recently expanded their containment areas and added a wing to replace 148's function while they were at it.

It made sense to consolidate that sort of work. Smaller sites are unintuitively harder to keep secret, black vans are a lot more conspicuous coming in and out of Mom and Pop's Scrumptious Crunchy Pizza than a military base. Plus, why hire all the redundant personnel? Site-84 had its own antimemetics people, they could look over new objects that didn't like being known.

He stood up and walked to the office next door, where Calvin worked. He was the closest thing Duarte had to a friend there. Yesterday he was one of the most worried about 148's closing; he was relatively new at the Foundation and had lived his whole life in this town, he didn't wanna uproot his entire life, his family, and move hundreds of miles to work at 84 or 19. Just a minute earlier though, Duarte had passed by his door and seen him calm as ever. He peeked through the door and over Calvin's monitor.

"Hey man, just curious, are you free, like, first Friday of next month after work?" Said Duarte.

"Uhhh yeah sure. Why?" Calvin replied.

"Still gonna ask a couple others. I wanna get something going."

"Cool, lemme know what comes of it."

This made no sense. Everyone got that memo. People were making such a deal of it yesterday the building was shaking. The site was going to be shut down by the end of the month. Anyone who still wanted to work with the Foundation after that would probably need to move.

Perhaps he was the one who had missed a memo. He headed to Director Stanford's office. She was late, just opening up.

"Doctor Stanford, good morning, I-"

Stanford, Stanford. He had been working in this site for over five years and he had never seen this woman before. She couldn't be the director, there was no way.

"Is something wrong?" She asked in a pleasant voice, staring at him as he looked at her suspiciously.

"I just… Did something change? Are they not shutting down the facility?"

"I have no idea what you're talking about, Dr. Duarte." She knew his name. Huh.

"What? I mean the email from yesterday! They're retiring the site! Why is everyone acting like nothing is happening? Why are those guys down the hall still installing that toil-" He paused as he turned around to point out the door. The hallway outside was wider.

He stuttered and peeked out of the office. The cafeteria was bigger now, more hallways branching off of it. The door to the accountant's office in front of him had a name he couldn't recognize. What little he could see of Research had also grown. He couldn't see his office.

"Excuse me for a second."

He ran out of the Director's office and toward where his should've been. As he reached Research, the hallway to his left looked like what he was used to, only longer. At the end of it, he could see his door. He ran into his office, shut the door, and sat at his desk, panicking.

What the fuck, what the fuck, what the fuck? He thought. What happened to the director? Why is no one freaking the fuck out? The higher-ups at the Foundation take mnestics, they can't have forgotten. Am I gonna clock out and walk out the door to an MTF pointing their guns at me? Why is the site moving?

He could've kept going. He would've, if not for the notification on his monitor.

He opened the email.

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