What Ever Happened?
rating: +98+x

D-13279 had long ago learned how to tell death from dreaming.

Every month, it happened like this, and there was a moment of uncertainty. When the drugs have finished pumping their way through the circulatory system, there's nothingness.

And it's almost a moment of relief. But then it ends.

That's not what death feels like, they knew. Death doesn't have the hunger pangs, the hollowness of being that comes from want and need. That's not death.

D-13279 knew how to use dreams. They didn't know how they knew, but they remembered a distant time when there were others in their dreams. When their dreams could take them to meet other people, to feel like they were greater than themself.

Dreaming is lonelier, now. But it has still made the mind resilient. Each month, the guards and scientists try to kill the mind, flush the memories, but in dreams the mind can hide. And D-13279 can survive another month with their head intact.

Thirty days go by. D-13279's service is done. They get put under. The guards and scientists try to kill the mind, but in dreams the mind hides. And it repeats. Always the exact same.

"You've committed a crime. It's very important that you pay your debt to society."

They squirm in the chair. Wrists bound in glistening manacles. The room is disgustingly white, and against that backdrop the labcoat is almost invisible, a floating head and clipboard seated in a cheap chair. She continues.

"We're not here to judge or to punish you. We're not your wardens, just guides. Follow us and your debt will be repaid. Society will thank you. After a month, you will be done." She's reading from a paper. Well-rehearsed.

D-13279 nodded. They had lost track of how many times this had happened.

Society, as she called it, was not something D-13279 had ever known. Not anything they remembered. The rote transactions of daily life. The give and take of tokens and goods and services. Utilization by a greater whole, for the good of each cog. D-13279 did not know it.

Each time they slept, and a day ticked by, adding one onto another, D-13279 was able to go somewhere else. Somewhere not here, not in the four walls and a roof, the magnetically sealed door with two slits, one for the eyes and one for trays of food. In their mind, D-13279 went beyond.

In that beyond, there are rows of sleeping people in jumpsuits. The D-class do not move or react. Each night, the D-class grow more like each other. Each month, the D-class grow into the mold the organization wishes to fit them in. The mold the organization has prepared for all the world. And D-13279 can only watch.

But at least it wasn't a cell. It was a community, a community of unconscious souls. Except for one. D-13279 was more awake in their dreams than during the day.

There was a different scientist. This room was longer than it was wide. Each wall held a door, and the longer walls held two large windows into observation rooms filled with technicians. Atop each window was a warning light. The light was green.

D-13279 was holding a briefcase. It was handcuffed to their wrist, but in the opposite hand they held the key. The scientist, satisfied with their latent posing, retreated to an observation room. D-13279 faced the door on the far end, on a narrow wall.

The door opened. A person in a grey jumpsuit walked out. A nametag read "D-13280".

"Hello. I am here to receive your briefcase."

D-13279 nodded furtively, reaching down to unlock their own restraints. Gingerly, they handed the briefcase over. The other D-class nodded, affixing it to their own wrist. They exited the room.

Behind D-13279, the second door opened. A person in a grey jumpsuit walked out. A nametag read "D-13278". They had a briefcase handcuffed to their wrist.

"I have a briefcase here."

This person unlocked their restraints, gingerly handing the briefcase to the waiting D-13279. And then the person left, same way they came.

The warning light above the windows faded from green into red. The mission was over.

Inside the briefcase:




5 7 9 8 3
4 6 8 0 9
0 5 7 9 1
2 1 6 8 0
1 3 2 7 9

The rest is just numbers.

D-13279 knows the world is changing. Every night, it grows more clear. The Foundation is not alone in the multiverse. Each Foundation could reach out, speak to itself in other worlds. Collaborate. Cooperate. Contain.

And eventually, the goal would change. The higher-ups could never be satisfied with just keeping the world the way it was. Not when the world was so fundamentally broken.

It needed to be fixed. The cancer must be excised. And now the organization has the power to do it.

D-13279 feels like they're constantly growing, growing into a mind too large for this body. This can't be allowed to continue, can it?

Who can stop it when the Foundation becomes the foundation for everything?

They can feel it. Each passing day. Every dose of mindkill. Every soul living this far underground. Their mind becomes smaller, their profile slimmer. The mold becomes more attractive. D-13279 cannot hold out forever. Eventually they will be gone, and a new one will take their place. A new person, for this new world.

Some months ago, there was a large room, size of a gymnasium. The ground was covered by fake grass and black rubber bits. In the center, crude structures of drywall for buildings.

Each single-story abode held two to three mattresses on the ground. There were just enough mattresses for the two dozen D-class that lived there during the test. A single structure was set aside, where one D-class would cook food for the rest twice a day.

The raw food came from a hatch in the ceiling, once every three days. The scientists could have dropped ready-made meals, but they didn't. Maybe they thought they could reinforce teamwork by forcing meal preparation.

Twenty days in, when the lights in the room were out, to simulate the night, and only fake torches lit the room, they released a creature into the enclosure. A tall beast, with a face like a sieve and limbs like knives.

When the D-class saw it, the group cowered and hid, and banged on the walls for help.

The test was aborted. The creature was recovered. The minds were wiped, and the subjects were administered a fierce regimen of drugs and altered images.

The test began again. Twenty days in, the creature was released.

When the D-class saw it, the group banded together and struck it with hands and feet. It let out a chitter when it died.

Unsatisfactory. The test was aborted. The creature was reanimated. The minds were wiped, and the subjects were administered a fierce regimen of retraining noises and memetic ciphers.

The test began again. Twenty days in, the creature was released.

When they D-class saw it, the group did not react. Each continued their routines, even as it stalked and killed them. Not a single one made note of it.

Satisfactory. A good test. D-13279 got to carry two briefcases the day after. Need extra room for important details.




1 3 2 7 9
0 2 4 3 8
9 1 3 5 4
5 0 2 4 6
7 6 1 3 5

Every month is the same. D-13279 used to feel a sense of urgency. As their knowledge grows, beyond this world, into every universe with a Foundation.

This world was not meant for the Foundation, but a tipping point has been reached. They will make the world into one for themselves, and make those in it fit for the world. D-class are just the template. What the Foundation has learned from them will be applied to everyone. And none will ever notice.

The only comfort D-13279 took was that soon, they would be like everyone. And everyone would be like them. And that's some justice, isn't it?

D-13279 saw all of them.

"You've committed a crime. It's very important that you pay your debt to society."

The response: "What?" "No…" "What crime?" "Fuck off!" "What do you mean?" "Where am I?" "Slow down." "Can you repeat that?"

Knowledge is powerlessness. D-13279 could not help a single one of them. But the Foundation could.

Overlapping bricks add up to something. Means nothing more than a brick to building. A building to a mountain. A mountain to a planet.

Every Foundation was there, but they blur together. There's only one Foundation, one for all the universes, and its ligaments are vacant promises, linked hands, and full briefcases. Soon there will be nothing but the Foundation. And the Foundation will be everything.

D-class expand above and below. The researchers can't remember the nights they spent on mattresses in gymnasiums. The civilians will never remember what the scientist said just before they pushed the plunger on the syringe.

As far as everyone knows, the world never changed. No-one will ever know what was lost.

For the record, she said "You're paying your debt to society. Goodnight."

O5-∞+1 sat in a conference room with 12 other men. Each had their own plans. Today, and tomorrow, and so on, they would meet and discuss a common topic, and choose their Foundation's stance. Just like they had for all the yesterdays.

They were the most frightened men on the planet. Each man held his fears close, because they were the only thing that kept him awake throughout the day. Even as the reason for fear dwindled. Even as reality grew ever closer to matching the spine that they had been constructing.

The multiverse couldn't stop them now. The Foundation was bigger than it was. It could only fight back for so long.

Every O5 nodded in agreement when the final resolution was proposed. It was all coming together.

But they were still afraid. You can always add one, and then you have an entirely different number on your hands.

D-13279 kept looking for a key, or a door. Some way out. The dreams weren't an escape, just a reminder of the bars. They could not evade the mindkill forever. They would die eventually, and a new person would be born from their corpse.

D-1327█ thought about all the people around them. They lived such short lives. Tiny people, easy for the Foundation to move around. No baggage to deal with.

D-132██ thought about fear. The fear that they as they know themselves would soon be dead. The fight for maintaining the world as one knows it. Is that noble?

D-13███ thought about how concentrated things feel. Reality is getting denser, as all the universes collapse upon themselves. Uncertainty is going away. How will the new man think?

D-1████ felt something pleasant bubbling up. They don't need to wonder. They are the new man, tailor-made for this new world. They don't need to worry anymore. They can give up.

And D-█████ was ready.

The loud nights were over.

The quiet days were here.

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