Meeting 4910

16

16

I'd been in there all day. I worked for years, I think I had worked at RPC for almost a decade already, and what did they call me here for? To hold some stupid heavy papers and wait outside the door of this bunker. I honestly feel like a child waiting for his new screen plays, or whatever those children call these new technological things of theirs.

However, the thing I really loved the most how all my hard work made them recognize my worth as fucking paperweight. I'm too old for this shit, look at those guards at the door, they must be in their prime, protecting high security national secrets. Back then, I was too young for any valuable work outside of my old box in Site-002, so it was understandable, as it was where I'd shine. Which is why it was so confusing about why they called a simple Regional Director for such an important meeting regarding the recent invasion of the abandoned Russian site.

I didn't even fully acknowledge that fact up until a week ago. One of the Global Directors, the global directors. GD-09 to be specific, directly contacted me to bring the information to the meeting. But this big, high-security project turned out to be an over-hyped pain in the ass. Thirty-one years in the business, and this was the only direct interaction I had with any of them. I guess I should have been thankful, but this is not what I expected when they told me to show up. Those guards look at me, and I look back with growing impatience on my face. They were stone cold… and also probably stone, I haven't seen one of them move since I got here.

Hours passed. I was losing my patience and a bit of my mind with it. The two guards were likely under orders to remain silent, as they refused to respond to any of my questions, they think they are better than me? Whatever, I just gave up quickly. Their dark uniforms, with faint, scarlet hues; that notable coloration spoke for them. They were the only necessary protection of that door, I assumed, or rather, whatever was behind it…

Even still, the minimal security presence did little to console me, when the lights suddenly dimmed, my heart temporarily stopped. A faint beep preceded the warning alarm. A shrill, undulating pitch, like a gaggle of children in a haunted house. The beacon light flashed in cascading, red waves as the massive steel doors parted, and a frigid wind spilled through the gap. A tremble shot down my spine as the pressure changed drastically, the alarms overwhelming my senses. I sat there, shivering, but not from the cold. I was afraid.

I was glued to the waiting room chair. My legs were paralyzed when the guards approached me. Past them, I could see the door, and what lay beyond. A pitch-black circle, I thought. And no one was coming out, so I could only assume they were escorting me in. But they just stood there. Dead silent. Waiting. Was I supposed to get up? I was quickly proven correct when they did nothing to stop me from getting up. I almost fell over; I hadn't stretched my legs the entire time I was there. But after a few, uneasy steps toward the door, I finally found my footing.

The guards followed and as I drew closer I finally realized: it wasn't a circle. No light escaped it, rendering the object impossibly flat, but as I approached, it dawned on me this thing is clearly three dimensional. Whatever it was, I was afraid of it. Anyone would be. No matter how long you've worked here, you always find something that throws everything you knew for a loop. I looked at the guards. Their stone faces, the surroundings; anything for some confirmation. Nothing. It was clearly an event horizon of some kind, and I was obviously supposed to interact with it, so I decided to man up and take a step forward.

The gap, and whatever was inside it sucked me in, a gentle force exerted on my body the moment it came in contact with the black orb. Every inch the object stole from me was like a viscous sludge, though any resistance on my part was like trying to free my limbs from concrete. Worse, it was like the stump of my appendages were glued to the surface of this thing. Once my hand went in, I couldn't feel it anymore. I looked at the guards again, they said nothing. I sank deeper.

I could feel my organs halt function as my torso joined the party. It was a slow death. A calm one. I closed my eyes, as my blood froze, and my breathing ceased. My anxiety kicked in, as my heartbeat vanished and my brain split. Reality itself went numb, broke apart like my senses as the orb consumed me. I was about to die, and all I could do was scream, as my voice faded away.

I awoke, standing in a dark room. I was in the sphere, somehow. I couldn't discern, and can't remember just how large or small it was. Its exact dimensions elude me. The eyes of faceless entities fixated on my entrance from every side of a giant, circular table. The Global Directors. I don't know how I knew this. I only knew that I was standing next to GD-09 when he casually looked at me from a small distance, analyzing. I didn't know how, but because of some mechanism I couldn't comprehend, I could feel what they felt, as if we we're one.

For instance, I knew every single number of each Global Director present in the room. They had no faces, and their voices were modified. GD-09 stood up, while looking down on me, a slight smirk. He then sat down comfortably, with his feet propped up on the table, his cool expression somehow evident on that faceless visage.

GD-11 reported: "And as such, the AEDF budget will be decreased, due to lack of successful operations regarding the recent monthly reports. This is subject to change in the future."

I looked around. There were others, besides the present Directors. It helped as I felt less out of place, but I was still terrified. I glanced at GD-09; he only smiled as he looked through the papers before casting his obscured gaze toward the others.

"On that note, we're nearing a close," GD-01 said in a serious monotone, removing his glasses. "Are there any other pressing matters to discuss before we conclude this meeting?

GD-09 raised both his hands at the same time as he started sitting up straight in his chair, his slight smirk became a concrete smile on his face.

"Yes… of course, GD-09 has some questions to be regarded," GD-05 uttered. All eyes were on GD-09. Some of them reacted to his interjection with a serious glare, others held an openly angry scowl, but a few seemed interested in what he had to offer.

"Good day. Isn't it? Dear, Global Directors," GD-09 sighed. "Well, all present, or, at least most. As not all of our dear friends were able to be at this meeting, what, with their busy schedules, and exciting life of paperwork and god handling and-"

"I think I speak for all of us when I say such words are unnecessary, 09. If you could please stay on topic?" GD-01 said as he placed his glasses back on.

GD-09's grin widened, as GD-12 looked at him looking interested, commenting on the following subject.

"I can assure you all, this will be… interesting," he said, glancing at GD-02, who was now absently tapping his hand on the table with an impatient rhythm. After their comment, GD-09 continued his statement.

"For the longest time, our beloved protocol has been the main focus of our concern; research this, protect that, contain these, we say. However our methods have been developing, and yet procedure remains the same for nearly a century."

A few of the Directors exchanged whispers. GD-01 stared, as incredulous as his lack of emotion would allow him. "Continue." he said.

"Well it's simple, isn't it? Those we imprison? It's such… lost potential, don't you think? Countless, wasted possibilities as they rot in steel basements." GD-09 put his hand on his chin in mock-contemplation, an ironic expression of deep thought; his smile never faded. "So, what if instead of dying alone, such prisoners of fate could help us?"

"Absurd," GD-02 loudly interrupted. "Stupid even! For every mildly useful anomaly, there's a perfectly logical solution to whatever problem they may provide an answer for. Nearly every attempt to harness anomalous assistance outside of a few isolated cases has ended in disaster! And for what purpose?! A shortcut? A shortcut for activities, traditions that we have followed on for decades, almost a millennium. Protocol and procedure you now suggest we reform!" GD-02 was furious. Awkward silence befell the end of his rant.

GD-03 bowed his head, a finger on his mouth in a thoughtful gesture. "I… understand your concerns. However, to harness such would be undeniably helpful. And maybe even essential in the near future. We're already seeing additions to recent technology in many GOI's in the last decade; the Great Red, as they're calling it?"

GD-11 quickly refuted: "The Great Red is but a theory. The more likely and… reasonable explanation for anomalous tech expansion in rival groups is as simple as globalization. Information and facilitation of movement. That's something we're more than capable of matching without the addition of anomalies."

GD-07 elaborated on 09's suggestion: "It was specified many times by UNAAC, usage of anomalous entities or objects is strictly forbidden in most activities…"

"Most," GD-07 emphasized.

"But an exception to a rule doesn't mean that exception is now the rule in and of itself, 09." GD-07 finished the explanation of his statement.

"Exactly," said 09. "If the point is that we can only employ them in certain restrictive instances, why don't we create those restrictions? It seems a pretty glaring oversight that no one's been willing to address."

"Create restrictions?" GD-05 scoffed. "That is not ours to decide. It's absurd. Beyond absurd. You always were one with those little plans of yours. What is it this time? Riling up another meeting for a conventional play-toy at your nearest site. Those are not tools. They're creatures we are obligated to protect humanity from, not use against!"

"Enough of this unnecessary discussion," GD-01 said. "It's a delicate subject, so we'll hear both sides."

A tense atmosphere settled on those present. Each regarding the other with a silent look of apprehension. I felt so invisible, so insignificant in the presence of such figures, wisely opting out of any statements on my part. I could however notice the disagreement on the face of GD-05 as he looked directly at GD-09, who looked back with a grin that appeared to rise by the second. GD-05 wasn't as emotional as others, but you could still see the clear distinction of thoughts and ideals.

GD-08 continued the conversation. "First of all, even if we accept it, this proposition wouldn't limit us, but any entities discovered hereafter, so we'd need hard limits that only affect anomalies directly under our custody. If we create a protocol encompassing any and all anomalies we encounter, that leaves us open to infiltration, breach, and even worse" GD-08 Explained concerned as he put his pen down at the table. After 2 seconds, he continued.

"I don't think I need to explain how dire the consequences of that loophole could be."

GD-13 elaborated: "This can easily be sorted out with members of UNAAC, the actual problem will be the management. We'd need handlers for every anomalous object or entity. That's creating and staffing an entirely new subsection of the Authority that as of yet lacks research outside of extremely controlled settings. We've had… quite a few examples, in the past, but they've all panned out as poorly as expected. Mostly from fringe researchers with very little budget and probably even less oversight, so I suppose, not as controlled an environment as is ideal? Even so, this would be-"

"I'll do it." GD-03 interrupted, his voice cutting straight into the conversation from across the room. Everyone was shocked. All eyes upon him now, he continued. "My schedule affords such jurisdiction. I could oversee everything by next month, and I will be held personally responsible for the management and outcome of the project."

All those shadows, their eyes fixated on the man, momentarily. It was frightening, the presence they each had individually, but together? Their attention soon fell mostly to GD-09, who'd retaken his seat, his smile fading slightly, but that confident smirk always present.

GD-07 argued: "It would be extremely unstable. Are we talking about training sapient anomalies for our own personal use? It's not dogs we're dealing with. These are, well, at least… some of them are people. With their own demons, and internal struggles. Most of them hate us already. And even if we convince them otherwise, the temptation of freedom is too great a prize to just dangle in front of them." He tried to elaborate further on the problems of employing such people as tools. Research and containment was already a battle they'd lost countless times as it was, but what these two seemed intent on achieving? It was something greater than anyone had ever cared to envision.

"You can teach an old dog new tricks, but you can't force them to use it," said GD-05, casting an intimidating glare toward GD-03.

"No," said GD-03. "You can't force anyone. But you could convince them of a better life outside those walls they see on the daily. Even then, they need a purpose…" They waited for GD-03 to continue. He looked around the table, exhaling with a smile toward GD-09. You could see it was exactly what he wanted… or needed, maybe. "Capture of anomalies, by anomalies, a brand new and possibly threatening future for all involved. But potentially one of the brightest."

GD-11 looked to GD-01; both considered it deeply. "Fighting fire with fire," Said GD-11.

After the statement, GD-12 spoke up. "We should have them supervised closely by at least two ASF teams at all times. For confirmed obedience, and… if anything goes wrong," they grimly stated.

GD-07 took a deep breath and looked to GD-03. Closing his eyes, he spoke. "It might work. With sufficient care and time management, however, it should be noted that this would be far from the final result, but a test. Experiments. You can't win in science without failure, I suppose. But this time… I'm sorry to say that failure is not an option we can deal with."

GD-02 erupted from the other side of the room, as he raised from his chair, putting both his hands at the table, saying: "NO." It seemed the only way this would occur was over his dead body. "How foolish, stupid, and incredibly unstable. Our own, what- comic book suicide team? Well of course! Why not? There are some great soldiers ready to give their lives for the ones who took their friends? Family? Loved ones? This is doomed from conception!"

GD-04 looked to GD-02. He seemed tense; uneasy, maybe a bit angry. I couldn't tell from the distance, but the pressure in the air was so thick I swore I could cut it with a butter knife. "Always against those with hope, are we? This is not a situation of half-full or half-empty. Instead, an opportunity that might completely change how we see our own operations. Maybe even the anomalous world at large. Depending on the results, we might get one of the best highs, or one of the lowest lows… the point is, we won't know if we don't try." GD-02 seemed to give time and consideration to GD-04 that he'd afford no one else. It was obvious they had a history.

I didn't know anyone there, for good reason, but I could glean a good amount of information from just the presence of those engaged in the conversation. That mere creatures that stood above any mortal beings, had such weakness and… personalities? It felt weird, those unwavering entities, that were human? And felt real…? Beyond anything I could comprehend, and yet something so easily understandable as a long-term friendship…

GD-01 continued: "This will be settled the old-fashioned way, I suppose. We only have so much time to debate such matters, therefore…" He looked around the room, raising his left hand and touching the ceiling of the sphere. "Those in agreement for the allowance of testing for the next anomaly-based acquirement team, under the direct control of Global Director 03, please raise your hands." Out of the thirteen present, nine raised their hands. Some seemed wary of this action, regardless. "Those opposed, please do the same." Four hands. "That being… nine to four? It is decided to carry forth with Global Director 09's and Global Director 03's proposal. Any suggestions for the designation?

GD-10 raised his hand, looking to GD-06. "Procedure 107," he said. GD-11 appeared worried, but nonetheless remained silent.

"Then it's decided," said GD-01. "Procedure 107 must be activated during the following months. Now, all that's required are initial subjects for testing."

GD-12, after some time has passed discussing the ones that should be applied to the situation and replied: "They'd have to be humanoid creatures. Sapient. Able to comprehend and carry out complex tasks. A wide variety would also be helpful for collecting data, regardless of the project's success."

GD-01 nodded. "Yes." He turned his gaze to those present. "Do we have any propositions?"

GD-09 rose from his chair and extended his arms. "So glad you asked," he said.

GD-02 was visibly upset. He took a deep breath. There wasn't much else he could do to stop what was coming. He stood back and watched with an obvious annoyance.

GD-09 pointed at me, signaling me to come closer. I did, clutching my bag of paperwork before he grabbed it and threw it on the table, frantically splaying files and dossiers in front of him. "Where is it, where is it… ahhh…" After a moment I helped him find the file in question, only for GD-09 to snatch it from my hand.

"Ah! Here we are!" He smiled. I could almost feel the joy radiating from him; swore his voice almost broke. GD-09 seemed almost maniacal about the whole ordeal, eyeing the paper in a sudden bout of deep, silent, unblinking contemplation. "In Russia," he finally stated. "One of the most recent acquisitions to our great collection? A man of few words, lost fiancée, follows rules as they are told, had lost himself long ago…" GD-09 finally lifted his gaze from the paper, that smile returning. "All we need are the proper tools. Provide him with basic needs, like, I don't know, seeing the comatose wife he so deeply desires to have back?" GD-09 leaned forward, eyeing the Directors like he'd checkmated all of them. "Our perfect first ally." The man couldn't help but chuckle.

A few seemed interested. Others, worried as always. I saw a brief smile light up GD-11's face.

"Any other suggestions from the board?" asked GD-01.

GD-13 raised his hand as fast as he could rise from his chair. "You just-" His glasses almost fell off; he quickly adjusted them. "You just previously mentioned variety, and the biggest variety would be the one with the widest range of capabilities, yes?"

He waited for the mental response of all, while they digested the information just given, it talked a lot, so he concentrated to continue the long dialogue.

"We had discovered a new group of insects infesting crops in Ireland, but, these were not the anomaly in question, but instead, related. Along with those, we found a humanoid subject wandering the area, nearby. After acquiring, and discovering that these very insects infested his own flesh. He, however, didn't seem bothered, the anomaly in question." He stopped to take a deep breath, it almost felt stressful to watch him take such short breaks. GD-13 then continued "However… it would appear that not just the crop-eating insects, but several species lived inside the body of this anomalous humanoid, in a sort of symbiotic relationship." He stopped and looked up, started to think for a few seconds, almost as if he was recording something.

"At least, that the individual did not appear to be affected by the infestation on any level of pain, or discomfort. Every single insect?" he explained, "Is connected to a fully autonomous, sapient hive, in the form of this individual. Its potential for intelligence gathering may prove invaluable! While we're not entirely sure what this thing is, it's…" GD-13 struggled to find the words. "Beyond scientific explanation, as are many of our RPC's, but this one is able to comprehend basic speech and follow simple orders." With enough training, it could become a very valuable asset, with great… potential for the future."

It was different from the last suggestion. Most were impressed as they were surprised, especially GD-06. Quickly explained, deeply elaborated and well thought, as all Global Directors strove to be. You could see a spark of jealousy from GD-09, as GD-13 stole the show. He was only the first, though.

GD-07 came in, elaborating further on GD-13's statement. "In the topic of potential, a recently discovered a young woman from the suburbs of Illinois gave us new forms of thaumaturgy we've never even seen before. She's adept in her abilities, however, possesses extreme PTSD, and irregular behavior towards general staff. Only certain personnel are able to calm her during these moments.

GD-07 adjusted his tie, and continued "We still don't know much about her past, but we've made significant progress, I think that she may prove useful in the future, having something so fresh and with so much potential in this experiment, it's essential."

GD-03 spoke next, the last one to suggest a potential subject. He stood, and bowed his head. "Timmy," he said. Everyone looked to him with evident confusion. Be it those invested in the conflict, or those not paying attention, that name resonated. "His mother liked to call him that. He was very young when he discovered his potential for great destruction. He keeps his demons daily at bay, because he considers himself to be one. If we're talking about potential, that kid may be the one with the most of it. He's growing every day, with necessary support at Site-002, of course."

GD-03 stopped, while he looked around, people seemed doubtful, some were still confused to what he was referring directly to, his usefulness and such. "He was very unstable, even combative in the beginning, had a great aversion to all our staff. But he's slowly breaking that shell, becoming familiar, even friendly with those assigned to work with him… He would be an excellent combat alternative. This might be dangerous…"

GD-03 takes a deep breath as he looks at the table, however when looking at GD-09, they appeared to get a sense of confidence that was lacking on him, so he continued.

"However, as our project leader, I request a direct allowance of one anomaly. He'll be under my supervision."

Everyone reacted differently. Confusion. Dread. GD-09 was still in a state of blissful ecstasy at the prospect. Even sadness found its place at the table. In the grasp of silence, a single word was heard:

"Granted."

GD-10's voice fell hard upon the ear. After being silent through most of the meeting. No one argued against the vote.

The meeting dragged on, with many suggestions thrown on the table until a final team had been selected. The meeting drew to a close, with fifty hands placed upon the strange surface of the sphere. I looked about, awkwardly awaiting some signal before GD-09 grabbed my hand and placed it in turn.

"A great meeting, for the RPC Authority. We hope this flourishes and bears fruit in the name of preserving humanity. With that being said…"

All exchanged glances, before their eyes fell upon some undefined point, chanting in unison: "From the darkest star shine; a bright moonlight. May the sunrise illuminate, where we all come to die, to save humanity and survive." Even for all its science and logic, there still lingered a hint of superstition and dogma within the Authority.

As the prayer ended, the sphere began to glow. One by one, their bodies dissolved, as if into the air itself. Into the inner surface of the impossible shape. As each started to disappear, the room slowly started to shrink. And me, being the last to enter, I was the last to leave. Alone, anxiety setting in, as I feared a repeat of that horrible transition, only in reverse. My body began to lose its senses, and my mind began to split and fracture. Like a drugged animal forced into a cage. I was desperate.

"Was this what it was like, to survive a world of anomalous research, was it even real?" I thought, being swarmed upon and captured by many strange humanoid creatures, with a static effect on all of them. I almost screamed, if only for a single voice in my mind, telling me to stay calm. It held me together, kept me sane long enough to see the other side. I blinked away the blinding light, disoriented, fatigued, and found I had awakened at the gate with the same two guards.

They escorted me to the infirmary, supposedly treating wounds I didn't even notice at the time. It was comforting. I didn't even know if it was real, or an illusion; what I witnessed in that room. "Maybe it was a test" I thought. "Perhaps it required that someone like me, with no prior knowledge or preparation, be arranged to interact with it. The silent guards? The lack of any real briefing… It wasn't real was it?" … I knew it was real, It felt real, and I always followed my gut to wherever it got me, that's why I'm in the position I am in, so the new question, the one pertaining on my mind is quite clear. What happened?

Quite soon, I returned to my place of work. My old box. Site-002. I could have sworn I hadn't been here in years, when all evidence told me that only mere hours had passed. My head was still swimming, mind awash with excitement, doubt, hope, and so many questions. But I was too tired to even search for answers. Mentally consumed, physically drained, and full of scars I don't even remember getting, I laid my head back onto the chair. The anomalous world is anomalous; I don't even know if it's made for me… but I couldn't leave it. Not if I wanted to. I'd fallen down the final rabbit hole, and found myself tumbling into the abyss. There was no coming back, now. Scared and excited, my tired mind racing against my will, I barely noticed my screen flashing a red light to alert me to an emergency email:


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