Piercing the Veil
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On any other day, Lucia Reinette-Hartle would've been ecstatic about her promotion to Site Director. For one, it meant she wouldn't get stuck with all the crappy assignments. Two, it'd mean she could finally afford to move out of the crappy San Francisco apartment that her Senior Researcher's salary called home. If it wouldn't end in her getting fired and/or possibly shot, she might've even written home about it.

But tomorrow was March 15th.

Once a year, the O5 Council summoned all the Site Directors to an undisclosed location for some sort of meeting. It didn't matter if you were at the bottom of the ocean or deemed essential staff for some baby-eating god, when they summoned you, you went.

Nobody was sure what exactly happened there. All anyone knew was that whenever the Site Directors came back, they were always in the worst mood anyone had ever seen. Even Director Lycus, known for being laid back almost to a fault, fired a poor researcher for mixing up two Safe Class containment procedures.

Maybe it was some sort of impossible test. But if everyone always got it wrong, presumably, why'd they keep testing them over and over each year?

Or possibly-

knock knock.

"Come in," Lucia said, setting her thoughts aside for a moment.

A man stepped into the office (her office, she realized, she hadn't actually thought about it much), a man she had never seen before. He was dressed very smartly in a suit that looked like it was worth more than her entire apartment.

"Director Reinette-Hartle? I'm here to escort you to Site-01."

Lucia's eyebrows shot up. Site-01? She wasn't aware that people other than the Overseers were even allowed there. What was so important that she was being escorted to the most secretive site on the planet?

For a single brief moment, Lucia considered refusing. Then she remembered she quite liked being alive, and followed the man who she realized hadn't even given her a name.


The helicopter ride was nerve-wracking. So was the car ride, and the boat as well. The man had offered her a blindfold with the implication that it wasn't really an offer, so she had no idea where she was.

Finally, she had been ushered into a cold, nondescript room where a researcher she had never seen before was waiting.

"Ah, Director Reinette-Hartle. Doctor Kosniak," the man said. "Please, take a seat. This is your first time, correct?"

"Uh, yes," she said, hesitantly sitting down opposite the doctor. "Actually, I was just promoted today. Or yesterday now, I guess."

Kosniak made a sound of agreement while looking through a file. "Yeah, they usually like to get Director promotions done before the fifteenth. Seems like yours cut a little close. Now, I see you don't wear glasses, that's good. Do you consume any strong-tasting substances on a regular basis? Anything particularly spicy or sour, coffee, fish, et cetera."

What kind of testing was this? "Only coffee. Had it this morning?"

"Hmm." Kosniak reached into a drawer, taking out a small white box and shaking out two green pills that he handed to Lucia. "Take these, no water. They'll clear up your palate. Otherwise, you're good."

He made a few scribbles, then quickly closed the file before shaking her hand and standing up. "Alright, thank you. Hope it goes well for you."

"Does it usually not?" Also, what exactly was it?

He made a tight-lipped smile. "Sorry, not allowed to discuss specific details. See you next year, hopefully."

He left the room, leaving Lucia alone with her thoughts again for the first time since her office.

What did they need from her? They asked her if she wore glasses, and gave her a palette cleanser. Were they eating something? The Foundation had D-Class for anomaly testing, they wouldn't risk senior personnel.

Lucia's mind conjured up the ludicrous idea of a top secret Foundation banquet. Maybe they were all getting their photos taken, and wanted to make sure everyone was ready for the central wine-tasting event.

She laughed to herself, allowing a brief moment for the tension to evaporate. Hell, maybe that was why everyone was always in a bad mood afterwards: hangovers.

Another doctor stepped into the room, allowing the tension to creep back in.

"They're ready for you."


All thirteen of them were there, and they looked pissed.

As soon as Lucia stepped into the room, every head snapped to meet her. It reminded her of a documentary she had seen once, a pack of wolves hunting a baby moose. As soon as it had taken one too many steps away from its mother, they pounced.

There was a desk in front of her, and at the nodding of the Middle-Eastern woman at the center of the half circle shaped table, she sat down at it, craning her neck up to meet their raised glances.

"Lucia Reinette-Hartle."

People were saying her name a lot today, she thought to herself.

"Any testimony you produce today must be truthful and complete. As this is not a court of law, we cannot swear you in and expect that to mean anything," the Overseer said. "Failure to meet these requirements will end in termination of your employment, among other things. Do you understand?"

"Y-yes."

The doctor from earlier entered through a side door, carrying something in his hands. He placed it down on the table in front of her, before quickly walking away.

"Can you clearly identify the object in front of you, Director?"

Lucia stared in disbelief. "It's a-"

"A simple yes or no will suffice, Director."

"Yes."

The Overseers turned to each other, softly murmuring about something. Most of them did look pleased, so her answer couldn't have been too bad.

They returned their attention towards her. "You have children, correct?"

"Yes."

More discussion. Lucia's mind was racing. This is what they had brought her here for? This what all the secrecy, all the terrible moods among the Site Directors were for?

"Do you think your children would enjoy this?"

Lucia looked down at the desk. "I think so? I mean I don't think they've had it-"

Exasperated groans broke out among the Council. The woman raised a hand for silence, and it was immediately granted.

"Now," The woman who she was pretty sure was O5-1 said, "While my colleagues might disagree, I think you're in the perfect situation to help us answer a very important question. It's something that the Foundation has been wrestling with for a very long time. In fact, we hadn't even called ourselves the Foundation when we discovered this question."

"Director Lucia," O5-1 said while gesturing to the bowl of cereal, "Can you see why kids love the taste of Cinnamon Toast Crunch?"

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