Dog Days
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rating: +32+x

July 3rd

It would be a hot summer.

Doctor Leslie Yolas was sitting on her porch, watching the sun sink below the horizon beyond endless rows of corn. She had moved back to the family farm not too long ago, and was still getting settled. Before she had moved back, it had been years since she was last here, but her situation changed and this is where she belonged now. Next to the doctor was her dog, slumped on the porch next to the chair. All was quiet, as things should be.

July 5th

Two days later (having taken the holiday off), Yolas drove to Site-19, ready for another day of the same old business as she had grown used to. She hadn't always worked in Site-19, but her previous Site simply didn't exist anymore. Most Foundation sites had been shuttered, in fact - only Site-19 remained, as a testament to the past.

The parking lot was mostly empty, as it normally was these days. There wasn't any need for the activity that the site had required in the past. There had been times when Yolas had thought that might happen, but it still surprised her how it came to past. She had always expected a little more doomsday in the desertion of Site-19. She had always expected one of those, to be honest.

Where had once been a plethora of guards and gates surrounding the entrance to the Site, there was now just a single guard at the gate. Yolas didn't even bother to show her ID as she walked in - there was, simply, no need. The guard knew her, and he could check her off at his own leisure. To be frank, there was little within Site-19 worth stealing.

Yolas took her time going to the labs where she worked, a stark change from how she used to act. There was simply no need for urgency anymore, and there had not been for some time. She ambled through the halls of Site-19, before entering her lab and turning on the lights.

She was surrounded by walls of instruments and empty desks. Hers was at the center, alone with a collection of personal effects. She didn't just have the one, to be specific - her materials spread out from the center, often finding themselves on other tables in the surrounding area.

As she entered the lab, she collected the papers that had been printed overnight, with the latest set of reports. This was her first task of the day, to look for any abnormalities in the data. There were thousands of fields — Hume counts, temperatures, radiation, just about anything that had ever come to mind as potentially important.

As always, none of it had deviated enough from the norm to be noteworthy for Yolas's purposes.

For her next task, she idly walked through the lab and made sure that all of the instruments were calibrated properly. They were. There was no reason they wouldn't be, or way that they couldn't have been.

She spent the rest of her day doing the minor tasks needed of her, but nothing important was necessary. Another uneventful day in Site-19.

July 9th

Once every other month, something would happen that would require the attention and intervention of a Mobile Task Force. In the past, there would be hundreds of Mission Control teams, working around the clock to monitor and assist the actions of every Mobile Task Force the Foundation would deploy.

Today, the number of such Mission Control teams was one, and it was a temporary job. Doctor Leslie Yolas was one of those people who would be called upon, since her normal monitoring mission did not truly need her working on it every day.

A thing had been spotted in the woods, and a Task Force had been deployed. It was a fast response time, but the Foundation did not have anything else to hold its attention. It could be one last remnant of the past or some other monster that haunted their nightmares and memories. There were a myriad of possibilities, a thousand things that it could be in the woods, and none of them were correct. None of them were around, not anymore.

It probably wouldn't be anything, of course. They were all quite sure that there was nothing that remained in the world that connected to their old motives, their old aims. Nothing that needed to be put into a box and studied, nothing that threatened the Veil. For once, normalcy was truly normal. For the civilians, for the Foundation, for everyone.

Yolas spent the day monitoring the task force as they failed to find anything. They searched the forest and didn't even find so much as a trace of a monster. No footprints, no droppings, nothing disturbed. It was all pristine and perfect, just as it should have been. Just as it always would be from here on out. Yolas didn't pay any attention to her regular duties: she knew it would fail to find anything as well. Everybody else that was left did the same. They all knew the truth.

The Foundation spent most of its time hunting down wisps and shadows, now. It didn't have anything better to do.

July 16th

Yolas was paid well, for the most part, even now that her work wasn't truly necessary. She didn't do much on a daily basis, but her role was high and her skills were unparalleled. If anything related to her old field should happen again, Yolas would be the best choice possible to handle the situation. No one else would even come close. After all, she had once had Level 5 Clearance. Still did, but there was nothing the Foundation needed to hide.

Her position was not necessary in the grand scheme of the world, but it was a necessity to the continuing operation of the Foundation. The Foundation was a grand machine, and Yolas was an essential part. The fact the machine was not needed did not change the fact that she was necessary to the machine.

The irony, if anything, was that her role in the machine was to tell it that all was calm and right, that nothing was wrong with the world. She checked her instruments, made sure they were functioning as they should, and submitted the same report on a regular basis. To be fair, it wasn't the same report, exactly: only a report that hadn't changed in years, with no indication that it would ever be different.

The Foundation had been rich, a sprawling monolith of power and control for decades. It had fingers in many pies, many of which had nothing to do with the anomalous. The list of front agencies it had maintained was absurd, in all honesty. When the primary directive of the Foundation became obsolete, the decision from the Overseers was to keep the fronts active. It would be too suspicious if they all folded in on themselves, without any good reason.

Funny how that worked, isn't it? The Overseers gave the front agencies a stay of execution, but their positions did not last quite as long as the groups they kept active. Spicy Crust Pizza had outlasted O5-1.

And so the Foundation, despite its drastically reduced scope and need for money, had remained influential, with billions to spare. All of the land they had acquired over the years, now without any meaning to keep, was sold for a reasonable price, and there were now plenty homeowners with no knowledge of the horrors that had lived in them before they did.

Monoliths, such as the Foundation, don't topple easily. The reason the monument had been erected was gone, but it would endure. The wheels would keep on turning, in the hopes they might be needed once more.

July 29th

It was that damn dog. Yolas had been there for some of the first usages, and everyone was there at the end. She remembered those final days quite well: chaos, bizarre orders, and the knowledge she had to obey. Because if it was crazy and it worked, it wasn't supposed to be crazy, right? Everything at the end worked, so they weren't crazy.

But when Yolas had been ordered to "sing electric, as a thousand fires had died in her eyes", she didn't get the logic. It was nonsensical, completely devoid of meaning. And yet, it all worked out when she did it. The anomalies faded, the world snapped into order and reassembled itself into convenient boxes. She watched as theories which had been filled with holes put themselves stitched themselves together into perfect little logics.

The theories that she had been working on melted before her eyes. Her department slipped out of her control. Her staff acted in bizarre manners and the world lost all logic. And the worst thing was that she had been more productive than ever. There was no compulsion, no cognitohazard, nothing that was forcing them to follow the orders.

But how could they not? It all worked.

August 2nd

"You know, Leslie, all I ever wanted was a better world. I dreamed of it every night. We went on thousands of wild goose chases hunting for a better world. I would have traded everything, I would have lost it all for even the slimmest chance of a better world. There was nothing I considered too great an evil. A better world. I knew it was out there.

"And we got it. We have the better world. We just had to trust a rather intelligent machine to do all the work for us. The one thing I regret - the one final sin - is … I don't know how it did it. We have our better world and all I know is that the world is good. The logic is inscrutable and unknowable, too strange for mortal eyes."

It was late at night and the Site-19 canteen was deserted but for Doctor Yolas and her dinner partner. He was a normal man, old and choking on his age. They sat across from each other, surrounded by empty tables that had once been able to fit hundreds, if not thousands. Only a small slice of the tables were ever used now. Even if you wanted to eat alone, there was plenty of room to do so without going too far from the counters.

"A final sin? I don't know if I would call it that."

"I suppose not a sin. But I built this Foundation to understand the world. To know how it works, in every last detail. No stone left unturned. There was so much that we never understood, never could have. Ever since I stood in that cave, watching as the water floated up, looking into the face of that impossibility… I knew what I wanted to do. It was always that nagging question of 'why', at the back of my mind."

"My department was one of the best at that, weren't we? We were so close to a complete working theory of the anomalous before the end. Only a few years away from being able to understand the underlying processes to the chaos, smooth out all the kinks."

"But then a bulldozer came. And it steamrolled every anomaly and flattened it into the dirt."

"It sure did. It did our job for us, better than we ever could. Far better."

They finished their meals in silence, mostly talking about the weather. But as the hours grew late, they realized it was time for bed. The Administrator retired to his on-site apartment, and the doctor drove home to a family farm.

August 11th

Back in her lab, Doctor Leslie Yolas, former level 5 Foundation personnel, former Head of the Ontokinetics Division, formerly one of the most powerful women in the world, watched her printer slowly churn out pages and pages of documents. As each sheet fell off the page, she grabbed it, skimmed it and threw it in the trash.

Nothing worth noting, as always.

She hadn't found anything this summer. Or the summer before, or the summer before that. And she knew that as long as she kept working here, she wouldn't find anything in any other summer. This was just the way things were now.

And as much as she hated it — as much as she detested the uncertainty of knowing why this was the new status quo — she could accept it. There was no point in questioning why her life was now functioning, why everything mattered once again, because it simply did now. It didn't matter how the world had gotten to this state. It was safe and calm, and that was all that mattered.

Her work for the day was done. She paused for a moment, trying to decide if she should clean up her lab, and decided against it. There wasn't any real point in it. It would all be the same tomorrow.

Back at home, she relaxed on the porch. Her old dog came out of the house and slumped down next to her, as she rocked back and forth. The sun set over what seemed like endless rows of normal corn, perfectly normal and unchanged. It was quiet, listening to the crickets chirp and the wind blow. Just as it should be.

It had been a hot summer.

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