A short brunette in a labcoat led the white-haired woman down a dark corridor deep underground in L-14. The fluorescent lights were inadequate to light these halls and corridors for normal operation, but these halls were so rarely used anymore that any cost-cutting measure that could be taken had been taken. The lights were just another sacrifice of the budget. The Foundation had resources, of course, but the money pit was not infinite.
Well, Dr. Harriet thought it couldn't be infinite at least. Probably.
"No one really c-comes down here anymore." She spoke with a slight stutter, but she didn't acknowledge it and appreciated it when others didn't either. "Well, no one but me and Mr. Johnson. This whole wing is technically under my p-purview but with budget c-cuts on deadend research, I don't come down much myself anymore either. Mr. Johnson c-cleans, he's harmless though. Q-quick advice, don't talk about his 'Goddess' around him, he won't shut up about it if you entertain him."
Dr. Harriet stopped outside of a steel door marked 'Cold Storage' and withdrew a small key. Inserting the key into the lock and clicking the door open, she asked, "Are you sure you want to see these guys? They're not, uh, exactly in p-perfect c-c.. Mhm, Condition. Storage has them retaining most of their flesh and staved off rot, but despite the new ethic's c-code's designation, I don't think they c-count as 'living.'"
As the door opened despite Dr. Harriet's inquiry for reassurance, a gentle humming could be heard from inside the room.
Cait followed along with Dr. Harriet. The corridor was weird and dark and creepy and she kind of loved it. Maybe she'd see if they could get some failing lights somewhere at L-9. Nowhere really said 'hellscape' like a dying office building, right?
Not that L-14 was dying or anything. Actually, L-14 was doing pretty well, all things considered, even in Cait's opinion - which mostly had to do with the number of weird and interesting things happening there and not, like, minimal breaches or proper security procedures or any of that boring stuff. And L-14 had Lepidopterists for that anyway, which was basically cheating.
She'd been tagged in for this one pretty much specifically because they wanted someone outside of the L-14 staff to take point on it. Something about being concerned that the people at L-14 would get bent out of shape dealing with the corpsicles of previous staff. L-9 would have never worried about that, but hey, not everywhere could be perfect.
Dr. Harriet gave a warning about getting the janitor started up about the Goddess, which was absolutely the wrong thing to say if anyone wanted Cait to not do that. She made a mental note to do so as soon as the opportunity presented itself, and if it didn't, she'd make her own opportunity.
The door opened, onto humming. Cait was used to that. She picked up the song and added a few bars of harmony to it while focusing in on the situation itself, contemplating where to start.
Well, there were a decent number of them, so Joshua would say control group and experimental group for starters, so that seemed good. And then he'd say... he'd say "well, start out by autopsying one of them so you know what you're dealing with from the beginning" and then someone would point out that you couldn't actually do that on them since they were technically alive, and then there would be a pause, and then-
The new ethics code didn't allow that next part any more. And that was probably also why Joshua was not here, even if he was really quite good with dead bodies. And less-dead bodies.
Well, she wasn't the one who did the autopsies - and besides, there were probably more interesting things to be talking about. "Well, let's take a look, yeah? There's gotta be something fun we can do with all this."
Dr.Harriet shrugged at Cait's response, wouldn't be the first time someone outside of L-14 tried their luck with the iceblocks, but Harriet appreciated Cait's casual attitude. Harriet had never had the same opinion as her colleagues about the not-quite-dead researchers down here, but Harriet was also a trained medical examiner and this kind of stuff was her normal.
Entering cold storage, Dr. Harriet waved to Mr. Johnson as the old black man spotted the two of them and flashed a kindly smile, "Why hello there Marie! I hope you're doing well! How's the new puppy? And who's this lovely lady with you?"
Harriet waved off the janitor, trying to hide a smile, and responded, "Applebutt is a handful, but still happy I got him! This is Miss C-Corby. I'm sure you two c-can have all the time in the world getting to know each other once I am gone. I'm just showing her the icebl- er, victims of ACF-1003." Without allowing any time for Mr. Johnson to speak, Dr. Harriet walked up to one of the many, many cold storage doors and opened it up.
A shirtless man with a cold, lifeless face slide out on a steel table. Tapping the side of the door she had opened, Dr. Harriet explained, "Not everything down here is an ACF-1003 victim, there are only six. The rest are dead animals, dead people, and weird nonsense. P-please refrain from opening anything not marked '1003.'" Then, gesturing, Dr. Harriet motioned for Cait to put her ear against the 'dead' man's bare chest.
"Hi, Mr. Johnson!" Cait had read the file. That was a fun one for sure. Dr. Harriet, perhaps sensing danger, moved the conversation forward without allowing for more than a cursory introduction. That was fine, Cait was great at circling back to things - usually when people least expected it.
"Six is still a decent sample size, though," Cait commented, obligingly leaning down toward the chill body on the slab. Still ticking. Kind of like the crocodile in Peter Pan. She hummed a little bit of whatever the crocodile song was now that it had popped into her mind, but it wasn't likely to have any effect.
"Nifty. So, how long has this guy been chillin' down here?" That could have been a lot of different questions, like when he'd gotten himself yeeted or when they'd frozen him or how long had been between those two or just how long he'd been here, in this particular icebox. Cait liked questions that had a lot of answers, because you never knew what people were going to do with them, and sometimes finding out what people thought the question was was a more interesting question than whatever the question itself had been.
"And how about you? How long have you been on corpsicle duties?"
Mr. Johnson had returned to his cleaning and Dr. Harriet pulled up a chair to sit down while Cait asked her questions. She knew she didn't need to stay in the room for any experiments that Cait wanted to run, and she intended to leave as soon as the opportunity presented itself. The L-9 people were weird, and Cait being relaxed around the iceblocks was still a red flag, even if it was a comforting sort of red flag.
However, Dr. Harriet couldn't just up and walk off. That would look bad for L-14, so she would stay and answer questions as long as she had answers to give. "Six out of, uh, something around forty-nine, fifty dead? ACF-1003's been around a long time and before the new ethics c-code they weren't exactly nice about finding out the limits of its 'death field.' This guy's the newest though, seven years. P-poor bastard wasn't p-paying attention, ignored warning signs, and walked right into the field. We installed doors that auto-lock and stay locked after that, c-can't get to ACF-1003 unless you've got D or above c-clearance while it's sleeping."
Dr. Harriet was impressed that Cait did actually put her head on the man's chest. She hadn't been able to get someone to do that in years, though she was a little disappointed Cait didn't freak out. But that was L-9s for you. Shrugging at Cait's last question, Dr. Harriet answered, "I've been a medical examiner for the Foundation for about ten years, watching these guys is k-kinda like busy work I do when no one else dies. Took over from the last guy, he p-performed a full autopsy on the oldest iceblock. That didn't k-kill the iceblock, but it's still not allowed to do it again."
Then, leaning her head in her palm, Marie asked, "What about you? Why do you c-care? ACF-1003 can't be that interesting. It's p-practically a doll that we feed." She didn't say it maliciously, but it was the kind of callous response of someone who dealt with the after-effects of way too many dangerous anomalies and anohumans.
"Oh, someone did do an autopsy. Well, that takes care of that! Can I get that report to look over? And, like, if there's any highlights you can just tl;dr for me, yeah?" Dr. Harriet hadn't mentioned anything special, but still... "Y'all've been doing X-rays? All the bones still in the wrong places?" The wrong places being what most humans would consider the right places, but Ira had a whole thing about bones and insides. It would not have surprised Cait if someone in the death zone had kindly fixed up the innards of these guys. Just for, like, presentation value or something. Cait would have done it, if she were an omnipotent goddess with her own death zone.
Which was probably one of the many reasons why it was a good thing that she wasn't.
"I think the godbait's kinda nifty, actually. Maybe you just need to [expletive] around and find out a bit more with her! She made me a meat balloon once, how can you say something's boring when it can make meat balloons? I bet she could make this guy into a meat balloon."
Cait could also make the guy into a meat balloon - it wasn't like the spellwork for it was actually difficult. Getting him back from being a meat balloon would be a lot harder, and she was also pretty sure that the whole experiment would be frowned on by ACF.
Strings would think it was funny, anyway. She wondered if he'd ever made a meat balloon - she was going to have to ask.
"Maybe I'll see if they'll let me bring her down here and see what happens when she gets near them."
Dr. Harriet pulled on a nearby steel drawer with her shoe and tapped the side of it for Cait. It had a list of autopsy reports in order of last name of the victims, "The one done on the iceblock is under 'P-Percy.' But there isn't much to it, all the bones were normal human bones." Harriet didn't want to think of what Cait defined as 'normal,' so she tried defining it in the way that L-14 did. Humans bones were normal.
"The organs stopped working when removed, he appeared to become a normal c-corpse." She continued, "The only really interesting bit is that they tried p-putting the organs back instead of in jars and P-Percy's body knit them back together. Like healing. It's weird." She waited for a second and watched Cait. The woman had mentioned meat balloon and, unfortunately, Dr. Harriet's imagination tried to create it. Grimacing, she responded, "Uh, no. I'm good. I'm sure you L-9s love that kind of thing, but here at L-14 we aren't fans of 'meat balloons.' Honestly, I think the thing should be in L-9, but Jupiter shot that down a while ago. P-plus, Dr. Redd got it talking, hence why you're talking to it."
Looking down at the iceblock marked 'Jophann,' Dr. Harriet sighed, "I hope it never comes down here. I have successfully avoided 1003 so far and I want to c-continue that trend. It's k-killed p-people. I make a p-point not to associate with sentient anomalies that k-kill p-people. A lot of p-people got their lives ruined as well, you k-keep most of them at L-9 if I remember c-correctly? Then, there's p-poor Mr. Johnson over there, he'll never get back to his family at this rate." Dr. Harriet gestured over at the cleaning old man, who seemed to be perfectly fine from the outside.
Cait pulled open the indicated drawer, rifling through the files until she found the one specified. Actual paper copies, wow. Presumably there were electronic versions somewhere. She flipped the file open, scanning it in the distracted half-reading way of someone who was just skimming for the highlights with an intent to look at it in more detail later.
"Boring.... boring boring boring.... ooh! Hey, has anyone tried transplanting someone else's organs in to see if they'd take? Or regenerate! Or taking organs out of these guys and splicing them in to someone else? Because really, if you're just hanging out here like a snowman, do you need two kidneys, Mr. Jophann?"
Of course, this was all the sort of things that they weren't supposed to do, so it was a theoretical exercise - unless someone had been really proactive and given it a shot before the ethics code had changed. "Is there any sign of healing any previous damage? Like, you know, if someone broke their arm as a kid or something. That sorta thing." She leaned over, placing the open file on the corpsicle's chest and using her fingers to pry open one eye, either looking for something or just being weird.
Dr. Harriet was still being weird about the godbait. Cait rolled her eyes, then used a fingertip to try to roll the one on the iceguy that she was holding open. "I've killed people, Dr. Harriet."
Dr. Harriet didn't answer Cait's first question directed at her, or Cait's second question, or the third directed at Mr. Jophann. She just looked, horrified, at Cait for even suggesting any of that. All Dr. Harriet could think about was 'What would that accomplish?' and 'If it did anything at all, it'd be bad things!' Thankfully, most of Cait's questions could be answered in the paperwork she held.
Transplanting and splicing had, unfortunately, never been done. It seemed it just hadn't occurred to anyone to try. But the organs never regenerated outside of the bodies anyway. The only interesting note seemed to be that, even with the organs removed, the body acted as though it still had them. Minor brain activity could be observed in an empty head with no brain, a heartbeat could be heard in a chest with no heart, and the diaphragm rose and fell with no lungs inside. No old injuries regenerating though, unfortunately.
Before Dr. Harriet could answer the only question Cait asked that she felt like answering, the L-9 agent mentioned killing people. Half shrugging her shoulders, Dr. Marie Harriet spoke with more than a little exasperation, "That's different! You have a job to do Miss C-Corby, and I p-presume you're good at that job. You don't go to sleep every night with an invisible field of death to k-kill anyone that might see you in your nighties! I-" Then, interrupting her half-rant, Dr. Harriet's pager started beeping.
Wordlessly, she pulled it out and looked at it. Her face changed from exasperation to intense annoyance almost instantly as she read the lines being sent to her. "I'm-" She began to say, sighing heavily, "I've got to go. They've brought in- uhg, I've- don't do anything stupid!" Moving back and forth a little frantically, Dr. Harriet practically dashed out of the room. The steel door to cold storage swung open as she left and, slowly, creaked back to close.
As it auto-locked behind Dr. Harriet, Mr. Johnson started quietly chuckling and shaking his head. He had been slowly cleaning in the direction of the two during their conversation and, now, had found himself only a few meters away from Cait. Smiling, he spoke, "Researchers, always rushin' around right? Always a fire that's got to be put out somewhere! Ha ha!"
"Bye~" Cait didn't try to keep Dr. Harriet any longer. They were both ACF, after all, and when the Foundation came calling, you dropped what you were doing and went and did what they needed to. She also didn't promise not to do anything stupid, because it would have taken three days and an encyclopedia to hash out which of the many things Cait was thinking about doing didn't qualify as stupid under Dr. Harriet's auspices.
Mr. Johnson decided to come up after she left. He was still cleaning, Cait noticed. She wondered if that meant something to him. She'd have to ask. Later, though. "Oh, we all have to rush around sometimes, Mr. Johnson. Otherwise some things wouldn't get done. Do you hang out with Dr. Harriet a lot, then? She's got some weird ideas about killing people. Like, is it really better to kill people on purpose than on accident? That's actually a fascinating question. Maybe it is better to kill them on purpose, because at least that means you were doing the wrong thing right. As opposed to doing the wrong thing wrong, yeah?"
She didn't know what Mr. Johnson was going to make of this line of questioning anyway, but also she didn't really need an answer. "So when's the last time you talked to your Goddess? Do you commune with her through custodial work? Deus ex moppin'?"
Mr. Johnson didn't answer Cait as she weighed killing and different types of killing, he just smiled and shook his head knowingly. After all, of course, they both knew the answer. Then, when Cait asked about The Goddess-
Mr. Johnson froze.
Smiling, he looked up with eyes that seemed to twinkle just a little bit more and spoke, "Why, it's been so long since anybody asked Ol' Mr. Johnson about The Goddess! Caught me off guard there Miss Corby!" Shaking his head, he went back to sweeping and wiping down surfaces while continuing to speak, "Ha hah, oh, yes, I spoke with Her just last night you know. She shares Her wisdom to anyone with ears to listen and a heart open to love. As for my cleanin' well, it's the least I can do for Her here to stay close and keep busy. A clean house makes a happy Goddess!"
Then, stopping for a minute, Mr. Johnson walked off to gather up his custodial cart and wheel it over toward where Cait was. Exchanging the broom and dust rag for an unmarked cleaning agent and a new, white towel, Mr. Johnson added, "She told me about you too you know! She quite likes you. I'm so glad for it."
"Yay me!" Maybe it was weird to be happy about being liked by a being of incomprehensible and horrendous powers, but... well, this was Cait. Even some of the L-14 staff were probably getting the gist of it by now. "I haven't had a chance to really meet Her yet, but I'm sure it'll be interesting when I do." Not necessarily a good thing, sure, but definitely interesting - and if you weren't going to be interesting, you definitely didn't get sent to L-9.
Cait picked up the file once more, skimming it again and then putting it back in the drawer, two places away from where it was supposed to go, just to make sure the next person was really paying attention. It was good for them. If you got in the habit of expecting things, then stuff crept up on you and all of a sudden you weren't paying enough attention and you got twisted up into a pretzel. And that wasn't pretty.
Her eyes glanced over the other files, as if considering whether she should read them or redisorganize them, then turned back a little. "Hey, Mr. Johnson, you're down here a lot, I bet you know a lot about all these guys in cold storage. You wouldn't happen to know if there's an Isaac Holtzheim in here, would you?"
Mr. Johnson nodded at Cait's first statements as if they were perfectly reasonable things to say. Perhaps, for the pair of them, they were perfectly reasonable things to say and think. Planning to meet eldritch deities? The adventure of a lifetime for an L-14 researcher, and a Tuesday for someone from L-9.
Then, Cait asked a question that was unequivocally a bad idea. If Dr. Harriet had still been in the room, she would have shut that line of thinking down immediately. Absolutely nothing good could come from messing around with the body of someone like Isaac Holtzheim. But Dr. Harriet wasn't here. Smiling, Mr. Johnson nodded again and spoke cheerily, "Oh yes, down here quite a bit if I do say so myself! You nailed that one yes ma'am! Ah, Isaac Holtzheim. He was a bit before my time you know, but I do believe they still keep his body down here..."
Mr. Johnson began gathering up his cleaning supplies and placing them neatly in his cart, everything with a place and everything in its place. Turning the cart around gently, he pushed the morgue table of Jophann back closed, everything in its place, and started deeper into the cold storage morgue. The room wasn't terribly large, but Mr. Johnson turned a corner and revealed a door that, from any direction other than directly head-on, couldn't be seen.
He withdrew a key ring from his back pocket with entirely too many keys for an anomaly to possess and skillfully selected the correct one for the door. Unlocking it, he spoke as he headed inside, "Oh yes, Dr. Holtzheim was special to Her. I never met him, and She doesn't talk about him, so it's best not to pry you know? But I can't imagine any harm comin' from takin' a look!" He laughed, entirely too normally and cheerily, and continued on.
The deep storage area of cold storage was a little different than the main 'morgue.' Instead of steel doors lining the walls connected to a large refrigeration unit, the entire area was deeply refrigerated at a chilly -2F. Mr. Johnson didn't seem to mind the cold, or even notice it at all. There were multiple bodybags on the tables toward the back, and past that there were wooden coffins. Leading Cait to one of the older wooden coffins, he lifted the top off with ease to reveal.
"Well, ain't that a thing." It wasn't really a Cait-phrase, but on the other hand she'd heard it often enough, and sometimes there was no way to express things properly without channeling just a little bit of an Alabama drawl.
Cait had been to Alabama a couple times. There'd been... oh, that Jesus-cult. Not the Christian Jesus, some guy named Jesus. He'd been, what, an accountant or something? And then started an accounting cult. Gail had been delighted. There had been paperwork. Cait had tried her best to stay out of the line of fire in that one.
And there'd been the thing with the spiders. They still had some of them somewhere, though she couldn't remember where they'd ended up. Maybe L-15? Not here, anyway. Joshua had a couple dead ones, but he had a couple dead anything and that hardly counted.
And L-14 had a bunch of dead guys too, including Isaac Holtzheim, who was looking very good for a man who'd been dead as long as he had. Usually when people were dead they had a lot more rotting bits or bits fallen off or charred bits or unrecognizable bits. Or maybe that was just dead people in Cait's vicinity. The Locusts didn't generally get called in for normal things.
"I assume She knows he's here. I told Ira I'd see what I could do for him, but I still haven't really got a proper resurrection spell going, so I think maybe we'll just keep him cold for a while until we're ready, yeah? Nice to meet you, Isaac!" She shook his hand, though gently, because Ira wouldn't be happy if bits fell off. Or maybe she would - it was Ira, after all. Maybe she'd just pop the hand off and do an Addams Family Special or something.
Not today, though. "Okie dokie. Thanks, Mr. Johnson, but I better get back to the other guys, since that's what I'm supposed to be here for. What do you think we should call them? Dr. Harriet was saying "iceblocks" and trying not to, and I've always been fond of "corpsicles," but... you know, I wonder what She would call them?"
Mr. Johnson smiled at the phrase, adding it to his repertoire of phrases to use later himself. It was kind of catchy! He listened as Cait spoke and shook Isaac's hand. His smile never left his face as Cait made her observations and asked her questions, nor did it leave his face as he responded, "Oh no, Ira has no idea he's down here! She thinks his body was lost during recovery you know, that's what they told Her. Of course, the Goddess knows, but She's keeping it from Ira, so if you could also keep this secret I'd be mighty thankful. Could land me in some hot water! Haha!"
Then, Mr. Johnson gently closed Holtzheim back up and put everything back exactly as it had been left. It wouldn't do to look as if he were meddling! Without a word, he began moving toward the back door where they entered. Shaking his head, Mr. Johnson continued, "Oh no, not husks, not yet! The bones are all wrong, all wrong. Dr. Harriet, the researchers, all of them simply have no idea what to do with the little chrysalises..."
Mr. Johnson paused as he approached the door to exit the back room they had entered. His smile got a little wider, a little too wide, and he looked over at Cait to flash a glimpse of something he had in his hand. Dr. Harriet's key ring, swiped, well, who knows when. Mr. Johnson asked, "Now, Miss Corby, I don't think I could ask anyone else this, but you seem the type I'm just naturally inclined to trust! Do you wanna wake the chrysalises up?"
Cait didn't promise to keep any secrets, but she'd keep Mr. Johnson's name out of it as a favor to him if she did go chatting about it. After all, she'd fully intended to look for Isaac Holtzheim on her own anyway, Mr. Johnson had just saved her the trouble of looking through some of the freezers. And since Cait liked both trouble and looking throgh freezers, he was probably doing everyone else a favor there.
"I knew the bones were important," Cait said, with a sigh. Apparently it was time for another rendition of "I Told You So" With Cait Corby. Apparently that was going to be pretty common at L-14. Cait suspected it was at least in part because they didn't want to know. "Why [expletive] around if you don't actually want to find out?" and all that.
These people were not nearly enough fun, but Cait supposed if they were, they'd be at L-9. She definitely noted the words Mr. Johnson was using, and wondered if anyone had made notes about them before. Possibly, sure, but had they known what they meant? It was all a big messy tangle, all knotted up with everything all together. "Corpses and murdergods, tied up with Strings - these are a few of my fa~vorite things-" she trailed off, humming a few extra bars.
Of course, Strings wasn't here. He had been, once, but he hadn't gotten into the bodies, apparently, which he was going to be very upset about having missed out on. Oh, well, more fun for her, right?
"Well, I'd love to, but let's do it properly, yeah? So, we've got to leave half of them as a control group, and then I'll need to put down some Safety Lines just in case things get a little too exciting. Let's see, I've still got some chalk... I wonder what She'd say about chalk? It's basically bones, after all. I mean, mine is, anyway." Of course, Cait's chalk was one of those things that most people outside L-9 tried not to think too hard about. Actually, some of the people in L-9 apparently tried not to think too hard about it, too, which was just silly of them.
"So, what would happen if we set the bones properly, Mr. Johnson?"
Mr. Johnson nodded and smiled at Cait's acknowledgment of being right. She was right, of course, but it was like being right about global warming, or that sugar was bad for you, or that dreams were just visions of other dimensions. They were all uncomfortable truths, and some people just preferred not knowing the uncomfortable truth.
Cait hummed and sang quietly to herself as Mr. Johnson continued his own humming, the same song as before, of course. Pushing his neatly arraigned cleaning cart, he moved over toward the frozen morgue doors and began opening them one by one. Jophann, Ibrahim, Marie, Julius, and Tammie, all names Mr. Johnson knew very well by now. Some of them looked a little more decomposed than the others, and one, Julius, looked as though he had been cut up and sewn together many times.
Smiling, Mr. Johnson replied to Cait's instructions, "Yes, ma'am! Absolutely. As far as I'm concerned, well, I'd say you're the boss! You are an agent and, gosh, I'm just a janitor. I think that puts you above me, you know? Whatever you say goes! I'll just give advice whenever or- wherever, you need it! Haha!" He seemed all too eager to start, though he made no movements to touch the bodies himself. It was as if they were too sacred for his hands to lay upon, but Cait was an exception, Cait could do whatever she wanted.
Looking to Jophann, Mr. Johnson explained, "Gotta remove the old ones first, you know. You've got some extra bones lying around, of course? We'll need different ones."
Cait gave Mr. Johnson a quick smile - quick, but genuine. She'd never really had an assitant before - Cait was used to being the assistant, really, but she supposed that she was just as experienced as most people were by this point. More so than some.
There were a lot of occultists who didn't last very long, after all. It wasn't exactly the safest line of work to get into. Aggravate the wrong existential laws and you'd end up being a puddle. It wasn't a subject for the faint of heart - or the faint of stomach, as evidenced by Mr. Johnson's next question.
"Oh, we have all sorts of bones back at L-9. Does it matter what they're from?" They had a variety. Bones and other body parts ended up being useful for all sorts of things, so L-9 tended to sort of... collect them, in case they were needed for something. ACF had a "donate your body to Science!" clause worked into most of the paperwork, and while most people probably didn't think about whether or not someone's potion happened to need a couple spleens... well, there were spleens to be had, as long as they were properly preserved. Some of the personnel didn't get preserved, after all, but that was how it went with anomalies.
And as for other bones - well, the Locusts were out often enough that they had all sorts of weird bones that they'd collected, from various anomalies. Heck, Gail still had that bone spear she'd brought back from Annie's Extras at the last little excursion with the godbait. There was probably no way she was going to let Cait have it, though, which was a bummer - but you didn't get things like that every day, and Cait probably would have kept it too, until she was absolutely sure it was what was needed and not just what was convenient.
"I probably need to prep a few things and - ugh, can't believe I'm saying this - do some paperwork, before we really get started. This is the sort of thing I want to do right, though, yeah? And doing things right takes time, which I'm sure you know. But you've been great, really - do you think you could meet me down here when I'm around? Just to help out with things. I can even file the paperwork. I bet they'd believe I needed a janitor."
Mr. Johnson could not believe his good fortune, surely, this woman had been sent to him from the Goddess Herself! Not only was she interested in finally completing the work begun on the bodies in Cold Storage, but she was going to do things right. Clasping his hands together with a returned genuine smile, Mr. Johnson answered Cait's first question, "Ah! No! Any origin is correct, I believe. But the bones, they must be animal bones you know. Human to human just won't work of course."
Stepping past Cait to unlock the door, Mr. Johnson nodded as she finished speaking. With that knowing smile still spread across his kindly features, Mr. Johnson replied, "I think I can! It's a busy job keeping this place clean, but I think I can find the time to skedaddle on down here next time you're in! If you ever need me, well, odds are I'll be right where I'm needed! Haha!"
It would take time, of course, for Cait to find the necessary files and audio files on the 1003 bodies. It was not that L-14 had them purposefully hidden or anything, rather, every file mentioning or tangentially related to 1003 had to be either manually written down or recorded VIA audio medium. The little gremlin had a tendency to adjust and rewrite files in the system related to her, and letting an anomaly record false information was simply not allowed.
The bodies, all acquired before the new ethics code, fell under the grandfather clause of 'experimentable corpses.' It was not exactly ethical, but it was legal by the Foundation's 'new ethics code' standards. The dead men and women had signed a waiver, after all, before coming to work in the department related to ACF-1003. The corpses were not to be displayed, but they could be mutilated, adjusted, or otherwise destroyed at approved Foundation personnel's discretion.
And Cait counted as 'approved personnel.' Especially after Dr. Harriet asked that a clause of giving Cait free rein with the 'iceblocks' was to specifically not be involved with whatever Cait was doing. Cait was a scientist of a sort, after all. Everything she did was for the greater good of the Foundation, so whatever she desired to do down here would also be for the greater good. So it was that sometime later, Cait returned to Cold Storage at L-14.
Mr. Johnson, as if he had never left, stood in the middle of Cold Storage with a dustmop and a happy tune humming about.
Cait had not caused any trouble in several days. For everyone who knew her, this was a very definite sign. Opinions were variable as to whether it was a good sign or a bad sign, but it was pretty much agreed that it was definitely a sign. ACF people were betting on what she was going to blow up, and whether it would be at L-9 or L-14 (or, according to some of the tallies, whether it would be L-9 or L-14). Cait had refrained from comment, but only because she wasn't allowed to place bets on herself, which she thought was wildly unfair given that half the time, she didn't know what she was going to do, either.
She'd been careful about the preparation for whatever it was she was doing down here, though. Joshua had helped her source the bones - if you ever needed a bunch of bones, the best person to ask was someone who'd grown up in a rural area. Farms always had extra bones around.
Most of them were cows. Cait thought they were decidedly less creepy when they were skeletons. It was an improvement. There were also pigs, horses, coyote, possum, raccoon, rabbit, fox, chicken, several bluegill (which Joshua referred to as "sunfish" because apparently that was a weird midwestern thing - Cait had been disappointed that he didn't have the bones of one of those ocean sunfish because those things were giant and also hella weird on the inside), and half a snake. None of them were anomalous, which was fine for a first go. She might introduce anomalies into the process later, but not yet.
She'd also brought along the nautilus that the godbait had made for her. She wasn't sure if that counted as bones or not, since it was a shell, and she wasn't sure how the nautilus was going to feel about the whole process, but whatever it felt was probably going to be... well, brief. Or she might just hang onto that one as a mascot, but it was good to have around, if only because the little tentacles made her giggle.
Gail had helped with the paperwork, especially the bit about writing everything up so that it was legal and didn't violate any ethics codes or Foundation rules. Some of that had been done with the weird linguistic sleight-of-hand procedures comprehensible only to lawyers, elder gods, and the fae. Cait had tried to understand as much as possible, but wow, lawyers were terrifying.
She'd also gotten Gail to help write up some pre-emptive contracts for whatever it was she was doing here, with a variety of options. They probably wouldn't handle every situation, but they'd be a good enough starter set to give Cait a chance to rope in the proper rules before everything blew up. As long as it blew up after the contracts were set, it would be fine - at least, that was the way the Locusts had always operated.
She'd made her way back to the cold storage room at L-14, where Dr. Harriet was avoiding the situation by being somewhere else, for some weird reason. Seriously, where was her sense of adventure? She was supposed to be a researcher! Cait wasn't even a researcher, she was just...
Well, she was just Cait, and that was probably the best way to describe it. She'd gotten started already, and the cold storage room was a maze of embroidery thread and crystals, a bit like a three-dimensional spider's web with little things suspended in it. Getting around was a little more challenging, since she had to weave her way around the Strings, but Cait was pretty much used to that by now. It was how she worked best, she thought.
Mr. Johnson was there as well, obligingly not cleaning up the mess. There was a thread tied to his dustmop, though he could still move around freely. It wasn't about keeping him in one place, just making him a sort of tangential part of all this. It made sense in Cait's head, anyway, which had always been how it had worked for her. Trying to explain it to someone else just made it sound weird. Magic wasn't supposed to be explained, after all. If you knew how it worked, it wasn't magic any more.