Welcome To The Insurgency
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1. A Veteran Agent

Summer watched Wilhelm as he sat down at the small table in the secure bunker, his face barely illuminated by a dim lamp. She hated Wilhelm, but as his black eyes turned at her, she found herself unable to look away. Summer was Wilhelm's favorite "Factotum", a term Wilhelm told her he'd taken from the Foundation's O5 Council — a Council where he had once held the position of O5-7, over a century ago. While it was traditionally accurate, it was insufficient. Her duties went further than she would have wanted. Further than anyone would have wanted.

She owed Wilhelm her family's lives, a debt that chained her to him. Yet he was also a monster, and Summer wanted him dead. Wilhelm knew all of this, and he seemed to delight in the contradiction.

The woman sitting across from Wilhelm was not looking at either of them. A veteran security agent at Foundation Site-19, she had a scarred face that seemed made of iron. The Insurgency had been working on her for years. She was only now turning traitor.

For her, Wilhelm wore an ordinary, professional suit. Conservative. Reassuring. Nothing over the top.

"My family," the agent said. "When they died… in the breach, back then, a decade ago… Dr. Kondraki laughed at me." Her voice had no emotion. "He told me… that my family was meaningless, and so was I. The only thing that made me relevant is that I was so… fucking stupid… to have my family on-site, in his way." She paused, her face still stone. "He said to me, maybe you've learned your lesson."

Wilhelm didn't say anything. His face was full of the kindly, grandfatherly sympathy that Summer knew he did not feel.

But Summer did feel for her. She'd nearly lost her family too. The Insurgency had "saved" them. And she would pay the price, forever, to keep them saved.

Wilhelm reached out and took the agent's hand. The agent let him.

"We can make this right," Wilhelm said. "I promise."

The agent nodded.

"Welcome to our Insurgency," Wilhelm said. "We're glad to have you."

2. An Accomplished Researcher

The Foundation researcher was drunk. Morose. Angry. Talkative.

For him, Wilhelm wore a nice lab-coat. White. High-quality material, with just enough scrubbed-out stains to tell the researcher that he was genuine, that he'd been there.

"I've never even made Director," the researcher said. "All the research I did… all the technical papers I wrote… all the friends I made… and no one even knows my name."

Summer also didn't know his name. He'd never mentioned it, and Wilhelm hadn't used it. Wilhelm almost never used names.

"I know what you mean," Wilhelm said. "That's why I… you know."

"You don't really call yourselves the… the Chaos Insurgency, right?" The researcher laughed, hoarsely. "I mean, I get the idea, everyone always has to be so melodramatic to get any attention these days —"

Wilhelm raised a hand, reassuringly. "No, no. We never named ourselves. 'Chaos Insurgency' is just the name the Foundation higher-ups slapped on us to try to discredit us. After all, whoever would join an organization named like Saturday morning cartoon villains?"

The researcher looked relieved. "I knew it. I just had… I had to ask, you know?" He always took a deep breath. "I always told myself I'd never betray the Foundation."

"You aren't betraying the Foundation," Wilhelm said. "You said it yourself. They betrayed you. They're recreating Omega-7. Calling SCP items "agent". Giving high-profile assignments to Dr. Clef, Professor Crow, Agent Strelnikov, all the usual suspects. And new ones too, just as bad. The Foundation must be reigned in."

"Clef," the researcher said with a sneer. "If he had any decency, he'd have retired by now, and taken all the others with him. Adams, Lurk, Moose. It's like they're breeding. Don't have the decency to just fade away, where they belong."

The echoing was bad, Summer thought. The echoing meant he was going to say 'yes'.

Wilhelm nodded. "You and I, we're not like them. We will save the Foundation from itself. By whatever means we have to."

The researcher nodded in turn. He looked down at his drink. Summer saw the doubt working over his face.

She hoped he might say no. Stand up, turn around, and leave this room, before it was too late.

Instead, his face grew red. He clutched his drink so hard Summer thought he might break it.

"This is not the Foundation I want to be a part of!" He slammed his drink down on the table. "I want sanity. I want stability. I want hard working men to rise to the top. Not flamboyant pieces of shit like Kondraki and Alto Clef!"

Wilhelm nodded in sympathy. Summer looked down.

"Then, fuck it." The researcher raised his glass. "Here's to the Chaos Insurgency."

Wilhelm raised his glass in turn. A clink. "Welcome… to the resistance."

3. A Troubled Serpent

A serpent-eyed woman waited, eyes fixed on Wilhelm, pacing around the crystal sanctuary in a hidden corner of the Wanderers' Library. The woman was a member of the Serpent's Hand (no relation, Summer assumed).

The serpent eyed woman was clearly afraid. But less afraid than most. Summer had seen other Hand members, who understood the Insurgency's true reach and power and goals, fall to their knees in front of Wilhelm. Clasp their hands together and beg for mercy.

Wilhelm wore a patchwork suit, the kind some of the older Hand magicians wore, held by spit and spool and spell. A green-black cape thrown over the top, fastened with a silver chain in a nod to an old tradition. Wilhelm had taken a Way to enter this sanctum, a spell he cast himself, just to prove that he could.

"I can't believe I'm talking to a Sower of Discord," the serpent-eyed woman said. "To one of the Madmen." Yet she was looking at Wilhelm with a measure of respect, with intrigue.

Madmen. Summer remembered when the name had been first explained to her. The Insurgency are called "mad" by inhabitants and visitors of the Wanderers' Library, because they harness, assault, and control unfathomably dangerous powers. They could break the world.

"Names given to us by others," Wilhelm said. "Names we do not embrace. What does "Mad men" even mean? It's a dismissive label, of something you're frightened of, that you don't understand. At best, an archaic insult, designed by those who treat others inhumanely, who confine them to prisons and asylums simply because their minds are different."

The serpent-eyed woman was subconsciously nodding a little. Summer hated watching how easily Wilhelm co-opted her ideology.

"We call ourselves the Chaos Insurgency," Wilhelm continued. "Because we rebel against the monstrous order represented by the Foundation. By the Jailors. As they are order, we must be chaos."

"The Librarians don't like you," the serpent-eyed woman said.

"The Librarians fear whatever they do not understand."

"You have harmed the Library." She didn't have any particular malice in her voice — the statement was more a question. Asking for an explanation. She was making this too easy for him, Summer thought.

Wilhelm bowed his head, a little. "Regrettable incidents, caused by rogue agents which we have disavowed." Wilhelm had overseen one incursion himself, Summer knew. "We have had to embrace chaos to defeat the Jailors. But you yourself know the risks inherent in working with chaos practitioners. Some will always use chaos in the wrong way." He spread his hands. "That is why we need people like you. To ensure we walk the right path."

"What can you offer our cause?"

"Global reach. Resources that you cannot even imagine. And knowledge. Knowledge key to destroying the Bookburners, and the Jailors, and all the other enemies of the Hand and the Library you protect."

The serpent-eyed woman still looked a little skeptical. Wilhelm lowered his voice, speaking conspiratorially.

"We also have knowledge to offer."

"What knowledge could you give me that I do not already have?"

"We know that you work with L.S…. that she chose you for your hatred of the Foundation, of the Jailors."

Suspicion. "That is truth."

"We also know that L.S. is the Black Queen."

That got a reaction. Surprise, then a threat in those narrowed serpentine eyes —

"We promise we have made no moves against her. Nor will we do so. But I know even more than you do. I once sat the Jailors' Council myself, before I saw the light, and I still have eyes and ears in the Jailors' highest sanctums. Do you wish to know the Queen's deepest secrets?"

The serpent-eyed woman hesitated. "I won't betray L.S."

"I'm not asking you to betray her. I'm asking you if you want to know."

A longer hesitation. Then: "Yes."

"The Queen is the daughter of one of the most influential Jailors. And the granddaughter of one of their Masters, the ones who sit on the Inner Circle that they call the O5 Council."

Even greater surprise. "This cannot be true."

"But it is. Cast your bones and see if I speak truth."

It was true, Summer knew. The man the Foundation called Dr. Gears was the Black Queen's father.

The serpent-eyed woman could sense the truth, too. "Even if it is true, what of it? We do not fault our leaders for secrets. We do not blame the children for the sins of their fathers."

"The Queen is strong. Yet her weakness is fatal. She will not kill her father. She cares for him, even though he abandoned her. In turn, she cannot truly strike a deathblow to his Foundation, to the other Jailors. This weakness leads to further weakness. Did you know that the Queen once took the Witch Child away from the Jailors… and then returned her to them?"

"Yes." The serpent-eyed woman looked reproachful. "She allowed the Witch Child to return because the Witch Child wished to do so. Even if she did not think it wise, or right. The Witch Child —"

"— is a child!" Wilhem's sudden passion was surprising to both Summer and the serpent-eyed woman, though Summer could immediately see the artifice behind it. "Would you have allowed a brainwashed child, who cannot yet think for herself, to return to the monstrous Jailors who do not even wish her to wake up? Would you have forced a child to make that choice? Even a child god? What happens if L.S. lets another brainwashed victim go back to the Jailors? And more, and more?"

The serpent-eyed woman didn't respond. But Summer could tell Wilhelm was breaking through.

"Alpha-9 and all the sapient anomalies held by the Jailors are our people," Wilhelm said. "They are our equals. We must liberate them. But to do that, we must first break the Foundation. Alpha-9 are loyal to the Foundation. L.S. may offer them a way out, but they will not take it. And she won't make them."

The serpent-eyed woman looked away. "What would you have us do?"

"We have not approached you because of your connection with the Queen." Another lie, obviously. "We approached you because we believe you wish to strike at the very heart of the Foundation, because you will strive for more, reach farther than the others in the Serpent's Hand, farther even than L.S. herself. The answer is chaos. The ultimate weapon to break the horrifying order of the Jailors, the Normalcy that they enforce. You call us Madmen? Perhaps it takes Madmen to breach the Jailors' ancient prisons." He paused for effect. "Perhaps it takes chaos."

He'd won, and Summer could see it. When they finally left, hours later, Wilhelm parted with the words: "Welcome to the Chaos Insurgency."

4. A Chaos Magician

The Chaos magician waited in her sanctum, a cavern deep under the earth, lit with a thousand torches. Her robes were so black that the light barely reflected from them, like a walking void.

For her, Wilhelm wore bloody red robes. Dyed in actual blood, of course. A Chaos magician could tell those things.

"I've heard of the so-called Chaos Insurgency." The Chaos magician waved her hand dramatically. "Puppets of the Foundation. Pretenders to the Throne of Eris!"

"And yet you see me with your own eyes," Wilhelm said. "Were I a pretender, could I have entered this hallowed sanctum?"

The Chaos magician grumbled. "Perhaps you are an extremely clever pretender."

Wilhelm smiled. "You know the importance of words, of names. We are the Agents of Chaos. Sowers of Discord. Madmen. Discord and madness and chaos are our domain. That is why we call ourselves the Chaos Insurgency. If we are pretenders, then none are real — not even you, one of the premiere Chaos magicians of our times."

The Chaos magician glared at the nearest wall of blood-red torches. "Words, words, words," she said. "You've given me so many words."

"Then perhaps we can show you something more," Wilhelm said. "What about the god-engine that corrupted the red right hand of the Masters of the Foundation?"

Summer shuddered. She had seen the god-engine with her own eyes, and the Engineers that spoke its words. They did not even know that they were not the first Insurgency, that they were latecomers, since enveloped and embraced by the original. That's how deep the Foundation's subterfuge had gone — and the Insurgency's after it.

The Chaos magician was interested. "The Chaos Engine? You have seen the Chaos Engine?"

"I have done more than see it," Wilhelm said. "I have spoken to it. We have taken it in. The Engine belongs to us. It is ours, now. Brought to us by the Foundation's Red Right Hand."

The Chaos magician's eyes glittered in the torchlight.

Wilhelm watched her, and smiled. "Would you like to see it?"

Summer knew that she would.

5. A Director of Alpha-9

"So you aren't planning to… vivisect any of the members of Alpha-9?"

"Of course not," Wilhelm said. "You've heard too many silly stories about the Insurgency. That's what happens when someone else is controlling your narrative."

The Alpha-9 director nodded. He was one of several directors assigned to Alpha-9 under Sophia Light. He'd been chafing under Foundation control.

For him, Wilhelm was dressed in an expensive suit that oozed both power and style. A suit sending a message: I have power, and I'm not bound by all the rules.

"That's good to hear," the director said. "I'm not trying to make them do anything they don't want to do. I just think… we're holding them back. We're holding everyone back. It's been… how long? Alpha-9 has barely even gone on any missions. I sympathize with the others, and I know they're not superheroes, but… come on. We're being too cautious. While the world moves on around us. You know?"

"You're exactly right," Wilhelm said. "The Foundation isn't doing enough. We can help you change that. Under the Insurgency, Alpha-9 will be truly special to behold."

The director nodded, still hesitant.

"Don't worry." Wilhelm patted the director's hand. "We'll do everything we can to keep things peaceful. We're just looking to influence. To redeem. Not to destroy. You'll be on the right side of Foundation history, in the end."

6. A Frustrated Assistant

Another Foundation researcher. Technically a research assistant, but he wouldn't like being called that. This one was a young man. Mediocre, but passionate, ambitious.

For him, Wilhelm wore another nice lab-coat. An ostentatious Insurgency insignia on the lapel, one of the newer, flashier symbols. The lab-coat was straight black, not the usual white. Brand-new. Obviously expensive. Lining in blood-red.

"You're right," Wilhelm said. "You've always been right."

The young researcher smirked, nervously. He'd been very talkative in the clandestine communications before this, taking place exclusively in quickly-deleted texts on secure smart devices, in hushed conversations in corridors, quick exchanges in dark rooms. Smoke and mirrors theater for the more dramatic turncoats.

Now, though, here in a vast lab bigger than the young researcher had ever gotten the clearance to work in, he was mostly quiet. He wanted to be taken seriously — and by god, Summer knew, Wilhelm was going to take him seriously. Or at least, put on a convincing show of it.

"First," Wilhelm said, "they ban you from cross-testing. They say you're reaching too high, that you're too ambitious for the Foundation, that you should try something smaller, or something more complex, or just something they're comfortable with. They question your research as having poor tone. Tone. A word that means anything they want it to mean."

The young researcher chuckled in recognition. "Yeah. It's bullshit. I worked hard on those papers. Took me hours, you know?"

"I know." Wilhelm nodded. "I know. And then they turn around and create all these Thaumiels, all these spectacular projects, and Mobile Task Force Alpha-9." Wilhelm shook his head. "All those grand experiments, the clever cross-tests that they shut down from you, and others like you. All the projects they rejected. But they can do whatever they want. As long as the right people like it."

The young researcher is vigorously nodding, forgetting that he was trying to look unruffled, impressive. "Exactly! They hate everyone who's not in the in-crowd. They won't listen to any our ideas. They have these ridiculous standards, and they won't let us have any fun! They won't let us do anything real." He stopped, suddenly, as if wondering if he'd said too much.

He looked at Summer. She looked back, impassive. She wasn't here to reassure him. Wilhelm would do that anyway. Let him belong. Like he so clearly wanted.

"Join the Insurgency," Wilhelm said, "and you'll have everything you want, and more. Any project you wish. All the resources you desire. And no foolish parameters, no pointless red-tape approval processes. We'll let you realize all your grandest dreams. And together, we'll create logic from illogic. We'll control chaos, not try to put it in a box. We'll control SCPs for the benefit of humanity. We'll harness the anomalous for the greater good. We'll save the Foundation from itself, from within."

He stuck out his hand. The young researcher shook it.

"You are now one of us," Wilhelm said. "Part of the insurgency against chaos. Welcome to the Chaos Insurgency."

7. A Son of General Bowe

The man sitting in the nicely furnished log cabin was one of General Bowe's many children.

For this one, Wilhelm wore a paramilitary uniform. Based off the Foundation's designs, but with the reversed insignia, with arrows pointing out instead of in.

"Your family is splintered," Wilhelm said.

"We have a unified purpose," Bowe's son said.

"You have a unified purpose, and yet, do not share unifying ideals."

Bowe's son shrugged. "We do have a unifying ideal. We support the interests of the United States of America. The Foundation has betrayed these ideals. They're no better than any rogue shadow government, now."

"I know," Wilhelm said. "That's why we fight them. You know the Foundation can no longer be redeemed. You know what's been happening at Site-19. The political drama. The dwindling influence of the remaining military leadership. You know about Mobile Task Force Alpha-9. You know what really happened with Omega-7. When Able came to Containment Area-25."

Bowe's son looked just startled enough that Summer noticed. So he hadn't known that the Insurgency knew that secret.

Wilhelm continued, without pause, without seeming to notice the surprise. "You know you can't trust anyone. We're not asking you to trust us, and we're not asking you to join us. Contrary to popular belief, the Chaos Insurgency doesn't… recruit." Delivered with an impossibly straight face. Summer couldn't see a muscle out of place. "We're merely asking you to help us. For our common goals. And when the dust is settled, there will be no more need for an Insurgency. The Foundation will be gone. The former Insurgents will retire to quiet lives, and you'll return to the service of the United States. A happy ending. Don't you think we all deserve one of those? After all this time?"

Bowe's son was quiet. He idly chipped designs into the hardwood surfaces of the table.

Wilhelm waited.

"We won't join you," Bowe's son said. "But we will work with you. For now. Some of us, at least. The others wouldn't understand.

Wilhelm nodded.

"We'll destroy the Foundation," Bowe's son said. "For the good of us all."

Wilhelm stood. "The Chaos Insurgency is in your debt, Mr. Bowe."

8. Dogwood

"They wish to destroy the Foundation," Wilhelm said. "You know this to be true."

They were in a spacious, moderately-air-conditioned gray van out in the Western US desert outside a non-Foundation military base. Their conversation was sealed away from all possible eyes and years.

The man sitting before them was called Dogwood. One of O5-8's Factotum. Unlike many of the O5's Factotum, he had an obvious gender, was obviously male. O5-8 was one of the newer O5s, but he and his Factotum shared a conservative streak. This included both a dislike of "gender nonsense", and a dislike of the anomalous quasi-supernatural methods meddled in by the rest of the O5 Council. (And the Chaos Insurgency, but of course, Wilhelm wasn't going to mention that, and Summer knew better.)

"You're the Chaos Insurgency," Dogwood said. "The Insurgency wants to save the Foundation?"

"We've always wanted to save the Foundation," Wilhelm said. "We aren't the madmen who left the Red Right Hand. We're the ones who took them in. We saved them. They, too, were victims of the faction within the Foundation that we both oppose."

"The ones who created Alpha-9."

"They are the real Insurgency. The real worm within the apple."

Wilhelm pushed a folder of papers towards Dogwood. Dogwood took them.

"More secrets?" Dogwood asked.

"They lied to you, you know. The older O5s. They lied to you, to your boss, to everyone."

"You'll have to be more specific. Which lies do you mean?"

"You know I was once Seven. You might not know that the Chaos Insurgency did not wish to leave the Foundation."

"I've seen the records of the coup —"

"Which coup? Do you mean the Insurrection? Do you mean that Slate Thunder nonsense?" Wilhelm shook his head. "I know you. I know you're one of the smartest men in the Foundation — no flattery intended. It's why you are where you are. Yet it's also why you have no real power. And it's also why I know you've already seen through some of these smoke and mirrors. You know something is wrong. You've always known."

Dogwood looked a little skeptical. "What is the truth, then?"

"We were made the villains," Wilhelm said. "Because they didn't want to listen to us. They forced us out. Claimed we left. Labeled us 'Chaos Insurgency'. Dumped anomalies on us that they couldn't handle — like the Staff of Hermes, the Bell of Entropy. Lied about it, to honest Foundation personnel like you, lied to the newer Council members. They made us the boogeyman. The monster under the bed."

Dogwood thought about this. "Why didn't you do more? Sooner?"

"We held back. Hoping they'd see the light. We limited ourselves to tests of character like SCP-884. Hoping they would prove themselves. Hoping they would return to the original Foundation philosophy. To stand in the dark, against the dark. To understand it, not to flirt with it. You understand what I mean."

"I believe I do," Dogwood said.

"You and I both know they aren't going to return to the right path. Not unless we force them to." Wilhelm paused. "It's time to take the Foundation back. Not just for people like us, people who were cast out. But for people like you, who they sideline. Who they try to censor for speaking the truth. Whose advice they won't take."

"What would you do?" Dogwood asked. "Not just philosophy. Action."

"We will make sure Alpha-9 is shut down permanently," Wilhelm said. "Whether destroyed, or decommissioned — one way or another. We will ensure that everyone involved is demoted, at minimum. We'll since the voices causing chaos in the Foundation community. We will make room for the sane voices of the Foundation. Voices like yours."

Dogwood leafed through the files Wilhelm had given to him. Summer found herself wondering why the pitch, at its core, sounded so similar to some of the other disgruntled Foundation veterans. She supposed that in any organization so massive, there would be lots of people who didn't feel their voice was being heard. Or who felt they should be in control, and weren't.

"I don't know if the others will listen to me," Dogwood said. "But I'll see what can be done."

9. The Inner Circle

Summer had heard the speech once, too, long ago. She liked to believe it was one more lie. But to this day, she was afraid it was the truth.

Back then, she'd been a Factotum. To the old O5-10, before the former Council member went rogue and The old Ten had ordered her to defect to the Insurgency. As Ten was the unofficial Archivist (she'd heard that had become official with the replacement Ten), Summer knew some secrets that not even all the Council knew. She was a plum 'get' by the Insurgency, and, equipped with just enough unique information that couldn't be faked by an ordinary infiltrator, she'd played her role of turncoat expertly. The Insurgency had welcomed her with open arms.

But then everything had happened with her family. The anomalies. And the old Ten went rogue — that whole incident with SCP-003 resulted in removal from the Council. Summer had been left twisting in the wind.

She was still in deep cover in the Insurgency. Then her family's lives were on the line. She would have said anything, done anything. She did say anything, do anything.

The Insurgency, technically, saved her family's lives.

Things had only gotten more complicated since.

Today, her wife and son, living comfortable and lonely in a Southern California suburb, were the Sword of Damocles hanging over her head, in case she decided to return to the Foundation, to follow through on her assigned betrayal of the Insurgency.

But back when she'd heard the speech, when she'd been welcomed to the Insurgency, none of this had happened, and she was still playing the bright-eyed, eager ingenue, ready to flex her power outside the confines of the Foundation.

For her, Wilhelm had worn a white suit. Old-fashioned, beautiful, but also practical, made for walking. They were outside, in a beautiful green park. The day was bright, sunny.

She had already met a few other Insurgency leaders, and they ran the gamut between ordinary and difficult to comprehend as human (were they human? had they ever been?). Things that called Wilhelm other names, strange names, some of which she couldn't hold in her mind. Words that weren't words. (And some of whom called Wilhelm "William".) Compared to them, Wilhelm's presence was almost comforting.

"What is the Insurgency?" Wilhelm asked her, rhetorically.

Summer thought he'd answer himself — the man loved to hear himself talk — but Wilhelm waited for her.

Of course she'd known what the Chaos Insurgency was. That everyone either thought they were a joke, or were terrified of them. She knew that the name came with and without a sense of irony. She knew there was something fundamentally different about them, or some of them at least — they are connected to the world in a different way from everyone else.

"The Insurgency defected from the Foundation," Summer responded. "And now we will work to take it down. Or take it back. Whichever we can. Right?"

"Yes," Wilhelm said. "And no." He paused. "What do you think of the name 'Chaos Insurgency'?"

She was surprised to hear that question. "What do you mean?"

"Exactly what I said. Answer in any way you like. I promise, I won't be offended."

She wondered how she should answer. Then decided, fuck it. The more real honesty she put into this, the more believable the whole act was.

"It's not my favorite," she said.

"Why is that?"

"Because it sounds a little silly," she admitted. "Like… from an 80's movie. Or a cartoon."

For a moment, she wondered if he would be offended after all, and if so, what that would mean — the Insurgency leaders didn't strike her as this kind of petty, but you could never quite tell with people like this —

Wilhelm just smiled. "'Chaos Insurgency' means to strike against the established order. This is accurate. But it is also a fiction."

"Why's that?" she asked.

"The Foundation would have you believe that to strike against order is a nihilistic act, done for its own sake, for mad, monstrous means. As you already know, this is false."

She nodded, watching his immaculate white shoes. She wondered if they ever got visibly dirty.

"You are not alone in disliking the name 'Chaos Insurgency'. It is a name that has benefited us in a number of ways — ways which would surprise you! — but some of the others refuse to use it, on the grounds that we are, in fact, largely not… what's the phrase? 'Saturday morning cartoons.'" He chuckled. "I've never watched much… television."

"So the name doesn't matter?" Summer asked.

"Sometimes a name is the most important thing of all," Wilhelm said. "You will find that all of us here embrace the name 'Insurgency'. And yes, we are what you said: defectors from the Foundation, turned worst enemy. But that is not all we are. We are the logical evolution of the Foundation."

"Tell me more." Summer had heard Insurgents say they were the true Foundation, but this was sounding a bit different.

"The Foundation live in fear," Wilhelm said. "They exist in a state of perpetual horror at the truth behind the world. The truth of anomalous."

"That's certainly true." The Foundation's default stance was always horror at anomalies. Sometimes merited, sometimes not. It made things simple. Clean. Black and white. Still, she'd take that over the kind of gray represented by the Insurgency.

Wilhelm continued. "We say: The truth must be embraced. If you find that everything you believed was a lie, then the right thing to do is to embrace what is true! If you think the truth is horrifying, then the problem isn't the truth, the problem is you. The way you want to see things. The lies you tell yourself."

This was definitely headier than what she'd heard from other Insurgency leaders, if less mind-breaking. "How do we show them what they're not seeing?"

"An excellent question. I've been considering that for a long time." Wilhelm paused, again. "The Foundation grieve for the world we thought we had. That much is understandable. We all know the stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. The Foundation has refused to reach 'acceptance' for all its vast life span."

Summer nodded.

"When I was O5-7, I was brilliant. Yet callow, selfish. I defected for the wrong reasons. I did not truly see the world the way it was. Not yet." Wilhelm looked at his hands. "I want to tell you something. Something I haven't even told all the others."

Wilhelm stopped walking. Summer looked at him. She felt chills down her arms in the light breeze. This could be very good, or very bad.

"The throne of heaven sits empty." Wilhelm looked at the sky. "While the Foundation plays God. Do you understand what I'm telling you? The Foundation should have taken up the responsibility. But they were too afraid to do their duty. Instead, they merely protect the status quo." A bitter chuckle. "Did you know, the Foundation once considered an anomalous method of controlling normalcy? The proposal narrowly failed, and the remnants repurposed as a decoy 001."

Summer had heard about that proposal. She hadn't realized there had been any truth to it.

"They should have done it. If they had done it, I would still be an O5, and you and I would not be having this conversation. They always stop too short."

Summer remembered something she'd been told, not long ago: The Insurgency is what happened when the Foundation grew proud.

"Therefore it falls to us. Or all will end horribly, once the Foundation's containment all fails. Once the end of the world is marching on our doorstep. I've said this before. Heaven is empty, and all the angels are here."

"What do you mean?" Summer asked.

"We must determine the course of the future," Wilhelm said. "We must sit the throne of heaven." He shook his head. "Listen. You will hear us tell many others many different stories about what the Insurgency. Sometimes, we will even lie. But there will be a truth in every lie. Do you know what that truth is?"

She didn't.

Wilhelm said, "The Insurgency is everything to everyone because, one day soon, we will have to be everything to everyone."

"How so?" Of everything she'd heard about the Insurgency, this was different.

Wilhelm looked at her for what seemed like an eternity. Then, he said, very seriously — "We're going to save the world. I mean this, genuinely."

Looking back, Summer wondered if he'd known, even then. If he was trying to convince her.

If he was still trying.

"This is why I asked you about our name," Wilhelm said. "Our name is deliberate. Their name is deliberate, too — 'the Foundation.' They support the established order, they support the way things are. We support the future. The Foundation is fearful. We are not. We are an insurgency against the established order. We bring chaos to the established order. For change, there must be chaos. And after that, when the change is done, we will no longer be the Chaos Insurgency. We will take a new name."

"What name?" Summer asked.

He smiled.

"The others might think it a little gauche," Wilhelm said. "But I've always been partial to 'God'."

Summer felt cold.