Class D Recruitment
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They asked for my ID at the checkpoint. Fake, of course, but the duty boy didn't look at the details, phoning his senior officer as soon as he saw the last name. The boss must have been waiting for me all day, picking up the phone at a moment's notice. The duty boy told him that I'm here and he was flooded with orders.

The chief of this admirable jail isn't too keen to talk to Foundation agents in person, but he's really fast to perform the required tasks. I've been here four times, never had to wait for anything, the guards mind their manners, the inmates are cooperative. Some pleasant working conditions.

Duty boy kept nodding and saying "yes" as the orders were neatly piled upon him. He hung up and suggested I take a seat and wait for my escort. I followed his advice, and put my briefcase on my knees. Eyeing the surroundings lazily, I started humming a song that had stuck on me since morning - some new hit they aired on the radio, though I couldn't remember the name or the artist. Duty boy took a glance at me.

The escort arrived soon after - an obese bloke with a wide smile, a real happy hippo. Really glad to see me, as if I was his grandma. I got up, feeling the infectious smile spread on my face as well.

"Alexey Yarin?", he asked with a dumb-looking nod. "We've been waiting for you since this morning. No trouble getting here?"

"Just fine, thank you. How's Millet doing?"

"Just littered down. Need any pups? Just kidding, I know you're eager to start. Follow me."

We strode down the bleak corridors. The escort kept flailing his arms while walking, and his gait had such a kick to it, I kept waiting for his shoes to come off. I've never turned down the pleasure of talking to this lad a bit. Like that phrase about his dog with a stupid name "Millet". Funny thing is, I do remember its name, but not the name of the owner.

"I wonder, are you a music fan?", I asked.

"Why'd you ask?", he said, looking over his shoulder without slowing down.

"Heard one this morning, liked it a lot, but didn't remember the name."

"Try humming the tune."

"Goes like this: de-de-de-dum-dedum-dedum-dedum-dum-de-de…"

"No, that's not up my alley, I rarely ever listen to music. Rather, tell me something, will they really be taking Borisov away?"

"If he agrees to it"

"Very well. Feel free to call me, I'll help with persuasion. OK, here we are."

The interrogation room is very simple and cramped, lit by the dim sunlight.

"We've cleaned it up before you came around."

"Thank you, you really shouldn't have."

I entered the room and warily looked at every corner. All I need is a table and a couple of chairs, nothing else. Although, they think I'm some big cheese so keeping up appearances is a must.

"Good", I said condescendingly, taking a seat. The chair's iron legs gave a demonic screech as I pulled it out. "Are the inmates ready?"

"Oh, are they. Everyone's itching."

No doubt. Some of them are entertaining a naive thought that I'll be releasing them.

"Bring them in, one by one, exactly as the list goes."

I'm not an evil ogre that plucks people from the line and swallows them whole. I'm just given a list, I forward it to the prison director and go talk to the inmates. I'm not taking them prisoner, I get them to agree… It's just that I'm allowed to be persistent.

First one is a pale youth. Flap-eared, lanky and aggressive. The boy was about to be transferred elsewhere, so we lucked out catching him here. They seated him over against me and left us alone. I took my time, languidly placed the agreements folder to the right of me, and the empty (for now) folder for signed papers to the left, placed the voice recorder at the corner of the table and turned it on.

A happy smile appeared on my face.

"Good day, Maxim. How do you feel?"

"Fuck you", he said through his teeth.

"Now, aren't you a menace."

"I'll fucking throttle you, dickwad. Do you think these lil' bracelets will stop me?"

To demonstrate that he's serious, the inmate placed his skinny hands on the table, refraining from the "throttling" bit for now.

"Now that we've found common grounds, I'd like to make you an appealing offer."

"Wouldn't you like to go…"

"It's not your fault you ended up here, it's all caused by your disease. Here's an agreement", I said, placing the document and a pen in front of the villain, "for taking part in testing experimental medicine. These could cure you."

Having heard the last phrase, the inmate started pondering. He leered at the paper and started moving his lips without making a sound.

"So, what do you think?"

"So my memory won't be so finicky anymore?"

"You have Korsakoff syndrome, that's not just your memory 'being finicky'. But, by and large, yes, they'll heal you completely.

"Testing new medicine?", the poor fellow can't make up his mind.

"Yes, and they will release you in a month. This medicine is very important, they'll cut your sentence down if you take part in the experiments."

"So I'll see my mom in a month?"


The inmate gave an exalted sigh. A second after he picked up the pen and pulled the agreement towards himself.

"Right here, and same place on the other page. That is all, they'll come for you this evening."

They all are innocent. Every inmate with a life sentence is blameless - 'circumstances' are the ones to blame. Debts, poverty, alcohol, disease. Those are the true criminals. Which is why inmates will go to great lengths to return their freedom and get rid of the 'circumstances'. They even agree to experiments.

Truth be told, that guy will be testing meds… not the cure for amnesia though. And in a month.. he won't be going back to his mom because she's dead. And he's forgotten that.

Saves us the amnestics.

The next subject is a tall and lean athlete, tattooed head to toe like a freaking yakuza. Although his body is not adorned with dragons and sakuras, but with Celtic crosses, swastikas, barbed wire, and eagles, reminding of Nazism and showing the inmate's true colors.

He's also struggling not to spit in yours truly's face.

"Stanislav Berlogin, pleased to meet you."

"Is that so? And who're you gonna be?"

"Call me Alexey. I'm from the Vesnov Penal Colony. We offer you a transfer."

"The fuck you would?"

An everyday vulgarity, but annoying nonetheless.

"The state is rolling out an inmate re-socialization project in our colony. You were listed as a candidate for a training course to get you rid of ethnic intolerance."

"I'm not ethnically intolerant. I'm laying the murder on those bastards not for where they came from, but for what they allow themselves to do in my country!"

"Your education is impressive, not everyone knows what 'ethnic intolerance' stands for. Still, you see, you're here because of that specifically. Your attitude towards ethnic minorities has led you to a sentence."

"I'm gonna say that again", the Nazi leaned forward, "I only reined in the foreigners the police can't be arsed about!"

"Was that the reason why you and your accomplices burned down a bus carrying foreign exchange students with Molotov cocktails?"

"They came here to take our jobs."

"They're foreign exchange, they will study here and work at home."

"Could be, but they take state-funded places our boys could be having."

"Their state is paying for their tuition, not ours."

The Nazi sympathizer shut up, keeping a cocky and self-assured face. Time to weave my tangled web now that he's off-balance. I gave him a copy.

"While you are reading the agreement, I'd like to describe the conditions. Three square meals, shower, gym, computer room, daily therapy sessions, manual labor down to a minimum. If the therapy is deemed successful, your sentence may be changed to 15 years instead of a lifetime. And you'll be settled in a block with those like yourself."

That piqued our Nazi’s interest. He pulled the agreement closer to him.

"So, no kikes at all?"

"Not a single Jew, except for me, of course."

"A-hah, you're a funny one. Okay, where do I sign?"

Being a Class D in the Foundation is not a part of one's punishment. We are not picking those who are guiltier than the rest, not at all. Our filters work like this: First we get death row inmates (a rare commodity in our country), then we get to those who aren't likely to get anything but life sentence. And out of these we pick inmates with no next of kin, who aren't likely to be noticed if they go missing. People from orphanages are the best candidates. Like that Nazi here.

Next one pushed inside was a rowdy stout type with a massive forehead. Wish I had a forehead like this, I'd hammer nails down with it. They almost had to force the short inmate to sit down, but, having been seated on the chair, he immediately calmed down. I especially like that sort of people.

"Good day. Alexander Borisov, my name is Alexei. First off I'd like to warn you - this interview never happened officially."

"Who are you?", he croaked.

"Can't tell you at the moment. I'd rather you answer my question. Weren't you imprisoned for an arson attack on a tenement house?"

"Yes, but I didn't-"

"How many people have died?"

"Thirty-one, but not all of them were-"

"How many of those were aliens?", I asked without batting an eye.

The short guy was looking wary now. No one has talked to him like that. Someone burning down a house as part of his fight against alien invasion and getting imprisoned into a simple jail instead of a mental asylum, - this has a simple explanation. The shrinks thought he was faking it. No one believed him, he was deemed sane by three doctors. And another one after he appealed against the judgement.

And now he's looking at someone who believes him.

"Are you kidding me?"

"You think that I came to a jail and managed to get an interview with you just to kid you? No, not at all, I'm here to give you a collaboration offer - here's the agreement."

The resistance fighter browsed through a few lines and fixed his grim eyes on me. Lord, is he ugly.

"I understand, you are not willing to take my word on it", I said, putting my hand into an inside pocket of my jacket. "But my sincerity can be proven. Here, familiarize yourself."

I fetched out a bunch of photos and tossed them on the table in front of him. He knit his brows even more, but then… he started looking and with every picture his brows went higher and higher. Soon he was seething with rage, the phrase "I told you so!" stuck in his throat.

"Like these?" - I said, leaning over the table. "See this one? All scaly, triangular head. And this one, look, wove itself a nest from its silk. It's not silk, actually, that's just what we call it."

The madman was almost mine now, but he was again overcome with doubt. He looked at me sternly, demanding further proof.

"Not a fake?" - he asked, poking the photos.

"Sure isn't. if that wasn't enough to convince you, here's one more thing."

Out of a special pocket I pulled a coin with a hole in it. A long string went through the hole. As soon as I opened my palm, the coin fell. On the ceiling. The inmate gave a jump, almost falling out of his chair. With his mouth agape, he watched me pull the coin back to myself by the string.

"So, cells for 2 people, the contract is for a month. After that you decide if you want to do more. Also-"

"Tell me the rest on the way there. Where do I sign?"

It is our responsibility to scrutinize the candidates through and through, we must be prepared for the meeting. Everything matters, from the crime committed to grades in school, from mental to dental health. Candidate interviews are meticulously directed stage plays, rehearsed for weeks on end.

We must delve deep into psychology, must be familiar with arrest reports, court transcripts, and the inmate's behavior in jail. Hell of a job… all for a wee couple of signatures.

Getting prepared for my next client took quite a while, but after we met I just started looking at his mug. For a good couple of minutes, I'm just sitting there, chin propped on fist, looking at the visage of a 6'6" brute.

Said visage is remarkable, lacking the left eye, with a scar instead of it looking like it was sutured on a sewing machine. Granted, he wasn't a glamour model before that too.

"A knife did that, am I right?"

"Yep, an upwards stab."

"How the fuck did you survive?"

"Was a kitchen knife", shrugged the beefcake.

"Doesn't matter, it went right into your eye!"

"Just a nick", he said, shrugging again.

"Wife did that to you?"

"That is right. We had a disagreement over the legitimacy of her infidelities. So, she went nuts."

"And you killed her?"

"Just wanted to sock her one, and she dropped dead after the first hit. I was smart enough to call her parents, so they were beating down my door in half an hour. I merely resorted to self-defense."

"And killed seven more?"

The brute spread his hands.

"What could I do? Even her cousins were there."

"I'll call you Travolta", said I, fetching the necessary agreement from my folder.


"You remind me of 'Face\Off'."

"Good flick", he nodded.

"This here's a government job offer. A month of work and you're free to go. Take a look and give your autograph."

The brute quickly browsed through the document and raised the pen. Instead of signing, he went with a question.

"Can I smoke there?"

"No, you'll be given a nicotine patch."

"A shame", he said, signing the agreement.

We are restricted to one language - the one the inmate wants. And everyone wants different things. Still, out of the multitude of languages we must unerringly pick one: proper tone, proper words, proper gestures…

We work methodically. As we enter the room, we know every step we take. Recon is crucial. External affairs, to their credit, supplies us with everything we need. In exchange for that they only require that we don't forge the signatures.

They brought in a timid mess of a wimpy lad. As soon as he sat down I tossed him a pen and a paper, saying:

"Sign this."

"What is it?"

"You a fucking idiot or what? What part of 'sign this' don't you understand, bitch?"

The wimp grabbed the pen and the agreement. He must have been shaking as much as when his sentence was proclaimed.

"The fuck are you reading there! Sign it and get the fuck back to your bunk!"

I got my signatures.


Yes, we're trained in that too. Not recommended to use, works on one person in twenty, at most. Saves a lot of time, though. Who knows, maybe I'll wrap up early today.

Next one spoke first, for a change.

"Are you from the agencies?"

"No, Victor, I'm not from any secret agency."

"It's just that it's a pretty nice suit you got there."

"Compared to what you used to wear before the jail, this is rags."

"Did you read my case?"

"Looked at your social network profile."

Victor Rogov affixes me with a piercing glare. Arms crossed on his chest, an all-knowing narcissistic smile on his face.

"Now, who are those dapper people not from secret agencies that need me?"

"Science", I said, getting out another agreement. "We offer you to participate in testing a new non-lethal weapon. Active collaboration might get your sentence commuted, best case being ten years."

Better not to mention actual terms around this shifty fellow. He's too suspicious to believe in life sentence being shortened to a month.

Victor took the paper from my hand but didn't even look at it.

"Not so non-lethal if you need convicts for that."

"How do I say it. There is a risk. It's like test pilots. They take risks too, but no one wants them to die."

"What sort of weapon?" he asked with a disinterested look.

"Foam. They incapacitate you, scratch the foam off and send you to the showers. You'll be bathing several times a day. You're a bit of a clean freak, aren't you?"

"Looks suspicious."

"See for yourself", I said, opening the folder with unsigned agreements. "There's only two more papers in here, you have the third. And those are signed - as you can see, there are five of them. And I'm sitting here since 2PM."

The alternative I'm offering looks more and more promising. Victor starts pondering it instead of turning his nose up like a princess.

"I'd like to go through the details", he said, poring over the agreement.

By all means, please do. All the more so the document doesn't contradict my words in the slightest. None of the signed ones do, either. Every agreement is custom-made, tailored around a specific cover story. And all of them (a round of applause to the legal department) are composed so that you can't raise any claims. This guy has monthly rotation mentioned there too.

I'm not afraid of any reveals and unmaskings, they may read all they want. But man, do they go for a long time.

I don't know the details but they say that every candidate is already assigned to a specific object. They even say they're even assigned to specific experiments. I don't believe that. But I do know that Doctors do make overly specific requests. It should not concern me, but a colleague told me once: there were requests for blind people, people with Alien Hand Syndrome, chemically castrated people, ambidextrous people… And consider this, the world's fate depends on whether I can fulfill their requests.

Of course, not me personally. There are many of us, I'm not even the best in this business. Actually, we don't keep tabs, so I don't know who's the best. Might even be me, one can never tell.

When they brought the next one in, I was pacing to and fro next to the window. The young fop (a bit worse for wear after encountering daily prison life) was seated down, and he stared at me blankly. Never minding the jail personnel who haven't left yet, I started talking into the phone.

"Yes, Pyotr Romanovich, they just brought him. Doesn't look like he was beaten. Looks alive. No, unfortunately you can't talk to him directly. I… Pyotr Romanovich, I understand, but now… Pyotr Romanovich, now is not the time, we're already taking too much risk. Yes, the plan is unchanged. Yes, right, we'll send him out this evening. Not sure about that, Dmitry Stepanovich hasn't called back yet. No, but he did say he'll do everything, and he never failed us before. Yes, OK, talk to you later.

I hung up (without actually calling anyone) and offered Pyotr Romanovich's offspring the agreement.

"So lookie here. You sign these papers and we'll transfer you to another jail. Conditions are better than here anyways, and you'll share the cell with your father. Yes, that was him on the phone. He's done us a big favor back then, so we'll be getting you out now. It will take some time, though, can't fix the deal in less than a month, but we're working.

"Got it", said the rich brat without asking for details. "Do I sign here?"

"Yeah, put your John Hancock right over here. The other page, too. Excellent. This evening you'll be going to your father, and after that… well, we'll press on.

"Thanks", said the young criminal and hurried to the exit.

He might even get to meet his father, who's been working for the Foundation for two weeks now.

As a matter of fact, I resorted to outright lying. That is, I was obscure earlier, but not a word of truth was spoken now. Very few cases justify that. Like this one, for instance.

The criminal family might have gotten out free. They have veritable contacts with a police major, people from the regional administration, a couple of mob bosses… and the Serpent's Hand.

Last one today is a real treat. The one brought to me was not a brutish murderer, not a maniac, not a bomber, not even an illegal downloader. This is a mediocre-looking man, a bit on the heavy side, who looks like he was beaten. Lumps and bruises sporting every color of the rainbow. We had a long fight with the government over this one.

The bastard sold State secret information to terrorists. Investigation confirmed that fifty-three documents were sold, but there may have been more.

He should have gotten the firing squad, but the case went public. Human right activists crept up from every corner of Russia and beyond. These are OK with protecting any sort of bastards. The pressure was so high, the scum came off with a life sentence. Damn these fucking pushovers.

Three years of work were put into him. Once they beat every piece of information out of him, he was thrown here. Now he's beaten by his cellmates. A lot of patriots among this bunch, too.

After we were left alone, I got up, walked to him and put the agreement in front of him. Slowly, languidly, haughtily. Placed a pen next to it. And finally, started talking.

"Five officers were stabbed to death with their families. One of the officers was a good friend of mine. The group you sold the info too committed three terrorist attacks. Assaulted a military base, stole weapons. And these are only the episodes obviously connected to the info you leaked. That's… a lot of blood on your hands, First Lieutenant."

I jabbed my finger at the dotted line.

"Now you take the pen and put your signature", I said in a quiet, but intimidating tone.

"I won't sign your papers."

"Listen, do you think you've gotten through the grit of Russian torture? Think you already had the worst? Look here."

I rolled up my trouser leg with a pistol underneath it. That impressed him.

"I walked into a jail with a weapon and no one bothered to search me. Can you even imagine what kind of person I am? I'll do things to you and no one will come here as you scream. Take the fucking pen, or I'll put an X there and walk away with a reprimand, worst case."

"You may want to turn off the recorder".

I shattered the device against the wall. The smart guy lost every bit of self-confidence and put his hands over his head.

"Just sign it, cunt, don't make me angry!"

The bastard started having second thoughts and took the pen. As soon as I made sure the signatures are where they should be, I calmed down and started packing my things.

"Most excellent", I said while putting the folder into the briefcase. "I hope you get Keter duty."

"What Keter?" he said, passing me the signed agreement.

"That will be explained to you on site."

"No, you got me wrong. What Keter will I be sent to? The one that desiccates water with a look? Or will you throw me to the living geyser?"

It was like an electric shock, my eyes widening, jaw slowly dropping. I turned to face the smug-looking bastard. It felt like we changed places.

"What were those documents you sold them, fucker?! Who were those terrorists?!"

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