What is truth? How does one know that one’s experience relates in any way to the experience of another? Do the sensory organs present a satisfactory version of reality, or is reality a conceptual construct that can only be incompletely reflected or drawn by analogy to lesser beings? Are we the only beings whose experience defines what is true? And when we the observers are gone, does anything remain? These questions lie in the purview of philosophers, drunk seventh-year college undergraduates, and, of course, the Verification Department of Aldraxii University.
The Department can be abbreviated VD, which stands for, depending on whom you ask, “Venereal Disease” or “Vague Dialectic.” Not everyone is impressed by the Department’s questioning style.
Aldraxxi University, which lies outside the Quaternary Membrane of the Bottlenose Nebula, had a renowned collection of cultural artifacts even before it began investigations into the Nebula proper. The Verification Department’s original mission was to verify the age and origin of items in the artifact collection.
Within decades it also became responsible for verifying financial transactions on behalf of the university.
A university department is only as good as its staff, and the Verification Department only takes the best. A nominee must look into a Hypercausality flicker and recover powers of logic and speech within a strict eighteen-hour timer before being considered.
When the Department is forced to consider someone outside their vision of an investigator, they ask said someone to posit a contradiction to the Theory of Physical Undecidability, which was first expressed in its modern form by Department dean Uwo Vashleth. Vashleth had hoped to prove its opposite – that is, that all things can be tested or verified given the correct conditions – but neither he nor the less favored faculty applicants ever succeeded.
When traveling, Department figures prefer to use an E-737 Spike upon departure and arrival, and a randomly generated appearance in transit. This makes it notoriously difficult to determine when a given sighting is truly from the Department. A hefty bounty exists for the seed used by this random process.
The Department’s chief weapon is, of course, the insatiable curiosity of its staff. The most adamant critic may not be converted, as such, but may be distracted into hours of circular questioning while additional staff may or may not sneak around to attain some goal. Talking can’t beat guns, but it can frequently prevent them coming out.
By design, the Verification Department does not maintain possessions of its own, apart from the captive singularity that provides Hypercausality Flickers. Nevertheless, politics and madness – two ailments the Department is theoretically above – lead to the occasional use of the Flicker and other University tools to interfere in galactic affairs. The M-Ph theory became a pet project of a cabal of staff who were infamous for possibly but possibly not intercepting a shipment of related Scarlax artifacts that could prove dramatic things if found to be true.
If this did or did not happen, evidently someone didn’t want to risk it. When priceless M-Ph artifacts started appearing at auction and in bequests to the University, the staff did or did not volunteer an opinion on their origin. Journalist Hira Javan of the Watchers Council famously spent four hours questioning a Department higher-up about the Scarlax pieces only to end up convinced that rabbits and her left hand were fictional.
As a rule, members of the Verification Department oversee strictly bounded Protoinfomorphs for the bookkeeping, archaeology interns for the day-to-day matters, and their own egos for the daily arguments as to whether physically existing in certain places at certain times is really necessary. (As a rule, if the location of a question’s evidence looks fun, immediate empiricism becomes the only possible means of understanding.)
Getting Department staff to talk about the true details of those protoinfomorphs, or the hiring process for their interns, or much of anything about the Department’s operation, is an exercise in futility. It is possible that there’s no central secret and the staff just enjoys trolling. We may never know, and that’s how the Verification Department likes it.