Ana Hums
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Dr. Adileh Khayyam entered the Site-43 cafeteria with analytical eyes, scanning from table to table with a slight frown until they settled upon a pale, tired-looking woman with short, black hair. The woman poured over several notes over a mug of coffee, pausing to look up at Dr. Khayyam, then immediately looked down. Dr. Khayyam chuckled to herself and quietly went to make herself a mug of coffee. She could feel the woman watching her the whole time, but when Dr. Khayyam turned back around, once again, the woman pretended to look over her papers. Dr. Khayyam quietly carried the mug over, and took a seat.

"Good afternoon, Researcher Mabel," Dr. Khayyam said softly. "Do you mind if I join you?"

"You can call me Carolyn," the woman replied with a sigh, "and no, feel free."

Dr. Khayyam nodded, and took a long sip of her coffee. Researcher Mabel continued to avoid her gaze.

"I didn't see you at the seminar today," Dr. Khayyam continued. "Heard from a little bird you were planning on dropping the Anomalous Humanoids Certification entirely. Is this true?"

Researcher Mabel sighed.

"That's the last time I tell Ian anything…" she mumbled and finally locked eyes with her senior. "Yes. It’s true."

Dr. Khayyam took another sip from her coffee before setting the mug down.

"Why though, exactly?" she asked. "If you don't mind sharing."

"Because, to be frank, Dr. Khayyam, if I've learned anything from your seminars these past three weeks, it’s that Ana Hums positions burn people out fast," Researcher Mabel explained. She then clenched her fists in emphasis. "It's… soul crushing. And honestly, I don't think I'm cut out for it. I do appreciate your recommendation, but you have the wrong person."

Dr. Khayyam smiled as she listened, eventually chuckling softly again. Researcher Mabel tilted her head.

"You find that funny?" she asked.

"A little, yeah," Dr. Khayyam replied. "It’s just… I remember thinking that exact thing when I was in your shoes, way back when…"


"Congratulations!" Dr. Freedmen said with an ear to ear grin. "Heard you all just got certified. Welcome to Ana Hums!"

A young Adileh Khayyam gave a small smile in return as well as a half-hearted nod.

"Still feel like I'm making a huge mistake," Adileh replied, looking again at the Anomalous Humanoid Specialist Certificate she loosely held in her grip. "Let’s give it a shot though."

Dr. Freedman waved away her concerns with a roll of his hand.

"Dr. Khayyam," he replied with a confident laugh, "I've been in Anomalous Humanoids at Site-43 for 30 years now. I've seen a lot of talented people get that little gold star you have in your hands, and I can promise you that all of them, regardless of how successful they eventually became, felt the same way you do now! Trust me, Adileh. You're going to do fine."

Adileh nodded and looked down at the certificate again, concentrating on the print.

"I've got this…" she reassured herself.

"Do you know what team you're going to be assigned to first?" Dr. Freedmen's voice broke her concentration.

"Oh, uh, 2370..." Adileh replied. She then gave a small chuckle. "Here's hoping the assignment doesn't suck the life out of me"

"Au contraire," Dr. Freedmen replied with an ear to ear grin shrinking to a small melancholy smile, "You'll find that it’s just as likely that we'll suck the life out of them."


"I guess I just don't know how you do it then," Researcher Mabel went on. "You told us the horror stories yourself. When Ana Hums work gets bad, it gets really bad. They aren't abstract ideas or world sized eldritch horrors that destroy worlds by accident the way a human unknowingly crushes an ant. These are people. They look like you and me. They know how people work and how to get under your skin. Worse, they can do things like exsanguination with a touch, or turn people into marble. Real monsters. How do you do it?"

"Practicing jazz piano mostly," Dr. Khayyam said with a smile. "In all seriousness, you are right and there is no escaping that. We see really twisted and evil souls in Anomalous Humanoids, but there is a reason why we are there. We're the ones who analyze. We get inside their heads, and consult the Containment Specialists on how to best contain them. What kind of tricks they might try. Sure, we have to go into the lion’s den on occasion, but in the end we are rewarded by helping make a better cage to keep them in. In the end, that's a big part of the drive."

"And the horror doesn't stick with you?!?"

"I mean, it does. Like I said before, there is no escaping that…"


Adileh sat in the interview room in silence, organizing several papers in front of her as she gathered her thoughts. Across from her was a slender, tan man dressed in the typical anomalous humanoid jumpsuit. Upon his face were several bruises and scrapes where security personnel had beaten him.

"I guess I just don't know what to do at this point, Terry," Adileh sighed. "Why do you feel the need to use your abilities in this way? Grind down others into raw nerves until they lash out at you."

Terry looked at her stoically, without a word. His eyes occasionally scanned her up and down.

"Your emphatic abilities could bring so much healing to others, if you wanted them too, but instead you seek to hurt others. What do you gain from it? Help me understand, Terry."

"There is nothing to understand," Terry finally replied in a soft voice. "People go entire lifetimes without saying what weighs on their minds, without embracing their emotions, and unfortunately those thoughts swarm to me from miles around. I just repeat them to finally set them free. No malice. Just clearing the clutter that's getting dumped on me."

"And the best time to do that is when it will hurt the people around you?" Adileh asked, jotting down some notes, then looking back up at Terry with a quizzical expression.

He sighed and rolled his eyes.

"Perhaps instead of picking my brain you should get the mess that is yours sorted out," he returned. "They don't like you, by the way. That really is weighing you down."

"No," Adileh said sharply. "We're not doing that Terry. I won't let you try to get under my skin, especially since for all I know you could be lying."

"Maybe," Terry gave a sheepish grin. "But you'll never be sure, won't you?"

Adileh sighed and made her way to the door.

"I really am trying to help you, Terry," she said. "I do hope someday you'll realize that."


"The other side of the spectrum is even worse though," Researcher Mabel commented, looking into her now empty mug. "Innocent people, sometimes children locked away like cattle, and Ana Hums is on the front lines to watch them wither away and despair. It’s easy to justify locking away a monster, but a toddler?"

Dr. Khayyam nodded in agreement.

"It's not a part of the job I particularly enjoy, but if that toddler melts the flesh off people on contact…"

She faded out, gesturing her hand in a circle.

"But on the other side, we're the ones who provide the little bits of hope. Suggestions on what can be done to keep our subjects, while not necessarily content, still feeling like someone sees them as a person. It’s far from ideal, but between us and the Ethics Committee, we help keep the Foundation from shifting from cold to cruel."


"Any luck, Dr. Adileh?" a little Asian girl asked. She sat on the cot in her containment cell, her jumpsuit at least two sizes too big for her. She looked around the room aimlessly as she waited for a reply.

"I'm afraid not," Adileh's voice came from over the intercom.

The little girl nodded in silence, her eyes falling down on the floor.

"I guess… I hoped…"

"Now now," Adileh's voice interrupted. "I didn't say there wasn't something I could do. Check your chute."

The little girl blinked and nodded, heading over to the small door on the nearby wall where her meals were usually delivered. She opened the sliding door carefully, inside she found a handheld game console.

"You said you used to have one of those at home, right?" Adileh asked.

The little girl nodded, taking it back to her bed and flipping it on. The title screen soon appeared.

Nintendogs

"Not the same thing as a real puppy, but it’s as close as I can offer, sweetie," Adileh said.

The girl smiled.

"Thank you, Dr. Adileh," she said. "Thank you, thank you, thank you!"

The cell then filled with the sounds of barks as she dove into the game.

In a nearby observation room, Adileh turned off the intercom and smiled at the little girl on the monitor.

"You're welcome," she said to herself.


"How do you not get dragged down then?" Researcher Mabel shook her head. "I just don't see how you can be so cavalier about this position. What keeps you on the surface? Besides the 'Locking up the Monsters' and 'Being Santa Claus' shtick. What is it?"

Dr. Khayyam finished her mug of coffee and shrugged.

"I'm going to let you in on a little secret here, Carolyn," she said. "No one in the Foundation, not the Researchers, not the MTF agents, not the O5 or even the custodians, stays above the surface all the time. Sometimes you will see something that will cover your legs in concrete and pull you into some pretty dark places. The thing about Ana Hums, though, is that when your subjects learn that they can trust you and that you are a friend, they start to depend on you. So, you'll pull yourself back up to the surface, if not for yourself, then for them."

"That sounds like it can backfire…"

"Heh," Dr. Khayyam chuckled and nodded. "Sometimes it does, most of the time though, it doesn't. It’s hard to explain…"


The Site-43 alarm klaxons filled the halls as Adileh crouched behind her desk, a pistol held tightly in her hand as she waited for the breach to end, or security personnel to find her and remove her to a secured sector.

"Come on, come on…" she said under her breath as she watched the door. "Where are you guys…"

She stifled her breathing as she noticed the handle move and the door slowly open. A lanky teenage boy with dark skin entered, dressed in a typical anomalous humanoid jumpsuit.

"Doc?" he asked as he entered. "You in here?"

"Evan?" Adileh asked, getting up from her hiding spot, her pistol aimed at the young man, "What… how did you get here?"

"Wow, I didn't know you packed…" he said, and closed the door behind him. He then placed his hands over his head and sat down on the floor. "If I sit here until security finds us, will you not shoot me?"

Adileh lowered the gun.

"Evan," she said sternly. "How did you get here. I do need to know."

"Power got knocked out to my cell door. A bunch of us were able to get out. I figured you might be in danger and so I found my way here."

"That’s… sweet?" Adileh raised an eyebrow questioningly. "And the others?"

"A few stayed in their cells. The rest made a break for it."

"You didn't join them?"

He shrugged.

"I thought about it, but as much as I hate it here, I imagine I would hate getting shot more. Besides, I have literally no idea where we are, so what's the good in escaping if you're on the moon, or beneath the ocean."

"Smart."

"My parents didn't raise a fool," Evan grinned. "Also, you've always been so kind to me. If something happened to you during this, and I was just sitting in my cell twiddling my thumbs I don't know what I'd do."

"My hero," Adileh said with small smile. "I appreciate the thought, Evan. Thank you."

"What are friends for?"


"Listen, in the end, you're going to need to do what's best for you," Dr. Khayyam sighed, getting up to bus her dirty mug. "If you don't think Ana Hums is where you need to be, I'll gladly give you any recommendations you need so you can get there. But I truly do think you'd miss your calling, Carolyn."

"Why is that?" Researcher Mabel frowned.

"You've got everything we look for in our specialists. Attentiveness, compassion, empathy, and you remind me a bit of myself when I was in your shoes."

Researcher Mabel looked down at the table, the gears of her mind rapidly turning in thought.

"It just feels like I might be making a huge mistake…"

Dr. Khayyam smiled.

"Carolyn," she said. "I've been in Anomalous Humanoids at Site-43 for 15 years now. I can promise you that all of us started out feeling the same way."

Dr. Khayyam watched as Researcher Mabel looked down in doubt once more, then look up and nod, a small smile on her face.

"Trust me," Dr. Khayyam patted her on the shoulder. "If you take this path, you're going to do fine. See you at the next seminar."

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