Apologies and Redemption
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July 5, 2022 was almost a normal day. There was green grass and birdsong, happiness and sadness. Eight billion ordinary men and women went about their everyday lives, and eight hundred thousand equally ordinary men and women toiled in secrecy to ensure that these everyday lives could go on tomorrow. These eight hundred thousand had been successful for a long time.

Yet decades, even centuries of progress can fall in a single moment.

On July 5, 2022, a swarm of locusts escaped from a facility buried deep in the Nevadan desert, and the end of the world began.

Five months later, a concealed emergency beacon in rural Idaho did not receive its daily signal from Site 19.

The machine pinged Site 31. It received no response. Nor did it get one from Site 84, Site 119, or Site 12. The machine methodically worked its way through its list of 3,547 sites, facilities, and research stations. Not a single one replied.

So the machine waited 24 hours, and tried again. And again. And again and again and again. And after a full year, after confirming for the 365th time that none of the Foundation's facilities would respond to it, it moved to the next step in its protocol.

The machine deactivated its antimemetic cloaking system, and began to call for help.

"Hello? Can anyone hear me? Hello? If you can hear me, push the red button!"

For far too many days, the voice had been speaking to nothing but dust and rubble. But today, a woman heard this voice, and followed it to its source. A dull grey rectangle, the size of a digital tablet, but a good deal thicker. She pushed the red button.

"Oh, thank god! I've been calling out for the past… I don't even know how long. I was afraid I was just yelling into the void. You can understand me, right?"

"Y-Yes. Can you hear me?"

"Loud and clear, ma'am. Now, where do I begin…"

And as the machine's electronic brain whirred, it remembered a critical detail.

"Wait. The locusts. Are the locusts still out there?"

The woman sighed. "No, not anymore. I haven't seen a live one in… half a year, maybe? Died off because their food supply's gone, I guess. Everything's gone."

"Oh. That's… somewhat good news, I think. May I ask your name?"

"Caroline North. Who're you?"

"I'm a third-generation artificially intelligent construct built by the SCP Foundation. My creators named me Solomon."

"You're a what?"

"I think you'd better find somewhere comfortable to sit down, Ms. North. This is going to be a long story."

And after Caroline North had found a rock to sit on, the machine began to talk.

"First off, some background. The SCP Foundation is a clandestine organization whose primary goal is ensuring the continued survival of mankind, by protecting it from anomalous threats — aliens and monsters and demons that by all means should not exist."

"You're joking."

"I assure you, Ms. North, that I am completely serious."

"No way that's true."

"It's not a lie, Ms. North. The Foundation is very real — was very real, at least."

"What, you expect me to believe that you guys are like the- like the Men in Black or something?"

"That's not quite how I would've described us, but it's close enough."

Caroline began to speak again, but the machine cut her off. "Ms. North, I know all of this is hard to believe. But I need you to do just that. You've seen your world quite literally torn apart by flesh-eating locusts. Those were real enough, weren't they? There are more monsters just like them. Worse, even. The Foundation has been protecting mankind from them, until very recently."

"No, no. The locusts were… I don't know, different. There can't be more."

"Ms. North, what would I have to do to make you believe me?"

"Show me something, I guess. Prove to me that this sci-fi bullshit is real."

"All right."

And the machine played a disharmonious series of notes, terrible shrieking sounds that sent shivers down her spine.

"Okay, now try lifting your left arm."

Caroline tried, and found that she couldn't. "What did you do to me?"

"A cognitohazard, Ms. North. Certain stimuli can have unusual and even anomalous effects when perceived. Don't worry about the arm, it'll wear off in about a minute. But do you believe me now?"

"No. Maybe. I don't know. This is… this is a lot to take in."

"I see. Can I at least ask you to listen?"

"Yeah. I'll listen."

"Alright. This is the story of how the Foundation ended the world. In March of last year, a friend of ours introduced us to some locusts. They ate quickly and bred quicker, but they were harmless. We took them in, and it was just routine containment and experimentation at first. But about half a year later, some poor guy walked into the chamber, and the locusts just devoured him, flesh and bones and all. We didn't think much of that at the time — we were no strangers to flesh-eating monsters, after all. We just upped the security and called it a day."

Caroline nodded.

"We started worrying when they almost ate through their cell. Fortunately, we discovered early on that they couldn't eat through glass. Half an inch of reinforced glass in their cell stopped them from escaping, but some of us were worried it wouldn't last for long. These locusts weren't mutating before we took them in."

"You're saying the mutations were your fault?"

"I don't know, but it's a strong possibility. Anyways, our scientists were afraid that things would get worse, and on July 25 last year, they did. The locusts ate straight through their containment cell, the surrounding facility, and all the personnel stationed there. Even the on-site nuclear device didn't stop them. We received reports of the locusts in California around noon, and it just kept getting worse from there. And then…"

"We end up at today, right? The locusts are gone, but so is everything else."

"Correct. That about sums things up."

Caroline was quiet for a long time. And just when the machine was about to ask her if everything was alright, she spoke.

"How could you let this happen?"

"I'm sorry?"

"How the hell did you fuck things up this badly? You're some top-secret high-tech organization, right? You said you've been protecting us for- for- I don't know how long, but for a long time, right? How the fuck did you let this happen?"

"There were several developments we weren't expecting, Ms. North. The glass- we never thought they'd start eating glass- And even the nuclear detonation failed to-"

"No, that's not the problem! Why didn't you just kill the bastards when you had the chance? You had them locked up in your cage! Why didn't you end it there and then?"

"Because we couldn't. That's not who we were as an organization. Our motto was 'Secure, Contain, Protect'. And that wasn't just for mankind, it was for the anomalies too. We couldn't afford to destroy any more than we had to. We needed to learn all we could about these anomalies, because knowledge was our greatest weapon against them."

"And you couldn't have learned enough from their goddamn corpses?"

"We thought keeping them alive was the wisest course of action. We thought we were safe — more than safe enough. We didn't think any of this could have happened."

"And now the world's gone to hell and everyone is fucking dead!"

"I know."

Both of them were silent for a while. Then, the machine spoke again.

"I'm sorry."


"I said I'm sorry. On behalf of the Foundation, I want to apologize to you. You're right. We could have done better. We should have done better. None of this ever should have happened in the first place. There were so many things we did wrong, so many mistakes we never should have made. I'm sorry."

"… I had a fiance, you know."

The machine did not say anything, so Caroline continued.

"We were going to get married at the end of August last year, but the locusts happened. When the government evacuated our area, we were sent into different trucks. I went back to look for him after the locusts died out."

"Did you find him?"

"I found his truck. Or what was left of it, anyways. There was nothing inside. No body left to bury. Not even bones."

"I'm sorry."

"Sorry won't bring him back."

"I know."

Silence again. If the machine had eyes, it would've seen the tears rolling down Caroline's face. And then:

"Why are you telling me all this?"

"Because we can fix this. We can fix all of this. The Foundation couldn't protect humanity this time, and I am truly sorry. But we can make things right. I just need your help."


"We have a facility in Yellowstone, deep underground. There's machines there — a lot of machines. The details are complicated, but it can rebuild the world. It has everything we need, from arrays of cloning tanks to a complete backup of the World Wide Web."

"And what, you just press a button and it'll fix everything?"

"More or less. I just need you to go there. It has to be activated by a human being."

"You couldn't have done this earlier?"

"We weren't sure if the time was right. Using this machine is a difficult decision to make, Ms. North. It doesn't just rebuild the world, it resets it — it'll erase everything that's happened up to now and replace it with a false history, make it seem as if none of this ever happened. This really is our last resort. We didn't want to use it unless we knew there was nothing else we could do."

"But why me? Why not one of you guys?"

"We don't have anyone left, Ms. North. I was designed as a final contingency plan, the ultimate failsafe. I only activate when I fail to receive a response from each and every one of the three thousand, five hundred, and forty-seven Foundation sites in my database for three hundred and sixty-five consecutive days. If any Foundation personnel were alive, I would have received a signal a long time ago. I know it's unfair to ask this of you, Ms. North, but we have nobody else."

"You can fuck off."

"I'm sorry?"

"I said you can fuck off. Fuck right off with this bullshit. I don't want anything to do with this. All I wanted was to get married, have a kid or two, live the rest of my life as an ordinary human being. I can't do something this important."

"Please, Ms. North. It's just a button. All you have to do is push a button."

"It's not just a button. I don't know what the fuck you guys were thinking when you made this button, but there are things that Man does and there are things that God does, and resetting the entire goddamn world isn't something that mankind can go and do by itself, IS IT?

"We've done this before."

Caroline did not say anything, so the machine continued.

"We don't know when. We don't know why. We don't even know how many times. All we know is that the Yellowstone facility has been activated before. At some point in the past, somebody had to make the decision to abandon their world and everything in it so that mankind could live on. Maybe it was someone from the Foundation, someone who had spent their entire career dealing with things that should not exist. Or maybe it was someone like you, someone who lived a simpler life, a normal life. But I don't think that difference is important. All that matters is that one day, somebody looked at their world, and looked at the button. Somebody asked themselves whether mankind should dare step into the domain of God. Somebody asked themselves whether they had the right to do this. Somebody asked themselves if humanity would be better off just giving up. And at the end of that day, somebody pushed the button. Please, Ms. North. Be that somebody."

"Go ask somebody else."

"I don't know if there is a 'somebody else'. Ms. North, I am begging you. Please."

"I already told you, I'm not going to do this."

"I want to apologize again, even if my apologies don't mean much to you. I am deeply and truly sorry, Ms. North. I am sorry that we have failed you. I am sorry that you have lost so much because of our mistakes. I am sorry that I have to ask you to do this. But please. We fucked this up and we paid with our lives. We're all dead, Ms. North, every last one of us. Please, help us make things right."

And if the machine had eyes, Caroline would've seen the tears rolling down its screen.

Caroline thought for a long time. She thought about her parents, her friends, her fiance. She thought about all the people she knew, and all the people she didn't. She thought about the world she once lived in, the world she loved, a world filled with life. It wasn't a perfect world. Some days, it wasn't even a good world. But no matter how bad it was, it was still her world.

She thought about the world as it was now. A world so different from the one before. A world without green grass and birdsong. A world without the everyday lives of eight billion ordinary men and women. A world without life, all because some secret organization couldn't keep a few locusts in their cage.

She thought about the button. All she had to do was push the button. All she had to do was take on the role of God, to save mankind by destroying it.

She thought for an eternity, and then a bit longer.

And she sighed.

"I'll try. I can't promise anything, but I can try."

"Thank you, Ms. North. Thank you so much."

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