Grin and Bear It
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|| Anomalous Teens Against Trilobite Schemes »


"Congratulations, Junior Researcher Kim," said Coles. "You’re on babysitter duty."

Junior Researcher Benedict Kim looked up from the towering stack of paperwork on his desk. Dr. Coles was making a face like he was holding a frog in his mouth, which typically meant that he was trying not to laugh.

"Babysitting?"

"The authorization just came through for 3009’s big field trip. Kind of. And you get to supervise!"

Oh. Benedict grimaced. It was tough being the primary point of contact for an anomalous Snapchat account with the personality of a uniquely irritating fifteen-year-old girl. Honestly, Benedict regretted his admission of relative familiarity with the Snapchat software more and more with each passing day.

It was no wonder that Coles was acting as if his birthday had come early. A week prior, their research team had put in a request for authorization to take 3009 on monthly supervised "morale-boosting social expeditions", and Coles had been chortling over the idea ever since.

Right on cue, Benedict’s phone buzzed on his desk. He ignored it with an ease honed by weeks of practice.

Coles did not. "Aren't you going to get that?"

Benedict sighed and flipped over his phone. He flinched.

The screen was already on. He had received a grand total of five hundred and thirty two unread messages since noon that day, seven of which were from the past three minutes.

3009

ZOO

Z O O

ZOOOOOOOOO

take me out take me out take me out 😢

BENNY PLS IM SO BORED

don't you want me to be less annoying???

🐶 🐱 🐭 🦁 🐰 🐹 🐻 🐼

"Well? How many texts did it send this time?"

The pinched expression on Benedict's face said it all.

"Oh, lighten up! Maybe it'll finally stop with the spam messages, now that we're giving it something to do."

Benedict set down the phone and deftly changed the subject. He'd handle it… later.

"What did you mean, kind of?"

Coles laughed out loud. "Oh, they rejected the whole zoo thing flat out. Too many civilians — they think you might lose one of the SCP-3009-B phones and cause another headache for the Amnestics Department. We compromised in the end. You’re supposed to take the damn thing to Wilson’s Wildlife Solutions instead for a guided tour with… Alex Molina, I think?"

"Got it. Authorisation went through for both of them? The 3009-C humanoid too?"

Coles shook his head. "Just the account. Higher-ups responded pretty well to your argument about how there's no chance of it escaping now that we've got its log-in details, and the irrelevance of the the actual location of the phone. The humanoid, on the other hand, might get mauled by a lion or something."

Though this was sound reasoning, Benedict thought it was unfortunate nonetheless. 3009-C was much more in need of morale-boosting than 3009 was, considering it had barely left its bed in weeks. "When?"

"I told them tomorrow was best for you."

And there it was. The real kick in the nuts.

Damn it, Coles.

Sunday was supposed to be his day off.


"…and, I mean, with the penguins? Pretty out there, right?"

Alex Molina of the Wilson’s Wildlife Solutions Terrestial Team had greeted Benedict with a shockingly explosive high-five at the start of their guided tour, immediately launched into an anecdote about his Uncle Nico’s pet dog, and hadn’t stopped talking since.

The overall effect was a bit like getting pelted in the face by sonic bullets, if the bullets were being fired out of an automatic gun with a big, bristly moustache that twitched like an enormous caterpillar on his upper lip with every word.

"Uh-huh," said Benedict, trying to hide behind his cellphone like it was a shield. It really was a blessing in disguise that he needed to send Molina’s monologue to 3009 in ten-second intervals. It meant, after all, that Benedict had an excuse to put a buffer between himself and this animal-loving, anecdote spewing whirlwind of a man.

The armoured suitcase he was dragging along behind him jerked violently, one wheel catching on a crack in the pavement.

Benedict winced. The suitcase contained the cellphone with the 3009 account installed on it, and he'd be in some real hot water if anything happened to it. He was only in his second year of working at the Foundation, and his shiny new postdoctorate in developmental psychology wouldn't protect him from the wrath of the Foundation higher-ups.

"Anyway, we’re coming right up to Enclosure 8, home to an amazingly talented bear named Maya! Maya is a little shy, but she’s a lovely girl, really. A wonderful dancer, and singer too, though she doesn’t do that often. Do you smoke, by the way?"

"Smoke? Ah, no, I—"

Immediately, a string of push notifications flashed across the top of Benedict's phone screen with dizzying speed.

3009

omggg make a bear pun!!
wait
did he just say the bear sings??

"—can’t, um, bear smoking."

A long silence ensued as Molina stared at him, broken only by the vibrations as Benedict’s phone went off again and again. Benedict stared resolutely at the ground.

3009

AHAHHAA omg you actually did it

Image depicting a cartoon version of Stacey Lee making a shocked expression, captioned: 'WHOA'.
you’re the BEAR-st, benny!!

Finally, Molina laughed, a little weakly.

"Ah, well, that’s good. She steals cigarettes, sometimes, that’s all. I’ll take you in to see her now. She’s very shy around new people, though, so let’s try not to disturb her too much, okay?"

"Yeah," muttered Benedict, as they wandered in through the doors onto a walkway that stretched out above the bear enclosure. Down below, an enormous brown bear lay stretched out below a tree, basking in the sun. At the sound of their footsteps, it cracked one eye open to peer cautiously at them.

3009

wow, she’s big!!

"Good-looking bear," said Benedict, a little awkwardly. It was hard to know how to comment adequately on a bear. To be honest, he wasn’t even sure what a bad looking bear would look like.

Still, that seemed to be the correct response, because Molina grinned sheepishly, rubbing the back of his head. "Y’think? We had hell of a time getting her this healthy, you know. Maya was in a sorry state when we picked her up. Abused by the carnival, I think."

"Oh. That’s terrible."

They lapsed into silence once more, both now watching the bear. Maya, seeming to sense eyes on her, got to her feet and padded over to a small pool to lap at the water. It felt oddly like she was making a studious attempt to ignore them.

"Well," said Molina. "Should I take you to the next enclosure?"

A notification. 3009 had an opinion on this, apparently.

3009

no way!!!
she’s not singing
can we stay till she sings??? 🙈

"We’ll stay for a little longer, I think."

Molina shrugged. "Okay," he said, and gestured to a small office at the end of the walkway. "I have some paperwork to do so I’ll just nip into my office for a bit. I’ll be able to see you out the window, so let me know if you need me, okay?"

"Sure," said Benedict, and with that settled, Molina wandered off.

Left alone and feeling slightly ridiculous, Benedict continued filming the bear doing, well… bear-like things. It finished drinking from the pool and then padded over to a tree, apparently to inspect the bark.

Can it really sing and dance? It seemed like a perfectly normal bear to Benedict. But maybe it just had no need to show off its anomalous abilities, now that it was taken care of here in captivity.

Thinking about the bear started Benedict out on a curious train of thought. Why on earth had 3009 made such an abominable nuisance of itself for something as minor as a "field trip"? It had been largely cooperative with their team so far. Hadn't it expressly stated that it needed them to return it to its "original body"? The logic didn't add up.

He hesitated, fingers hovering over his keyboard as he tried to imagine himself prying answers out of an evasive 3009. It wasn't a pleasant mental image. 3009 could be as slippery as a barrel of vaseline-covered eels when it wanted to be, and even when it was making an effort to be compliant, Benedict struggled to cope with its personality.

It would be so much easier to just let the matter drop, wait for the bear to do something interesting, and then return home with 3009 placated.

But Benedict Kim just wasn't the type of person capable of doing that. Like it or not, this was a project he had been assigned to, and he would take it seriously.

Inhaling deeply through his nose, he typed out a text.

Me

So. What’s the real reason that we’re here?

The reply video came in an instant.

"What do you mean?" said 3009. The girl in the video cocked her head in apparent confusion. She looked innocent. Too innocent. If 3009 wanted to ham things up even further, "Stacey Lee" would have to start fluttering her eyelashes and threatening to faint.

"You didn’t drag us out here because you were bored. You got what you wanted. What’s your motive?"

He'd exceeded the ten-second time limit for Snapchat videos with his question, and it had ended up being split into two separate videos. Privately, Benedict cursed Snapchat and its creators. It really was an abomination of modern technology.

Alarmingly, the bear in the enclosure below was now looking up at him, as if it could understand what he was saying and had recognised that the mood had changed. Could it do something like that? Did it possess sapience as well as anomalous performing art skills?

3009's reply message was an infinite loop of Stacey Lee rolling her eyes, which Benedict recognised as a somewhat transparent effort to deflect. Time to play hardball.

"Don’t do that," said Benedict into his phone. "Explain, or I’ll have the authorisation for these outings revoked."

He didn’t actually have that power, of course, but 3009 didn’t know that. His phone stayed suspiciously silent — it wasn't responding. Was that a good sign or a bad sign?

He stared at the bear instead, in an effort to distract himself from his 3009-related anxiety. The bear had moved closer to the walkway, now, though it seemed to be trying to hide itself behind a large tree stump. Its dark, glossy eyes were trained directly on him with unsettling intensity. There was something strangely intelligent in the way that it was carrying itself.

God, it really was staring at him, wasn't it?

I'm trying to use an intimidation tactic on a Snapchat account, and now a bear is judging me for it. Great. Just great.

His phone vibrated again in his hand, startling him out of his thoughts. This time, 3009’s response was split into two videos.

The first was Stacey Lee heaving a dramatic sigh. The next was unusually unpolished, for something generated by 3009 — Stacey Lee blinking at the camera for a few seconds, slightly out of focus. When she finally spoke, at the end of the second video, her voice seemed to waver almost tremulously.

"It’s… you know. My body double."

"3009-C?"

Another long pause. The bear had started using the trunk of a tree to scratch its back, still staring squarely at Benedict. It looked oddly judgemental.

3009 started to type something, stopped, and finally sent yet another video. Stacey Lee wasn’t in the frame this time. Instead it was just a shaky video of Benedict’s own feet, with Stacey’s voice playing over it.

"Look, I keep thinking about — about that conversation we had. In June. Remember?

"Yes. I remember," said Benedict, and then fell uncomfortably silent. The conversation between 3009 and 3009-C in June had been… well, scientifically necessary, but unfortunate in its consequences. 3009-C’s mental state had been extremely fragile ever since.

"I keep going back and re-reading the message log," said 3009 with Stacey Lee’s voice in the next video. "She… she was upset, wasn’t she?"

"Yes," Benedict said again. The words seemed inadequate, somehow. "Yes, she was."

"She’s not Stacey Lee. I know she’s not."

"You’ve said this before, 3009. We don’t yet have the evidence to prove that."

The next series of videos depicted Stacey Lee holding the phone but not looking into the camera — instead, she was hanging half-off the railing, watching the bear. And, though 3009 usually timed its videos to match the natural rhythm of its speech, it had seemingly forgotten to do that for this set. The end result was that each video ended exactly on the automatic ten-second cut-off, sometimes cutting off mid-sentence.

The first video began to play.

"No, that’s not what I— I just mean… I know—"

Stop. Start.

"—she’s not, well, the real one, but I just kind of—"

Stop. Start.

"—feel like I did something wrong, you know? So I kind of—"

Stop. Start.

"—wanted to do something to cheer her up somehow, but it didn’t work. I guess."

Benedict felt off-balance, like the ground wasn't quite solid beneath his feet. Had he been thrown off by the strange and disjointed rhythm of 3009's videos? Or was it something else?

"But 3009-C isn’t here," he said.

Hanging in the chilly October air, the words sounded bitingly harsh. Almost accusatory. But what was he even accusing 3009 of?

3009 wasn't his friend, even if it was essentially the only sapient entity that regularly communicated with him for social purposes, aside from his mother. Their relationship only existed within the cold space of clinical research. The same applied to 3009-C, to an even greater degree. So where had it come from, that strange heaviness weighing down his words?

But 3009-C isn’t here.

It was too much, in the end. He'd used a sledgehammer where he'd needed a scalpel, and it showed in the fact that no new videos arrived in the long, tense moment that ensued.

Finally, a notification blinked into existence on his screen. 3009 had sent him an image — but it was just a picture of the bear, zoomed in on its face. A complete non-sequitur.

3009

i used to go to the zoo in central park all the time when i was little
they got these grizzly bears when I was 11
from the bronx zoo
Betty & Veronica
cute names right??
they were my favorite exhibit

What was that supposed to mean? Benedict grasped desperately for rational thought. The data said that 3009 and 3009-C had been recovered in New York City, and Stacey Lee had grown up in Manhattan’s Chinatown. The zoo was a location significant to its childhood. But how was that connected to 3009-C?

And then, suddenly, it made sense.

"You were hoping that if we’d bring you out, we’d bring her out too. And that she’d like the zoo." The words tasted like an apology. He wasn't sure what he was apologising for. "You both have the same memories, so you thought if you’d like it, so would she."

One text in response:

3009

yes

Maybe it was the weight of the bear's stare on him. Or maybe it was the shock of seeing 3009 sounding so oddly like its more somber humanoid counterpart. There were surely any number of explanations for the thin, wispy tendril of pity unfolding tentatively within his cavernous rib cage.

Ridiculous — to feel sorry for a skip, of all things. And of the two, not even the truly unfortunate one.

There was no more time to think on the matter, though, because 3009 launched straight into a video. Stacey Lee was smiling again, and gesticulating wildly. If her smile was a little bit plastic, Researcher Kim did not point it out.

"Look at Maya!" said 3009, as Stacey waved a hand at the bear. 3009's videos were starting and stopping at all the right places, again, like a physical expression of proper punctuation. "Who wouldn’t feel better after seeing her? Look how big and powerful she is! Bears don’t have to be scared of what people think about them, don’t you think? They don’t have to be scared of anything at all."

Benedict frowned. Now that he had located his previously missing logical groove again, it sounded like 3009 was making some very questionable logical leaps of its own.

First of all, why would seeing something powerful make 3009 feel better? And, even putting that aside, a bear with a knack for the performing arts was definitely not particularly high up on the totem pole of power. Not in the world that they lived in.

What was a dancing bear against the horrors that lurked in the darkness, many of which could easily bring about the end of the world as they knew it? If Maya was sapient enough to imagine such things, then it had plenty to be afraid of.

The same thought seemed to have occurred to 3009, for it sent a follow-up video without bothering to wait for a response. "Well… I guess that’s not true, after all. Do you think Maya’s scared? Of the people who made her the way she is? Of the people keeping her in here?"

Was it afraid? Maya had a good life with Wilson's Wildlife Solutions: shelter from the elements, all the food it could eat, caretakers to look after it in the event that it fell ill. Was it satisfied with that? Or did it still jump at every shadow, and dream of freedom when the lights went out?

Benedict stared at the bear and tried not to see 3009-C reflected in its eyes, a little girl sitting all alone in a Site-17 humanoid containment cell.

Another message from 3009. A selfie, this time. Stacey Lee stared out from behind the screen with a mischievous smile. Maybe that was the true difference between 3009 and 3009-C. No matter what happened, it was hard for 3009 to stay serious for long. It always reverted back to its default, in the end.

3009

hey, i want to get a souvenir!!
Image of a cartoon version of Stacey Lee swooning in the arms of a confused-looking bear.
give the bear your phone!!!

3009's language wasn't particularly difficult to parse, but it took Benedict a good few seconds to process the message anyway, just because of its utter stupidity.

Give his phone to a bear? So that 3009 could get a souvenir?

Objectively, it was a terrible idea. It was so terrible, in fact, that he'd never actually heard a worse idea in all of his twenty-five year tenure on Planet Earth. Not even if he tried to think all the way back to his days as a sixteen year old freshman at Berkley with an aspiring fratboy for a roommate, and Dylan had been an extraordinarily chatty drunk.

Me

I’m not giving the bear my phone, 3009.


3009

come on… it’s not like you’re giving it MY phone
what’s the harm??
your phone sucks anyway!
& maybe they’ll buy you a new phone if the bear breaks it!!
don’t you want an iphone x?


Me

I like my phone, and that would be a waste of Foundation resources.

There. He'd given a firm, sensible response to 3009's ridiculous behaviour. He hadn't insulted its intelligence, or expressed his incredulity at the fact that it had even put forward something like that as a (presumably) serious suggestion. He'd simply denied the request, and given the logical reasons for his decision.

For a brief moment, Benedict let himself feel just a tiny bit proud of himself. There had been some rough moments during this little expedition of theirs, but maybe he was getting better at handling 3009 after all.

3009

always so responsible!! 😢
hey, does your mom have snapchat?
I bet we’d have sooo much to gossip about!
I’m going to tell her alllll about the kind of comics you keep at work… "the goddess and the princess locked in lust"?? 👸 💗 👰
😏 😏 😏

What.

Benedict Kim's fifty-eight year old mother, Somin Kim, was one of those young-at-heart parents who thought it was "hip and cool" to keep up with the trendy new technology of the day. She did, in fact, have a Snapchat.

His palms were suddenly very, very sweaty. The mental image of 3009 joining forces with his mother flashed through his mind in terrifying technicolor. His arm jerked in an aborted attempt to put some distance between his cellphone and his person.

And then, as if his day hadn't been traumatic enough already…

His grip slipped.

In stunned dismay, Benedict watched as his phone careened through the air in a graceful arc before hitting the ground with an alarming crack. Down below, the bear jumped at the loud noise, and then began inching closer to investigate.

His cheeks felt very warm. With no better solution in mind, he went to go fetch Alex Molina.


Incident Report: 3009-013
Filed By: Junior Researcher Benedict Kim
SCP Involved: SCP-3009
Date: 12/11/2018
Location: Wilson's Wildlife Center, Enclosure 8
Preamble: Researcher Benedict Kim took SCP-3009 on a supervised expedition to Wilson’s Wildlife Center and was given a guided tour by Terrestial Team Member Alex Molina. The relevant SCP-3009-B instance was stored in an armoured briefcase. Researcher Kim communicated with SCP-3009 via his own phone.

2:03 PM: The guided tour entered Enclosure 8 to observe "Maya", a Syrian brown bear, from the overhead walkway. SCP-3009 expressed moderate interest when informed of the bear’s anomalous ability to sing and dance.

2:16 PM: After thirteen minutes of observing the bear, 3009 initiated conversation. Researcher Kim subsequently dropped his phone off the walkway. It landed in the enclosure, causing severe damage to the phone. Researcher Kim alerted WWS staff about the problem.

2:18 PM: The bear approached the phone to investigate, appearing to navigate the touchscreen with its nose.

2:19 PM: The bear sat back on its hindlegs and began to dance.

2:22 PM: Researcher Kim’s mobile phone was recovered by Wilson’s Wildlife Solutions staff member Alex Molina.

The following messages were recovered from Researcher Kim’s Snapchat message history with SCP-3009, presumably sent between 2:16 PM and 2:22 PM.

  • Researcher Kim: jckxz v esj (sic)
  • 3009: HAHA. I can’t even access your browser history. Sucker. Don’t worry, I’ll save my messages myself! No secret correspondences here. I’m good, see?
  • 3009: BEAR. HI BEAR!!!
  • 3009: i hear you can sing!! can you read too?
  • 3009: one nose pic if you can, two if you can't!
  • 3009: i was wondering… can you sing a little bit, for me? ten seconds!
  • 3009: whaaaat…. you won't do it?
  • 3009: it’s important, y'know? a present for someone! I know it won’t sound as nice as in person, but seeing it in person’s not an option, you know?
  • 3009: no singing?? awww, why??
  • 3009: DANCING WORKS TOO OMG
  • 3009: THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!!

The following media was recovered from Researcher Benedict Kim’s camera roll and Snapchat Memories, in the following order:

  • (x1) Video depicting Stacey Lee, audio: "Hi, Bear, I love you!" (4 sec)
  • (x5) Images depicting the bear’s nose.
  • (x1) Video of the bear dancing, no audio (10 sec)


Benedict looked over his incident report and sighed.

It had been a long, hard Sunday, and he couldn't even console himself with the fact that his suffering had ended now that it was Monday. If Coles laughed at him when he read this incident report, Benedict suspected that he might throw his coffee in the other man's face. Work superior or not.

At this point, being put on a disciplinary probation might actually be a relief. For the sake of his heart, at the very least.

From the pocket of his lab coat, his phone began to vibrate. It was probably 3009 again. It always seemed to be, nowadays.

3009

hey, benny?
sooo… the whole "take not!me to the zoo" thing didn’t work out…
but we did get to meet 🐻 maya 🐻
which was cool right??
anyway, don’t worry!!
i won't give up!!!
we'll try again next time, k?? 💕


|| Anomalous Teens Against Trilobite Schemes »

This was written for the Original Character Tournament. Thank you so much to PeppersGhostPeppersGhost for organising the contest, and to SecretCrowSecretCrow & Uncle NicoliniUncle Nicolini for the use of Maya the Magnificent!

Make sure to check out SecretCrow's companion piece here!

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