“Commencing testing on SCP-715,” Dr. Louef said into the voice recorder. He glanced at the testing chamber from within the observation room. The photobooth sat inside, as innocent as could be, while a D-class personnel stood in front of it.
“Please enter SCP-715 and take a photo, D-129012,” said Louef.
D-129012 strolled in. “Hey, guys, this thing is busted,” he said from inside. “I’m trying to use it, but it’s not giving me any photos.”
“Thank you, D-129012. Please exit SCP-715.”
“Uh, okay. You’re welcome, I guess?” The confused D-129012 left the booth, and was stopped in front of the SCP object.
As expected, an exact clone of D-129012 exited the booth approximately 5 minutes after the original had exited.
“W-what the fuck is this? Who the hell are you?” shouted the panicking D-class.
“Oh god, what the hell is this? Where am I? Who are you?” his confused clone replied.
“I’m goddamn me! Who are you? Take that mask off, man, it’s freaking me out!”
“It’s not a mask! You have to help me! I’m gonna die!”
“What?! Does that mean that I’m going to die too? Oh, fuck no!”
Dr. Louef grimaced for a moment, and spoke a short command into the microphone, "The Sealed King sleeps eternal."
Suddenly, the D-class personnel stiffened, and collapsed, dying before he hit the floor, without understanding or feeling anything before his death. The particular hypnotic kill agent that Louef had selected was quick, painless, and remarkably effective.
“What the fuck?! What did you do to him? Am I next? Please, no! You have to help me! Where’s your goddamn sense of human decency?” the clone begged.
The clone tried to grab the guard’s gun. The guard responded by hitting the clone and restraining him to the chair.
One of the assistant researchers watched a timer.
5 minutes since appearance.
Then 10 minutes.
Then 12 minutes.
The D-class clone screamed for the last 3 minutes, in one long, drawn out scream. He suddenly stiffened, and dissolved into a pile of grey powder.
Dr. Louef turned away from the chamber, refusing to look at the other researchers. “Testing complete.”
“Welcome to the 5th Annual Site 118 Game Night! Grab a friend, or meet someone new, and sit down and play a game or two!” Dr. Vange proclaimed from his position at the front of the cafeteria.
The gathered crowd dispersed throughout the cafeteria, strolling over to the large table of assorted decks of cards, board games, and other activities. Groups of researchers, agents, security personnel, and other Site 118 staff milled around, and formed tables of games.
Dr. Louef, on the other hand, was found sitting at a table, furiously scribbling notes.
He pored over notes for the SCP objects under his supervision. Scribbling a research proposal here, finishing up a report there, writing this, writing that, doing this, doing tha-
The sudden shock of a board game being smashed onto his table made the researcher jump out of his seat, knocking over a stack of papers. As Louef scrambled to pick them all up, he got some help from the sudden intruder.
“Oh, it’s you Albert,” Louef said, while glancing up at Dr. Wensley, his fellow departmental director.
“Why aren’t you playing some games, John?”
“Because I have better things to do than play Scrabble, Al.”
“You know why we have these things, right?”
“Because HR has too much time on its hands.”
“Hilarious. Seriously, though, these things are important. You can’t save the world every day and not expect some kind of psychological damage,” Wensley said, pulling up a chair and sweeping aside some of the papers on the table, and began to unbox the Scrabble set.
Louef sighed. “I’m fine, Al-”
“Bullshit. I’ve seen how you’re doing with this shift. I know that some of these new SCP’s that were transferred to your department are tough. I’ve had a rough incident or two with some of mine, too. And I know what this kind of stay-away shift can do to you.”
Dr. Wensley continued to unbox the set, and handed Dr. Louef a rack for his tiles. The reluctant doctor accepted the proffered rack after some time, and grabbed a number of tiles.
“You know, you could always talk to Vange-” Wensley began.
“I don’t need to talk to Vange, Al. I’m fine.”
Wensley frowned, as he played his first word. “There’s nothing wrong with talking to Vange. Everyone’s done it at some point, outside of regular psych evals.”
“Not me,” Louef replied, placing his first word.
“Maybe you should. You got transferred onto 715, right? That’s a hell of an SCP to take on,” Wensley sympathized.
Louef grit his teeth as he remembered the screams of the last clone that he tested. “No.”
“You want to talk about it?”
Wensley fell silent as the game continued. In the end, Louef won. After that game, Louef checked his watch.
“Oh, look, my mandated amount of time that I have to be here is up. Time to go back to work. I’ll see you later, Al,” Louef said as he stood up, picking up his pile of work. He turned and swiftly left the room, leaving Wensley at the table with the game of Scrabble.
Wensley looked at the departing figure of his closest friend and sighed. He began to clean up the game.
“Commencing testing on SCP-463,” Dr. Louef noted in his recorder. “D-419803, please approach the table and pick up SCP-463.”
“The spoon? You’re telling me that this spoon is SCP-whatever?” The skeptical D-419803 said.
“Please pick up SCP-463.”
“Alright, I guess.”
The unsuspecting D-class walked over to the table and reached for the spoon. Dr. Louef wanted to look away. He didn’t want to see what he knew was going to happen, and see the results that he had come to expect and dread.
But he had to look.
A sudden scream split the silence of the observation chamber. The assistant researchers, still unused to the testing environment flinched, and closed their eyes. Dr. Louef swallowed the bile threatening to rise into his throat, and calmly started to talk into the microphone.
“D-419803, describe what you felt.”
He was greeted with more screaming. The woman was screaming at the top of her lungs, as her entire upper torso was bent into a parallel position with the ground, while her lower half was not.
“D-419803, please describe what you felt.”
“WHAT THE FUCK DID YOU DO TO ME?” The ragged scream from within the chamber met the doctor’s question.
“D-419803, answer the question, or you will be forced to do so. What did you feel when you picked up the spoon?” Dr. Louef replied, gritting his teeth.
“IT BROKE MY GODDAMN BACK YOU FUCKER!” The screaming descended into incoherent sobbing and moaning, alternating between prayers and appeals for help. D-419803 stopped answering questions. Dr. Louef sighed, and pressed the button that halted communication between the observation room and the testing chamber.
Dr. Louef didn’t let his assistants see his facial expression as he stood up. Nor did he let them see him when he left the room, or when he strolled down the hall, or when he walked into his office.
He closed the door behind him, and sat down at his desk without turning the lights on.
Then, he leaned forward, and put his head into his hands.
Dr. Louef sat at his desk, attempting to eat his lunch and do some work. As he wrote with one hand, and spooned food into his mouth with the other, he paused for a moment. He put down both of his tools, and sighed.
As he wrote a report on SCP-463, he was also using a spoon. The sudden flashback struck him, the sounds of snapping spines and cries for help echoing in his mind.
"You broke my back."
"What the hell have you done?"
He angrily threw his spoon across the room, and pushed the tray away, suddenly disgusted and no longer hungry. His gaze fell upon the photos that he kept on his desk of his family.
"Why did you kill him? He was me."
"Where is your sense of human decency?"
"You're a monster."
Louef suddenly stood up, ignoring his tray and his papers. He left his office and took a left, heading down the hallway.
“So, John, what can I do for you?” Dr. Vange steepled his fingers as he looked at Dr. Louef.
“Well…doctor, I-” Dr. Louef began.
“Please, call me Mark,” insisted Vange. “We’re friends here.”
Louef assented. “Okay, Mark. I…I’m having some issues with this shift.”
Dr. Vange glanced down at his files. “Ah, yes, this is your first time on the stay-away shift for October-January, right?”
Louef nodded. “Yes. I’ve never had to do this long shift before, and they managed to time it when I got new SCP’s on my hands.”
“It says here that you have children, John,” said Vange as he perused the file.
Dr. Louef closed his eyes. “Yes, Sam and Jenna.”
“And how old are they?”
“Sam’s 5, and Jenna’s 11.”
“Interesting. Do you miss them?”
“Of course. What kind of question is that?”
“An important one. If you weren’t missing them, then that could be something else. Now, is there a particular incident that caused this visit?” Dr. Vange asked, looking into Dr. Louef’s eyes.
Dr. Louef looked away. “Yes. The new SCP’s under my jurisdiction. They’re somewhat….traumatic.”
"Tell me about them."
Louef sighed, running his hand through his hair. "The first new one was 715. It's a photobooth that makes a clone of people put into it."
"And what about that?"
"The clones die after 15 minutes. We wanted to-" Louef stumbled for a moment, and closed his eyes, as the memories of all the clones came back to his head.
"Do you need a moment, John?" The concerned psychologist asked.
"No, I'm fine. We wanted to see what happened if the original was killed. We… we tried it 10 times. Needed a good sample size."
"And what happened?"
"In every case, the clone got… emotional. They all seemed to know when they were going to die, and every damn time, seeing their original die made them even more agitated," said Louef as he grimaced, and closed his eyes.
"They screamed, Mark. They all goddamn screamed as they died. Every single one."
"Were there any other ones?"
"I got SCP-463 too. It's a spoon that breaks the spine of anyone who picks it up."
"I know. The last research team that worked on it saw that the place where the spine snapped differed. We were supposed to find out if there was a pattern of some sort. It took us 10 fucking tries, Mark. 10 tries. And you know what we found out? Absolutely nothing! There is no pattern. Yet, we threw away 10 D-class to find out jack shit." Dr. Louef got more and more emotional as his account went on. He put his head into his hands as he leaned forward, a tear streaming down his face.
"They were even worse. They didn't even die; they just kept moaning and screaming for god knows how long. They took them away, and you and I both know what's happening to them," Louef spat out.
Dr. Vange was quiet until his patient recomposed himself. After a moment, Dr. Louef sat up straight again.
"I did research on mostly Safe-class SCP's before this new transfer. I've never had to deal with something like this before. I miss my kids, Mark. My wife, my kids, my home." sighed Louef.
Vange nodded. “It’s expected from a transfer of new SCP's, and a shift like this. Did you read the new report in Foundation?”
“I skimmed it.”
“The psychology department has come up with a new disorder, and added it to our version of the DSM. We call it Moral Ambiguity Disorder.”
“It’s an unfortunate acronym, yes. But it’s important to note. We’re noticing that a large number of our researchers are dealing with extreme emotional stress, and reporting signs of anxiety, nervousness, irritability, and lack of social activity.” Dr. Vange stood up, and browsed the shelves of his office. He pulled out a journal from the shelf, and opened it.
“MAD is caused by witnessing traumatic incidents during testing, and developing a moral dissonance within the self. The condition is aggravated by stress and too much work, without adequate periods of rest. Why do you think that we started all of these social events and game nights? MAD is crippling a lot of the effectiveness of researchers.”
Dr. Vange showed Louef the copy of the journal. It featured a whole page of graphs and diagrams, all detailing MAD and treatments for it.
“After implementing these activities, we had a 50% decrease in attacks of MAD at Site 89. It’s clearly working, which is what my advice to you is. Relax a little. We may be the Foundation, but the world’s not going to end if you relax a little while off duty. You’re here, but you may as well enjoy your time outside of work.”
“I don’t know-”
“Well I know. I’m a psychologist. It’s my job to know these things. Go out and have some fun, John.” Dr. Vange smiled at Louef as the latter rose to his feet. The psychologist extended a hand.
Dr. Louef hesitated for a moment before accepting the handshake. “T-thank you, Mark. I’ll think about it.”
“…And once again, welcome to the 4th Annual Site 118 Christmas Party, ladies and gentlemen! Remember, 2 glasses of wine per staff member! We can’t exactly print money, right?” Dr. Vange cheerily said. The audience tittered politely.
“Now, don’t let me spoil your fun. I’ll shut up now, and let the rest of you have fun, eh?” Dr. Vange stepped down from his spot at the podium as the gathered staff members of Site 118 applauded, partly out of respect, and partly out of relief that the speech was over.
Dr. Louef walked over to the refreshments table. He picked up a glass of wine, and leaned back against the wall, drinking to himself. He was interrupted by the arrival of a much more lively colleague.
“Evening, John. Enjoying your Foundation mandated-fun?” Dr. Wensley strolled up to Louef, a glass of wine in hand, and a smile on his face.
“Go to hell, Al,” Louef replied, sipping from his glass.
“Can’t. Don’t have the requisite clearance for that,” Wensley’s grin got bigger.
Louef and Wensley both chuckled.
Wensley leaned against the wall with Louef. “How’s the testing going?”
“Better. I..uh…went to talk to Vange.”
“That’s good. Did it help?”
“Yeah. I think so.”
“So, are you going to enjoy the party?”
Louef sighed. “It’s not exactly where I wanted to be. Sam and Jenna are both wondering where their dad is. What am I supposed to do about that?”
Wensley put his hand on his colleague and friend’s shoulder. “Look, I know that this isn’t exactly what you wanted. This shift is tough, but you have to look on the bright side. This may not be the kind of Christmas that you wanted, but it’s better than nothing, right?” Wensley offered a smile.
Louef gave a small smile back. “I suppose so.”
“Don’t stand here moping all night, alright? I need to track down one of my assistants.” Wensley gave Louef one more smile before turning around and merging back into the crowd.
Louef went to take another sip of his glass before noticing that it was empty. He stared down at the glass for a long, hard moment.
And then he set it on the table and walked into the crowd.