Lessons
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Doctor Langston smiled as he turned to look at the new batch of researchers sent to his department. His eyes darted from face to face: three in total, two women and one man, each of whom couldn’t have been over 30. All three looked extremely nervous, and Langston couldn’t blame them. They had just come from an orientation which basically told them that they were all more than likely going to die in some pretty horrible ways, and it was up to Langston to keep them from running for the hills. He knew it was important for the orientations to be completely honest with new personnel, but did they really need to get into the gory details about how their predecessors died?

He cleared his throat and addressed the group. “Welcome to the Anomalous Items and Extranormal Events department! My name is Doctor William Langston, and for the next two or three months, I’m going to be the one you all report to. A little bit about myself: I joined the Foundation in 1976, when I was 27 years old. During my stay here, I’ve worked with a grand total of four SCP objects, including one very unhappy Keter class, before getting transferred over here in ‘03. Does anyone have any questions before we begin?” He looked over the group, hoping his short life story would help relax them a bit. After all, if he survived this long, who’s to say they couldn’t as well? Relief washed over him as the groups tense expressions were replaced with calm curiosity.

One researcher, a short woman with blonde hair, raised her hand and asked, “Um, hi. I was just wondering, why are we here instead of starting directly with an SCP object?”

“Well, while it’s true the Foundation needs researchers like snowmen need cold, they also know that quite a few skips are rather difficult to wrap one’s head around, so they send new researchers here to get an idea of what kinds of anomalies you might be dealing with,” Langston replied, walking towards the main hallway and gesturing for the trio to follow.

“What’s the difference between a proper SCP and an anomalous object? Aren’t all SCPs technically anomalous objects?” asked the male researcher, a slightly overweight man with dark brown hair. Langston chuckled. He remembered asking the very same thing when he first started in the AI/EE department.

“Generally speaking, yes. All SCPs are anomalous items. However, the items we have here are stuck in a strange middle ground: they’re not anomalous enough to warrant full investigation and dedicated research, but they are anomalous enough that the Foundation wants them kept off the streets to keep up the ‘great masquerade’, so to speak.”

The group stopped at the entrance of one of the humanoid containment cells. Langston checked the accompanying clipboard to ensure he had the right room before addressing the group. “We’re just going to dive right in and start you off with one of our more vocal residents, Anomalous Individual 139, or AI-139. I want you three to go in and question him. Your goal is to figure out why we have him contained here, and get any information out of him that might be important. Good luck!” Langston opened the door, and the group walked inside.

The cell was mostly empty save for a hospital bed, on which lay Anomalous Individual 139. He was short but thin with black hair growing all over his body, and as they approached they noticed he was held down by leather restraints. His bloodshot eyes were transfixed on the group as they stopped a few feet away from his bed. The group stayed silent, unsure of how to begin, until AI-139 broke the silence harshly. “Well? Are you not here to question me?” he said, his voice higher pitched than they had been expecting.

“Anomalous Individual 139, please tell us your name and place of birth.” ordered the male researcher, inwardly slightly put off by how intently AI-139 was staring at him. AI-139 paused for a moment, then responded,

“It would seem your Foundation has already given me a name, so why you are asking me now is unusual. Nevertheless, the name I was born with is Shavalis. I am an emissary of Gaia, and my home is within her embrace. I was born in the cradle of leaves she fashioned for me, her protectors kept close watch upon me as I slumbered.” AI-139 grinned, his teeth each pointed and sharp. “I am her child. She has given me reign over the creatures in her domain.”

“What do you mean, ‘reign over the creatures in her domain’?” asked the taller female researcher, looking up from her notes to look at the strange man before her. AI-139’s smile grew wider as he turned his attention to her.

“The beasts of the animal kingdom respond to my command. I am their king. From the smallest mouse to the mighty lion, all see my heritage and respect my words! The only exceptions are the bastard children, the humans,” AI-139’s grin changed quickly into a hateful snarl, “they choose to ignore my birthright, to ignore their master. You…things know not your place, and you dare to imprison me in your artificial walls of steel!”

AI-139 jerked suddenly against his restraints towards the group, causing them to collectively step backwards. His eyes widened and his mouth again contorted again into a grin, this time twisted and hateful, looking as though he had gone mad. “But I do not worry, for my time here is soon over, and then you will all pay!” he said, nearly shrieking near the end as he pulled wildly at his restraints. “My subjects will find me and they will tear you all limb from limb! And when I am free I will incite a war that will decimate you pathetic creatures!”

The group of now frightened researchers backed away towards the door as AI-139 continued its rampage. “I am Shavalis! I am Gaia’s child, and she loves me more than you! She will send unto me a bride who will bear my child who will control the winds themselves! This world is mine and I will not be held here…” Anomalous Individual 139’s insane ramblings were muffled as the door to his cell closed behind the researchers. Langston smiled as he walked over to the group.

“Charming fellow, isn’t he?” Langston said, remembering his first encounter with AI-139, who at that time claimed he would ‘personally rip Langston to shreds’. “Now, who can tell me why we’re holding him here?” The group, still slightly shaky after their encounter, looked down at the notes they had taken. Langston remained quiet, giving them the time they needed to calm down, and after a moment of collecting themselves, the blonde researcher spoke up.

“AI-139 is being held due to his ability to communicate with animals, as well as his readily apparent mental instability,” the blonde researcher said, an air of confidence surrounding her. Langston nodded as he replied, “Alright, and what measures would you take to contain AI-139, and how would you go about testing his abilities?”

“For containment, secure him to a bed or chair to ensure he doesn’t attack anyone, and give him food twice daily. For testing, introduce varying types and numbers of animals to test the limits of his abilities.” The tall female researcher said, handing her clipboard over to Langston. Langston looked over the researchers notes, then smiled. Not bad for a bunch of people who not twenty minutes prior were shaking in their boots.

“Well done,” Langston said, feeling slightly bad about what he was about to say, “you all have done rather well for your first assignment. However, I’m afraid you’re all a bit off the mark. Truth is, AI-139 doesn’t have the ability to talk to animals. We thought he did for a long time, had a SCP designation and everything. But we ran literally dozens of tests to figure out why he would think that, and every animal we put in his cell completely ignored him. After a while, the site director ended up sending him over here to make room for something else, I’m not sure what.”

“Then why do we still have him here?” Asked the blonde researcher, sounding slightly annoyed and disappointed that they failed Langstons test.

Langston laughed slightly as he explained, “Actually, it’s because of the fur on his body. We’ve run tests on it, and as far as we can tell it’s actually Tasmanian Devil fur, which is odd because we picked AI-139 up in the middle of Idaho. Based on our initial tests, he apparently grows this fur naturally, and let me tell you, he was absolutely livid when he woke up completely shaved.” The researchers laughed, and Langston was happy that his team didn’t seem stressed anymore.

“Why did you have us do all that, though? I mean, what was the point of having us talk to AI-139 when you already had all the information you could get out of him?” asked the male researcher. Langston sighed. “Several reasons. First and foremost, I wanted to get an idea of how you would handle yourselves around humanoid anomalies, and on the whole you all did rather well. But more than that, I wanted to teach you a few things about working with anomalies.”

“One, you need to know that when dealing with sapient anomalies, you should never completely trust what they have to say, especially the more hostile ones. Listen to them, sure, but even if they tell you what they believe is the truth, you shouldn’t believe them blindly. Second, even though there will be anomalies that will try and hurt you, remember that one of the Foundation’s primary goals is to contain anomalies. As such, you have quite a few lines of defense between yourself and the anomaly. I’m not saying you should be careless, but don’t spend your days worrying about when the thing you’re working on might kill you.”

“Finally, and I want to stress this, I was not joking or lying when I asked you to gather information for us. Fact is, there may very well be things we don’t even know about AI-139. Anomalies can always surprise you, so always remember to be observant of everything. You never know what you might have missed the first hundred times.” Langston looked at his watch, then looked back at his group. “Well, I’d say you’ve earned yourselves a nice lunch break, go ahead and check out the site cafeteria, then meet back here in, say, an hour. I’ll be waiting!"

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