Tales of the Ethics Committee: The Foundation Eats Babies
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Elliott: We are recording. I have not been provided an SCP numeric classification as of yet, so we will be referring to the subject matter in question as the Sowing Circle, which is the English translation of the local account. This is thus the formal ethics committee for the Sowing Circle, on its proposed use and ramifications. I am head of committee Danielle Elliott. Going clockwise around the table, could you introduce yourselves for the recording, please.

Tennyson: Former researcher Luke Tennyson.

Borges: Former researcher Julio Borges.

Sinclair: Former researcher Skye Sinclair.

Strauss: Active agent Chuck Strauss, and it’s a pleasure to be here.

Elliott: You have read the dossier on the Sowing Circle?

Strauss: Yes, Ma’am, I did.

Elliott: Then you will understand my hesitation at this being a pleasure for you.

Strauss: Ma’am, with all due respect. I was previously assigned to task forces responsible for abducting newborns from maternity wards in Eastern Europe.

Elliott: I see. Which is why you’re on this committee?

Strauss: I have a bit of a personal stake in anything that means I don’t have to hold a clipboard and look a young mother in the eye and lie about why her kid died, because the Stag needed feeding again.

Elliott: I thank you for your services, Agent Strauss. While I ask you keep personal feelings out of this, your experience with current procedure might do well to contrast with the alternatives we are forced to propose here today.

Strauss: Stay objective, stay professional. Wouldn’t be here if I couldn’t.

Borges: I thought we had moles in major hospitals for that?

Strauss: When it comes to babies? Too risky to ask. There’s the trust we have in their loyalty, and then there’s trusting them to be complicit in stealing kids. We can’t put that on them.

Sinclair: Instead of spreading the psychological distress on a lot of individuals, we put all of it on the shoulders of a very few?

Strauss: Welcome to SCP ethics. We’re a bit beyond trolley problems here.

Borges: Needs must.

Tennyson: I’m sorry, I thought this meeting was just going to be a formality. That we’d shut this down as soon as it was proposed, lock this thing away in a concrete bunker and never speak of it again. We’re seriously considering using this?

Borges: I thought it was open-and-shut that we’d be utilizing it. I thought we’d be discussing best-use.

Sinclair: There are enough Keter-class threats that need to be fed babies. The innocent, the blood of the pure hearted, the terminology is different, but the meaning is the same; human infants. Nobody here is saying this isn’t… personally, no matter what comes out of today, I’m going to be having nightmares over this. But if we decide this is more humane than random abductions…

Borges: Or more effective.

Sinclair: Then we really need to be open to considering it.

Elliott: First on the agenda; A quick recap of the dossier as it stands. Paperwork at this time is very informal, and I would like to make it clear on the recording what the information we are working with is at this present time. After which we will hold a vote on whether to discuss the matter further or, as Tennyson has requested, to close the matter as too extreme a solution for the problem. Any objections?

[A pause of three seconds, absolute silence.]

Elliott: Very well. The Sowing Circle was found in southern Mongolia, and its anomalous effects remain after transportation. The Sowing Circle consists of an unknown mummified human, who has approximately 3-meter diameter of intestines formed into a ritual circle. The genitalia, specifically the testes, has seed-pod-like vegetation growing. The intestinal tract must be kept coated by wet O+ blood at all times for the seeds to regrow after harvest. The intestines exit the mummified man, form the loop, then return with no apparent breakage or restitching. Does this visual description match the images provided in your dossier, and your understanding of the Circle so far?

[Silence]

Elliott: This will be a recording. They can’t hear you nod.

[All give various affirmation.]

Elliott: Good. The effects of the Circle are as follows: If a child-bearing female ingests the harvested seeds, first she will be wracked with intense, involuntary orgasms for an hour. This is the process of insemination. After which there is a seven-hour pregnancy period, during which time eight to twelve human infants - the paternal half of the DNA being Mongolian - will be brought to term. This is analogous to the number expected of a litter of piglets—

Sinclair: Disgusting.

Elliott: —which is where the Circle is believed to have received its name. Sinclair?

Sinclair: Sorry, I just made the ‘sowing’ connection for the first time. I was reading it like ‘sowing’, to sow seeds.

Elliott: It’s not pleasant, no.

Borges: I will admit, my first reaction to that was; ‘Ah, yes, the other-other white meat.’

Tennyson: Borges!

[Strauss chokes down a laugh.]

Strauss: Sorry, that got me off-guard.

Tennyson: I really don’t see the humour in this.

Elliott: Nor I. May we continue, please?

Borges: It’s just so… much, though, isn’t it? It’s excessive. We might not be using it for… sugary reasons? I don’t know a good English expression, but the only reason I can think of for creating this anomaly is for the mass production of genetically-similar children.

Sinclair: From captured women…

Borges: Oh, yeah, they were absolutely not asking for volunteers for this, from what I’ve read. This seemed like it was made to be taken on long campaigns, for repopulation purposes. Light, compact, and it still worked after we transported it back here.

Tennyson: We tested it here? I don’t see anything in here about authorizing that.

Elliott: Seed growth continued after the intestines were relubricated. Males that eat the seeds experience an hour of incredible gastric distress and spasms of the pelvic muscles, but otherwise no fertilization. From… what I believe was a very constipated D-class volunteer? The seeds are still active.

Tennyson: Right. Okay.

Strauss: How’s the constipation?

Elliott: Treated. And the D-class was rewarded for his services with double cafeteria credits for the week.

Strauss: Worse ways to spend a day in D-class.

Borges: Beats having to feed the Baba Yaga.

Sinclair: I feel like we’re getting a little off-topic here. The next question should be: Should we be using this? How do we minimize harm?

Borges: How do we get maximum utility?

Tennyson: And is this really better than any alternative we can think of?

Strauss: At the end of the day, the Foundation’s gotta eat some babies to save the world. That’s just the facts.

Tennyson: He who fights monsters…

Borges: Saves the goddamn world from monsters, yeah.

Sinclair: Personally, I think we should discuss harm minimization first.

Tennyson: Shouldn’t we vote on whether we should be doing this at all before we spend time discussing… the nitty gritty of it?

Elliott: Then we run the risk of dismissing it out of hand, based on its broadest possible interpretation. Or, possibly worse, agree on it before stumbling upon details that makes this far worse than current methods. I agree, it’s better to discuss how we would proceed before deciding whether or not we should.

Tennyson: Ah, the ‘shut up and calculate’ school of ethics, then.

Borges: Yeah. So. Shut up and calculate.

Tennyson: Actually, allow me to play devil’s advocate, if you will? Can we all unanimously agree that the current methodology is… awful? Truly awful.

Strauss: Sure.

Tennyson: When was the last time it was reviewed, or refined, seriously?

Strauss: 1975, when Franco of Spain died. Nearly a thousand babies stolen in Spain per year since 1939, we could hide in the margins.

Tennyson: Jesus Christ.

Strauss: Dictatorships don’t usually get ethics committees, no.

Tennyson: Wouldn’t it be better to refine current methods to a more… competitive standard? If we’re truly going to vote between the devil and the deep blue sea.

Borges: I guess that makes me the deep blue sea advocate, then.

Tennyson: Sure. I’ll try to work that out while you discuss… the implications of your proposed use of the Sowing Circle.

Elliott: I’m in favour of this proposal. Tennyson, you can work on that, then. Borges, you seem to have volunteered to champion the argument for the anomaly.

Borges: Alright. So, for us over here in open ocean, that leaves us with… well. What does that leave us with?

Sinclair: When we should use it, under what circumstances, how do we select… mothers? Donors? Subjects?

Elliott: I know you’ll hate to hear this, but we’re really going to have to argue over semantics.

[Borges groans audibly.]

Strauss: I’m with Borges. You’re going to have to walk me through this one.

Elliott: If we decide on this, it will have to be written as a procedural report. Do we use dehumanizing language or not? Is that insulting to the women we subject this to, if we rely on volunteers? Does it propagate unwanted misogynistic thought processes? Or does it just make the job harder on the people who have to monitor and enforce the procedure? What balance do we strike?

Borges: Jesus.

Strauss: We’re really going to have to argue semantics, and it’s actually going to matter, isn’t it?

Sinclair: Welcome to SCP ethics. Where it’s necessary to be politically correct about baby-culling.

Strauss: God damn. We’re really going to have to be careful about misogyny? How’s that play into this?

Borges: People have strange ideas in their heads about women’s rights to their reproductive organs and their role for ‘breeding’, which we might re-enforce by using dehumanizing language. We just laughed about a guy volunteering for this, too, because it’s… I agree with Elliott. We need to be careful when we write this.

Sinclair: I want to pick up on the misogynism, actually. Or, follow on from that. There’s already language in here I’d like to protest.

Borges: Just in the dossier? What do you mean?

Sinclair: Right here it says ‘wracked with intense, involuntary orgasms for an hour’. Do we really need to include this? Do we need to say this? It’s beyond puerile and unnecessary.

Elliott: It’s going to have to go into the formal report, so whoever has to follow this procedure knows what to expect. We don’t want this to be a surprise, and we don’t want that information to be spread by rumours.

Sinclair: It’s repulsive, and there’s the legitimate concern to me that including it in the report will cause some unwanted rationalisations; Dare I utter ‘It’s okay, she’ll enjoy it at first’.

[Sounds of groans and sighs around the room. Researcher Tennyson audibly gags.]

Strauss: We can lie on the report about the nature of the physical response. Call them seizures. They’re not going to be doing this under an MRI.

Elliott: We could lie. I’m not convinced yet that we should.

Tennyson: There’ll be consequences if we include it unnecessarily. Are you willing to hear an internal investigations report accusing us of fetishizing documentation?

Elliott: Let the record show that I am willing to take the entirety of that responsibility on my own shoulders. If you still have legitimate reasons for wanting to omit that detail on the report without the bias of being reprimanded for doing so, do so. But we are discussing an abhorrent occult fertility rite.

Tennyson: Let the record show I still hate this.

Strauss: Agreed, Tennyson. Just stay focused and this’ll be over quicker.

Tennyson: Lie back and think of England?

Borges: Of every innocent child we no longer have to abduct just to throw into the meat grinder.

Tennyson: Instead we’re just forcing women to mass produce them.

Sinclair: Let the record show I also hate this.

Elliott: That brings us to the next issue. Are we forcing women into this? Considering the risks involved, would it be fair to offer female D-class amnesty for voluntary participation?

Sinclair: There’s implicit coercion there, considering what D-class are. It wouldn’t be meaningful consent.

Strauss: Wouldn’t fly. D-class aren’t all idiots. If you don’t show them the volunteer at the end of the procedure, they’re going to think it’s a discreet execution, that the amnesty is a lie to get them to walk into the proverbial gas chamber.

Tennyson: Christ. They wouldn’t be wrong, either.

Strauss: The alternative is that we have the surviving volunteers do a ‘victory lap’ of the facility on the way to their hard-won freedom, so there are enough witnesses in their peer group to corroborate. We’d have to be honest about it, too, have to be the same people who went in. I’m sorry to do this to you folks, but I got a slide of what the best-case-scenario of the aftermath can look like. Full gestation of up to twelve, in an eight hour pregnancy? It looks like this at best.

[The click of a slide projector. All but Elliott make loud moans of pain and disgust.]

Strauss: At worst?

[Another click. Tennyson audibly gags. Sound of Sinclair’s head hitting the table and pained whimper. Borges wheezes loudly.]

Strauss: This isn’t open-casket material. Volunteer method’s out.

Tennyson: Jesus Christ. This is going to happen to people. We’re going to make this happen to people.

Elliott: We can’t give sedatives during the pregnancy. We can give epidurals for the delivery, and most of the damage heals over time.

Borges: We can’t give sedatives?

Strauss: It’s in the dossier. The rapid pregnancy is also very susceptible to miscarriages from chemical influence. Everyone subjected to this will have to do it stone-sober.

Borges: There goes that plan.

Sinclair: What do you mean by ‘most’ damage heals’?

Elliott: The words ‘fourth-degree perineal tear’ come to mind.

[Tennyson retches]

Strauss: Excuse me?

Borges: The internal tissue between the genitals and anus.

Strauss: Yeah, I don’t think I need to bring the slide back up to see what 'fourth-degree' means, then.

[Tennyson vomits into paper bag.]

Elliott: For God’s sake, Tennyson, show some more decorum and a little less lunch.

Sinclair: I’d like to request a fifteen-minute recess, or I’m going to be doing the same.

Elliott: Borges? Strauss?

Borges: I’m good to keep going, but I’d love another coffee.

Strauss: Actually, coffee and a sandwich sounds pretty perfect, now you mention it.

Tennyson: How can you still have any appetite?

Strauss: Need to keep the blood sugar up. This is a marathon, not a sprint.

Borges: I really don’t want a caffeine headache on top of all this.

Sinclair: Tea. Lots of tea. Milk and sugar, I think.

Tennyson: … Yeah. Yeah, alright. Does the vending machine still stock Gatorade?

Borges: Need to rehydrate, huh?

Tennyson: Fuck you.

Strauss: Give us a chance to calm down and come into this with fresh heads?

Sinclair: And permission to bring the kettle back with me?

Elliott: All granted. Fifteen minutes recess then.

[Sound of people filtering out, scraping of chairs being pulled out from the table, all leave.
Elliott returns after twelve minutes, Borges and Strauss return together after fourteen minutes, Sinclar and Tennyson return after seventeen minutes. Transcription continues.]

Tennyson: Sorry, Sinclair and I were talking over lunch about my proposed alternative.

Elliott: Off the record?

Sinclair: Sorry.

Elliott: Well, might as well get it on-record now.

Tennyson: Twins, triplets. We screen for parents with multiple children, tell them it’s one fewer than expected from delivery, and have an agent smuggle it out. Mostly the same plan as we’re using currently, just the parents are never made aware of the loss.

Borges: Look at you. Stealing babies and fighting monsters.

Tennyson: You said it, needs must.

Sinclair: I talked him up to it. He’s putting on a brave face, but-

Tennyson: I’m fine.

Sinclair: Sorry.

Strauss: Think about that from an operational perspective, though. Miscarriage, you just sneak a baby out and file paperwork. Easy and awful. Now? You gotta make sure you lie about every… I can’t remember the word right now, but that thing where they put the gel on the mother’s stomach and you can see the baby? Yeah, you gotta make sure they only go to Foundation doctors who are willing to help and fake it, then you gotta make sure only Foundation personnel are present for the delivery, no family, and the mother’s unconscious… Just so you can still steal an innocent kid to murder.

Borges: It’s less traumatic for the parents, certainly.

Strauss: It’s a logistics nightmare just to justify doing the same goddamn thing: Stealing a baby from its parents. And you can make it junkie teens who never deserved the kid, or only steal from below the poverty line, or justify all you want that it was a baby ‘worth less’ than other babies, but you’re still doing the same goddamn thing.

Elliott: Deep breaths, Strauss. Stay objective. Your words.

Sinclair: We’d be minimizing victims. Right now the parents are unnecessary casualties.

Tennyson: And the babies the Circle… manufactures? Are entirely non-anomalous. Which means they’re just a normal baby as much as any other.

Strauss: I’ll cut you a compromise. Standard procedure as it currently stands, but only on twins and above, so the parents keep their consolation prize. Anything more than that’s infeasible, logistically.

Tennyson: I could be forced to live with that. Table it as plan B for now?

Elliott: Sure.

Borges: Strauss and I talked a bit too.

Elliott: Gentlemen, please.

Strauss: Sorry, ma’am.

Borges: We have major problems with this, ethically. We can’t justify volunteers. Forcing people into this would be even more abhorrent. We can’t use pain relievers. The surgery to get that best-case-scenario is… intensive. There’s the issue of terminology, and dehumanization.

Strauss: What we need are non-people. Or as close as we can get.

Borges: The living brain-dead. Women in deep comas. Essentially? Body donors.

Elliott: I’m listening.

Sinclair: Oh my god…

Strauss: If we’re harvesting from hospitals either way… Transporting vegetables, telling the families they passed, it’s a much easier process.

Borges: Some families might honestly be relieved, by sharp contrast.

Tennyson: I hate that you’re not wrong. I hate it so much.

Sinclair: You can’t count on that, though.

Borges: That’s only in direct comparison to your plan B, which would be, again, stealing babies instead.

Tennyson: Jesus…

Borges: We make it clear they’re not people. We can use all the dehumanizing language we want in the report to make it as easy as possible on the people who have to follow the procedure. The babies that result exist only to be culled, and are made-for-purpose.

Strauss: At a full term of eight hours? We’ve basically made it a nine-to-five veal farm.

[Tennyson dry heaves. Sinclair turns her kettle on.]

Elliott: Was that a necessary remark, Strauss?

Strauss: I want there to be no illusions as to what we’re suggesting, Ma’am.

Borges: We agree it sounds absolutely abhorrent. Honestly, it is.

Strauss: But the Foundation eats babies.

Elliott: Informally, it seems we’ve formed two teams. Sinclair, Tennyson, can you find any holes in their logic?

Sinclair: Theirs is better.

Tennyson: Skye!

Sinclair: It just… it just is. To me. Producing eight to twelve babies from a single braindead mother against that many individual kidnappings? Eight-hour turnaround instead of nine months and abduction? It’s incomparable.

Borges: A single body donor should survive multiple pregnancies. Pain and survival are no longer factors. So more like sixteen to thirty per body donor. One braindead woman, against up to thirty individual kidnappings.

Tennyson: It’s such ‘shut up and calculate’ ethics.

Borges: Do you disagree with it?

Tennyson: No.

Borges: Dr Elliott?

Elliott: There can be no dispute. It is unanimous that this is favoured over current alternatives. Which just leaves the questions of who will write the report-

Sinclair: I volunteer.

Elliott: I agree. The second question is; What do we name the proposed procedure?

[Borges chuckles]

Elliott: Do you find the issue laughable, Borges?

Borges: No, Ma'am, but it’s that or crying, and crying looks unprofessional.

Elliott: So you have a reason to cry, then.

Borges: Yes, Ma'am. I think I might have a good name for this. Have you ever read A Modest Proposal? The Foundation eats babies, Ma’am. We’ve just proposed The Modest Procedure.

Sinclair: It’s honest. I’ll give it that. It’s brutally honest.

Tennyson: No. Absolutely unacceptable. We can joke here, but none of that can show up in the official documentation.

Strauss: Joke? I'm sorry, I don’t get it.

Elliott: Sinclair, try to think of a more formal name in the meantime. Because I see Borges bringing the article in question up on his laptop to show Agent Strauss, I’m going to call this meeting to a close. End recording.

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