Oceanus, Father to All
rating: +59+x
standing-sm.jpg

The date is June 15th, 2030, and I am still a good man.

I'm 31 years old. I've been a Foundation employee for thirteen of those. I'd like to make it at least to 36 years old. The first half of my life spent being a kid, blissfully ignorant of the reality of our world, and the second half spent voluntarily witnessing that reality. It's a fair balance.

That's what I explain to Joyce Peterson, Wilmington resident and single mother of three, to distract her from the pain in her spine as I pierce the space between two vertebrae with the business end of a Mk. IV modified Schulman device. She squeezes my hand, wincing and nodding. I still haven't even heard her speak, other than the garbled, panicked rambling on the phone. She'd lost a significant chunk of basic functions before she realized what was happening; notably, how to drive a car, how to chew and swallow, and the fact that the metal rack in an oven set to 425 degrees Fahrenheit shouldn't be grabbed without a mitt. The civilian paramedics took care of that part, thankfully, but they can't fix her memory.

poster-sm.jpg

Summer 2030

I'm starting to worry that maybe we can't, either.

She's the seventeenth civilian I've mnesticized today. Our help number has five different lines now. Site-42's statisticians claim that the number of callers has doubled in the past two weeks. One of them offered to show me the graph, but I declined. I was certain I'd just be looking at an exponential curve, and I don't need to reinforce what I already know. Not about this, and not at this point. Joyce is yet another entry in a list of thousands of names, soon to be buried under hundreds more as Site-42 scrambles to help Wilmington remember everything 3848 makes them forget.

The youngest of her boys sticks his head out of the kitchen, wiry brown curls hanging in front of his tear-soaked face. He asks me if his mom is going to be okay, and I tell him of course she is. He tells me that he wants to be like me when he grows up, and I tell him that he's very brave. I don't tell him that I'm worried he'll never have a chance. Out of gratitude, his mom offers for me to stay and eat dinner with them. I tell her that I have work to do, but I appreciate the offer; I know that I mean it, because the fact that she offered lingers with me for the rest of the day.

The date is June 16th, 2030, and I am still a good man.

I'm on-call today: technically off the schedule, but out wearing the uniform and driving the car regardless. I manage to make the short drive from my townhouse to the grocery store without issue. In the parking lot, I step out of my car and am immediately rushed by an older man with bloodshot eyes, who grabs hold of me by my vest straps and begs me to take him with me. He sobs, his cries drawing attention as I walk toward the store, telling me that he's forgotten where he lives and wouldn't want to go back anyway if humanity's protectors would please just keep him locked away deep under the surface of the world that's causing him so much pain. The few people in the lot are staring like vultures.

I'm not allowed to take people anywhere, I inform him, but if he needs help with his memories, we're doing our best to provide that service. I offer him a card, and he snatches it and hobbles away down a near-empty aisle, wiping his face. I walk to the next aisle; also barely anything left on the shelves. The same goes for the one after that, and the one after that. I settle for a case of beer — one of the least popular brands, as the alcohol section is also almost empty — and walk back to the front of the store. The cashier doesn't make eye contact with me, and the civilian police guarding the door watch me the whole way as I walk out of the store and get back in my vehicle.


Date: June 17 2030 12:34

From: Eric Radford (of.pcs.nimda|drofdare#of.pcs.nimda|drofdare)

To: Mallory Wickerford (of.pcs.ces|drofrekciwm#of.pcs.ces|drofrekciwm)

Message Subject: This is not effective.

Attachments: none

Message Body:

Mallory,

I have not been able to reach the regional director, the Ethics Committee, or even the personnel requisitions department in five weeks. To say that something is seriously wrong is an understatement. We watched this develop, and it is my job to face the music. 3848's effects on Wilmington are uncontainable. Lethe Events no longer follow a recognizable pattern, and as of early this year, appear to affect individual people and specific concepts rather than entire areas and the same concept. We have no way to track or predict this type of activity, and 3848's document hasn't even been updated for it, as I have no way of knowing if the rest of the world is experiencing the same effects or if this is unique to our area.

We cannot support the Wilmington population — let alone the human population — with one-on-one, small-scale treatment. We do not have enough field agents and we do not have enough mnestic devices. Agent Trauss alone had 65 hours on the clock this week, and he is only one of five people in the job position. If your research department does not deliver a wide-scale application method, it is unlikely we will succeed at all.

This is my fourth attempt at communicating with you this week. I have checked in-person at your office twice and have not found you. Please respond immediately. I will help you and your team however I can.

With utmost urgency,

Eric Radford
Director of Site-42

Date: June 17 2030 12:36

From: Internal Autoreply (of.pcs.krowten|ylperotua#of.pcs.krowten|ylperotua)

To: Eric Radford (of.pcs.nimda|drofdare#of.pcs.nimda|drofdare)

Message Subject: Failed Delivery

Attachments: none

Message Body:

Your message to the following recipient(s) could not be delivered:
Mallory Wickerford (of.pcs.ces|drofrekciwm#of.pcs.ces|drofrekciwm)

Reason(s):
gateway timeout error
Servers are not responding. Please try again in one (1) hour while network maintenance is performed.

This is an automated message. Do not reply.


The date is June 17th, 2030, and I am still a good man.

Today is Cleo Palazzi's 21st birthday. She tries to make small talk with me, and we discover that we went to the same high school, albeit ten years apart.

She awoke this morning with a screaming pain behind her eyes; there was a white light, she said, and then burning in her skull. She called to tell us that her brain felt as though it was being split open, and that she had a hole in the head. It was a recognizable pattern — I had the augenlappen recall script saved as one of the first presets on the Schulman device due to how common a case this is — but Cleo is dead in my arms only minutes into the procedure. I wait for the sheriff and coroner to arrive before I let go of her body, and as I drive away, I'm bothered by the potential chance that the spinal tap is what killed her.

I relay my concerns to the dispatcher. He tells me that there's nothing I could have done. I drive back across town, past my house, and into Site-42's gate to spend the night in my office, finding some semblance of comfort in knowing that I'm behind three perimeter fences and a few dozen meters of concrete and earth when I close my eyes.

The date is June 18th, 2030, and I am still a good man.

At 9:30 in the morning, a timid, young researcher named Thomas is my first subject.

"I hope I'm in the right office. They told me you could do it." He lingers in the doorway, lanky fingers gripping the handle for several seconds after he's turned it. "I work just down the hall. If you need me to go to someone else, I can."

I motion him in, trying to brush the night's wrinkles out of my shirt. "You're fine. You need the compliance script, I take it?"

He nods and bites his lip as he steps inside. "It's mandatory now, right?"

"Yes, but you won't have a problem with it once it is in effect."

He shudders. "I really wish it was called something else."

"It's not the most marketable name. But it's safe."

"Are you sure?"

"I'm the first person they tested it on. Believe me, it's safe."

I remember my hesitation when Wickerford showed me the first developed ED-K+ script on the first Foundation-approved programmable mnestic device; anything based on a Marshall, Carter and Dark design was not an object I wanted half-anomalously transferring information into my brain via my spinal fluid. I remember not being able to read and understand the code on the screen, and I remember how inexplicably violating it felt to have a synthetic thought pattern wedged into my core behavioral traits and made to look like it was natural. A Foundation researcher constructed what is now a permanent part of who I am, and I would be lying if I said that isn't disconcerting.

But we need it. There's no question about that. I know for a fact that if I hadn't let Wickerford program unquestioning dedication to the Foundation into my brain, I would probably be dead or worse by this point. There are plenty of things the former me wouldn't have done which needed to happen nonetheless, and in hindsight, I'm glad the Foundation put me to better use that I would have. We adapt to what the universe throws at us; when the anomalous world fights dirty, the O5s and Ethics Committee typically aren't opposed to throwing some of that dirt right back. Not when it's in the interest of humanity's protection. If all of that means getting my hand in the mud every now and then, so be it. We can't afford to act otherwise.

"The lead researcher in my lab said that there was supposed to be a bigger version of this. Something that did it to hundreds of people at once." The young man seats himself on the couch as I snap on latex gloves and change out the syringe bracket.

"I know. I don't know what Wickerford is doing right now, or where those results are, but that was her project."

"What's it like outside?" he asks after a beat.

"What's it like? I don't know, I suppose it's almost normal." I start replaying the past several days in my head. "Well, lots of road closures. Stores almost emptied out. Very few people around in general. I think most people just stay in their houses."

"What about all those jobs? Who's working the stores? Who's in the office buildings downtown?"

I pause and blink. "Well, come to think of it, I don't really know." I clear my throat and swallow, mouth feeling dry and hands cold. 'I don't know' is too common in my vocabulary nowadays. "All I do know is that people are losing their memories very quickly, so I take one fifth of the calls and respond to people who need our help."

"And you drive to these people and use this device on them? Does it work?"

"To my knowledge, yes, it works. But as you mentioned, we need Wickerford to finish her research so that we can broaden the scale."

As if on cue, my cell phone rings. I remove my gloves and answer it, leaving the mnestic device half-prepared on the desk. "Site-42 Offsite Response. This is Agent Trauss speaking."

"T-this is the SCP Foundation?"

"That's correct. Are you experiencing an emergency?"

"I- fuck, I- God, I'm sorry. I just- I have a hole in the head. Isn't that how you said it?"

"Do you feel you have lost memory of a previously well-understood concept, object, or-"

"Oh God, yes. Yes. Outside, I was- I looked up, and- oh Jesus Christ, I'm not making any sense, it hurts to think about-"

"Do not interact with or think about the concept causing you distress. I'm in the middle of an urgent task at the moment, but if you give me a minute I can check if another operative is near you."

"I live on Sedgley Drive, I'm right beside your facility."

"Okay. Please wait and do not panic." I mute the phone and switch to my earpiece. "Rogers, Shaw, are any of you available for a call response? I've got a lady on the phone and I'm tied up in the office for at least another 30 minutes. She's right there in the neighborhood beside 42, should be quick."

"Got it," Rogers answers after several seconds. "What'd she forget?"

"Something involving 'looking up'. Maybe clouds, maybe the fact that the Earth orbits the sun. Can't say for sure, so you're going to have to pick up the call on line 3."

"Alright, will do."

I breathe a sigh of relief and thank him before turning back to the researcher. "Sorry about that."

"It's fine." He shifts uncomfortably on the couch. "I'm sure you're sick of people asking this, but how much is this going to hurt?"

"Spinal taps are not pleasant in and of themselves, but I will warn you that there is a separate, distinctive sensation associated with the information transfer itself, accompanied by vivid and intrusive thoughts of the subject matter in question. The procedure lasts approximately 20 minutes, maybe fewer. It's important to note that you will likely feel as if you are nearing unconsciousness, while not actually losing it, for the duration."

He grimaces. "I should lie down, I guess."

"Whatever is most comfortable."

Thomas's face is streaked with tears only a few seconds after I've cleaned the injection site and inserted the needle into his spine. I let him grab onto my free hand with his sweating fingers, his eyes wide-open and pained as they stare toward the opposite wall.

"You're doing very well. The script is five percent loaded," I tell him. My fingers are turning white in his grip, but I don't make him let go.


Date: June 19 2030 09:38

From: Eric Radford (of.pcs.nimda|drofdare#of.pcs.nimda|drofdare)

To: Recipient Group: 42_OSR

Message Subject: Commencement of Project Oceanus

Attachments: briefing1.pdf

Message Body:

To the agents of Site-42 Offsite Response,

Following emergency executive approval from the Ethics Committee after several weeks of no contact, I am officially moving forward with Project Oceanus. Researcher Mallory Wickerford's department is not on track to develop effective wide-scale targeted mnestics within a reasonable time frame, and as you of all personnel are aware, we cannot afford to wait any longer.

In all future call response cases, please treat affected persons with the latest rendition of Wickerford's compliance script (the civilian version, not the employee version — please use caution and ensure files are correctly named and moved) in addition to any concepts the individual wishes to recall. Moving forward, we cannot afford to encounter resistance from the civilian population under the circumstances set upon us by SCP-3848's activity patterns. If collective mnesticization must occur on a small scale for the time being, it needs to be as straightforward as is possible.

If, after one month, we see an improvement in the numbers, the O5 Council will approve Project Oceanus for application in other sites. I am confident in this department's performance and expect that you will achieve a favorable end result quickly and effectively.

Thought is the frontier on which we are currently fighting the anomalous, and if thought is not regulated, scripted, and carefully supervised in this era, we will not have necessary leverage against the anomalous forces attempting to disrupt it. It is our position collectively — and your position directly — to protect humanity from the influence of the anomalous. I am confident that this motion, as questionable as it may seem, is in the best interests of both humanity and the Foundation.

This is a mandatory operations assignment. Please call me or come to my office with questions.

Respectfully,

Eric Radford
Director of Site-42

I close the email window and copy compliance_v3_civilian.edk from inside a folder on my desktop to one of the USB drives. I remove it from the computer and pack up the mnestic device, feeling sweat bead on my forehead as I open my front door.

The date is June 19th, 2030.

I start my car and pull onto the empty streets, a dark gray storm brewing over the river.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License