Humanity; Inhumanity

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(It is difficult to feel human, without a little bit of hope.)

3009-C’s story in the months post-containment is different from that of her virtual counterpart, the Foundation’s most irritating sapient Snapchat account. There are no visits to anomalous bear enclosures or containment breaches involving heavily armed prehistoric creatures, nor are there any uncomfortable cafeteria encounters with subtly menacing secret agents.

In fact, there is nothing anomalous at all, save for the central problem of Stacey Lee — that there are two of them, when there was only supposed to be one.

At first, she speaks daily to an endless parade of dispassionate doctors and researchers. After a while, the flood slowed to a trickle and so did the number of people who came knocking on the door of the minimally furnished humanoid containment cell allotted to her in Site-17; there was only so much research that could be done on an almost perfectly ordinary girl, with no obvious anomaly. She had thought that it would be a relief when they were finished with her, but it isn’t. It’s just lonely.

At first she cries. It does not last long. The tears do not help and they never will, and eventually she doesn’t have the energy to cry any more. Instead, she lies there and counts the ceiling tiles. She swaddles herself in her thin blanket and stares at the wall. She forgets to shower for days at a time. She lies in her bed and tried to resist the urge to run her nails along the long thin scars down her thighs, the thicker ones slashed across her wrists where the scars healed badly because she’d picked and picked at her stitches.

It had only taken a few months, for her to stop dreaming about leaving. At first, she had thought that maybe her parents would come, or the police. Later, the idea of rescue becomes her secret daydream, reserved only for the worst nights.

The fantasy’s appeal fades quickly. The days go by and no one ever comes. This is her life. This is her forever.

But of course, there was Junior Researcher Benedict Kim, who visited her once every two weeks like clockwork. It was his job, after all. But sometimes, she almost thought that he—

Well. Sometimes, she almost thought that he cares.

———

Junior Researcher Benedict Kim was nervous, when the automated door of the humanoid containment cell slid open with a hiss. He took a step forward, and then stopped, rather awkwardly, for what appeared to be no good reason. Or at least that was what the on-duty security guard thought.

The security guard in question, whose name was Bob, gave Benedict an unimpressed look. “Well? Go on then. This one doesn’t bite. Doesn’t do much of anything, actually.”

“I know that,” Benedict snapped back, rather irritably. He did know that. On paper, he was nearly the foremost expert on the psychology of the fifteen year old girl that had once been Stacey Lee, and the two entities that now went by SCP-3009 and SCP-3009-C. In practice, though, he still struggled to understand what went through their heads (the virtual one and the physical one), and so he was actually hesitating for a very good reason.

He just didn’t want to mess this up.

Bob the security guard shrugged, and leaned against the doorframe in his best impression of a bored statue with a gun.

Inside, the room was very dark. Nothing was moving. It almost looked unoccupied, except for the curled up lump underneath the blanket.

He stepped inside. “Hello, 3009-C,” he said. “How are you today?”

The lump under the blanket stirred, and then shifted. “The same as always,” said a muffled voice. “Tired. Bored.”

“You didn’t read the magazines that I brought you last time,” said Benedict. The magazines in question, six months worth of Teen Vogue back copies, sat untouched on the desk. They hadn’t moved an inch from where he had put them two weeks before, next to the makeup kit from a month before and the tabloid newspaper featuring primarily Korean entertainment gossip from a month and a half before.

All of the entertainment items that he had brought had been specifically catered to Stacey Lee’s known interests: fashion, makeup, and Korean celebrities. 3009-C hadn’t shown interest in a single one of them, not even a feigned one to back up previous assertions of her identity as the original Stacey Lee.

She had given up, in other words.

“No. Thanks for bringing them, though,” said the muffled voice. “It’s just… hard to see the point.”

“Can you elaborate?”

The lump shifted, and squirmed. A head emerged. Stacey Lee’s familiar face looked back at him, just different enough for it to feel strange. Her cheeks were a little too hollow, and the dark circles under her eyes looked like fresh bruises. And her hair was a mess. The other 3009 would never stand for that.

“Really, Dr. Kim. Can you see the point? Why should I care about fashion, or makeup, when I don’t ever leave this room? Why should I care about— about celebrity gossip— when I’m not— that’s not the world that I’m part of anymore, Dr. Kim. Don’t you see that?”

Parts of this were not strictly true, for 3009-C was permitted to leave her cell on supervised walks for the purpose of recreation and exercise. Benedict bit down on the urge to point this out.

“I brought you something else, today,” he said, after a moment. “It’s… there is a point, to this one.”

“Show me,” she said, challengingly. For a moment, Benedict thought that he could see a flicker of the other 3009.

He reached into his bag and pulled out a book. It was not a slim magazine like the ones from his last, sorry attempt. It was a battered textbook, thick and solidly bound. He set it down on the bed and waited, but no response came.

“It’s… Ulric Neisser’s Cognitive Psychology,” he said, at last. “It’s actually my old copy. From when I was in university. At Berkley. I apologise for its condition. It is some years old, and perhaps slightly out of date. However, I’ve written notes in the margins, which I thought might be… helpful.”

3009-C stared at the book. She said nothing.

“I apologise if this doesn’t meet your interests,” he said, talking again, anxious to fill the silence. “I just thought that you might like something a little more… relevant.”

“Relevant to my mental disorders,” said 3009-C blandly. She pronounced the words mockingly, but Benedict couldn’t quite tell who she was trying to mock. Perhaps the therapists tasked with ensuring that her mental state did not deteriorate further. Perhaps herself.

Benedict winced. “No, to your— to your changing environment, and… I’m sorry, 3009-C. I didn’t mean to offend you.”

He moved to take the book back. A pale hand shoots out from under the blanket and grips the book, rabbit quick.

“But I’m no good at science,” said 3009-C, very softly. “Stacey Lee had terrible marks.”

“That doesn’t mean that you couldn’t improve, with time and effort,” said Benedict carefully. He himself had been a prodigy; he had attended UC Berkley at age sixteen, and excelled. 3009-C was not a prodigy, but she had plenty of time on her hands, and very little else to live for.

She hesitated, and then twisted around to sit up. “You think this is going to fix me?” she said, and a note of true confusion leaked into her voice. “A textbook? You think— is it supposed to be as easy as that?”

“No,” Benedict confessed. “I don’t really know how to fix you. I just thought that maybe you’d like it. That maybe it would help.”

This was perhaps not the most professional thing to say, but it was true. Benedict had wracked his brain for what 3009-C might enjoy, if she didn’t want to partake in any of Stacey Lee’s former hobbies, and had come up empty. So instead he was offering up something that he himself had enjoyed, at an approximately similar age, which was… studying.

“And if it doesn’t?”

“Then… we’ll keep trying. Until we find something that does help.”

“This is a little advanced,” said 3009-C after a moment, peering at the book. “I’m like, fifteen. And not whatever kind of super genius you were at fifteen. Maybe bring something a little more basic. Like the rest of high school biology.”

“Oh,” said Benedict. He flushed. “I’m sorry, 3009-C. I’ll bring you something more age appropriate.”

He reached for the book back, but 3009-C pulled it under the blankets quick as a flash. “No, I’ll keep this,” she said, her face going hot. “I’m going to read it. Just… bring me the other stuff too, alright?”

“Okay,” said Benedict, in wonder. This was progress. He was actually making progress. This was the first request that 3009-C had made in months, after she gave up on the requests to go home or see her family. “Is there anything else that you’d like?”

“Yeah,” said 3009. “I want a teacher. How am I supposed to learn without a teacher?”

“I’m sure that can be arranged,” said Benedict, already considering how the Foundation might acquire a private biology tutor. Perhaps one of the interns…

“No, I mean, I want you to teach me.”

A long pause.

“What?”

3009-C looked embarrassed, in a strange and somewhat angry way. “Well, you’re… Aren’t you supposed to be a specialist? And you’re the only person I ever really talk to, so… it just makes sense, for you to teach me. Do you not want to? Because this was your stupid idea and—“

“No!” said Benedict quickly. “No, I want to. I just— it’s been a while since I went over the basics—“

“Then you read up too,” said 3009-C, and curled back under the blanket again. It was clearly the end of the conversation.

“Okay,” said Benedict. It had already been established that he had a particularly difficult time dealing with teenaged girls, and if there was one thing that he had learned from the other 3009, it was that sometimes it was pointless to argue. “I’ll be back with the books soon.”

The blanket lump was silent. Benedict Kim turned to leave, and then—

“Also, I need new glasses,” said the lump.

“You have contact lenses.”

“They dry out my eyeballs. I don’t like reading with them in. And I’m pretty sure that my vision’s gotten worse again.”

“Okay,” said Benedict. “Is there anything else?”

He waited. There was a long pause, in which the blanket lump squirmed in a manner that indicated that there was definitely something else.

“Stacey Lee was no good at science,” said the blanket lump, very quietly and uncertainly, like it was not entirely expecting an answer. “But do you think that I could be?”

Benedict’s throat was strangely tight. “Yes, 3009-C. I think you could be very good at science, if you tried hard enough.”

“And you’ll help me?”

“Yes. Yes, I’ll help you.”

The next month, in early January 2019, SCP-3009-C had her hair cut for the first time in nearly a year since the start of her containment.

“What do you think?”

“It’s short,” said Junior Researcher Benedict Kim. It was indeed short. It was a bob, cropped close to 3009-C’s chin in a way that was slightly unflattering, given the persistent roundness of her face.

3009-C nodded, satisfied with this. “It’s practical, and it’s different,” she corrected, and reached out for the thick wire frames of her spectacles. They were sitting on top of a high school level biology textbook. She slid them on with practiced ease. “It’s me now, I guess.”

“You guess?”

“What? I’m getting there.”

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