Champions Of Nothing
rating: +335+x

by qntm


"…And what have we learned?"

It takes O5-8 a significant amount of time to answer his own question. He speaks with a measured, level tone. He is in no hurry.

"We have learned that there is time missing from our world. Almost a year of extremely recent history. And there are spaces, significant spaces, in every population center, which cannot be perceived or entered. The cities are rerouting around them, like mountains or radiation zones. And along with that time and that space, we have learned that there are enough people missing, without any explanation whatsoever, that if I spent the rest of my considerably augmented lifespan counting them, I could not count to that number."

He pauses.

"And outside of the Noöspherics Division," he says, "no one, not a single person, is even aware of these… thefts. Even those in the Division, who made this discovery, cannot recall what happened during that missing time. And no one can enter that missing space. The gap in reality, itself, can barely be perceived. It is this… shocking, blinding absence. This unknown unknown.

"We have learned — we have cautiously hypothesized — that three to four years ago an unimaginable anomaly entered our reality. And then, some time later, it left, taking all of that space, and all of that time, and all of those people with it. We do not know what it was, or what it did. We have tried to find out, but the truth evades my best noösphericists. The question fights back, as if it doesn't want to be answered. And we do not know why the anomaly left, though my experts say that in the conceptual realm, there is evidence — traces — of what could have been a conflict. And in the distance, shining down on us, there is a great new star."

He hesitates.

"Even I don't remember what happened," he continues, with his voice lowered. "Which I, personally, find… deeply alarming. Because this is recent history. Like nearly everybody alive, I must have been there. In some respect, I must have gone through it.

"But if we have learned nothing else, we have learned this: humans can walk away from, and forget, anything. Civilization can go back to 'normal' after anything."

He sits in contemplative silence, for some time. He stares at nothing. He worries, briefly, that he really does know the truth, and that there is nothing anomalous preventing him from knowing it. That it's simple denial. But he won't say that aloud, even here.

He says,

"And I wonder: what was the Foundation's role in this? Were we witness to this anomaly? Were we the ones who defeated it? Did we resist? Negotiate? Participate?

"We are here, now. Intact. We are back. To what do we owe that? Did we hide, or run?

"Do we deserve to be back? Have we that right? We failed in our stated objective. These people are gone, and it's useless to pretend that they aren't dead. We failed orders of magnitude harder than we've ever failed before. Despite which, we remain clandestine, and unknown to greater humanity. Which means that no one external to the Foundation can ever hold us accountable for our actions, or lack thereof. If what happened at the O5 Council meeting yesterday is any indication, we will certainly never hold ourselves accountable.

"What happened to those people? My people. Where are they? No one is just dead, no one is merely, passively dead. Death is caused."

SCP-055 cannot answer him.

He says, his voice rising, "These things happen. And we say to ourselves, 'Never again.' And a hundred years pass. And they happen. Again."

He says, "Last time. The time before this one, the time none of us remember, the time for which there is no evidence of any kind, but which I now realise must exist. That time, when we told ourselves and each other, 'We must do better,' what did we do differently, from then on, and why didn't it work?"

He says, "What does the Foundation need to be? Where does it need to be, and how far is that place from here? Can we see it from here?

"Or is this it?"

He does not know.

And after leaving the containment unit, he knows, he will not even remember the questions.


Direct observation is harmful to Nema's species. Her mother died when she was a juvenile, killed instantly when a Foundation researcher took a close-up flash photograph of her face. The Foundation thinks her whole species is extinct, wiped out by infertility and disease, as an indirect result of excessively close Foundation study.

But they are not extinct. Some of them adapted. They fled, across oceans and then inland. They grew thicker antimemetic armour.

Nema is a fully-grown adult C. gigantes, a massively vertically elongated quadruped, almost a kilometre tall at the shoulder. As O5-8's motorcade leaves Site 19, she is standing just beyond the Site's perimeter, with a crumpled metaspider in her mouth. She is unable to perceive the motorcade or the Site itself, any more than any human Foundationer can perceive her. They only barely walk the same earth.

The spider is a two-hundred-metre-long bundle of legs, eyes and chitin, long body parts dangling from each side of Nema's jaws. The spider convulses ineffectually. It can't escape. It is the last one. The spiders were numerous, and tasty, but the Ones Who Walk Very Slowly have a broad diet.

Nema bites down, biting through the last of the spider's legs, which begin an achingly slow tumble to the ground, accompanied by a gout of bug juice. Nema tosses the spider's mauled thorax in the air and catches it in the back of her throat. She gulps it down, mostly whole, still twitching. She raises her head and vocalises triumphantly, a deafening, inaudible, infrasonic warble. The call carries all the way to her mate and children, on the horizon.

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