Difficult Choices
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It was early. Far, far too early. The only things that should be awake were the thing better left alone. When the lights to the office illuminate its interior, it’s the same it always had been since the grumbling office worker had started. Entirely too much paperwork. Files scattered haphazardly. Just a general mess. Thankfully, his every faithful assistant had already been in. Leaving him several cups of very strong coffee on the one free spot on the desk. Well, as the old adage went. ‘Nothing to do but to do it’.

Working for the Ethics Committee of the SCP Foundation was, at large, a thankless job. The staff within the Foundation rarely, if ever, viewed them in a positive light. Which was fine. He wasn’t here to win any popularity contests. At all. Having someone’s approval wasn’t the objective, and it never would be.

For the most part, with the position the he presently occupied, he was what was referred to as the ‘rubber stamper’. Except, that was not the case. At least, not in the way that people thought. With his clearance being Level 5, his reviews were of the highest priority. The highest importance. Many within the Ethics Committee questioned his appointment. Given his age. Then again, very few, even of the O5 Council, knew of what had led him here. He greatly preferred to keep it that way.

Just as he was getting settled, his every faithful assistant came walking in. A new stack of paperwork. More things to sign. More proposals to go over. So on and so forth. He groans in distress. Quickly extracting one of his favorite clove cigars. Horrible habit to have. Then again, given his job, he was bound to have some kind of vice.

“You’re not supposed to be smoking, sir.” His assistant said setting down the massive mound of new forms.

“Shut up, and tell me the worst of today, Laurance.” He said with no real malice.

“Straight to the torture then. Well, I suppose that would be a meeting with O5-7, sir.” Laurance said.

“Oh, fuck me.”

The office worker lamented ever agreeing to being promoted to this level. At any point and time, on any day, no matter how good or bad, he hated dealing with the O5 Council. They were, in essence, the head of the Foundation. The eyes, ears, and heart. The power and authority they possessed was unequaled within the SCP Foundation as a whole. Save for the highest-ranking members of the Ethics Committee. Which he was. As such, direct meetings with the O5 Council were unavoidable.

At the very least, it was O5-7. While all members of the Council possessed some level of arrogance and unpleasant personality traits, in his mind, O5-7 was the most amicable. If nothing else, he could be happy about that. The meeting was sure to be of some manner of importance. Given that it was in person, and the Council members weren’t exactly known for being sociable. For a great number of reasons. Oh well. Off to the races.

After clearing out much of yesterday’s unfinished work, and the start of today’s, the office worker braced himself for the nastiness that lay ahead of him. Laurance chastised him once again as he lit one of his clove cigars. His nerves were already frayed as they stood. So, he wanted to walk into this in a relatively good mood. He had been given the file ahead of time. Its contents were unremarkable. At least by the standards of the Ethics Committee.

What was shocking was the purpose of the meeting. It was a rare enough thing. If nothing else, he might be able to have a little bit of fun. There was small, petty side of him that did enjoy putting the fear of God into Foundation staff. If only for a moment. When those moments involved the O5 Council, even better. There were several of them that he’d like to see…displaced.

O5-7 is the same as he ever was. Amongst all members of the Council, he was the plainest. The least eccentric. The most…human. There was a certain degree of inhuman that permeated the Council. That was a given. One did not rise within the ranks of the SCP Foundation and keep themselves entirely humane. As well as entirely human. There were, in essence, requirements that dictated otherwise. Being a member of the Ethics Committee, and staying with it long enough, was an absolutely perfect example.

“Good morning.” Said O5-7.

The office worker just grunts in irritation. Waving his hand in greeting. Seating himself down while O5-7 did the same. He takes a minute to review the paperwork. Then, he motions to send the other one in. Commander Collins was, in his entirety, completely unremarkable. Typical for commanding officers in the MTF squads. They rarely, if ever, displayed outward signs of being…inhuman. He simply seats himself down without having to be told. On to business then.

“Good morning, Commander Collins. Introductions. I’m a Chief Executor of the Ethics Committee. This is O5-7.”

“We’ve spoken on the phone, sir.” Commander Collins said plainly

“Please. No need to be so formal here. Now, do you know why you’re here today, Commander?”

The question was plain and simple, but as he had expected. It elicited the response he had hoped for. Commander Collins looked ready to shit himself. Which made perfect sense. He was sitting in front of a high-ranking member of the Ethics Committee. As well as a member of the O5 Council. That would strike fear into just about anyone within the Foundation.

“I assume to be debriefed. Then followed by termination.” Commander Collins replied.

“Ah, you’re partly correct. But I have no intentions of killing you Commander Collins”

“I…sir…what?” The man asked stunned.

“Here in the Ethics Committee, we believe in transparency. No cute, fuzzy words. No political overtones. It's not ‘terminate’, it’s kill. It’s not ‘expire’, it’s died. You will, for the foreseeable future, not be dying. At least, not by the order of myself or O5-7. In fact, we’d like to offer you a job.” The man said with a cheeky grin.

Commander Collins was stunned beyond words. There was nothing for him to say. So, the man simply slides the file in front of him. The Commander’s reaction was expected as well. It was the unredacted version. With all of its contents plain and open to see. An impossibility within the Foundation. Save for one. The Ethics Committee.

“I’ve reviewed it. You murdered seventeen children. Or executed. However you’d like to put it. Why?” The man asked.

“That…thing. It hunts them. Children. It looks like one. Talks like one. Acts like one. Lives among large populations. It was…it’s next to impossible to tell the difference. Not like I could just throw the thing in an x-ray machine. So…” The Commander could not finish what he was saying.

“I see. It says in the file that you refused amnestic treatment. Interesting choice.” The man said probing.

“I…I don’t want to forget. I did what I did. Seventeen innocent kids, dead. To kill one unknown SCP. There wasn’t time. We don’t know how it nests. How it reproduced. Anything.” Commander Collins said.

It was clear that he was in distress. Which made sense. He had done a terrible, awful thing. As many, many members of the Foundation had before him. And would continue to do so. Hell, there were plenty happening right now. That was the nature of the Foundation.

“You made a difficult choice, and chose to live with it. Stronger men than you have failed in that. Now, we in the Ethics Committee do that every single day. Every hour. Every minute. We are, in essence, the evil of the Foundation. The ones that make the continuous, endless difficult choices. Would like to make some more?” He asks.

“I…” The Commander started to say.

“You come at the personal recommendation of O5-7. That, in of itself, in outstanding. I can assure, members of the Council rarely, if ever, like us at the Ethics Committee. There is a sizable increase in pay. Benefits. More time off. I would imagine you’d like to see your husband a bit more.” The man offered.

Commander Collins looked as if he’s smelled something nasty. Which was fine. A part of his personal life had been brought into the matter of discussion. Which was often a card that was played. He wanted the good Commander to make the choice. Even if it took a little pushing. A little nudging.

“What if I say no?” Commander Collins asked in an irate tone.

“The door is that way, Commander. Same way you entered.” He replied.

“Just like that?” The Commander asked skeptically.

“Just like that. No amnestic. No bullet. No demotion to D-Class. You will go back to your position. Same as you did. Though, we would ask, politely, you keep the details of this meeting to yourself. I'm sure you can understand that much.”

Unlike the others in his position, he didn’t like forcing the matter. O5-7 had personally recommended Commander Collins to the position. Which was a rare and fascinating enough thing. So, he wanted the man to make the choice on his own. People forced into positions at the Committee produced poor results at the start. Or, all too often, simply failed entirely. He didn’t want that.

The Committee was the necessary evil. The hammer that drove down the nail. The dark to the light. Their decisions, however grand or small, mattered. Every day, with all the paperwork and long hours. Endless pots of shitty coffee, and overtime, and general madness, they were there. It mattered not what the rest of the Foundation thought of them. What was said. The jokes they so openly made.

They weren’t here to win anyone’s approval. They were here for the same reasons they had always been here. To make difficult choices. Now, it was Commander Collins turn. And, deep down, he knew the man had already made the decision. Now, they had to see where it would take them.

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