Final Thoughts, Again
rating: +8+x

She held her breath.

"Are there any survivors?"

They could feel the air buzz, almost as if they were in tune with the movements of the very atoms around them. Or perhaps it felt more like they were vibrating and the air surrounding them was resisting. They weren't entirely sure, and they didn't have it in them to debate which it was. They were barely registering that they were feeling anything at all. They couldn't hear anything, save for a ringing sound. There was an ebb and flow to it. Just as they seemed to come to terms with it, it got louder, demanding more of their attention. They didn't have much attention to give.

They weren't entirely sure what they were seeing. There was a bright light, obscured by something… lots of somethings. What was the word for what they were thinking of, with all the stones and dust… rubble? From their perspective, it was all moving around, floating, but they were at least conscious enough to understand that they, and everything around them, were stationary. Rubble was the right word, right? Their head was swimming, their vision was swimming, and what attention span they had kept being stolen by the damned ringing sound.

And then there was the pressure. Something was holding them down. There was a sort of stabbing pain in their… stomach? There was a more precise term they could be using, but it was escaping them. They couldn't breathe. Whether it was an actual weight or an obstruction of their airways was still a mystery to them, as it seemed everything was at this point.

They hated that. The entire reason they'd survived their career at the Foundation as long as they had was that they hated mysteries. They were driven by problem-solving. They'd always wanted to explain the inexplicable. Since starting their work, they'd become a firm believer that there was nothing they couldn't explain. Except for the way they felt at that moment. But that was only inexplicable because they were incapacitated. They couldn't necessarily count that.

Vanilla. That's what was putting them off, the smell of vanilla. Klein was right, it was a bit overwhelming. Dr. Clemency Klein, Researcher at Site 17 with a specialization in humanoid entities. The absolute bane of their existence, and likely the biggest prick the Foundation had ever seen. He was an unfortunately integral part of their research team. They'd always thought Klein was just bitter that they'd gotten their promotion so soon after joining the Foundation. He'd been up for promotion as well, but he hadn't gotten it. Instead, he'd been placed under their direction. You know, Bright had made a lot of questionable decisions but that one made them wonder whether he held a personal grudge against them. Not that he even knew them… that they remembered. Then again, sometimes it felt like they did.

Back to Klein though, to who they devoted far too much attention for their own good. Klein was a lazy pain in the ass who thought he had more seniority than them and therefore had the right to boss them around even though they had the authority over him. It didn't help that he was older than them either. God, if he called them 'kid' one more time they were going to kill him with their own hands. And that's why they'd demoted him as soon as they got the chance- although come to think of it they didn't have the authority to do that. They were just a team lead- for now. Perhaps they were mixing up their fantasies and reality. It was clear that they were confused, and given their state they had every right to be. Where was Klein was now, while they were stuck? Probably gloating in the break room. Lord knew he loved that place.

It was funny about the vanilla though. They'd never considered it overwhelming before. They'd always carried a roller of it on them when they knew they'd be conducting tests. They hated the smell of a sterile lab, as silly as that seemed. There was an edge to it that didn't sit right with them- although for some reason that edge now seemed completely unnoticeable to them, and that fact alone left them scratching their head. Not literally, of course. They couldn't move their arms.

The vanilla hit them again. God, they'd never realized it was so strong. They supposed the reason that they liked vanilla so much was that it reminded them of baking- which wasn't entirely different from their work if they thought about it. Every test they did was a recipe, and they were provided with ingredients and procedures. Most of the time, they got their desired result; sometimes, like this time, they didn't.

That seemed like an analogy was worth bringing to Glass during their next session. He'd probably be able to find some deeper meaning to it, as he always did. Dr. Simon Glass… now there was a man that listened. Where was Klein again?

How had they gotten here?

Well, clearly the test had gone sideways. But for some reason, their mind wandered much farther back than that. Right to when they'd started with the Foundation. They'd gone through the entire system, from the schools right into a researcher position. Hell, they'd probably been around the Foundation for longer than people with clearance much higher than theirs. If Klein had bothered to pay attention to any of that, he might have understood why they'd been promoted so soon. They'd only tried to explain it to him a million times. Idiot.

They'd never been able to choose a path, per se. When they'd applied, they'd tried to coin a term, 'audiolinguistics'. Language, music, and the entire spectrum of sound had always fascinated them. That lasted about a week. Before that, they'd trained a little bit in antimemetics- not that they remembered much of it. They'd fallen a bit behind on their mnestics- which was kind of ironic when you thought about it. Before that, they'd almost gone through as a field agent. Man, what had possessed them to think they wanted to exert themself like that? They'd been such a pushover before they'd understood who they were- which they'd like to think was well-rounded. Or was that just what they told people who criticized them for not having a specialization? No, they were pretty sure they were still using their youth as an excuse for that.

"Ever since I can remember, I've had this feeling I would die young. It never stopped."

That was… odd. The voice sounded like their own, but they definitely weren't saying them- at least not out loud. Maybe it was a shock response. It was certainly unsettling. The voice was laughing, but it was a melancholy laugh, not a happy one. The words the voice had spoken were very familiar. They fit with their voice. It was something they'd said. Something about hearing it felt cathartic, like they were getting closure. But it also felt visceral- like an auditory slap in the face. They didn't like it. Then again, they'd rarely ever liked the voices in their head. They couldn't for the life of them remember when or where they'd heard voices before, though. Why were those memories eluding them? Yet another thing to add to the things that eluded them exactly when they needed them most. Right up there next to love.

That wasn't to say that they hadn't loved. How much of it they'd gotten in return, on the other hand… that was debatable. They'd loved their parents, for as long as they could. Their family had meant everything to them. Did they even still have a family? Part of them said no. Their mother was KIA, and their father… well, they were pretty sure they'd made it clear to him that he wasn't a welcomed part of their life. And that was all the family they had- supposedly.

Something deep in their mind was nagging them, telling them that their family was very large. It was multi-generational, andeverywhere in the Foundation and surrounding it… from O5 right over to the Serpent's Hand. Why did the Serpent's Hand hurt to think about? Never mind, they couldn't focus on that. This family… It felt like their own, but it also felt foreign. It seemed like all they'd ever known was a mother and father, but now… they were remembering sisters and brothers, and all the regrets that came with them. They knew of uncles, aunts, nieces, nephews… they had grandparents and they had grandchildren.


That didn't seem right. The voice had said they were young, and that felt right to them. Where were the grandchildren coming from? They were too young to have kids, let alone grandkids. They'd never even wanted to have kids- their bloodline was going to end with them. They'd been perfectly content taking care of some of the kids in containment and maybe inspiring a few kids coming up through the system. Yeah… if the dysphoria wasn't enough, the system had turned them right off of having kids. But Yorick… They could remember Yorick.

Their confusion was getting out of hand. They needed to slow down before their thoughts spiraled out of control.

"Please, I'm not done yet…"

They felt a pang in their chest like their heart had skipped a beat- in the anxiety way, not the good way. The voice had a point. There were never done, were they? Every time they thought they were, the pain just kept going. It went on, and on, and on, and on, with absolutely no hope of stopping. That was what the Foundation did to you over time. They'd certainly done their time, hadn't they? A lifetime of it. An entire life in these buildings. And for what? This? Not that this was entirely abnormal to them. No, they'd been through this before. This wasn't even the painful part, as they remembered it. It was the culmination that hurt. It was like a weight. It got heavier every single time, and it was crushing. And they couldn't breathe. Shit. They still couldn't breathe.

They tried to move a limb, any limb. Nothing. They could feel themself shaking with fear, but they could do nothing to control it. They tried to look around, but they couldn't even see anymore, much less move their head. When had things gone black? They should never have let their thoughts spiral. Look at where it had gotten them- they were going to die. Again.


Why did again feel so natural?

They'd died before, they realized. They'd been in D-Class when it had happened. They'd been in there so many times, for so many things… Things that they'd never done- they couldn't have done all of those things or served that many sentences in D-Class. It literally wasn't possible for them to have lived out everything running through their mind. Then why did they remember it all so vividly? That had to be a mistake. There were so many mistakes…

One crime stood out among all the stories swimming in their head: espionage. That espionage trial was vivid. Not that they had it in them to be a spy. Even if they didn't the last people they'd be working for were the Serpent's Hand. So that's why thinking about the Serpent's Hand had hurt so much- defecting to the Serpent's Hand was their crime among all these other stories playing out in their head. But… it wasn't them. They were innocent. Even with all this confusion, they knew themself. They were loyal like a dog to the Foundation. Their time in D Class was a gross misunderstanding. They'd always known that. And they'd even had it corrected- even if it was a little too late. Too late? How could it be too late if they were still there?

It was because they'd already died by the time they'd been acquitted. No, that couldn't be right. Their mind debunked that immediately. They were clearly alive at the moment, and people only died once- no matter what these memories were saying.

That didn't feel right for them, though, dying once. No… they felt like they were lying, telling themself that. All they had done was state a fact, and yet they felt that they'd betrayed some core aspect of their being. It felt like their death- the one they'd been connecting so strongly to, with the espionage charges- was one of many. For some reason, though, this one felt like a first. Something inside of them was telling them it wasn't- in fact, it was probably the most recent- but it simply felt that way. There was no explaining why. Maybe it was the first for them? What did that even mean? What did any of these thoughts mean? Where did one mind end and another begin?

They felt like they should know what all of this meant. That they did know what all of this meant, they just needed to reach a little further. Like they were finally to the point where they could reach for it and their fingers barely grazed it but in an internal sense. Actually, in a more literal sense than they'd care to admit. Everything internal seemed incredibly physical at that moment- like the inside was all they knew. Like it was all they could feel anymore. And then came the voices, cutting through all their thoughts, shoving the reality of their situation in their face.

"I didn't do it! You know I didn't do it!"

"D-27000, behave yourself."

"I don't wanna go…"

"Restrain them."

"Please… please, you don't understand, there's no coming back from this!"

"Put the amulet on them."

Silence. They could remember the tears running down their face. They could almost feel them now. Or maybe they were just crying again.

"I gave my entire life to you…"

That was where they had ended, and Jack Bright began.

For both a fleeting moment and an eternity, they finally understood. They remembered. This wasn't the first time they had died. In fact, they were long dead- this body belonged to someone else now. All of this, with the pain and the rubble and the lack of air… this was just when their body finally caught up with their spirit. A second, more final death.

They couldn't remember the test- not the scip, not the methodology. Nothing. That was his domain. All they knew is that whatever had happened, their body was trapped. All their confusion had stemmed from the fact that… well, it was very hard to separate themself from him now that he’d been in their body as long as he had. The lines had gotten very blurry between them. But now, everything was clear. Now they felt it all. They were trapped under a pile of rubble, and they'd been impaled right through the abdomen. They were bleeding out. It was ironic. Their body was being crushed and drained, just the same way that their spirit had been during their first death.

A single tear rolled down their cheek, and a rattling breath escaped them as somewhere deep inside themself, they thanked him. They weren't sure if he'd simply wanted to escape the pain of another death, or if he was paying his last respects to them. But for one final moment, they were themself again.


"Damn. I liked that body for him. He liked that body for him." Light cursed softly. She lowered her voice, clearly talking to herself. "That's always a struggle for Jack."

"I'm… sorry?"

"Don't be." She shook her head, coming back into her full voice. "I'll let O5 know to start reviewing D-Class. Anything we can salvage from the experiment?"

There was a brief bit of static over the airwaves.

"An audio recorder. Tascam. It seemed to be on his person. It's intact."

"Bring it in for screening." Light sighed. She knew it wouldn't help. It belonged to the wrong person. She paused. "Is that all?"


"Alright. Deploy the amnestics. I'll be waiting for a formal debrief onsite. Good work today." Light told them, though there were a million things she'd rather say. Namely that this was a damn shame.

A real damn shame.

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