Helping a Caged Bird Fly

rating: +13+x

Cole wasn’t a huge fan of his own face. There wasn’t anything particularly wrong with it, of course. He didn’t think himself an ugly guy. It just… It was the babyface. Not his favorite thing his parents left him. Not that it was that big of a problem. He’d just need to grow more facial hair. The mustache was looking good, but how about a beard? Like, the long kind? Some ZZ Top stuff? He could probably rock it, you know? It’d be like-

“Mr. Thereven?”

Cole turned to the man on the other side of the desk. Right. Director Mamiya. The guy who was like, hiring him. Or, well, delegating him since he was already a hire at the Foundation but, you know, that.

“Uh, yes?”

“Did you hear anything I just said?”

“Uh, that I’m hired?”

Cole could hear the sigh coming out of the old man’s mouth as Director Mamiya flipped through the man’s files. “Well, yes, but that’s not what I was saying.” He coughed, perhaps trying to make sure would pay attention, before continuing. “I was saying that, while I understand that the job that you do is important, we-” He threw his hands to the side, before clasping them together. “We simply don’t need your expertise on our Site.”

Cole wasn’t sure how to take that. He was happy, because a renowned Director was saying his job was important, but there was also the tinge of being unneeded. Did he really take a flight to Tokyo just to be told he wasn’t necessary?

He got up, hands on the desk, the chair behind him screeching and coming to a halt as the Director jumped just a little bit, not expecting the doctor to react this way. In hindsight, telling a man who traveled all the way from America that he needs to fuck off wasn’t the most tactful way to go about it.

“There’s no way I’m not needed here! I got told I was, and that’s why I came here!” Cole exclaimed. All the way from Maryland for this? Maybe he should have stayed at 246, ugh… At least he was appreciated there… And it wasn’t 10,000 Km away from Maryland, unlike this place.

“I know, but uh, we don’t-” The Director stopped, unsure of how to word the next point. “Look, you people in America might like to talk to the anomalies we contain, but that is not how we do things here. We don’t really talk to them in a way that does not benefit either their research or their containment.”

“But how would you know that if you don’t talk to them? If you don’t have a department that tells you whether that’s true or not?”

Director Mamiya wasn’t sure what to say to that. The Chief of Security had told him this Cole Thereven dude was a pushover. Was he pulling his leg?…

He grabbed all the files, putting them in sequential order again before handing them to Cole. “I’m sorry, but we simply don’t have the time or the money to let you put a new department in this place.”

-but that’s what I came to do. Why not say no from the beginning?-

“If you wish to propose this idea again, you’re free to do so, but as it stands, Site-50 is in no need of your services.”

Cole had heard those words before. Two years back, at Site-08, where they classified humanoid anomalies just as any other item, keeping them in cages, lockers, or in cryogenic state. A year later, the “F”, the Foundation’s internal newspaper announced Site-08 was the newest location of an anomaly suicide case. The reasons were unclear, but everyone knew the real reason. Cole did.

Now, he was here making sure things like that didn’t happen again. So he wouldn’t, uh, he wouldn’t let them happen again, yeah!

Cole didn’t budge, even as Mamiya grew uncomfortable with his stoic, unmoving presence. Finally, he spoke. “Forget time and money; the only time that’ll be wasted will be mine, and about money… I think I can provide it as well.”

“You… Think?” The Director raised an eyebrow.

“I’ll contact Director Lague, from Site-322. He’s been working on a project that aligns really well with my department. I’m also good friends with him, so I’m sure he will aid me if I explain the situation well enough.” Cole declared, pulling out a cellular phone, ready to speed dial the Paul at… 2 in the morning, Pennsylvania time.

Director Mamiya tapped his fingers on the desk, watching as Cole began using his phone to actually call some guy on the other side of the world. He needed to stop this madness.

“Alright, alright, stop that. I hear you.” The Director admitted defeat. He waited for Cole to lower his phone before continuing. “I didn’t try to deceive you: Here at Site-50, we do things very differently. For starters, we don’t have many humanoid anomalies under our care. We also don’t need to communicate with them, albeit we do have therapists, both physical and psychological for them. We are in no need of a department that negotiates and communicates with the things we have behind bars.”

Cole began raising his phone again.

“That being said… If you’re willing to use up your time and resources on testing your methods, then… I suppose we can make room. It would be rather uncourteous to allow you to take a flight all the way here only to kick you out immediately. Wouldn’t… Wouldn’t look good for our image.”

Cole smiled- Nay, he grinned- Nay, he, uh, grinned but bigger. Finally, this dumb trip wouldn’t go to waste! Oh, and he would do what he was here to do. That’s important too.

“Thank you sir, really, thank you!” Cole was quick to shake Director Mamiya’s hand, something the latter didn’t seem to appreciate as much.

“… Right.” The Director moved his hand away. “That being said, I will need results that show this method of yours works, so you’ll be under a time constraint.”

“That’s fair.” Cole agreed. Wait, did he say how much time it’d be?

“That’s good.” The Director smiled, before pressing the button on his intercom. “Hatsuko, mind guiding Doctor Thereven to one of the empty offices down the reception hall? Doesn’t matter which.”

He let go, putting his hands together, staring at Cole. “Welcome to Site-50, I suppose.”

“I won’t disappoint you, sir.” Cole saluted, before leaving the room.

Director Mamiya looked at the guy as he left, before sinking onto his chair. He was starting to regret saying yes to this relatively harmless endeavor.

Soon enough, Hatsuko entered the office.

“… Um. Where’s the other guy?”

“I’ve no idea, and I genuinely don’t care.”

Site-50 would certainly be a ‘livelier’ place with Doctor Thereven around.


Cole had to admit that working at this site was kinda nice. He didn’t expect his work to be valued and., to be fair, it really wasn’t, but hey, this new office was bigger than his own back home! That was nice. It even had a water thingamabob inside. You know, the thing where you- Dispenser. Water dispenser, that’s the name. And it even changed temperatures so he could make coffee or tea or… Hot water, I guess? It was the life of a king, really.

The issue was the whole ‘being needed’ part. Turns out he kind of wasn’t? Site-50 had a lot of skips to their name, but around 95% or so were just books or tablets or ancient stuff he didn’t really care about. As for the rest… Well, Paul had told him a long ago that ‘You can only work with humanoids as long as they’re sentient. Or was it sapient? What did Paul say again?’ and, well… They really weren’t, from what he could tell.

There used to be sentient humanoids behind bars long ago, it seemed, and they had all gone away… How? Well…

“They work here now. Or in other sites, but the point is, they’re not behind bars anymore.” Hatsuko explained to him at some point or another. Hatsuko was the Director’s secretary. She was also a nine feet tall spider lady woman creature. A jorogumo, to be precise, but don’t call her that, because apparently, the ‘gumo’ part means spider, but the ‘joro’ part means uh, a woman who works at night in… Uh, well, anyways!

Point was, he’d been trying to communicate with many of the anomalies here, and so far, nothing had worked.

He was currently on his eighth attempt, trying to talk to SCP-020, a girl who looked like a bird. Well, in reality, it was more of a bird who looked like a girl, because otherwise she would be sentient. Or was it sapient? Whatever. She wouldn’t respond to any sort of complex stimuli in any sort of complex manner. And what that meant is that he couldn’t communicate with her.

“I hear you’ve been on walks recently. Maybe to the park area upstairs?”


“It’s a really nice place. Especially for an outdoor area. Oh, unless you went somewhere else?”

Flicker flicker.

Cole sighed, before looking at his wristwatch. It had been almost an hour, and he had accomplished nothing. He sighed, perhaps a bit louder than he would have wanted to, because SCP-020 quickly shuffled away from the man. Cole raised his hands instinctively, ready to explain the situation, as he had done many times before.

“Oh, sorry, sorry, I didn’t- Didn’t mean to scare you. I’m just uh… Just a bit frustrated, is all.”

020 stared at him, cocking her head to the side, then to the other, her amber eyes piercing him. She flickered her wings again. Cole felt understood, almost. Perhaps it was the pareidolic situation (Can you even argue pareidolia when the ‘human-like’ entity is literally human-like?) and continued.

“I just… I think I’ve been wasting my time here.” Cole sighed, but then realized what he had just said. “Oh, I don’t mean with you here it’s uh, it’s been lovely and you’re a very good listener, it’s true! I mean my time here at this site in specific. I don’t think I’m doing a good job at ‘communicating with anomalies’ in here. I mean, I’m here and you can’t really communicate and I’m doing a bad job and all we get is me complaining and you flickering your feathers up and down and it’s… All… Wait.”


He stared at 020, the girl staring back, cocking her head again. “There’s… There’s no way, right? I mean, people… People on this site would have figured it out already… Y-yeah, that’s… That’s…”

Ok, quick, what was the test they did back at the Site… It was uhhh…


Cole pulled out two pens, one red, the other blue, and showed them to 020. “These are pens. Can you tell me which one is blue?”

020 stared at him again; she seemed confused. After a few moments, she pointed at the blue pen, using her feathers as fingers for it.

She pulled off the cap of the red pen, before asking again. “Which pen is missing its cap?”

020 pointed at the red pen.

“Was it the blue pen?” Cole asked. 020 did some sort of feather flickering again. “Ok, did that mean no, or negative?”

A different flicker.

“Did that mean yes, or positive then?”

The same flicker.

Cole stared intently again before falling to the floor on his ass, holding his head with one hand. It definitely startled the girl, but he couldn’t even think about it as another different thought occupied his head.

“How come no one figured this out? That makes no sense…” He muttered to himself, looking at the girl. He kept thinking of her as a child, but she was much older than a mere girl. God, how long has she been here, 10 years? More? And no one bothered to do a quick standard test to make sure she could actually understand… Anything?

020 flickered her feathers again. Cole inhaled sharply.

“I wish I could understand you, ‘communicate’ with you. But I can’t.” Cole told the girl, before raising a finger. “But I will! Soon enough! I just need to talk to people who know better than I do so I’ll leave now, but don’t worry! I’ll be back!”

With that, Cole left the room, leaving files and reports still in the room. 020 cocked her head one last time.

What the hell did just happen?


Cole discovered a lot of new, bleak things as he rushed out of SCP-020’s containment cell and towards the many departments located on the aptly named department area.

The first was that the Linguistics Department was absolutely flabbergasted at Cole discovering 020 could communicate.

“How come no one figured that one out before?!” The Department Head yelled.

“That’s what I want to know!”

They quickly rushed towards the Archival Division, where Cole also learnt there were almost no records regarding SCP-020, despite being in Foundation custody for well over a decade. And what was in there was… Well…

“They wore masks of the person who rescued her because she can’t distinguish facial features? What?!”

“Wait, there were actually standardized tests? Why did no one-”

The Head of Archival pointed something out at Cole.

“Oh… Power harassment and fund embezzlement… I don’t think he was a good researcher.” Cole bit his lip. “Well this is just depressing.”

“We could bring this up to their therapist.”

And so they did.

And. Well.

“She doesn’t have a psychotherapist?!”

“Well, I do attempt to help her with stress and such afflictions, but no, I’m a physiotherapist.”

“How does that help her?”

“She has osteoporosis, so I dunno buddy. You tell me.”

Cole was getting annoyed at these grim discoveries after grim discoveries. How come this place looked so technologic-ey and yet it was so incompetent?! I mean, Cole wasn’t even the most observant guy around; I mean, he wore glasses, for fuck’s sake!

“I think the girl had someone overseeing her mental health, but they were moved somewhere else by Doctor Nagaoki.”

“That’s the guy who got fired.”

“Great. Who oversees her now?”

“Uhhh… The Research Head, who doesn’t really care about anything so… Either the Chief of Security or Director Mamiya.”

“The Research Head doesn’t care about anything?” Cole asked.

“Yeah, he just delegates everything. Don’t even know how he’s still employed.”

This place sucks, Cole began to realize.

“Ok, then let’s… Let’s talk to the Director then.”

“Is that even gonna work?… He isn’t a guy who really cares about the wellbeing of anomalies, you know? He tried really hard to not have the Anomaly Rights Act pass a couple years ago.”

“R-really?…” Oh come on. “No, no, it’s fine. I have a plan.”

“Alright… If you say so…”

Cole indeed had an idea. One that always worked, whenever he decided to propose something to Paul and whatnot.

He marched towards the Director’s office, alongside three to four more guys he picked up on the way, and kicked the door open, startling the old guy.

“What the fuck?!” Director Mamiya exclaimed, halfway into pulling a gun from under his desk.

“Sir, there is an emergency, and we need it fixed ASAP!”

“There is?…”

That doubt, that fear in the director’s eyes. Cole knew them, and he smiled.

He had this.

He may not be good at many things, but he was the director of the Department of Anomalous Communications and Relations, and damn was he good at talking.

“It’s about SCP-020, sir!” He said, slamming his hand on the desk.

“What about SCP-020, Thereven?…”

She was more than a mere mindless entity, he explained. She could think human thoughts and understand the human language almost perfectly. She could even do cartwheels! (Unproven, but it would certainly edge the discussion his way). But she was trapped, and left alone, without any support other than whoever put on a papier mache mask and gave her food, and the guy standing next to him who made sure she wouldn’t break her arms and legs. It was a good start, but it wasn’t enough. It might have been good for maybe the first month or two of her being there, but it had been nearly 15 years, and nothing had changed.

So things needed to change.

“Alright, alright, sure. There is clearly a logistical issue at hand-”

“You mean humanitarian? Or maybe ethical?…”

“Sure, whatever. Point is: How are you gonna fix this? You’re pretty good at pointing out the issues here, but where are the solutions?”

Oh. Uh. Well.

“If I may.” The Linguistics Head decided to step in, turning to Cole. “You said you saw 020 flicker her wings to communicate, no?”

“Yes.” Cole nodded.

“Well, if it’s a language that has internal consistency, then we can reverse engineer it, and figure out how it works. Then we can, you know, use it to communicate.”

“Oh! I love that! Will it work?”

“If it doesn’t, we teach her Sign Language.”

All members of this newfound team turn towards the Director. Ugh.

“If this’ll get you off my back, then sure. Have a proposal on paper by tomorrow, and we’ll see where we go from there.”

“Oh you’ll see, alright.” Cole chucked to himself, ecstatic. This was beginning to take shape~

The Director sighed. “The hell is that supposed to mean…” He pressed the intercom. “Hatsuko, can you please not let anyone else enter my office unannounced? I know you do it on purpose. Stop.”

The next day Cole would come into the office to present the proposal, unannounced.

It would, of course, be approved immediately. Cole was just that good. And insistent. Really insistent. Mostly good, though.


Her name was Tsubasa. It meant wing, which felt as appropriate as it felt inappropriate, but she seemed to like it. It made ‘sense’, if that makes sense. Well, of course it does. That’s the point, but still.

Tsubasa was an experiment from a laboratory here in Japan that has become a bit of a pain in the butt for the Foundation. Always up to no good, and leaving behind all those experiments that did not come out right. Like… Like Tsubasa.

“Oh, but know that you’re not a failed experiment to us, Tsubasa. I mean, you’re a really sweet girl; being an experiment doesn’t change that.”

Cole thinks he said that right, trying to move his hands with the dexterity he had been taught by the Linguistics team. It was hard: Each finger was tied to a set of characters and feelings, moving up and down separately to form different, more complex words and sentences. The position of one’s arms and the way they flexed also changed different things, similar to conjugating, and also to tone. And also maybe particles and adverbs? Oh, and location. And then you can just point to things, or nod/shake your head for positive/negative-slash-yes/no. That was something Tsubasa didn’t know was a thing, so I guess linguistic cross-pollination is a thing, huh?

“I know, I know.” Is what Cole believes Tsubasa signed. “I don’t let it affect me. Lots of people here are experiments, and they live their lives despite it.”

Ok, Tsubasa’s sentences weren’t as complex yet, but that was more or less what she had explained. Lot less connecting parts; lot less adverbs.

“They indeed do!” Cole smiled, before pulling a document out of a manila folder. “Which reminds me… Can you read this?”

He passed the paper to Tsubasa, who grabbed it with her wings, reading through. Halfway through, she gasped, silently of course. Her vocal cords would never produce a sound, and that was ok.

She turned to Cole, shocked. Cole simply smiled again.

“You’ve passed the test! Er, well, it’s not really a test, it’s more of a… Of a standard measure? It should have been anyways, but the important part is that you qualify for it! Which means you won’t need to be in containment anymore! You can choose to leave this cell of yours, and find a good pre-approved place to live, and you can even work for the Foundation!” He grinned. “Which, well, I wouldn’t blame you if you don’t want to associate yourself with the place that kept you in a locker without a chance to make sure whether you could understand or not, but-”

Cole could have continued, but decided to stop when Tsubasa tackled him into a hug. In hindsight, he should have expected something along these lines when he prepared the paper, but he didn’t, so now he was just awkwardly being hugged, not sure what to do.

It would be another three minutes until Tsubasa was able to talk again, since, you know, a hug involves using your hands and doing so stops you from signing and whatnot.

“I didn’t think the day would ever come.” Is what Cole believes Tsubasa signed. Tears fell down from her genetically modified amber down, into her surgically modified silk-white skin, and her signing had become rougher, having difficulty remaining still as she poured her feelings out. “I didn’t think I could get excited over… Over stuff like this again.”

Tsubasa knew that the Foundation; that this Site didn’t care for her. She knew that the man wearing the papier mache mask wasn’t the one who had rescued her, and while it hurt, it didn’t matter, because whoever this person wearing this death mask brought in the gruel she needed to survive. Another man made sure her bones wouldn’t collapse under their own weight. A third one adjusted her living spaces, tying her up before changing tiles and light fixtures because she was a dangerous monster, and not someone who simply couldn’t talk.

She wished she could scream to the top of her lungs. Maybe then it wouldn’t have taken years for someone to see her.

“Someone did see me: You. Thank you.” Tsubasa wished her way of talking could say more. She wished she had more feathers so that she could convey way, way more with her signs.

“Oh no come on, all I did was realize something that, uh, well, no one else did, but it wasn’t a lot! You should thank the Linguistics Team that spent many sleepless nights to figure out how you spoke, and what you were saying, then spent even more time teaching me and the people who take care of you the language. They’re the real heroes of this story.” Cole explained, that dumb smile of his still on his face.

“Just take the damn compliment.”

“Alright, ok, I will.” Cole was starting to regret teaching Tsubasa about using the ‘expletive form’ to ‘intensify’ phrases. The Linguistics team told him that it had a different name but he forgot about it. “So? What are you gonna do now?”

“… I don’t know…” She stopped. “I’ve never ‘chosen’ to do something before…”

“Well, try for the first time then.” Cole told her. “What do you want to do?”

Tsubasa closed her eyes, thinking… ‘Free as a bird’ is a term she’d heard before. She never understood it: She’d spent all her life caged, whether by crazy Japanese scientists or… Well, more crazy Japanese scientists. Freedom had never crossed her mind, and that was fine. She thought it was, anyway: Not like she knew much of the outside world past the park where she was viciously attacked by crows, and…

“I want to go to the park.”

Cole immediately perked up. “Oh! Let’s go then!” He stretched out his hand. “We’re ‘free’ to go whenever. Hah! See what I did there?”

Tsubasa had tuned out Cole at around the point where he put his hand forwards. It was such a simple gesture, one she’d seen many times, and yet, it felt so personal. So unique. So special.

She took his hand, and Cole quickly dragged her out, almost forgetting this was such a momentous moment for Tsubasa.

For the first time, Tsubasa noticed the sounds of the ambience: The steps she and Cole made. The flickering of the light fixtures. The creaking of the pipes. The quiet mumbling of nearby scientists. The conversations behind closed doors. The world turning. Her heart skipping a bit.

She was free.


“At the Department of Anomalous Communication and Relations, you’ll be working alongside agents and other researchers with communications regarding humanoid and other sentient anomalies. You’ll be required to explain to them what the Foundation is, what it is that we do here, and why they have been ‘contained’.”


“You will also be required to negotiate terms between anomaly and researchers. They must know that their words are being heard, and their words thus have to effectively reach appropriate ears. Understood?”


“Alright, that is all then. You will receive appropriate paperwork and… Be sent into action. Sorry this is such an unexpected thing to ask of you, but we’ve recently discovered a place full of humanoid entities, and there've been a lot of issues. We need you because almost everyone sent there is really, really bad at talking and really, really good at hitting people with the back of their rifles.”


“Indeed. So, any questions?”

“Uh, just one.”


“What is she, uh, doing?”

The new hire pointed at the woman next to their boss, who had been flapping her wings- Yes, wings- for a good ten minutes.

Both their boss and the bird woman turned to him.

“I’m- She’s the Director of this department.”

“Oh.” They blinked. “O-oh, shit. Uh, sorry, I didn’t mean-”

“None taken.” The boss explained, and only then the new hire understood she’d been translating the woman’s wing movements all this time. Crap.

“That being said.” The boss/interpreter added. “Get used to non-conventional manners of speech and other such mannerisms. You’ll be communicating with people and cultures alien to normal human understanding. Something the difference is no more than accents and dialects, but some other times you’ll be dealing with interpretative dance, synesthesia, acid trips, and worse. You’ll have to be ready to contextualize anything that comes your way. You never know what kind of things you could be missing.”

“Acid trips? Er, yes, ma’am. Understood.” They saluted the interpreter, then the feathered woman.

“Good.” The boss said. “You’re free to go, then.”

And with that, the new hire bowed, before leaving the office, kinda glad that took so little time. They were scared, and definitely way more than scared after not figuring out the bird with the Carnaval moves was their actual boss. They did not leave a good first impression, that’s for sure.

As they stepped out, they were stopped by a scrunkly looking guy, an American for sure, wearing a messy shirt, accompanied by a messy coat and a messy tie. He adjusted his glasses, before speaking.

“Hey there, uh, any chances Tsubasa is in the office you just left?” He asked. The new hire wasn’t sure who that was for the first second, and then the name clicked: Tsubasa means wings and- Yeah, ok, it’s the girl.

“Yeah, she’s inside.”

“Alright, thanks for letting me know.”

The new hire stepped to the side, this new guy walking in. “Hey, Tsubasa!~ Guess who had some free time to-”

Have you ever seen a hawk descend on prey? The documentaries and other such videos? Yeah, that’s how it looked when the girl who now they were sure was Tsubasa rushed to hug this other guy, almost sending him to the ground. Fluff dispersed into the air… You know, like, that fluff-like feathers birds have? Yeah, that.

“Wow, ok, geez, chill! I was just gone for a couple months!”

Tsubasa, still in a hugging position, hit this guy over the head with one of her hands.

“Ow, wow, ok, fine, it was a year and like… 6 months?”

Another hit.

“Ok, nine, fine. I’ve been busy saving the world or… Not making it perceivably worse, I guess?”

Tsubasa chuckled, or so it seemed, except no sound came from her mouth, before letting this guy go, and signaling for the door with her head.

“Yeah, right, let’s go, we’re uh, making a bit of a commotion.” The guy turned to the new hire, putting his hands together. “Sorry!”

“Oh uh, don’t- Uh, don’t worry.” They replied, not really sure how to go about it. Soon as they spoke, Tsubasa stepped into the office, followed by the guy, who closed it behind him.

“… Well, alright then. Guess that’s someone else I’ll have to learn about.” The new hire muttered, then made their way back to the barracks.



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