rating: +19+x

The man sat at a long, wooden conference table with his 12 fr—

The man sat at a long, wooden conference table with the 12 people he knew best.

He rubbed his forehead as one of them spoke at length of precautions and procedures put in place to stop the things that they didn't even rightly know how they were stopping. It was Thursday, and just a little bit before noon. He didn't know why, but that fact always filled his stomach with cold dread. Eventually, the chatter stopped. He realized it was his turn.

"So you can't tell us about why your proposal worked, because that would make it not work anymore." He said, eyelids squeezed tight and shielded from the fluorescent lights by his open palm. His middle finger and thumb pressed rhythmically against his temples, to assuage his growing stress headache. Against his better judgment, his eyes opened again, looking at the two paragraphs of text on the crisp white paper they had all been supplied. "And you can't tell us why you can't tell us, because, of course, that would also cause containment to fail."

O5-1 only stayed quiet when he didn't disagree. The voice that spoke in his ear was his own. "Hey, buddy. It's time to go to containment chamber fifty-five. I'm not gonna shut up until you're there." There was the briefest pause. "Hey, buddy. It's time to go…"

He snapped his attention back to his… to the people around him. His finger pressed a button on the compact black earpiece he wore, but his voice wouldn't stop repeating the message. "Well, then, I guess we'll just have to trust you won't get us all killed." He stood from his chair and turned to the door.

"We aren't done here, there's still the matter of the vote," one of the twelve informed him sharply. O5-7's hands went to his pockets, one quickly withdrawing a quarter to toss on the table in front of her. O5-3 picked up the coin, squinting at the departing O5-7, who was waving his hand flippantly.

"Flip for it," he offered, pulling a lab coat from a wall hook as he departed. "Important call from me, gotta take it."

The remaining twelve sat in dignified silence for a few moments. At length, O5-1 tilted his chin towards the coin, bidding her to cast his vote.

The repetition in his ear was annoying, swiftly building to infuriating. Still, he realized why it was necessary in pretty short order; he had forgotten where he was going a dozen times by the time he had gotten to the elevator. He stared at the buttons in mild confusion which wasn't helping his headache. There wasn't a containment chamber fifty five. He gave a deep sigh, eventually deciding to start his search in the keter wing. After all, he repeatedly reasoned, if there were a chamber that didn't exist, that's where he would have put it. He leaned back against the wall and fell into a rhythm, banging the back of his head against the metal wall each time his voice started over on the long ride down, if only to distract himself from stopping the elevator and wandering off. He didn't expect it would help his headache any, and he wasn't disappointed.

"Hey, buddy. It's time to go to containment chamber fifty-five. I'm not gonna shut up until you're there."

"Hey, buddy. It's time to go to containment chamber fifty-five. I'm not gonna shut up until you're there."

"Hey, buddy. It's time to go to containment chamber fifty-five. I'm not gonna shut up until you're there."

The elevator stopped. He had long since grown to despise his own voice, and this ride hadn't done anything to change his mind about that fact.

The next half hour, spent perpetually realizing he wasn't lost in the worst part of Site-19, churned the calm sea of dread in his gut into a roiling pot of stress and acid. The guards he'd passed had helpfully informed him that there was no containment chamber fifty-five. He had nodded, and presented his keycard to be scanned each time, and each time he had been cleared to pass.

At last, he had come to an unmarked, unguarded door. Beyond it, a long, solitary hallway. Finally, a large metal blast door emblazoned 55. He wasn't sure what he'd expected. He doubted he would have sent himself on a snipe hunt. He held the keycard in his hand and, for the first time, looked at the fake name on it. He didn't bother trying to remember it, slotting the card into the reader on the wall. The blast doors pulled apart with a loud, continuous rush of air.

He stepped into the chamber, and the lights flickered on. It was big, far bigger than it needed to be. A few cables ran from the wall on the far side of the room, leading to a small carpet lying in the middle of the chamber. He cocked his head curiously to the side. For all the world, it looked like a condensed living room, placed carefully in the middle of an empty warehouse. He stepped closer.

"…It's time to go to containment chamber fif—" The blast door closed behind him with another outflux of air, married with a controlled bang. He let out a sigh of relief. He didn't realize how much the noise of his voice had felt like a drill until it was gone. He tried shaking the lingering ringing from his ear as he approached the carpet. As he neared it, it wasn't the old tv, or the other unrecognizable screen lying nearby that drew his attention.

It was his old bean bag chair. He knelt down next to it, squinting his eyes to clarify his memory. The wear on it was unmistakable; this was his, but he'd lost it sometime after college… His eyes continued around the carpet, coming next to a self-contained record player, thick headphones attached by a cable. A few moments of leafing through the album covers confirmed it; these were his too. His heavy sigh accompanied him as he sank onto his old chair. Immediately, he winced, sitting up and sharply pulling the black remote control that had lie camouflaged on the beanbag out from under him.

"Fucking—" he studied the remote to distract from the fading pain. This, at least, had never been his. He aimed it at the old cathode-ray screen sitting in front of him, pressing the red button at the top left. Blue screen. Channel 3. Fuck he hadn't dealt with this shit since he was a kid. He studied the controller for a few moments before carelessly tossing it aside, but not so carelessly that it didn't land on the carpet, realizing that it wouldn't activate the VCR sitting atop the wood-grain finished TV. Grumpily, he stood, stabbing his finger at the black box's 'play' button. Maximizing his laziness, he grabbed the small flatscreen tablet lying nearby, taking it back with him to plop onto the beanbag again.

White, flickering bars danced vertically across the screen for a few moments, before the black screen crashed up into itself to reveal a boring-looking, tired-eyed, balding man. O5-7 looked over his shoulder, then back at the screen. This video had been recorded in this room.

Hello, O5-7. I am O5-7.

This was going to be one of those kind of days, huh?

On the off chance you aren't O5-7, feel free to help yourself to a seat in my chair while you rewind this video, then leave.

The old O5-7 looked small and timid. He cleared his throat and offered the camera a weak smile.

I'll keep this brief, because you have work to get to. I want you to assume everything I'm about to say makes sense, because there isn't enough tape here for me to show my work. There exists a theory that, if the simulation of a universe capable of supporting sentient consciousness is possible, then the odds of the universe we are living in not being simulated plummets to somewhere in the neighborhood of 0.

The old man moved the handheld camera along with him, pointed at his face, as he moved to sit in a cushioned wooden chair via a complex series of 'oofs' and loud pops emanating from his bones. When he was settled, his hand reached offscreen, returning with the small touchscreen device that O5-7 currently held on his lap.

When it was discovered that someone had, infact, successfully gotten one up and running, our hands became tied. So we designed and built this. This is a machine that simulates universes.

He flashed the camera to take in the unmarked, blackened screen sitting in his lap, then returned it to his face. Along the way, his weak smile had fallen to a two-pronged attack by despair and sadness. His features fell back to a much more defensible neutral expression.

By increasing the number of simulated universes to as near an infinite amount as possible, we aim to reduce the probability that the universe we are in is among the number of universes that are simulated. The ethical dilemmas posed by this decision is part of the reason there's now a division of just that. Still, the damage had been done, and we must act for the good of mankind, yes?

The way the old O5-7 looked into the camera, it seemed like he was almost hoping for an answer.

The project was classified, and the object itself was physically encoded with enough antimemetics to ensure that the secret couldn't get out, let alone spread. We stuck it in the last place anyone would come looking for it, and that would have been the end of it. However, there were those of us on the council that weren't satisfied with the state of affairs. The amount of suffering made possible through this device is beyond imagining. And so, it was decided to set a warden.

The man's wizened finger poked first against his own chest, then, after a moment, at the camera.

Fortunately for us, we have an algorithm set up to only display simulations that have developed a sizable number of consciousnesses, so that we can focus on… on the ones that will have the greatest impact. The simulations are too complex to change much, but tweaking universal constants such that all matter collapses into a single point is surprisingly easy, when you can tinker around with them. Don't worry. I already took care of the calibrations for that. That's… that's all I have. I'm sure you have a clear picture of what's going on. I recommend checking on it about once monthly. Oh, and, last thing, make sure you rewind this before you go. The effect I'm going for doesn't really work if you have to rewind it fir—

The tape ended.

O5-7 looked around the room. It seemed bigger than it had before. "How many times have I come in here?" he asked, to the stack of albums he supposed, since he was reaching for them. They didn't answer for a while, so he pulled one out. "I guess Farewell to Kings is as good a place to start as any," he pondered, setting the record onto the player and activating the machine with one hand as he wrangled the headphones into place with the other.

He settled back into the beanbag chair as the guitar began. His gaze fell uncomfortably on the black tablet on his lap, and he finally probed his fingers around its edges until the screen illuminated. It asked for a password, and he gave it the one he had inherited from the previous O5-7.

He was looking at a room not unlike this one. The user interface was surprisingly intuitive, and he found he was able to move the view at tremendous speeds with remarkable precision. "And what, exactly, constitutes a universe that contains too much suffering?" O5-7 asked himself the question that all O5-7's asked themselves.

There was an O5 council in this council room. They didn't seem much more distressed than his fr— than the people he hung around. He took this as a good sign and decided to move on. He tapped the rectangular green button.

The view was back in a room like this one. In the corner of the room stood SCP-173. He took a long breath as the view moved out of the room slowly and flew through the halls. Through the halls stained with blood and things that were not blood. Statues littered the facility. Hundreds of them. To a twitch of his fingers, the view shot into the O5 council office. Thirteen corpses. Three statues. He eyed the rectangular red button at the far bottom left of the screen. He touched it. "Yes," his voice and finger answered the machine, "I am sure."

The view was back in a room like this one. He adjusted it to be in the O5's council room. He hoped most of them would be like this. Thirteen people he wouldn't mind working with. Green button.

Green button.

Green button.

Green button.

The camera saw blackness this time. With a sinking feeling, he moved the camera for quite a while before he saw anything that wasn't pitch blackness. Finally, the view broke above what he suddenly realized was an unbroken sea of inky pitch, miles deep. He found, eventually, a speck of white. He could hear it laughing, and crying. A mask, emerging from the ooze, flooding the world with it. Red button.

His stomach hadn't ever settled. Hadn't even tried. He never made it more than five green buttons in a row before…

The overseer council chamber. Thirteen clowns sat in the seats. Red button.

Before something like that happened.

His breath was unsteady, and his vision was starting to have its own ideas about what it should be focusing on. He squeezed his eyes shut and sat the small flatscreen device down on the floor. He pulled himself out of his chair, and moved to hit the rewind button on the VCR. The old man had recommended coming back once a month. He would return next Thursday. He took small comfort in the fact that he now knew why Thursdays were so disagreeable.

He turned off the TV, put the remote back on his old beanbag chair. He wondered, briefly, what his other predecessors had preferred to sit in when they did this.

He left the room, and the door closed behind him. He turned, and walked back out of the hallway—

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