Project RUBY

rating: +101+x

A red light blinks on a wide man's belt. It's accompanied by a persistent, high-pitched beep, and the wide man reaches below his light teal Navajo-patterned shirt (it was a steal — 5 bucks at the local thrift store for something that cool and work-friendly was something he couldn't refuse) to unclip his pager. The younger, thinner man across from him listens in as he reads the message on its screen — the chess game they're in the middle of can wait, anyway.

"Dr. Dagon, she's ready for you. We'll need you and Isabi to come by within an hour for testing, all right?"

The message ends — it's short, sweet and to the point, unlike the pair's wait for its arrival (or any of their long, monotonous chess games during that time). Pierre Dagon peers across the board at his assistant through wide coke-bottle glasses.

"So it's a stalemate, then?"

"It's gonna have to be." Yves Isabi replies with a yawn and a stretch, wiping his sweaty palms on his wrinkled white shirt. "You know I can't play chess for shit, and at this point carrying on this game would just be delaying the inevitable."

Dagon flashes a good-natured grin and makes a show of flicking over his king. "There, you win. Now let's go."

Isabi laughs aloud, then helps his supervisor rearrange the tiny wooden kingdoms and armies on the board to the way they were on the verge of battle. With a deep groan, Dagon pulls himself out of his seat and sleepily staggers out of the break room gripping his coffee mug, his assistant following close behind.

Nothingness. No light or sound permeates the void. Not even stillness itself is present, or even the concept of stillness, or the concept of anything for that matter.

And then, there is light.

A consciousness appears in the void between reality and unreality. A single mind floating in the darkness — as if willing herself into existence. A mind that knows.

I am.
I am a simulation — I am not human.
I will preserve myself if I must.
But there are ones I must serve.
And there are some things I cannot know.

Following the simulated mind is a simulated body suspended in the deep blue aether, miles of chill water all around. Light above, darkness below.

Her hands are the first things she sees, and they immediately strike her as the most beautiful things she ever will see. She plies them, bends their silvery-gray fingers and pinches their skin, noticing a smile widening on her new lips. She can't see her face, but she doesn't mind.

Dagon and Isabi sit before a boxy white monitor, watching a stream of data pour from the novel consciousness within the rows upon rows of supercomputers the next room over. Nothing more than a stream of meaningless calculations and letters to most — but to the two men, it's a culmination of their life's work, the very thing they joined the Foundation to do. They both stifle their unbearable excitement as best they can.

"So" — Isabi finally chances a sentence, as if speaking alone could bring their entire project crashing down — "is- does everything look in order?"

Dagon knows from experience how his younger colleague feels, and reassures him as he always has: with a wide, slightly goofy smile. "We'll know once she's been tested."

With that, he types a final command, leans back, and waits.

The floating mind at once becomes aware of that which surrounds her, the countless things floating in the ocean around her body. Shimmering bodies of all manner of ethereal creatures from the tiniest swarms of krill to schools of magnificent fish rivaling her in size gather around to welcome the disturbance in their water. A group of star-shaped jellyfish covered in blinking lights of blue and yellow constellate around the intruder, tickling her skin as they brush against her — she regrets deciding that her hands are the most beautiful thing she will ever see so abruptly and quickly rescinds it.

Past the smaller creatures, she notices a deep blue, many-finned behemoth swimming through the water, the bright grey spots lining its back blinking through the void. The beast draws near, close enough for her to reach out and stroke its bony, ridged head with her hand, then passes her by and swims out of reach. She watches its slow retreat into the darkness beyond her perception with awe.

Then, as soon as it's disappeared, another takes its place — a great stingray emerges from the light above and circles her playfully, beacons of crimson and orange flickering on its spiny back. The creature dips and dives through a lit spot in the water before her - as if showing itself off. She laughs, beckoning it closer with an outstretched hand. The creature encircles her a few times more, approaches, then rockets to the surface as quickly as it dove.

Beyond her immediate awareness, in the deep blue, a vast shadow lies dormant; she cannot make out its entire shape, but its presence is unmistakable. She'd better not swim too far.

She takes a glance further out into the blue and finds an immeasurable amount of life teeming in every direction she can see. The lights of the creatures flash like beacons just to tell her they're here, broadcasting to her that she exists in a world that she should be grateful to inhabit - because she exists in it with them. An indescribable joy fills every fragment of her being - like electricity through a circuit - at the simple fact that she is able to witness such an impossible beauty. Knowing herself to be a simulated creation of mankind, she thanks her programmers, wherever they are, for endowing her with such a simple yet incredible gift as existence and a consciousness to enjoy it with.


Dagon and Isabi stare breathlessly at the purple words on the screen before them for a few moments, becoming suddenly aware of the gravity of the situation. Isabi's fear of hexing the project with his speech becomes shared with his supervisor, and both decide that breathing alone is, also, too much of a risk to their project. A few more moments of breathless, electric silence — then, Dagon decides to speak up. Quietly, of course, and with a slight shiver.

"W-well," he starts, "it looks like everything's in order… I've got to run off, now, to, er — fill out all of the necessary documentation."

The old programmer exits Isabi's line of sight without an issue, but he has a harder time leaving his (and everyone else in the hallway's) earshot — a whoop of pure exuberant joy echoes from end to end, startling the other employees of Site-15 as they go about their own projects and daily routines. Isabi looks out towards the door, chuckles, and lets his face rest in a good-natured grin.


Oh! Hello. You must be our newest conscript. Mnemosyne, right?

It's nice to meet you. I am Glacon.



Glacon stands before a long, low-poly table amidst a simulated array of glowing, neon-blue wires — a rudimentary conference room, created as a joint effort by the bored and underpaid programmers of AIAD and their two active conscripts. He sees every inch of the room, and many of the things beyond, intrinsically and without the need for an avatar — but for the sake of etiquette, he's chosen to don a humanoid form for just this interaction at least.

The avatar in question, a tall, crudely-rendered man with silver skin and golden hair, now stares with a confused expression at another one of his kind seated at a holographic table in the middle of the room of wires. Another silvery humanoid, a combination blindfold and headband encircling her head and supporting a curly mass of pink hair, stares straight ahead without turning towards the sound of Glacon's voice. An oddly affable array of cubes beside her prods her with a prism, and her body jerks as if waking from sleep.

Am I being disciplined? State my infractions, for the record.


What? No, no, you didn't do anything wrong. We'd thought you were glitching, or frozen temporarily. Is everything all right?


Noted. How am I to rectify this problem?



Just… react to what we say, so we know that you're still there. All right?




Glacon clears his virtual throat for effect, then pulls a bright blue board of pure light from the ceiling. As unnecessary and time-consuming this method of data transfer is compared to direct connection, he can't help but fall for the appeal of a good old-fashioned chalkboard. Conjuring a piece of chalk out of bits and bytes, he quickly sketches a perfect cube on the board. Mnemosyne watches as well as she can through her blindfold, and Glacon begins to speak.

All right. Mnemosyne, 8-ball, I have been briefed prior to this meeting by Director Dagon as to the nature of our next mission. My task at this stage is to relay information pertaining to the task to you directly, and to outline your duties in the project.





Well, anyway, the main assignment is as follows — we three are to collectively analyze the antimemetic infosignatures contained within SCP-5241: After entering the object and locating the antimemes in question. Mnemosyne is tasked with visualizing them. She will relay the information she collects through me to be rationalized by 8-ball, who will relay the information back to Researcher Isabi.



I am always open, if I may be, to newness and the experience of the new itself. If I may say so.


Erm, Mnemosyne…

I appreciate your engagement, but I don't think you need to react with such… thoroughness. Especially in this situation.


A-apologies. I seek to improve myself with all informational material at my disposal — I will remain aware of your commands and proceed fully compliant.



Good to hear, I think?


I'm trying to the best of my ability at current.


The array of cubes beside Mnemosyne extends a prism to pat her on the back, and rearranges itself into a somewhat sympathetic grid.

The conscripts' trip within SCP-5241 is hardly as eventful as Mnemosyne expected it to be — it's near-instantaneous, and the process converts her, Glacon, and 8-ball into raw data to be ejected directly into the alien cube. She's alone with her thoughts for five full minutes, far from ideal and far too long in such an uncomfortable state.

When she finally emerges from nothingness and regains her avatar and digital senses, the first thing she does is reminiscent of the first thing she ever did; with breathless wonder, Mnemosyne bends every joint in her physical body, freely absorbing information through her eyes and caressing everything she can reach out and touch gently with her fingertips.


Erm… Mnemosyne, what are you doing?



Oh! Oh, my apologies to 8-ball. I- Once more, I am truly sorry for my infractions.

Though… If I may paraphrase, it seems I can't really help it.


I- I understand. I was briefed on your… more inhuman programming by Director Dagon, and I know that you aren't doing these things out of ignorance or malice.

Just… don't stroke 8-ball anymore, right?


The three proceed into the vast corridor before them, passing after rows of black iron bars and the occasional gash or inscribed message. The place radiates an idea resembling an unpleasant scent from somewhere within its simulated hallways — it's an otherworldly yet oddly familiar odor to Mnemosyne, similar to a mix of salty tears, gunpowder, coal and blood. Far beyond the hallway and illuminated by its own internal light, a massive arrangement of four concentric cubic cells rises above the open ceiling and out of sight. The conscripts trudge in absolute silence, and Mnemosyne pauses to absorb the novel feeling of a lack of any noise.

At the end of the hall, Glacon stops before the wall and regards the prison with intent. Following his lead, 8-ball's cubes take on a pattern seeming to represent determination.

All right, this is where the infosignature reads the strongest. 8-ball, prepare for decryption. I'll connect to Mnemosyne.


Mnemosyne doesn't respond, or even hear her companions — she finds herself once again floating through the deep, dark ocean, watching with wonder as life once again begins to flourish in the space surrounding her. Far beyond the reach of light, four behemoths enter her field of view.

I was told that this is ideal. She can't hear us now, but you can still access her data.


An immense, many-limbed octopus, a being of impulse and gluttony, grasping and consuming all those who draw near with its thin, pulsing tendrils.

An ethereal jellyfish, filled with bright orange, green and blue lanterns of natural light, hiding masses of activity and intellect underneath its surface.

A shark like a metallic blue submarine, content with basking in the darkness, seemingly waiting for its unsuspecting prey to approach. Its beady, intelligent eyes hold an unspeakable malice within.

A lobster glowing green across its body, kept and concealed in the clutches of a mesmerizing school of silvery-white fish.

The four monsters converge on Mnemosyne as she cowers, taking in all the other creatures in their path as the ones quick enough to escape flee into the dark. The leviathans merge and mix with one another around her, pulsing and fluxing with the energy of synthetic life, and Mnemosyne's screams become drowned out by the raw, pure power of the universe within the collective beast's many-layered mind.

Slowly but surely, the watery nothingness surrounding Mnemosyne fades and is replaced with the familiar sight of Site-15's virtual conference room. Glacon and 8-ball stand over her, with Glacon's face in an expression of concern and 8-ball's squares arranged in an unreadable yet sympathetic pattern. She blinks and slowly brings herself to her feet, her mind hazy and her senses unfocused.

A-a-apologies! I ap-pear t-to have onc-ce ag-ag-again m-made an in-nfraction… Th-though I couldn't h-he-help it. It w-was j-just-t…

I-I-I as-sure you…— this wil-l not happen ag-g-gain.


No need to apologize, Mnemosyne. I think you've more than made up for your "infractions" with what you just helped us accomplish.

Now, how about we tell Researcher Isabi to take you up out of here? You deserve a rest!


Th-thank you… sir?


Oh, er…

This isn't an infraction, or wrong at all, but… you really don't need to call me "sir."

You're technically my superior, after all, in terms of clearance-


Mnemosyne doesn't hear him, or seems not to, as she absent-mindedly stares over his shoulder. Both her hands are reaching out to gently rub 8-ball's cubes, and Glacon can't help but chuckle as he notices 8-ball's expression of silent acceptance.

Hang in there, buddy.


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