SCP-5580
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To be a heresiographer is, by its very nature, to take a specific position and look out from that vantage. For something to be a heresy, it must be defined against an orthodoxy. And, of course, to call something an orthodoxy, or a truth, or a certainty, it must be defined against that which is unorthodox, or a lie, or the certainty that something is not so. To define something as "truth" implies the lie shaped around it.

The early heresiographers, those Muslims and Christians of the middle ages, had the certainties of a state-backed dogma to guide them. They were the orthodox, holding a divine truth backed by the ruler's power and the whole constellation of civilisation. But for the modern heresiographer, we can never know with absolute certainty which tradition, which truth, is correct.

What are we to do? How do we define the divine truth, and thus what is heretical to begin with? It is not an easy task; some would say it is impossible. Indeed, we shall never know the whole of it. All we can do is get glimpses, here and there, flashes of illumination that allow a few brief moments of true definition. The heresiographer's task, then, is to determine that which is is an untruth and yet nevertheless exists.

~ Lyle Burnley, Modern Heresiography: An Introductory Guide (Yellowknife: Eutopos Publishing, 1974).


SCP-5580

indochina.jpg

Members of SCP-5580-1B's escort during Operation F

Item #: SCP-5580

Object Class: Neutralised

Special Containment Procedures: Historical records mentioning SCP-5580, SCP-5580-1, the Hmong Self Defence Confederation or IJAMEA operations in northern Vietnam are to be expunged from any and all sources in which they are found. Attempts to reclaim further records of Lyle Burnley's 1936 and 1939 expeditions to Vietnam are ongoing; they are believed to be in the possession of Burnley's daughter Matilda, whose whereabouts are unknown.

An area of 5km2 surrounding SCP-5580 has been cordoned off from public access. Although it is believed to be neutralised, cautionary measures mandate that experimentation or access to SCP-5580 is strictly forbidden.

SCP-5580-1 is believed to have been destroyed, but Foundation webcrawlers are set to flag up information about its potential whereabouts.

Description: SCP-5580 is a ruined Japanese military base in what is now Lào Cai Province, Vietnam.

SCP-5580 was constructed by the Imperial Japanese Anomalous Matters Examination Agency (IJAMEA) in 1944, during the Japanese occupation of French Indochina. Its purpose was to house and serve as an operational base for SCP-5580-1B as part of Operation F, a military research project that aimed to use SCP-5580-1B to help Japanese forces during the Second World War.

Prior to its destruction, SCP-5580 appeared to undergo a series of anomalous modifications, growing considerably and affecting the mental and physical state of its occupants. Immediately prior to its destruction, it is believed to have been at least 100m in height.

SCP-5580 was destroyed by GoI#991 "Hmong Self Defence Confederation" during Incident 5580-2, using SCP-5580-1A.

Addendum 1: SCP-5580-1

SCP-5580-1 was a Fifthist artifact discovered by Henrietta Jackson1 in 1923, following an archeological expedition in southern Arizona. Although the artifact's origins were unknown at the time, Southern Fifthist leader Johan Headley-Smythe, involved with Arizona's Fifthist movement in the late 1910s, claimed during a 1984 interview that it was "a corpse" or "a dead egg"; exactly what this signifies is not wholly known.

The function and abilities of SCP-5580-1 cannot be entirely determined. However, based on reports recovered from the former IJAMEA and testimony from former GoI#991 members, the following capabilites have been assigned to it:

  • Able to create "shards" or "beams" of light, which were used for "changing" or terminating individuals.
  • Able to create "illusions" or "strange lights", allowing for the construction of complex nonreal environments.
  • Able to alter and grow manmade structures.
  • Able to enhance the growth of plants or crops.
  • Able to provide anomalously large amounts of power, as utilised by IJAMEA during Operation F.
  • Able to create "a doorway"; see below for further information.
  • Possessing a degree of semi-sentient thought, possibly a "reflection" of the thoughts of those using or surrounding it.

SCP-5580-1 passed into the possession of Lyle Burnley in 1934, following an agreement of an unknown nature with Henrietta Jackson. At some point in late 1934, Burnley split the artifact into two halves as part of an experiment, hereafter designated SCP-5580-1A and SCP-5580-1B.

The rock was, in many ways, entirely ordinary; a fine piece of Arizona basalt that had been cut and smoothed by its former owners. It felt slightly warm to the touch, but that is not in and of itself a sign of anomalousness. I did wonder, for a time, whether Henry had been taken in by one of that d*mned state's hawking anomaly-merchants, leading her to nothing more than a large stone buried in a mesa and calling it magical.

I should have known better than to doubt her judgment. On a whim, I used the beryllium knife Ackerly procured to bisect it, just in case its innards revealed something more. To my shock and surprise, the entire specimen - interior and exterior - began to glow with a bright pink light, illuminating the whole room and quite dwarfing my pale lamp.

I peered into it. You must understand - I was naive and still quite young at the time. I did not have that wealth of experience bestowed by time. Fifthism was still a young cult, and few of us knew the exact forces we were dealing with, or the degree of their unfathomable heresy. The shudders which the phrase "pink light" now inspires were unknown to most of us, especially those who did not experience or recall the old Occult Wars.

But I was lucky. The light here was not a part of that dread starfish. It did not attempt to attack or enslave. This was the raw power, untarnished and unmoulded. I touched it, and it was like moving in a soft, delightful ocean. There was none of the mental warping today associated with Fifthist relics. I suspect this was, perhaps, something related to the Fifthist god but not of it - a similar substance, with a similar origin, but ultimately unconnected. Lacking a shape to mould itself to, composed of enough minds, it had no psychic power at all.

But I was - am - a heresiographer. I understood the ways faith and the occult could be manipulated, or could reveal. And more than anything else, I wanted to understand. I did not yet see into what dark places that impulse would trap me.

~ Lyle Burnley, Taboo and Forbidden Recollections, 1933-1937.

In 1936, Burnley, a freelance heresiographer at the time, was employed by the French colonial government in Indochina to consult on various anomalous practices among the Hmong community in what is now northwestern Vietnam. Burnley left a large body of material discussing his activities in his journals.

It took us maybe a week to find the village. The French authorities had been vague, noncommital. I thought this unusual; why hire a man and be unwilling to explain the basic requirements of the job? They spoke of "threatening practices" but little else. I was starting to think I had been set up.

I suspect now, however, that they didn't know what they wanted. They were aware that this area, part of that broad and untamed highland in the region's north, had always remained beyond the pale of conventional civilisation. The rice-padi states of the lowlands had never fully succeeded in subjugating it; it remained, as it were, a frontier where anything could be happening. The French likely just wanted reassurance that any potential threats had been neutralised.

The locals were, naturally, unhelpful. Up to this point, my research had kept me squarely in the occult quarters of Europe and America; I simply replicated the attitudes towards them that any American would display. I am ashamed to say that I thought them, to a man, a sullen and stupid breed.

~ Lyle Burnley, Taboo and Forbidden Recollections, 1933-1937.

Burnley had taken to keeping both halves of SCP-5580-1 on his person at all times, claiming they were "invaluable research aids". On the night of the 26th September 1936, a group of villagers stole SCP-5580-1A from Burnley, leaving little trace of their activities.

The folly we all carried with us was to believe, consciously or not, in a certain ordering of the world. Even a relatively liberal-minded man such as myself would have martialled a hundred different justifications for why things were the way they were, never suspecting that it is impossible and fruitless to place and categorise the broad nature of human experience into such small boxes. I supported, when it was not financially convenient, the autonomy of the colonised peoples, but my analysis would not have gone further.

It is not enough to simply believe, in an abstract sense, that colonialism is wrong. Would the liberation of these states in the name of national interests, Vietnamese, Lao or Tai, have been enough to assuage my conscience? It would have produced three states of producers for the West to swindle anew, each one turning inward to justify new subjugations in the old models of every coercive state. There are always more marshes to be drained, more jungles to be felled, more people to be allotted their position in an overarching system of the seasons.

I could see none of this. As I have said many times before in this volume, I was young and foolish. My orthodoxy was the world I had grown up with. I had put myself at the service of a broadminded Western liberal interest. Whatever abstract sympathies I held paled in the face of the stone's theft. I wanted revenge, and I wanted it back.

After losing the stone, I spent a week raging through the jungle, searching every village for my prize. I didn't hurt anyone, but I allowed two teams of my hired guards to conduct their own expeditions. I never ordered any kind of atrocity, and yet, I have found myself wondering many times over the years what they did while I led a third team through the countryside. It still weighs upon me.

In the end, however, my search was fruitless, and such a loud arrival put to rest any hope of catching occultists in the act. All this furious expedition had done was alert the French customs authorities to the object in my position.

~ Lyle Burnley, Taboo and Forbidden Recollections, 1933-1937.

As Burnley hints at above, the French colonial authorities seized SCP-5580-1B upon his exit from the country. This remained in their possession until 1940, when they handed it over to IJAMEA as part of the surrender agreement with the Japanese Empire.

Addendum 2: GoI#991, the Hmong Self Defence Confederation

The group referred to as the Hmong Self Defence Confederation was formed in early 19372. The Confederation was a defence network of several Hmong villages near the Chinese border. It had no formal governmental structure, with decisions being taken by members of these villages.

The Confederation was formed after SCP-5580-1A came into the possession of Lauj Gao-Jer, a recent Hmong widow from a village in what is now Lào Cai Province. Lauj, along with several men and women in the area, began holding meetings in late 1937 to discuss forms of self-defence against the impositions of the French colonialist state. By mid-1938, many of the Hmong were in a form of open yet relatively passive resistance against the Indochina Union:

The idea was simple. There would be no uprising, no rebellion; they would simply stop obeying orders and stop paying taxes. They would sit, with their pieces of the stone, and wait for the French to come. I admired them, and wanted to join, but they said I was too young.

Still, I remember how easily we all acclimatised to this new reality. For generations we had been in conflict, open or not, with those who wanted to control and impose their state structures upon us. My ancestors had fled from China decades earlier, where the Qing did all they could to force us to settle. We had lived in and adapted to the mountains because they provided an escape from the lowlands below, their rice padis and cities.

And at last, in this place, we had the upper hand. The first French attempts to reimpose control failed dramatically. Gao-Jer stood in an open field, smiling at the soldiers, her comrades arrayed behind her. The soldiers approached, thinking it would be easy to shoot these mad hill-folk to the ground. She gathered the pieces of the stone together, closed her eyes, and in a pink flash, they all merged back into a single rock. That spooked the French enough to make them more cautious. Then she held it aloft, and let the pink light flow.

The funny thing was that Gao-Jer wasn't a revolutionary. She didn't want to upset the order of things. Her former husband's brother, Rwg, married her shortly after the meetings started, as was often common among us. She continued to live a woman's life, working in the field and sewing at night. We lived our lives as we always had done for generations.

~ Phab Tooj, Testimony to Dr. Henry Maxwell

By mid-1939, the French had lost control of a large area along the Chinese border. Reports had also begun to arrive of the Confederation operating in parts of the Yunnan. After four failed attempts to re-establish control, the French government called in Lyle Burnley to negotiate with GoI#991, promising to return control of SCP-5580-1B to him if he proved successful.

It was a foolish idea, and there was really very little I could do, but the French were getting desperate. I had refused to help them uncover the secrets of their half of the rock, but I agreed to talk to the Hmong woman. They were terrified that she was going to use the stone to launch a war of liberation. I simply wanted a chance to reclaim my prize.

She agreed to meet in a clearing near Sa Pa. It was dark when we arrived. The rain had come, but not the full monsoon; just a steady, unpleasant drizzle. She laughed at me, and I suppose I did look a fool; some arrogant American with a bristling moustache, holding an ill-coloured coat over my head. Her husband was by her side, brandishing a piece of the stone; I think his name was Roug. I stared at the rock greedily. I think she saw my face.

She beckoned me into a makeshift tent. Her face was amused the whole time; or maybe I was just projecting that, I don't know. Her French was surprisingly fluent. I found out much later that she'd spent some time in Hanoi when she was young, as a factory worker.

I spent most of the negotiations trying to find out where the rock was. I attempted to be subtle, but clearly wasn't. After a while, she grinned and lifted up a tarpaulin at the back of the tent. There it was! Right with her! I could have reached out and taken it - hell, I tried to. I leapt forward, and found myself frozen.

Tendrils of the light had gripped me beneath the shoulders. I struggled, but couldn't move. Her head was on her shoulder then, looking at me sadly. "What is the rock to you?", she asked.

I am sorry to say that I used some quite foul language here. Then I answered, "Knowledge." It was true, after all.

She shook her head at me. "Knowledge is only one aspect of power," she said, "and the rock is power." She leaned over and stroked it, saying some words in Hmong I didn't understand.

A light shone towards the back of the tent. At first, it was like a projector; but then, it became more solid. A doorway. It was composed of pink bricks, forming a stately arch. Beyond it, nothing but pink light.

We both stared at it for a while, and then I gasped. A boy - a Hmong lad - was emerging from it. He stepped out, smiled at the woman, and then left the tent. The woman nodded as he passed, then stroked the rock again. The doorway disappeared.

I asked what I had seen. The woman responded, "It is another hill. It is the highest hill, and there they can never follow us."

And I understood. The pink light, the rock - they weren't using it to conquer or impose control. They were just the hill folk, and in this time and place, these several villages had understood what countless conquerors and rebels could not; that the only way to break these endless cycles was to escape them entirely. When the time was right, they were going to lead their people out of this world and into a place where nobody could follow.

I stopped struggling. I was released. By the end of the week, I had left Vietnam, and resolved not to interfere again where I was not wanted. But, ah, how weak the body is! Thirty years have passed between then and now, and I feel myself knotted further and further in the centre of the web, caught like a fly in my endless attempts to discern good from evil, orthodoxy from heresy. If only I could have taken the Hmong woman's path. If only there had been something, anything, I could have done to help.

~ Lyle Burnley, Testaments from the Spider's Eyes, 1937-1945

Following this encounter, the French government changed their strategy, focusing on ways to harness SCP-5580-1B for offensive use against the Confederation. However, these plans were abandoned following the Japanese invasion of Indochina.

Addendum 3: IJAMEA and SCP-5580-1B

IJAMEA had become aware of SCP-5580-1 in 1938, and following the surrender of French Indochina in 1940, had taken control of SCP-5580-1B. By 1941, they had begun to work on a way to utilise SCP-5580-1B for military purposes, resulting in Operation F.

The aim of Operation F was to turn SCP-5580-1B into a mass offensive weapon, with the intention of using it in the ongoing war as an alternative to the increasingly fraught nuclear weapons program. To this end, a research base - SCP-5580 - was established in what is now Lào Cai Province, housing SCP-5580-1B and performing experiments to determine potential military uses.

We were a small, dedicated taskforce - about thirty or forty people on the entire base, I think. We were patriots, like most IJAMEA men. We were also engaged in a ferocious rivalry with the IJN - by that point, their own anomalous weapons programs were an open secret, and it was increasingly important for IJAMEA to establish its anomalous supremacy.

It was not pleasant to work in such conditions. The climate disagreed with us; many of my compatriots did not get along with one another. I do not know how we managed to achieve such rapid success, and part of me wonders if the rock itself did not help us along. The pink light alters, I think, depending on who is using it, and for what purpose. The metal and concrete walls of the base started to turn such strange colours, even when testing wasn't going on.

It wasn't the number five that was seared in our heads, like the other Fifthist cults. This was something else. It had the same origin as the starfish, but wasn't part of it. So we didn't have mantras of five-by-five, but a different drumbeat that set up shop in our heads Whatever it could latch onto. And in that place, that environment - well, these were the heads of desperate men who wanted to do a good job. Men who wanted so much to succeed in turning it into a weapon. Men stuck inside a single metal block their whole lives.

~ Dr. Nakamura Kenji, Testimony to Dr. Henry Maxwell.

By 1942, with little apparent progress made, the Japanese government had decided to cut its losses shut down Operation F. However, the personnel stationed at SCP-5580 did not respond to orders to leave, nor did any of the men sent to retrieve them return. After losing a significant armed force in January 1943, IJAMEA decided to abandon attempts to reclaim SCP-5580 or SCP-5580-1B.

Despite this, SCP-5580's operations continued for another year, until Incident 5580-1. Scattered reports which reached the Foundation's nascent Saigon operation indicated a large degree of anomalous activity in its vicinity, with reports of a "self-constructing" building "constantly expanding" into the surrounding hills.

If I'm honest, I can't remember much of those last few months. I can't tell you what the building looked like or what we were doing there. I was almost chained to my desk, trying everything I could to weaponise the pink light. I didn't like to look up. I would wander, head down, between my quarters and my lab, never questioning what the others were doing or why we always had the supplies we needed.

I wonder if the rebels' experience of the light was so different because they lacked so clear a purpose. Or maybe that's not right - they had a purpose, but it was less obsessive, less singular. There was no room within us for the ordinary patterns of life any more. We had to complete the mission. The soldiers they sent to remove us felt it too, and more and more of them patrolled the grounds, desperate to save the compound and thus the Empire.

The work progressed well.

~ Dr. Nakamura Kenji, Testimony to Dr. Henry Maxwell.

The effects of SCP-5580 on the region became stark. Multiple villages were raided by IJAMEA personnel for supplies, often coming into minor contact with GoI#991 members. Although their active use of SCP-5580-1A consistently gave them the upper hand in these conflicts, GoI#991 was reluctant to engage in a direct assault on SCP-5580 or more open conflict with IJAMEA.

It was Rwg who pushed the hardest for an assault. We knew by that point the Japanese had the other half of the stone, and what that meant for our prospects. But Rwg was convinced that a short, sharp assault would win the day. I think that he became rankled when Gao-Jer disagreed with him; it made him seem weak when his wife held more power.

But it was Gao-Jer who had liberated the people, Gao-Jer who had sent the French back to Hanoi and freed the hill country. More and more villages and nomads were flocking to our banners. And Gao-Jer urged caution, again and again, and the people agreed.

But then things got stranger. The Japanese stopped their raids and received no more convoys, and still the great building grew. It had become like a tower, reaching higher and higher into heaven, full of strange angles and spires leading nowhere.

There was activity in there, we could see; scientists moving around, soldiers patrolling. There was something inside it that was providing them food, growing the construct. The surrounding trees burnt day and night. It was when the lightning began to strike the spires that Gao-Jer made her move.

~ Phab Tooj, Testimony to Dr. Henry Maxwell

Addendum 4: Incident 5580-1

On 16/05/1943, the experiments at SCP-5580 were reaching their final stage. Several growths on the outside of the compound had begun to act as lightning sinks, apparently for use as a power source. Nearby villagers and Confederation members reported seeing "pink light" emerge from the tower's central spire.

On 18/05/1943, a meeting of the Confederation resulted in the unanimous decision to assault SCP-5580. A small group of the insurgents, led by Lauj Gao-Jer, entered the base on 20/05/1943 in order to retrieve or annihilate SCP-5580-1B; the main body of the group assaulted the base 30 minutes later to provide a distraction.

I tagged along because they wanted someone small, someone who could move in tiny spaces. The light had changed and altered the building, and we had no idea how navigable it was. Gao-Her was nervous, but Rwg, feeling vindicated at last, was bold and excitable.

It wasn't too hard to get in. The guards were acting erratically, like a facsimile of a patrol. There was a backdoor, a strange and curved thing. From there, we entered a system of vents, with little gratings every few metres.

I don't know if those vents had any purpose. I remember seeing things through the grates; little things, human scenes. Seven scientists all standing in a circle, writing nonsense words on paper and chanting. A Japanese flag rendered in pink and white, spread across the floor and distorting it, soldiers trying to balance as they hopped and prayed. A researcher absorbed into the wall, electricity coursing through his body, screaming.

It was a nightmare, a copy of reality, someone's fever dream. I don't think they were human any more, just what the light thought humans should be; and that was filtered through whatever mad ideas the scientists had dreamt up.

~ Phab Tooj, Testimony to Dr. Henry Maxwell

I had left two months prior, when I was finally able to wake up and see what I was doing. I fled into the night. The things I saw by the end were inhuman. In place of a starfish was a flag, a state, an exemplar of power.

Think about how we conceive of the nation. We, as people, all know we belong to it. It has a kind of real, tangible existence. We see the state as its physical arm, its Holy Spirit, and everything flows through it in a perfect order that, on paper, reflects our values. This world is not a battleground of negotiation, diplomacy and compromise - there are no real people there at all. Just avatars of the nation, all completing their allotted roles, tilling the fields in the knowledge that their small contribution is part of a larger whole.

Imagine if the world was really like that.

And so the tower's growth was the only logical endpoint. Everything was done unquestioned, each bizarre decision and distortion of reality just seen as another part of the great enterprise. For Japan! For the Agency! The Empire! All the spires leading towards that vast and single point, towering up, up and away, more specific and singular with each passing moment.

Our work was so close by then. A little longer, and that tower would be able to do anything it wanted.

~ Dr. Nakamura Kenji, Testimony to Dr. Henry Maxwell.

The infiltration began at 22.30 local time. At 23.00, the main assault began, diverting a large portion of SCP-5580's personnel away from the base.

SCP-5580-1A had been split among members of the smaller task force, in the hope that it would be useful against SCP-5580-1B. Consequently, the members of the Confederation were forced to use conventional weapons, leading to several casualties. Despite this, their operation was successful, and the Japanese troops were largely absent from the base by midnight.

At approximately 00.30, the task force had made its way into the main laboratory, at the centre of the compound.

There was no ceiling in there; just the spire, stretching so far above. I have no idea how tall it was at that point. The cavernous roof crackled with pink light.

Part of it hit Rwg; he fell instantly. I saw Gao-Jer physically flinch at that, but she just took his part of the stone and continued on to the centre of the laboratory. We'd been expecting a fight, but the scientists were strewn all around, clearly dead. There weren't many of them there. One of them still had his glasses on, slightly askew; he was holding a wad of paper and bleeding from the ears. It was almost comical.

In the centre was their half of the stone. It looked diseased. The pink light was curling tendrils upwards, right down the centre of the spire, as far as we could see. It was like a strange cathedral. A researcher was there, still alive, whispering to it. He didn't seem to notice us. He didn't look up.

We spent ages trying to get it out. We tugged, heaved, hacked at the metal frame and the pink light - nothing. The lightning above us got worse and worse. Finally, Gao-Jer ordered us to use the stones on it. That worked - the light recoiled - but it wasn't strong enough. They were too small. An inhuman screaming began above us, and two of our party were shot down by the lightning.

So Gao-Jer told us to give us her stones, and then to get out. I remember her face. It was wide-eyed, eyebrows high. I don't know what she was feeling. I don't think I ever will. She hadn't wanted to take the stone with us at first, I think - she'd seemed reluctant. And now, here, was the end of all her grand designs for her people.

We gathered the rocks together, and she merged them, as I'd seen her do so many times. Then those who remained left through the vent. I was the last out. I looked back at her, just before I left; she was staring into the pink light, hair whipping about her head. Her face was turned away.

~ Phab Tooj, Testimony to Dr. Henry Maxwell

At approximately 02.00, SCP-5580 was destroyed in a huge blast, which wiped out an area approximately 1 mile in diameter. No members of the Confederation were harmed, as the last of them had withdrawn by 01.45. Many Japanese soldiers, giving chase, also survived; however, several more who had returned to base, as well as all of the researchers, expired.

Gauj Gao-Jer's body was never found. The compound was largely ruined, with only a few foundation structures remaining. None of these had been seriously augmented by SCP-5580-1B. SCP-5580-1 is also believed to have been destroyed in the blast.

Following this, GoI#991 quickly dissipated, with both its its key leadership figures deceased and its primary means of power destroyed. Following the war, French colonial authorities re-established control over the region. They were unsuccessful in finding or prosecuting GoI#991 members, although several retributory crimes were committed by them against the Hmong population.

Local residents have reported seeing "ghostly" figures in SCP-5580's ruins over the decades; this has not been confirmed by Foundation sources.

Addendum 5: Interview with Mr. Phab Tooj

The following is an interview conducted by Dr. Henry Maxwell with former Confederation member Phab Tooj on 17/09/1991. Phab, only 14 in 1943, had later moved to northern Laos in the 1950s, before being forced to flee to the United States with his family in 1975 following retributory acts against the Hmong for their perceived involvement with CIA operations in Laos. By 1991, he was a graduate student in history at the University of Chicago.

This interview took place after Phab had read the above document, as Dr. Maxwell was curious as to how well it matched his version of events.

<Begin Log>

The interview takes place inside a standard interrogation room. Phab is sitting on one side of the table, reading a copy of the SCP-5580 document. Maxwell is sitting on the other side of the table, watching Phab intently.

Maxwell: So, what do you think?

Phab: Hmm.

Phab places the document back on the table.

Phab: It was… interesting.

Maxwell: You don't agree with it?

Phab: No, no, it's just… I find it an entirely accurate account in terms of the events, yes. It describes it all pretty much entirely as it happened.

There is a short pause.

Maxwell: You don't seem convinced.

Phab: "This was the end of all her plans for the light." I didn't say light. I said hills.

Maxwell: Well, any translation is bound to-

Phab: The thing is, the way you've, ah, "translated" it, in the context of everything else - it gives the impression Gao-Jer's plan was to take us all beyond the doorway. To the land of the pink light.

Maxwell: That's what Burnley reported. He's the only source I have for her intentions - you said you didn't know.

Phab: You didn't interview any other survivors besides me? I know there are some out there.

Maxwell: It's - hard to track people down around there. Especially among the Hmong.

Phab: Mm. But I'm in America, so more accessible.

Maxwell: Exactly.

Phab: Mm.

Phab picks up the paper and flicks through it again.

Phab: I said hills. The Hmong are a hill people. I was a child. I saw her eyes shine so many times, shining with the promise of the future, but… I don't think that was what she was going to do, Dr. Maxwell. I don't think she wanted Shangri-La, and I don't think the light was meant to be some permanent abode. Why would Burnley know what she was thinking?

Maxwell: He was a perceptive man…

Phab: He was a westerner who couldn't even remember the name of the woman he was interviewing. I knew he was - or, well, he became sympathetic, but he still didn't see the things we did. He didn't spend years with her, by her side.

Phab places the paper back on the table.

Phab: Only one survivor. And even with your other sources, you rely so much on Burnley. What you've constructed here, doctor, is a - a kind of orthodoxy. It's a position. It's one variant of the truth. Maybe you and Burnley are right about Gao-Jer, and I'm wrong. I don't know.

Phab lights a cigarette.

Phab: There are many truths. My truth is the sound of insects in the dead of night, and a community gathered around an open rock, watching pink sparks light up future hopes. It is rain streaming down faces, and a woman, so long ago - God, so long ago - giving speeches I didn't understand.

Maxwell: There is only one truth.

Phab: But can you ever access it? Even a glimpse? I see lots of facts written down, but none about the decision Gao-Jer had to take.

Maxwell: Which one?

Phab: The one where she had to sacrifice the only power she had, the only power any of us had. The one where we had to accept the rule of the Japanese, the French, the Viet Minh - where we were once again plunged into endless cycles of precarious living. She did it for you, doctor, for everyone, when there was nobody else who could. And she shouldn't have had to. That is my truth, doctor.

Phab stabs at the document with his lit cigarette; it catches fire. Dr. Maxwell leaps backwards, but Phab continues sitting, staring at the fire.

Phab: So much for yours.

<End Log>

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