What Is There To Do With A Pot Of Gold?
rating: +22+x

I didn't realize the day would come when I missed that old anxiety.

When they threw me the party I wanted to spin on my heels and storm out of the site. I thought that Mackey should've known better. Should've told everyone that I didn't deserve that much praise or celebration. It was just my first project after all. I'd barely dipped my toes in.

But then as the years rolled on, and as more and more of my projects went as smooth as the first, I've accepted that I did deserve that congratulations party. If I'm being honest with myself, I tear up every time I think about it for too long. It was nice of everyone. It was really nice.

I'm certain they were still being nice when they offered me the first promotion. And the second. And now I have Mackey's old job and he's off enjoying retirement on some beach in Spain. I have the accolades and the history as one of the most successful SCP researchers that no one has ever heard of. At least that was until they stuck my inaugural project documentation in the orientation packet and asked me to run the seminars for new researchers.

Because of course, I was the obvious choice. I have an extensive background of successful projects including:

And those are just the ones I have my name on, not to mention the dozens of researchers I've managed, and the hundreds I've approved budgets for.

But now I'm looking down at my note cards and my hands are shaking because even after SCP-7100 I was never big on public speaking. It's anxiety coming back to knock on my door.

"Dr. Teller, we're ready to start in about two minutes," my aid informs me. I just swallow and nod. Do I have enough? Are these little words written on these index cards really enough to keep these bright faces safe and plugging forward?

"Alright, it's show time sir."


"Break a leg."

"Yeah, uh, thanks."

And I walk out to the podium.

Hello everyone. My name is Dr. William Teller, research Subdirector here at Site-23. I used to be your boss's boss, but now you will be reporting to me directly. I am here to welcome all of you here as new SCP Project Research Leads.

I'm not addressing some big auditorium like I did for my thesis. I'm standing at the front of a small conference room that's been reorganized for orientation. The table moved out of the way, chairs nicely ordered in rows. There's only fifteen or so people in attendance, leaving a swatch of empty seats. The intimacy is intense. I can't even think about what I'm saying — my mind has entered autopilot and is simply regurgitating my notes with barely enough inflection to sound human.

You've already received packets with some sample documentation. Yes, that is my first project. No, I did not make the decision to use it as the example. But this presentation is not about the steps you will take to perform your research, but rather a word of warning about the trials and tribulations that take place off of the page.

There's so many of them, all wide-eyed and bushy-tailed. You have to be eager if you're going to make it this far. Show that you're willing to skip meals and forgo sleep to get to the bottom of these mysteries we're posed.

I know you're all used to working long hours, and going above and beyond. But what very few new research leads are prepared for is coming to terms with the fact that very few of these projects have nice answers that tie everything together. There are times when you will run into a wall that you cannot scale, no matter how good of a climber you are. We don't deal with problems that should have answers, we deal with anomalies that might follow some semblance of rules.

Statistically speaking, 60% of these new recruits will be stuck on their first project until they retire. So much of our staff has been banging their head against the same anomaly for decades, and made no progress. It's heartbreaking to watch.

However, even though this is a distinct possibility, it is nigh impossible to prove that effective containment procedures do not exist. Each of you are here because of your abilities, do not let a lack of results deter you. You will have to learn to push through, and keep working.

This part of the speech makes me feel nauseous. So hypocritical, coming from me. Telling all these kids that they have to just trust that they're talented. Because the problem is, they're not. Not all of them. That's just now natural aptitude works: it's always a crap shoot. Some of these kids are just incredibly hard workers, and some of them just… get it. Which in any other field can be equally useful. But here? In the land of lateral thinking and nonsensical solutions? Hard work alone is as effective at cracking an anomaly as digging through a steel wall with a plastic spoon. You need something heavier duty.

You also need to remember that you have your peers, your mentors, everyone at this site is working toward the same goals you are: containment. Reaching out is better than sitting on your hands for weeks on end.

I could picture it in my head now, the same thing that happened to me, all those years back. All of these consultation positions on other projects being hoisted upon me. I was the clever one after all. Everyone who couldn't figure it out eventually came to me. Not out of a sense of laziness or anything like that. I was just the best tool for the job.

Maybe it would happen to the girl in the back, the one not taking notes but looking at me intently through those massive glasses.

Or maybe the boy in the front row. He's tapping his chair and glancing around the room, but every once in a while he'll pull out his laptop and type something up.

They'll get all the accolades. And the success. And then they'll be handed the same damn promotion.

I wanted to keep this short, so that's all I have. I look forward to working with all of you. I think we have some time for questions.

The girl in the back raises her hand. I call on her.

"You mentioned briefly that we'll be directly reporting to you. We haven't been briefed on what that schedule looks like."

"Oh uh, yes," now I finally have to think for myself, "We— we'll meet probably every other week. You'll submit a report ahead of time so we can, uh, just spend the time talking about the results instead of summarizing them."

"That's a lot of reports," the girl responds.

"Yeah… I guess it is."

And it is. I barely have time for much else.

Another girl, smack in the middle of the room raises her hand.

"How long does it usually take to complete an SCP project? I was moved between projects quite frequently so I never got a good sense for the timeline," she asks.

"Well… on average safe objects tend to take six months. Euclids can take anywhere from uh, two to five years. Keters take about seven years minimum."

On average. I don't think I was ever working on a project longer than three months.

The boy in the front flopped his arm up.

"This isn't really about the research stuff, I'm just curious, Dr. Teller: do you prefer your current job or anomaly research?"


Without even skipping a beat. I answer too fast, honestly. They're all giving me weird looks now.

"I mean, my current position is, it's fine. Better pay I guess. But I do envy you. You're all going to do… amazing things."

I can hear my voice crack. I'm a terrible liar. A few more hands raise but I need to get off this podium.

"That's all the time I have today. If you have any, uh, further questions, please feel free to shoot me an email, although it might take me a bit to get back to you…"

My voice trails off as I turn from the podium to make a move for the hallway. I'm biting my tongue the entire time. Once I'm out of the conference room I break out into a sprint past my aid. They call out for me but I don't so much as pause until I reach my office and slam the door behind me. My heart pounds. I'm still sniffling.

I wanted to tell them so much more. All the things Dr. Mackey didn't tell me. How much they should cherish the time in the position they have. Some of them are going to be the new Tellers. The new brightest of the bunch. And they will grapple with their talent for a while but everyone needs to go through that on their own. But I couldn't bring myself to tell them about what comes afterwards. The things Mackey never told me.

They never tell you about the after. What happens to people who are good at what they do. They move you up and up the ladder until you're no longer doing the thing you enjoy. There's glory for a moment on a page. A report of a paper that crystalizes months of hard work that is eternally locked away in a database for containment specialists to stop reading once they see the word "description". We all work for that moment but no one tells you about what happens after the last page. After the citations and appendices. After the pages and pages of addenda.

There is no glory here. There is only mounds of paperwork and reports. Death tolls and wounded counts that increment day after day and you ask yourself if it's because you're sitting up here with your 200K annual salary and not back in the trenches exercising that talent that you refused to acknowledge for so long. It's days that are full of anxiety, but at least I could do something about it.

But that useful restlessness is the end game. That's what they don't tell you: there is no pot of gold at the end of this rainbow. You either die on the front lines, or you live long enough to watch your subordinates suffer that fate. All while you walk into the same office. Sign the same budgets. Attend the same meetings. You slowly assimilate into the bureaucratic monstrosity that belies this hell hole called The SCP Foundation.

I miss that old anxiety. It's better than this tedious collateral. This monotonous aftermath.

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