Breaker of Forums
Staff member
Date: 2/26/2023
Location: L-14, specific sub-location ACF-1325-A
Assets: Laine Cantrille, A-Class-C: "Anchor" (ACF-833)
Equipment: Standard security armor, anchored, overlaid/reskinned (see personnel file for details), notebook (standard Foundation issue, no special notes), pen (standard Foundation issue, anchored (see personnel files for details)
Purpose: Standard observation / security check of ACF-1325-A / ACF-1325-B

This was Laine's first time with ACF-1325-A. She had not previously been on rotation, but the Foundation was undergoing staffing difficulties, as they had been for some time. Understaffed was now the default in Foundation operations, despite efforts to the contrary. Laine was a qualified security agent, therefore she was qualified to be here, and the paperwork had been approved officially.

Unofficially, several agents in the break room were betting on whether this experiment would result in a breach. Laine did not approve of betting. She did not approve of breaches, either. She did not have an opinion on ACF-1325-A or ACF-1325-B, but they were anomalous, and Laine was generally better with anomalies than she was with people.

The forest was quite cold when she stepped into it. Laine didn't mind the feeling of cold. Some feelings were unpleasant, but that was not one of them. She appeared dressed as she always was - white collared shirt, gray skirt and blazer - until anyone thought to consider the fact that as a security agent, Laine should have been wearing the standard body armor, at which point of course she was wearing it and always had been, at least until this fact was no longer being considered and she was back to her usual self once more. This had been cause for some confusion at one point, but by now it was properly noted in her paperwork with the advice: Don't think about it too hard, which Laine was not sure she approved of, but it seemed to be helpful to other Foundation personnel, so she had allowed it to stay.

"Good afternoon." It was polite to introduce oneself to an anomaly. ACF-1325-B had not yet made an appearance, but Laine did not see any reason to introduce herself to ACF-1325-A, either. It was, after all, just as much an anomaly as any of the rest of them were.
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It took almost exactly two minutes for the anomaly to show itself. Well - it would've taken two minutes, if minutes were a thing here. Thankfully, they weren't, so the specificity of time spent, or lost, or otherwise wasted, was an absolute non-issue. First, there was a black streak, flickering somewhere deep in the trees. Then it was closer. It didn't close the gap by moving. It just - was further, then was closer instead.

And closer.

And closer.


The girl was sitting on a tree branch. Her hair - or thing-like-hair - trailed behind her, bouncing through the forest from place to place where she'd appeared prior, as if following a trail that she'd skipped along to come here. Skipped along, and simply ignored the actual skipping in-between.

"You're new."

She blinked, her head tilting to the side.

"But you're not."

Charity leaned in. The branch below her didn't move, didn't even sway - it was like she wasn't there at all.

"Are you going to ask me lots of questions?" She splayed out one hand, counting on each finger with the other. "Where are you from? What do you want? What happened to the bodies?"

She grimaced.

"I'm really tired of questions."
ACF-1325-B approached, in its own way. Laine observed, with some interest. The anomaly did not move so much as it had moved - there was a place where it was, and there was a place where it had been. The steps between were unnecessary, and thus had been skipped. Laine found a familiarity in that, somewhat, though she couldn't have said exactly what was familiar about it.

The anomaly greeted her, and Laine considered the standard good afternoon, but perhaps this anomaly had feelings about good afternoon in much the same way that Laine once had, and also this location was temporally indistinct. "Salutations." It was not a word that was used very often, but most people did not read dictionaries regularly.

ACF-1325-B was not interested in answering questions. Laine could certainly understand that, especially as the questions that she repeated seemed to be the sort that did not have good answers. Laine didn't mind questions with precise answers, but many of the Foundation's lines of questioning required too much assumption and not enough accuracy.

"I am not required to ask questions. If you do not prefer it, I will not ask questions. I'm Laine." She did not ask the anomaly what it preferred to be called, because that would have been a question. If the anomaly had a preference, it could specify of its own accord. Laine considered the forest: still, quiet, cold, not-really-there.

"I like it here."
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"Salutations. I haven't heard that before. Hello, Salutations, Good Morning, Hi. So many different ways to do the same thing. It's a bit silly, don't you think?"

Charity blinked.

"How do you know what do say? Is it what feels right?"

A pause. The girl leaned forward until she was no longer sitting on top of the branch, but instead sitting alongside it, somehow not falling off despite gravity doubtless doing her no favors.

"But now I'm asking you big questions, and that's not fair. You said you wouldn't ask me any, so I won't ask you any." Then, added on quickly after, "Unless you don't mind."

As Charity talked, the forest shifted. Slowly, incremental. The trees grew flatter, the canopy lower, the cold floor patterns of linoleum tiling. The white of the snow remained, but it enveloped everything, leaving only a simple room, almost empty, save for a box neatly placed in the exact center. 1,064 pieces! Family Fun! The room itself looked almost like an observation room from the facility. Almost. Nothing was perfect, of course - the size was a little off, the white a bit too bright. But it was close enough to be recognizable.

Charity was sitting cross-legged on the ground, now. She poked at the box with a foot.

"Do you like that? What is it?"
"I don't mind questions. I understand what it is like to have them. I may need to request clearance before I can answer some of them. Others I may choose not to for personal reasons." ACF-1325-B seemed to have a great deal of questions. Laine had once also had a great deal of questions. In many ways, she still did, but it was not always feasible to ask them, and sometimes she preferred not to.

"To answer the first, I don't know what to say, but I have found that statistically speaking if you allow the other person to begin and echo the same greeting pattern it works out well, however, if a greeting is not offered within two point seven seconds without reason, it becomes awkward. Also, if you are not comfortable with repetition of the offered greeting, it is good to have a fallback. Many options can be found in a dictionary or thesaurus, though some of them are not in common usage, and this can also make conversations awkward. I am not good at conversations." This was why Laine had to analyze them, because it provided a sufficient background knowledge that she was able to formulate a script that worked well enough with people. Anomalies were different, of course.

A puzzle box existed, in a room that was very much like one of the Foundation's. The box's placement was very accurate, although Laine did not generally put them on the floor now that she was an adult. ACF-1325-B was [age indeterminate], however, so it was acceptable positioning in that regard.

"That is a puzzle." This was a good question, with a clear and well-defined answer. "It is a picture, statistically most likely to be a rectangle, which has been separated into a number of pieces that can be fit together to reconstruct the picture. I find them very calming unless they are broken. Then I do not like them."
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Charity gave some pause to the explanation, as if considering it - turning it around in her head and looking it over like a curious shell found on the beach. Satisfied, she let out a little hum, drifting upside down over the puzzle box and poking it with her finger.

"I don't think you're bad at conversations just because you see things differently. Other people might have instincts, but - if someone knows how to do something but can't explain why, are they really all that good at it?"

The anomaly flashed Laine a sharp grin.


Her hand danced along the edge of the box, nailless fingertips finding purchase in a crack, and she slowly slid the lid off. Inside was a finished puzzle, bigger than the inside of the box itself. No - that wasn't right. Inside was a collection of puzzle pieces, scattered into random noise.

"Reality is messy." She plucked out a piece and set it on the floor, then another, then another. Glancing up, she gestured for Laine to join her. "Is it human, to enjoy making sense of it? To have fun putting it into structures?"
ACF-1325-B had an interesting analysis on conversational prowess. Laine considered it briefly, but not too deeply. Deep consideration of the things that anomalies said was often contraindicated, especially in the presence of known infohazards like ACF-1325-B. It was likely to become untidy.

ACF-1325-B poked at the puzzle box, and Laine waited patiently for her to explore the concept of the box. Laine was very good at being patient. She also understood that sometimes the box was just as important as what it contained, which was a fact that many seemed to miss. Once opened, the box briefly showed the puzzle in its entirety, which was not at all strange to Laine. All puzzles existed in their entirety. Momentarily, reality no longer worked that way, or perhaps it never had. The puzzle had been separated into a number of pieces, exactly as it should have been. ACF-1325-B took out a piece and began the puzzle.

She took out another piece, and put it in the wrong place. Laine was careful to maintain neutrality, because this was an anomaly, and anomalies did things differently. That was not to say that the positioning of the pieces didn't bother her, just that she did not vocalize the concept. When ACF-1325-B made a gesture for Laine to join her on the floor, she sat down carefully and picked up the second piece and put it where it was supposed to be, then the third, carefully correcting the position of each piece in relation to the first.

"Some people like it," Laine stated, "Some don't. Would you like me to stop?"
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As Laine came up to tend to the puzzle, Charity drifted back, propping her head up on her hands and crossing her legs in the air behind her. She looked like a teen girl in a movie talking on the phone in bed - except there probably wasn't a phone or bed involved, here.

"I don't mind it. It's fun."

She giggled.

"You take a thing, rearrange it, and call it something else, even though it's still the same thing - all because the picture on it is visible now." She reached down to poke at another piece, then handed it to Laine. "I think this is fun. Is this fun? We're spending time together and doing something you like."

A long pause, then, as Charity simply watched, before -

"Do you want to be my friend?"
"No, thank you," Laine said, not impolitely. "I had a friend once. It did not go well. It is inadvisable that this happen again, for security purposes." Many Foundation personnel would have remarked that it did not go well was somewhat of an understatement. It was best for all considered if ACF-833 avoid becoming synergistically entangled once more. It was probably especially best in the case of another anomaly.

And yet, she understood. People often needed other people. Sometimes anomalies needed other people, or other anomalies. ACF-1325-B was particularly solitary, due to her nature.

"Would you like to be my acquaintance?" It was not the same as being a friend, but it was also not likely to cause a high-level breach. Laine was not interested in breaches. They were notoriously untidy. The only good thing about them was that once they were done, there was a great deal of paperwork. She accepted the piece that ACF-1325-B handed her, and put it neatly in place. "You are not required to answer that question, if you do not choose to. If you would prefer to think about it, I am very patient."
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Charity giggled, flipping upside down, trail of hair flicking back and forth lazily in the air behind her like the tail of a content cat.

"Acquaintance. It's fun, that you have a word for not-quite-a-friend. That's funny. I like that a lot."

The picture on the puzzle - emerging as Laine arranged more and more pieces - wasn't static. It shifted and moved, lazily trailing around some still undiscovered focal point. One moment, it was a fuzzy picture of a bay - the next, a plane flying through a starry sky - then, the face of someone familiar to Laine, but not quite right.

Charity watched from above as the picture - pictures - unfolded.

"It gets lonely in here. People come to talk to me, but they're not here for me. They're here for them." Her pale white eyes locked with Laine's. "Could I go outside sometime? I promise I'd be nice."
"There are words for many things," Laine said agreeably. "But people do not always know them. Sometimes words mean more than one thing, and people do not understand which one you mean, even if you choose the word very precisely. Other times the right words don't quite exist, and you have to find one that almost fits. It is not perfect, but sometimes imperfection is required for communication." Clear communication was best, of course, but Laine was an anomaly, and sometimes communication didn't work the way that she wanted it to. She had tried not communicating for a while, but it had not helped. Some communication was necessary, it turned out.

The pieces of the puzzle shifted under her hands, but it didn't change where they were supposed to go. The image was a variable, sometimes one thing and sometimes another. For a moment, a somewhat familiar mismatched blue-and-green gaze peered out from beneath strands of straw-colored hair, but the appearance was that of a small girl, not a grown man. Curious.

"I am not authorized to make a decision on whether or not you are allowed outside. I will inform security that the request was made, but I will not attempt to influence the decision one way or another. Also, 'nice' archaically meant scrupulous, precise, or accurate and had nothing to do with pleasantries. As a precursor to that definition, it meant 'coy' or also 'stupid.' You are an entity of indeterminate time period, therefore I promise to be nice is a phrase that should not be taken as reassuring, for security purposes."

This was delivered evenly, without inflection or judgment. ACF-1325-B was an anomaly, after all. Like Laine, she communicated in her own way, and Laine understood quite well that the words might not mean what people expected them to mean. Research on the subject may have been required, but she was not a researcher, and her first priority was security.
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"You don't have to worry about that with me," Charity replied solemnly - even a little bit petulantly. "Words don't mean anything here."

She fell silent for a little while after that, folding her arms around her waist and drifting up behind Laine. When the puzzle was almost done, however, she spoke again, voice barely above a whisper.

"You're very quiet."
"Words do have meaning. Otherwise this conversation would not make sense." Laine was very literal about this sort of thing. She considered this. "If you mean this idiomatically, then it follows that promises also have no meaning here. This reinforces the previous point."

ACF-1325-B was behind her, practically silent. Laine wasn't startled by the whisper, because she had always known where ACF-1325-B was. They were acquaintances, after all, and it would be impolite not to know where her acquaintance was when she was a guest in ACF-1325-A. "Yes. Sometimes I am not entirely quiet. Sometimes I ask many questions, but you requested no questions, so I am not asking them." That was also being polite. Laine put the final piece into the puzzle, which was still becoming itself, then turned to face the anomaly that had been behind her.

"You have not expressed a preference on quiet." It could have been a question, but courteously, it was not. There was a space for it to have been a question, however, if ACF-1325-B would have liked to have been asked.
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"No, I mean -"

Charity paused, folding her arms.

"We aren't using words. Not here. Not in the way you use words. It's - different. We're just using meaning, not the things that mean the meanings."

Unsatisfied with her explanation, but not entirely sure how to make it any better, she changed tracks, drifting down beside Laine's shoulder close enough for her trailing hair to nearly brush the girl's arm.

"I like quiet. I don't mind talking, but - noise is uncomfortable. It isn't how much of talking there is, but how big."
Laine sat still for a moment - still and quiet. The anomaly didn't quite touch her, because of course it would not. Laine didn't like being touched, therefore things did not touch her. She was not incapable of touch, she simply did not prefer it, and the preference made itself anomalous. If ACF-1325-B had tried to move even closer, Laine would have been slightly farther away, and always have been.

Thinking about words and meanings was interesting, though. ACF-1325-B spoke of meanings, and perhaps there were meanings, or perhaps there were not. Words were meanings, or at least they could be. [font color="a0522d"]"I don't believe I'm authorized to use words here."[/font] There was an emphasis on the words - not an anomalous one, because Laine was a security agent, and security agents were careful. She had authorization to do what was needed if things became dangerous, but she was not currently here to research the interaction between ACF-1325-B and ACF-833. If she had been, there would have been someone else present to monitor the interaction.

As it was, she was the one monitoring the interaction, and specifically monitoring ACF-1325-B. "I understand what you mean about 'big.'" Laine did not like big noises, either. She was not authorized to inform the anomaly of that, because security agents did not tell anomalies about potential weaknesses. "I prefer the quiet as well. Sometimes that means quiet talking, sometimes that means nothing. I don't mind, when it's completely quiet."
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As the last piece of the puzzle slipped into space, its image finally solidified - a simple picture of a lighthouse overlooking a cliff. It shimmered, slightly, as if threatening to change again, but instead it simply vanished, the puzzle once more replaced by the unopened box.

"I like quiet talking," Charity agreed, nodding quickly. "Keeping yourself to yourself. But - I don't like it when there's no talking at all. When nothing's there. Then you can only really talk to yourself, and what's the point of that? You already know everything you're about to say."

The puzzle box vanished. Without it, the empty room somehow seemed even emptier, as if it was the one thing giving the place purpose beyond its grey walls.

"How do you handle that? What do you do?"
The lighthouse was interesting. Laine would remember it. It did not have any particular significance to her, but perhaps it meant something to ACF-1325-B. That would be a good question to ask, but Laine was not asking questions. She would tell the researchers, and they would ask later.

"Sometimes I just sit quietly," Laine answered honestly. This had been considered very strange at some point, because most anomalies did not just sit quietly. When Laine had been small, sometimes she had finished what she was supposed to do, and then she sat quietly. Sometimes people brought books or puzzles, but she did not mind sitting just quietly. "Some people call it 'organizing your thoughts,' but my thoughts are already very organized. Sitting quietly is just patience. I am very good at patience."

She shrugged a shoulder, wondering what would happen if she had opened the puzzle box again before it had been gone, but it didn't belong here any more. The room didn't quite belong either, not any more. "You don't have to keep this here, if that is something you are doing on purpose. I can tell that it doesn't fit."
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The room was gone before Laine finished talking, replaced by the outdoors again - but not the snowy forest from before. Instead, it was a rocky beach, ocean waves sliding in and out silently against the shore. By the way the grass moved, there had to be a wind, but neither of them would feel it.

"Your thoughts are organized," Charity agreed. "You're easy to talk to. There isn't - sifting through maybes, and sometimes. They are what they are."

She smiled.

"You can come in here to sit and be quiet whenever you'd like. I'd make sure it's comfortable."
"I would require permission to spend time here when I am not instructed to be," Laine stated, because that was necessary for good security. She was not certain that it would be a good idea. Some anomalous interactions could be detrimental to the security of the Foundation, and ACF-1325-B had already requested that Laine allow her to leave. Additional interactions would mean additional opportunities for attempted persuasion.

Laine did not think she was likely to be persuaded by another anomaly, but this was not her security protocol to determine.

"I will remember that you have made the offer. It is very nice of you." There was that word again, nice. Laine had chosen it specifically, since it had already been used in this conversation, and the context made the definition equivalent to whatever it had already been anomalously set as. Whether or not ACF-1325-B found it a matter to be concerned about depended entirely on what she had meant by it in the first place. Laine did not ask, because she was not asking questions, but she did watch the anomaly carefully to see if there was a reaction and if it meant anything specific. It was possible that a reaction could mean many things, however. Reactions and words were both like that.
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