Humanism and Aesthetics
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"Turenne, this is Romeo. We are approaching Versailles, nothing to report."

"Roger that, Romeo. Let me know when you get out of the car. Turenne, over."

The car, a Peugeot 308 with the colorful stripes of the National Police, was quietly driving on a country road surrounded by tall cypress trees and small irrigation canals. The stones of the few surrounding dikes were pale yellow, contrasting against the immaculate blue of the sky. The two SCP Foundation officers in the car, also wearing police colors, were less quiet than their surroundings.

"What's the point of these code names, seriously? We're looking for Humanists, not terrorists from the Chaos Insurgency."

"Do you have something to say against my code names, Juliet?"

"…No, comm—Turenne," grumbled the agent who was driving.

A short silence ensued.

"I think it suits you very well, Juliet," Romeo said.

"Oh, shut up."

"Focus, gentlemen, thank you. Turenne, over."

After turning onto a gravel path bordered by - at first sight - hundred-year-old plane trees, the car promptly arrived in front of a large yellow stone bastide, impeccably maintained and adorned with multicolored flowers.

"Well… I say it every time: riches don't make a man rich, they only make him busier."

"Turenne, we have arrived in Versailles. Operation 'Siège du Palais' initiated."

"Roger that. Good luck, Romeo. Turenne, over."

Romeo got out of the car. He repeated the cover story in his head, put his uniform back on, and looked at Juliet one last time.

"Take care of yourself."

"Always." He smiled.

Juliet turned on the radio.

Romeo walked with a determined stride to the front door. He knew, surely better than anyone else, that the Gentlemen were reluctant to kill. He, therefore, knew that he was not risking much in entering the Hôtel Particulier. Yet even MTF agents couldn't completely silence that human apprehension about the unknown. Finally, he knocked on the door. He may have expected a butler or chambermaid to open the door, but it was instead the face of his very target that appeared when the door opened. Nevertheless, he did not lose his professionalism.

"Mr. De Mornas? Lieutenant Brescou of the National Police. I'd like to talk to you."

"The police? To whom do I owe this honor? Anyway, come in, please."

"Thank you."

Opposite the entrance was a wide stone staircase. But the two men moved instead to the right, and the door frame revealed a small and comfortable-looking lounge. Romeo couldn't say why, but something in the appearance of the Gentleman made him uncomfortable. Actually, it wasn't his appearance, strictly speaking; Mr. De Mornas was, unsurprisingly, immaculate. But there was something in the way he moved, perhaps, in his gaze or in his gestures. He couldn't put his finger on it, and it positively frustrated him beyond reason.

"Would you like some tea?"

"No, thank you."

"Well, sit down, please."

The Gentleman sat in front of Romeo on a couch with Maghrebi stylings - the same as the agent's. A coffee table of the same style was the only thing separating the two. By reflex, the agent inspected the room. The decoration was meant to be as rich as it was exotic. A high window overlooking the front of the bastide illuminated the two men from the left. Many portraits adorned the walls, all of them of different men or women, but all giving an undeniable sense of belonging to a whole.

"Well then. Mr. De Mornas, you have tried to acquire several formerly public lands on the outskirts of the village. Is this true?"

"Absolutely. Three, to be exact."

"These lots were put up for sale by the town hall a month ago, and were of interest to five different buyers, yes?"

"That is true. But the second buyer, Hôtel du Manoir, withdrew a week after the sale."

"Exactly. But…"

Something in the Gentleman in front of him distinctly bothered him. But it wasn't his grey eyes, his brown hair or his stout features. It was an overall impression. A whole. An aura.

"Would you like some tea?"

"Uh, no, thank you."

He found this unpleasant impression in the numerous portraits attached to the walls. It was almost as if he expected them to come to life. They didn't, of course - at least, not yet. It made him want to squirm on the couch, but his training as an MTF operative allowed him to deal with the discomfort.

"In short: two weeks ago, an investigation was opened on the first buyer, who was until then favored for the purchase. The money he was advancing did not seem to come from a tangible source. However, I fear that the investigation has now been extended to other buyers."

This affair had been quite a boon for the Foundation. Mr. De Mornas's supposed scheming, founded or not, gave both the pretext and the cover to the agent. He had to arrest the Gentleman in good and proper form so that the other Gentlemen wouldn't suspect the Foundation's involvement. Not that he really feared them. It was more of a matter of subtlety. The Gentlemen had been quietly learning about the Foundation for a very long time.

"Including you, Mr. De Mornas."

It was no longer just a nuisance. It was a palpable discomfort that took hold of his body. His hair was bristling, shivering despite the heat. The tremors came soon after. Hiding his state quickly became impossible. Strangely, Mr. De Mornas did not flinch.

"You in particular. A government official is accusing you of corruption, sir."

There! He could have sworn that one of the paintings had moved. No, it was probably his imagination playing with him.

"You would have been caught in the a—thblmnlm… uh… excuse me."

"Please, please, please."

Romeo concentrated all his willpower and tried to clear his mind. He was surprised to find that he did not succeed. His concentration evaporated, and his professionalism with it. He was very, very anxious to rest. To stop this stupid conversation right here.

"Would you like some tea?"

"Uh… yes… yes… Thank you."

Mr. De Mornas took the pot from the coffee table and poured Romeo a cup of tea, which he quickly drank. Romeo himself didn't know the reason for his haste, but the tea quickly made him forget his questions. The tea was really quite good. Excellent, even. In a last effort, he gave it his all against the fog saturating his mind, a blur that felt even more intense than a morning-after hangover.

"… the police have therefore instructed me to take you into custody, sir."

"The SCP Foundation, you mean?"

"Uh, yes, the Foundation."

There was an embarrassing silence. Mr. De Mornas remained sober in his triumph. Romeo, on the other hand, had his neurons struggling to understand the situation. It took him a good two minutes to realize. Maybe it was the tea? No, that wasn't the way of the Gentleman. Maybe the biscuits? No, if Mr. De Mornas hadn't poisoned the tea, he hadn't poisoned the biscuits either. But… The cover story… The discretion… The Foundation… Oh fuck.

"Come now, don't be so angry with yourself. I can see it in your eyes. Yes, indeed, this SCP Foundation… You're not afraid of everything, are you? This is what happens when you protect humanity from the greatest threats it has ever faced, I suppose. So being afraid of the Gentlemen, eh! You're right not to be afraid of us. But you're wrong not to be afraid. »

Romeo stared at the Gentleman, vegetating in his paralysis.

"How did I guess? It's very simple: a simple police lieutenant wouldn't have resisted my paintings that long. As for choosing whether you came from the Global Occult Coalition or the SCP Foundation… an intuition. In any case, whether you come from one giant or the other, your lack of subtlety is obvious. That is indeed the flaw of your Foundation. You always defend your positions with these large reinforcements of armored vehicles, firearms, and little soldiers. But you miss the subtleties of eccentricity, ignore the importance of aesthetics, and do not talk about memetics. You don't realize that mankind is everything. You lack an aura, which, believe me, is not only superficial, it makes yourself deliberately cold and inhuman."

Mr. De Mornas drank a sip of tea.

"Yes, I'm suing you over form, forgive me. That's because you have merit. You were successful, much more so than most of your competitors, and now in the present protect humanity. But I fear we are irreconcilable. A chasm deeper than that of form separates us. Because you and your Foundation are only defending a pleasant status quo, which you dare to call 'normality.'"

The agent stammered something quite close to "jlbjlmblm", unable to articulate a single word.

"Oh, no, of course not - you are not alone. The Global Occult Coalition and SAPPHIRE terrorists are fighting for the same goal with even more fervor."

Romeo was enraged. In his thoughts, of course; his body was for the moment limited to ridiculous stuttering or weak spasms. But he still had control of his mind, and the things he imagined he was doing to Mr. De Mornas would have already guaranteed him a one-way ticket to Hell several times.

"What is normality, after all? Why should all these things, on the pretext that they seem peculiar to us, defy the laws of our world? Aren't our senses impressionable? Are we not like those Stone Age men who believe they see divine power in fire? And it is in this error that your ideology, however laudable in principle, takes its roots. The abnormality is natural. Fighting it is futile. We must adapt to it, as so many other animal species have adapted to changes in their environment."

"'re mad—," escaped the agent's lips.

"And yet you take all the pride in the world, thinking you can prevent humanity from hiding in fear, but what are you doing? You put the source of the fear aside and hope to never see it again. That's not how you fight a phobia. You're only delaying the inevitable. You're only putting mankind in danger."

Mr. De Mornas took another sip of tea.

"Why? Because the day your 'anomalies' escape from your cages, what can Man do? Apart from witnessing his own extinction? Nothing, of course. Because the difference between mankind and the 'abnormal' will still exist, making the latter untouchable. That is why we must create a Better Man. Man must leave his banality."

The right-side door opened. A young man and a young woman came out of it, both looking surprised.

"My dear apprentices, I present to you code name 'Romeo', from the SCP Foundation. We were just discussing the philosophy of the Particular, so make yourself comfortable."

With difficulty, Romeo's eyes followed the young man. The anger was fading; he no longer had enough awareness to keep it. It would have almost pissed him off if he even could be, but the anger's disappearance created more of a vaporous indifference.

"The day when the Particular and human beings will no longer be antitheses, and only then will Man no longer live in fear. He will have accepted, transcended this fear. And then we will be able to enter a new era of Beauty, Good and Truth."

"What normal transhumanists would call the Singularity," the young man added.

"But we don't promise any kind of transcendence or cosmic ascension: even as the Better Man, Man will remain Man. We are not a common 'anomalous' religion. But this Singularity will only be achieved through our continuous efforts and work, not some kind of particular - or abnormal, if you will - Prometheus. Because, unlike the evolution of animal species, which depends only on the chance of genetic mutations, we can influence, and even provoke, our evolution into the Better Man. This is the true superiority of man over other animal species."

"Mankind has nothing to lose but its banality, " the young woman added.

"But we have a better world to win. To be created. And that's what we Gentlemen do."

The Gentleman was silent. Perhaps it was to breathe, to enhance dramatic effect, or to allow his apprentices to eat the biscuits without disturbance. Regardless, the pause allowed the agent to develop some approval of the Gentleman's words. What he was saying wasn't so bad after all.

"Because you see, being a Gentleman is not enjoying the luxury of private mansions. If we stay idle, if we do not create, the Assembly will take them back without remorse. To be a Gentleman is to believe…"

"To want."

"To know."

"… that we can have better, that we deserve more, and that Particularities can help us to do so."

Yes, that's a good point. Yes. Very convincing. The Gentleman was also very courteous too. Romeo told himself that he had only been a bother until then, whereas Mr. De Mornas had been so welcoming. He had offered him tea! And biscuits! No, Romeo definitely didn't want to abuse his host's hospitality anymore.

"I think it's time for me to leave," he said.

"Of course, I understand," replied the Gentleman, as courteously as ever.


"Goodbye, sir. It was a pleasure."

Romeo felt almost bad about disturbing Mr. De Mornas on such a beautiful day. He was decidedly so polite, and welcoming, and benevolent, and… He closed the front door behind him. He saw a police car. He wasn't sure why, but he had to get in. His mind was constantly reminding him, although very faintly, of a "mission," while all Romeo really wanted was to leave the courteous Mr. De Mornas alone. He went to the car, opened the door and got into the passenger seat. On the right was another person who looked dumbfounded. Did he see a ghost? In any case, staring at someone in this way wasn't very polite.

"But… uh… Romeo? What the hell are you doing here alone? Weren't you supposed to…?"

"Uh… Well, he was very sweet, really… He offered me tea. And biscuits, let's not forget the biscuits, which were excellent by the way. We had a pleasant discussion. He's a very courteous man, very considerate and definitely in good taste."

Juliet was torn between horror, laughter, and disbelief. His face, however, couldn't separate the three emotions and so displayed them all at once.

"Fuck, Romeo! Are you sure you're okay?"

"Of course I'm fine! How could I not be fine after such a philosophical discussion? It's just…"

Juliet gave him a powerful slap, which resounded even in the earpiece of Turenne, twisting his eardrums.

"Hey! You are Agent Samuel Giraud of the SCP Foundation, member of MTF Tau-3 'Regiment du Roy,' on a mission to arrest the Gentleman 'Mr. De Mornas'!"

"I… Wait, what? Axel?"

"Yes, that's my name, you idiot."

They stared at each other for a few seconds in relief and bewilderment. Then, with almost perfect synchronization, they exclaimed:

"That bastard."

Mission Report Tau-3-01FRG32

Opération "Siège du Palais"

Commander: Commander Piotrowski

Operatives: Agents Axel Prad and Samuel Giraud

Operation "Siège du Palais", which aimed to apprehend the Gentleman known as "Mr. De Mornas" using suspicions of corruption on the part of the National Police, was a failure. The Gentleman escaped despite Agent Giraud's efforts. Agent Giraud stated that he had been manipulated by incapacitating cognitive agents, a testimony supported by Agent Prad.

The Gentleman's Hôtel Particulier underwent a thorough search and memetic disinfection by Dr. Capelle's team, which confirmed Agent Giraud's testimony. Many memetic agents were hidden in wall decorations as well as numerous other objects. However, the recovery of the property has made it possible to obtain valuable documents that the Gentleman had likely left behind.

This new information will naturally be taken into account for future operations.

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