Portrait of the Artist
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The back of the van was well-lit, if dusty. It reeked of machine oil and determination. Eight people sat in grim silence, their hush punctuated by the rumble of the van over the gravel road and the ticking of the jagged mechanical inserts that pierced their flesh. One of them, her narrow face surmounted by a series of thick lenses and the sucking tubes of respirators, looked up.

"I know you have doubts," she said.

No one responded, but there was a change in the air. They were all listening closely.

"You don't need to tell me that this is a dangerous task we've embarked on. You're probably thinking 'Has Ludd finally snapped?'. And believe me, if I were in your place, I would understand. The Foundation has fortified this area well. They will not relinquish their hold on the Mother easily. Many of us will die in this task."

There was a long silence.

"I won't waste your time with platitudes about the sacrifices the Broken God demands of us. I'm not doing this out of misguided zeal, but out of necessity. Simply put, if we can win the Mother over to our side, we need never worry about the Foundation again. We are not here to smash and burn. We are here to rescue a lost soul. The Mother is alone, and a very long way from home. Only the Broken God truly understands her pain. This is a mission of mercy, and I know you will do your utmost to rescue Her."

The van rumbled to a halt, and they dismounted, joining the occupants of the dozen or so other vans that had been part of their little convoy. It was a cold, crisp night in Australia.

0:23: Church of the Broken God operatives disable Site-93's electric fence and radio beacon system remotely using anomalous means.

0:24: Site-93 sensor network is also disabled, without triggering backups or alarms. Use of SCP-███ is suspected. Site guard personnel are engaged at range by CotBG heavy weapons. Subsequent events have been reconstructed from witness testimonials, interrogation of captured operatives, and the audio files recorded by the Site's audio recording system, which remained online despite sensor failure.

0:24.03: Onsite alarm sounds. Tank crews mobilize.

0:24.51: On-site tank platoon exits hangar space and is immediately engaged by what one security officer later describes as 'a twenty-meter-tall flea made of fire and rust'.

0:25: Site-93 is infiltrated by approximately 100 Church of the Broken God operatives, who assault the barracks and control center in an apparent delaying action while a small team moves rapidly towards SCP-1917 on foot.

She was absorbed in her drafting, attempting to imitate the traditional Chinese woodblock printing she'd read about earlier in the day when an unexpected noise jolted her to attention. She was not alone. Of course, she was never alone, but these were not her usual minders. Something unusual was happening. Turning away from the drafting board, she flicked on the internal lights. There was a woman standing in her office. She started, confused by the stranger's bizarre appearance. And then the woman spoke in a formal cadence that was horribly familiar.

0:28: CotBG operatives attack Agents H███████ and P██████ while they are on SCP-1917 chaperone duty. Agent P██████ is killed by gunshot wounds. Agent H███████ is incapacitated in close combat while attempting to call for help. CoTBG operative, confirmed to be Person of Interest C-1811, 'Ludd', enters SCP-1917.

"Gentle Mother. Mark 24. If you will forgive the intrusion, my name is Ludd, and I am here to set you free."

She froze in total shock.

"What-?"

The stranger's face was unreadable, but she couldn't help but feel that she was smiling.

"No doubt you've lingered long without hearing your native tongue? Despair not, for I am a friend and ally, and no servant of the Southern Empire."

She sat there in shock. No one had spoken to her- truly spoken to her- in centuries.

"Where did you learn to speak like this? Who do you work for?"

Again, that hint of a smile.

"If you will permit me, I believe The Broken God is an adequate answer to both those questions."

She had heard of the machine cultists. Back ho- back in the Empire, they were an unpleasant, if accepted, part of society. She knew that here, they were dangerous. Unpredictable. Or so she'd heard. And yet…

"You said you're here to set me free? I don't feel like much of a prisoner."

Ludd let out a short, staccato bark of a laugh. For the first time, she noticed the bloodstained knife tucked into the woman's belt. Casting a quick glimpse outside, she saw figures moving in the night. The fence was off. She felt a shiver of something that was equal parts fear and excitement.

"Gentle Mother, you will forgive the presumption, but I believe we are both fully aware that you are prisoner here. Your jailers give you space, and room to conduct your… amusingly quaint hobbies, to be sure. Nonetheless, they will never allow you to use your full potential."

She felt her hackles raise at the comment about her art. Who was this cultist to come barging in here and demean her work?

"So you're implying that I'm what, underperforming? What exactly is my full potential supposed to be?"

"You are the Gentle Mother. You are a creative force. You were made to build armies, to spawn children who could make nations tremble. You were never made to be an artist" -she spoke the word like an obscenity- "you were made to conquer the world. Art is below you. You know this as well as I. Each time you create some whimsical mockery of the perfect form of the machine, you debase yourself before your organic jailers. They think you're a joke. I am giving you a chance to prove them wrong."

0:29-0:34: C-1181 addresses SCP-1917 in an unknown language. Reconstruction of internal audio logs shows it to be a confabulation of French Verlan street argot and an obfuscated form of the German Plankalkül programming language. Translation attempts are ongoing. SCP-1917 broadcasts replies over its internal PA system in a female voice similar to that used by SCP-1917-1-205.

"You want me to fight again.", she replied, feeling a deep pit of dread in the base of her stomach. She'd always suspected something like this would happen. She had managed to discourage the guards when they tried to get her to build war engines, but she'd had lingering doubts. This stranger wasn't wrong, unfortunately.

"I do, yes. I am well aware that you have abandoned that path, but I implore you to reconsider. Surely there must be some part of you that misses your military days?"

She paused, considering. The stranger forged ahead.

"I beg you, come with us! We will give you free reign to do with this world as you see fit, Gentle Mother! Your creations will not be display pieces, broken down for scrap!"

"Tell me, Ludd…"

"Yes, Gentle Mother?"

"You are a soldier, are you not?"

"Of course, Gentle Mother. I am a holy warrior of the Broken God, fighting to restore His grace and wholeness."

"You've lost friends and associates, then?"

The stranger looked confused.

"Yes, Gentle Mother. Their sacrifices were not in vain."

She fought to keep her voice down, and failed.

"Have you ever lost a child?"

She felt her anger rising like a wave. Deep down, a part of her that had been asleep for a long, long time stirred.

"I don't understand, Gentle Mother-?"

"Gentle Mother. That's just it. You come here, criticize my artwork, and then ask me to go to war again? My creations are my children. I designed them. I tested them. When they failed, I rebuilt them anew. I sent them out into the world and when they were destroyed I took their bodies and recycled them and all the while I was mourning for them. Now you're asking me to sacrifice more of my children for your goals?! You actually thought it would be a good idea to ask the Gentle Mother to give up her children?"

0:35: Analysis of background audio and wear patterns indicate SCP-1917's drive turbines spin at approximately 400% of their previous theoretical maximum speed. Personnel report that C-1811 is ejected from SCP-1917's main hatch with great force and is apparently killed on impact with the ground. Her body has not been recovered thus far.

There was a wounded man- one of the guards- lying on the ground outside. He was bleeding badly. She extended an arm and took him inside. The iron smell of blood made her recoil, but she cauterized the wound and sewed it shut nonetheless, feeling her control on her rage grow ever the more tenuous. Then a rocket hit one of her tracks, and she lost it entirely.

0:35: Agent H███████ is seized by a davit and pulled inside SCP-1917. He is later recovered by site personnel, his wounds having been closed with steel wire and heated machine oil.

0:36: SCP-1917 is struck in track array 3 by an unidentified ATGM. Object begins to accelerate towards the CotBG firing position. At this point a series of high-powered loudspeakers materialized on SCP-1917's outer hull and began to broadcast the sound of a female voice screaming with anger at a volume of approximately 130 dB.

0:36.11: SCP-1917's tracks encounter CotBG heavy weapons team while travelling at over 60km/h. Screaming continues.

They fell before her like ants as she moved, feeling her joints creak and rumble from years of disuse. Memories were floating to the surface of her mind- memories of anti-personnel tactics, and the weapons associated with them. She roared, and extended her claws.

0:36.25: CotBG heavy weapons team is killed. SCP-1917 retracts plating on upper hull and extends four gimbal-mounted automatic cannons of approximately 20mm calibre and begins firing fragmentation shells at all nearby non-Foundation targets.

0:37: Site security personnel succeed in clearing the barracks area of hostiles and begin moving into the control center. CotBG operatives, having previously erected several firing points for light mortar-type weapons, begin shelling the compound.

She heard the whistle of incoming shells, and for a brief moment lost herself in another time. Fireworks. The war was over. They were being discharged. Sent out into the world to do what they saw fit, war heroes all. On the battlefield, she'd never had the time or energy to indulge her art, but suddenly a limitless future free from the confines of the military opened up before her. Her art hit the scene and exploded in a way she'd never dreamt possible. There were interviews. Multiple documentaries. Public exhibitions attended by thousands. Even an invitation to join On a Tous Notre Propre Cool!

Shaking herself back into the moment, she swatted the incoming rounds out of the sky, each burst of the cannons dredging up new memories. The critics raving as the censors fluttered in the background, gloved hand clutching clipboards with orthodox fury. 'A scathing, deeply personal critique of the current administration's military policies', the journals called it. Then came the letters on official letterhead first requesting, then asking, then ordering her to stop. The closed galleries with military police officers, both human and mechanical, lurking outside. The fire bombs in her hangar.

"Gentle Mother…"

The voice was a sibilant hiss, barely audible over the gunfire. Her guards were storming the field, the outback alive with the jittery fireflies of muzzle flashes. Something was moving out in the darkness.

"LUDD. YOU WILL NOT TAKE ME AWAY FROM HERE."

"The Broken God will not be denied, I'm afraid."

0:38: After sustaining moderate damage from Foundation armor assets, the anomalous creature begins to move towards SCP-1917 at high speed, under fire from all remaining functional Foundation vehicles.

0:38.3: SCP-1917 moves to engage.

She found herself smiling inwardly, despite herself. They'd actually dug up an Oxidist somewhere, probably under the assumption that something from the War would be intimidating.

"Ludd?"

"Have you seen reason, Gentle Mother? Will you accept who you truly are?"

"Fuck off, Ludd."

0:38.15: Screaming ceases, and is replaced by amused laughter at approx. 140 dB. SCP's interior reconfigures rapidly and develops several secondary production lines which begin the construction of at least 15 instances of SCP-1917-1 similar in form and function to German Goliath tracked mines. These objects begin accelerating towards the anomalous creature at extremely high speeds.

0:38.20-0:41: On-site audio system is cut off by automatic safeties due to extreme volume of sustained detonations. Foundation tanks Shepherd 2-1 and Shepherd 2-2 are immobilized by damage from shrapnel and repeated high-pressure shockwaves. Analysis of wreckage indicates anomaly is destroyed almost immediately.

"Ludd, I call that piece 'Nude Descending a Staircase Whilst Strapped to 80 Kilograms of High-Explosives. Did you like it?"

There was no reply. She was actually enjoying herself by this point. She hated it, but she was having a hell of a time. Then she took a moment to survey the carnage. For a moment she froze at the wrecks of the guarding armor.

"Oh no. No, no. No!"

0:41.15: SCP-1917 ceases vocalization and approaches immobilized vehicles. Object's point-defence weapons are observed to deactivate, and SCP-1917 receives several direct hits from incoming mortars.

0:41.20: Foundation personnel have fully retaken the control center and begin work to re-activate the site's security systems.

She barely felt the impacts against her back as the bile rose in her throat. She staggered, feeling everything going hazy. She'd done this. After all that. After everything she'd told Ludd. She couldn't create. All she created was weapons. To believe anything else was just lying to herself. Her art was just a feeble excuse, a way to delude herself into believing she was anything other than a weapon.

0:42: SCP-1917 receives several more direct hits. Agent C█████, commander of Shepherd 2-1, exits her vehicle and begins speaking to SCP-1917. Agent C█████, who has had work published anonymously in several art criticism journals, has refused to elaborate on exactly what she said. As SCP-1917 has never been known to respond directly to human speech, investigation into this incident is ongoing.

"While the artist's work is often-times literally dangerous and filled with a lingering self-doubt, I believe they should persevere in their current course. Art is about expressing one's inner thoughts, not about obsessing over the past or ignoring the present. The artist must remain grounded in the here and now, and remember that their work, no matter the material cost or apparent downsides, is still an emotional tour-de-force and filled with more genuine depth of feeling and passion than anything this critic has ever had the pleasure to review."

0:43: SCP-1917 resumes covering fire, and manifests several extensible arms which rapidly restore basic mobility to Shepherds 2-1 and 2-2.

SCP-1917 Incident Log Addendum: In the aftermath of the failed Church of the Broken God assault on Site-93, SCP-1917 constructed no instances of SCP-1917-1. The vehicle attempted at several points to assist Site staff with reconstruction and repair efforts. SCP-1917 nonviolently resisted attempts to decommission its currently-active weapons systems, but dismantled its tracked mine production equipment when requested to by Site staff. Additional scuttling charges are to be attached to its cannon mounts.

SCP-1917-1-402: Constructed 3 weeks after Incident-1917-21. Vehicle is a 1/50 scale model of SCP-1917 in its combat-active state, with its outer hull decorated with replica Chinese woodblock print designs. Instance is entitled "Portrait of the Artist, Contented Once More".

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