The Summer Of Bad Memories
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…In hindsight, it should have been obvious. All of the signs were there. Unfortunately hindsight is not the same as foresight…I'm just sorry that I was not the one who paid the price, in the Summer of Bad Memories…

-Excerpt, Personal Journal of Ruslav Diaghilev, 2018


Ruslav Diaghilev ran through the crowded market in the twisting streets of Alagadda, Adebeyo trailing behind him. Both Elder alchemists had croziers drawn, and deflected the blasts of alternating gravel and lightning from the two figures in front of them. Vendors and citizens jumped out of the way of the figures rampaging through the crowded stalls. The citizens of the city jumped out of the way of the blasts of elemental force that the Alchemists hurled at each other.

Bozhe moi, Adebeyo, can you slow them down, I can’t let down my counter-flows!” Ruslav yelled, the aether flows around his feet drawing up sparks from the stones of the ground augmenting his movement. With each pad of his feet on the ground, the earth pushed back up with him against his distinctive purple shoes, propelling him forward. On this plane, the Great Seal had significantly less effect than on their home plane. Aether flowed around and through them like water.

Adebeyo’s teeth stood out from his dark skin, “Yes, grapefoot! I’ll see you in a moment!” Adebeyo let out a whooping yell, calling out to the animistic aethers of life and blood. With a bounding leap, the Elder took flight on spectral hawk wings from his shoulders.

Ruslav couldn’t help but marvel at his friend employing his full strength, no longer limited by the seal they had placed upon their own reality. He had never caught the knack for the aethers of life, but Adebeyo made it look easy. His eyes turned back to their quarry as his friend soared above them, hurling gouts of water which turned to ice beneath their feet.

The two Alagaddans took turns twisting around and hurling bolts, gouts, and chunks of various elements attempting to knock Adebeyo out of the sky or disrupt the masterful workings around his back. Their robes flipped back, revealing one to have a scale covered sphere for a head, and the other a collection of shifting chunks of flesh in the shape of a humanoid.

He banked left and right, easily dodging their counter-flows, not trying to deflect them. He laughed almost contemptuously as they continued to try and hit him with slow-moving projectiles, nearly tripping over every stall and stand.

The two native Alagaddans were out of place here in the City of Evergrinding Salts. Adebeyo had tracked a series of money transfers from Ledenoff technologies to a shell corporation that was owned by DeCorso Associates. DeCorso was a famous alchemist in his own right, but had always lived in Alagadda since as long as either Elder could recall, and had never held any business ventures on their plane. Their search had eventually lead to the pair of journeyman Alchemists fleeing from them.

Adebeyo let out a thunderous yell, crashing down a few feet in front of the two fleeing Alagaddans, their appendages backpedaling as they tried to escape the wrath of the Elder Alchemist. “With the blessings of WATER!” he boomed, gathering a veritable typhoon of Aequeous aether around him, manifesting in heavy swirls around the bald alchemist. Balls of ice, swirls of mist, and miniature waterspouts circled the street, blocking the way. Carts and stalls went flying before the fury of summoned air and ice. “I do not suggest you attempt to pass me. You will not enjoy the results.”

Far behind, a young man struggled to keep up, his breath labored as Arturo was overwhelmed with the sights, sounds, smells, and flows of the place. He couldn’t believe how much aether swirled around them. He was having trouble just keeping his eyes focused on the flowing green robes in front of him. The Director was covering ground at a breakneck pace from the working around his feet. Arturo Genuomo saw a flash of blue and green, and felt the distinct crack of Adebeyo’s alchemy, manifesting what felt to him like a blinding glare of the Aequeous aether.

The two Alagaddans, to their credit, froze in their tracks. They threw down the sinuous croziers favored by their masters, and lifted their gnarled hands in a gesture of surrender. “Elder, please, don’t harm us. I surrender.” the scale-covered alchemist said.

Ruslav caught up with a heavy pant, as the fleshy Alagaddan muttered his surrender. “Thank you, Adebeyo. That was an impressive flow.”

Around them, the multitudenous shapes of the citizens of Alagadda screamed and ran in a panic. Displays of alchemy on this level were few and far between, but always meant trouble. In the corner, an old man who looked like he was made of knotted rags twisted over each other muttered, "Thrice damned alchemists, always mucking up market day…" He picked up the glittering pendants that had been knocked to the floor in the hubbub, and shuffled off cursing the entire time.

Adebeyo smiled, and let the waters receed, flowing a bit around his hands, hardening it in to a pair of icy manacles for each of the Alagaddans. “It was nothing, grapefoot. I rarely get a chance to cut loose like this. I enjoyed myself.”

Arturo caught up a moment later, panting, and doubling over, “Sangre christo….I…I’m here, I am sorry Elders.” The four alchemists looked at the sweat streaked young man, the two Alagaddans grinning sheepishly.

“Apprentice?” the fleshy alchemist asked.

Ruslav’s hand streaked out, covered in crackling electricity, knocking the slimy Alagaddan out cold. “Da, also, should have said earlier. Don’t speak, or I’ll shock you out.” Ruslav looked down at the convulsing form of the young alchemist. “Apologies for not saying it sooner.”

Adebeyo grinned, and moved towards Arturo, “Why don’t you and the Director take our guests back to the Site for containment and questioning. I have a few things to wrap up here, before I head back.”

Arturo attempted to answer back, still panting with lost breath, before holding up a thumb, nodding. He looked up at the Director, with a questioning look.

The older alchemist chuckled, “Da, let us go back. I need to teach you to keep up with us old men.” He grasped Arturo by the shoulder in one hand, and the two Algaddans by the shoulders of their robes in either heavy knuckled hand. “Come on, gentlemen. I know a young researcher who would be fascinated to meet you…”

Adebeyo watched as the Elder and Apprentice walked towards a nearby doorway, Ruslav gesturing a portal back to the Site open with his chin. The Director, and the younger alchemist walked through the ragged edged portal, which closed behind them.

Adebeyo reached down to his pockets to make sure he had the gemstones that he’d need to acquire the goods he had in mind. He tuned to set off down an alleyway towards his favorite local eatery, before a tap alighted upon his shoulder.

Perplexed, Adebeyo turned, coming face to face with the ugly, scar ridden face of a man he recognized. “Ledenoff—?” he managed to get out before the darkness rose and he remembered nothing more…


…A 'Vessel' is anything that can hold, in a stable fashion, the aetheric pattern an alchemist imprints on it. It can be a protective working, some kind of long-lasting flow, or even memories. Some say that with enough power and study, an entire personality could be transferred to a suitable object. Unfortunately, such objects would need to be significantly more complex than anything produced by humanity. The theoretical application of takwin is a particularly artistic implementation of a vessel. To date no alchemist has successfully created takwin, but some day…

-Excerpt, A study on the uses of Alchemy, Eld. Trigsmestus, 1147

Sixteen Hours Later

Ruslav grimaced holding up the report on the skip. “You are sure? He’s being held here?” He let the sheet of paper fall to the desk. Around the wide table, were gathered the three command members of his personal MTF, The Oathkeepers.

“We’re sure, Director. All of our intelligence we recovered from the two prisoners points to this lab being where they’re keeping Elder Adebeyo,” Agent DuMourne’s eyes drilled in to those of the Director. “Are you sure this is a good idea? Storming an empty office got one of my agents sidelined. They still don’t know when she’s going to wake up. This time, we may not be so lucky. All of the recon we've got indicates this lab has a not-insignificant security force.”

Ruslav made a silencing gesture with his hand. “Immaterial. What kind of forces are we dealing with?”

Agent DuMourne opened the laptop in front of him, plugging it in to the display built in to the table. A map of the facility showed up on the screen in the middle of the table. “If it were me, I'd place heavy guard points in these junctions. Summers isn't stupid, and we're not sure exactly what he's capable of. Initial readings from the D-G Apparatus are showing at least a 7.2 on the baseline Aether levels. That’s practically singing, right?”

“It does not matter. Requisition the heavy weapons, and armor. Meet me in the strike bay in forty. Use my authority to acquire whatever you feel is necessary to reduce this place to a stain on the earth.” Ruslav replied, his eyes distant.

Agent DuMourne paused a moment, before nodding. “Guthrie, you’re with me. Tell the agents it’s Christmas courtesy of the Director. Move out.” The command group for The Oathkeepers filed out of the room. Ruslav worked his jaw for a moment, before ejecting the SmarTab from the dock.

“I will bring the wrath of the Luna itself down if he’s harmed you. I swear this by fire and by fury.” The director stormed out, a tight knot of tension growing between his shoulders. The door hissed shut behind him, leaving the room in the bowels of Site-17 humming with the usual background noise of power and ventilation.

Six minutes passed in relative silence.

A quiet warbling sound escaped from the area just beside where Ruslav had stood, a shimmering blue portal winking to life, belching out a heavyset but attractive man in his 40’s.

Mike Summers wore a pair of khaki pants, a heavy grade bulletproof vest, and combat helmet. In his hands was a compact combat shotgun, and his bright pink polo shirt stood out garishly from the drab grey of his combat armor. He reached back through the portal, and waved, twelve more figures joining him in the confines of one of the operations room.

They moved with unnatural coordination, none of them speaking. Each of them was armed with a different variety of firearm. There were no nameplates on their combat gear.

Four of the assembled assault force walked over to the door, leveling weapons at it, the two in front dropping to a knee. Mike Summers did a quick scan of the room, and reached through the portal one more time.

A heavy quartz and pig iron crozier gripped by a thin and liver-spotted hand emerged from the glowing edifice. Karl Ledenoff stepped in to the operations room, looking around with his good eye, the heavy scarring over his left making that side of his face a useless mass. He lifted the twisted crozier, and concentrated, the air around him darkening slightly.

"It's here. It's definitely here. Down several fathoms at least. At least that thrice-damned Diaghilev is gone." Karl stumped around the room, examining the technology with a critical eye. "Useless junk." He swiped a hand through the air, and twisted the Fulminous aether to his will, frying the delicate electronics with random explosions of sparks.

"You sure you don't want a set of armor, Mister Ledenoff?" Mike offered cheerfully, his compact shotgun trained on the door. "I'd rather not have you catching a stray bullet."

Karl pushed Summers out of the way of the door dismissively. "No. And do not make such foolish suggestions again. I hold no fear for simple bullets. Let's move, his little pet 'Foundation' will detect our presence soon."

The assault force eased the door open, the lead man glancing out in to the hallway, checking both sides. He indicated to move forward, and the Team filed out, six ahead and six behind the polo and robe clad duo.

One of the group spotted a staircase sign at a T-intersection. The point man gestured to go straight, and turned a corner to check for hostiles, coming face-to-face with a researcher with a folder in his hands. He glanced up across their glasses, eyes half-glazed. He took in the intruder in gray fatigues, leveling a silenced weapon at them, and his eyes shot open. "You're not supposed to be here," the researcher squeaked out, frozen in panic.

Without hesitation, the lead assault force member let loose a half-dozen shots in to them, turning his chest in to a bloody pulp. He was dead before they hit the ground, the ballpoint he'd been chewing on hitting the ground a fraction of a second after them.

Mike padded out from the group, looking around, "That's gonna get their attention, we've got to go." He gestured towards the stairway door.

Karl walked out from the group, and stood over the bloody corpse of the young researcher they'd just murdered. He muttered something under his breath invoking the third language. The concrete of the floor winked open, and swallowed the blood and corpse left behind. Mike kicked in the spent brass from the mercenary's gun after them, and Karl closed the hole.

"Let's go. No evidence, they can't know it was us," he said. He stumped off to the staircase door, and pushed it open with his crozier. "Come on, we don't have all day!"

The dozen mercenaries filed in to the staircase, Mike and Karl taking up the middle once more.

The group descended level by level, Karl checking for a feeling of their target each time. After four levels, he grunted and said, "Here. It's here."

The dim lighting in the staircase reflected off of the visors of the mercenaries full-face helmets. They'd been expensive, but good help was invaluable in situations like this. "Let's go."

The lead mercenary nodded, and opened the door. He stepped out in to the hallway, and swept his gun from right to left. He took two steps in to the hallway, and jerked violently to the right, his helmet a bloom of tortured metal and wet skull fragments. The merc's blood glowed a dull green under the hallway lights.

Mike pushed Karl back in to the corner of the staircase, out of line of sight of the door, "Jesus christ, get back!" Shouting from down the hallway filed in to the small stairwell, as well as from above them. "Well shit, I think we're cut off. Any ideas, Karl?"

Ledenoff had barely reacted to all of this, his gaze elsewhere. "Yes, Summers. For one, shut up, and stop giving away our position. Let the mercenaries do their job, idiot. Our target is fifteen meters down the hall, past whatever just killed our compatriot. We're not leaving without it."

Mike grimaced, and looked up, trying to judge how far away the enemy forces were, "Can you get us out once we have it?"

Karl slapped Mike across the jaw, hard. His hand left small abrasions from the ice crystals he'd summoned from the surrounding water vapor, "Of course I can, why would you ask such dumb questions! Just do as you're told!"

Mike worked his jaw, and looked down. "Yes sir. Alright, you five, out in the hallway figure out what that was."

The five figured nodded in unison, and crouched low. The lead figure gave a slow three count with his fingers, then rolled out in to the hallway followed by two in a low crouch, and one in a prone position. The remaining two leaned out over the prone man to look down the hallway.

Two foundation agents manned a security checkpoint just behind a heavily armored door. They leveled large-caliber rifles down at the invading forces. A hail of bullets spat out at the mercenaries, clipping the lead figure in the shoulder, and sending him to the floor. Another was hit in the stomach, but barely reacted, gouts of dark green ichor oozing from the wound.

The other four figures fired in unison, cutting the security station to ribbons. The two agents fell to the ground, bleeding from a half dozen wounds each.

Behind them, Karl looked up at the staircase, and made a snatching motion. Invoking Terronous aethers, the walls groaned and extended outwards, chunks of rock and concrete intermixing. He had cut off any hope of foundation reinforcements from above on this staircase at least.

From the hallway, a not-quite human voice eeked out of the now-lead figure's helmet. "Clear."

Karl and Mike walked in to the adjoining hallway, and padded down to the heavily armored door. "This is it," Karl said.

The sign above the door read 'High Security Storage'. Karl looked at the door critically, and gestured to the figures. "Explosives."

One of them stepped forward, and handed Karl a string of detcord. He peeled the film off of the sticky portion, and stuck it against the hinges of the door.

From down the other end of the hallway, bootsteps started to echo throughout the halls. Mike turned and looked down at the remaining mercenaries, "Hold them off, we're going in."

The figures nodded in unison, and strode off, taking defensive positions within the stairwell, and around a nearby corner.

Karl pushed Mike back a few feet, and held up a hand, summoning more stones from the ground and walls to create an impromptu barrier between them and the door. Karl pressed the button on the attached detonator, and a hollow 'boom' shook the hallway.

The stones in front of them crumbled from the explosion, but did not fly backwards in to the pair. Karl hobbled over the rubble, and faced the door.

Mike looked down the hallway, grimacing. Two more of the mercenaries had been shredded by the explosion, and they were now holding off more Foundation security. Karl ignored them, and started towards the door, "Let's go, Summers, we don't have—"

Mike finally tore his gaze from the mangled bodies and said, "They're not gonna last long, we've got to hurr—"

Karl spun around towards Mike, and slammed his crozier into his knee. It broke with a sickly crunch. Mike screamed in agony, falling to the floor, and clutching his ruined knee.

Karl bellowed at the prone figure, "YOU DO NOT EVER INTERRUPT ME. DO NOT EVER TELL ME WHAT TO DO. RESPECT YOUR MASTER." He panted for several moments, bullets starting to zip past the rapidly shrinking mercenary force they'd brought. "Get inside, you stupid oaf. If you do not, I will not heal you this time."

Mike managed to three-limb drag himself in to the storage space, wishing for the thousandth time he'd never met Karl Ledenoff. He'd been injured more by the insane Alchemist than he'd ever thought possible. "Y-Yes sir…sorry sir…"

Karl waved dismissively at the prone figure invoking the aeqeous aethers, and strode in to the storage room. A shower of water landed over Mike's ruined knee, painfully knitting the flesh back together. Mike rose shakily to his feet, as the sounds of combat intensified. He almost asked Karl to hurry again, before biting back the thought.

The room was filled with dozens and dozens of storage lockers. Each locker held some object, with a neat description, and a reference code. Some of them were the size of a breadbox, others were from floor to ceiling.

Karl walked past two rows of objects before settling on a larger storage locker, with the number "2522". He smiled a crooked-toothed smile, and set his hand on the lockpad, summoning more of the Fulminous aether. It smoked, and the door clicked open, revealing the contents.

Mike Summers hobbled over to Karl, still shaky on his rapidly healed knee. "What is it?"

Karl Ledenoff reached forward, and pressed his hand against the chassis of the object in front of him, gently filling it with enough power from the Fulminous aether to turn on. The LEDs on its chest and status panel flickered to life, as a low hum issued from the anti-gravity generator on the bottom. "A vessel, Summers. This is the thing that we made all the Quaesturas nodes find for us. The perfect vessel."

One of the machine's hands reached down, and picked up the discarded hat on the ground, placing it upon its 'head'. From its voice box, a hissing sound issued forth, which slowly snapped in to focus. A single line came out, as recognizable English. "Fuck trees. I climb clouds motherfucker."

Karl turned, and his grin widened in to a rictus of elation. He gestured, and a portal opened in to an unknown plane. He quickly stumped through, followed by the floating form of former SCP-2522.

Mike Summers hesitated for a moment, as the bullets stopped flying outside the room. He weighed his options for a moment more, then dashed through the portal. It winked out of existence behind them, leaving the High Security Storage room silent from their presence.

Agents Sam Denton and Jim McDowell slipped in to the High Security Storage Room, moments after Karl and Mike dissipated, clearing the shelves one after another with weapons drawn.

Agent Denton worked his way down to the broken locker, shouting "Clear! I've got something over here!"

Jim strode up to his partner, and closed the door, looking at the designation. "2522. Which one was that?"

Sam paled, pulling out his phone, and dialing the local Foundation operator. "Get me a priority line to Dr. Mann."


…We are the stewards of a great power. With that comes the greatest of responsibilities: control and discipline. Unfortunately, there will always be those that abuse their power, political, personal, or even alchemic. All we can do is oppose those who would abuse such gifts…

-Excerpt, Meditations (unabridged), Marcus Aurelius
Copy stored in the former library of the College of Alchemists, pre-editing for public dissemination

Elsewhere

Director Diaghilev swung his crozier, an explosive combination of earth, fire, and frost blowing the vault door from its hinges from the inside. The multi-ton door soared past him, and over the head of Agent DuMourne. He stepped through, blood streaming down from a cut above his right eye, scanning for threats.

Behind him, Agent DuMourne padded, a heavy strip of duct tape around his thigh, covering a wound in a make-shift compression bandage. "Sir, slow down! We left the entire team behind, I can't guarantee your safety!"

Ruslav slashed the air, the dull crackle of thunder audible in the gesture. "Safety not important. Can take care of myself. We must find him." Ruslav walked through the spacious laboratory, sensing his friend's Aetheric flows weakening. He walked with purpose through the banks of lab equipment, all gleaming steel and matte plastics. Dozens of banks of computers, rows of beakers, and creatures in cages dotted the shelves and countertops of the ground floor of the laboratory.

The laboratory itself was massive, with multiple levels of cat-walks and support struts holding up the heavier equipment above them.

He abruptly looked up, and spotted a dark skinned figure strapped in to a harness of tubes and machinery on the topmost catwalk of the cavernous building. Around him, several smaller figures worked, adjusting dials and knobs on the outside of the apparatus.

Ruslav made a beckoning gesture, and invoked the aethers of earth and electricity, generating a magnetic field directly in front of him. With an invocation of the ferrous aethers, the support struts for the machine snapped, the magnetic field gently lowering the apparatus to the floor.

The three people working on the machine fell from the walk-way towards the ground. Ruslav gestured again, invoking the Tenebrous aether to increase the gravity field around their descent, slamming them in to the ground as if they were on Jupiter. The results were messy.

Agent DuMourne gaped at the carnage the Director had wrought, his stomach turning slightly. He jogged up to catch up with the Elder, keeping his weapon leveled as best he could.

Inside the apparatus, Adebeyo was strapped to a crude table, upright. Leads had been attached to his skin, and several tubes had been threaded in to his chest. Bright fluids flowed in to his body, which had emaciated to near-skeletal proportions. A dull groan escaped his chapped lips, as Ruslav rushed to the 'pod'.

"Adebeyo, friend. Please, come on, wake up." Ruslav's eyes blurred slightly, summoning water to his hand, invoking the Aequeous aethers. He imbued the liquid with as much energy as he could, trying to encourage it to heal his friend.

Adebeyo sipped the liquid, and smiled slightly, fresh blood flowing from cracks in his skin. "Grapefoot. You are here…"

Ruslav nodded, panting slightly. "I'm here, I've got you. I'll get you fixed up in a moment, hold on." He began to summon the Aequeous aether around his friend, invoking the healing energies of water. He added a flow of terronous aether to the flow, pushing more energy out.

Adebeyo shook his head weakly, "Grapefoot…no." He gestured as best he could to the tubes pushing liquids between his ribs. "They've been tubing alkiri blood in to me for hours…"

Ruslav's eyes went wide, and his mouth opened slightly, "Aetheric poisoning? No, I…I but it won't…"

Adebeyo grimaced in pain, "This was a trap, Grapefoot. He's after a vessel. It's at the site…he used me to find your aetheric signature. The moment you weren't there to stop him, he left…"

Ruslav's face went blank, attempting to process the information that Adebeyo presented him with. "A vessel for what?"

Adebeyo took in another pained breath, and started to speak, but it was too much. His last breath shook out of him, and he hung his head, finally free of the mortal shackle he'd held for the past seven hundred years. Elder Adebeyo Nakadami passed out of this world, witnessed by an Elder, and a Layman.

"No. No, no no…no no no, Adebeyo, no no, you're not…no…" Ruslav's voice was a cracked murmur, barely above a whisper. He looked down at the slack face in his hands, trying in vain to revive his best friend.

Ruslav fell to his knees, his hands on the floor. He clamped his eyes shut, letting out a frustrated bellow of grief. The flows around him grew chaotic, his control slipping and his grief lashing out at the forces surrounding them. The very bones of the earth shook with his fury, as lightning raged overhead, the storm winds tearing off the roof of the facility. A torrential rain began to fall, soaking DuMourne, Ruslav, and the body of Adebeyo to the bone. The local gravity field started to slowly warp, at random.

Agent DuMourne struggled against the forces flowing out of the Director, and slapped a hand on to his shoulder, "DIRECTOR! DIRECTOR, CALM DOWN, YOU'RE TEARING THIS PLACE APART!"

Ruslav took a shaky breath, asserting control over his Aetheric Flows, and more importantly his emotions, calming the core of alchemic might inside of him that he'd nearly let loose. The storm calmed, and left the two men standing in the ruins of a facility.

The rest of the Oathkeepers finally caught up to them, and stood in a rough semi-circle around DuMourne. He reached up, and spoke in to his radio, connected with Foundation command. "We need an extraction. Twenty plus one." He paused a moment, listening to the response. "Twenty plus one, and a bodybag. Mission failed."

Ruslav buried his face in his hands, weeping for a remarkable soul.

…I asked him, "Master, what is it like when you lose control of your power?" After the usual curses and invectives, Karl looked at me, and said "I can shake the very heavens with my fury. And if you do not clean out the hearth, you will feel it in the back of my hand!". Karl was not a particularly kind teacher, but he taught me quite a bit about human nature in the end. Significantly more than he knew, ironically enough…

-Excerpt, Ruslav Diaghilev: A Remarkable Life; Vol 1, Arturo Genuomo 2031

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