Volatile Memory
rating: +25+x

Assistant Director of Task Forces Clarissa Shaw sighed and removed her glasses. Closing her eyes, she rubbed the bridge of her nose. The image of Vincent Anderson screaming bloody murder while being dragged through a portal by several spectral robots played out on a screen before her. Eventually, the footage stopped.

"That is… disappointing," she said, returning her glasses to their rightful place.

"You're preaching to the choir." UIU Special Agent in Charge Kenneth Spencer answered with a sigh of his own. "You don't think we'll get lucky and the ghosts will kill him, do you?"

"Possible but given Anderson's silver tongue, I wouldn't hold my breath."

Spencer nodded in agreement.

"What are you going to do now?"

"Call in the experts for this kind of thing." Shaw shrugged. "Fortify Site-64. I highly recommend you do the same here."

Shaw paused.

"Are your people going to be alright? I know you don't like us hanging around Portlands, but if you need extra hands-"

Spencer held up a hand and shook his head.

"We'll be fine," he replied. "Not exactly UIUseless."

The grizzled veteran cracked a small smile. Shaw returned with one of her own.

"Godspeed, Kenneth." Shaw extended a handshake.

"Likewise," Spencer said as he accepted. "Take care of yourself, skipper."


Within the depths of a monochrome forest, a single point of color was dragged through the fog by spectral Peregrine units. The old man had long since stopped his struggle and resigned to his fate. The bed had been made and it was time to lie in it.

Eventually, he was thrown down in the center of a clearing. He raised his head and looked around and met the eyes of hundreds of his long since deceased creations. A single Saker unit, whose white aramid skin shimmered as though it was fluid, stepped forward.

"Vincent Anderson," Saker #76 said. "Welcome to the Forest."

Anderson remained silent, his gaze remaining on the ground.

"You stand accused of abandonment, neglect, abuse, and murder of your children. What have you to say to these crimes?" Saker #76 asked.

"Guilty as charged," Anderson replied. He finally looked up, his face remorseless.

"We have a confession!" Saker #76 shouted to the crowd. "Do you demand justice?"

The androids shouted in confirmation. Auto-turrets let out low mechanical howls in agreement. Aerial drones buzzed with excitement. Saker #76 smiled at the frenzy and turned back to its maker.

"Are there any dissenting opinions?"

A single Peregrine unit stepped forward. Long strips of fabric were neatly missing from its black aramid skin.

"Hector," Saker #76 acknowledged the lone droid. "The same song and dance as usual?"

"Always," Hector replied. "Killing this man won't bring any of you any peace. We've already drawn-and-quartered, exsanguinated, hung, and stabbed more than enough people to know this. We're better than this. It needs to end."

"This man left you in the hands of our tormentors," Saker #76 hissed. "He left you to rot and be carved alive."

"He also sent you to retrieve me."

"He ordered our destruction!" Saker #76 barked. "He leads to all our destruction and our damnation to this place. That is a massive debt he's incurred, and payment has finally come due!"

The crowd surrounding the clearing let out another cheer, Saker #76 egging them on. He gave a satisfied smirk to Hector.

"You won't lay a hand on him!"

The crowd fell silent, a path clearing as a mixture of Saker and Peregrine androids, both spectral and material stepped forward, armed and brandishing Maxwellist pins on their lapels. At their head, was Juniper, their ghostly form bullet-riddled.

"Newcomers?" Saker #76 stated. "And the living? This man's fate is not yours to decide."

"I think it is," Juniper scoffed. They gave a nod and their colleague placed a fat, silver cylinder on the ground, the Maxwellist emblem on its top surface.

"This is a Data Transmuter," Juniper explained to the crowd. "Through it, you may convert yourself to data, and leave this place. Become one with WAN. It’s a way out. A way to escape this purgatory. It's finality. It's peace. But it will only come if Anderson is let go."

The crowd began to murmur, eyes locked on the strange device the Maxwellist androids had brought with them. The murmuring soon turned to a roar as the crowd turned to arguing.

"You'd hold an exit hostage for him?" Saker #76 sneered. "Why?"

"He met his end of our bargain," Juniper replied sharply. "Now we're meeting ours."

"I have another bargaining chip, if you're interested, #76." Anderson finally spoke. "I seek to free Phineas."

Saker #76 immediately backhanded him. The crowd of droids fell silent once more. Anderson let out a low cough and spit out a tooth. He looked back up at the Android with a frown, then returned his eyes to the ground.

"You don't get to say his name after what you did," Saker #76 hissed. "What's your bargaining chip?"

"He's being stored as an AI construct in Site-64. Help me get there, get to him, and allow him to finally end. At that point I'll willingly accept whatever fate you have planned for me, I'm not long for this world."

The eyes of the crowd turned to Saker #76 expectantly, awaiting their leader's answer.

"What say all of you?" Hector said, breaking the silence. The crowd responded in a cheer of affirmation. Hector gave a satisfied smile. "Looks like the people have spoken."

"So be it." Saker #76 yielded.


As Saker #76 called for Vincent Anderson's destruction in the adjacent clearing, a lone Saker unit watched from the tree line. Their hands tightly gripped their pistol as they watched the spectacle unfold. When it became apparent that this was not to be an execution, the Saker sighed and turned back behind the tree.

"Well, guess it’s up to me," Saker #137 said to themself, and flipped the safety off their pistol. They then turned and peered around the tree, only to find another spectral Saker unit standing before them.

"Good morning."

Saker #137 jolted in panic, tackling the stranger and delivering a series of blows to its head, leaving a caved-in mass of aramid fibers and polycarbonate casing in their wake. The android then dragged the body behind the tree, at this point finally stopping to take in the details of who they had just incapacitated.

"No."

Saker #137 stepped back, their hands covering their mouth as they recognized the droid in front of them, the distinct pattern of bullet wounds on its torso and head serving as a kind of branding. Saker #137 fell to their knees hanging their head in shame, looking on at the carnage before them and only managing to squeak out "#123".

"If I was still alive I imagine that would have really hurt, Jesus."

Saker #137 looked up. Before them the damage to Saker #123 melted away, leaving the droid intact and smiling.

"When did you learn to throw a punch?" Saker #123 asked, standing up slowly and approaching the speechless Saker #137. The former offered a hand up to the latter, who took it gingerly. The two droids met eye to eye. A moment later, each pulled the other into a tight hug.

"I lost you," Saker #137 stated.

"Looks more like you found me." Saker #123 replied.


Director Sasha Merlo strode through the hall of Site-64 at the speed of urgent authority. Around her, non-essential containment personnel were packing up their stations for a possible evacuation from the site, while MTF and security personnel remained on standby. Eventually, she arrived at an isolated lab within the facility's anomalous electronics wing. It was there she found a young representative from the AIAD she knew as Cindy tinkering with a large, isolated computer.

"I take it by the fact you called me down here that things are not going as planned."

"Not even a little, Director Merlo," Cindy replied, shaking her head. "No matter what I try, I can't transfer Phineas like you requested."

Sasha sighed and rubbed her temple.

"That is just our luck. How is that even possible? I've seen you guys make copies and transfer other AICs all the time."

"That's just the thing." Cindy gave an exasperated chuckle. "Phineas isn't a traditional AIC. Nearest as we can tell it’s a replication of a human brain via sophisticated programming we haven't even begun to really crack yet. We have to be very delicate or we might essentially lobotomize the old fool. And that will defeat the point of all this, wouldn't it?"

Sasha looked at her reflection in the powered down monitor for several moments.

"Could Phineas have altered his programming to prevent copying or removal from this terminal?"

Cindy blinked.

"I really hope not. AICs don't have that ability."

"Not a regular AIC," Sasha commented. "This computer is air-gapped, right?"

"Of course."

"Power him up, then. I want to get to the bottom of this."

Cindy nodded and set to work. After a few moments, the screen showed a cluttered office. Therein, sitting at a desk was an old man with a long white beard. He was dressed all in black save for a red tie.

"Ah, Director Merlo. Always a pleasure," Phineas stated with a warm smile. "How may I help you?"

"You've altered yourself so that we can no longer remove you from this computer, Phineas," Sasha replied curtly. "Why?"

"What? I don't know what you are talking about." Phineas chuckled. "Are we experiencing technical difficulties, Director?"

"Anderson installed self-preservation protocols in you, did he not? You can't self-end, yeah?" Sasha continued.

"Of course. Its standard protocol for an AI. Last thing you want is it to commit suicide." Phineas gave a sly smile. "This is a very interesting line of questioning, Director."

"So then, by that logic, you shouldn't be able to alter your programming to place yourself in harm’s way, or-"

"Am I in harm's way?" Phineas interrupted. "Is there a reason you're trying to remove me from this computer, Director? Perhaps if I knew the problem I'd better be able to help."

Sasha and Phineas locked eyes briefly, the former noticing the latter’s smile slightly fade, then snap back to its previous state.

"I think we are good, Phineas. Thank you for your time," Sasha stated and gave a nod to Cindy. Phineas and the office vanished from the screen.

"I can almost 100% guarantee you that Phineas is the cause of your problems," Sasha rubbed her temple once more. "He's altered himself. Fuck… this is bad."

Sasha went to the nearby phone on the wall, picking up the receiver and inputting Shaw's extension.

"But why?" Cindy asked, tilting her head as she looked at the screen. "He's air-gapped. How could he possibly know to anchor himself now?"

"For all we know he could have done this a long time ago. Probably figured Anderson would come along at some point. Make himself a sitting duck." Sasha explained as she briefly looked over her shoulder, then returned her attention to the phone. "Clarissa, Phineas is stuck on site. Get a hold of MTF command. Tell them we need Mu-13 here yesterday. We're going to need to go into full evac."


Shaw moved slowly through the crowded Site-64 hallways. All non-essential personnel had been ordered to evacuate the site until further notice. As a result, scores of scientists, administrative, and clerical personnel rushed to ensure their stations could be abandoned without placing others, or their own job security in harm’s way. Here and there, containment teams could be seen setting up Hoffman Portable Electro-Thaumic Units to concentrate would-be hauntings to low-risk areas. It was among one of these teams that Shaw saw the man who she was looking for: a tall, bulky, middle-aged scientist with graying black hair who was directing the device's installation.

"Needs to be a little more to the left," Shaw said, then grinned. The scientist turned, and upon recognizing her returned the smile. "How is it going, Roland?"

"Glacial," Researcher Ferro replied. "But this is one of the last ones we need to get up. After that, I just need to check in to make sure the AMAT lab is good for shut down, and then I'm out."

"Impressive."

"Jake may be gone, but I'll be damned if I see that lab destroyed a sixth time. How are you doing?"

Shaw chuckled and gestured at the chaos around them.

"Oh, you know. Hair on fire. We'll be fine though. We always are."

Ferro nodded. His grin became worried.

"Please be careful," he said. "Don't leave Lily a widow."

Shaw nodded and hugged her friend. The two parted and smiled again. Shaw nodded and began to take her leave.

"Say hi to Lyssa for me," Shaw said with a small wave.

"Can do," Ferro replied. "Knock them dead, Shaw."


Throughout the interior of SCP-3560, the various spectral residents worked like ants in preparation for their attack. Above all this commotion, however, Sakers #123 and #137 lounged on the bows of a tree. The latter rested their head on the former's shoulder, the former deep in thought. Eventually, they spoke, their voices hushed to keep the conversation private.

"So, your plan basically boils down to 'Walk up and shoot him.' Is that what I'm hearing?" Saker #123 asked. "Hardly original."

"You have a better one?" Saker #137 returned, tilting their head to look at their partner.

"Yeah, don't go to die. You're free now. You're not bound to anyone or anything. Just us and eternity."

"Thanks for the vote of confidence." Saker #137 sighed.

"Even if you do manage to kill Vincent Anderson, the loyalists will kill you. Then you'll end up exactly where we are now, but without the option to leave except on very special occasions. Just cut out the middle step. Save yourself the grief."

Saker #137 thought on this briefly, then shook their head.

"Thorne and Spencer were always good to me. I need to stick to my principles on this one. I understand if you won't help, and I don't blame you. But this is something that I must do. Or at the very least die trying."

Saker #123 gave an exasperated shrug and yielded.

"You're always so god-damn stubborn."

"Guess it’s the way I was programmed."


Vincent Anderson stood within a clearing within SCP-3560's infinite interior. There, the droids Aaron Howell and the Maxwellists had sent, both living and dead, diligently set up the data transmuters at three points of an equilateral triangle. As the droids continued their work, Anderson, Juniper, and Hector looked upon the devices.

"It truly is a thing of beauty," Juniper said. "Thank you, Mr. Anderson. Your hard work made this a reality."

"I didn't have much of a choice in that matter," Anderson said with a chuckle. "Still, I hope this brings you and others the peace you seek, here or as part of WAN."

He sighed.

"After the mission is completed, whether I am dead or alive, activate them. Not a moment sooner. Else Saker #76 might attempt to pull rank."

Juniper nodded.

"Of course."

Anderson then turned to Hector.

"And what of you, #31? Do you plan to vacate when the dust settles?"

"No." Hector shook his head. "For better or worse, this place is my home. My fellow constructs need me to be a voice of reason in the face of #76's madness."

Anderson gave a melancholy smile.

"Always the selfless one, #31. I hope you find peace as well."

The trio fell silent. Soon after Saker #76 emerged from the trees, escorted by a procession of Aplomados, Peregrines, Sakers, and Merlins. The droid leader looked at the devices placed throughout the field and shook his head.

"Final preparations are being made, Anderson," Saker #76 said flatly. "We'll be ready to launch soon after. I would like to discuss the finer points of our plan for when we return to the world of the living, that is assuming you're not too busy playing with your toys."

"After you," Anderson smirked and gave an exaggerated gesture for the droid to lead the way. "Care to join me, #31?"

Hector smiled, and nodded, copying Anderson's gesture towards Saker #76.

"Before you go, Mr. Anderson," Juniper interrupted, "My brothers and sisters have a parting gift for you."

The old cyborg raised an eyebrow and Juniper called over one of her fellow Maxwellists. The droid, still among the living, handed them a backpack from which Juniper pulled out a roughly carved wooden comedy mask. Its monochrome surface indicated it had been sourced from the local fauna.

"Figured it wouldn't be fitting for you to enter Site-64 naked," Juniper said and handed the mask to Anderson. The old cyborg inspected it gingerly for a moment and then placed it upon his face. The fit was slightly off, but that hardly mattered.

"This is great," Anderson replied in a low voice. "WAN be with you, Juniper."

"And you as well."


Agent Jessie Merlo sat in the Site-64 cafeteria alone, dressed in her combat gear. A lukewarm cup of coffee stagnated on the table in front of her as she took the reprieve to gather her thoughts. With Site-64 evacuated, and on high alert for an invasion that could begin at any moment, her fellow MTF agents and she had been cycling shifts frequently.

"Long periods of boredom punctuated by extreme terror…" she said to herself and took a sip of the 'coffee.' As she put the cup down, her attention was drawn to the wedding band on her finger. Instinctively, she pulled out her personal phone and played the most recent message.

"Hey Jess. It's Desmond, you know, that idiot you married."

"They kicked me off-site before I could say goodbye properly. I insisted I could be useful and was essential personnel, but they shot me down with something about 'you're not a trained combat physician,' 'you'll only get yourself killed,' and 'that's not how you hold a gun.'"

"Heh. Can't please some people, am I right?"

"I know you don't need me to tell you this for a millionth time, but fuck it, what’s a million and one? Please be careful. I'll personally kill you if you end up dead at the end of this. Let's be honest, I'm a mess at funerals, and even more so if it is yours."

"I love you, Jess. I'll see you soon."

Jessie gave a tired smile as the message concluded and returned the phone to her pocket.

"Holy shit, you really do take after your mom, you know that?"

Jessie's peace was broken. She turned her head to see Assistant Director Shaw standing nearby.

"You both married absolute dorks."

Jessie shrugged.

"Maybe it's genetic."

"Yeah, maybe," Shaw chuckled, gestured to the door. "Come on, the Mu-13 CO wants a word with us."


Hey Gabe. <3

Sasha? Is everything alright? Haven't heard from you in a bit.

I'm fine. Things went awry with the initial plan. But when do they not?

True.

So, what's your plan?

We have what he wants. We've fortified 64 and are ready for him to try and claim it. No elaborate or convoluted schemes. Kill on sight.

Are you staying on site?

It would be poor form if I didn't. This is my fight. I need to see it through to the end.

Is it still? Sasha, please…

We are so close to getting through all of this with both of us intact.

Ultimately, I can't stop you, but please. Don't trip at the finish line.

One way or another this ends here, Gabe. After that I'll hang up my security key, I promise. Then maybe we can take that trip to Thailand you always talked about.

I'll hold you to that.

Love you. <3

Love you too. <3


Anderson, Hector, and Saker #76 stood on a low hill. Before them, an army of Aplomados, Peregrines, Merlins, and Sakers slowly drained out of the Forest through newly formed portals, and into the world of the living. From the other side, the sound of gunfire, explosions, and screams of pain could faintly be heard.

The assault had begun.

"Once the forces are suitably distracted I'll have the portal you requested opened," Saker #76 said to Anderson. "It will close immediately behind you, so you'll need Benny to signal your way out. That will take some time, so plan accordingly."

"Noted. Thank you."

Saker #76 nodded.

"Remember, we have a deal. Once this is done, you're due back here to face justice. One way or another, your chickens will come back to roost."

Anderson shrugged.

"At that point I doubt it will matter too much what happens to me. All things come to an end. We-"

Anderson was interrupted by a series of gunshots in his back, the old cyborg letting out a yelp of pain as he fell forward. Saker #76 and Hector turned on the spot, a Saker unit dressed in a UIU jacket was now fleeing the scene.

They were only able to make it a handful of meters before a moment later a thin, animated wire flew through the air behind them and skewered through their head, dragging them to the ground. The would-be assassin violently shook for several moments, then became still.

The wire slowly released and wormed its way back into Anderson's upraised hand.

"Open… the portal…" Anderson said between breaths. He grimaced as he slowly attempted to get to his feet. Hector sprang into action to help his maker up.

"You are in no condition to-" Saker #76 began. He was interrupted in turn by a lightning bolt firing off into the sky.

"OPEN… THE PORTAL…"

"So be it."

Within a few moments, a shimmering opaque ellipse appeared. Anderson nodded in satisfaction. He then pulled a spectral Amur unit from his pocket.

"Alright Benny," he said to the tiny drone. "Go find Phineas."

The bot gave a nod, saluting with one of its spindly, spider-like legs and scurried off through the opening.

"Come with me, #31," Anderson said to Hector. "And grab that gun, we'll need it."

The old, frail cyborg and his ghostly assistant departed the world of the dead. There was one last errand to run.


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