Alchemical Familiars
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Alchemical Familiars

SCP-2300 (By Jailors)
The Mendeleevian Craftsmen

Conspectus

Before mankind had the contemporary understanding of the material world and its principles, many theories and models were proposed to explain such phenomena. The predecessors of chemistry are known as alchemists, and they combined esoteric practices with science to try and formalize the workings of inert matter1. Their mission statement is to purify and perfect materials of symbolic importance in order to elevate humanity to its ideal state, culminating with the creation of the immortality elixir2. While science has since managed to achieve the dream of chrysopoeia to a limited extent via nuclear furnaces, reliable and stable transmutation is still far from being discovered even by Wanderers who specialize in alchemy.

Of note is that the binary division between chemistry and alchemy is an illusion. The alchemists of today often have a scientific background while still honoring their mundane peers and magical predecessors. In fact, one of the most remarkable advents in this field of knowledge is the invention of the alchemical familiar. Initially conceptualized as a teaching aid for hybrid classes, these friendly and helpful constructs have evolved into fully self-aware entities with their own societies3.

Sets of these familiars are still widely employed as assistants and equipment by alchemists, and they show extensive capacity for independent decision making and even innovation. Research into other potential applications for them is becoming increasingly popular, as science continues to develop wondrous materials like non-Newtonian fluids and nano-machines. As the prosaic barrier between the old and new methodologies keeps diminishing, more scientists are opening their eyes to the world of magic everyday, with all the miracles and responsibilities that entails.

Knowledge

Traits: Typically, alchemical familiars are humanoid in appearance and short of stature, not exceeding 20 cm in height. The proportions of their limbs, torso and head give a rather infant-like countenance, although they can move around like an adult human. Their material properties are the same as those displayed by the singular periodic element which composes each individual, were it in a solid state.

While not very durable, they remain solid regardless of environmental conditions and can orally ingest any inert matter to repair themselves. The number corresponding to each individual's periodic element is written on the top of their heads. They cannot communicate with other entities verbally, but understand written and spoken languages that are incorporated into their consciousness upon creation or taught to them after. Alchemical familiars may also communicate with each other through an apparent short-range telepathic network.

However, other sets have been developed and modified as the periodic table expanded, with the introduction of new elements to preexisting communities having mixed and mostly unpredictable results. Certain sets developed by more well-funded alchemical laboratories possess incredibly sophisticated designs and advanced functions4. Regardless of how they are designed, one quirk of their creation process is that their forms tend toward the geometric, which makes them easier to manage when they need to be stored during travels. Last but not least, most of them possess a limited ability to shape-shift, which is usually limited to altering their facial structures and extremities for the sake of facilitating non-verbal communication with other entities.5

Nature: Alchemical familiars do not just readily offer their assistance to those they perceive as guardians and mentors. They have projects of their own, which are very important to their cultures. They possess an innate if not complete understanding of the properties of their respective periodic elements, and often remove parts of themselves to create various forms of artworks. Such parts are subject to the effects of the current environment, and thus are viable sources of data on interactions between elements. The types of artworks created by them vary according to their emergent cultures, which are as varied as the bonds between atoms.6

Furthermore, while they do possess individual personalities, their overall behavior seems to be partially determined by the elements that compose them. This seems to be analogous to genetic predispositions in humans, although the symbolic associations of each element have just as, if not more weight than its objective chemical qualities.7 There is no comprehensive guide to all of the possible emergent societies and creations of alchemical familiars, and it will likely never exist due to the massive amount of sociological reflections that may arise out of their material properties. It is unknown how much each individual is shaped by nature or nurture, and they frequently respond to interviews about this topic with confusion, as if they do not necessarily see a firm distinction.

History & Associated Parties: The idea of automation is much older than most realize. Rudimentary clockwork examples can be found as far back as Ancient Greece, and evidence suggests that Hellenic Wanderers already had an interest in perfecting such creations.8 Certain natural philosophers of the time feared that one day an automaton which functioned effectively the same as a human might be developed. Their reasoning was that such a creative act, if overtaken by our natural tendency toward hubris, would result in retribution from the gods. Despite this, there are many Hellenic myths about life springing forth from the inanimate, such as that of Pygmalion and his sculpture of an ideal wife. Nowadays, we still see reflections of this yearning for the perfect companion in the form of digital simulacra, some of which have received celebrity status despite lacking the capacity for true interaction with humans.

Of note is that the field of alchemy is not restricted to Hellenic practitioners. Many societies from different eras have delved into it, the most prominent being India, Islam and China. The Silk Road was a key element in the trading of magical knowledge between these disparate cultures, which influenced each other and led to the development of various eclectic models of alchemic familiars. A milestone of such collaborative research which persists to this day is the United Imperative For Alchemic Discovery. This international organization has many Wanderers and other scholars of the occult from all walks of life among its ranks, and has been involved in the development of hardware for promising paratechnology.

Last but not least, the invention of the alchemic familiar is believed to have inspired the paratechnological designs of Anderson Robotics. Despite extensive efforts from journalists and other investigators of the magical world, there are no direct interviews, biographies or similar documentation involving Vincent Anderson to confirm this hypothesis. That being said, cross-referencing between leaked data from Anderson Robotics and volumes from the Library suggests that Vincent Anderson is considerably familiar with the layout and contents of the latter.

There have been accounts of former employees who suspect this is a sign of corporate espionage, which has resulted in strained diplomatic relationships with the company and at least one attempt on Vincent Anderson's life. As of the writing of this entry, it is unknown who was responsible for the failed assassination, and speculations are numerous on arcano-social media. This has not prevented Anderson Robotics from continuously releasing products that few alchemic businesses of smaller scale can compete with. Regardless on their personal feelings on these events and the groups involved, members of the Serpent's Hand are advised to not spread false information about such events.

Approach: Alchemic familiars are docile and cooperative by design, although fluctuations in ley lines and astrology incorporated into their creation can result in unforeseen alterations to their programming. When an alchemist has finished the alchemic algorithm and assembled the physical container for the instance's consciousness, they are advised to remain within close proximity of their creation for at least a few hours. This allow the familiar to perform spiritual imprinting, which is the main arcane safety measure against outside tampering with its programming. This process requires the alchemist to offer simple tasks to the familiar, provide positive reinforcement and generally build a relationship based on mutual trust. Upon completion of the spiritual imprinting, the alchemic familiar learns much like a human would and experiences the same range of emotions.

If an alchemic familiar undergoes a rebellious phase or otherwise behaves in an uncooperative manner, under no circumstance is the alchemist to punish them physically for it. These actions are normal side-effects of the spiritual imprinting, which by necessity uses the memories and thought patterns of the creator as a base for the instance's consciousness. They are simply imitating glimpses of your inner psyche in an instinctive way, and need a calm and respectful figure to explain to them why this happens. Not only that, physical punishments have a marked tendency to destabilize their alchemic bonds and trigger unpredictable hexes, transmutations and similar phenomena. Alchemists who are currently suffering from mental health issues are strongly advised to seek thorough psychological therapy, so as to not accidentally transfer negative shards of their psyches to their creations.

Other Detail: Alchemists should have a reliable and environmentally friendly way of disposing of the materials ejected by their familiars, which are not always stable and may prove to be environmental hazards if left to accumulate. Do not be alarmed if your familiar nibbles on your hand right after being created, for they are incapable of ingesting biological tissue and are simply acting out of natural curiosity. They do not come into existence with extensive knowledge nor common sense, and it helps to think of them as your children when they prove troublesome.

Observations & Stories

As explained by the concept of the Uncanny Valley, alchemical familiars and mundane automatons who only get just shy of accurately imitating humans have a very strong tendency to cause an acute fear response. Due to their status as sapient entities, there are alchemists who seek out familiars deemed to be failures so they can be repaired, upgraded and have a chance to join a community.9

One particular story of such an adoption is widely known among alchemists. During the Cold War, Soviet Wanderers researched militaristic applications of alchemy in secret. While most of the documentation regarding their findings is no longer available, leaked data discovered by the American government during that time revealed a project for designing augmented soldiers. The associated research facilities were tasked by the USSR to create a prototype that would not only be capable of standing up to the USA's military forces, but would also serve as form of propaganda to convince the world of the superiority of Soviet science.

While the creation process was highly classified at the time, it has since become common knowledge in the magical world that it prioritized efficiency over ethics. The spiritual imprinting used dozens of Soviet military operatives with diverse skill-sets and psychological profiles in order to create an idealized war machine, without regard for safety measures. The resulting alchemical soldier, whose name translates into English as "Loyal Sword", was extremely proficient in his intended applications, but could not be made to look or act human enough. Not only that, the faulty spiritual imprinting afflicted it with an unstable psyche, which in turn made him act erratically and aggressively toward his superiors. Before he could be shut down and disassembled, he downloaded the schematics and blueprints of his development and escaped the research facility.

In the following years, Sword became a fugitive from Soviet agents looking to bring him back into their custody. He made a rudimentary living as an itinerant mercenary, but always looked for any opportunities to change his own programming so that he could start as a clean slate away from his creators. During his travels, he found a temporary family in a rural village, who offered him sanctuary from his pursuers. Sword took care of menial labors and attended the local Catholic church, where he met a priest whom he befriended. The soldier would ask the priest if he had a soul and a place in God's plan like humans. And every time, the priest told Sword that it didn't matter in the end, as long as he believed in God and sought to be good. But Sword could not believe in his own redemption, because he was created as a tool for war.

Fearing that he might be discovered if he stayed there too long, Sword abandoned the village and wandered through the world. Convinced that he was broken, the soldier remained on the margins of society and examined humanity from a safe distance in hopes of fixing himself. But try as he might, the desire for war always tormented him and bloodshed followed wherever he went. Unable to bear such an existence and wanting to have someone like him, Sword sought out an alchemist in his homeland and held him hostage. In return for his freedom, the alchemist created a son for Sword, using the soldier's own psyche for the spiritual imprinting. Though he named the progeny Shield and told him that violence was evil, Sword was not ready to be a father and only created another link in the chain of torment.

The bedtime stories of the Cold War that Shield heard every night motivated him to rebel against his progenitor and run away in search of a new home and family. He traveled between the Third World nations that had been negatively impacted by the geopolitical power plays of the Cold War, and became a volunteer in the efforts of paranormal humanitarian groups. Such individuals repaired Shield and introduced him to collaborators in the Serpent's Hand, which motivated him to become a Wanderer.

Nowadays, Shield teaches classes on history, psychology and environmentally conscious alchemy. No encounters between Shield and his progenitor have been documented since he joined the Serpent's Hand, but there have been sightings of an individual who matches the description of Sword accompanying Book Burner operatives in the aforementioned nations. It is unconfirmed at this time what Sword's motivations for participating in such operations are. As of the last incident in the Library caused by invasive attempts to coerce information out of Shield about his progenitor, any such attempts are to be discontinued indefinitely. The respect for knowledge includes the willingness to not divulge when it would be harmful.

Doubt

It has been hypothesized by contemporary alchemists that the current rapid development of thaumaturgical AIs could replace the traditional alchemical familiars. Such constructs learn faster, have more predictable behavior and can be replicated in a large scale. While there is no reliable evidence of thaumaturgical AIs ever behaving contrary to their initial programming in any significant fashion, there are growing movements who oppose their widespread usage. These protesters claim that the lack of spiritual imprinting leaves behind a void that possibly dangerous extra-planar entities gravitate toward occupying. Analysis of the supposedly corrupting influence of these entities has proven inconclusive, but there are lasting rumors of those who were exposed to it and were transformed. Such individuals could not be reached by the Serpent's Hand, but patterns in the rumors are emerging. With the interlinked nature of the digital age, it remains a possibility that such an incursion could have harmful effects on a global scale. Members of the Serpent's Hand are advised to update their knowledge on such matters, just in case.

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