The Best Laid Plans
rating: +33+x

Despite its confined spaces and crowded plazas, the Wanderer's Library offered plenty of locations where one could perform complex Data Transmutation experiments away from prying eyes. In this case, such a location was an abandoned pavilion built around the remains of an ornate fountain. Without any other furniture present, it was the perfect nook for a pale, emaciated cyborg and a black, aramid-covered android to work. Between them was a fat silver cylinder with countless exposed wires jutting out from a jury-rigged frame.

"Think it will work?" asked Peregrine #34, or Juniper as they preferred to be called. Their synthesized voice was deep and feminine.

"Well, so far we've managed to digitize a rock, an apple, a pencil, and cell phone." Vincent Anderson said, rubbing his right temple with a mechanical hand. "So, if WAN wants to open a convenience store we've got them covered."

He tapped several keys on a laptop plugged into the device, then gave an exasperated sigh.

"Unfortunately, I've no idea how this thing is going to handle something as esoteric as a fucking soul, let alone one from a Peregrine or Saker. With my luck we'll probably lose test subjects to data corruption, assuming we don't straight up destroy them. Do we have a test subject ready?"

Juniper nodded and snapped their finger. From inside the fountain a small black ball scurried over on a set of four needle-like legs, before settling on the android's palm. The Amur Series Recon Drone gave a salute to Anderson, causing the old man to chuckle.

"You can always count on the Amur series," Anderson said, gingerly scooping up the bot. "I'm going to apologize to you in advance for this, little guy."

He placed the drone down on top of the cylinder, the tiny robot eyed the device curiously, and poked at it a few times with a spindly leg.

"Godspeed, noble Amur," Juniper said wistfully, taking a step back. "All connections are in place, and power is on."

"Beginning program…" Anderson returned and hit enter on the laptop.

The top of the cylinder glowed a bright blue, then crackled as a small wave of force was discharged. The Amur drone fell limp on top of the cylinder. Juniper approached and carefully picked up the empty shell.

"No apparent external damage to the physical components," they relayed to their maker. "Did we?"

"Only one way to find out," Anderson sighed, looking at the newly added folder on the laptop's hard drive. He opened a command prompt, and then began to type:

Are you there AMUR.exe?

There was pause, then Anderson smiled.

Are you there AMUR.exe?
y

"Juniper, would you mind fetching Aaron? Tell him we have a working prototype."


Within an uneventful Starbucks in Portland, Oregon, two women in plainclothes sat at a table, idly sipping coffee. The first was young, tall, and pale, with her long brunette hair done back in a ponytail. The second was older, tan, and had shoulder length blond hair that began to show streaks of gray. Her eyes panned the room from behind thin-rimmed glasses. They were MTF Commander Jessie Merlo, and Assistant Director of Task Forces Clarissa Shaw, respectively, and they represented the SCP Foundation.

Eventually, a second pair joined them. One was an old, grizzled man with a constant expression of having his parking spot taken, while the other was younger and androgynous, with burn scars on their wrists. The former gave a nod as he took his seat. He was Special Agent in Charge Kenneth Spencer, and the latter was Special Agent Robin Thorne. They represented the Unusual Incidents Unit.

"What is the rarest of sights?" Spencer asked.

"A sunset in Portlands," Shaw replied with a small smile and slid two unclaimed drinks to the newcomers. "Welcome, Spencer. Thorne. We got you two your usual orders."

"You shouldn't have," Spencer said, taking the beverage half-heartedly. "Coffee in this place is garbage."

"Not everywhere can brew with magic," Merlo chuckled.

"You don't need magic to make a good cup of coffee," Spencer replied. "But anyway, we got an update for you two."

Thorne placed a folder on the table and slid it to Shaw.

"According to our insider, your man's finished the machine you described," Thorne elaborated. "They are working out the final kinks, but we estimate it'll be ready within the week. After that Anderson is likely going to make his move."

"That was fast," Shaw said, scanning the document. "Your agent is sure of this?"

"Positive." Thorne sighed. "Ready or not, here he comes."

"He's going to try to access SCP-3560," Merlo thought out loud. "The only portal there still open is the one in Forest Park. He can't very well move there through baseline, not with so many robots in tow, so he's going to probably cut through Three Portlands."

"That's a lot of Ways he can get out of. Correct me if I'm wrong, but wouldn't it be easier to bottle him in the ghost zone?" Spencer asked. "The end result of all of this is the removal of the ghosts. That would make containment easier on your part and we avoid pissing off some very determined Maxwellists."

"Theoretically, yes," said Shaw after another sip of her coffee. "But I think we can all agree that Vincent Anderson is the last person we'd trust with an army of ghosts. On top of that, we don't know if he'll be able to generate a new exit from 3560 once inside. He could go from a dozen or so known Ways to one that he can slap down anywhere. I don't like the idea of trying to outplay Vincent on his terms either, but right now it’s the best option. For all of us."

The table fell into murmurs of agreement.

"We'll have Tau-51 and Gamma-13 on standby," Merlo said. "Let us know when it’s time to set the trap. I can promise you Vincent Anderson won't be a problem anymore."

Thorne shook their head.

"This is the third time you guys have made that promise, Jessie. Perhaps its best we don't put the cart before the horse this time."


Vincent Anderson stood before one of the Wanderer's Library's many secluded work tables. A large map of Three Portlands lay sprawled across its surface, the corners weighed down by multiple technical manuals. Beside him stood a man in a dark suit with a Maxwellist pin on the lapel, the left side of his body interwoven with tendrils of white aramid fabric.

"Unfortunately, the Jailors closed most of the entry points to the Forest back in 2028," Aaron Howell said, watching as Anderson rubbed a temple in thought. "The one in Forest Park is our only option. Lucky for us there are three or so Ways that leave Three Portlands and exit relatively close to that point. Easy enough to make a dash before the Jailors know what's going on."

"See, that overconfidence is going to ensure bad things will happen to you at some point, Aaron," Anderson said. "I can guarantee you that Sasha and the UIU have a rough idea what we're up to by now. You don't break into one of their most secure facilities and have them shrug it off. They're slow to act, but when the hammer comes down, shit gets broken."

"The Jailors don't have access to the Library-" Aaron began to retort.

"But the UIU does," Anderson snapped back.

"So, what, the plan's off? Rise to the occasion and then get cold feet?"

"Not at all." Anderson sighed and shook his head. "It's the best plan for the time frame we have. I'm just being careful."

The cyborg traced the streets on the map with his finger and sighed once more.

"Who did you say was on the strike team again?"

"Juniper, Troy, Donny, Ashley, and Cecil. Easily some of our most competent. I'm sure Juniper has shown you that by now."

Anderson nodded and tapped on the map idly. After several moments of this, he stopped then looked up, a spark in his eyes.

"What do you know about punching new Ways from the Library back to baseline?"

Aaron raised an eyebrow in confusion.

"It's tricky business for even someone skilled in the finer points of multidimensional travel?"

"Is it any easier if we aren't sending a living thing through the Way?"

Aaron paused.

"What are you planning?"

"Nothing elaborate. I just don't want to put all our eggs in one basket." Anderson smiled. "We'll need to make a few more copies of the transmuter, though."


Thorne,
Ridgewood Park Fountain. 0100. Expect the target, myself, and four hostiles.
#137


Accessing Three Portlands had been simple, as there were countless Ways between the anomalous city-state and the Wanderer's Library. In this case, Anderson, Juniper, and a handful of Peregrines and Sakers emerged into the cold Portlands rain in the middle of the night. Together, the androids and cyborg slowly made their way towards one of the many parks near the city's perimeter on foot, the heavy downpour drenching the heavy coats and masks they wore to hide their forms.

"Almost too easy," a Peregrine unit who referred to itself as Troy said in a gravelly voice. It watched the sparse foot traffic pass by on the largely deserted streets.

"I'm sorry, are you bored?" Juniper replied, letting out a low chuckle.

Troy looked down and nodded.

"No, not at all. Sorry…"

Juniper gave a nod of forgiveness and tightened their grip on the heavy backpack Anderson had given them. The cyborg noticed this and smiled.

"Precious cargo," he said.

"More than you know, Mr. Anderson."

"In the event I don't make it in, you and the rest of the teams should be able to set those up. Idiot proof, and Peregrines and Sakers are not idiots."

"Anticipating something, sir?" the Saker unit named Cecil asked, back over their shoulder.

"With my track record, it'd be foolish not to." Anderson sighed.

"Fair enough," Cecil chuckled. "You can relax though. We're about there."

Eventually, they arrived by the side of a large park and in the shelter of a nearby alley, the various androids double checked their weaponry and prepared to move out.

"B-line to the Lost Pioneer's fountain," Juniper reminded them. "We should be arriving in Forest Park a little after the other teams. WAN bless you."

Without another word, the team left the privacy of the alley and entered the park.

BANG

As if on cue, a series of shots rang out. Troy and another Peregrine fell to the ground and remained motionless, a hole from a high caliber rifle in their heads.

Juniper and Anderson took off, attempting to scatter through the tree line, where they could easily take cover and disappear. Before they had gotten far, more shots rang out from behind, taking out Anderson and Juniper's legs from beneath them.

The cyborg watched as Juniper continued to desperately crawl onward, their mechanical hands fiercely pulling them across the muddy earth. Anderson turned his head to see Cecil approach, reloading their machine gun.

"Leave them alone!" Anderson shouted, reaching into their jacket pocket and pulling out an orb of neon orange goo. The old man desperately pitched at Cecil, only to have the rogue android sidestep, turn, and fire off a single shot into his hand. Anderson yelped in pain as another series of shots rang out. Juniper was still, and now Cecil approached him. The old man feebly attempted to crawl away backward.

"I can Foundation Protocol you!" He hissed at the droid, his right hand weakly sparking with electricity as he pointed the index finger at the droid. "I can fry you where you stand!"

"And I imagine I can unload this entire magazine into you before either of those options prove effective," the Saker replied.

Anderson held his finger aloft for several more seconds but eventually yielded.

"It just goes to show how little you thought of us," Cecil stated, shaking their head. "Surrounded by hundreds of your creations, and you never looked into any of us. We could have murdered you right in the Library."

Anderson felt his blood run cold, and reluctantly ran the scanning program he had built into his mechanical eyes.

"Saker #137," he said to himself. "The last of Phineas's rebels. You do yourself no favors. You're working against your own interest."

"What would you know about my interests, Mr. Anderson," the droid returned. "That was always your problem, you arrogant prick. We were always a means to an end. Disposable. Phineas knew better! Phineas was better!"

"And so he was…"

Anderson looked up to the night sky and felt the cold rain soak him. Moments later, UIU agents had emerged from the trees. The wounded cyborg was scooped up and hauled away.


Incident Report: 3560-12

On 16/3/2041, at approximately 0130, multiple instances of the Anderson Robotics Peregrine and Saker Unit Androids assaulted SCP-3560. Operatives of MTF Gamma-13 ("Asimov's Lawbringers") and MTF Tau-51 ("Urban Brawl") were successful in driving back the initial assault. Surveillance footage of the SCP-3560 containment area showed that during the fighting, a separate team of Anderson Robotics androids entered SCP-3560, carrying an unknown payload.

Investigation into how the hostile forces accessed the containment area, despite no detected perimeter breach, is ongoing.


"I just got word from Director Merlo of your little trick in Forest Park. And here we were thinking you were losing your touch, Mr. Anderson."

Vincent Anderson sat an interrogation table within the Three Portlands UIU field office. Across from him, sat Agent Thorne and Saker #137. He had been informed that he would be transferred into SCP Foundation custody within the next half an hour. He kept his head down, and his eyes on the table.

"Nothing?" Agent Thorne continued to ask, an amused smile on their face. "Could it be that Vincent Anderson is at a loss for words?"

The old man looked up and sighed.

"Does the Foundation know that you're using Saker units as field agents now?"

"The Foundation has its secrets, and we have ours," Saker #137 replied coolly.

"So you do."

"How were you planning on getting into Site-64?" Thorne continued. "We've seen the interior of your little 'purgatory.' Hardly an exit."

Anderson shrugged.

"I guess we'll never know now, will we, Agent."

Thorne rolled their eyes.

"I guess not. I take that the payload you had your second team deliver was-"

Thorne paused, noticing that they could now see their breath. The interrogation room's lights flickered and dimmed.

A spectral Amur unit then appeared on the table. The small droid gave the Agent a wave and then turned to Anderson where it made a happy chirping sound.

"No fucking way… Benny?" Anderson said. His mouth hung open and a look of terror came over his face. "We need to get out of here, now! The only way Benny could show up here is if-"

"It’s one apparition," Thorne said cautiously looking towards the observation window for backup. "Besides, they're your ghosts, call them off."

"There'll be more of them!" Anderson shouted. "And they're fucking pissed at me, and Saker #137 shot up my fucking bargaining chip!"

Agent Thorne stood and drew their pistol.

"Do you think your bullets will work on a ghost, Agent?!?"

Thorne did not get a chance to answer. The room filled with an anguished mechanical howl as the lights died. In the back corner, an ellipse of white, glowing fog appeared. The legs of a battle-scarred auto-turret began to pull through, its armaments clicking as they took aim at Thorne and Saker #137.

The android flipped the table for cover, knocking Anderson backward to the ground. Thorne cast the first incantation that came to their mind. Crouching behind the now glowing blue slab of metal, the agent could feel their energy dwindle as shot after shot from their spectral assailant collided with the makeshift barrier. Eventually, the electric howling ceased.

"Get back! I'll destroy you! No! NO!" Anderson screamed out. A scurry of footsteps could be heard, followed by the crashes of a struggle, and then silence. The room began to warm, and the lights began to return.

Thorne and Saker #137 peered over the overturned table. The white ellipse was beginning to fade. Saker #137 immediately charged the vanishing portal, diving through it head first. Seconds later it vanished with a small pop.

Thorne gasped for breath and looked around, tens of evaporating bullets remained lodged in the room's various surfaces, with hundreds embedded on the surface of the table.

The agent shook their head.

"God damn it."


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