Alchemic Arm-istice

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Explosions rocked the concrete skeleton of Site-257. Ruslav Diaghilev sprinted through the hallways, sparse lights intermittently illuminating his blue robe and purple shoes. He silently gave his gratitude to the Aeronous Aether for supplanting the failing ventilation system, and cursed himself for not looking over the directory more carefully.

Another explosion sounded, a little closer that time. Ruslav started heading in a different direction, trying to follow the flow of the Aeronous Aether to look for a way out. A thumping sound echoed from further down the corridors.

As its backup generator failed, Cryo-Storage Room 238 began to thaw out. Dozens of arms stored inside began to twitch inside their containers, and got to work freeing themselves. Most of the arms looked human, of varying skin tones, but some were made of metal, some of wood, and one particular one looked like a gorilla's arm, made of some kind of crystal. The arm-y pushed the door open and began dragging themselves along the floor and into the corridors of the Site, much like the hand from the Addams Family.

The arms arrived at a specific cell door, and gripped onto the wall and the ground and each other to form a spiderweb-like arrangement. At the center of this web was a dull metallic arm, its fist pushing against the wall. The web contracted, the arms all flexed, and slowly but surely the metal arm pressed into the wall, warping it. The cell door finally gave way and opened slightly, and spare arms began to crawl through the gap, while the rest continued to open the door.

Armando hopped out of the containment cell, his upper body completely encased in green gel. He cocked his head, and an arm-shaped blob of acid moved toward him, dissolving the gel. "Thanks, guys," Armando said, shaking his head. He detached more arms and sent them to scout the hallways ahead, then started walking.

Three branched hallways were all dead ends, and the arms circled back. One hallway ended with the sensation of an arm crushed completely flat, best to avoid that one. Another ended in a sheer drop, and Armando never felt the arm hit the ground. Only one 'safe' hallway remained, and Armando let his gaggle of arms lead the way. The lights were flickering in and out in this hallway, which was a step up from the total darkness of the last floor.

Two arms vanished, and Armando called the third and fourth back to him. Whatever was out there, he was gonna give it a piece of his mind. He detached more arms and tried to think of a plan, then pulled arms until he had the ones he needed. He sent eight scrawnier arms down the hall to meet his opponent, then started running.

A skeletal, scaly appendage with eyestalks for pinkies allowed Armando to peer around the corner where his opponent was. He wasn't a zoology expert, but he didn't want to know where this one came from.

The eight arms arranged themselves around the robe-wearing intruder and waved back and forth. The Russian man examined them cautiously, sensing the trail of aether leading from them to their source. The sixth arm high-fived the seventh, and the nitroglycerin blood inside it exploded and ignited the other arm's magnesium skin.

Ruslav Diaghilev, Director of the Alchemy Department, was unfazed by the display, but admired its creativity. The explosive force was dampened by the Aeronous Aether and sent back down the hallway, while the brightly burning extremities were extinguished when the Igneous Aether was ripped away from them.

Armando's makeshift periscope was sent flying by the redirected explosion. A wizard. I gotta fight a goddamn wizard?

The crisp, accented voice rang out. "I know you're there. Let us not make this harder than it has to be."

Armando scoffed. Who did this guy think he was? "Bring it, old man."

A flurry of limbs were hurled at Ruslav, who deflected them with air currents. One made of niobium stopped short, and was transmuted into water, then delivered back at Armando, who blocked it with an arm made of sponge.

Ruslav acted slowly and defensively, examining the aetheric flows going through the brown-skinned man. Great loops of various aethers blended together in a spiral cone, tapering to sharp points at his shoulders. He doubted the man was aware of the nature of his anomaly, but Ruslav was intrigued now, and took precious milliseconds to analyze each arm thrown at him. He watched as an arm made of obsidian flew towards him and shattered itself in mid-air, the jagged fingers approaching him from different angles. Volcanic glass. Visually impressive, but pitifully simple. Ruslav effortlessly separated the Igneous and Terronous aethers holding the glass together, and it dissolved into smoke. He decided to draw out the 'fight' a little longer and see how well this man could use his weird brand of alchemy.

Armando gritted his teeth. This wizard guy was starting to piss him off, acting all cocky and just waving the arms away. Time to shake it up. He ripped off two arms, before getting one made of lodestone. He ran towards Ruslav, and the arms on the floor behind him grabbed onto each other, making a chain. Ruslav harnessed the magnetic field and used the Fulminous Aether to shoot a bolt of lightning at Armando, but Armando was ready. The chain whipped around, and a plasma arm absorbed the bolt. Ruslav whispered, and the ice arm at the bottom of the chain melted instantly, collapsing it. He shook his head; not bad, but he expected more.

Armando pointed at Ruslav with the dull stony arm, and commanded an arm made of bubble gum to throw itself at the alchemist's face. In the brief opening, several dozen metal arms that had been sent the long way around the hallway came flying back, pulled by the magnetism. Two made contact with Ruslav, before he regained his balance and deflected them with his crozier. Ouch. He broke the lodestone arm right as I was using the Fulminous Aether to stop the metal arms. Unsure if he knew that, but clever nonetheless.

Armando rushed in, and the arms regrouped and locked around Ruslav's arms, the hands locking the man's fingers in place. Ruslav uttered a single whisper before Armando ripped off the magnet arm and instantly grew a glowing, 40-foot-long tentacle made of crumbled rock that pinned Ruslav to the wall and wrapped around his mouth.

Ruslav was cool as a cucumber. Well played. I think I've seen enough.

Armando had reasoned that the wizard required either his hands or his spoken words to do his magic, but froze when he felt his discarded plasma arm disintegrate into a ring of fire, tightening closer and closer around his neck. He released the stony tentacle slightly.

Ruslav narrowed his eyes. "I do not wish to kill you. Truce?"

Armando felt the searing heat come closer. "Fine." He released the tentacle's grip and let the metallic cage arms fall, then took a second to catch his breath.

"First thing. The hell kind of wizard wears purple shoes?"

Ruslav released a deep sigh, and shifted his crozier ever so slightly. "Not wizard, alchemist."

Armando cocked his head. "Sure, whatever. Were you locked up in here too?"

A subtle twist of his finger, and a few words in the Ninth Language too quiet to hear, and Ruslav let a crackling static shock zap Armando in the foot.

"I am a Director, not an SCP. I was looking for a suitable exit or information on the current situation. While you have access to neither, your anomaly fascinates me, and may prove useful to me following our escape."

"Really? Well, as long as you don't cut me open, I'll take the help getting out."

Ruslav gambled. "You may accompany me. What is your name?"

"Armando Rivera. They numbered me 3589."

"Ruslav Diaghilev. A pleasure."

Armando detached the tentacle, and generated a human arm with which to shake hands with Ruslav. "Right, so what's the plan, Director?"

Ruslav stroked his chin. "You used your limbs as scouts earlier; I think we can use that more effectively. Give me a gaseous arm. I will send it out with the Aeronous Aether, and you can follow it to the nearest exit."

"It's like a box of chocolates, Ruslav. Never know what you're gonna get." Armando chuckled, as he pulled off arms. Ruslav looked at him quizzically. "Never mind. Here." The arm-shaped cloud of iodine vapor floated in the air. Ruslav waved, and it spread throughout the corridors' ceilings.

Armando closed his eyes. "Nothing… wait! I feel it, fresh air! Left, left, straight, down the stairs, right, left, then up."

Ruslav grinned. Such potential. He could not wait to examine him, later.

Armando straightened, and pulled off eleven arms before getting a pair he figured would be useful: a steel right arm that resembled armor, and a left made of a blob of hydrochloric acid. He let the other free limbs grab each other and made the arm chains dangle from his neck like scarves. "Alright, let's go."

The walk along the path was long, but well-lit.

"So, alchemist, huh? How did you do all that magic earlier, making my arms disappear?"

Ruslav continued to walk. "It is science, not magic. Many of your arms' compositions are close to pure elementals. My alchemy is simply the study of the manipulation and flow of the elementals, called aethers. The aether flows through you strangely, I will admit. Once we have left, I should like your help with my work."

"Huh. Think I could learn this stuff?" Armando was curious, but also didn't really want to end up in some Middle Ages dungeon. He held a glimmer of hope that this alchemist could be the key to him figuring out exactly how to control his anomaly, and be free.

"Perhaps, though I couldn't say for certain." Was that a twinkle in Ruslav's eye, or a shimmer of the Luxorous aether?

Armando shivered. "Uh, Ruslav. Where's that breeze coming from?"

Both Armando and Ruslav stopped dead in their tracks upon rounding the corner. The entire outer wall of the Site was ripped off, and there was nothing but sandy desert and ruins around as far as the eye could see. There was no sun or moon, only stars too big, ranging from green to a sickly red, hanging in the sky. Pieces of various buildings, castles, and even lands stuck out haphazardly in the ground.

Armando blinked. "Where are we?"

This is an entry for the Original Character Tournament. My opponent's entry can be found here.

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