Anderson the Alternative
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"So, uh, we all know what our little firm now faces," Vincent Anderson looked around, noting the reaction of the other four most important members of Anderson Robotics. "Our facilities raided, our staff attacked, our customers apprehended. We don't have enough resources to defend ourselves, and um, the Foundation won't stop until all our products are in their hands. We won't be able to go on like this, and I would like to make a proposal."

"No," Phineas immediately cut him off. "We've talked about this before, Vincent. I'm not going to let you sell our years of hard work to some… rich businessmen who see nothing but profit in our efforts. If we're subjected to their rules, our inspirations, our innovations, and our originalities will all be lost."

"Yes, and I've thought about that, Phineas," Anderson turned to the old man, nodding slightly. "We are always going to be raided, and um, some of our products will be snatched from our customers. Receiving funding from MC&D can give us the power to counter those, but only temporarily. It doesn't fix the problem from the source. So as I really think about it, there is only one logical and permanent solution."

The four's gaze followed as Anderson stood up, moving to one of screens in the meeting room. "If the Foundation really wants our little gadgets, we're going to cut out the, um, 'middle man' here, which is the being raided part," He chuckled slightly at the joke, and made the announcement. "We will be directly funded by the Foundation."

Jason choked on his drink. Jeffery froze, and Medea just stared at him blankly.

"Wait, what?" Phineas said.

Anderson turned on the device. After a few moments, the screen flashed on, and a blue figure appeared.

"Hello," the computer vocalized. "I'm Alexandra, your Foundation liaison. It's nice meeting you!"

"What do you mean 'you didn't actually think this was going to happen'?" Director Holman stared at their "Robotics Specialist", a few veins visible on his forehead. Next to him, Assistant Director Merlo gave a resentful look.

"Well, I didn't actually expect that the ghosts of the droids would linger due to their hatred towards the tasks the Foundation put them through?" Vincent Anderson replied, forcing a smile.

"And let me remind you that you're part of the Foundation, Anderson," Holman tapped on the table. "And this is because of the brain mapping tech? Their souls are now trapped there? So how come I was not informed about this in the first place?"

"I did mention it, in the reports. Just that I didn't really, um, highlight that part."

Holman looked like he was holding back a curse. After a few moments, he signed. "You're dismissed, Anderson. Back to your department, I believe any further instructions on what to do with… SCP-3560 will be filed to your place directly."

Anderson nodded, and exited the Site Director's office as Merlo shut the door on him. He stood there for a second, and let out a modulated breath. He then took out his silver comedy mask from his person. Putting it on, he once again noted how much he hated the dress codes.

As he walked through the facility, a team of MTF agents rushed past, no doubt to deal with the mess he had created. They were led by Commander Shaw, who appropriately gave him a middle finger. Anderson returned the greeting with a nod.

After a short walk and one elevator ride, Anderson was standing in front of the Special Robotics Department of Site-64. A familiar falcon logo was branded on to the door, right inside a Foundation department shield. He pressed his palm into the security scanner and allowed the door to slide open.

The common room was unusually empty and quiet, occupied by only two individuals – Hector and Researcher Conwell, who were playing a game of chess. Anderson already expected that most robots would be called back temporarily in light of the incident, and staff likewise interviewed. The two were probably left here in case of emergency.

As Anderson walked pass, the Peregrine bot looked up to greet him, while Conwell was too engrossed in the game and the music playing in his earphones to even notice.

Several more similarly empty development and management offices later, Anderson reached his own office. As he finally settled, he took out his standard Foundation-issued pad and checked his feed. Unsurprisingly, it was bombarded with reports and complaints regarding the appearance of SCP-3560, a hell on earth for his beloved robots only. He also was in for a small chat with an Overseer within the week. Meanwhile, on the intranet's small social media, "#RoboLimbo" had become a trending topic, which he really didn't care to read the specifics about. Anderson decided against logging in any of the chat rooms, and spent the next five minutes sinking into the comfort of his chair and staring at the ceiling.

Eventually, his eyes settled on a framed photo of him, Phineas, Jeffery, Medea, and Jason standing together, each with a genuine smile. It was Anderson Robotics' official opening day, and they joked about being pushed to bankruptcy within the first week as none of them knew anything about running a business.

Money, however, was no longer a concern as the mighty Foundation machine worked its magic. Their tech was valuable enough, so they were given much freedom to create as they wished; the only drawback was the endless arguments with Ethics Committee about robot rights. Yet, only he and Jeffery were still stationed at Site-64. Jason jumped at the opportunity to be transferred to bigger and more prominent sites, and Medea with him. His little firm was pretty much disbanded, taken away piece by piece, and without him noticing, integrated into the Foundation. And as for Phineas…

As his thoughts drifted, Anderson closed his eyes and put himself in sleep mode.

"Mr. Anderson~ Rise and shine!" A sweet albeit slightly mechanical voice rang out in his audio receptors, and Anderson snapped back from the dreamless false sleep. He was greeted by a blue-skinned woman with long blue hair.

"Alex," He said as the cameras serving as his eyes refocused.

"Yep," Alexandra, the coordinator of the Special Robotics Department responded. "I do hope you've gotten enough rest, mentally, of course. The rest of the team is already waiting for you." She then wasted no time to help Anderson from the chair and began to lead him towards the common room.

"Um, I'm sorry, Alex," Anderson asked as the office door closed behind him. "But what do you mean, team?"

"Oh, the news came while you were sleeping. We're assembling a team to explore the interior of the 'Robo Limbo'," She said, dramatically making big air quotes with her hands.

"I thought that would be up to Shaw and her—"

"Heeeeey sup! Mr. Anderson!" A green-haired young man jumped out of the common room and patted Anderson on the shoulder, interrupting his question.

Anderson winced slightly at the sight of the overzealous AIAD bot. He was never quite used to the temperament of the Foundation AICs, for they were never quite human enough and not as comfortable to be around as his own androids. But of course, the work was still impressive; he himself couldn't write code like this. So instead, he resorted to curse the engineer of the personality drives in his head.

"That's quite enough," Alex smiled, shooed Thorn away and gently pushed Anderson inside.

He saw yet another familiar artificial face and realized this must be way more serious than he had hoped. Nevertheless, he greeted Grape, the third AIAD robot, who only grunted in return. Looking around, he also saw a few agents sitting around, notably Commander Shaw, who was helping herself to some juice. Hector was nowhere to be seen but Researcher Conwell was helping the agents with some equipment.

"So," Anderson finally said. "What is this about, may I ask?"

"Oh, we're going into 3560. Because all the Robotics department androids are in for inspection and review right now, me, Grape and Throne are helping with the mission," Alex explained. "Lawbringers have already covered the basic grounds, and we have a secure route out in case anything happens. And… lemme check, MTF Tau-51, Urban Brawl will have our back outside the portal."

"And I'm sure I will be helping remotely over the radio?" Anderson asked hopefully.

"I'm sorry, Vincent," Alex smiled politely. "But I will be directing the mission. You will go in with the rest of the team."

"There must have been some kind of mix up. I'm uh, not exactly good with field work."

"Oh I dunno. I'd say your lightning cannon was pretty impressive," Shaw cut into the conversation, finishing off her drink. "So impressive in fact, it burnt down half of this department?"

"But clearly you have way more experienced agents," Anderson swallowed but only felt dryness in his throat.

"Whose life shouldn't be thrown into the murderous extradimensional hell you created." Shaw made no attempt to hide her aggression.

Fortunately, Alex put herself between the agent and Anderson timely. "You have the most knowledge about SCP-3560, Vincent. We really need an expert in there as well."


"Mr. Anderson, it would be the best for you to go with this mission." Alex said apologetically. However, there was a certain sternness in her voice. "I have clear orders."

"Oh yeah, between this and the Phineas incident, you're in a very dangerous place, Vinny." Thorn chimed in, a completely unsuccessful attempt to lift the mood, taking the situation entirely too lightly.

Anderson stiffened. As much as he want to believe that it was Holman setting him up, he knew that Alex must have taken the order from even higher up. This was a warning to him. He had started to miss his long gone status of a PoI – at least back then he only had being locked in a cell instead of termination to worry about. He had always been afraid of the possibility, even made plans ahead of time. But it had not come to that yet, so he simply nodded.

"Great," Agent Shaw said dryly. "Let's head off."

As Anderson walked among the shadowy trees and the thick fog, taking shelter between armed MTF agents and armoured bots, he felt somewhat surreal and ridiculous, as if he had been placed into a stereotypical horror movie. But the moment he stepped into the portal, he had felt a chill down his spine, despite his receptors incapable of such sensations. If he were to think about it more rationally, it must have been the thaumaturgical signature of the place; but right now he couldn't help but feel a bit intimidated.

After all, despite what others might think, he knew next to nothing about this place. The theory had been proposed, but back then they were way more interested in putting androids together than worry about the potential consequences. Even Phineas, the more careful of the two, was not persistent in looking into it. There were concerns, but they were put aside, and the theory was shelved. He knew souls would be stuck, but had little idea of what they would be like, and even less of an idea of what their torment would generate.

So far, the team went on without accident; the whole place seemed awfully quiet and undisturbed, despite a slight rotting scent. Alex's voice over the radio guided the team cautiously, and it reassured him to a degree. Most of the team had their weapons ready to go, and the two bots were already scanning and mapping the area.

But then, footsteps, statics, and the rustle of the leaves all broke out at once.

It was Thorn who first recognized the ambush and alerted the team, but it didn't buy them much time. Android souls that had blended too well with the environment had charged out of the thick fog, hundreds in number. Then again, "charge" was an overstatement, as their bodies were tattered, many of them barely held together, sustaining the damage that caused them to expire. Nevertheless, there was strength in numbers, and the team was surrounded.

They returned fire but this only served to slow the androids' advance. When one fell down, more rushed on, and seconds later even the fallen ones would start to crawl forwards once more. As bullets impacted their already tattered bodies, Anderson wondered if the removal of pain receptors from the majority of the androids was such a good idea after all. On the one hand, there were no cries of pain; yet on the other hand, they inched on despite the damage.

The team fell back as they fired, but soon their rear was under attack too. The radio buzzed as Alex started to call for backup, but they couldn't have come to the rescue quick enough. One of the androids finally got close enough, and suddenly exploded, releasing a great wave of light, which swept across the whole team. As the light reached him, Anderson felt no heat. When his systems were back on again moments later, he found himself alone.

He tried the radio, but only static come out; something was interfering with the transmission. Anderson swallowed and suppressed the wild and terrible guesses sprouting from his mind; those would only make the situation worse. He pulled up his guiding system, came up with the rest of the directions with his guts, and walked on.

His footsteps echoed, and everything else dissolved into shades of grey. Tree after tree, clouded by the fog, it all looked the same. He desperately marched on, while at the same time afraid that drastic movements would attract unwanted attention. The feeling that some of the souls were more than eager to see him kept coming back to him, and he felt his steps getting heavier.

At this point, he was slightly regretting not taking Phineas' suggestion more seriously and devoting time to create actual AIs, instead of going for the easy way out to save the funds.

Anderson suddenly stopped moving forward. Right in front of him, there was a figure. Because of the fog and his perplexed state, he didn't even notice it until they were meters apart. Taking the sight in, what little of the blood he had left in his body ran cold. It all made sense now; the team was never the target, their goal was him all along.

It was his old friend, Phineas. Or the Saker bot he made to be Phineas, to be exact. In his chest, a huge hole burnt through by charges of electricity still visible.


Anderson turned to run, but the Phineas Saker leapt forward to tackle him.

"What's up, Vincent? Don't want to chat with an old friend?" The dead android roared, his voice accompanied by a thick static sound.

The robot in the shape of an old man briefly gained the upper hand, but Anderson managed to turn over to face him. Kicking what was left of Phineas' stomach, he managed to wrestle himself out. The Foundation's tech had gotten better over the years, and Anderson received his share of updates.

"I-I'm sorry," Anderson said, as he stood up and raised his arm towards Phineas. "But, um, you should be dead."

Phineas had stumbled to the ground. "I warned you about this! Look at what you have done," the droid stared at Anderson. "And now, because of you, I'm stuck here as well."

"Yet, last I remembered, you also went along with it," Anderson couldn't bring his gaze to meet with Phineas'. "I'm sorry, but I really need to get out of here now."

Anderson fired his electricity weapon. A loud crackling sound rang out, yet, there were only the tiniest sparks of electricity. Anderson was stunned as he realized that the environment must have interfered with the workings of his thaumaturgy device.

Phineas only smiled. Taking the chance, he lept forward once again and grabbed Anderson's weapon arm. With a painful shriek, the arm was torn off.

"Your pretty magic tricks won't work here, Vincent." Phineas said, this time grabbing Anderson's throat. "You're staying here with us, paying for your mistakes."

"And I'm guessing my head alone would be enough for you?" Anderson decided to struggle, albeit without much success.

Phineas tightened his grip, but a moment later the arm holding Anderson's throat began to melt. It was now the Saker's turn to shriek in pain. It was the very dissolving agent Phineas himself had invented for disposing of robots that was now eating away his body.

"Well, glad that I have a, uh, backup plan then." Anderson got back up, still holding a few globs of blue and orange in his hand.

"You're not getting out of this," The android roared. "I'll heal, and I'll go after you."

"I'm sure you will, old friend." Anderson said as he tossed several orange spheres at him. The goo stuck Phineas to the spot, and he could only curse as the substance quickly hardened.

Anderson sat down to catch his breath. As he regained his composure, he took off his silver mask as large chunks of it were also damaged by the dissolving goo. As he did so, Phineas stopped cursing and looked up, staring at his once friend intensely. Anderson didn't look back.

A few moments later, distantly, a few shouts were heard, and gunfire rang out. The static faded and Anderson's radio started to buzz slightly.

"I'm sorry, Phineas. But I believe I, um, should go now."

As he got up, the now trapped android started to cackle. "You think this is over?" He said with a broken voice. "Oh, you will be here with us, Vincent. You're always afraid that one day you will run out of your usefulness. You think I didn't know you had made a Saker for yourself? You've sealed your own fate!"

Anderson felt his blood become even colder, but he didn't allow the feeling to surface. He turned away from the broken android on the ground. "Goodbye."

As he walked off towards the direction of the sound, laughter echoed behind him. The leaves of the ghostly forest rustled, and became quiet once again.

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