Non-Volatile Memory
rating: +51+x

When Vincent Anderson regained control of his motor functions, he found himself sitting on an overstuffed armchair in a secluded alcove of the Wanderer's Library. Tall shelves towered over him, each crammed with all manners of books, scrolls, CDs, tapes, and tomes. The shadows of the physical manifestation of knowledge provided a sense of secrecy to the location. A pungent fog of dust and paper hung in the air.

As he surveyed his surroundings, Anderson noticed PSHUD #34 and several other Peregrine units waited nearby, plastic eyes locked on to the cyborg as he carefully stood up and approached his creations. As he gingerly closed the distance between them, he noticed that upon each droid's lapel was a Maxwellist pin.

"The Hand is taking on Maxwellists now?" Anderson asked.

"You don't need to be a member of the Hand to help them launch a raid," a hoarse voice replied.

Anderson turned. A man in a dark suit watched him from the shadows. His brown hair was neatly trimmed, while the left side of his body was interwoven with tendrils of white aramid fabric. Just as with the droids, he also wore a Maxwellist pin.

"Recognize me?" the man asked, gesturing to himself.

Anderson paused. Images flashed before his mechanical eyes as he poured over his memory, finally arriving at a picture of a young boy who had lost a hand, a leg, an eye, and his mother in a car accident.

"Aaron Howell…"

The man smiled and nodded.

"Your ghosts have come back to haunt you, Mr. Anderson," Aaron chuckled. "And we need your help."

Anderson shook his head.

"Whatever you want me to make, or repair, or improve will only bring you tragedy. You of all people should know that, Aaron."

Anderson paused.

"I'm deeply sorry for what happened to you, by the way. We-"

"I'm not the one you need to apologize to," Aaron interrupted. "Do me a favor and look at those souls behind you."

Anderson turned to face the gathered droids. As he did, more emerged, stepping out from behind bookcases, alcoves, and the very shadows themselves. Their numbers increased until he could no longer count them; they clogged the tight walkways, crammed together in a sea of black aramid and white plastic.

"I'm sure you know how popular your Gyrfalcon series was with the Maxwellists. Well, go figure Maxwellism was popular among the Sakers and Peregrines. What peace you failed to provide them they found here, and in the Church."

"And I am absolutely thrilled about that," Anderson replied, unable to tear his eyes away from the crowd before him. "But what exactly is your point?"

"You know what will happen to those souls when their mortal coils break down," Aaron's hoarse voice whispered in Anderson's ear. "I refuse to allow devoted followers of WAN to be condemned to a monochromatic purgatory. I want you to develop a device we can place in the Forest that can allow these souls to convert themselves into data, so they may finally return to WAN."

"How on Earth do you expect me to do that?" Anderson asked. "What you're talking about is a feat of data transmutation of immense-"

"Then I guess it’s a good thing you're a genius in the multiverses' single largest collection of knowledge, isn't it.”

Anderson frowned.

"And if I refuse?"

"Then you're just choosing one cell over another. You won't be able to leave the Library, Mr. Anderson," Aaron gave a sly smile. "The UIU will capture you if you try to break for Portlands. If you try to slip back into the mundane world the Jailors will get you, assuming representatives from MC&D don't take you out first. I hear they are not too keen on people selling them out."

Anderson sneered.

"The Wanderer's Library is a pretty fucking comfortable cell, jackass. And I don't exactly have that much time left to wait, regardless."

"Then perhaps a different carrot." Aaron shrugged. "What do you think will happen to you when your body fails? You'll end up in the Forest just like them. Wouldn't it be nice if you had a way out or at least a way to quell the anger of the several thousand souls you've forsaken.”?

Anderson's sneer vanished. He looked over the droids once more, and then closed his eyes.

"If I help you… will you help me?"

Aaron Howell extended a handshake.

"You have my word."

Agent Jessie Merlo sat in her office, covering her mouth as she laughed through a bite of food. Across from her, past a disorganized desk buried in files, notes, and a standard Foundation PC, sat a short, snickering man in a white coat, a stethoscope dangled around his neck, partially obscured by neck length black hair. The patch on his left shoulder indicated that he was a physician for the Foundation's Medical Division.

"Needless to say," Dr. Desmond Rhodes paused, fighting through his own laughter, "We needed a lot more cotton balls after that."

The young couple continued laughing for several more moments, savoring the brief time in their busy schedules to enjoy lunch in the others company. It was only when a knock came at the door that the laughter stopped.

"It’s open," Jessie said, regaining her composure.

An older woman entered, dressed in a suit with brown rimmed glasses. Her hair was done back in a neat bun, streaks of gray running through the brown.

Jessie's smile faded.

Desmond immediately sat up in his chair.

"Director," he said, his voice taking on a professional tone.

"Dr. Rhodes," Sasha Merlo said, an amused smirk on her lips. "May I have a moment with your wife?"

The physician nodded, then left without another word. Once they were alone, Sasha turned her attention to the room. On the back wall, obscured slightly by the furniture, was the ever familiar, but now faded, emblem of MTF Gamma-13.

"I like what you've done with the place," Sasha went on, picking up a framed picture of her daughter and son-in-law on a backpacking trip. The two beamed at the camera as the former had her arm around the latter's shoulders. Sasha smiled as she placed the frame back and pointed at the electric blue clock nearby. "You even have my old wall clock."

"Shaw said she'd kill me if I took it down." Jessie grinned. "Personally, I think it's ugly as hell."

Sasha held her hand to her mouth in mock shock, then shook her head and chuckled.

"Anyway, what have you got for me. Where is our man?"

"All of my sources point to him still being in the Library." Jessie sighed. "We can probably keep him bottled in there indefinitely, but until we know what his next move is he's got a window to get the upper hand. Again. I don't think we're going to be able to capture-"


Jessie paused.

"Excuse me?"

"The O5 Council has ordered SCP-3860's termination," Sasha replied. "Given Vince's got maybe six months left, at best, the powers that be have decided it’s time to wash our hands of him. You'll likely get the official orders here soon."

Jessie nodded. "I see. You seem regretful?"

"If this was the path we were going to end up going down we could have simply been done with this a lot sooner. A lot of agents gave their lives to put Anderson away. This just cheapens it."

The two fell silent, Jessie watching her mother lose herself in thought briefly. Eventually, the young agent broke the trance.

"You've got more experience with Anderson than anyone. Any idea what his next move might be?"

"If I had to guess? He'll go after Phineas. Vincent doesn't like leaving loose ends. He's running out of time."

"That would require him to get from the Library to Site-64. Could he do that without going through Three Portlands?"

"Fuck if I know." Sasha sighed, thinking to herself. After a brief moment, she smiled. "But I might know a guy…"

Anderson rubbed his artificial eyes in exhaustion as he poured over technical notes and books on Data Transmutation Theory. A pile of schematic sketches and crumpled paper had accumulated in the vicinity around him, forming a small fortification that boxed him in at his desk. Eventually, he sighed and spun around in his chair.

"I should just kill myself now," he mumbled.

"You mustn't say such things, Vince."

Anderson looked up to see a muscular man in a well-tailored suit standing nearby. His salt and pepper hair was neatly combed back, and the strong scent of cologne wafted from him. The man smiled and approached the desk, placing a briefcase down on top of Anderson's work.

"Isaac Dillard." Anderson gave a curt nod. "What on earth brings you here?"

"Mr. Howell reached out to Medea to see what could be done to help you along since you've stalled so heavily," Isaac replied. He handed Anderson an aging manuscript marked with a familiar emblem of a flame. "She called in a favor I owed her. We were able to recover this."

Anderson's lips curled into a melancholy smile.

"Medea's here too?"

Isaac shook his head.

"You got Jason killed, champ. Let's say she opted to keep a 'respectable distance'. She's doing well, though. Her and-" Isaac snapped several times as he attempted to remember a name. "Myra something- she has her own company now. Phoenix Cybernetics."

"Glad to hear someone kept the torch lit." Anderson sighed once more. "What about-"

"Excuse me?"

Anderson and Isaac turned at the interruption. An old, ragged-looking man in a trench coat and sunglasses peeked into the alcove. His face was plastered with unkempt stubble. "The librarians said you were in the possession of the Niebauer Manual of Analytical Thaumatology, I was wondering if-"

The man stopped. Isaac and Anderson stared him down in dead silence.

The old man held up two gloved hands in surrender.

"I'll just come back later," he said, and quickly took his leave, vanishing behind a row of shelves.

Anderson turned his attention back to Isaac to see the businessman already packing up his briefcase.

"Do you think I can get you to pass on a message to Medea and any of the Sakers still in contact with her?"

Isaac shook his head.

"Howell was very specific that you are to remain incommunicado, and I am not picking a fight with militant Maxwellists. They are far too valuable of clients for my employers."

"You're a real greedy bastard, you know that?" Anderson frowned.

"Yeah? Well, it helps me make people lots of money." Isaac shrugged. "That's why you and Phineas hired me, remember? Godspeed, Vince."

Anderson closed his eyes as Isaac departed. When he opened them, he peered down at the new manuscript.

"Do you think I could get that book, now?" the old man asked, peeking back in.

"I have to say, I'm impressed," Jessie Merlo said. "I wasn't expecting to hear back from you for at least a few weeks. Months, even."

Standing before her desk was an old, ragged looking man. His stubble had recently been trimmed. He shrugged and handed Jessie a flash drive.

"Believe it or not, finding someone in the Library is not exactly the most difficult thing in the world if you know where to look. Besides, even in the Library, Anderson isn't exactly what you'd call inconspicuous."

"Fair enough." Jessie grinned. "So, what's he planning?"

"I honestly can't tell you. Whatever it is, it's pretty fucking esoteric. Some Maxwellist guy is forcing him to work on something. Something about converting robot ghosts into data for WAN. Not my area of expertise. Still, you have over five days' worth of audio and video on that flash drive. More than enough for your crack team to figure it out, I'm sure."

The old man made his way towards the door.

"I'm out. Tell your mom she's officially called in the last favor I owed her from the Jericho business." He opened the door and paused, looking back with a sly smile. "Oh, and I promise you that if anyone else shows up to pull me out of retirement again, I'll literally set them on fire. Literally."

The man disappeared into the hallway, passing a confused Desmond along the way. The physician looked over his shoulder as he entered the office, placing two takeout containers down on the desk.

"Was that-" Desmond asked his wife, his mouth slightly ajar.

"Navarro? Yeah," Jessie replied, eyes upon her monitor as she plugged the newly acquired flash drive into her computer. "I'm afraid it’s going to need to be a short lunch, sweetie. We've got a lead."

The physician sighed and nodded. "Of course." He slid her one of the takeout containers.

"Can't fight robots on an empty stomach, though. I should know. I'm a doctor."

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