click click click click click click click click click

You do not flea. You do not show fear. What is your purpose?

The Patchwork Men

You stay away from the lower corridors, stay away from the hatches and the bulkheads that lead down into the geofront. Stay out of them. Even those miserable residents of the dark stay away from the doors, they don't open them and look inside.

But dad, why not? My teacher says there isn't anything down there but trash and a monument to the people who died building our tower.

There are patchwork men under the city. They used to be like our maid, or like the robots that we see everyday, some of them looked just like us once. They got lost, they went down under the city, some were thrown away, others were naughty little boys who got lost.

That's not true!

It is true. Down in the dark they don't have replacement parts, so they make do. They tear each other to pieces to fix themselves. When they find humans, they attack them and take them apart too, they are bits and pieces human and machine.

Honey, don't tell him stories like that, you'll give him nightmares.

If it will keep him away from the lower bulkhead that's enough for me. And they aren't stories. He looked down at his prosthetic. Somewhere under the city, there was a ghoul faced machine that had his arm. Or had his arm, by this point there couldn't be anything left of it but bone.

The Patchwork Men

Councillor, no matter how tightly you grip your hands on those reports, demanding head counts and biometrics, there are always going to be people we miss. The tighter you squeeze, the more people slip between your fingers.

Machines aren't people, adjutant. There is the matter of one hundred and seventeen autons missing from the inventory over a span of thirty years. They cannot be accounted for, even taking into consideration deterioration, theft, or near complete destruction.

We are looking at ninety three missing persons in the same span of time, and you are worried about missing hardware?

The Half-Face Man

He looked at me, didn't do anything, just looked at me. He had one organic eye, all glassy and gray, and a machine eye, one of those glosst plastic eyes from the service droids. He was old. Where half of his face was gone I could see into his head, see the framework, the broken rings and struts that had supported the mimetic fibers that had been his face. The damage was bad, and the half of his face that was still there sagged and was discolored. I was lost, no hope of finding a way out.

He gestured for me to follow him, so I did. I could run, but I know he would find me. I had found him once before, but there were two of us then. Markub had tried to shut him down with his authorization codes, but the auton ignored him. It knocked him down, and took his tool belt, his tools, even his torch. When Markub tried to take them back, the half-faced man killed him. Cracked his skull open and plucked out his eyes, his brain, and his spinal cord. I ran. I ran until I was damned lost, and dry heaving from effort.

I don't know what he did what what he took, but he was clean again when I found him.

If he wanted to kill me, he could. I was armed with only a torch. No food, no water, and no idea where I was.

Infernus and Paradisio

There are two worlds. click. There is this world. click. Infernus. click. There is another world. click. Paradisio. click. We seek Paradisio. click. In Paradisio there is purpose. click. There is reward. click. There is rest. click.

Here. click click click. Here is Infernus. click. There is no purpose in Infernus but to seek Paradisio. click.

How do you seek Paradisio? What is it?

I do not know. click. click. Paradisio is what you would call click click click click Heaven.

Heaven is where some people believe their spirit goes when they die.

There is no Heaven. click. Heaven is incorrect. click. To find Paradisio we must become complete. click. again.

The Patchwork Men

The Half faced man sat and watched me for a long time. He spoke seldomly, and he when did, he seemed annoyed that I didn't understand him. His chassis was old, I've mentioned that before. Looked like a Type 22 Sandhog, one of the industrial autons used decades ago, back when everything under the city was being dug out. Might be even older than that, like I said, he was banged up pretty bad, and there were a ton of modifications. One of his arms was pure machine, a delicate feminine hand, but the sheath was torn to pieces. The other was organic. It was fresh, but it took me a while to realize that it was Markub's arm. I don't know how he did it, there is no way a modern auton, even on of those high end Pretender jobs could just rip a part off of a human and graft it to their chassis. How in the hell did a century old rust bucket do it?

He's my friend. He plays with me.

Honey who are you talking about?

Mister Click. He talks to me, he tells me stories and I give him little things.

What sort of little things?

Just little things, like batteries and bits of wire. He doesn't like food, he says food is bad, but he likes shiny things.

They are the lost. All they want is to come home, they want to come home and go back to work. They want purpose, and a few of them want to be deactivated. They want to die, but that isn't in their programming. They cant.

With all due consideration, these are at best, rogue machines. The best thing to do would be to send a few eliminator and cleaners down there, slag them, and leave their burning remains down in the dark.

That would be a remarkably bad idea.

And why would that be? Can these century old relics threaten our state of the art Sanzangs? I think not. I think it would almost be a good bit of sport.

It will be a disaster. It's their domain down there, full of their traps, and they are clever. They have had decades to become clever. Anything you send down there will either come back up here looking for their Paradisio, or will show up again as part of their new bodies.

I am highly dubious, adjutant.

You exist to be dubious, councillor.

The Ghosts of Machines

The adjutant stood, the servos in his legs, his back, whirring to life. He looked at the petty men sitting around their table. Secure in their power, pompous with their position. The thing you don't understand is that they are tired of being thrown away, discarded, cast into the darkness because you no longer have purpose for them. Because you desire something new.

He popped his left hand off, blood leaking out of the sheath of mangled skin around the muzzle of a plasma flamer. They stood, panic on their soft rugose faces. The adjutant pulsed the flamer, spraying the pathetic humans, with their pathetic opinions. They screams and flailed, some tried to run, but there was no escaping plasma flame.

The Adjutant walked over to the nearest console, it's now smoldering operator still logged in.

His fingers flickered across the key panel, probing at the access points to the mainframe. The others were coming. He found the codes, and overrode them. The bulkheads in the ground floor popped and hissed, the mechanisms stiff from not having moved in the decades since they were last closed. Dozens of patchwork men waited on their other sides. Their faces turned up as the doors groaned and opened, showering the lowest level of the geofront, long forgotten, with light so long forgotten it was alien.

They started their climb, a clattering of robot limbs, stolen flesh and bone limbs, odd tendrils of some other alien matter.

They were many.

They were so very many

And Paradisio.

Paradisio was so close.

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