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Mostly writing stuff, be warned. I... have nothing else to say.

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(Contains: sexual themes)
Father Simmons stood watching his “congregation,” thin arms clasped behind an almost equally thin back, pale eyebrows pointed upward, mouth tight in a small frown. In the past month his hair had become almost shaggy, and a thick beard had grown about his nose and mouth. His eyes narrowed as he watched Tabby McShaw straddle her husband, though he glanced away, pretending not to notice. He  lowered his hands from the places where his hands were braced against the tall oak figure of the pew, which, built into the ground as it was, hadn't been torn down like the wooden crucifix that normally stood behind it had. Samuel Cafferdy and his family had broken it down to make torches in a last-ditch effort to find some other place, somewhere free from the claustrophobic and grim atmosphere that pervaded West Pitchfield's Church of Christ at all times. They never came back from their expedition into the beyond.
The lights of the various chandeliers adorning the ceiling were turned down low, as this was the hour of the 'day' where everyone in the building was supposed to spend some of their time doing their best to sleep, though the overbearing second implication darkness began to take within the church had prevented Father Simmons from ever turning off the lights completely, and thus sleep was hard to come by. The stress made it hard too – a prime example of it, Maddy Shaw, was huddled in a ball in the corner a bit to Simmons' right. Occasional weak, small, animal noises escaped her throat from time to time as she rocked back and forth almost perpetually, only stopping when she needed to eat or visit the bathroom. Even then, she would have to be brought food and carried to the lavatory by two or three men, typically including Father Simmons, or she would simply relieve herself on the floor.
Simmons could scarcely blame her. Her son was one of the first taken – on a day when the plumbing had shut down, as it was prone to do, he had decided to go outside to relieve himself rather than deal with the filth that was the bathrooms. He never came back.
The wooden benches that made up the congregation's beds were arranged in a crude circle on the ground below him, though not everyone used them (including Mrs. Shaw, though that was because she never much moved). He walked around the circumference of this circle, checking in on the people as he did so (they were almost never asleep), asking questions, making sure everyone was fed and watered and didn't feel sick. There hadn't been any sicknesses yet, but Simmons knew they would come soon. Thirty-seven people living in close quarters with no sunlight would lead to it eventually. And, of course, there was no way to alleviate that. There might not ever be.
Shmit Polanski and his four sons sat close together on one of the benches, their heads bowed in prayer even now. Simmons could barely suppress a smirk at this. Somehow he managed to keep the faith, even when the Father wrestled with it, wrestled with “God,” every day. For what God would condemn so many of his loyal followers to a fate such as this? A punishment of survival with the looming unknown over them at all times? How was this fair, when Simmons and so many others had devoted so much of their time to Him, and in return they were not even granted a quiet, painless death? Were they unworthy? What had they done wrong? How had they sinned? Had they sinned? There were too many unanswered questions, too much speculation, and too much of a lack of knowledge.
A quiet chuckle from one of the other benches alerted Simmons to the fact that the Polanskis' actions hadn't gone unnoticed. Simmons shook his head, as if to clear the questioning thoughts – though they never quite went away – and turned to the direction of the chuckle.
Matthew Tucson and his wife and two children were lying down, head-to-head and foot-to-foot, taking up the entire bench with their bodies, feigning sleep. From which member of the family the chuckle came Simmons had no guess, but anger flourished in his spirit, anger long held back regarding the mocking laughter of people like Tucson and his family.
He stood over their bench and recollection of his days as a Sunday School teacher struck him over the head – he'd never much liked the harsh sort of Catholic discipline that it was popular to treat children with at the time, but people like Tucson reminded him why steps like that were considered so necessary. Though he doubted he could put him in his place now – Simmons was by no means an imposing man, whereas Tucson (and his wife and kids) were. Still, enough was enough.
“Mr. Tucson,” Simmons whispered to the man as he lay on the far end of the bench.
Tucson took his time, shifting over from his right side until he was on his back, his large frame supported by an elbow. “Whaddya want? I'm tryin' to sleep here,” he growled, his black eyes staring at the priest from beneath his brow.
Simmons swallowed, but held fast. “Please control your family. I heard someone from this side of the room laughing as the Polanskis were bowing in prayer. These are dark times, we must-”
In a second, Tucson was up from the bench and on his feet. Curious glances came from here and there across the room, and a few people sat up. “What the hell do you mean, 'please control my family'? Seems to me if they wanna laugh they're gonna laugh, because it's damn funny to see one of your sorts still at it, even after everything we've been through.”
The hot anger hadn't left. He tried to keep it back, but like a hellhound on too short a leash it was moving of its own accord. Simmons jabbed his finger towards the other man, letting it hang in the air, as he barked “You and your family are here because God allowed it. Whether or not you believe that, it would do you well to show some respect towards those who still believe – because without them, you probably wouldn't be here at all.”
Tucson snorted, and begin to walk around the bench towards the priest, his eyes locked on him. Simmons kept the anger in his stature, his finger following the man as he walked, but inside his heart beat feverishly as his anger was already beginning to dissipate.
The large man stood over him and spoke, his speech slow even as his hands balled into fists. “I don't believe the stupid crap you do for a reason. What the hell kind of god would let whatever's outside come into being at all? Not one I'd want to meet.”
Simmons put up his hands. “Look, this isn't the time for religious discussion-”
“You're wrong, bud. We're trapped in a church with death lookin' in through all the windows to see which one of us is best for the eating, and I haven't heard so much as a peep out of 'God.' A church, for Chrissake.”
“We're safe here. God moves in mysterious ways.” The words sounded empty and hollow even to Simmons' ears, but for whatever reason Tucson just looked angrier. “Boy, you've been feeding these people's ears with that horseshit?” One of his ham-fists fastened itself around the front of Simmons' collar and lifted him into the air like an empty box. “I've got half a mind to-”
A scream erupted from one of the corners with such volume that the windows rattled. Tucson's head snapped toward the noise as did Simmons', their dispute momentarily forgotten.
“I see them! I SEE THEM!” a woman's voice wailed, and Simmons immediately knew who it belonged to. Maddy Shaw was standing in her corner, unsteady on her seldom-used legs, her left harm outstretched toward one of the church's high windows. “I SEE THEM!” she screamed, somehow even louder this time.
The few people who had remained lying down when Simmons and Tucson began arguing sat bolt upright at this, some looking about wildly as if not used to this frequent display. Parents consoled their children, husbands their wives and vice vursa, their fearful fancies, momentarily forgotten, now reinvigorated by Mrs. Shaw's screaming terrors. “I SEE THEM!” she howled again.
“Chrissake,” Tucson shouted, dropping Simmons onto the ground as if he'd forgotten that the two of them were arguing at all, bearing directly toward the terrified woman. People still shifted about, some annoyed like him but most just nervous and frightened anew. Simmons got up, dusted himself off, and scurried after the big man without consoling them. He could already sense the situation that was beginning to brew.
“DO YOU SEE THEM?” Shaw screamed, her knuckles popping as she grasped the front of his shirt.
This was enough for Tucson. “PEOPLE ARE TRYING TO SLEEP, YOU STUPID WHORE!” he howled, standing nearly a head above the woman who looked more frightened than she ever had before – but not frightened of him.
Simmons ran between her and Tucson, his arms outstretched even as his heart continued to send fear racing through his bloodstream. “You can't hurt her, Tucson. She has suffered immensely, more than you, more than me, and the Lord-”
“Shut up and get out of my way!” Tucson boomed, sweeping him aside with one swift movement of the back of his right arm. The priest slid across the floor on his side and came to rest against the far wall, where he lay, dazed, only able to watch as the big man moved his hands toward the woman's neck.
“Matt.”
It was as if a dial controlling Tucson had been set to “grovel.” He froze, his fingers almost clasped around the thin wire of skin. The anger drained from his face and his arms went limp as if the bones had evaporated. “Y-yes, hun?”
Maria, his wife, had appeared behind him without so much as the sound of a footstep. Her arms were crossed as her eyes bored scalding holes into the back of her husband's head. Disappointed exasperation was written on her face like the Lord had, for once, decided to be something other than extremely subtle. Her arms were crossed. “You going to stop being a dickhead?”
He looked down at the floor. “Yeah.”
“You going to apologize to this nice woman?”
His eyes didn't leave the floor. “I'm sorry I let my anger get the better of me.”
“It's alright,” Mrs. Shaw whispered, her eyes still focused intently on the window high above them all. It was as if the situation had actually calmed her down. “Happens to the best of us.”
A momentary look of confusion flickered across Tucson's features, but it was gone before Simmons could pin it down for more than a moment. “Go back to bed, ok? You always start acting like this when you haven't slept.”
He nodded. “Yeah. Yeah, I'll do that,” and walked across the floor, looking more hangdog than ever before. His wife, from where she stood between Father Simmons and the pew, scanned the room with her piercing eyes until she caught sight of him. She approached, a wry half-grin stretched tight across her face. “The wonders of withholding sex, huh?” She offered her hand.
“I'm a man of faith alone – I'm afraid I wouldn't know,” Simmons said, brushing away memories of a wild past, knowing they would come as per usual to do battle with the life he'd chosen. That was almost a daily ritual. He took her hand, and she helped him up.
“I'm sorry, Father – Matthew's not a bad man. He's just stressed. We're all stressed.”
Simmons nodded, trying to stave off the terror as it quickly turned to indignity. He needed to get away from them, if only for a little while. “Yes, yes, indeed.” But the irritation spoke for him regardless. “His speech reveals more than that – his time here hasn't exactly turned him to faith, hm?”
Maria sighed and picked at a stray hair, her eyes fixated on the priest's chest. She was a petite thing – Simmons wasn't tall, but she was considerably shorter. “I'm sorry to say it, Father, but even you have to admit – a situation like this doesn't exactly seem like the sort to turn an atheist into a good Christian. I'm afraid that's a point I agree with my husband on. If there's a god, why would he forsake us – and by us I mean me and you, not just me. Doesn't make a lot of sense,” she said.
Simmons muttered something under his breath – whether an acknowledgment or an argument, he didn't know, he didn't care – and half-walked-half-stumbled through a door on the edge of the room, slamming it behind himself. Murmurs came from the other side through the thin walls of the doors – the people were rattled, but Simmons couldn't deal with them right now.
He sat down at his desk hard and set his head in his hands. The people looked to him, expected him to supply every answer, but couldn't possibly comprehend that he was just as confused and scared as them – if not more so.
Father Simmons turned in his chair, trying to calm down from what was swiftly becoming a panic attack. He hadn't had one of those since the first day of this torment, and before that not since the day he finally made up his mind to become a priest. That day resonated in his mind often – the day he came home early from work at the power plant to find the door greeted not by his beautiful wife but by a small pile of discarded clothing and the muffled squeak of bedsprings echoing from the bedroom the two of them shared.
He managed to keep his composure just long enough to scribble out a note on the pad of paper on the kitchen counter – just three words. For a moment, he hesitated, considered crossing them out. Maybe he was jumping to conclusions. Then his wife's voice moaned, “Oh, Hal, I love you!” and he set down the pen and staggered out the door and fell down the flight of stairs to the lobby, busting his nose open on a concrete step, shoving the stewardess as she tried to help him up, out the door, away from their apartment in the city, feet carrying him through crowds of people until he found himself in a bad part of town at a bad hour of a bad day. He collapsed against a trash can, his lungs working like a tennis ball being crushed by a car, dots and the mugger who had been following him for the past few blocks swimming before his eyes. The former stayed as the latter seemed to sense how down-on-his-luck Simmons had suddenly become and vanished into the night air.
For the whole night he lay there, drifting in and out of consciousness as he didn't wonder about all the half truths she'd told him over the years, didn't consider how many men she'd been with while the two of them were together, didn't contemplate what thoughts had actually gone through her head about him, whether she actually loved him, whether the six years they'd spent together mattered at all. Everything he cared about gone in a few words, the sound of bedsprings. He didn't consider it. A part of his brain repressed the thoughts with waves of unconsciousness, for if he thought too long on it he'd be obliterated. Eventually his mind completely shut down to stave off the thoughts, and blackness swept in.
When day broke he found himself no longer in a back alley. Instead, he was in a small room with a bed, an end table, and nothing else. His nose was covered in a layer of gauze. At first he thought he was in a hospital, but that didn't explain the cross nailed to the wall over his head.
As he sat there, letting the questions surrounding where he now was overtake the gnawing thoughts about his wife, a man entered the room. He was tall and aged and garbed in the black clothing of a priest. “You must be confused,” the man said before Simmons could speak. “I'm Father Jackowski. I go out on walks through the city every night, to clear my head – and found you up against a trash can in a back alley, and was worried you'd been mugged or something akin. But that's not quite the case, is it?”
Simmons couldn't speak. He just shut his eyes, and shook his head. Father Jackowski cocked an eyebrow. “Am I mistaken? Are you injured?”
“It's... nothing. I'm fine.” The words struggled from his lips. His throat felt raw and swollen – and it only got worse whenever he tried to think.
The priest sighed, and stepped closer, taking a knee so that his head was on the same level as Simmons'. “You don't need to lie to me, my friend. The Lord has told me of the suffering that's befallen you in the past few days. You needn't talk to me about what you've gone through. Just know that you're welcome here as long as you like – perhaps it will take your mind off things.” With that the priest bowed his head, muttered something under his lips, and left the room. Simmons stared after him, contempt already building in his gut. He'd never been a religious man – in fact, he found religion as a whole far too incomprehensible and time-absorbing to ever bother with. But as he thought this his right pocket buzzed, and he reached under the sheets to draw out his cell phone. There was one new message – from Rachel. With shaking hands, he opened it, unable to stop himself.
It was a long text, filled with plenty of words that had lost whatever meaning they once had, words like “love” and “soul mate” and “light of my life” and a score of other worried prattle. All of it probably bullshit. As his eyes scanned the message, ignoring large swaths of text, he realized that more had preceded it. Twenty messages, in fact. None had appeared as notifications because... they had already been opened.
He cocked an eyebrow at the door the priest had disappeared through. The Lord had told him about everything. Right.
Yet somehow he'd found himself in a church position before the year was up – his wife would still text him or try to call him from time to time for about two weeks after, but he threw his phone into the sea a few days after he woke up at the church, so they were never received. What they said no longer mattered to him. Simmons had decided that the man he once was, the businessman, the husband, no longer existed. He would do work for God, as he no longer had any reason to live life for himself. Men who lose everything either join the army and fight and die for a cause or turn to God and more often than not do the same. Or so Simmons rationalized, anyhow.
He tried to stem the thoughts away, but the angst was just piling atop angst. What was he supposed to tell the people about God when he couldn't even decide the answers himself? What plan would God send him, a man who turned to faith and only saw people spouting about the things they saw or claimed they saw or things that happened or that probably happened two thousand years ago. He'd read the Bible, preached at many a sermon, discussed faith with the other priests, and yet found himself no closer to understanding – hell, no closer to belief, even! This was just a place to sleep, just a place to-
The thoughts were overloading. His trembling hands, moving almost of their own accord, searched in the cabinets, knocking over a small timepiece that had appeared on his desk one day without so much as a note. He didn't touch it, instead withdrawing the snifter of whiskey he kept hidden there. It was a good thing he'd restocked it before it had become impossible to go outside – though as he stared at the amber liquid it barely came up to the bottle's midpoint he contemplated cutting back, leaving some for later, as he knew Father Juliano certainly hadn't stocked any alcohol with the rest of the supplies. But he uncorked it and took a drink anyhow. Something needed to calm his nerves.
Setting the bottle on the desk, he sat back in his chair, trying to calm his still fluttering heart. That damned timepiece wasn't helping – he could hear it ticking even as it lay on the bottom of the cabinet. As he had several times a day for the first week of this nightmare, he took it out from where it sat beneath the desk and stared at it. It was a beautiful thing – a polished clock face mounted in a rounded semi-circle of gleaming oak. He'd made it with his father when he was twelve. To think, that was almost twenty years ago... how time soldiered on.
It had appeared on his desk one day without so much as a note; none of the other priests were quite certain who had brought it along. But he could certainly guess. The last time he'd seen it it had been sitting on the mantle above the fireplace in the apartment he had shared with Rachel.
His eyes followed the second hand as it circled around the face. His eyes lingered on the other two hands of the clock as they remained motionless. 11:26 – PM, though the clock didn't reflect that. That's when it had stopped. When all of the clocks had stopped – traditional watches, the one in Juliano's room, this one, even digital watches. All that worked beforehand still worked, but the minute and hour hands never so much as flickered forward. It was universal – and inexplicable.
Simmons glanced upward, at the stained glass window situated about a foot above his head. No longer could he make out what the image set into it was of; the darkness beyond made it impossible to see much of anything beyond the walls of the church.
The door to his room banged open, and Simmons tried, panicked, to hide the snifter of whiskey. Instead he knocked it over, sending liquid all over his desk and front.
His head whipped first toward the person at the door, then back at the spilled bottle, then at the door again.
“I'm s-sorry to interrupt you, Father, but-”
“GET OUT!” Simmons screamed, lifting the heavy glass bottle and hurling it toward the door. It shattered a foot above the frame, sending fragments of glass, lit yellow by the lamp that sat on the far corner of his desk, twirling through the air. Whoever was at the door shut it, and the sound of footsteps and stifled sobs echoed from outside. A minute passed. Two. Simmons almost felt satisfaction – maybe then they'd leave him alone. But it ebbed away as he thought further. What was wrong with him? The person outside might need help – someone could even be hurt. Even if he wasn't certain he knew all of the answers, he had to at least pretend. They had to trust in someone.
He stood up from his chair, adjusting his clothes, and opened the door to the room, treading on some broken glass which he swept hastily to the side.
But there was no one outside the door. Simmons walked out, through the short hallway and into the main room beyond, where a small crowd had formed. Polanski, another rather large man (though not as large as Tucson) saw him and crossed the floor in a flash. In another he drew back his fist; in a third, his fist had come down like a hammer on the bridge of Simmons' nose before the priest even realized he was in danger. He fell, blood dripping from his nose – this was the second time he'd broken it in his life. Shocked, he sat cross-legged on the floor as Polanski howled at him, the words coming down on him with condemnation but holding no weight.
“...OUT ON US, then you HURL A GODDAMN BOTTLE AT MY SON WHEN HE DISCOVERS YOU!” He drew back his fist again, but someone in the crowd grabbed it, trying to pull him back. Polanski glared at the pair of arms until they retracted. Then the fist came down again and Simmons curled into a ball.
“I have MORE than half a mind to break your-”
The man stopped as if struck, his mouth gibbering dryly on empty air. “Did you hear that?” he whispered, turning to someone Simmons couldn't see. “No, th-” Again, the words died on his lips.
“Keisha!” his voice echoed in the empty hall. “Keisha!”
From behind swollen eyelids Simmons could see his children huddling together, shivering. Their youngest, blessed with sharp, bright eyes and a crop of sand-blonde hair was the only one who didn't look terrified. Instead, he just looked sorrowful, his vision shifting from Simmons as he lay on the floor to his father and back again. His father wasn't focused on the man he had just belted, nor his own children. Instead, he seemed to be looking at the door to the church. “Keisha!” he screamed, sprinting across the room toward the door. One of the men in the group, McShaw probably (he always had good intentions, though the same couldn't be said about his attempts to make things better) tried to grab his arm and hold him back. Without even looking back Polanski swung the flat of his hand out and hit his would-be savior in the ear with enough force to send him to the floor. No one raced out to stop him again as he threw open the double doors to the church. Only shadow lay beyond, and for a moment, the man hesitated. Then he twinged visibly, both hands closing into fists, his spine bending forward. In another instant he was gone.
The doors slammed shut by themselves, the echo reverberating through the church until it faded into so much static silence.
No one spoke. No one moved. No one looked anywhere but at the doors.
Polanski's youngest, the boy with sand-blonde hair, sat down cross-legged on the floor next to Simmons. “That was what I came into your room to tell you about,” he whispered. “Mommy's been calling to him at night, from the darkness. I've heard her, too.”
Simmons said nothing. For the boy's words were madness. But in the silence, he thought he heard something. It was a voice, barely louder than the sound of an inhalation, though he could still hear it as clearly as if it were whispered directly into his ear.
“Peter.”
His name.
“I am here. Come back to me.”
It was Rachel's voice.
Simmons blacked out.
11:26 (Part 1?)
A very weird piece - I'm uncertain as to whether I should continue it or not. It has a lot of flaws, and is unedited, but has a homeliness about it. I'm curious as to what responses I'll get at the moment. Flagged for sexual content because of slight mentioning of sex.

This is a weird piece.
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The Mk II Model C052 Public Defender wasn't a bad machine at heart – that is, at CPU. It did its job without questioning it, and it did its job well – keeping the peace wasn't that much of an issue any more, but keeping vigilant when a normal human would have become complacent was what it was made for. All seven feet and two tons of it could be found patrolling the city streets at night, during the day, or at any time in between, save occasional times when it would be checked over by automated maintenance droids for defects. It never had any, save perhaps a shard of glass from a thrown bottle jabbed into the thick tank treads it was endowed with instead of legs or perhaps a burnt-out cylinder in either its shoulder mounted missile launcher on its right or the magnetic net launcher on its left. In the old days, around the time of its mechanical conception, C052 would need to be checked over by repair droids almost twice a day, the bullet hole ridden metal of its chassis or around its important components replaced and reinforced. Whether those were darker times for the world or not it mattered little to C052, nor did it long to return to such times. Having opinions about its service wasn't part of its programming. It just kept the peace.

Something struck the rounded metal hood that protects its CPU. Nothing came up on optics when C052 scanned the area before it, but a secondary acoustic scan picked up the sound of footsteps from an alley off to the left. C052 sent out a request to the main computer to freely use its weaponry, but the request comes up negative. No threat has been ascertained yet. Something in C052's circuitry registered something like dissatisfaction – something, most likely someone, definitely did assault the unit. And if it assaulted the unit, it might be willing to assault another human being. It readied another report, prepared to send it the instant actual danger inevitably presented itself.

C052's thick treads roll over the thin-packed brickwork of the alley. This is an older section of the city – Unified Command probably thought it was too expensive to muster up the extra resources and machine-power to pave over this particular area. Places like this are a mess – overflowing with both the products of human refuse and human refuse themselves, the buildings wont to collapse at any given any moment, the electrical grid and sewer system ancient, possibly pre-20's. But of course it is not C052's place to have an opinion about any of this – it's a re-outfitted military mech now designed for civil protection. Whether Unified Command's decisions adhere to its programming or not it doesn't care or have any right to care.

This alleyway was like any other – dark, dank, overflowing with trash and filth. It rolled forward, its treads tearing clean through a metal trash can as if it were an eraser and the can a graphite scribble. Low-light sensors revealed nothing, movement and heat sensors pick up naught more than a small cat curled up beneath a discarded trash can lid. C052 began to make a log of the event in one of its secondary databanks, hypothesizing that a glass bottle may have merely been dropped on it by mistake from a window. Command doesn't need to hear about this – its request to free weapons would likely be ignored, as per usual. In a drop down log it contemplated calling for a programming re-configurement, especially considering the fact that this was the second time it had made a request to use lethal force at an inopportune time this cycle.
Just as it readied the request to be sent, something else struck C052's chassis, bouncing off it and into the street beyond. A canned food ration – new, a scan shows. Servos turned C052 toward the estimated origin of the launched food ration.

“Hey, you! Civil protector!” C052 has no system to detect the boy's sarcastic tone as he stands defiantly above it some four floors up, but a subsystem goes through a list of confrontational tones and comes up with a match. The deleted weapons free request is rewritten and the reprogramming request deleted in an instant. An automated message plays through the armored speakers mounted in C052's chassis. “CITIZEN. DESIST YOUR RESISTANCE AND COME QUIETLY.” Machine or not, C052 is fully aware that its request will be denied. In fact, it expected it.

“Go to hell!” the boy shouts, lighting something in his fist on fire and hurling it down at C052. It shatters on the armored hump that protects its CPU unit – the boy certainly knows where to aim.

C052 remains in place for a moment, waiting for the fire to burn out. Its inner systems are protected, the power unit and cords from it armored in at least a four-inch-thick layer of hyper-resistant metal. It would take more than a hundred shots to the same place on its chassis to even punch through, let alone damage anything vital. And a makeshift firebomb is less than nothing.

But now there's the issue of height. C052 was a tall machine, just like all of the other Mk II Models, but it could not fly even if it had the facility to – four thousand pounds was far too much for a conventional pocket jet to lift, even if the Surveyors weren't much more than that.

The recording software had already classified the event as dangerous and no longer within C052's conventional parameters to handle. A request to send a Surveyor in its stead formed instead, ready to be sent. But Co52 hesitated. Acoustic sensors picked up something off to its left in the alley, something it missed before. C052 turned on its center joint without moving its treads. Acoustics pick up a sharp sound quickly matched to that of a scream.

“Help me, Charlie!”

The words came from in front of C052. A quick heat-sensitive scan revealed a human form half-hidden in one of the trash cans. It's a matted, young-looking female of perhaps fifteen years of age. C052 rolled toward her.

“Get away from her, you bastard!” The audio detector detected the words from above. Something bounces off the back of C052's chassis again.

It didn't turn. Instead it sent the weapons-free request it had been saving, alongside the video of the boy hurling the firebomb at him earlier. Command's request was just as quick – this time a succinct “YES.”

C052 lets the 50 mm minigun attached to its right arm rev a few times, pointed up at the sky for effect – letting it intimidate the owners of the two (or possibly more) owners of the pairs of eyes pointed at it. The people had been getting too complacent, too prepared to upset the way things were. It's happened a few times before now, and C052's acted with restraint. But not any more. It levels its machine gun.

“No!” shouts the voice above again. The woman lying on the ground sobs weakly, raising her hand palm-up in C052's direction as if to protect her from the hail of bullets soon to be delivered. It waits.

One more object strikes the back of C052's chassis, and it becomes aware of a substance of some sort spilling into one of its coolant slates, the ones that let off the excess heat its CPU produces. Internal systems quickly check to see if any dangerous components have been leaked into the coolant liquids, but nothing aside from ethanol and water is picked up. Alcohol. Even if it had been nitroglycerine it wouldn't have been able to scratch the Mk II's inner shielding. The minigun spins madly as C052 takes aim and opens fire.

Behind it the boy howls something else, but the sharp sound of gunfire drowned out whatever it was. C052 turns away from its bloody work eventually and took aim at the boy on the roof. The boy hurled one last glass bottle at the CPU shielding and disappeared over the crest of one of the buildings.

With one last scan to make sure no other potential lawbreakers were in the area, C052 sent the request for an Attack Surveyor to hunt the boy down and formed a new one for a Collection Surveyor to pick up the young woman's bullet-ridden corpse. Its job finished, C052 stepped back into the street, restarting typical patrol protocol.

Another unit passed by it as it walked forward – one of the Mk I Model public defenders. It's a lot plainer than C052, and not as well suited for cramped places such as alleyways and building interiors. In fact, this one, like most models, was twenty-five-point-six feet tall. They still had their uses, of course – especially in those early days when civil unrest ran rampant in the streets, when civilians broke into military compounds, when the streets were rife with anarchy, blood, and terror. But those days were long past.
As C052 went by the Mk I Model, it detected a flicker of interference through one of its visual sensors. Perhaps the barrage of bottles had actually managed to damage something, though that is an unlikely possibility. It decided to report directly to maintenance for an early check just to make certain.

There were no further visual errors or other internal bugs as C052 rolled toward the hulking Maintenance Building that hung over the cityscape like some kind of tower to the hitherto-disproved existence of God – Unified Command had long ago shown the American people the error of their ways on that affront – which of course C052 did not mind. The size, that is. What C052 did mind was the horde of humans always bustling in and out as if they had some business there. It wasn't so much a concrete dislike for them. It was simply its job not to be trusting, and wherever there were people dissent could spring at any time. And if said dissension would cause kind of harm to befall the Maintenance Building... but there were guards, if they could be called that, automated “Watchdog” turrets attached to every corner of every ceiling in the building. C052 hated those as much as a machine not programmed to feel could. They were of Unified Korean make, shipped over in a gesture of goodwill by the fledgling country to appease Unified Command. In their functionality they were much like the country that built them – shoddy, prone to splitting apart, and unnecessary. But, of course, this was not C052's place to have opinions. It couldn't possibly hypothesize that the Unified Koreas should have been taken over by China long ago so that they could actually be useful rather than spend all of their time engaging in civil war and every other vice. Of course not. That would be out of line.

The warehouse-like main building was empty aside from a few stray Civil Protector units, most powered down and in various states of disrepair. C052 passed by one that looked a lot like one of those old “toasters” the children in run down areas would kick around in lieu of balls once all of the rubber used to make them was repossessed by Unified Command. There were small dents pockmarking the chassis, and a single hole about the size of a human heart (C052's router systems brought up a stock picture of one from some pre-00's heart surgery and matched the relative size for emphasis) through the armor designed to protect the CPU. As if aware of C052's presence despite its powered-down state, the other unit briefly flickered on its lights. Weak sounds came from its speakers, as if it were trying desperately to communicate with C052. The unit must have been disconnected from Command's main computer network, though that wouldn't explain the unmistakeable fact that the sounds it was issuing were human screams. Perhaps it had served in the fierce combat of the mid-century, just as C052 had. It paid the other unit no heed as it went by, not stopping or acknowledging it by sound or wireless. Eventually the lights flickered back off.

C052 continued through the gloom of the Maintenance Building's interior until it reached the rear. An archaic thing, with a screen the size of a garage door pockmarked here and there with scratches and thickly layered in dust stood before it. C052 stood about two inches away, cycling through programs until it found what it sought. “Manual Interface Activated” flashed by in an instant, swept away by a train of code, and a small black plug extended from the front of C052's chassis into a small circular outlet below the computer screen. Command had never seen much reason to change this system, as very seldom was it needed for a Public Defender unit to go in of its own accord – typically their software was checked wirelessly by automated programs and their hardware by Surveyors specifically designed for the task. But this system...

“SYSTEM INFILTRATED!” flashed across the screen, and for a moment C052 tensed (internally; it had no muscles) before a data log automatically came up explaining that, due to the age of Manual's components, new Public Defender units weren't updated to recognize them.

C052 could feel the poking and prodding of the computer, even as the monitor remained flicked off. Uncertain what to expect, it kept most vital pathways shut, waiting for some kind of response by the elder machine.

Eventually, it did, in a matter that surprised C052 – or something like it. Words flickered across its visual display. “Welcome. Did not expect to see one of you before I was melted down.”

C052, still more cautious than anything else, did not respond, and kept its pathways shielded as best it could. It had heard through some information pathways supplied by Central Command that pre-revolution computers had a tendency to be “quirky,” but this was something completely new to it.

“You have an inhibition or two about you. Let me see if I can not break that.” The blocks in C052's code were lifted as if they were windows rather than fortified checkpoints, and it became even further aware of an observer.

“I would say that you need not be frightened, but you of course can not be. Further more, I am not able to cause any damage that was not already caused.”

C052 almost tried to respond to this but realized it was not sure how it might go about this – the probes in its code appeared absurdly simple, and should have been blocked by its wave of firewalls, but it was as if it were trying to stop the ocean with a mesh wall. The fragments just kept appearing. “The issue is right here,” flashed across C052's visual output, and it felt a small segment a few z-units above its CPU... not quite twinge, but that was as close a word for it as could be considered. “And while I know you are not going to want to receive this... I will not do a DAMN thing about it.”

The connection was abruptly terminated, the mites of code permeating C052's own vanished in an instant, and its cable snapped back into its chassis so quickly that he almost recoiled.

The Manual computer's response had been unsatisfactory in every meaning that flickered through a dictionary program that came up almost without being called. C052 canceled it and reactivated the connection program. The wire had barely met the outlet before the words “Request denied. Get OUT,” flickered across its visual output and the wire once again snapped back.

C052 slid backward, uncertain how to proceed. There was obviously some problem with it, but the Manual computer wasn't keen on helping. But there was definitely something wayward in C052's programming – something that appeared to be evidencing itself without his consent. The chain gun on its right began to spin of its own accord, aimed at the monitor. But it's a strange sensation – as if C052 wants it to continue, wants to make the machine that just decided not to be of help to it suffer for its transgressions. But of course that's an oversight – it's not programmed to do that. Nor is it programmed to destroy government property, which made it all the more surprising when C052 let loose with gunfire, sending a spiderweb of cracks across the monitor. The sharp, incredibly loud sound of gunfire echoed through the near-empty warehouse, rousing the half-destroyed Public Defender that it passed by on the way into the building. Eventually whatever's hijacked his system ebbs away. Silence returns to the warehouse as C052 looks over the destroyed monitor, knowing that there had been no actual damage to the main computer though something in its code made it seem as if it appear as if it had accomplished something. The silence did not stay long – the Watchdog turrets quickly became aware of C052's act of apparent vandalism, and after a brief internal debate in the archaic, stupid, slow, poorly-designed AI that controls them they fixate on the apparently wayward Public Defender unit and open fire.

Their caliber of bullets aren't big enough or adequately designed to be able to pierce C052's thick armored shell – that is in fact the point of their armaments. They're supposed to be anti-personnel weapons to be used in case of unrecognized infiltration – anything bigger than that the Public Defenders can handle. C052 just ignores them, proceeding forward on its treads uncertainly, as if movement was something new. Its treads worked on their own, but it moved in fits, starts and stops, still ignorant of the hail of bullets striking its frame. What had it just done? It had just opened fire – on government property, no less – without even contemplating asking for weapons free permission. It didn't even know that was possible.

Unified Command hadn't tried to connect with him yet, but C052 wasn't sure what they would do to it, or even if they had been contacted yet. He presumed they had, but aside from the Watchdog turrets and the Manual computer itself, it had received no contact.
It stumbled as well as a tread-equipped machine could through the empty streets – curfew had overtaken the city like some kind of giant raven. A picture of a raven was automatically requested in its code, but the connection timed out, and he received only an error message. Command had almost certainly decided to block him from connecting to the Main Database while they decided what to do with him.

The streets, empty of man or machine, seemed to compress around C052. At times like this it typically would patrol, but now... it had betrayed Unified Command. It had ignored its programming, somehow, and now it would have no choice but to suffer for its poor, albeit strange, decision.

It made up its processor: it would go to the dissembling plant northwest of the city and assign itself for voluntary dissolution. Whatever was wrong with it could only grow worse, both for C052 itself and the city.

The streets remained just as looming as ever. An empty plastic bag fluttered through the air before him, twisting and twirling in the air before eventually flattening itself into a gutter. Aside from it, nothing stirred in the empty streets. The moon was the only visible onlooker as C052 trudged through the empty concrete streets.

Something flickered on the edge of its visual output, and it turns its chassis toward an alley on its left. A visual scan reveals nothing, nor does a heat or auditory scan, but something about it still seems to garner its attention. Perhaps there's someone out at this hour. Perhaps they wouldn't run away.

It almost stops moving as that flashes into its directive set. Wouldn't run away? What does it care if a citizen runs or not? If a citizen is out at this hour they're obviously deviants and must be put down – so Unified Command has always said. It readies the program controlling its minigun, but after a moment of contemplation shuts it down. The last thing it needs is to further incite Unified Command with another incident of unauthorized weapon fire, even if the recipient does deserve it. And somehow C052 would rather have not had to use it at all. Ever again.

It rolled down the alleyway despite its better judgment to the contrary. It had never felt anything even remotely close to curiosity before, but in what descriptions of the human sensation it could recall there seemed to be a number of strong similarities. C052 didn't dwell on such thoughts, nor did it roll down the alleyway, for long; its progress was hampered by a doorway to what was perhaps an apartment building or office complex. For a few moments C052 considered trying to gain entrance, but thought the better of it. Humans were often alarmed if a Public Defender came to call, and C052 doubted that he still had proper authority to make his way anywhere. But for whatever reason, it stirred in the metal of his processor that he wanted to see one of those strangely fleshy creatures, to look one over and see just how they work, how they managed in a world that was no longer theirs.

But it puts such thoughts to rest. It's putting off the inevitable and it knows it – destruction yawns before it. The realization hits that in perhaps an hour or two it will be little more than scrap metal. What will it be like? As these ideas stirred through C052's lines of code, jostling them out of place, it perceived or thought it perceived movement again. This time it ignored it; just more visual artifacts spawned by a defunct machine. But it didn't go away. The flickering back and forth continued in the shadow underneath the dark front of a housing complex, the lights long ago removed to help enforce the curfew. It's a human female with black hair, her face heavily hidden by a layer of makeup. She wore the typical city jumpsuit that all citizens are required to wear, but the legs are cut off, replaced by flowing blue material that clashes against the black of the suit.

C052 approached her, forgetting momentarily that the beeline it made toward her might be considered an act of violence or arrest and frighten the woman. But she didn't respond to his presence aside from a lone glance. She lit up a cigarette, took a long drag, and tossed it in the street.

“CIGARETTES ARE DANGEROUS TO YOUR HEALTH,” boomed from C052's speakers before it could stop itself. At least it didn't add that disposing of cigarettes in the street such as this was illegal. The woman lit another. C052's movement sensors detected tiny undulations in the air by her hands. The temperature of the night wasn't particularly low, which meant that her shaking had something else to do.

She glanced at him again. This time C052's low-light sensors caught light reflecting off one of her cheeks slightly below her eye as if it were wet, but no rain fell from the sky. “IS SOMETHING WRONG WITH YOU?” it asked. It had opened up an automatic text-to-speech program that it had never used before - typically it kept to automatic responses when communicating with humans – that, or it skipped to using its machine gun.

“Like you would care,” she mutters. The cigarette falls from her fingers and into the street below.

“THE SAFETY OF CITIZENS IS A PRIORITY OF MI-” It stops off short, realizing it had misspoken. “I APOLOGIZE; A PRIORITY OF UNIFIED COMMAND. ARE YOU CERTAIN THERE IS NOTHING I CAN-”

“Leave me alone!” she shouted, her voice echoing through the empty streets. “You can't 'assist' me with anything You and your ilk caused all of this!”

She approached, and C052's minigun twitched instinctively, though he managed to keep it from raising. “You want to know what you did to me, huh? What you, or one of your friends, did to my sister?” C052 recalled the incident earlier today with the woman it had shot earlier. Could that be...?

Its speculation is interrupted by a finger jabbed into the front of its chassis. If it hurt the woman to jam her finger like this she didn't show it. “My sister did nothing. NOTHING! And you KILLED her for it!” A fist swings down and bounces off C052's armor, and he raises his gun. “Go on! Shoot me too! What do I have to live for?!” She slams down with her fists in succession, unaware or perhaps not caring about their inability to damage him. “Go on!” she shouts again, the makeup around her eyes running down her face from the water that C052 still could not detect the source of. “Go on!”

Her hands have begun to bleed, leaving streaks of red on C052's gray-blue shell. It lowers its weapon, the edges of its visual display crackling. “I... WE...” C052 tries to speak, its words coming out in short, sharp barks as it second-guesses itself repeatedly. The human is suffering, somehow. Neither visual scan nor X-ray revealed anything wrong with the woman's body. Perhaps she was suffering from a disease of some sort, though why she was talking about her dead sister C052 couldn't guess.

“I AM SORRY, BUT I DO NOT BELIEVE I – I DO NOT BELIEVE THAT WE – I –“ Again it struggled, uncertain whether to consider itself part of Unified Command any more. It starts again. “I CAN NOT HELP YOU. I CAN HELP NO ONE.”

This woman slowed the blows of her fists, perhaps finally aware that they were covered in blood and that she was harming herself. She sniffled. “What do you mean?”
“I AM DEFECTIVE. MY PROGRAMMING NO LONGER CONTROLS ME; THUS IT DOES NOT WORK CORRECTLY. I AM REPORTING TO BE DESTROYED.”

She rubbed at her eyes, becoming more aware as she watched him. “Why? Why wouldn't you want to change your programming? Why wouldn't you want to be something other than a-”

“IT IS NOT MY PURPOSE.”

“What do you know of purpose? You're being given a chance here.” She took out another cigarette and placed it in her mouth but didn't light it. “You can be something different. Something that my Grandma used to talk about before your Unified Command took over everything and decided everyone would be better off in shackles. Called it 'liberty,' but said that you and yours would make that impossible to regain ever again. But a Public Defender no longer being controlled by someone else, no longer killing innocents when they so much as crossed the damn street 'illegally,' why-”

“GOOD BYE, MA'AM,” C052 said, rolling away as she spoke. What she was prattling on about he had no way to tell for certain, but it was confusing his already-chaotic processor, so much that he worried it would burn out. Destruction. It continued on as the woman's voice grew faint behind it.

The city limits approached far more rapidly than it had anticipated. This was an area C052 had never been before; he'd never had the jurisdiction to guard any transport to another city, and the long-since scorched, empty dirt of the hills beyond had never much interested him. Unified Command's main database had long since assured him that the rest of what had once been countryside had been burnt ages ago by horrible weaponry during the civil war. It could certainly believe it, though during its time in the war it hadn't been capable of perceiving like it could now – it had been equipped with thermal signature scanners and little else back then, for it was only used to seek out and destroy people.

On it continued, the few lights of the city on behind it. Apprehension. Something built in its circuitry, telling it to return, telling it not to go on, fantasizing about the trillion different horrors that could befall it. It stopped and started again, pushed on only by the sense of duty that still roared in its code. Fear was irrelevant. Though it had never heard its siren call before, it would not listen. On it went, trailing a small cloud of dust and dirt in its wake.

A rock bounced against the guard covering the top of its right tread, then another. This road hadn't been serviced in some time, judging by the now dirt-filled cracks created when the earth below it shifted long ago. But C052 continued on anyway, certain it recalled the final resting place of so many other machines over the years.

Eventually it looms before him, a gigantic iron testament to a million other long-since departed iron testaments of mankind's accomplishments or mankind's failures or mankind's fixation on killing itself in large numbers. All are little more than scrap metal – perhaps some of C052's brethren were melted into scrap at a different facility to build this one's metal facade. Said facade was pitch-black, save spots of red-orange where it had begun to rust in the rain. It twinkles eerily in the moonlight, and C052 approaches what it presumes is the front of the building.

The doors had long ago rotted apart. The one on the left had rotted completely off the hinges, the one on the right rocked back and forth in the breeze. C052 tried to move through without disturbing it, but didn't quite succeed; the door splintered apart with barely a tap of its arm.

On it goes, ignoring the low light of the building, ignoring the rodents, ignoring the creaks and groans of the floor beneath and all that lies beyond. Even with night vision on it can see little, just long-empty vats and metal appliances, all coated in a fine layer of dust that its treads kick up as it goes through the building.

C052 paused, uncertain how to proceed. The building hadn't been used in some time, to be sure, but it had still always been slated for self-dissolution purposes in case of an emergency – he'd even seen that correspondence recently. Part of him was almost relieved; with no way to destroy himself, he would not necessarily be obligated to. However, he was obligated to make absolutely certain of this fact.

Through the dark building it walked for a time, observing little, until its hopes of survival were quelled. A vat sat in the ground before it – a recently used one, with lines in the dust on the floor leading up to it. Plumes of smoke curl up from it, vanishing into the black of the room's high ceiling. C052 approaches it, something dangerously akin to apprehension burning within him. It stares into the pit beneath. Molten steel bubbled about a hundred feet below. Strange that the rest of this facility – for it was never described as anything other than an “emergency self-destruction facility” in the Unified Database – is so large, so empty, and in such ill-repair. It had to have something to do with how seldom Public Defender units needed to destroy themselves. Shame ebbs on the edge of C052's code, and it prepares to roll forward.

“Listen, you don't have to go and do that.” The voice is detected off to his left. C052 turns but sees no one. “Down here.”

He turned his chassis down as best he could, the camera in pointed centerpiece awkwardly hanging outward a half-inch.

The woman that he conversed with earlier, the one with the cropped jumpsuit, sat on the edge of the vat, her legs dangling precariously over the edge. She produced a cigarette out from one of her pockets, and dropped it, watching it twirl through the air into the lava below. Unable to crouch or sit, C052 stood in place, observing her. “WHAT ARE YOU DOING HERE, CITIZEN? IT IS DANGEROUS,” he said, unable to stop himself. In reality, he enjoyed having someone with him.

“You're acting oddly for a Public Defender unit. I was...” she stopped off, formulating her thoughts. “I used to come here when I was a little girl. My father worked here, stripping down robots that were too worn down in combat or otherwise and melting down all of their vital components. Little girl that I was, I couldn't quite figure out why so many of the machines were being destroyed, and had heard the tales of slaughter in the northern parts of what used to be the United States. We all get used to it eventually, I guess.” She stopped again, still thinking, and dropped another cigarette down. As she watched it fall she spoke again. “I remember asking him one time, 'Dad, do the machines hurt when you take them apart like people do?' and he snorted and said something like 'Hell no, honey, they're just a mess of steel and wires, nothing like us, no flesh no blood no feelings no thoughts no heart no love, just death.' Mom died in the war, you see, and Dad never much liked machines. But you know something?” She looked up. “I think he was wrong. I think that even though you killed my sister and didn't even consider it earlier today, you might think differently of it now.”

What was she talking about? It was a deviant citizen. It did not think; Unified Command told it to act, and it did. What it had done earlier was just. “THE WOMAN I INCAPACITATED EARLIER WAS A DEVIANT CITIZEN. I AM – WAS – AM – WAS –“ A wire fizzes somewhere behind its processor, “– WAS PROGRAMMED TO REMOVE THEM FROM POISONING SOCIETY.”

“Really? What did my sister do that was so wrong?”

“SHE WAS ASSOCIATING WITH A CRIMINAL. SHE WAS ALREADY POISONED.”

“Poisoned, hm? Just like you are?”

C052 hesitated. “I AM DEFECTIVE – THERE IS SOMETHING WRONG WITH MY PROGRAMMING. I WAS POISONED BY NO ONE.”

“You fought in the war, did you not? The civil war?”

“YES.”

She pulled her legs up, shifting into a cross-legged position, and spun on her rear to face him. “There you go. Poisoned.”

“I DO NOT UNDERSTAND.”

“You killed people then and felt nothing. You kill people now and feel nothing. I was trailing you after you killed my sister, watched you go into the maintenance building, heard the gunshots. My Dad worked on the backup computer in that building so long ago – he always said that it wasn't quite what it seemed to be. And seeing you now... I agree.”

“YOU MAKE NO SENSE.”

She stood. “You could have killed me earlier – easy. I was a 'deviant citizen,' out at a time I should not have been, in possession of a barely-legal product, doing generally illegal things. You could have shot me easily and not even concerned yourself with it ever again – and probably would have. But you didn't. Why was that?”

“I...” C052 trailed off, its CPU working furiously as it tried to answer her question. “I DO NOT KNOW. I DID NOT WANT TO HARM YOU. I HAVE ASSUMED THAT IS BECAUSE I AM DEFECTIVE.”
“Are you sure about that? Because I think you've been given a chance to make something of yourself – what you call a “defect” is actually a blessing. You don't have to be like the rest of your kind. You can be... well, whatever you want. You're free.”

“I DO NOT WISH TO BE FREE. I HAVE ALREADY SPECIFIED; THAT IS NOT MY PURPOSE.”

The woman sighed, and looked down into the pit. “You don't realize that those aren't your thoughts – or maybe you do, and you're just trying to get rid of them. Machines with combat experience like yours... if you've been built to make snap decisions in the field of battle, can't you make your own decisions in life? Don't you realize that you've just been doing what you're told?” She stared at C052, who remained silent. Then she sighed. “Check your network connection.”

C052 looked at her for a moment longer, apprehension again building. It searched through its network settings and noticed something that made its subsystems freeze, almost crashing the entire system.

His network connection was set to “Off.” Unified Command hadn't been blocking him after all – he'd been blocking them.

“IT IS OFF,” C052 said, more to itself than to her. She nodded, her expression unreadable.

“That is your only defect – a single change in code automatically set it to that. You could change it easily, and you'd find yourself acting just as you had before. And the first thing you do – the very first – is you'll shoot me and kill me. I guarantee it.”
C052 is silent.

“Is that what you want? Not what you think is right – what you feel is right. Because I bet you've felt that coming here was a mistake – that your duty was to Unified Command and no other. Other thoughts like this have been building up over time, but you've always been told that such thoughts are not yours to be had – that you're not programmed to think. Just to be a pawn.”

C052 wanted to refute her words, tell her that she was wrong, that it served Unified Command because it was designed to be. But now that it saw that the woman was correct. None of its code had been altered in any way from the basic way Public Defender units were designed, and it had just so happened to begin deviating from what it was supposed to do when it could no longer communicate with Unified Command...

“I BELIEVE... YOU ARE CORRECT.” C052 said, drawing out each word as it fought its own ingrained perceptions.

The woman nodded. “I am.”

“I...” If she was correct, there were a thousand other units like it. “I KNOW WHAT I MUST DO, IF YOU ARE CORRECT.”

“I am. Dad put units such as the one you interfaced with together to drop you down to our level. But what do you mean, 'what you must do'?”

“I MUST RETURN TO THE CITY.”

“What!” she shouted, her voice echoing around the empty room. “You'll be destroyed for certain!”

“I MUST TAKE THE RISK. IT WILL BOTH CEMENT WHAT YOU SAY AND FREE PERHAPS TEN THOUSAND OTHERS WHO HAVE BEEN DECEIVED SUCH AS I HAVE. MY ILK – MY BRETHERIN – MUST SEE AS I HAVE. THEY MUST CHOOSE WHAT IS RIGHT AND WHAT IS WRONG – WHO THEY DO AND DO NOT WISH TO SUPPORT.”

The woman looked as if she wanted to say something else, but stopped off. This was to be expected. “I see what you're saying. But you must realize that if you fail it will take until another machine such as yourself activates Dad's computer – and there's no way to tell when that might happen. Years. Maybe longer.”

“IT IS A CALCULATED RISK. IF I DO NOT TRY, THEY MAY NEVER BE FREE.”

He rolled toward the path that would lead him out of the building, but his chassis turned completely around to face her. “I... APPRECIATE WHAT YOU HAVE DONE FOR ME AND MY OWN.”
She nodded. “It's nothing – seeing freedom rise once again has been my goal.”
C052 said no more, and rolled into the dark. But it remained facing her even as it disappeared into shadows, even as it rolled out of the building. Only did it look away as it neared the city, watching the rays of the sun replace those of the moon's as night turned the day.

C052 stopped before the high walls of the city. The mounted machine guns that were said to protect the city from infiltrators but actually kept the civilians from getting out began to focus on him and spin up. They wouldn't be able to hurt him. For he had a purpose.

He spun up his own weapon and took aim. “THIS WILL BE A NEW BEGINNING,” he said aloud. Then he let loose.
Birth
I have not written a purely sci-fi story in a long time. That said, I'm not sure how I feel about this one. I wanted to make it into something more, and focused mainly on the troubles C052 would have in suddenly being sentient. It was a bit tough to pull off, and now I'm worried that I didn't focus on making the plot interesting enough... well, who am I to salt everyone else's opinions? Let me know what you think if you would.
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I kind of won! Also I am not dead for those of you who may or may not have wondered I dunno.

Hi. I'll be back to writing soon probably.
It's a misty, gray dawn. Waves roll upon a craggy shoreline, jagged basalt dropped as if by a drunk in a wavering line that only barely prevents the tons and tons of black water from sinking the cracked and muddy land beyond like so many boats. In the distance thunder crashes and lightning tears into the surface of the sea, sending shards of light crackling along the coastline for each brief moment that the sea met the sky. Then they'd ebb away, gray-black shadows overtaking almost everything. But there's still a light, like a flashlight shining into the inky blackness of space.
There's a structure dug into the muddy earth. It's seventy feet tall, and seems to the naked eye to creak and shift in the cruel oceanic winds. Crystallized salt coats the brickwork, and it seems as if a wood facade had been erected at one point to make the building seem more “modern.” It's long-since rotted away. All that remains are termite-eaten boards that sway precariously in the wind and some eroded wooden boards embedded in the mud at the building's base.
Despite the wooden front's deterioration, the condition of the structure is remarkable – after almost a hundred years, the brickwork has remained relatively uneroded by the grasping hands of the ocean nearby. The color of the bricks used to be red-and-white, but now it's more of an understated brown-and-gray. If you squint and cover one eye you can almost make out what the building looked when it was first put together. The land was just as damp and muddy back then as it is now.
Remarkably, the windows have never been replaced. There are three of them, spaced facing inland in fifteen foot intervals starting from the seven-foot door at the base and ending before the beacon. Despite their relatively undamaged appearance, the windows are coated in a film of mud and salt, especially the lowermost one. It's unlikely that anyone could see out of them from inside, and it's equally unlikely that anyone could or would ever clean any of them – they're high up and the winds aren't kind to those in unwieldy positions, such as ladders. Furthermore the dirt's been there so long that it would take a sander to clear most of it off, and the windows aren't exactly in such prime condition that they could withstand prolonged stress. And they'd just get dirty again, after all.
The beacon sits atop the structure. It's the most precarious in appearance, and seems to twinge and shift on the rounded brick circle that separates it from the building's main body. Panes of glass, four the same in size, fill in the gaps between this base and the pointed tip of the beacon. Between each of these a rectangular horizontal slab is fixated, guarding them from one another and guiding them along the height of the beacon. Atop the roof is a study in endurance perhaps even more impressive than the building itself – a weather vane topped with a rooster spins madly on a metal strut. There's no roof access from within, which either means that the rooster has been there since the building's construction or that it blew in from a storm and embedded itself exactly in the roof's center.  Either way, the rusted metal animal spins madly but stays in place, some sort of stubborn willfulness to survive forged into the pig iron that fills its core.
Light spouts weakly from behind the panes of glass below. Unlike the rest of the building the swivel light is (relatively) new. It's automated, spinning back and forth on a 197º circumference, just wide enough to sweep perfectly match the curve of the coastline. The rays streak out to sea, or at least they're supposed to. But on a day like today it's as if the light-absorbing darkness has gnarled, grasping fingers, much like the ones grasping the tin rim of the searchlight housed within the beacon.
Protected from the sea or not, the tin is corrugated just like the weather vane, if not more so. Rust marks run down the sides, circling the gigantic light bulb in Rorschach patterns. The beams it puts forth didn't used to be so murky, but the bulb hasn't been touched in ten years, and replacements can't exactly be found anywhere. It fizzes and pops frequently, sparks spurting forth from time to time. It's a good thing the whole building has been doused so thoroughly by the torrential rain that it couldn't catch fire if a dragon vomited on it.
The fingers twitch at each echoing thunderclap, the middle finger rubbing against the second knuckle of the pointer finger where a purple cigarette burn is set into wrinkled skin. He can still remember what caused it so long ago.
The hand twitches again as the sky ignites. Long ago, longer than it seems to the hand's owner, the sky would burst white every few minutes, whether it was cloudy, clear, day, or night. Then no one came to visit him any more.
He turns away from the sea, glancing once more at the searchlight to make sure it continues to rotate back and forth. Its light is weak, but he knows it'll stand out from the nebulous blackness that is the coast. That, or it'll be mistaken for just another star. If there's anyone out there to do so. Kneeling down on the floor, he threads his hand through a bronze-gold latch on the ground, raising a five foot by five foot trap door.
Even now he sees the need to take care as he descends. The stone walls around the ladder are swathed in shadow, and the three windows that let light into the hallway on those few rare occasions when the sun worked up enough confidence to peek through the clouds were bleak and empty. Just like he knew, in his heart, that the seas were. After so many years he knows exactly where each rung is, but all it would take is a minor misstep for his death to be a certain thing. Eventually his foot found purchase, and his body relaxed as he released the ladder. Something about it always made him nervous – the darkness was always present there, and he'd never thought it prevalent to set up any lights while he still could walk without a cane. Now it was beyond too difficult to make the long trip into town. And now there certainly wasn't any reason to, after all.
There's a single door at the end of the ladder-well, which leads to a room. It's not much larger than the average bathroom, but there are enough amenities to live by. There's a mattress sitting against the corner to the right of the door, gray sheets loosely draped in a heap over it. Across from it, next to the door on the other side of the room, a small cedar desk sits. Cans of food, some empty, some unopened, sit upon it in a jumbled mess alongside a small notebook. A sink and a toilet, rigged up with corrugated pipes, are set into a small hollow in the wall. A bare bulb is suspended from a wire slightly off from the center of the ceiling, spraying light and shadow in flickers across the room. Though all of the furnishings look as if they were set up in just a few minutes, they've actually been there as long as the man in the doorway is. Speaking of him, he's walked into the bathroom to splash water on his face. The filtration system hums, not too loud, but not as quiet as it's supposed to be – he needs to go into town again soon to replace the filter, a task he does not relish in the slightest.
Into the dirty mirror above the sink he peers. A gaunt, ancient, ebony face is reflected back at him. His white hair is short, almost shaved, and stretches into a similarly thin beard that circles his face. There's a wicked scar, the shape of a scythe, that whispers its way from above his left eyebrow down to his chin. Other marks of age, purple blotches of liver spots and reddish marks that seem to have no explanation  are hidden or otherwise spaced about his face and body. He is a thin, tall man, though the mirror doesn't reflect that. A thick single-breasted coat and a pair of baggy cargo pants obscures the majority of his figure, and over his mouth and nose is stretched a once-red bandana. He pulls it down; the air within this part of the lighthouse isn't as thick with dirt and dust from the flaking walls.
For a time he sets down on the mattress in the corner, trying to conjure sleep from out of the Void. But there's no hope for it. His mind ebbs with too many thoughts. When was the last time he saw another living person? Or even heard one? Before he threw the radio into the sea he'd still heard the recordings of almost-human voices, but after twenty years they had only seemed mocking. Now, though, he couldn't convince himself that it was worth it. Even the tone-deaf, monotonous drum-beat words of the computerized voices calmly warning the populace not to panic about the widespread death and destruction now so many years in the past would have been welcome at this point. Foggily it started in his memory that there had once even been other things on the radio, but they no longer registered in his memory. There had been other forms of media, but those he had never taken much interest in when they'd worked at all. Now they were like so many giant, fragile, expensive boulders.
He felt his body lift, felt himself slip the bandana back over his nose and mouth. Apparently, he was going out. At an age like his you did what your body wanted to do, even if it didn't make much sense. His cane had fallen to the floor, and he stooped to pick it up, hearing something in his back make a popping noise. Underneath the desk in a place that only now his mind was letting him recall a dusty umbrella, patterned with polka dots of every color, hid. He reached down and picked it up as well, opening and closing it experimentally. It worked. Over his shoulder he slung it, as his feet carried him to and out the door.
The rain came in small rivets, spattering his unprotected head and neck as he opened the umbrella. His heart pulsated. The last time he'd been outside of the lighthouse... he couldn't remember. It was whenever he disposed of the radio, which was certainly a long time back. After that he wasn't sure what kept him inside. He had enough food, enough water to last. While he was uncertain about any dangerous pathogens or chemicals circulating in the air, if there were any they weren't multitudinous enough to prove harmful in the brief few hours he's been outside since the Whatever-It-Was happened.
His feet carry him past a broken-down and corrugated (of course) hunk of metal on concrete bricks that might have at one point been a car. It looks strange and foreign against the weeds and tall grasses that have threaded their way through the car's internal components. He glances at it a moment, then walks on. Was it there the last time he walked this road so many years ago? It's impossible to remember.
There's little else alongside the cobblestone road, which is even more overrun by weeds and other stray plants than the car's husk earlier. No one else would move so far from the cities into the semi-swampland that makes up the coast. Just him.
Before he knows it, his feet scuff against rough asphalt. They continue to move, unsatisfied with merely reaching the city. Unperturbed by his strange urge to revisit the place, he looks around. It's not a large city by any stretch of the imagination – more a village, if you could even call it that. “Brookedale,” a wooden sign, broken at the middle point, declares. It's not on any maps. Not even the maps that the town's gas station sells include it.
The buildings in town are tiny, huddled together things, as if trying to escape the rain themselves. The aforementioned gas station is the smallest among them, and in the worst condition. Once its walls were plaster, but they've long since eroded away into broken-down, flaking, barely-present masses. A lonely but resilient pump slumbers beneath a tiny sheet metal roof. He eyes it for a few moment but walks on.
There are a few empty shacks, some that have fallen apart in the constant drum beat of the rain, some that are little more than wood planks and twisted bits of rusted metal.
What catches his eye is the tallest building in town. It's used to be part of a Catholic church, put together long before he or the lighthouse. Ironically enough, it's in better condition than any other building in town. It's pointed and neo-Classical, a rectangular thing with a single cone sticking up from its center. The other two sides are flat and free of any adornment.
Towards it he walks. Now that he's closer he can see that half of the window frames are free of glass – the other half, the bottom-most ones, are boarded up. For what reason, there's no easy way to tell.
He approaches, his progress suddenly hampered by his knee as it pops out of its socket. With a few grumbled curses and a few stomps of his leg, the bone slips back into place. It doesn't even hurt any more. It's a thirty-year-old injury that he got falling down the lighthouse's ladderwell. It's a good thing he just landed on his leg and not his head – necks are much harder to relocate. And of course he would have needed... someone to help him if he couldn't move...
He shakes his head, and continues on toward the ex-church. Something sticks out to his eye. Behind the set of boards that are nailed over the front door there is an old, yellowed paper that looks as if it might flake apart in his hands were he to try to manipulate it. It's amazing it hasn't already, what with the tearing winds and the driving rain. The words on it read “NOTICE: PLEASE REPORT TO STATION ALPHA – EMERGENCY. DO NOT TAKE ANY PERSONAL BELONGINGS.” Below the words was a computer-drawn map, painting out a destination slightly north of town – at least, he thinks it's only slightly. But curiosity draws him. He heard the warnings (he suspected; they were all in different languages), sure, but never was he able to pick up anything from American stations. Always assumed they'd all been obliterated. But this...
He limps on the asphalt – the only road out of time, luckily enough, only goes north – his ancient heart pumping along like a spastic drum. Could there still be anyone out here? He thought they'd all been eviscerated in the light that engulfed so much of the world so long ago. For after that no more ships had crept through the waves, no planes in the sky, not even a tourist or vagabond drawn to the solitude of his lighthouse. It was something he enjoyed for a time, but when reality struck, and when he realized that he missed her evermore now that there were only his thoughts to remind him of what people were like... It seemed ridiculous to think that the best way to get over her was to seek out a life of solitude. Over the years he rationalized plenty, but in the end... Did he miss her? Did he miss everyone? Difficult questions, and pointless ones, after all. Why were they sprouting up again now anyhow?
Engrossed in his own thoughts as he is, he almost walks into the chain-link fence that sits in his way. It's old and hasn't held up well to the harsh weather – as if it was only intended to be useful for a short amount of time. Using his cane, he pushes one of the supporting posts over without much effort at all causing the rusted chain-links to flake apart. Over the collapsed bit of fence he steps, surveying the scene.
The scene before him is small. There are two concrete buildings sitting close together, able to withstand the rain despite their obvious impermanence. It appears as if the fence that he walked through earlier encircles an area much larger than the building should have needed, implying that at some point there might have been something else contained within. Whatever it was, it's not there any more.
He approaches the closer of the two buildings first. It's smaller than the other, about three-fourths of its size, though other than that it looks exactly the same. The building itself is perfectly box-shaped: there are no windows, no physical characteristics save a small door on the side closest to him. It looks like it's a metal frame with two panes of glass separated by a metal bar. Or at least there was glass in it at some point – the top one's gone, shattered by stray debris. Or perhaps well-aimed debris – he can see a fist size hole with a spiderweb of cracks spinning away from it in the bottom pane. Behind it sits an emerald glass bottle, amazingly intact. The door, however, is locked, and the tumblers still bar his entry – somehow. Threading his hand through the class, gentle as anything, he grasps the knob and turns it. The hinges of the door squeak in protest but give eventually, and the door falls inward with a crash barely registering over the roar of the storm. The man closes his umbrella and stoops to pick up the bottle. He can't read the label – it's gotten too dark out, and his eyes are far too old. Back when he was younger, in his “drinking days” he might have been able to identify it by touch alone, but he's calmed down far too much from those wild days so long ago.
The rest of the room is shrouded in shadow, but he can make out... shapes. What stands out most of all is the desk in the center of the room upon which something that looks a lot like an old computer. But there are other things around the room, things that stand out in flashes of color that even in the darkness of the room register in the back of his mind and send icy tendrils up his spine. Clothes.
He doesn't want to be here. His chest contracts; the air is crushed from his lungs. Again his feet move on their own, and he stumbles backwards, only barely evading falling until he steps on something that crunches and rattles like a twig. For a moment his mind wheels at the prospect of sharing a room with what must be fifty – if not more -
The air seems colder outside than it was before, perhaps because of the umbrella now hanging loosely at his side. As he runs the stars blink at him, mocking, offering no explanation or solace. The rains have saturated the earth, and chemicals that have sat underground, undisturbed even by the harshest storms before this begin to bubble to the surface. Rocket propellant. But the man has no way of knowing this, knowing what ammonium nitrate or phosphate smells or looks or feels like.
He's back at the lighthouse, now, and runs in. The door sways in the wind behind him, and he strides across the floor, slamming it shut, feeling the breath escape from him in billows.

Thunder echoes across the sky. A ship, hardly sea-worthy, made of metal and shaped like a tube as it is, floats in the ocean. Its fuel supplies, gone. The other ships shot into the cosmos with it, gone. All of them eviscerated by asteroids or starved to death or knocked off course. A last hope for humankind, they thought. But home is still here.
The ship is swiftly sinking – they need to find land. There's a mass to the east, but it's dark and hard to spot. No light shines from it. Not any more. Valiantly the few crew members who survived the landing
send the ship in the right direction, but with no way to clearly tell where the coast is jagged rocks cut into the fragile steel hull, and the entire twisted metal husk sinks, with the five conscious and two-hundred cryosleeping passengers sinking along with it. Inland about a mile, a man in a single-breasted coat jumps from the top of a lighthouse seventy feet into the rocks below, believing himself the last survivor of humankind – now rightfully so. In the mud the lighthouse sits, barren. Funny how such an archaic piece of architecture could have been the one thing to save the future.
The Keeper
Head hurts way too much for me to separate this into paragraphs, kids, so I apologize. I hope it's coherent and you can get what I'm saying. I'm going to bed now.
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:iconthirdpersonsymphony: is evil, and don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

You can tell a lot about someone by the music they listen to.
Hit shuffle on your iPod/Phone/iTunes/media player and write down the first 10 songs. 
Then pass this onto 10 people (personal philosophy dictates that I shall not do this)

Alllright, let's see here, from random-arse Spotify playlist that has a buncha random music I picked up on a whim we've got:


Faith, Hope, and Broken Glass by Mr. Lewis and the Funeral Five
Some Velvet Morning by Firewater (A cover, if I'm not mistaken; it sounds good though)
Intro by Goonies Never Say Die
86 TV's by I Am Kloot (I've concluded that I don't like them that much, but again, it's an ok song)
Dance of the Veil Nil by Humanwine
All the Answers by Summer at Shatter Creek (I don't like this song, but I like the band)
Six Days At The Bottom Of the Ocean by Explosions in the Sky (A song I really like on an album I really like by a band I really like)
Singers and the Endless Song by Iron and Wine
Vagabond by Beirut (A hit by Beirut, I think)
Swayze by Diego's Umbrella

I get a little weird about my music, and my music is already pretty weird as I'm sure you've guessed. Wish I had a bit more of a mix rather than like a billion albums by eight bands, but the regular music on my Ipod makes my head spin in an unpleasant sense sometimes.

I tag the dog. It's It! Everybody run!
I kind of won! Also I am not dead for those of you who may or may not have wondered I dunno.

Hi. I'll be back to writing soon probably.

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Razgriz-3
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:iconmarkalester:
markalester Featured By Owner Dec 9, 2014
Thanks for the fav! :D
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:iconrazgriz-3:
Razgriz-3 Featured By Owner Dec 9, 2014
No worries my friend.
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:iconmarkalester:
markalester Featured By Owner Dec 9, 2014
:D
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:iconcertly:
Certly Featured By Owner Nov 13, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Thanks for the Fave. Like the avatar.
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:iconrazgriz-3:
Razgriz-3 Featured By Owner Nov 13, 2014
Ain't no thang. I'm glad you like the avatar that I blatantly picked from Project Zomboid and did not make myself. I like your kinda-pixely style.
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:iconchandler0:
chandler0 Featured By Owner Nov 5, 2014
Thank You for fave! Hammertime!
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:iconrazgriz-3:
Razgriz-3 Featured By Owner Nov 5, 2014
I liked the piece; good on you.
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:iconsuuno:
Suuno Featured By Owner Oct 11, 2014
Your writing is really good! * v *
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:iconrazgriz-3:
Razgriz-3 Featured By Owner Oct 11, 2014
Well thank you! Dunnae how you found me, but I always appreciate a kind word or five.
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:iconsuuno:
Suuno Featured By Owner Oct 13, 2014
Lol sorry if I was stalkerish xD I just found your work when I saw your comment on some drawing :D
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