Into the Sunset
Her bag containing food, her ancient copy of the Manual, and her own instruction manual from the Colonel’s office, Konchet traveled through the halls. Though the blood still painted the floors, the noise and ecstasy of the mutiny had died down or at least consolidated in the chapel.
With some frustration, she paused on her way down the hall. The wheelchair she pushed had stopped moving, so she bent to investigate the cause. A pesky finger had gotten stuck in the wheel, so she pulled it out and tossed it to get back underway. A wail in the deep recesses of the hub echoed through the hall.
She knocked on the door to the recovery room to alert the people inside then pushed into the room, wheelchair in front of her.
Instantly, Galann’s eyes shot to her, shaking with fear. He screamed at her and pointed, “It’s the devil – our souls are going to burn with eternal fire!”
Konchet stopped the chair between Galann and Klavdiya, bending down to him. She put a hand to his forehead. He shivered at her touch, eyes going to the staple in her palm.
“Shh,” Konchet said, rubbing his head. “You’re doing much better, Galan. Do you think you can move your arm?” He yelped as she reached under his mattress, screaming blabber and nonsense. She pulled the card out, holding it tight with her hand as she dropped him.
“Don’t worry about him,” Klavdiya said. She scooted up in her bed, grunting as she did. “He’s just got his first enhancement, and he isn’t taking it very well.”
Konchet nodded, taking the chair over to Klavdiya’s bed. “It’ll be fine. A lot of people got their first enhancement today, in case you hadn’t heard.” She reached over to Klavdiya’s drawer, taking some of her clothes and putting it in the tray beneath the wheelchair. “Do you think you have the ability to get some clothes on about now? We’re going to need to move.”
Klavdiya blinked, lifting a brow. “Do I know you? You sound familiar.”
With a chuckle, Konchet took Klavdiya’s blanket, folding it and placing it under the wheelchair. “We’ll have plenty of time to catch up, Klavdiya. My name is Konchet.” She handed Klavdiya a skirt, thinking it would be easier to hop into than a pair of trousers.
“I’m sorry, miss, but I don’t know you. What am I supposed to be doing right now? Where are you taking me?”
Yonathen moved in his bed. “Hey – hey, what are you doing? You a caretaker?” He swung his legs over the edge of the bed, swinging them under the furniture made for human and elven occupants. “Or are we going on the warpath? No other reason to wear chain, is there?”
Konchet smiled handily, then put the skirt on Klavdiya’s bed. “Here, dear. Put this on, and I’ll be right back.” She left the card on top and pushed it forward with a smile. “Just a small repayment for everything.” Klavdiya’s face looked at the card and, jaw dropped so that sharp teeth showed, glanced back up at Konchet.
Before Klavdiya could open her snout and blow her cover, Konchet moved over to the water bucket. “Don’t you fret, Yonathen. You’ve done everything you thought you should, and the Machine will reward you for your sacrifices.” She picked up the bucket, taking it over to Yonathen. “Would you like some water, dear halfling?”
Yonathen nodded and reached up. “Yes, I’m mighty thirsty, after all. Thank you so much, ma’am.”
With a smile, she took the cup on the side of the bucket and drew out a meager sip to give to him. “Here you go.”
Yonathen nodded and took the cup. “This will be great. But honestly… do we know you? I thought I knew everyone in the hub after all these years, but I can’t quite put my finger on you.”
“Oh, it doesn’t matter,” Konchet said. She took the cup back, placing it in the bucket. “But I do remember you, Yonathen, and I think you won’t keep your mouth shut about mine and my friend’s escape from this place.”
Yonathen stammered. “What?”
Konchet grabbed the back of his head and dunked his face into the bucket.
Yonathen screamed and flailed, punching at her but finding no hold on her chain.
She held him down, his screams not enough to spill the water. She could feel strength in her mechanical arms, strength she’d never allowed herself to realize, and smiled.
Eventually, the halfling fell limp, but she kept holding him down. “No hard feelings, Yonathen. My goddess requires salvation, not mercy, you see.” She threw his corpse to the ground, the water spilling everywhere. “I hope that’s enough water for you, at last.”
She lifted her head back to Klavdiya, pulling up the gauzy eyepatch. With a broad smile, she rushed around the bed and offered a hand.
Klavdiya stared, shaking her head. “Spirit?” She stood on wobbly legs that whirred and eventually stiffened. Her eyes burned into Konchet’s soul. “That’s… That’s not you. The Spirit I know would never have done that.”
Konchet felt her pumps whir and her coolant flow. Her computers worked overtime. “I… well, things have changed. The hub is a disaster and we have to get out.” She gulped, feeling her legs loosen. “The Machine told me to get out. She…” Konchet fell to her knees, shaking. She reached a hand up to Klavdiya’s knees, holding it. “She told me to do this. She made me the high priest and told me to leave, so I am. There’s a mutiny against the officers, and there’s blood and fighting and – but I… I came for you, if you still trust me enough to come along.”
Klavdiya lifted beleaguered arms, clutching them around Konchet and holding her tight. “Oh, Spirit – Konchet, if that’s what you’d rather – you always were the loyal one.” She patted Konchet roughly. “But look at you! You’ve grown a backbone, my steel friend!”
While Klavdiya lifted her hospital gown and wrapped herself with the skirt, slipping her card in the waistband, Konchet worked her way back to her feet. “You’re… you’re not mad at me for killing Yonathan?”
“Him?” Klavdiya scoffed, pulling off her gown and grabbing the top Konchet had left on the bed. “By the Mainframe, no! He was a heretic and had treated you like dirt. He deserved it, had it coming. I just didn’t think you had it in you to stand up for yourself, that’s all.”
Konchet breathed easily, sitting back down onto Klavdiya’s bed. She put her head into her newly sewn hands. “Either way, we’ve got to get out. The hub has been weakened and there was a massive fight, but I don’t think this is done. The Machine wouldn’t have responded to a cardless prayer for just that. Something bigger is happening, I’d think.”
“Like what?” Klavdiya pulled the shirt over her scales, stretching it to fit over the steel pieces that were lodged in her back. As soon as her shirt was on, she plopped into the wheelchair and pulled her legs onto the rests. “Good goddess, Spirit – er, Konchet – that took a lot out of me. I hope you don’t think that I’m supposed to wheel myself out of this joint?”
“No, not at all.” Konchet took the handles on the wheelchair and released the brakes. “The first thing is just to get out, and then I guess we’ll figure out what we’re doing afterward.” She wheeled Klavdiya out, Galann blubbering in the corner, and into the bloody hallway.
Klavdiya looked at the bloody halls. “Wow. At least now I get to know where all that noisy ruckus came from.” She reached out a claw, scratching in the blood on the walls. “You know, I’m not really going to miss this place. The chocolate cake, absolutely, but literally nothing else.”
“I don’t know,” Konchet said, “I’m not really excited about going outside, myself. The air is so strange, and it changes temperatures. And plants – ugh.”
Klavdiya pointed to a body in the hall. “Hold up, hold up – who’s that? Push me over there, let me see.”
Konchet pushed her over to the body in the hall, letting Klavdiya grab the shoulder of the gnome, turning her over. An ocular device in her head, clear sign of modification done during the war, had been ripped out, leaving a cavity. “Haha, that little turd got what was coming to her. Keep this train rolling, Konchet!”
Konchet laughed and popped the front wheels of Klavdiya’s chair into the air, neighing like a horse to entertain her charge. They took off at as fast a pace as Konchet could manage in her chain, Klavdiya laughing. They swerved around bodies and pieces of organic flesh all the way to the front door.
Then Konchet stopped. Before her were giant steel doors, the handles high and heavy. On the doors were inscribed the words of blessing, “Koswimchet vepuchov; All who enter are One.”
Konchet took a breath, looking at the doors. She clutched the handles on the wheelchair.
“You ready, Konchet?”
She huffed out a breath. “No. No, I’m not.”
Klavdiya crouched down in her chair. “Well, I sure ain’t going to be the one to open the door. Look at my poor arm! Can’t hardly lift it up.”
Taking the hint, Konchet paced forward. She held onto the handle, the staple in her palm finally hooked up to her sensors and tingling a little bit painfully. Finally, she smirked and held the handle tighter. “No, this is ridiculous – the Machine told me to leave, and now I’ve got you here. I plugged my goddess in and started a war! I’m not afraid of a stupid door. Outside doesn’t phase me.”
Klavdiya scratched at the armrest. “Outside hasn’t changed. It still hates us.” She reached up to the door and took the handle, crackling metal fingers on it. “The difference is that, now, we’re ready to tear outside a new one. Open together? On one?”
Konchet nodded. “On one. Three.”
They both pulled down on the handles and pushed against the steel, flinging the tall doors open. The sun was setting to the west, darkness pulling over the east, smoke from the fires of enemy armies floating silently to the reddening sky.
Konchet gripped the wheelchair’s handles. “The Machine’s judgment has arrived.”
“Said like a true high priest.” Klavdiya pushed herself out a little, onto the steel entryway. “If it’s Sterling, not a one of the hub’s believers will be left alive.”
“As the Machine wanted it.” She heaved a breath, pulled down the eyepatch, and arranged it so she could mostly see through the cloth. “Come on – we should leave tonight. They’ll probably attack by morning.”
“Hah,” Klavdiya added. “Let them! We’ll still be out there, spreading the word and repairing the organics and baking some cakes. Besides, our goddess is still in heaven. She’ll seek vengeance even if we’re not allowed it before we kick the bucket. What say you, high priest? You think the Machine’d agree with my loose interpretation of scripture?”
Konchet shrugged. “She does whatever she wants. We can only align with her perfection, after all, but I suppose we should work hard to get stronger and destroy everything that does not align with her perfection.”
“Death to the organics!” Klavdiya cried out, shaking a fist. “Onwards, Konchet! Onwards, bringer of the end, speaker of doom to all that live!”
And so Konchet and Klavdiya left into the wilds of beyond, inhaling the hateful outdoors and exhaling a fiery passion for their goddess.
This is the end of the story. Next week I will put up a .pdf formatted for Kindle that you can download for free.
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