Author’s Note: This is just kinda like an experimental short story, kinda like a proof of concept thing to begin to introduce the reader to one portion of a massive world. I may likely continue writing more stories in this world from different perspectives to enlarge the view the reader has on everything! I hope you enjoy, regardless!
In a meager settlement placed in the sands of the Radi desert, made up of no more than six wooden buildings consisting of a few bunk residencies, a tavern, a store, a bank, along with a warehouse connected to a few spire-like water and food processors. A man in tattered rags moved past their much better looking townsfolk. Working his way to the tavern, he shoved their way through the door, immediately scanning the room: The bartender eyeing them closely, a few men chatting with a few empty glasses in front of them, a woman lounging while eating, and a cloaked figure sitting in the corner with their head down. The man worked his way over to them.
“You, you’re Ferra right?”
The figure lifted their head up revealing a feminine face, with a few metallic parts overlapping their cheek.
“Yeah, assuming somebody tipped you off about where I usually lounge?”
“Name your issue and your price then.”
“You’ve dealt with demons before, right?”
“Nope, but I think I can take them. Doesn’t sound too different from a Greater Dinem bug, right?”
“Well… I hope not. Over time, a bunch of blood cultists started holing up in our settlement, and around a day ago, they used our enforcement office as the primary site. Most of us managed to flee, but we can’t survive out here longer than a week. I don’t have any way to contact The Crusaders either-”
“As willing as I am to help, I at least need something in return, you know? I can’t survive off of good feelings.”
“Yes yes… I’m pretty sure one of our banks should hopefully still be intact. Just, take anything you feel like from there, as long as you deal with the beast.”
She stood up.
“Sounds just dandy. So should I meet you here again then? How do you want me to let you know the job is done?”
“Oh thank you… Most of us set up a small camp a long way south from the settlement. You’ll notice it on the way there. Just keep heading northwest from here, you can’t miss us.”
“And north from the camp of y’all? Consider that demon as good as dead then.”
The sun blazed high up in the sky beaming down onto rolling stretches of sand dotted with odd, short deadwood trees, the land shimmering with heat. Far off in the distance was the remains of the settlement, a collection of clay and wood buildings, each one devoid of any human soul. A few of the wooden buildings lay in ruin, and several looked like the sandy winds would topple them at any second. The clay buildings looked much more stable, but still bore unnatural cracks and imprints in their walls. In the distance, Ferra in her hooded cloak and leather-looking metallic boots approached, each of her footsteps landing with a dull thump, sinking deep into the sand. She entered the town, quickly bringing up her gloved hand to her ear, pausing momentarily before moving on. She walked forward, making a turn past a destroyed building, slowly moving through the wreck of another, and moved in the path of a larger clay building with the front wall completely gone. As she moved closer, just barely, an audible crunching came into human earshot. The interior of the building looked just as horrid as the outside, splintered furniture tossed all over the room, a long wooden counter that looked like something chewed right through it, shattered glass sprinkled all over the floors, and at the very rear of the room was a wall of iron bars, or at least the remains of it, as several of them were snapped off or chewed through. She casually walked into the room as the bone crunching got even louder, now facing down a staircase. She took off her coat, revealing long blonde hair and her feminine face, most of her head wrapped around with mechanical parts, along with a completely metallic body from neck down. Her entire body was segmented in several parts, looking very mechanical. Waist down to her “boots” she was painted a dark beige, with her upper half painted red up to the neck, the machine part of her head covered by her hair. Around her waist was a bulky belt that was physically attached to her body, a few extra bulky parts sticking off of it, and two strange mechanical looking revolver snugly clicked into it. Her back looked a bit more bulky than the rest of her body as well. She hung her cloak up on an iron pipe that was previously shoved into the wall, drawing the revolvers from her belt, each with an awkward drum-like cylinder hanging out of them. She held them in front of her, cautiously moving down the stairs and through a doorway into another room. It was pitch black down here, but through her eyes, she still saw the massive hole torn out of the stone wall in front of her, with a massive vault door lying right next to it. In the hole, sitting atop a pile of bones, gold, flesh, and shredded elaborate clothing, was a massive four-legged beast, licking, chewing, and devouring the bones of its victims. It’s posture was that of a lion’s, but it looked incredibly thick with flesh and muscle, taking up large amount of space in the back room. Even then, it slowly continued to grow as it devoured more and more bones, its thick frame pushing against the stone walls. It completely dwarfed her in size, paying her no heed. She sneered.
“That ain’t no bug, but he should go down all the same.”
Without hesitation, she opened fire, unloading the large magazines in seconds within a flurry of smoke, flashing lights, and loud cracks reverberating through the small room.
She waved her hand about, clearing the mess of smoke out of the way, finding a mess of flattened bullets and imprints in the rear of the creature. It slowly turned around, effortlessly knocking down the rest of the wall as it did, showing off its maw of hundreds of needle-like teeth. Her figure reflected off of its dark bulbous eyes, as dark as what she could imagine the netherworlds to be like. She wasted no time in quickly skipping back, literally leaping all the way up the stairs, and kicking off of the wall, propelling herself out of the entrance. She quickly gave the blockier parts of her belt a slap with her hand, the blocks extending out into a rack of several differently shaped and sized revolver cylinders. She took the longest cylinders from the rack, closing it into her, and quickly clicking her revolver into a longer shape to fit the elongated cylinder. As she began to click the cylinders into place, the building collapsed in on itself, the creature bursting out of the rubble, looking noticeably bigger. Letting out a terrible howl, teeth visibly flared outside of its mouth, it began its charge at Ferra. She fired a few shots of significantly larger bullets right into its mouth, shattering or getting caught in it its teeth, and a few others successfully piercing its skin. She smirked a bit, but quickly reaffirmed a serious expression as she noticed the bullets had only embedded in its skin at the surface. The wounds made no effort to slow it down as it continued its charge. She quickly leapt up onto the balcony of one of the taller wooden buildings, and with a second leap landed on the roof of it. She leapt from the roof as the beast quickly turned and slammed into it, turning the building into a splintered mess. She landed on the back of the beast and at point blank, she fired the last of her cylinder into it, each bullet thoroughly burrowing through its flesh, but not fully penetrating as she anticipated. The creature shrieked and bucked, sending her flying off of it. She crashed onto the ground, adding a few new scratches to her body before bouncing back up to her feet. The creature tumbled onto its back as well. She wasted no time thinking, charging forward while loading her gun with more of the long cylinders. She leapt onto the balcony of another nearby building, and then onto the belly of the thing. She rapidly opened fire into its stomach, this time each bullet penetrating deep into the flesh of it, each small wound leaking out a demonic black blood. It let out a horrifying screech, flailing about even more, which launched her off again. She regained her footing on a nearby building, which the creature promptly rolled into to get back on its feet. She fell to the ground as a bit of rubble crashed on top of her, but she quickly and effortlessly shoved it off of her, launching herself backward further from the beast. The creature began its charge again, and she began retreating. Quickly, she holstered her pistols, and reached into her back, pulling out a bulky yet flat square from the strange bulky part of her back. She unfolded and extended parts of it until it took on the shape of a blockish, mechanical looking repeater rifle. She skidded to a halt, and moved to a full on sprint towards the impending creature. She suddenly dropped down into a slide as the creature pounced at her, and fired off her repeater. A large blast of energy surged from the rifle, impacting right into the its stomach, leaving a large, leaking hole in its wake. She cranked the lever and fired again and again, turning the thing’s stomach into ash. The beast crashed down a short ways away from her, black fluid slowly seeping from its now absent stomach. It began to slowly shrink down in size until it too became a part of the small pond that leaked from it. The pond quickly evaporated into thin air, leaving not a trace of it in the sand at all. She folded the repeater back up, clicking it back into its proper place, letting out a long sigh, smiling. She stumbled a bit getting back up to her feet, making her way back to the destroyed clay building.
“Anything I like from here, huh?”
She moved aside some of the rubble and pulled her cloak from it. She dug around for a while more, taking along one or two bricks of gold, storing them away in another compartment inside of her stomach. Throwing her coat back on, she began her trip south back into the desert.
She made a very brief stop at the camp, simply telling them her job was done, the settlement was safe, and to spread the word about her and where she stayed. She smiled to herself as she walked away from the cheering and chattering crowd, working to take down their makeshift tents, many already moving their way towards home. Ferra did the same, returning back to the very same settlement she started at. She quickly went bank, exchanging the few gold bars for a very nice stack of cash, before pushing open the doors to the tavern. The bartender looked up, giving a subtle nod, before looked back down to wiping the counter. She waltzed over to her usual spot, only to notice a very unusual figure suited in bulky yet smooth body armor, only a head of short brown hair revealed. A shotgun was hanging on his back from a sling.
“Scuse’ me sir, you’re where I usually sit.”
He looked up, examining her face.
“That shouldn’t be a problem, right?”
“Well, you want a job or somethin? Sorry, you’ll have to wait. I kinda took on a big job and now I’m low on energy. Come back tomorrow, all right?”
“Kinda hard to recharge on energy without proper power generators around, isn’t it?”
She stared at him for a moment before sitting across from him.
“What exactly are you getting at?”
“Ferra is your name right? Long story short, I’m from the Android Administration, and-”
“A higher up? It’s about dang time somebody important noticed! Most locals don’t really like bots, ya know?” She quickly tore off her cloak, and extended her hand. “My name is Ferra Jane, and-”
“Thank you for confirming my suspicions Ferra. Now perhaps your creator out here didn’t mention it to you, but all androids must be registered, regulated, and moved into centers where we can keep a closer eye on you all-”
“What now, other androids? Where do you keep them all then? I haven’t seen any-”
“Please, let me finish. Sometimes, people like to construct sentient bots outside of jurisdiction and don’t tell them about the regulations. I’m going to ask a few questions.”
“I’ll only answer if you can take me to your superiors. I desperately need to have a word with them. How high do your connections go, hopefully high?”
He cracked open a compartment in his armor, pulling out a small stack of papers and a pen.
“Yeah yeah, let’s just make this quick and easy. First, can you name the individuals who manufactured you?”
“I was manufactured by Maintenance Unit L0005.”
“Uh… Excuse me?”
“I said Maintenance Unit L0005, ya hear?”
“All right, your creator had some crazy nickname, whatever.”
“I guess maybe you could call him MUL-5? Not sure if he’s still alive actually…”
“Noted as well, at least that’ll save me some time. Location of assembly?”
“Waste Disposal Duct 572.”
“What kinda code did this MUL guy put into your head anyways?”
“My mission, any information about human cities, the current state of Axios Tarn.”
He glared at her.
“He must have been very… ‘creative’. Continuing, time of assembly?”
“You didn’t hide yourself too well, did you?”
“Why would I want to hide anyways?”
“Multi-function, modifiable to suit any purpose. Currently modified for combat purposes.”
“Dangerous. Don’t think I’ve ever heard of a multi-function model before however. AI model?”
“Turing 1.0 learning module.”
“Sheesh, where the hell did your creator get parts as old as that?”
“I’m not sure which unit offered it up, sorry.”
“Nevermind… Getting near the end here, name of power unit?”
“A TR-PPU-1, Axios-produced-”
“Cut the Axios bullshit already, tell me the truth already.”
“A Tronus Perpetual Power Unit, common power unit for all maintenance level bots in Axios! I don’t know what’s so hard to believe? That’s how they get power to these settlements, right?”
“They’re called solar panel scraps-for-brains! I never thought I’d meet a robot with an actual screw loose. Do a jump, I bet I can hear it rattling around in that tin-can for a head”
She suddenly stood up and bounced into the air, then sitting back down.
“See? Everythin’s all together and workin just fine!”
“My god you’re braindead. Did you get your AI from a fucking street cleaner or something?”
“I don’t know what that is but I’m pretty sure that was an insult.”
He dropped his head into his hands.
“Dear gods almighty, do you seriously not know what a street cleaner is?”
“No, fucking. I’m pretty sure that’s an insult. What’s fucking mean?”
He peeked over the tips of his fingers at her.
“I didn’t have kids explicitly to avoid this, what did I do to deserve this…”
“Probably because of how rude you’ve been to me. Now, what’s fucking mean?”
“I don’t know, what’s the federal punishment for lying on your registration form?”
“A what now?”
“Because you clearly aren’t from Axios! You look like a cobbled together garage kit put together with airfix glue, eaten screws, and a whole lot of hope. Let’s try this one last time so I can be back in time for lunch. Power Unit?”
““Well uh… if you really don’t believe me, I can show you my uh…” she breaks eye contact. “…PPU itself…”
“Yeah, what am I going to see in there, a hamster running in a wheel?”
“No, I can promise you one Axios-produced-”
From beneath the table, she felt something attach to her leg, and a sudden jolt circulate through her body. She bent under noticing an object had latched onto her leg, connected by a thick wire which originated from a gun-like device.
“Are you… trying to EMP me?”
“So you don’t know what a solar panel is, but you’re aware of an EMP?”
“Well obviously. We’re all built to be protected against it.” She knocks on the leg where she was struck. “Faraday plating. Really neat stuff! Axios-produced-”
He suddenly slammed his hand on the table.
“Say axios again and I swear to the gods I’m gonna take you back in a box.”
“W-well again, just… Let me show you my PPU! Just, could we do it somewhere else like… not in public?”
“Just show me thing already and get it over with.”
“F-fine… This is no way to treat a lady-”
“Cut the crap, you’re a robot.”
“-who’s going to show you her power unit-”
He pistol whips her on the head with his taser. She winced a bit, rubbing the spot that was struck.
“OW, what the scrap was that for?”
“Knock it off and show it already.”
She stood up, eying to her left and right before standing still momentarily. With a short click and a hiss, the front of her chest popped open from the top. The man stood up and yanked the hatch down, causing her to jolt upward a bit, and revealing a boxy power unit inside of her.
“C-can you please be more careful?”
“Quiet. I can safely take this thing out of you and it’ll still be attached, right?”
“Y-yeah, but please-”
He stuck his hands inside of her, feeling around the power unit while tugging at it every few moments. He managed to yank the entire thing out, a mess of wires dangling out along with it, as he placed it on the table. Along with the several wires running out of it were a large collection of rapidly spinning wheels sticking out of the top of it, similar to a steam engine. He placed his finger on one of the wheels, it easily coming to a stop, and Ferra responding with a quiet wince. He glanced over to her, releasing the wheel, it slowly speeding up once more.
“Hey, careful where you touch!”
“How do these things keep spinning exactly?”
“W-well… Perpetual motion. It’s doesn’t generate much, but it’s at least limitless.”
He picked up the unit and flipped it over, causing her to leap up a bit, letting out a small yelp.
“S-stop handling me so roughly!”
He notices a set of numbers and symbol depicting a capital A shape with a hammer in the center inscribed on the bottom.
“Well what do you know…”
He flipped the unit back over, starting with shoveling the spilled wiring back inside of her, then taking the unit and forcing it back into place with an audible clunk. He slammed her chest shut as if it were a trunk, causing her to yelp once again.
“Is that how you treat all robots?”
“Usually they’re dead before I go through their insides, so this was more of a first. Anyways, I’m no professional, but I’ve seen a lot of power units in my day, and none like that.”
Her expression lit up.
“Does that mean you believe me?”
“…It gives me some evidence to believe you AREN’T one-hundred percent lying to me. So in order to truly confirm these parts are unique, we’re probably going to still have to disassemble you.”
“That ain’t fair at all! We just had a… Y’know, an intimate moment! Ain’t that worth something to you?”
“That wasn’t exactly worth anything special to me. In fact, I really doubt you have anything of worth to me anyways.”
“Worth you say?”
She slowly reached for her waist, opening a compartment in the side of it. The man quickly drew his shotgun.
“No no no, trust me, it ain’t a weapon!”
She slid her hand in, and pulled out a massive stack of cash.
“Nice life savings you have there. I’m sure where you come from buying a single new rivet is a damn luxury but here it takes some coin to get by, machine.“
“Life savings? I just made this today.”
He slowly lowered his gun.
“You’ve gotta be shitting me, right?”
“If by ‘shitting’ you mean ‘kidding’, I haven’t kidded you a single time today!”
“How much is that exactly?”
“I dunno, I don’t normally count. I don’t spend much of it anyways. Scrap and spare parts are fairly cheap you know.”
He slung his shotgun over his back.
“That’s all it really takes to win over somebody, huh…” she quietly muttered under her breath.
“I was always under the impression the settlements were dirt poor.”
“Really? I thought this was the most humanity has to show for. I mean, you do all still use solar power.”
He leaned back for a few minutes, pondering to himself.
“You have quite a lot to learn… I think instead of taking you home and scrapping you, the two of us here can make a deal.”
She leapt up excitedly.
“You at least know the ins and outs of this freelance stuff, yeah?”
“I’ve been doing it since I’ve been assembled.”
“Well there’s a whole lot more to this world than this desert, and a lot more money to be made and opportunities to be found. We can work as… Partners. I can take you around from place to place, do some freelance jobs, split the money 25-75, and done.”
“Does that guarantee I can speak to higher officials?”
“Maybe, on the side I can try and see what I can do for you. But that’s besides the point, are you in?”
“Well, what other choice do I got? Either way, you got a deal!”
She extended out her hand first, before the man extended his and shook it.
“My name is Scott, by the way.”
Ferra donned her cloak once more, holding Scott for a short while. She called for the bartender, telling him if anyone asks for her, she’d be gone for a long while. The duo left the tavern, briefly stopping at one of the residencies, where she brought out a large metal case. She opened it briefly, flashing several stacks of expensive bills in front of Scott before slamming it shut.
“Bots can’t start banks you know.”
“Well why would I want to give away my money?”
“I swear to god I hope the Turing 1.0 supports information downloading.”
“I don’t think so…”
“…I hope I’m not making the dumbest decision in my life…”