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[Fiction] Machines of Loving Grace

Alex Craft

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New Ground again.

The nova club overlays a unique pattern over Shinjuku - like an electric spider sitting at the heart of a web of electromagnetic energy. The outer limits of this web sprawl out over several blocks, consisting primarily of the radio whispers of government observers and the high-energy fields of the proprietor's anti-surveillance systems.

As the observer approaches, New Ground becomes a more obvious intervention. Elements of its design are organically bonded to the skyscraper it is perched atop, creeping down the building's facade and sending a taproot down its core. An array of novas-only teleportation devices make a bizarre statement in the skyscraper's lobby, and - further up - the club's dedicated power, sewage, and HVAC facilities probe down into the structure as supplementary reinforcement bonds with the skyscraper's otherwise overloaded superstructure.

Then, at the top, one is in the heart of things, in a building superimposed on the skyscraper below like a geometric crystal grown out of a crudely carved rock. This architecture is so far ahead of the bleeding edge that there isn't a word for it, and much of the technology put into its construction is perfectly unique - never seen in any other setting.

Alex notes all of this as he walks from Shinjuku Station to the host tower of New Ground. Giving the teleporters in the otherwise mundane lobby a wide berth, he simply takes the dedicated elevator - even over short distances, teleportation is not friendly to him. The nova-crafted machine takes him on up - its translucent sides making obvious the changeover from the skyscraper's original construction to the crystalline unity of the nova club.

Nodding to the insect-eyed bartender, he orders a café mocha and picks a table. A servitor robot quickly delivers the cup, and he sits and sips quietly - acknowledging reluctantly (and privately) that he isn't likely to get anything as free of pollutants from a human establishment.

Glancing around in slight irritation, he settles in for a wait.

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  • 3 weeks later...

He is kept waiting for some time - his irritation at this quickly subsiding into resignation. The better part of an hour after his arrival, his contact 'arrives.'

One of the establishment's pint-sized servitor robots approaches to refresh Alex's cup, but hesitates before completing its task. It jitters mindlessly for a few moments, then disintegrates into its component parts, which move like live things, weaving themselves into a fragmented, spindly imitation of the human form. The crudely shaped figure blindly regards Alex for a moment before turning and touching another servitor as in hums by.

The second robot meets a fate similar to the first, breaking apart and recombining with the figure. The process is vaguely (and somewhat nauseatingly) reminiscent of a reverse time-lapse film of a decaying corpse. Component pieces reshape themselves into a copy of a human skeleton and are quickly overlaid with bunches of cable imitating muscle and sealed in by a 'skin' of whatever metal Prodigy used in the shells of his inventions.

The end product is at first only vaguely human, but it shifts and morphs until it takes on the appearance of a nude, hairless woman. She is beautiful, but in an uncomfortable, alien manner - the beauty derived not from biology, but from machine shops and computer-aided drafting. She blinks owlishly as she sits at Alex's table, her eyelids closing over featureless metal orbs and opening on finely crafted fiber-optic cameras buried in each eye-socket.

Catching a look from the bartender, the newcomer speaks up in a clear voice - human, except for a hint of a signal to noise ratio. With a smirk, she says in a dry, Southern accent, "Don' worry, honey - ah'll put everything back where ah found it."

The bartender frowns and punches something into a terminal, but does not interfere as the newcomer turns back to Alex, her accent lightening as she says, "Paris. I have to admit, I was surprised to hear from you. I think some of us'd thought you'd forgotten your old partners in crime."

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