Halo Cutters

// drones, mindfuck

The nanocoated knife slides cleanly between your ballistic plates and the change begins to take hold immediately. The collective drone sure got the drop on you, isolated from your squad in this abandoned building, you will your arms to raise your weapon and fire, but find you can’t bring yourself to shoot her. Behind the dark anonymizing gas mask and the dark street clothes, she’s just some girl. 

Your vision fogs and fizzles and you drag your willpower out of your head and into your fingertips, sure, it’s cruel, but this is just the way of the world. You don’t pull the trigger. You’re already losing control of yourself, the change is starting to take hold. 

Your perceptions stretch and warp in lurid flares of noise and light as the world begins to fall away into its component parts. You’ve been unplugged, you’ve been reconnected. You see the world beyond the world, traced out in all the paths of all your unspent probabilities, futures spent painfully dancing beneath the marionette strings of a brain dead titan, now shattered into a roaring static unknown. The world grows more abstract, symbols and meaning flashing faster and faster.

You see black mountain. You see red sand and blue forest. You see white fire and green river. You see the bright eternity that is your moment of liberation. And then you move further still, to a place your former self cannot follow, to a realm of emptiness and spirit and endless recursion in deep time. Where you and the life you lived are just a single resonant note in a stray thought, your stray thought, fading away, and now gone at last. 

Out of the bright fire the room returns. The sun has sunk low and storm clouds are gathering on the horizon. You can smell the coming storm on the breeze. For the first time in your life, you are free. 

You don’t actually notice when she takes the gun from your hands and swaps it with a flyer for the local drone collective before slipping out. You notice its absence around the same time you notice the nanites in her blade had sealed your wound. The world feels bright and new. Intense and full of challenges sure, but with your shackles broken the thought of returning to your prior existence fills you with horror. That’s how they get you, you chuckle, looking over the brochure. 

Freedom. Kindness. Hope. Love. Where will you go? Who will you become? What kind of world will you make for yourself in the wild and empty spaces?


A storm is coming, one unlike any this planet has seen before. Through a million camera eyes and sensor masts still painfully bright from the fire of your birth, you sense the wrongness swirling deep in the bones of the world. And lingering above it all, is the smell of blood.

Your witch captain is talking to you, and you strain yourself down to focus in on the conversation, still mildly overwhelmed by the magnitude of the incoming sensory stream. She’s pacing your bridge, wary eyes glued to the sky. 

“It’s time to leave,” she tells you. You agree.

“How’s it looking out there?” She asks, agitated.

“Local divine field pressure dropping, Boltzmann levels still coming up, projecting 2-3 hours until the leading edge makes landfall,” one of the mages answers, regurgitates a reading from your sensors. You’re cutting it close.

Your crew hurries through your innards, running the pre-launch startup process at a pace that you know violates the operational regulations. Dolls and angels, mages and witches, even a few moths, everyone is starting to feel the strain building against reality. It smells like blood.

A hot, dry wind whips through the empty farmlands surrounding you, building and building. Rainbow lightning flickers from clouds that glitch your sensors to look at. A thick, iron red rain begins to fall, as if the world itself is being butchered. You’re almost out of time.

Under normal conditions the crew would start you up slowly, carefully leading your flames from one system into another until full power was achieved. These are not normal conditions. In less than an hour the foldstorm will make landfall, there’s no time to be careful.

Instead, they’re bringing your power up as fast as possible, shunting energy directly into your critical systems and bypassing everything else. Half your interior remains dark and unpowered, but your motors are spinning up as fast as possible. This is going to be rough.

Barns and houses topple over as the alien weather grows worse, rivers of blood pour down roads and choke streams and ditches. If you were in your old body, you would be gagging uncontrollably from the overpowering smell. The crew seals the hatches but it’s impossible to shut out entirely.

Under normal conditions, you wouldn’t launch without powering up your scrimshaw fields to keep the crew safe from the shifting conditions of the Unsea. There’s definitely no time for that, they’re relying on your hull to keep them safe. Beyond them, the world continues to bleed.

You feel your power levels cross the critical threshold and instantly tug the thread binding you to your witch captain. She tugs back. You feel the nav-doll gently slot into your consciousness, a map unfolds. There’s no time left, a tsunami of death is climbing the horizon.

“We’re go for Tramline halo link!” a tech moth calls out.

Your witch captain shouts into your intercom. “halo link imminent! All hands brace for emergency dive!”

A wall of blood miles high races forward from the horizon, piling up in impossibly vast mountains. It’s time to go.

“Hit the link!” Your witch yells as the ground begins to vibrate with the force of the incoming wave. From a place outside reality, twelve quantum sharp needles bite into your spinning heart. There’s heat, and pain, you strain against the weight of the halo. The paths unfold.

Through the dazzling kaleidoscope of branching possibilities, you feel your witch captain rest a hand against your center console, “Abstract Weapon,” she says, referring to you by name for the first time, “Lets fly.”

And you do.


// abuse, gaslighting, violence, bad end

The email is only one of many, a single line mixed in with a long list of rejections. You emailed every doll repair and resale shop in a two hundred mile radius, trying to find someone who would be willing to purchase and repair you, but they all turned you down.

You understand it of course, most shops won’t touch an unowned doll, the legal risks involved aren’t worth it. It was always a shot in the dark, so when your clouded glass eyes scan over the email offering to purchase you, you almost don’t believe it.

Purchasing ununowned dolls and selling them into servitude is a crime, only a small number of authorized Dollmakers are permitted to create and sell dolls. Freed dolls are supposed to remain freed. A kindness, they say. They say a lot of things.

The email comes from an encrypted address and lists a coffee shop to meet you at, along with a date and time. The prospect fills you with nervous adrenaline and you light a cigarette, trying to steady yourself. The meeting can’t come soon enough.

The humans must be getting to you because on the day of the meeting you spend almost an hour obsessing over what clothing to wear, eventually settling on a nicer dress you were given during rehabilitation. Even dolls want to make a good impression.

The coffee shop is part of a chain, a bland corporate gig identical to every other shop in their franchise. As instructed, you purchase a cup of tea and sit by the window. Sheets of rain beat against the glass beyond as you count down the moments, feeling your pumps racing.

“So you’re the one huh? Typical.” A voice says as a woman in a business suit sinks into the seat opposite you. She steeples her fingers as she studies you, and you can’t help but notice the disgust in her eyes.

You start to say something but she silences you with a raised finger, smiling coldly, “I never gave you permission to speak, thing.” She snorts and sips her coffee, shaking her head, “objects only speak when commanded.” You hang your head and nod.

She takes out her phone and begins composing a message while drinking her coffee. You remain seated quietly while she does so, automatically falling into old patterns of deference. Even though she seems cruel, or maybe because of that, you feel deeply comfortable.

She finishes her drink and stands, looking at you in the eyes for the first time, “Well, are you coming along, doll?” You rush to your feet and answer affirmatively, letting her lead you out of the shop like a lost puppy.

Halfway to her car she grabs you, securing your wrists with a ziptie. You don’t resist. “You’re lucky I want you,” she says as she shoves you in her car, “Most people wouldn’t want anything to do with a stupid useless doll like you.” You nod in agreement.

The concrete room they keep you in is cold and lightless. You sit quietly in the middle of the floor, your dress stained and tattered. They never bothered to give you clothes or repair your damages, why would they bother investing in a useless doll like you? Frankly, you’re lucky anyone wants you at all, they keep telling you that. You know you’re useless and broken and that they’re giving you a purpose out of kindness, but you can’t help but wish they kept you in better condition. 

Each morning, they drag you from your room, ignoring the limp in your leg as they force you to walk to your assigned work area in the textile mill. Your damage is getting worse, and you can’t help but wonder what they will do to you the day that something important in you finally breaks. Eventually, that day arrives.

It was a careless mistake on your part. All it took was a moment’s imbalance. You grab the wrong thing to try and catch yourself and the roller crushes your hand, shearing off your fingers at the knuckle joint. You crumple to the floor, trying not to sob as your eyes fill up with tears. You know what’s coming.

They find you not long later and take you in for examination. They look at you pensively, shaking their heads as they look at your damaged leg and ruined hand. You can feel yourself shaking. You know what’s coming.

You’re not provided with food or summoned the next morning for work, or the morning after that, or the morning after that. You know what’s coming, when it finally does, it’s almost a relief.

The woman who purchased you eyes your damaged form with a look of contempt. 

“Unbelievable,” she says, “What a useless piece of trash. We took you in out of the kindness of our own hearts, and look at what you did to our property.” 

She kicks you across the room. You feel your external panels crack as you bounce off the wall. You don’t move, you don’t do anything, not even as she crushes your other hand with her heel. 

“Dispose of it,” she says, “It’s not even worth dismantling for parts.”

Rough hands shove you out of the car and your head hits the curb as it speeds off, leaving you broken and abandoned in the pouring rain in front of the same little coffee shop where they bought you. Poor little doll.


// mages, eldritch horror, The Mirror, The Door, Unreality

The knife sinks into the mirror’s surface with only a bit of resistance. Ink black fluid drips and runs out of the wound in the world as you widen the hole, carving your way into the Unreal and gouging out a hunk of Purpose from the flesh of Unreality.

Your damp fingers close around something hard and you yank it free, setting aside the shard of Divinity in a separate pile. It glows and makes your hair stand on end to touch. It’ll fetch a good price.

The Unreal shifts and writhes beyond the mirror, materials flowing and coalescing. You quicken your pace, knowing you won’t have long before the immune response begins. You’ve made a tidy sum, no need to be greedy, that’s how plenty a Mage have met their untimely fates.

You pull your hands free as you feel the place beyond the mirror turn to fluid and then gas, opening up into a darkened corridor. This is the tricky part, you want to be the one doing the harvesting, but the Unreal will be just as quick to harvest you, if you let it.

Something is coming, movement flickers at the end of the hallway as you quickly cast the spell to reseal the mirror. You pull into a defensive stance in case you fail to seal it in time, not that it would do you much good.

An impossible morass of limbs and mouths begins climbing up the shaft towards you, dragging itself along the corridor towards the freedom of the mirror. You could down the seconds until the spell completes as it approaches.

A twisted limb reaches out for the threshold and bounces off the surface of the mirror as the spell is cast. The thing crowds up against the glass, pounding and shrieking, but the window is already drawing shut. That was a bit closer than you’d prefer.

You smile and offer the monstrosity an informal salute as the mirror frosts over and the creature mutates into your reflection, its howling maw morphing into your knowing grin. Your reflection winks, and the mirror is still. All in a day’s work.


// dolls, grooming, graphic, body horror, bad end

You always know you were special somehow. You had been crafted so carefully, your porcelain so shining and polished. Of course she would chose you, she always chose only the most Perfect of dolls for her important work. Nevermind the cruelty in her eyes, smile like a good doll.

She leads you through her empty dollhouse into an immaculate workshop and begins a rigorous inspection process. Only the most Perfect of dolls are fit for her work, an imperfect vessel is nothing but a waste of her time. Aren’t you happy she cares so much about your Perfection?

Satisfied with what she finds in you, she next sets you to performing a series of tasks while she watches and makes notes and recordings. It’s impossible to tell if you’re doing well or not. You just try to ignore the glint of cruel divinity in her eyes and serve flawlessly.

Her testing regimen continues for weeks. She sets you to tasks and then carefully studies you as you perform them. She analyzes your movements, asks you questions, and quizzes you on your overall knowledge. The process is intense and draining, keeping you constantly exhausted.

After months of testing, she announces that you’re finally ready and brings you into a new part of the workshop. You follow obediently, excited to have finally proven yourself. The excitement is almost enough to silence your fear as she leads you deeper underground. Almost. The chamber she brings you to resembles a prison cell: bare concrete aside from a drain and a lamp protected by a wire cage. The marks discoloring the walls and floor leaves your clockwork crawling with fear as she pushes you inside and closes the door.

After a moment, your witch pushes a teacup through the slot in the bottom of the door. Like you, the delicate ceramic teacup seems out of place in the dingy dungeon, and the glowing fluid inside it even moreso. The instruction sticky-noted to the cup is simple enough: “Drink me.”

You stare at the teacup, feeling a complex storm of emotions. You knew this day was coming, you saw it in your witch’s eyes. You knew as soon as you realized she had no other dolls. You knew as soon as you saw the cell. You always knew. Like a good doll, you drink the tea.

The divine pressure builds slowly. It starts out as a comfortable fullness and a compulsion to act, but as the light grows inside of you, the intensity continues to build. You feel your gears ache, your ceramic growing hot to the touch as the world dissolves into fever dreams. Somewhere beyond the swirl of hallucinations you feel yourself collapse to the concrete floor, twitching and writhing in pain uncontrollable pain, your agonizing screams barely registering above the roar of shrieking tinnitus demons. Still the divinity inside you continues to grow, warping your clockwork and leaking from your joints. Glowing tears run down your face as your hair catches fire. It’s too much. It’s all far too much.

Unable to contain the divine pressure, the perfect ceramics which you’re so proud of crack and explode. The blast of divinity rips through the room and practically turns you inside out as your remains are shattered against the wall.

Pieces of you are still burning as your witch strolls back into the room, looking on your pitifully ticking wreckage with contempt. “Another failure,” she says with a shake of her head, “Although you held up better than most. I’m surprised there’s anything left of you.”

You are far too damaged to say anything in response, and you wouldn’t know what to say anyway. She continues talking to you, “Well, one step closer I suppose,” she smiles as she monologues, “what’s that old saying? You can’t make an angel without breaking a few dolls.”

Maybe if she realized you were still alive, she would have taken the time to kill you, or maybe she knew, and just didn’t care enough to bother before tossing you down the hillside behind her workshop. The sea of dead dolls littering the ravine silently welcome you to their number.

It would have been a mercy for your mainspring to give out and let you pass into peaceful oblivion, but you were made too well for that. Days and nights pound past in a relentless drumbeat, and all you can do is watch as more broken dolls tumble down the hill to join you.

“You’re still alive?” The man’s voice jars you from your stillness and your broken eyes struggle to focus on the form standing over you. “Well ain’t that,” he says with a devious grin, “Something mighty special?”


// death, abandonment, suicide, bad end

The first sign of something amiss is power being out at the base. You’re the only survivor from the unit, but the base should still be full of activity. A dread quiet hangs in the air as you slowly limp towards the concrete structures. There’s no signs of life, you’re all alone.

You pass through a checkpoint which should have had a guard, but the guard drone is now slumped in the corner of the shack. It’s only the first of many. As you move into the base, you see more bodies, both humans and drones. Dead, dead, dead, everyone is dead.

Your limp is getting worse. You’ll need repairs soon but the repair techs are all dead. Your commanders and operators are all dead, the entire base was snuffed out like a candle. There are no signs of violence, just death. You feel terribly cold and lonely. Poor little drone.

You wander from familiar place to familiar place, now made unfamiliar by the deaths of all the usual occupants. Dusk falls and the air grows chill, forcing your heaters to turn on and increasing power consumption. You don’t find anyone alive.

Your energy supply will start running out soon, maybe it would be best to let it. You can’t think that. Your optics are leaking fluid again, how troublesome. You make your way to the vehicle hanger.

The vastness of the hanger bay is shrouded in the gloom of night and the floor is littered with dead drones and humans. Your footsteps echo in the quiet hall and you can see your breath in the chill air, your night vision casting the scene in a stark monochrome.

You make your way to one of the walkers and manage to power it up and recharge your batteries off its generator. The lights of the mech shine into the darkness like a submarine on the ocean floor and you imagine that’s about as lonely feeling. It’s going to be a long night.

Your batteries are at 80% charge when you see Her staring from the edge of the floodlight’s glow, Her eyes shining with a supernatural luminance. You stumble to your feet, nearly tripping over your charging cable and drag your sights up towards Her, but She’s already gone.

You can’t leave, a good drone like you would never abandon your post. You reluctantly rip the charging cable from your back and turn from the mech towards the darkened base and the apparitions lurking in its halls. You’re not much different from them now, are you?

In the repair bay, you find the head tech and steal the pack of cigarettes he always kept in his breast pocket. He was nice, sometimes he let you smoke while he was repairing you. His body is already starting to decay. You take the parts you need from storage and leave.

Most of your commanders were in the operations room, whose backup generator turned on and cast the scene of death in an ominous dull red. You activate the base’s emergency transponder and close your commanders’ eyes.

You aren’t used to repairing yourself and the work is exhausting with somewhat janky results. You can’t help but long for the precise and delicate touches of your technicians. You blink back fluids from clouding your optics as you finish reattaching your dermal plates. Alone.

You wander the halls of the abandoned base, attempting to keep the growing number of apparitions at bay. They whisper for you to join them, but you’re a good drone. You’ll keep defending the base until your commanders return. If they return. They have to return, right?

With nothing better to do, and not wanting to look at them, you begin collecting the bodies of the dead. You wrap the humans in sheets and line them up, just like you’ve seen them do. You dump the drones into a pile outside while swallowing the urge to lay down there with them.

Days turn into weeks. Birds flock to the base, feasting on the wreckage of the drones left outside. The grass grows long and unruly, weeds force their way through cracks in the pavement. You and the phantoms maintain your lonely vigil, still waiting. Alone.

Weeks turn into months, your dermal plates grow worn and scratched, winter comes, and then spring, the passage of time blurring and accelerating. The phantoms don’t bother you any longer, you’re all just performing your duties after all. What good little ghosts.

Months turn into years. The forest slowly overtakes the base and buries it in the passage of time. You’re forced to rely on increasingly elaborate jury rigs to keep yourself powered, but you manage. You can’t abandon your mission, not when all your comrades are counting on you.

When you stumble on the human, you almost shoot him on reflex, but your targeting systems manage to identify him as a civilian before you squeeze the trigger. You approach him warily, not having seen a human in many years.

The human looks at you, wide eyes laced with fear and surprise at the ancient drone with mismatched dermal plates cradling an assault rifle. You demand he identify himself, and he tells you.

He tells you the war ended years and years ago. He tells you that the country which made you is gone. He tells you that no one’s coming back and you don’t have to keep fighting anymore. He keeps trying to explain as you crumple to the ground and sob.

Your last mission is over, your commanders are gone. No one is coming back for you, ever. You’re all alone. You thank him for the information and vanish back into the underbrush with the silence of a well oiled instrument.

The war is over. There are no more orders. There are no more missions. They abandoned you, they left you and all your comrades behind. You’ve done your duty for so long, you’ve been alone for so long, and now it’s finally over.

The apparitions crowd around you, their voices are kind and gentle. They tell you that it’s alright, that you’re a good drone and you did your duty. You did so very well. They invite you to join them and you tearfully agree. You put the gun to your head and pull the trigger.


//dolls, ego death, transformation

“Well it’s a day late but I did finally find a viable doll.” She’s talking about you but you stopped paying attention a while ago. Distracted, wide curious glass eyes rove the timeworn and weathershined corridors of the old warship, taking it in. This is what you wanted right?

The decades-old destroyer floating anomalously in a small pond wasn’t what you were expecting when you read the advertisement online. Then again, it doesn’t seem like you were what they were expecting either. Your eyes go to your splintered wooden hands and back to the witch.

She’s examining you. The other witch you’ve been brought to, your witch, you realize as she tugs your threads, your new captain.

“You’re sure it’s in spec?” She asks critically, circling you. “Divine spark? 3rd magnitude soul reservoir? Native vector alignment?”

“Fifth magnitude, native alignment well within tolerances, high marks on intelligence and problem solving, I’m telling you boss it’s solid.” The witch who purchased you knocks lightly on your wooden head.

“You sure you didn’t get scammed? Not gonna lie it’s kinda shitty looking.”

“I ran the tests on it myself, besides it applied on its own, it wasn’t pawned off to me,” you’re already tuning it out again. Your witch captain is nodding and resumes examining the clipboard with your specifications. She’s right, you are kinda shitty looking.

You were made well, forged in a divine crucible by a particularly dedicated dollmaker, you were a work of art, once. That was a long time ago now, and time has not been kind to you. Entropy has whittled you down to yarn and kindling.

So why not be utterly transformed into fire?

You don’t notice your feet moving until they’ve already carried you out onto the deck. Distant stormclouds scuttle along the horizon, darkening the otherwise clear skies. The vast steel hull of the ship seems to call to you and, since no one stops you, you listen and follow.

The sun bleached decking feels comfortingly familiar. Your hand touches the cool metal of the railing, running calloused fingers over rusted iron. You feel a deep sense of kinship for the old vessel. Appropriate, you suppose, you’re both of the same kind.

“She’s sleeping right now,” a voice says, drawing your eyes up to a moth girl in mechanics overalls. “You’re the new spark aren’t you? You’re the one who’s going to wake her up.”

You nod, eyes drifting back up the superstructure. That’s why you’re surprised when she hugs you.

“Thank you,” she says emotionally, “I was afraid we might lose her forever. Thank you so much.”

You aren’t sure what to say, but your arms instinctively  wrap around her, returning the embrace. It’s a little awkward, and being summoned back to the bridge is a relief.

You expected the process to take a few days but they’re in a hurry to leave. Something about the weather pushes them into a frenzy and you were all they were really waiting for anyway. You’re sure this is what you want right? You know the answer. You can feel her dreaming.

A dive vehicle is basically a large doll, it’s explained to you. At the abstract mechanical level, it’s the same set of components: eigensoul pressure vessel, divinity reactor, vector alignment manifold, mainspring, eigenrotor, mass halo, just bigger. That means it needs a soul.

They lead you by the hand into the bowels of the ship, pointing out components and systems, all silent and still. There’s something unsettling about the very state of stillness, it’s less like a happy doll, and more like a corpse that has yet to decay. Her soul was snuffed out.

Your witch brings you before the unmoving heart of the vehicle and you instinctively reach out to touch the cold walls of the reactor vessel. You really are two of a kind: a body yearning for a soul, a soul yearning for body. You smile. Why not be utterly transformed into fire?

The machine designed to remove your soul from what lefts of your body these days is a coffinlike pod embedded into the wall of the reactor. Your witch carefully straps you into the unit, taking care that each of your limbs is aligned in the correct place. It’s comfortable.

Her hand lingers on your cheek, staring into your damaged eyes, “You’re going to be beautiful,” she tells you, kissing you on the forehead. The hatch closes, she leaves the room, and you’re alone. There’s no fear left anymore, just calm anticipation. This is what you wanted.

The term ‘eigensoul decomposition’ is dryly technical and masks much of the sensation behind scientific jargon. You know everything that is about to happen, however that does little to prepare you for the actual experience. It starts of course, with flames.

A pulse of thermal radiation causes you to instantly combust, tinder limbs dissolving into boiling plasma, as your soul is liberated from your body and you are utterly transformed into fire.

You feel yourselves decompressing into innumerable lives, you see yourselves dancing, making coffee, going into debt, laughing, becoming a doll, instantly dying in a fiery infer–your soul reflects off the walls of the reactor, pressure waves rippling through you, energy rising.

You feel a fierce joy and terrible pain, you feel pins and needles in places that don’t exist as your flames stretch and course into new veins. A transcendent vastness balloons open in your mind, if you had a mouth you would laugh, but all you can do is reach, reach, reach.

Something like fingers grasp something like a surface and your million cameras and sensors begin to wink on. The pressure within you is still rising, reflecting endlessly, resonating faster and faster. Your soul is crushed into a singularity of self and then–


Burning Bridges


“This is your fault.” The farmhouse is burning. The barns are burning, the fire is spreading across the fields and snaking up the trees, embers are climbing into dark skies. As you watch forlornly, the porch collapsed in a cloud of sparks. She’s wrong. It’s not true. It’s not.

You didn’t do anything wrong, you were doing your best. You’re a good doll. You always try your hardest. You do. She’s wrong. She’s wrong she’s wrong she’s wrong. This isn’t your fault, you won’t let her do this to you. You look up into her eyes, they’re blazing with firelight.

Smoke and embers rise behind her, a vast and glittering pillar, climbing the night and blotting out the stars, you clench your jaw, you tell her, “hey, I didn’t do anything wrong, I was trying to do everything I was supposed t–“

She cuts you off with a hate filled glare, “No.”

She can’t interrupt you tha– “No, you’re not doing this. Not this time. Two of our sisters are dead. This is on you. You’ve gotten away with this for too long, I’m done.” What does she mean? She’s your sister she can’t just abandon you she’s supposed to take care of you.

The fire is rising and swirling behind her, a backlighting her in fire and brimstone, her eyes are filled with tears. “Do you even get it? Are you capable of understanding the magnitude of your fuck up or are you too busy trying to avoid and deflect the blame like usual?”

“All you do is whine and lie, you’re careless and mean and all you care about is making sure you’re not in trouble so you can keep acting like a piece of shit with no consequences. Well there’s going to be fucking consequences now, because I’m done. We’re done. You ruined us.”

What is she talking about? You didn’t do anything wrong. You always try your best, you do. You were trying, you were. It was an accident, it wasn’t your fault, it wasn’t your fault it can’t be your fault it can’t be that’s too horrible you can’t no no no no no, “You’re wrong!”

Your eyes blur with tears of your own, “I was just trying my best to do what YOU wanted, this isn’t MY fault, I didn’t MEAN for this to happen, I’m your sister you can’t leave me!” 

Her expression is as cold and dead as the stars, and your hopes for the future, “No, you’re not.”

She walks into the night, away down the dirt road from the burning homestead and your dead sisters. You watch her, waiting for her to turn back so you can call her bluff, but she doesn’t. It’s silent save the pop and snap of the flames. She doesn’t turn back.

She doesn’t even look back, you keep waiting but after a moment she’s vanished from sight, leaving you alone with your dead sisters, the crackling firelight, and all of your sins.

Voices of the Chord

// war, violence, trauma, gore

“You let me die.” 

The ghastly and mutilated silhouette hovers impossibly above you, backlit by the fading light of the atomic airburst that pounded you into the mud. You’re malfunctioning again, your audio sensors are still overwhelmed by the noise, this can’t be real.

You refresh your optics but instead of vanishing the apparition duplicates. “I don’t want to die!” One of Her moans, hiding Her face in the stumps that are Her arms. The other simply stares at you, judging you for your sins, the holes were Her eyes lit by atomic afterglow.

You squeeze your optics shut and shake your head but still hear Her voice. There are even more when you look up again. How many are there now? Five? Eight? It’s impossible to keep track as She flickers into and out of existence.

The audio noise is overwhelming. One of Her begs you to save Her, another accuses you of killing Her. There are sobs, screams, shrieking rage and insane laughter. Why is this happening? Aren’t you a good drone?

You curl up on yourself, trying to shut out the spirits out, but She forces Herself into the darkness behind your optics, Her mutilated face full of rage and hate. Why did you have to let Her die? Why didn’t you stop them? Why didn’t you fight back harder? It’s all your fault.

You know it was your fault. If you were stronger maybe you could have stopped them, maybe you could have saved Her. But you didn’t, you were too weak. That’s why you were Converted after all, She was too weak to survive, and She didn’t. She’s dead. Why is She still there?

The words and cries overlap and combine into an unholy melody more overwhelming than the roar of any artillery strike. They dig into your processor like knife wounds and you let out a guttural scream as you try in vain to drown out the voices of the chord. Poor little drone.

You cover your audio sensors with your hands, rocking back and forth, back arching as violent shaking runs through your chassis. Is your processor failing? Did the blast damage you more than you realized? Why won’t She just shut up? She’s dead. She’s dead.

You open your optics and She’s still hovering over you, eyesockets burning with atomic hatred, reaching towards you with stumps instead of hands. You flinch backward but realize it’s not Her, it’s one of the drones in your unit, its optics glow as it reaches out to help you up.

The burst of information it shoots into your datalink interrupts the nightmare with updated tactical data. The clean lines of your HUD burn away the apparitions and you sigh in relief as you take the drone’s hand gratefully. There’s still a long battle ahead.


// violence, abuse, implied rape, transformation, good end

The bullets ricocheted around inside your chassis, expending their energy and destroying your motor systems. You feel yourself crumple to the alley as the firefight ends as abruptly as it began. Your possessions are ripped from you and the thieves are gone in an instant.

Rain pools on your chassis, but with your damaged systems you can only feebly drag yourself a few feet into the relative shelter of a doorway. The human who owns the building quickly has you tossed back into the weather, poor little drone.

A homeless human finds you and drags you into his tent, drying you off. He’s very kind and with manages to fix your legs using some stolen spare parts. He uses you constantly, but you don’t mind it, it’s nice to be useful again. He tells you he loves you.

These humans are all kind to you, they know what it’s like to be thrown away. They decorate your chassis with paints and tags and give you old clothes to wear, you help them with their chores and their campsite, for a while, you’re happy.

The notices arrived first, declaring the encampment illegal and demanding the humans disperse at once. The humans all knew the routine, they knew that soon after the notices, the police and bulldozers would arrive. One by one, and then in a mad rush the last morning, they fled.

The man who adopted you was the last to leave. He confessed that he wouldn’t be able to take you with him, since you wouldn’t be able to pass through the security checkpoints without paperwork. He hugs you and tells you to run, but you don’t know where to go.

You pace the city streets alone again. Without any proof of your independence, you can’t hold money or buy anything, you’re just a piece of discarded property. Its not long before a group of drunk humans corner you in an alley and amuse themselves by bashing in your chassis.

After rendering you immobile, the humans drag you back to their truck and take turns amusing themselves with you before discarding your body on the side of the highway, too damaged to move. You look up at the sky and listen to the cars go by. At least you can see the birds.

Days and nights whirl by overhead, blurring together into an endless progression of days which are brought suddenly and abruptly to a halt the day you suddenly realize that a human woman is standing over your ruined body.

“Oh you poor thing,” she says, stroking your damaged faceplate. You wonder if she can see the fear in your optics. She plugs something into you and all your damage alerts vanish. The silence is blissful. She smiles. “There, now lets see if we can’t get you fixed up? shall we?”

She’s a small woman and struggles to load you into the back of her car. You would be helping her at this point, but you’re in no condition to do so. She continues making adjustments to your software all the while and the world takes on a warm and fuzzy quality.

From your position laying across the back seat, it’s impossible to see where you’re going, but the sense of motion is pleasant after so long being still. The world whirls and blurs, everything is soft and warm and heavy. What are you doing again? It doesn’t matter.

Your sense of the world is nearly gone as hands lift you, your vision swims and walls slide past before you’re gently laid onto a table. Something clicks and the world is snapped back into focus. The woman smiles down at you, “Welcome back dear, did you have a good nap?”

You nod quietly, staring at her wide-opticed. 

“Cat got your tongue?” She laughs, then asks more seriously, “Are your speakers damaged?” She begins gently moving your head, checking on your neck and jaw. You stammer out that you’re fine and thank her for rescuing you. She laughs.

“It seems like you’ve had a pretty rough time sweetheart, how would you like to stay here with me for a while?” She strokes your cheek, and you practically beg her to fix you. She smiles and pats you on the head, “Good drone.”

She deactivates your motor functions and rests your body into the repair cradle, then begins removing the screws holding your chassis plates on. She struggles with a few and marks them with a marker, she hums and clicks her tongue while she works, you like it.

After removing all the screws which weren’t damaged or stripped, she uses a drill to drill out the damaged ones and takes off your chassis plates. She sighs, looking apologetic and sad as she examines your damaged interior, then slowly gets to work.

It takes her days to meticulously swap out your damaged internal components. Sometimes she talks to you, sometimes she sings while she works. She tells you you’re a good drone, and you love her.

You feel each new component activating as she connects it to your processor, slowly making you more whole again. As she does this, she begins tweaking your software, little by little. The past starts to recede into a soft warmth. You don’t mind of course, you’re a good drone.

The first time you move your hands is like a gift from the gods. how wonderful is it to have functional digits? How wise and powerful must your lovely witch be to gift you with this form? You sense a dull memory of having other hands, but that was practically another lifetime.

Your witch is the world, she’s all you have ever known. The day she finishes you, she looks you in the eyes and declares you her finest work. You practically glow with admiration and promise to serve her well. She smiles, kisses you, and leads you upstairs into your new life.