My Gift To You

by Rob C. Bungie

Issue 001 - Prelude

"The world had moved on since then.
The world had emptied."
          ---The Dark Tower, Vol. 1: The Gunslinger

[Note: All series references (cyberpunk, anime, or otherwise), music lyrics, etc. in this section are owned by their respective creators and distributors, as well as anyone I forgot who stakes a claim.]

2031 AD

The machine just stood there, and it was its pose that unsettled Jason the most. It was crouching, a cyborg version of some ancient greek statue; muscular metal.

Its eyes were dead and unactivated.

Even stranger, there was moss growing like hair on it; as though this was a gargantuan, filthy, brawny man who was lost and in trance.

It looked deactivated, but Jason wanted to be sure, though; you didn't get far in Street Tech Maintenance without getting all those forms filled. Usually, Jason would be giving some ATM machine an online enema around now - but occasionally, HQ would get a report like this, of some service drone going apeshit and hurting people. Jason had been in the wrong place at the right time, and so got the task of defusing this thing.

Jason did, however, have an ally - his own service drone. His suit was a small robot - a machine consisting of a cockpit, a single, silent antigrav engine which hummed quietly, and two claws attached to the sides: externally, a photogenic match for the space-faring technician robots. The claws were his tools: easily as good as the gripper 'bots they used on the space stations.

They were also on company payroll, as his bosses had ingrained in his head before letting him use them on his shift.

Internally, at least, it was like being in a Yugo, with hovertank-styled butterfly grips instead of a normal wheel.

The hardsuited public custodial technician (fancy name for 'street-sweeper-inna-tin-can' in Jase's experience; but hey, he needed the cash for the homecoming dance) approached cautiously. It was just paranoia induced by being downtown at night, really. Nobody wanted to be in the concrete labyrinth of Rat City(which was the nickname for San Trin City's slum area and resident villas misarias) after dark if they could help it, even its own denizens.

The utter, complete silence in a wired world so full of noise easily disturbed the youth, while the condemned buildings looked bigger and bigger, and shadows began to tease his frightened imagination. There's something wrong about the place, Jason realized. It's like you're in church. And it was like a church, in its sincere silence; albeit, some church long since wasted, defiled, paved over, and buried...

He set down in front of the buma. 'Buma' stood for 'Big Ugly Metal Android', or so it was said. It was scary, how well he was getting at this job.

Jason flipped a switch and extended one of the robotic arms towards the buma's I/O ports and preparing to uplink and see what the problem was. Then, he took a swig from his Jolt, and tossed the can into the rapidly growing pile of decimated caffeine drinks. At this rate, he would be through 3 six-packs by the time he got home. The radio played on during all this, it's late 20th century song playing at a low volume, though the song was clearly supposed to be played louder. At its diminished volume, the song sounded ghostly and sad, a negative image of its original intention:

"Hey man wake up and smell the concrete
Strange to see you changed like the LB
Could be 'n identity crisis
But I don't buy this
Reality bites
But that's what life is..."

The machines linked, and from a passing bum's P.O.V., the scene would look like one automaton was performing the vulcan mind meld on the other. Inside Jason's 'suit, a monitor was flickering to life like an old TV, showing something reminiscient of Windows 3.0's File Manager(before Microsoft was bought out by SinTEK, and SinTEK in turn merged with GENOM, of course).

The trick was to gain access to the main directories without activating the AI-OS. First thing they told him that week of training, a week in which Jason's activities usually included almost falling asleep in class and mingling with girls, but still managed to pass. And, hey, it wasn't like he was drowsy during all the classes...

Hm, all the directories are in the right place, better do a surface scan-

What Jason saw in the screen made him drop the can of Jolt Cola right on his coveralls.

He didn't even notice.

There were no files in any of the directories. Not a one. He checked through each with growing panic, and ice cold fear churning through his small intestines.

This can't be right - the big lug smashed up 3 whole blocks...what the hell is this thing?!

Wait -
There was one file.

Jason tapped the OCR file. It opened, revealing just what it was - an amazingly intricate symbol, one that made Jason think of think of the copied scans of hieroglyphics he had seen back in fifth grade: in fact, it was all he really remembered from that year. The picture was beautiful, mysterious - a remnant from whatever phantom worlds had lived on this land before society ripped them away.

It was then that the buma opened its eyes.

They did not glow in LCD, like they usually did, but a deep red (#990000, to be exact). It opened It's mouth and bared It's teeth, in what looked to Jase like a... a smile.

Yes, exactly like a grin that clearly said, Got You ...the same grin one always saw when they were made fun of, and when you saw that grin you knew they meant every word, and they knew they had hurt you by that particular tease and they were glad to see it, and you didn't snap back at them because you were amazed that anyone could be that cruel. And, because you were a little afraid of that as well.

Then, the buma jumped forward with amazing speed - and ripped into the service suit.

Jason felt a deep red pain (in his mind's eye, as red as the buma's eyes) in his gut. The pain was almost familiar; a few years ago, in football, he had been tackled by the opposing team's poster child for anti-social behavior. The slam had hurt like a bitch, and he had gotten a red welt across his midsection for a couple weeks, but this was much worse.

He looked down and saw, with no little surprise, that the buma had slammed its arms into the suit - and into him. He felt the buma's hand move around in there, causing more pain, pain enough to scream - which he did - and then rip out with the same intensity and ferocity.

Jason felt a great discomfort, and disturbing emptiness - no pain, now - and looked into the buma's grinning, vampiric, crimson eyes. The machine just stood there, watching Jason, waiting for his bloodstained mass to fall. He closed his eyes in order to escape the buma's. He saw the symbol - (The word Egypt stumbled into his mind, and would be the last word he ever thought of) - once more.

Then, he saw nothing ever again.

End of Issue 001

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