It started, as expected, under Manhattan. A thousand radical little engineering startups down there, all clattering away on the coattails of post-Edisonian electricity—one of them had to find something, right? Maybe Old Man Nikola’s notes turned out to be all code, filled with horrible little secrets and recipes for quantum entangled LSD. Maybe all those coils and towers and tentacly apparatus resonated just a bit too well with the standard sized brainbones. Maybe someone actually managed to build the Goddamned analog AI. Maybe the glow got too much for them, and they just all went crazy, everyone. Gun didn’t much care to speculate. Sort of stuff gave him that heebee-jeebees shit. Best to stay out of it, build a seventy foot tall robotic exoskeleton, step on anyone suspicious before they could start, you know, chanting at him or something.
They were chanting now, no doubt about it. Babbling some sort of science at him. Gun liked to think that he and the other five thousand freethinking people left in Formerly-Known-As the Tri-State Area had an uneasy truce with these guys: Gun and his lot got run of the streets and the scrape, and the Teslas got to plan their cunning plans undisturbed, inside the buildings and under the ground. No treaty had been signed, of course, no meeting parleyed. But there was truce in the air, Gun said. You could smell it. It had been implied. Implied by the heartwarming fact that nine times out of every fucking ten, this didn’t happen. So wtf, guys? Where do you get off? It’s not like Gun was stupid. It’s not like his bot wasn’t equipped for just this sort of—JESUS CHRIST GOD FUCK!
How were they getting in?! God, they were coming in through the eyes! “No don’t touch my bones!” Gun shrieked as they clambered into his cockpit, eyes all agrin with bad bad knowledge and their cunning plans. They smelled of cats and chap stick and ozone. Gun thought he heard the squeak of leather shoes beneath their shouting. One grabbed Gun by the lapel of his vintage Armani. Tall, blonde haired man, had a name tag safety-pinned to his chest that said
Father of: 3
Enjoys: water sports
Gun broke the man’s arm in three places and slammed him against the wall. Another one. Gun dodged a left hook, ducked a right hook. He stuck his hands in his pockets and came up with two switchblades that snikted out angrily and flashed in the lamplight. Lunging forward towards blood, he thought he heard a woman’s voice, smooth and bubbling, lilt merrily in from the darkness.
It took Gun forty-five minutes of cutting to kill/drive out all the invaders and lock his bot down for real. The echoey room where they had dragged him and tied him up dripped and thumped with unknown plumbing. The Teslas had left him now, mysteriously, and he breathed heavily. Gun wasn’t worried. They got the jump on him once, but he still had flamethrowers for toes.
He had been walking for about an hour, tireless giant robot legs crunching through the huge tunneling excavations that mazed deep beneath, empty now, with walls somehow shiny in the blackness. He had been walking for about an hour, and there she was. Her bot had no markings, but she stood it a certain way, leaned casually against the concave walls with arms crossed at the wrists, legs crossed at the toes, and he knew she was a girl.
“Girl like you? Place like this?” he asked.
“Ain’t the half of it,” her communication came back. He sensed a certain composure to her diction, and he thought she must be smoking cigarettes in there.
“Wanna get out of here?”
She raised her hand slightly. “Best way is up. I’ve run out of missiles.”
“I never run out of missiles,” Gun boasted and pointed his arm at the ceiling. “What’s your name?”
She told him.
Gun smiled and pulled some triggers.