10 June 2017

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The forced groan of exhaust that squeaked through the rotted pipe coated his aching lungs. To be an air scrubber in the toxic atmosphere of Railtown was a death sentence without regular maintenance. After two more weeks of this, though 56Raul2080, he’d need a complete overhaul.

Visibility in the human spectrum down here was zero as rainbows of fog and smoke from the low-level factories poured out, some heavier and spiraling down like waterfalls and some rising. Most of it drifted like the bands of cloud on a gas giant, disturbing in swirls by constant passing traffic. Bullets through curtained sheets of gas. A demonstration of chaos.

The sensory equipment of 56Raul saw through the smoke. He saw the archipelagos of untethered islands floating in the smoke, the long spacetoucher buildings girdering up into the sky. They had no windows down this low. Nothing to see out of windows this low aside from smears of pastel death and besides, the corrosive gases would eat through the transparent materials or at least scour the outside until they were frosted over opaque.

56Raul’s metal frame bobbed through the air, his wide mouth scooping in huge gulps of gas. It was sorted and compressed into interior channels. Most of the chambers in his storage stomachs were extremely volatile. One spark or puncture and he’d most likely explode. It was hazardous work down here.

He was paid in valuable Acoin, though, a currency for the silicate. One of the few freedoms the artificial had was being able to participate in the online economy. 56Raul, being so huge and weighing so much, would never have fit through the doorways of a regular meatwalker store. But once he got back to his station bay, he could buy time in the sim farms or rent episodes of good shows or even order possessions. The hardware was the most useless. It all melted or sponged in the atmosphere down here eventually. No point in cosmetic paint jobs or add-ons either for the same reason.

The machines had an artform of bringing have toys and not-sentient machines down here and letting them melt in interesting ways. 56Raul was no exception. Currently he had an Eiffel Tower made of human toothbrushes slowly bending Dali-like down to the floor. 56Rauls had seen all of these references online and enjoyed making sculptures of things long-dead, things he’d never interfaced with his own cameras. It was a way of proving the ephemeral to himself.

In two hours, he’d be back in his bay. One of the hundreds of pod bays honeycombed into the thousands of his parent company’s scrubber garages, scattered through the fog like seeds in the meat of a melon. He’d order some screamgrind off the charts to lullaby him into standby, hook himself into the purge hoses to unload his stomachs into the different output conduits for processing, and see if his shipment of purple left-handed toothbrushes had arrived yet.

But for now, he coasted, radar blasting the opaque oceanworld of smoke outside of his shell, wary of traffic, eating and scrubbing the thick soup of death, feeling happy and alive and content.



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