A Circle of Fate and Pain

by Elliot Bowers

Chapter 1 –The First Rotation

Never mind...my brain-shaped bowl of flan--delicious, precious flan! The shape is appropriate regarding what has occurred. The same is true for what shall occur again. It is therefore very fitting to the procedure. Speaking of procedure, did you calibrate the capacitors? We do not want her brain undergoing the results of electroshock therapy. After all, it is seldom that I have fully sponsored opportunities to work with a true brain born of Zalem! In fact, this is the only fully sanctioned opportunity thus far. Mmm... Gulp!

Now, take this. You over there by the auxiliary keyboard! What are you doing now, Jack? You shall refresh my next two bowls of flan, delicious flan. Do not look so surly. There will be further opportunities for participation in this experimentation.

The experiment commences yet again, and again! And in the end, the results should prove to be as interesting as the beginning. After all, end and beginning shall seem to be especially similar! Or have I said far too much already? That would perhaps damage the data. Or karma shall determine the extent of the data. Yes, it is that button there. I deliberately made the Restart button to be large, red and circular as so one may not miss it given eventualities that may occur.

Note, we utilize the brain of a social deviant and criminal--a human female brain--which has a karmic value may or may not be diminished. The capacitors calibrated and the processors are online. You shall...perform your function, and I shall resume observing the data recorded while also resuming my consumption of this...tender, scrumptious...wonderful flan in a brain-shaped bowl. Mmm..

"Ai-i-a-a-agh!" screamed the girl, suddenly sitting up on the sofa. Her big, gold-colored eyes went bigger on seeing what was reaching for her forehead. She slapped at those metal claws that were trying to take her brain! "No-o-o-o!"

This girl with strangely colored eyes, she was petite and quick--especially since the fear of death added speed and agility to her body! She rolled away from the menacing metal claws and hit the floor--then hopped over the low coffee table. This was followed by the sound of her quick feet pattering as she dashed for a corner of the room—where her hands slapped the wall to keep herself from hitting her head on it. The girl then quickly turned and crouched down into the corner, watching the eyes that watched her.

"Kyrie, stop this crazy stuff right now! You'll run into something and hurt yourself!" screamed a metal-bodied female--a pale-faced sort with a head of straight dark hair, night-colored eyes to match. From the neck down, her feminine body was made of metal parts--metal sections and curves--a fast body that also allowed agility. However, the agility of her well-engineered robotic body was not immediately enough to catch one particularly fast and frightened girl on the first try. For lack of a better name, she was called Sieben.

When it seemed as if the girl in the corner of the living room was set to dash away again, Sieben quickly moved ahead of the anticipated direction. The thing to do was catchKyrie without hurting her. No, Sieben would never hurt Kyrie, would make sure no one would hurt the girl.

Except, Kyrie wasn't listening, her eyes were wide with a nightmare that only she could see. That look of fear made her seem more like a child to be cradled and cared for rather than the young adult she was. Her vaguely playful outfit of shorts and leotard-top made her seem even younger and delicate than she actually was: the shorts leaving her legs bare and exposed, the leotard top clinging close to her torso, exposing her lithe arms. Long, pale-silk hair curtained down from her scalp, the sides of her hair framing her face while the rest cascaded down her back—nearly to her hips. As for why her hair was that color since she was born and why her eyes were that way…

It was because Kyrie was a mutant. She had slight changes in her genetics that made her...different. Luckily, most of the results of the genetic mutation were enough to make her just this side of pretty—eyes that were slightly larger than usual, and long silky hair color of moonbeams, a lean physique with the proportions of a living doll. Also true was how she was a great deal more intelligent from an early age. Genetic mutations could just as easily have made her a savage monster. And with the more disturbing genetic defects she had been born with, that had been fixed with surgery days after her birth. Kyrie was lucky in most ways, even if she did have occasional problems: some days when she was feeling too sick to eat solid foods, or fits of fear or anger when she was too frightened or too violent to deal with. Lucky though she was in many ways, she was also unlucky.

Right now, Kyrie was having another one of those fits where her nightmares of sleep seemed too real. She didn't want to be gripped by metal arms, thinking that someone was out to harm her! "Stay away, you monster of metal! My brain is my own!" she shrieked. "I shall not surrender to your master's mad experiment! I never shall! My brain would be extremely uncooperative. Then where will your master's experiment be! It shall be…" Swish! "No! Release me, monster!"

In that moment, Sieben had already made her move. She made two machine-fast steps and wrapped her arms around Kyrie while the girl was distracted by her own talk. Of course the girl didn't just accept being held and began struggling in the metal-armed grip. "Stop it, Kyrie!" shouted the metal-bodied female. "Like, nobody here is a monster, okay? So cool it, will you! It was just a nightmare Just a nightmare!" Kyrie only squirmed some more in response. Oh no. I don't want to hurt her, but I don't want to let her go...

"Monsters, all of you!" screamed Kyrie as the robotic arm-hold remained firm--seemed to tighten. "Your master wishes for the dissection and obliteration of my brain! Who are you to harm people for the sake of experimentation? I want to live as myself!"

Sieben absolutely hated it whenever Kyrie was like this. She said into Kyrie's right ear, "Like, ple-e-ease! Please don't be like this! Look around. Nobody is here to take your brain. You're in your very own living room, for goodness' sake. Just...look!"

In her struggles, some of Kyrie's own hair had fallen across her right eye to obscure her vision. Yet she was still able to do what was suggested. She looked...around... Indeed, this was her very own living room. There was the low metal coffee table set in front of the sofa at the center of the room. A bookshelf was against the right-side wall. At the left wall was a shelf with entertainment machinery--the machinery Kyrie herself had made with parts bought from Scrap Iron City. "So... It's okay," said Sieben, her voice soothing. Kyrie's trembling eased. "I'd never let anybody hurt you, never. As long as I'm still alive, I'll keep you safe."

With those words said, Kyrie was coming back to herself--a return of sense of self and place. Her house, yes... This is home. Home, here, it was a converted two-story industrial structure set in a bordering strip of land, between the "Scrapyard" region and Scrap Iron City. If a person walked out the back-door, they could look beyond the fence-off back yard to see the hills and mountains of metal parts and such--a landscape of metal junk stretching off into the horizon, more hills and mountains of metal with Zalem up above and far away in the distance. Going out the front door, a person could see the rectangular and jutting cityscape of Scrap Iron City--where there were machines and people, smokestacks billowing smoke from machine-buildings. That was where she went with Sieben most every day--going into Scrap Iron City for fun and for trade.

The difference between this place and any other place was how this place is home, memories to go with it. Kyrie had lived here all of her life, having grown up here and stayed here even after her father went away. Even then, the girl carried on the salvage trade that her father had practiced--this trade of finding decent machine-parts among the mountains of metal junk and selling them in the city. It was easy to do since she helped her father with the trade by fixing some of the things scavenged from the wastelands. She was just so smart with machines...

Kyrie was somehow able to teach herself how to read technical manuals from Scrap Iron City, along with even bigger discarded books said to be from Zalem. Scratchy recordings on recording machines helped connect the spoken words with the written ones. The books were primarily technical, and so Kyrie's knowledge grew in that direction. Repairing and even improving the scavenged parts and machinery was how Kyrie was able to add to the value of what her father found--and what she would continue finding. In fact, being good with machinery had allowed her to repair Sieben--the female replicate who was now holding and comforting her, hugging her. "I am fine. Just as you say everything is fine," said Kyrie to her metal-bodied friend.

"Okay. I'll let you go...so long as you don't run into stuff and bump your head," said Sieben. "Not that I'm after your brain or anything." That said, she opened her arms—let go. "You had me worried there."

She watched as Kyrie managed to stand again. Except Kyrie was still quivering a little, her eyes still dancing a little with worry. There were still lingering traces of fear and worry within her… Sieben still wanted to hug Kyrie and help make her worry and pain go away. She moved to approach with arms outspread…

Except the girl put up her right hand, a stop gesture. "No... No... I truly I am okay. Why is it that you stare so?" To prove how much she had recovered, she spread her arms—then did a spritely ballerina's spin, a pirouette on one foot. Stopping her spin, she put both feet to the floor and lowered her arms. "Do you see? I am feeling steady enough to do that. Now, if you please, do allow me to my bedroom as so I may refresh my clothing and bathe for a second time this day. I am to at least make some form of effort to look more presentable in light of today's business with Mr. Okotonz..."

"Yeah, the city," agreed Sieben, lowering her arms. "I've got my outfit ready. So I'll be ready when you are." There was no need for a hug, then. She then watched as Kyrie walked past her to go for the stairs.

Kyrie's bedroom was upstairs on the third floor of this building. Sieben herself lived in a side-room on the second floor. That, most all the other rooms in this building were filled with automated machine-tools, spare parts and other equipment that Kyrie used for her various activities with machinery: repairs, experiments and maintenance. This living room was one of the few rooms not with machinery along the walls.

Sitting in the corner a moment more, Sieben went over to the sofa and coffee table to pick up the wet cloth she had used to cool Kyrie's feverish forehead. That item in hand, she also picked up the metal bowl filled with cold water--then carrying both these items to the kitchen built by Kyrie's father and improved by Kyrie herself. There was a small water-sink and faucet against a wall and next to the round kitchen table. This house--and its kitchen--had been kept neat and clean with morning bouts of scrubbing and maintenance.

The water in the bowl was poured into the sink, down the drain, before Sieben turned on the tap—to start washing and rinsing out the bowl itself. The water coming out of the faucet came up from pipes connected to a water-tank in the first-level basement. It was purified water from one of the huge pipes that went underground towards Scrap Iron City. Sieben didn't know the technical details of the stuff, but Kyrie and her father had rigged up some kinds of machines to the water-tank to keep the water pure. It had something to do with catalysts, plasma-heat and stuff, something like that… Sieben didn't know. Kyrie said that the water purification machinery she refurbished was probably once part of a space-ship. The same was true for the machines that generated electrical energy for the rest of this house--also in the basement.

About Kyrie helping... No, Sieben didn't forget. It was Kyrie who helped her after that fight with that replicate. Sieben was almost totally destroyed--her body a wreck and shutting down. The next time she opened her eyes, there was a view of Kyrie standing next to that metal table in her home-made laboratory: a miracle, since the other replicate was rumored to have a bio-chip brain copied from Zalem's best TUNED Agents as a template. Sieben's own bio-chip brain was copied by a similar process. But Sieben wasn't a psycho killer-thing like that other replicate--not a killer! Sieben liked to be nice to people and didn't really want to fight. But that replicate did want to fight and loved fighting, liked to see the pain in others.

After the defeat, Kyrie saved Sieben's life... Well, a person could say that if a metal-bodied replicate could be called "alive." Now, staying with Kyrie was safer than living in Scrap Iron City itself--living among the machine-buildings and dense city streets with all of those down-trodden and sad people, some of whom were violent. If a person wasn't living in the poverty of being a machine-worker or something like that and barely earning enough money to live with, there was the fast-and-dangerous life of a bounty hunter or Motorball player. Other than the rare and occasional trouble with mutants from the mountains of junk or from the city, Kyrie's house was a nice and comfortable place to be. Kyrie also needed a bodyguard since her father went away. Since Kyrie's mother died when the girl was born, that left her essentially without a family.

As Sieben finished washing the metal bowl with her own metal hands and washing out the soft square of cloth, she had another moment of concern and worry about Kyrie. If something was to happen to herself--to Sieben--then Kyrie would be all alone in this building-house. That girl was very smart and clever with machines. But when it came to dealing with most people, she didn't have the same kind of success. Mutants were still looked at with hatred. While Kyrie was generally left alone, there were still times when heads turned to look whenever she was in the city—because she was a mutant.

People in Scrap Iron City were always on the lookout for mutants. Mutants, those were things born different and deformed. In a world where people with electromechanical bodies of all sizes and forms were just as acceptable as people with real bodies, mutant meant monstrosity. Even the word mutant was something grotesque and wrong. That was because mutants were very often grotesque monsters. Sometimes, if the severity of their deformities didn't kill them, they often grew up to maim, to kill. There were times when mutants were even killed just as they were born even if killing was one of the few laws of the city, laws enforced by the bounty hunters who were paid for taking the heads of declared criminals. The fear and hatred of mutants--stupid, ugly, violent, monstrous mutants--did exist strongly enough to make people kill their own children.

Kyrie wasn't at all like what people said about mutants. She was not one of those monsters that occasionally cropped up in neighborhoods to hurt and kill people. She was not violent and ugly. Kyrie was very smart and kind a person. And she is pretty--her slight mutation giving her delicate and unusual beauty. Kyrie was the opposite of what most people thought of the word mutant.

Why did Kyrie choose to remain living in a lonely converted building just beyond the unofficial border of Scrap Iron City--away from the more habitable part of this region? Being different was why. With her big pretty eyes being that color and her hair being moonsilk-white, Kyrie's unusual beauty still made her different.

Still washing the things in the kitchen sink, Sieben began to wring water from the square of cloth as she continued wringing her thoughts of Kyrie. But it was just unfair to see Kyrie alone as an outcast--because Sieben was also something different. Sure, having a body of metal parts wasn't rare. Lots of people had to undergo body replacement with synthetics because of limb-severing injuries, flesh-rotting toxins in the environment, things things like that. But Sieben wasn't really a person. She was different inside.

Nothing of Sieben was human, never had been human. Many of those people over in Scrap were cyborgs. They were once flesh-bodied, born with real brains in real bodies before becoming metal-bodied. There was not a brain inside Sieben's head. There was instead a thick, hexagonal computer chip.

It meant that Sieben maybe wasn't a real person—certainly not her robotic body, not even her bio-chip brain. Having a human brain meant that people could call themselves people. Even those stupid, repetitive Deckmen of the Factory buildings and those buzzy voiced Netmen had components of human brains as parts of their computer circuitry--even though people considered Deckmen and Netmen "robots."

Sieben's mind was never human--never had been, never will be. That made hera robot even if she just liked to think herself as a person and get along with things. Just pretending oneself to be human was how cyborgs got by. And there were times like these when Sieben couldn't pretend to be what she wasn't: a real person. Though Sieben knew that a human template had been used to model her mind, that did not make her human.

But Kyrie was human—beautifully human. "Mutant" or not, Kyrie was human--and very smart. Sieben had seen her do some very amazing things with what seemed like junk. With Kyrie's miraculous skill, old and broken machinery from the mountains of metal junk were suddenly made to work miracles. Her hands hands looked delicate but were very dexterous. All the machinery in this house was made and maintained, piece by piece, by Kyrie's doings with tools. The girl's brilliance with machinery was sometimes even a little frightening. How could such a delicate-looking girl with tender-looking hands do such amazing things with huge machines?

Never mind that. This replicate-girl rinsed and wrung out the square cloth once more before shutting off the tap. Then both the metal bowl and square of cloth went into a washing-drying machine next to the sink--also said to have been from a space-ship of long ago. Except, unlike most of the salvaged machinery, Kyrie said that the washing-drying machine came from a space-ship meant to destroy cities on Earth. Except now that spaceship was long gone: some of its parts used to make this house-building a cleaner place.

Kyrie didn't care about that, though. Machinery was what it was. And sometimes, machines are more reliable than people. People can be too narrow-minded and prejudiced. People can also be cruel. They can be cruel to others who are not like they are.

2.

Later, after making sure that the kitchen was clean, Sieben went to her room on the third floor. There she put on the outfit she planned on wearing to the city before coming back downstairs to wait for Kyrie. Now her outfit was one that revealed the outline of her body while concealing the metal surfaces: an outfit of tight jeans-pants and high-necked sleeveless top of elastic material. She put on a light jacket to conceal her arms. Gray boots went nearly up to her knees. Gloves went over her hands, and a purse went over her left shoulder. Her face was one of synthetic flesh, and the dark silky hair radiating from her scalp looked real: no need to cover that. Not that Sieben was particularly ashamed of not being human, it was just that she sometimes liked wearing outfits that didn't advertise what she was and let people see beauty rather than exposed metal.

When Kyrie came down the stairs, she ws dressed somewhat more casually for this trip to the city: another pair of jeans-shorts, along with a close-fitting sleeveless top. Like Sieben, Kyrie also put on a light sort of jacket—except she had rolled the sleeves to her elbows. Her long hair was out and cascading down the back of her jacket like a silken curtain of beauty. Though her jacket was unzipped and open, it was still able to conceal the additional pockets sewn inside that held some spare credits. More credits were in the messenger-bag--along with small cyborg parts that she would sell and trade in the city. Slung over her left shoulder was a messenger bag--something resembling a cross between a large purse and book-bag. Sturdy little sneakers on her feet completed the outfit.

The fact that Kyrie looked more dressed to go for a jog or walk around the house did not matter much to her. The girl tended not to care too much about clothing style--usually going for cut-off shorts and short-sleeved tops. After all, it was only Sieben who saw her most of the time.. But also true was how Kyrie had the sort dollish and delicate good looks that could make even the most beat-up clothes look like some kind of new fashion. "Are you ready to go?" she asked Sieben, adjusting the strap of the messenger bag.

Later, with both of them standing outside the house-building's front door, Kyrie used the metal keypad set next to the entrance. Her fine fingers dialed in a certain nine-digit number in a certain way. Clack-clack... Dialing in that combination made for a series of heavy motor-whirring and latch-clacking noises from within the house itself and at the back. It was the sound of the house locking itself.

"The house is safe," announced Kyrie. They then turned to walk beyond the metal fence, closing the fence, the stepping onto the sand-and-loam path that led off to Scrap Iron City in the distance. It was about a kilometer's walk--not much when one usually walked everywhere one went. More easy was the long path--an even and sturdy path while most of the field had small humps where grass grew with dandelion-flowers. That, and there were some occasional chunks of metal junk and old engine-sized machines half-buried in the dirt. Fast afternoon-time winds blew across the flat expanse of land, the sound of it accompanying them with their idle conversation along the way. Then again, the two were not as alone as they believed...

Something fluttered high above the scene--something that was a small red dumpy shaped thing against the blue sky. Or a person could try staring and squinting at it... On closer inspection, there was blurriness just above the blot-shaped thing. That blurriness was actually the rapid motion of little wings fluttering rapid-fire to keep it up in the air. At the center of its body was a very large eyeball that stared at the two young ladies who were heading off to that jumbled city-scape in the distance. They were steadily walking along one of several slightly sandy paths made by scavengers--paths that crossed this wide plain, paths made by scavengers who went to and from Scrap Iron City proper.

The eyeball strained to zoom in even closer. So staring, the eyeball was looking at Kyrie--zoomed in just close enough to see the petite girl, seeing her from bottom to top: The eye-focus kept her in sight from the soles of her sneakers, to the lengths of her bare legs, the blue of the shorts covering her hips, and the color of her little jacket over her back and shoulders, up to the top of her head of moonsilk-pale hair. Her hair, it was such long and pretty hair that fluttered carelessly in the breezes of the open plain. The petite girl's head occasionally turned in talking to the somewhat taller one.

Who was the other? It was a young lady was in tight pants and a similar jacket, with a head of silky dark hair the color of raven's wings—if raven-birds had not become extinct, that is. She also had a more blatantly sexy shape to her physique: tight clothing clinging to the body, with hair cut short to draw more attention to her body. But the eyeball only caught sight of the dark-haired one in the periphery. The dark-haired girl was not the center of the flying eyeball's focus.

No, its focus was on the one that looked smaller and younger. The flying eyeball itself had no feelings of judgment regarding beauty. Except, the one operating the flying eyeball did--the person operating the device with illegal hardware having such a love and obsession with the petite girl. And the eyeball kept staring as long as it dared without coming too close to the city. The flying eyeball much preferred to watch and see instead of being seen.

At the jumbled end of the sand-and-loam path was a section of cracked but solid-paved road that went between two concrete buildings, the buildings each three stories high--one of the small smokestacks puffing out steamy smoke from the top as glowing neon signs at street level made for points and places of florescent brightness--even in daylight. That "smoke" was actually cooking fumes from a pub—one of many eating and drinking places for social gatherings.

The rest of the road itself went left and right, going through this city-border neighborhood: a small neighborhood of storefront businesses that included shops, clubs, restaurants and—of course—trading posts. The trading posts being where parts scavengers could do some extra business before joining the rest of the sort that hung around this place. Why not, since there was plenty to do…

It was mid-afternoon, and there were plenty of people outside and in the store-front places themselves. Much of the crowd here worked at night deeper within Scrap Iron City, their "work" being the support-professions built around the insane-fast-dangerous sport of Motorball. The bustling noise of conversation was mixed with occasional sounds vehicular traffic and people everywhere--cyborgs and humans with varying degrees of metal-body replacement. There were also some sounds of tunes on the wind, musicians playing indoors. There was no sign that said, "Welcome to Tire-Wire Alley." Yet here it is.

Tire Wire Alley was about people. While others came here for visits and miscellaneous business, Tire Wire Alley was primarily about Motorball people. Some came for business like selling salvaged parts or visit the clubs where people danced to aggressive rock or sat down to listen to the more sedate tones of more beautifully sedate melodies. Motorball players came here for the boisterous moral excesses available: drink some drinks, take in some loud music, go on dates with some pretty people, good times, good times! The coaches, they came here to talk up business and scout around for other coaches to talk with. Mechanics came to deal with parts and keep up with their trade. Some enthusiastic fans and amateurs came by from deeper within Scrap Iron City at times to look around--looking out of place as the wide-eyed looks on their faces labeled them newbies.

As the two girls stepped along the sidewalk (a somewhat uneven sidewalk), getting into the flow of walking traffic of the place, Sieben could hear the beats and faint singing melody of songs being sung across the street—music on the wind mixed with the bustle of activity. Sieben noticed that when they stepped by one club, Kyrie began nodding her head in time to the melody coming from out the open doors.

The pale-haired girl then looked sideways and up at Sieben--smiling. "We shall surely pass time in that establishment upon completion of today's transaction. It sounds new and interesting. A change from the usual. What say you?"

"Sure! Why not!" agreed Sieben. She then felt a delicate hand clasping her left one… Sieben clasped her fingers together. Now they were walking hand-in-hand. Going into the city was when the replicate-girl had to be doubly sure to act as a bodyguard. But moments and gestures like this was the pale-haired girl's way of saying, It is okay. You are more to me than merely protection.

Mr. Okotonz's shop was one street over, across the street. The two girls turned to stand at the edge of the sidewalk in waiting for a break in the sudden series of vehicles driving by. A few trucks motored by before the two would cross the street. Some of those trucks were open in the back, the back-payload area full of big boisterous cyborgs who were somehow louder than the sound of vehicular traffic. They were Motorball players (with a capital M), here to have a good time before the dangerous excesses of Motorball tonight. Eat, drink and be merry, for tonight we run the circuit, was the attitude

When those few vehicles passed, the two girls made their way across. The shop itself was one among many shops and businesses that catered to the mechanics-and-Motorballers culture of Tire Wire Alley: a one-story storefront sort of place with bare bricks and barred-over glass windows to look inside. Over the door was a cut-out metal sign in the shape of a large, double-sided wrench with Okotonz written out in bright florescent letters that glowed an electric bright-blue above the bustle of sidewalk pedestrian traffic. The double-sided wrench shape of the sign meant this shop was also a trading post as well as a shop: the balanced-wrench sign recognizable even to people who couldn't read too well. Even if a person couldn't read some of the rare technical manuals sold in the trading post, the store was there and labeled.

Oh, but Mr. Okotonz's shop was more than just a typical scavenger's trading post! That was why Kyrie, and her father before her, had done business here. He was probably the only one in Tire Wire Alley who knew where and how to sell the premium and rare-quality items that Kyrie brought in. Sieben opened the door for Kyrie to go in.