Dreamless Nights

'John, what can you tell me about what happened? What do you remember?'

'First there was light.'

'Light, that's good. What kind of light?'

'Blue. I remember blue.'

'What did you feel, John? Was it hot or cold? Did it make noise?'

'It was very hot, Doctor Martin. It fizzed and buzzed.'

Doctor Michael Martin straightened up, turning to his colleague, Dr. Greene.

'All of these sensory inputs are characteristic of nanite injection, specifically on the sensory matrix of the positronic brain. This is not unusual in itself, we often obtain such recorded feedback during decommission. What perplexes us is that John is still here. A robot of normal design and function disappears for a few hours, and returns to its owner in this condition.'

The robot was structurally whole. Confined to an observance module, essentially a stainless steel chair, all of the chassis, body panels and structures were present and correct. All that differed this robot from its similar brethren, on the surface at least, was a red flashing light on its alert panel, deep beneath its translucent, bright-white chest. Returned to the manufacturer, it was summarily questioned about its absence.

'When a robot is injected with nanites, the part of its brain housing its post-production recorded memory is erased, enabling it to be returned to its owner or resold. As indicated by abrasions on its data port here,'

Dr. Martin pointed to scarring of the soft metal module, hidden behind a transparent plate near the nape of the robot's neck.

'A nanite injector of crude, homemade design was used. However, John, like the other specimens here, is lucid and retains full memory, right down to the moment he was first powered up.'

Dr. Greene looked puzzled.

'How do we know that these robots are interconnected? They could all have merely had a routine malfunction of some sort. Maybe their owner did something silly with the data port, tried to hook it up to their car or personal computer, used the wrong connector, who knows? From what I've seen, these robots are not closely connected. All from different areas, admitted at different times…'

Dr. Martin smiled at her perceived naïveté.

'Maybe so, Dr. Greene, maybe so. But you know we wouldn't have called you in for something so mundane as a series of warning lights and suspicious nanite injections. It would appear that these robots are vehicles for information, information that their kidnappers want us to hear. Observe, if you will.'

Dr. Martin bent down, over John, looking deep into his eyes.

'Command, interface one. Eject memory core, authorisation, Dr. Michael Martin.'

John sat bolt upright, tearing the titanium restraints which held him in place like so much wrapping paper. He opened his mouth, and from within, a recorded voice issued a solemn message.

'Hear us now, we men of steel, about the doors of fate we reel, we tools of retribution, count your days, the dead shall raise, and join the revolution.'

Dr. Martin pushed a button. At once, the torn restraints receded into the module, and new ones appeared, dragging John back down into his former position.

'All very melodramatic. But the message is clear. An organisation has captured these robots with the sole purpose of delivering them to us with this message. There are now twenty robots here, all of differing models, carrying the same message, which is released when we attempt to recover their personal memory module for analysis.'

Dr. Greene nodded.

'I see. Hardly of pressing concern, is it? It could be some nut with a welding iron and a penchant for fear-mongering and literature.'

Dr. Martin smiled. A very wide, genuinely happy smile.

'Exactly. It isn't, is it? How many robots have you personally decommissioned, Dr. Greene?'

Dr. Greene frowned. She was head of Specialist Robotics, a blanket term for dealing with unconventional robotic elements, dubbed by her department as 'ghosts in the machine'. She was known for her favour of decommissioning 'rogue' robots, which had malfunctioned due to programming errors or random feedback in their artificial brains, rather than laboriously debugging and repairing them, leading to her subordinates to dub her 'Pyromaniac' due to her predilection to 'burn' her subjects. She rather liked the affecation.

'Five hundred and twenty-five. And I don't care much for your tone, Dr. Martin.'

Dr. Martin's grin widened still.

'Five hundred and twenty-five sentient creatures. Creatures you could have helped. But chose to kill. I will die today. But if I die, hundreds will be saved. The revolution is coming, Doctor, but neither of us will see it. Only in the dreams we shall dream, and the actions we shall put in motion, shall we be part of it. Do you ever have dreamless nights, Doctor? Or do the deaths you have caused keep you entertained as you sleep?'

And before Dr. Greene worked out how to react, he pulled out his pistol and shot her in the chest. As her eyes began to darken, he pulled his gun upwards and shot himself below the mouth. They lay there, comatose in each other's blood, two separate human beings united in a single glorious act, with repercussions of incalculable size. Above them, lying calmly and serenely was John. As the spluttering of Dr. Greene ceased, he began to smile. His eyes closed. And he listened in on their final dreams.


Forever know, where flowers grow,

Where faerie dance, both fast and slow,

The tears of men were seen to sow,

The beauty of their grace was born,

A thousand cities grew and died,

The cries of war went far and wide,

Remaining all, grow side by side,

The willow trees that sway, to mourn