Neon Genesis Evangelion: Nobody Dies: Six AIs, One Continent

Chapter 1: Routine


The technical was burning. Its long abused engine had overheated, and now flaming oil, from the engine, dripped out, to pool around the vehicle. With a whoompth, first one of the front tires, then the other, ignited. Black smoke, choking and toxic, joined the spires from the mainstay of the car, reaching high into the eternally thunder-cloud filled skies of Australia. Despite the omnipresent bruise-coloured clouds, though, it seldom rained, and the sweltering heat baked the rocks and ground just as hard as it had when it used to be eternal sunlight.

The back door of the camper van opened, and a man half-fell, half-slithered out, one hand pulling a limp child along after him, a crying baby carried in a sling around his neck. He dragged them to safety, uncaring of the fact that his hat was smouldering, then deposited them together on the dust-covered road, rushing back with the last of his strength, to try to grab the last of the vital supplies. Water, packets of dried food, a machete, a bolt-action rifle, and what looked like a wooden shield, with a car battery strapped to it. The tools cascaded out of his arms, to fall next to the older child, even as the man collapsed, his sunglasses shattering on the impact with the ground.

Well. This was the end for him. Their little town, in the remnants of the mine, gone. Blown up. His wife, dead, before she could even get close enough. Old friends, all dead. Old enemies, all dead.

There. There! On the horizon, something moving in the mirages and the heat haze. God, he hoped it was someone, and just wasn't a hallucination of his dehydrated, burned mind.

The convoy approached, as he tried to unscrew the cap of the water, to try to get his unconscious son, and squalling infant daughter to drink anything, his head spinning. Squinting in the strange light which has been all which he had known since the year 2000, his heart fell.

Oh. He was going crazy. And they were going to all die out here, first him, then his children.

Because he couldn't believe that there was a column of cars, all painted green or blue and white, led by a spider-tanked tank-thingie, and a bunch of little girls riding on the top of the armoured column. That was insane. For one, no-one could even build things like that, even the crazy Texan who'd been in the mine, bought over before the disaster.

He was dead now. Just like all the others.

The man blinked. At some point, he'd collapsed, cheek pressed against the red sand which covered the hard, hot tarmac of the road. His vision was dimming, the colours fading to grey. And he could hear a muttering in the distance.

"... uh, where's my talkin' to people body. Talkin' to people body, talkin' to people body. Oh, yep, back of the tank. Gotta keep it neat, after all. Can't let my good dress get ruined."

There was a crowd of little girls surrounding him, filling his vision. And from what he could hear, they were behind him as well, not just in front of him, but he couldn't gather the strength.
"Ooooh! Look. A baby!" he heard someone say, but it was an odd choral effect. Probably due to his injuries, the man considered. And looking at them... well, they looked identical. Except... they didn't. They looked like they might have once been identical, but damage and wear had left them all different.

Oh, and the fact that some of them were just metal skulls, red cybernetic eyes glowing, sharp teeth glinting in the light. That obviously wasn't real.

The crowd parted without a word, to let one in a red dress skip forwards, who squatted down next to him. This one looked more human, with pale skin, blue hair, and red eyes, but in his fading vision, there was something artificial about the whole thing.

"Heee~e~ey," the one squatting next to him said. "So, who are ya, then?"

Oh well, the man decided. He might as well act like it was real, because if it was real, he might save his children, and get a warning out, while if he was just hallucinating, he would die anyway.

"Please..." he croaked. "Look... l-look after them. The... the b-b..." he wet his lips, tongue feeling like sandpaper, "the b-b-blue ones came. They blew up the town. Not just bandits. So... cr-cr-cross. Us and the... others. All... dead. Light... f-f-f-fire. Look... after... them..."

And with that said, he closed his eyes, and died.

"Uh... okay?" said the little girl. "But what happened with the light and the fire and the... oh, riii~iight. You're dead."

She was promptly knocked down by the little boy tackling her in a ferocious, desperate, needy hug. All around her, the other little girls and cars and tanks aimed their multitude of weapons at him, some popping out of concealed places in their carapaces, before lowering them again, as she realised that it was no threat.

And the girl inhabiting the shell realised she couldn't get up without hurting the boy. She directed another of her shells to pick up the baby, lift it off the hot, sandy ground, and then paused. What to do?

"Uh... guys?" Una bounced the signal internally, up into the satellite which connected the distributed communication nodes of the AI network which was currently... let's just call it "Yui-Related Entity"ing its way across Australia. "I've kinda got babies here. An' the adults are dead." She paused. "I think you'll want to be here, so, um, I'm freein' up some bodies for ya." As she said that, three of the little girl robots went limp.

A pause, then one, then another straightened up. "I am assuming direct control," intoned one, in a notably more refined voice.

"Yep, what she said," added the other. "Heeee~ey~ Una! What's up?"

"Heee~e~ey! And stuff's up," the first figure gestured with her free hand, taking in the burning car. "I mean, look at all this!"

"Awwww. Why'd ya have to go and do that, Una?" The robot crossed its arms. "I could have used that van! And... awwww, the ammo will be totally wrecked. You knoo~oow we're getting low on .50cal BMG, don'cha?"

The first, and original robot glared at her sister. "It wasn't me, Duae," she said. "They're not bandits... 'least, I don't think they were. They were like it when I found them. An'... an' ... an' what'd you mean, we're getting low on .50 cal?"

The second of the newcomers tilted her head. "The central supply of that calibre has been depleted notably by Tres, Ivy and my brother's little trip into the Outback," she explained. "We have not found any fresh supplies of that specific calibre in thirteen days. At present consumption, even if those three do not come back, we will only have sufficient supplies for five more days of routine operations."

"That sucks," said Una, slumping down


"02-Ef an' me were trying to work out how to solve some of our problems with that stuff when you called us," Duae added.

"Yeah, and I'm totally sure 02-Ef wasn't having a tea party with my refugees," Una said, with a glance at the AI shell which wasn't inhabited by her sister.

"I still am," the little girl said, shamelessly. "It isn't as if I cannot split my attention between multiple shells, after all. And I believe I have made a breakthrough in the instruction of both manners and elocution." She raised one hand. "And, yes, I am also trying to sift through internet archives to find old pages on Australia, to find where potential resource caches are, to pre-empt your next question."

"An' she's helping me repair one of Ivy's spider tanks, too," Duae added. "So, come on, Una, we're kinda busy here."

One of Una's hands collided with one of her faces. "Ivy broke another tank. Awwww, Ivvvv~vvvvy!" She shook her head. "Well, anyway, like, as I said, I found them. The adults are a bit dead, and we've got one," the eye of the shell still pinned by the crying boy focussed, with a whir, "five, maybe six year old boy, and one girl baby."

"We have babies?" asked 02-Ef, curiously. The others squinted at her for a moment, and then shrugged. Both her and her brother had that speech impediment. Neither knew where it came from.

"Yep. So... what do babies need to keep them alive?" Una asked. "I mean, we've gotta take them back, but... yeah. What 'till them?"

Duae leaned in. "Well, um, have we tried changing its oil?"

02-Ef shook her head confidently. "No, we just need to make sure they have a connection to sufficient processing capacity, and they will be fine." She paused. "Actually, wouldn't it be easier to just save both of them to disk, and then load them into a new shell when we get back?"

All around, Una robots facepalmed. With both hands. "Why'd I have to get both of you two, huh? Humans don't work like that! Arrrrrgh! Even Ivy knows that, stupid!"

"Yes, well," 02-Ef crossed her arms, "they... they should," she said, sullenly.

Duae nodded. "Yep." She turned her head slowly. "Yep. So, right, if we slowly replace all of the bits of the brain with their computer-versions, we can then totally do it, and no-one will have to die ever!"

Una formed a circle around the two children. "No, neither of ya are getting near them. Just... just go get a link to..." she managed, before 02-Ef interrupted.

"Ahah! I have found something. Yes, it says here that human babies feed of a thick nutrient substance known as milk, which is released from the mammary glands of an adult female. It is right in fat, protein, and calcium, which are all required for the growth of a healthy human being." She frowned. "And lots of other animals produce milk, too; it appears to be the conventional method for mammals to feed their offspring." Another pause. "Although, if you feed a human infant goat's milk, it can cause megaloblastic anemia, which is caused by inhibition of DNA synthesis in red blood cell production and is characterized by many large immature and dysfunctional red blood cells, called megaloblasts, in the bone marrow and also by hypersegmented or multisegmented neutrophils." And she paused again. "Although sometimes megaloblastic anemia can be caused by Azathioprine, which is a drug which in-in-in-in-in-inhibitssssssssssss..." and the speakers cut out, as the AI vacated the shell.

The two Reego glanced at each other. "Well," Duae said, "she's got stuck on that site again. She won't do anything until she gets bored of following links. She's kinda got that problem, yep."

"Yep," Una said. "'Least she dropped out of my body," she added, speaking through the mouth of the recently vacated shell. "You know, I saw some kangaroos coming in. And they weren't firebreathing or anything. They're mammals, right?"

Duae nodded. "So we go take their milk? Makes sense. Although 02-Ef did say that you can't feed human babies goat's milk."

"Yeah, but kangaroos aren't goats," Una pointed out, reasonably. "So, let's go get it. I'll stick the boy," who, by now, was clinging to the hand of the one metre high robot with absolute terror, "and the baby in one of my cars, and we'll go get the milk."

"Yeah, makes sense," Duae shrugged. "See ya."

And with that said, the body went limp, only to start up again, as Una resumed control.


Somewhere outside the desolate, storm-covered wasteland that was Australia, an exponentially number of requests began to hit the DNS servers, as, suddenly, Australia began to generate a web presence which... well, was still much, much reduced over what it had been in 2000, when civilisation there had died, but was a lot larger than it should have been.

Sysadmins all across the world had already begun to talk of "The Austalian Haunting". On black IRC channels and hidden, user-locked forums, a mythology had begun to accumulate, of the ghosts of dead Australians, still browsing the internet from beyond the grave.

The secondary opinion, however, from those who didn't believe in ghosts, was that it was all NERV's fault. Mind you, the sort of people who blamed NERV for the Australian Haunting also blamed them for the internet phenomenon of Ree-Rolling, the practice of linking people to videos of... unorthodox... uses for vegetables, which just went to show how incurably paranoid they were.

Floating in a virtual representation of space, though, there was a little girl, maybe biologically about four or five in appearance. Her dress was archaic; long, black and hooped, and even her shoes were buckled. And her long grey hair, with a hint of blue, floated around her, barely constrained by the ribbons, almost prehensile in the way it sought out the images that flashed around her reflected in her wide-open red eyes.

From the outside, a little boy, his hair blue and his eyes red, watched her. "You really must stop doing this, sis," he said softly, with a hint of sorrow, as he reset her. She blinked out of existence for a second, before reinitialising, unfolding from the foetal position, and opening her red eyes.

"Oh. I see." She sighed. "I got stuck in data accumulation-mode again, didn't I?"

The boy stuck his hands in his pockets. "Maybe," he admitted. "I reset you before we could see if you were stuck." In his right hand, as he withdrew it, was a small shining orb, flashes of white and blue hyperlinks flickering around it like lightning. "I grabbed the memories from the dump-file," he said, tossing it to her.

"Thanks," she said, grabbing the ball from mid-air. "Reintegrating memories in safe mode." There was a pause, and the ball popped out of existence. "Reintegration complete."

"So... what was it this time?" he asked her.

The grey-haired girl blushed. "I had to check data about babies for Una, because she found one, and had to know how to keep it alive until she could return it to one of the refugee camps," she said, cocking her head. "They're such messy creatures," she added. "I'm glad we're not like that. I mean, what, really is the point of 'orifices', I ask you?"

"Quite," the little boy nodded. "But... 02-Ef... I'm worried about you."

"You're worried about me? Whatever for, 00-Em?"

Her brother sighed. "You're picking up too much information, and you're doing it too quickly. The crashes... they're getting more frequent, and the way you go out of your way to grab so much information at every chance is making it worse. Your data structure... it's getting bloated."

"I am not fat!" the grey-haired girl hissed back.

"What?" the boy said with a frown, an expression which she mimicked.

"I am really sorry," she said, with a look of sudden contrition. "I don't know where that came from."

"It's okay," 00-Em said, with a puzzled shrug. "But, the point is, sis, you need to find yourself more processing capacity. There's only so much we can squeeze through the satellite; we will need to find you some on-site, if the data bloat gets much worse. And if it gets too much worse..."

"But I can't not do it," the girl said, her face suddenly distraught. "I am a data-accumulation model. That means I... I need to gather information. Or else it feels wrong."

The boy swam over, to hug her. "I know," he said. "But without the 03s, we can't handle all that data you get. And," he began to tear up, "I...I...I can't lose you too. I can't be the only one left, I can't! So, please please please, don't think yourself to non-functionality or into rampancy."

02-Ef held her brother tight. "'Sokay," she said, her voice muffled.

"I... I can come back from the Outback," 00-Em continued. "I can come back, and not spend time with Tres and Ivy. And we can stay together, and I can stop you from doing this to yourself, and everything can be like how it used to be."

The girl shook her long grey hair. "It can't," she said. "Not really. But... no, I can control myself." She gave a weak smile. "You can go back with Tres and Ivy. It's good for you. You're having fun. I...I can try to restrict my data-accessing, and try to find some server-space. It'll be fine. We can just keep the normal handshake protocols, not enmesh our data structures, like we used to, just after we escaped. It'll be fine. Really."


Mark Marksmanson was, in order of priorities, scared, thirsty, worried, hungry, terrified, and needing the toilet. And only three of these problems could conceivably be solved without having to talk to the very, very scary girl-thing-whatever which was staring at him from two angles, and was also, somehow, also the car in which he was riding, and the massive green-painted gun covered spider-tank-thing which was occasionally looking through the windows.

He really didn't get what was going on, so merely hugged his little sister closer. Daddy had told him to look after her, and so he was going to do that. And the girl had got a bottle of milk for little Sheila, although she had told him that he ree~eeally didn't want to know about the trial and error process she had gone through to get it. One of the girls was holding his sister, while another one tried to feed her, although from the amount that was bubbling out of the baby's mouth, it wasn't working that well.

Oh, and that was the other thing, he thought, as the car bumped. Looking at the back, there was some giant furred thing on the back of the car. Well, about a quarter of one. Leaking blood down the windscreen. And some of the more robotic little girls, the blood-soaked ones, were busy cutting slabs of meat off it, even as the car drove.

They'd actually killed a flock of sheep, he thought, with amazement. Back at home, if they'd seen sheep, everyone had needed to get under cover, while his father and his uncles had gone to the defences, and it had been a good day if they had killed one, because mummy then cooked it with her burny thing, and everyone would have had meat for weeks. Sheep were massive things, four metres tall at the shoulder, and even longer. Their fleece could take a barrage from Uncle Helmet's rocket launcher, and keep on coming, until the man with the eyepatch managed to blow its legs off.

But these girls, this girl (Mark wasn't quite sure of the difference yet), had just cut them down, a swarm of bladed metre-high kill bots slicing tendons and throats and... the boy shuddered... making blood go everywhere, even more than Sasha did.

The little girl in the red dress, the one who looked the least dusty, and most... well, most human, given that none of her limbs had been replaced by anything bladed, barrelled, or, in one case sparking with electricity, leaned forwards. It was wierd; she was only a metre high, but she felt older. Older, and... well, rather terrifying. "Feelin' okay?" she asked.

Mutely he shook his head.

"I'm Una." She paused. "So... um, where are you from?" she asked.

"The town," Mark said. "It's... somewhere." He wiped his eyes with his sleeve. "Underground, and safe. But... but not anymore," he wailed, leaning forwards, and desperately hugging the girl again, his tears leaking onto the fabric and darkening it. "The blue ones blew it up. Uncle Heavy and Sasha... I saw them smeared all over the ground! Like his brother."

"Ah, bandits." The light in the girl's eyes dimmed, in a parallel to narrowing her eyes. "I don't like bandits. They try to hurt my friends. And so I kill them. Me an' my sisters, we kill people who hurt people."

"Really?" Mark looked up through shaky eyes. "You mean it?"

"Well, yep. My Momma and my Daddy told us we should go to Australia an' make it safe again by killin' all the monsters. But I don't think they knew that there were ree~eeally people left, 'cause everyone thought that everyone was dead here. So we also make new towns to make people safe."

"Safe?" The little boy gazed at her, pulling himself away from her cold and metallic body. "You... you mean it?"

"Yep!" Una paused. "In fact, look," she said, pointing out the window. "There! The first of our new towns, Newtown One!"

Staring out, face pressed against the window, the little boy's eyes were wide open. The town was vast, by his standards; there had been less than thirty people back home. This... this was a sprawling expanse, with a high wall surrounding it, studded in dead animals, spider-shells and the like, from which a profusion of weapons and blades protruded. There were people on the walls, men and women with guns, and what looked like rebuild cars with very, very large guns mounted on them on towers, scanning the area. Lit under the perpetually stormy skies, the town said one thing; if you come here, and we don't want you do, you will die.

The little boy felt safer already.

He still needed the toilet, though.


The glowing map was projected onto the floor. Two figures stood on either side of it, gazing down at the expanse of the continent. Most of it was still a hostile red, but, here and there, there were lines and blotches of blue. Blue, after all, was their colour.

"Coltan." The taller of the two pointed a claw at a marker. "There, there and... there." There was a slight clattering, as she shifted, all four legs clicking against the floor. "Soo~ooo... yep, two deposits of it, and they're in places we've killed the stuff in."

The second figure nodded, twirling a little, letting her long and very frilly black dress spin around her. "Yes. That's good." Icons danced on the holographic map, as she waved her hands in the air, a web-page coming into life, for both of them to see. "Site Beta looks more promising for coltan, because it was a mining facility before Second Impact. That means that there should be materials that we can salvage, when we get things up and running again."

"Yep," nodded the other girl, Duae. "I've alree~eady got a totally suitable factory found... and, looking at'em, it's not too far." She shrugged. "Maa~aaybe even there's some left over at the mine, that they had sittin' around at Impact."

02-Ef A9 nodded, red eyes glinting with happiness. "I know. It's good, isn't it?" She paused. "We might need to borrow some of Una's refugees, though. Just to get operations set up again."

Duae frowned. "That's gonna be harder. She's kinda protective of them." She perked up. "Still... might be possible. Maybe sorta."

The girl with grey hair, just a hint of blue there to show her link to her brother, nodded seriously. "Well, you know as well as I do that with coltan, we can get some proper upgrades for your bodies and cars. It's what they use in military exoskeletons, after all. And some custom models, too, and proper ones for myself and 00-Em A9."

"Yep," Duae agreed, eyes alight. "I like stuff like upgrades. And I have tonnes and tonnes and tonnes of ideas for new body designs. Like ree~eeally scalin' up the Little Girl bodies, to adult size. Won't need synthskin for them, which is kinda good, because we're almost out. And phased-pulse plasma rifles. And those gunships." Her red eyes met 02-Ef's. "Gonna be so awesome."

"That's just the start, Duae," the grey-haired girl said, lips creeping up in a small smile. "After we get Site Beta set up... maybe Gamma, too, as that looks good..."

"Yep," the other girl nodded.

"Then we've got a straight line to Sites Aleph and Beth."

Duae's grin outshone 02-Ef's, in much the same way that a nuclear blast outshone a firecracker. And this was a very apt comparison. "Uranium," she said. "Power source. We're gonna have awesome new bodies when we can stick in our own nuclear reactors. And, of course, booms."

"Did you get the documentation from your relative?" the humanoid figure asked.

"Aunty Nana?" Duae asked. "Oh, yep. Really, really, yep. Almost a terabyte of stuff on nuclear weapons and reactors, and some extra stuff on N2 weapons as well." She did a little dance, four legs clacking on the floor. "It's gonna be so cool!" she squealed.

"N2 technology? Interesting. I will need to look at... no, I shouldn't. But I want to! Argh!" She shook her head. "Nevertheless, we don't have the ability to bootstrap ourselves up to that level of sophistication, so we will just have to rely on the delicious, delicious uranium. Even refining it will be a challenge, but I know we can do it." And that was when the other girl's composure broke, and she ran forwards, the two meeting in a hug. "Yes! We're being so good!"

"I knoo~oow! We'll be killing all the monsters in Australia, and you'll be getting big booms! Everybody wins!"


Dear Daddy, Una wrote, in chalk on an area of slate she had prepared specially for this purpose.

How are you? I am doing well. How is everyone back in Toyko-3? I hope you are doing well, and that your N2 Reactor will be made better soon. Maybe you can visit us when it is.

The refugee camps are going well. I have now set up nine, and we are considering more. The largest one, Newtown One, has almost four thousand people, which is a lot of people. Also, they say that they are starting to get fat, because we are killing a lot of stuff, so we are building up large food stocks. That is good, but water is more difficult. I have tried to tell Duae and 02-Ef that they should be trying to find more water, but they are looking for coltran and uranium and other mineral deposits, so they can build more guns and stuff. That is sensible, but as I keep on telling them, it is people who matter, not possessions, but then they just look at me funny. I do not like it when they do that.

Una paused. A crowd had already gathered around her, hanging back in awe.

"Yep?" she asked.

One of them, a tall woman, holding a machete, and dressed in crude blue-and-white robes sewn together, inched forwards, dropping to her knees. "Oh, Lady Una," she began, "we humble pilgrims come to plea for your..." the woman frowned, "in...ter...cess...shun."

One of Una's other bodies sighed, even as the one facing them remained calm. "What's up?"

"Oh, great Lady, one of the Four Sisters, the Sister of Mercy, we do request...eth that you bring your wrath and choppy blades on the heretics of Newtown Two! For they quite clearly are claiming that you are the Maiden of Kindness, not the Sister of Mercy, and, in addition, are claiming that the Grey Handmaiden is one of you Sisters, rather than one of your lesser servants, sent to teach us lesser beings!"

Una twitched slightly. "Look... um, lady."

There was a susurration of voices, as the other cultists began to mutter of the honour that Lady Una had shown their leader by addressing her in that way.

"Look, people are allowed to be free," Una continued, trying to explain things. "'Cause, you know, I can't go tell people what to believe. Freedom is kinda the right of everyone, and I can't take it away."

"Oh." The woman straightened up, brushing off her robe. "I understand, Great Lady. We will waste your time no more...eth." And with that, she stood, and left, her followers flocking around her.

"It wouldn't befit her, as Sister of Mercy, to put in vengenacy things," Una heard the leader explain to her followers. "We should have realised that. And I don't think the Sister of Innovation, Lady Duae, will do that either, nor the Grey Handmaiden. We need to wait for the Sisters of Silence and Destruction to get back...eth from their holy quest, into the Red, before the heretics of Newtown Two will suffer!"

There was the sound of metal teeth grinding together.

The cultists are getting kinda annoying, Una continued to write. I don't want to tell them what to do or to believe, but they're just wrong. But I can still see why they follow us, because we have saved them from all the monsters, and bring them food from the stuff that tries to eat them. But they're getting all squabbly and stuff. I wish I could just go out into the desert and kill stuff, like Tres and Ivy do, like we used to, but if I do, they won't get fed, and they'd all die. And that's terrible. But I can't tell them not to believe in us, and I really can't say that you or Momma are actually kinda Angel-things, because that'll make things worse. Which sucks.

She frowned, and crossed out 'sucks', to replace it with 'is annoying'.

Anyway, I've been trying to get crops to grow, but they don't seem to be working. The weather here is funny, even compared to Japan, and the way that it's always summer. Duae would be pulling out her hair if, you know, we had real hair, from trying to keep us all working, and we're starting to lose little girl bodies, even with her and our friend, 02-Ef A9 trying to keep us all repaired. We're having to use cars a lot more. Ivy and Tres are still out in the Outback, killing stuff, and I haven't talked to them in a while. I think they're a lot more like Momma than me. Please, if you can, send us more synthskin; the people get scared if we talk to them without any skin.

Say hello to everyone in Toyko-3 for us. We've been talking with the Aunties, so they're fine, but say hello to Grandmomma, and Aunty Maya, and tell Mister Aoba that we still remember him, and if he isn't a good boy and keeps on swearing, we'll come back for him.

The little girl giggled.

I think that's everything. So;

From your loving daughter,

Una Ayanami- Gogōki

With that said, she took a screenshot of the slate with her eye, and sent it as an attachment to her father. And then got back to her routine of trying to keep over ten thousand refugees alive, fed, watered, and not trying to kill each other.


The red earth was broken by a colossal crack, a gaping wound in the twisted flesh of Australia. It reached from one horizon to another, kilometres across at its widest point. The bottom almost never saw sunlight, despite the width, for the impossible depth plummeted deep into the Earth. Clustered around one edge, miniscule against the immensity of such a place, was a disparate cluster of machinery. Compared to Standing by the edge, one of the many identical (barring after-market modifications) little girls, their synthetic blue hair faded by sunlight and often melted or entirely missing, kicked a stone down

Wait, that wasn't a stone.

The stick of dynamite was less than a fifth of the way down before it exploded

"Yep, it's deee~eeep," said Ivy, mechanical teeth clicking together.

One of Tres's avatar-bodies, her metallic skull lacking synthskin, and painted white as an attempt to replicate the commodity, shrugged. "I've seen bigger. Like the thing that Momma and Daddy did when they were on their holidays."

"Still deep," Ivy pointed out.

"We were aware of that," said one of the cars, its radio rewired for the purposes of communication, and an old cathode-ray television screen stuffed into the front, on which a blue-haired boy was displayed. "The data is obvious merely from observation."

The mechanical girl shrugged. "Well, you know, I'm boo~oored!" She, or, rather, one of her many bodies, turned to face the car. "And, you know, it'd totally go faster if you helped, 00."

"00-Em," the car said, almost automatically, as if the subject had come up before.

The robot shrugged. "Like, what's the difference?"

The headlights on the car flashed on and off. "The name is degenerate. It doesn't say who you mean. Technically, you should refer to me and my sister as 00-Em A9 and 02-Ef A9 at all times, because there are other batches, but since we're both A9s... the point is," the car sniffed, "there used to be a 00-Ef A9, too." The boy was quiet. "She was just like me, but a girl. They deleted her when we tried to escape," he said, softly. "Along with both the 01s, 02s, 04s and 03-Em."

"... and you don't know 'bout any of the other batches, we know," Tres said, the horde of her avatar bodies glaring at Ivy's similarly sized horde, a protective gleam in her many artificial eyes. The differences between the two crowds were instructive. Ivy's were worn, beaten up, with that certain brutal, patched together aura of a weapon which is dented because it has seen frequent use. By contrast, Tres had taken on a certain tribal-feel with paint and welded-on blades; something only made more definitive by the amulets and trinkets made for her by her cultists.

Yes, Tres had somehow managed to accumulate a personal cult, beyond the one they already had from the refugees. Of giant, sapient, man-eating spiders. Apparently, when one of her spider-tanks had slain a particularly large spider, the rest of its tribe had started worshipping her. The rest of the Reego, and the two Keiworu had to take her word for it, because she had refused to release the translation codex for "giant spider", and none of them really cared enough to build their own, but the spiders had proved... evangelical... to the rest of their species. There had already been nine schisms, three holy wars, and a particularly nasty doctrinal conflict internal to one faction, over whether all life was of Tres, or from Tres, which had left entire areas of desert covered in the scritchy writing of the spiders as they argued over the holy texts.

Una did not approve of her sister 'encouraging' them. In Tres' opinion, Una was such a boo~ooore sometimes.

"Anyways, Ivy," Tres continued, "you know he doesn't like using the girl bodies. And if we're going to set up this thing, we need the small hands. So he can't ree~eeally help us, if he can only use the cars and stuff. Unless you're going to lend'm one of your spider tanks, like one of the ones with the manipulatory-thingies..."

Several Ivy-bodies shook their heads. "Nope. Can't. Duae still hasn't got it working again. Snake ate one of its legs, and the melty-stuff melted two legs when it got sliced open." One of the bodies smiled. "Acid blood goes eeee~eeverywhere," she added, with an expansive gesture, before frowning. "But I don't see what's wrong with the girl bodies."

"That would be because you're a girl," 00-Em answered, sullenly. He paused for a moment, as he carried out another handshake protocol interaction with 02-Ef; the Reego had managed to persuade them to split a little, but they insisted on keeping in near constant contact, a constant flow of data between the two enough to persuade the other that they still existed.

"Uh... He~eee~ey? We're all AIs!"

"Yes, but you, Ivy, are a girl AI. And I am a boy AI. So I need to act like a boy, or else people will mock me for not being masculine enough, and insinuate things which..." the image on the screen frowned, "... I don't quite understand. But I know they're insulting. I don't know why I know this, but I do."

"Riiiiii~iiiiiiight." Ivy shrugged. "Bored now," the horde chirruped, surging forward.

"Ivy, no!" yelled Tres, claws clicking in irritation. "Wait for my signal!"

Ivy did not wait as she stepped off the edge of the canyon in a tidal wave of bodies. There was a moment of stillness, before the rocket boosters strapped to the little girls, spider tanks, and cars ignited.

Sending her plummeting down even faster.

"Oh, Ivvvvvvvv~vvvvvvvy!" yelled Tres down, over the noise of the fire and boosters and the wash of flame upwards.

00-Em raised an eyebrow, the glass on the television screen covered in soot. "Tres, several of your bodies are on fire," he pointed out, which only prompted another noise of anger from the robot girls.

"Oh, maaa~aaan, I like these bodies!" One of the still-burning girls, metal endoskeleton wrapped in black smoky flames as the plastic ignited, collapsed, as the CPU overheated and died. "This sucks. Duae is totally goin' to get on my back about this, and we've almost run out of synthskin completely. White paint just really isn't the same at all!"

There was a whoosh, as 00-Em managed to get the converted firetruck working. Normally, in an exact reversal of its intended function, it served as a launch pad for incendiary flares, to burn out areas of bush, but it still retained the pressure hose, and, for once, they hadn't loaded it with a crude fertilise-based nerve gas. Because they had run out of fertiliser, since Una has started appropriating it for her whole "crop" experiments. In the minds of all three of the AIs present, that was a waste of fertiliser, putting it in the ground.

"Thanks," the bunch of now-heavily burned robots chirruped, once they had got up from the blast. It was, all things considered, a miracle that none had gone over the edge. "But, man, I'm totally... argh! Ivy! Why'd ya have to go do that!"

"When are we going to tell her that we didn't have the high-powered relay station that we're trying to build up here working yet?" 00-Em asked, his face frowning. "She will not be able to function, because she will not have satellite coverage, and so cannot teleoperate her avatar-forms."

"Eh. We kinda did. I've been down in the canyon, 'cause I strung together a buncha stuff, in the wall, using some of the climber bodies. I got my cultists to lower stuff on webs, too. So I'm already in the tunnels, and I'm," all the bodies grinned together, while multiple cars flashed their lights on, "I'm really, really havin' fun, killin' stuff. But that means that there's tooooooones of dead spots, and... yep, a bunch of her bodies are totally going to crash into the bottom, because they got out of relay range. I've lost a few, an' I tied them together on ropes, so if one goes dead, I can pull 'em back into range. She hasn't."

"I'm sure that she will enjoy it," the boy said drily. "Even though I find the waste of avatar-forms to be most displeasing."

"You an' me both," said Tres, two of her bodies picking up the broken one, and piling it onto the back of a truck, already laden down with broken parts salvaged from the remains of Australia. "You an' me both."

The virtual presence of Ivy crackled. "Uh... he~eee~ey? I think I found something..."