1.

The man who was not a man stood quietly, patiently waiting for her to decide what was to come of this meeting. She had brought him here, to this dark anonymous room in this dark anonymous part of the city, yet she unsure now if she wanted to continue on the path which they had begun. She sat bedside, arms folded protectively around her breasts, her weary face flushed in nervous anticipation. Or was it fear? The man who was not a man couldn't decide for sure. He assumed the 'posture'; eyes fixed on her, arms loose in folded pockets, hips cocked and suggestive-bold, in cut-to-fit black on black and lapels. Very smooth. Very fashion. He waited.

"I'm afraid," she said finally. Her eyes teared and she looked away.

So it was fear after all. 'Catalog' that. 'Modify profile'. 'Modify approach'. 'Respond':

"Of me?" the man asked.

"Yes, yes," she responded quickly; too quickly.

'Elaborate' that. 'Suggest'?

"That I will hurt you?" he asked, his gaze penetrating, unyielding.

She breathed deeply. Her chest rose, hitched, fell. "Yes," she admitted.

Drama there. 'Modify profile'. 'Respond':

"I think that..." the man who was not a man paused there until he saw her breath catch, "… you're afraid of letting go…" Her breath released. He continued, pacing, "I think you're afraid of happiness..." He shifted his weight, cocked his head to the other shoulder, chin back and eyes slit "…and this is starting to excite me." He concluded, touch of a whisper; touch of a tremble. Good. She was looking at him now. Not the eyes yet. 'Check' that.

He moved closer to the bed, stood in front of her. "Are you afraid of seeing the stars..." 'pace',"…Patricia?" Her arms unfolded. Not yet her eyes. "I can show you how to reach them."

"I'm afraid of what you've got under there," Patricia responded. Her gaze flowed down the length of his body and stopped at 'the spot'. "May I see it what it looks like first?"

'Check' that. 'Modify approach':

He knelt before her, hands warmed, light on her thighs. His face was perfection so close. "Is this your first time..." 'pace', "with something like me?"

She paused, eyes yet averted. Chest, breasts, rise... fall. "I've never been with Mecha," she admitted.

'Catalog' that. 'Respond':

"Well, that makes two of us," he whispered. Appropriate smile. She laughs, relief in her face. Good that. Laugh with her and wait.

"I'm afraid it will hurt," she said plainly.

Finally. 'Elaboration sufficed'. 'Respond':

"Patricia..." 'pace', "once you've had a lover-robot…" he stood, the perfect contours of his frame alive, yet not, beneath the trim folds of his clothing, "…you'll never want a 'real' man again."

She smiles at this. He is strength and desire. He exudes an eloquent lust, warmth and pheromones modified by the moment. He gazes down at her. He is patient. Understanding. She sees this in him. He sees something too, beneath the collar of her shirt and reaches to part her blouse. She does not stop him. His fingers caress softly along her neck.

"Check" that. 'Inquire':

"Are these the wounds of passion?" he asks her gently.

He has found the bruises. She smiles and nods a pathetic lie, which she cannot sustain. "No," she whispers finally, and her tears belie the smile behind which she has hidden for so long. Shadows of violence and misery are restless behind her eyes.

'Catalog' that.

He cocks his head quickly to the side and back, so fast that she that does not notice. Something inside him is activated.

"Do you hear that?" she asks, puzzled, searching the room. She knows that music. It is something from a dream; from some long ago time depicted in celluloid archives. Men and woman dance there. There is romance and elegant laughter. He moves his hand across her line of vision and draws it to him. She follows, realizing from whence the music has come. She laughs fully and looks finally into his eyes.

His eyes are only for her.

"You are a goddess, Patricia." He moves upon her now, this device perfect in its function and form... "You wind me up inside" …and their eyes are just beats away. "But you deserve much, much better in your life." He is against her now; his breath simulacrum is on her mouth and neck and breasts and she is lost in it and in the heat rising from him, strong against her. "You deserve...Me."

She is consumed by him; beneath him. She will never be the same. He has no awkward moments. He does not tire or subside. His heat and size are calculated precisely, his thrusts perfectly timed. Her passion erupts quickly, fully and repeatedly. She cries out. He is superb! He is perfect!

He is designed specific.

She leaves him finally. Regretfully. When can she see him again? Saturday? Sooner maybe? Tomorrow?

She will never see him again.

2.

The Shangri-La has come over the pager that dangles on his chest. Who is this? Ah, Bevins. Good, that. Step it up. Work to be done. Can't keep the ladies waiting. Never keep them waiting.

The night is 'cool'; the music is 'jazz', that erupts from dim lit widows and doorways of smoky street side parlors. Solitary men, woman, Orga, Mecha, watch from those. They nod their heads as he passes. What you need? What you looking for? We got it. Hey! Hey! C'mere! C'mere! He smiles and struts on. He is not 'customer'. He is 'merchandise'. He is Joe; He is a gigolo. He is Mecha.

He gives some of them a quick show. His feet skip and heels click a quick rhythm against the pavement. They blur gracefully in the dim blue light of the street. Nice touch that. Very 'chic'. Very 'glamour'. They love it. The whirring in his legs is inaudible under the music and laughter around him. There is festivity here. There are lust and drugs and a thousand other unnamed Orga appetites to be filled.

There is danger here too. But it does not touch him.

He does the Kelly step against the curb. Passersby ogle. An old Orga, sleeping on the street, awakens at the sounds and swears at him. Then there is the flash of old-fashioned neon in front of him. Rooms... rooms... rooms... the sign says endlessly. The Shangri-La. Jane erupts from the door as Joe tips up the entranceway stairs.

"Hey, Joe, wadda ya know?" she asks casually, moving away before he can respond. She is sleek in purple and black. Flesh fit suit. Flawless. T 'n A extraordinaire. Very 'trim'. Very 'sex'. The pager dangling from her neck lights even as she arrives on the scene. Her face is unblemished beauty. Lips permanently rouged and a waistline that will never change. Eyes, impossible blue; Mecha blue.

"Hey Jane, how's the game?" he respondss over his shoulder and opens the door of the dim lit Shangri-La. He assumes he will see her again so there is no need for camaraderie. And even if he should not. So? They are Mecha.

"Hey Joe, wadda ya know?" the tired looking man at the counter says. It's 'Williamson' tonight. 'Check profile'. Good, that.

"Hey, Mr. Williamson. Could you place a D.N.D. on 1.0.2." he requests, flashing the numbers with his fingers. Williamson nods, "Sure thing, Joe," and tosses the keys on the counter. Can't keep the customer waiting. Joe grabs the keys and is off. His strut is automatic. Programmed.

"Hey Joe!" Williamson calls. Joe turned, graceful even in this simple gesture. "When you're finished here, make sure you crack your collar open. Show off your operating license, eh? The Flesh Fair is in Barn Creek and the hounds are out hunting for strays."

Flesh Fair? Check that? Trouble? Catalog. Joe smiles, opens his collar and displays the luminous green tag implanted in the 'flesh' of his chest. He is legit. "Good thing I ran into you, Mr. Williamson," he says with a wink, "I'm off now." He twirls smoothly, and keys dangling in hand, poses against the banister before he ascends. "Mustn't keep a lady waiting."

He climbs the stairs rapidly but he doesn't loose his breath. He never looses breath. He cannot. Upstairs he stops at 102. He places his hand to his face and his fingertips become luminous. The center of his palm becomes covered in a gelatinous film. The film firms and becomes reflective, a mirror. He looks at himself.

'Check profile'. 'Bevins'. 'Modify'.

Touch of eyeliner from his finger like magic, but it is not magic; he is Mecha. His hair comes alive now, and then he is blond. His cheekbones lift and chin juts, ever so slightly. Nice touch. Good, that. His eyes are green now and covered in a fine sheen of sparkle. He is prepared for Ms. Bevins

Or so he believes.

"Ms. Bevins. It's Joe. At your service, " he says as he opens the door into the dark room. His accent is perfect. Joe struts into the room in this new profile. He cocks his head and music channels from secret parts of his body. It is spicy, percussive. She is on the bed. She is silent. She is waiting. Joe jumps easily beside her, his mechanical limbs barely disturb her, where she lay.

She is still. Her back is to him.

"I've been counting the seconds since last we met," he says. Still she has nothing to say. She does not turn to face him. Is she upset? 'Check profile'. 'Elaborate'. He leans forward and sees something glistening on her cheek. 'Check'' that. 'Respond'; He reaches down and swipes a finger over the wetness. "Have you been crying Samantha? I've found a tear."

Still she does not respond. He leans closer. It is not tears that cover her face. She is not waiting. She is 'no more'.

'Check' this! Trouble! He jumps up off the bed.

"Hey Joe, wadda ya know?" the man in the shadows stepped into view. Joe faced the man, scanning him in the faint lights from the windows; an aging, balding Orga, paunchy in his designer suit. Check profile. Nothing. "How many seconds has it been since you two were together?" the man asked. He is Orga. Joe must answer. He turned off his music, consulted his clock.

"Two hundred and fifty five thousand, one hundred and thirty three," he responded.

…thirty-four, thirty-five, and the man walks to the bedside, looks down on the dead woman. Thirty-seven thirty-eight thirty-nine, and the man leans close to the dead woman's face. His face is passionate. He seems to want to kiss her. Forty-two forty-three and he says "Goodbye Samantha, and never forget, you killed me first." Then he does kiss her, on her naked dead shoulder. Forty-nine, fifty and he is leaving Joe alone with this dead Orga woman; the last place in the world a Mecha wants to be found.

At, two hundred and fifty five thousand, one hundred and fifty six seconds since they'd last met, Joe realizes that Samantha Bevins has just gotten him in trouble. Bad trouble.

3.

Outside the Shangri-La the night is raucous. Joe is lost quickly in the noise and traffic of pedestrians. He paces quickly from door to door, to alley and then through the street. He is Joe again, his hair a jet-black gloss against his skull. His face set to masculine default profile. He has no heart to create a pulse to race, but he is thinking, thinking like never before. He was not designed to think, only to respond and act. The few logic processors he does have help him to navigate the complex world of Orga safely, with a minimum of friction. His creators were alert to the animus about them, the Mecha. They gave him sufficient charisma and fortitude to protect himself. But Joe does not understand all the ramifications of the dead body yet to be discovered in the Shangri La. He does not know about establishing time of death and gathering witnesses to attest to his location. He does not consider legal avenues. He is Mecha. He knows only that he will be blamed. That is all he needs to know.

As he walks, a cruiser slides quickly through the dark street ahead. Joe doesn't realize that it is too early for the police to be alerted. He does know that few in this part of the city have ample funds with which to own a cruiser. The cruiser is either customer or police. The latter is a safer guess. He moves quickly into the shadows of a doorway and the vehicle speeds by.

He does not move then for some time. He stands instead, statuesque, gazing into nothing as his mind considers this situation. Time passes. The street is quiet now. Some Orga men pass by. They are 'drunk' and trying to 'sing'. Joe hears them but his mind is working on something else. He realizes finally that everything has changed. There is no emotion at this realization. He does not cry or curse the cruel fates. There is only response.

In his arm a miniscule release valve opens and his hand flicks back at the wrist. Where Orga contain flesh and sinew, he has a small assortment of blades and tiny welding devices. He pulls a blade from his arm and closes his hand once again.

There is only one way to truly identify him, this he knows. On his chest the license glows faintly green in the night. This seal of legitimacy that would ordinarily save him, is now the link to his disposal. He opens his collar and places the blade against his 'skin'. It is not 'real skin'. Joe is not 'real'. But there is pain, or what could be known as pain; signals and numbers that encode restrictions that only the strongest act of determination can override. As he cuts the identifying license from his chest, alarms go off behind his eyes. Joe has never ignored them before. But then again things have changed. Perhaps, forever.

Very 'dismal'. Very 'gloom'.
1.

The night was arriving quickly. The scattered beams of light that broke through the overhang of trees and vines slowly departed. They would not return until the next morning. As the darkness grew the forest came to life. Things cried out, lonely sounds, angry sounds. To David they meant nothing. All he knew was Mommy was gone and he must find a way back to her.

Animals that scavenged under cover of darkness; busy, snuffling things, nosed their way past him. He is not food. He is not danger. He is not even alive. Not on the outside anyway. He is Mecha now. Before tonight he may have been a boy, his mother may have loved him. But tonight that illusion came to a crashing close. He wanders alone now, a sad little figure roaming the dark wilderness with a toy teddy bear struggling to keep up beside him. He has not cried in some time. He stopped actually after Mommy's car sped from the forest and out of his life. The crying is after all a programmed device. After some time his logic takes over. He knows that he cannot follow her. She said that they would 'destroy' him. He knows 'destroy'. He does not know they. But that does not matter now. He knows that she would not take him back even if he did find a way home. All this, his creators would expect his advanced logic circuits to tell him. But there is a piece of reasoning that comes from someplace new in his head. It comes from the same place where Mommy's eternal image burns inside. It is something not quite planned. Or expected.

"If I am a real boy, then I can go back." David spoke this to Teddy as they coursed slowly through the dark forest. "And she'll love me then!"

Teddy filtered this through his own old-fashioned reasoning device as he struggled through the brush and over the moss covered ground. "How" is what he finally asked when he could make no sense of David's idea.

David was quiet for a moment as he thought of a response. Something flitted by him then, some flying thing. It zipped quickly to and fro in the darkness. It would have gone undetected by Orga eyes and ears. His night eyes traced its progress until he could see it no more. These living things! What was it they pursued? If he could only understand, then maybe...

"The Blue Fairy made Pinocchio into a real boy," he said to Teddy. "She can make me into a real boy too. I will find her. I will become real."

This logic sounded reasonable enough to the toy bear. "Where is the Blue Fairy?" he asked.

"I don't know," David answered. "But there must be someone, somewhere in the whole world who knows where she lives." This piece of reasoning sounded good to both of them, though for different reasons; Teddy, because it was consistent; David, because his new mind was already engaging in that all too human trait of self-defensive reasoning. He simply had to find the Blue Fairy. If he did not find her then he could never be a real boy. If he could not be a real boy, then Mommy would never ... His mind wouldn't finish that thought.

They walked quietly then for some time. Occasionally there would be the sound of clanking metal in the brush beyond, but neither of them saw whatever might be causing the sound. It did not matter anyway. David was more concerned with figuring out a way to find the Blue Fairy. How on earth would he go about this search? He'd never even been away from Mommy's house since he been;… 'born'? Should he just approach people and ask if they knew? Mommy had told him to stay away from Orga, that only Mecha was safe. But what if the Blue Fairy was Orga. What then? Would he be safe approaching her? He realized that this was going to be a complicated task.

Then he saw the light.

It was a dim glow growing against the leaves of the trees and bushes at first. Then it grew slowly in brightness, casting shadows about them. And something else was happening; some new growl had started low in the dark. It grew slowly with the light, describing some unknown menace. What manner of animal could this sound announce? An Orga child would have been terrified, would have fled in fright. But the night animals here have shown no taste for Mecha, so David became only curious. The sound grew in intensity. It was coming closer. Teddy too had noticed it.

And then finally, they saw the thing.

2.

The dead of the forest is home to the decaying remnants of what was once the outskirts of a glorious civilization. Shanties and ghost towns line the long empty roads; places the Swinton's and their peers would never acknowledge or even know about. Those buildings are not empty though; they are alive with small societies of forgotten people trying to eke out existence on the meager subsistence the forest allows. They construct their own lives, away from the laws and hypocrisies of the mainstream of America, or what remains of America. They are undesired, and un-desiring of the way of life that has been denied them. Nor are they alone, these Orga that occupy the fallen halls of broken townships. There are others. They roam the forest too.

They were there that night.

They had seen him earlier, this little one wandering aimlessly with his toy. He was Orga, wasn't he? Certainly he must be, from the look of him. Was he lost? Where were his mother and father? Certainly he was too young to be alone in the forest, and the toy was obviously insufficient to protect him against the threats that face little boys in the wild. It was all too well known how the Orga cherished their children, being allowed so few. Perhaps he was an illegal child? Many of the parents of unsanctioned children fled with their offspring from the new cities and centers of commerce. This was all possible, yes, but the watchers did not talk to the little one, or follow him. There would have been nothing to say. So they watched him pass and went about their own business. Occasionally one of them would make a noise while moving, or perhaps a piece of one of their bodies would fall off and clunk to the ground. But the little one and its toy did not seem to notice; or not to care.

The forest was safe. It was well away from the centers of Orga population. So they could stay here safe from detection, which could lead to destruction. But here there were no replacements for broken limbs, missing eyes or malfunctioning ears. Old batteries were running low. There were those among them that had been built before the self-lubricating joints and epidermal coatings had become commonplace. They needed oils. They needed flesh. Some required a faceplate and even legs with which to run, because that is what their existence had become; a constant flight, a flight for survival.

In the dead of the forest they too heard the moan of some night beast approaching. Fascinated, they gathered from their dark hiding spaces to see what this was, and they too witnessed its arrival.

3.

"What is it, David?" Teddy asked the boy, who was taller and could see easily over the brush. But David did not know. It was the source of the light though. Its lights penetrated the gloom and the shadows it cast grew against the trees behind them. It came closer getting louder until at last it stopped just meters away from where they were standing. This was no beast. It was a vehicle of some kind. In the light David could now see that there was a pathway of worn earth that the thing rode on, and before it, a shallow pit.

Then, as they watched, the back end of the vehicle began to rise slowly and things began to crash down from the mouth of it. Was this garbage? Was this where the garbage from the Orga houses was left? Somehow it did not seem a right place for it. The pile grew noisily. A glittering metallic din filled the forest as the vehicle emptied its belly. When it was finally done, the thing started to back away, its groaning engine complaining as the gears changed. It had moved back some distance when David and Teddy stepped from the trees to observe the contents of the pit in the dwindling light. There were arms in there. There were legs in there too. And faces! Faces? Wires wound through the mess like veins. What was this?

Then, as if in answer, they arrived.

They came from the forest quickly, leaving the safety of their hiding places. Running. Jumping into the pile of metal debris. Some of their old and deteriorating bodies were whirring and clanking as they ran to beat others to the treasure. Some of them weren't designed to run, so they lumbered to the pile resentful of their better-designed companions. A few dragged themselves with worn and rusted arms. There were those who had been purposefully damaged by wandering Orga boys with nothing better to do. There were those who had been discarded after being damaged in the line of some duty to ungracious masters. One had even been left here after saving an Orga girl-child from a fire. Its one reward had been to escape the salvage pit and roam the wilderness, damaged beyond use.

They were the new slaves of mankind; those designed and 'built specific' to fill the niche in humanity that humans did not anymore. They were Mecha; the robot class; custom built and disposable.

None of them noticed the small Orga-like boy and his furry friend watching the struggle for parts in the pit. Nor did they notice the other who had followed them. He was slim and quick footed, his features handsome and smooth. He needed nothing from the pit.

4.

Joe's trek had been halting and slow. He's had to stop and hide every time he saw Orga cruisers moving through the street. Many of the drivers of the vehicles had been 'drunk' and yelling about the 'Flesh Fair'. Joe was not completely aware of this fair. He had heard tale of it, but was not sure what manner of Orga festival it might be. It did not seem like a thing for Mecha. In his flight he'd seen a group of young Orga jump from a cruiser and topple an old silver robot that had been replacing broken street lamps near the outskirts of the city. The laughing boys had kicked the fallen robot and broken bottles against its cowering, dented body before jumping into their cruisers and fleeing. Joe did not go to assist. This looked like trouble. Bad trouble. He had bad enough trouble of his own. 'Check' that. Time to go. He'd fled into the dark as the fallen Mecha's alarm went off to alert its owners of a problem.

Eventually he'd made his way out of the populated areas. Around him now was dense forest and wild things that screeched in the night. He had heard tell of a place where runaway and discarded Mecha roamed freely; a place where desperate and diseased Orga occupied old deserted towns. Illegal children and criminals supposedly hid there too. He would find this place. Perhaps one there, one programmed to be smarter, would know what he should do.

As he climbed an incline Joe had seen lights moving slowly through the forest. In the distance the moon was rising slowly. He watched it a moment and thought something strange in its ascent but he turned when the thing in the forest took his attention. He watched as the vehicle made its way into a clearing near a pit and then dispose of some litter. Then he saw them. The Mecha; the ruined leftovers of his own simple predecessors. He had seen ones like this before. The sight would savage his heart, had he such a thing. They were the derelicts; the abused and rejected; the ones whose only purpose in life had been to serve ungrateful and arrogant Masters; Masters who cared not for them; who discarded them not because it was more merciful than salvage but because it was cheaper. Easier. Just dump the old Mecha beside the road, 'go on now, we've no use for you anymore'. What was their offense? Had something been broken; a programmed gesture taken as an offense?

The image of Samantha Bevins murdering husband came into his mind.

Joe was not programmed to think deeply, but somehow he knew that he was one of them now; that he belonged here. Gigolo Joe what do you know? That you have now no place to go?

Very 'dark'. Very 'dismal'.

But what was the Orga boy doing among them?

5.

David moved closer to the pit.

"Come away, David," Teddy warned. He didn't like this place, it was wrong. But David ignored him, as all boys tend to ignore the rational call to safety. The Mecha boy stood at the lip of the pit, lost in the spectacle.

One man had no jaw. He took one from the pile. It did not fit. He took another from the face of a dead woman. It clicked right into place. Another man, in an odd looking white hat that mushroomed at the top, was burnt apparently in half, his metal skeleton had been blackened by the flame. He rummaged through the pile in search for something that he could not seem to find. A woman with wide mechanical eyes and a glossy lopsided face, knelt with her hands deep into the debris. What was she looking for?

A dark skinned man pulled a hand from the pile. He wore a coat like the men that had come from Cybertronics to fix him. The dark man placed the hand against his arm where his own hand should have been. But the magnetic mate-seeking wires of the hand flared and moved away from the opening. He picked up another and placed it again at his arm. This time the wires took and nestled themselves into the opening there. Another man with some kind of electric extension where his hand should have been touched the newly joined wrist and sparks flew from it. This secured the hand in place. The flesh of the hand was light. The flesh of the man was dark. Both were torn and wrecked. Together they could function newly. David remembered this. Eventually he would understand it.

Then the man with the new hand looked up into the night. He stood gazing that way for a moment. Then all the Mecha looked up. David followed their gaze. There was a man standing there watching them. Was he Orga? He was dressed very nicely, like the way Henry dressed when he had taken Mommy to the ball. What was he doing there?

Suddenly from behind the solitary figure on the hillside the moon appeared. Its glow was intense and it rose quickly; too quickly. Its light filled the forest with an eerie silvery glow. The Mecha gazed silently.

"Moon on the rise!" the man with the new hand shouted and the Mecha in the pit leapt suddenly into action, dashing into the shadows created by the light from above. They jumped from the pile and scattered in all directions, back into the sanctuary of trees and forgotten shanties.

David looked up at the moon and saw finally that it was wrong. The man on the hill turned and stepped back. The moon was too big. It had a light on the bottom and a cage below that. A cage? And there were men... no not men; they were Mecha, in the cage. This was no moon! What was going on? David watched the fleeing robots anxiously.

The one who had dragged himself here was picked up by another and was being hoisted out of the pit. He looked at David as he was rescued taken away by his fellow refugees. This was no Orga boy, he realized, this was one of them. "It's the Flesh Fair," he explained quickly in a gruff voice. "They destroy us on stage! I know, I've been there," he said nodding to his missing lower half. Then he was gone, hustled off by his mechanical comrade.

David watched the spectacle of the moon in confusion. 'Destroy us on stage?' He knew 'destroy'. "What do we do?" he said to anyone near.

"We run now!" Teddy advised. And they did. The wet and mossy floor of the forest was slippery underneath them as the light of the moon grew, trying to envelope them and deny their escape.

6.

"Any old iron?" the voice from the moon called out. The sound reverberated through the forest below and out over the hills that led to Barn Creek. Spotlights burnt down from the false moon, forcing their way into the density of trees and brush. Things were moving in there. The things that had come for the goodies his men had left.

"Any old iron?" the voice queried again. The accent was not from around these parts. Those Orga that lived in the forest puzzled at the sound. Was that a Brit? An Aussie? But many already knew that voice. "Expel your Mecha!" the voice demanded. "Purge yourselves of artificiality!" it insisted. Commanding.

The man behind the voice scanned the ground beneath him. There were things moving indeed, but were they Mecha? These trees were full of old hovels where the victims of the modern age made their makeshift homes. "Come along now!" he bellowed into the microphone from his throne in the metal basket of the Moon Balloon. On the metal banister of the basket, an array of equipment was analyzing the dark forest below; scanners, spotlights, monitors. Young uniformed men manned these instruments. "Let some'a them Mecha loose to run! Any old unlicensed iron will do!" He yelled. He knew the poor ones kept the old discards for working and doing chores and whatnot. But Orga hands were designed for that. God had made 'em that way. And if it was good enough for God...

Below him the forest bristled here and there. Not much it seemed. Not enough for sure. This was not good, not a good thing at all! He had a show to put on tonight; more than a show... it was a mission. A calling. It was a good old time revival. It's time that Orga kind got some good old rejuvenation. Enough of the simulation!

"Hey see that?" the man behind the voice pointed down at a clearing of trees where the beam of light fell upon some moving figures. One of his men aimed the spotlight in that direction. Ah, there we are. The man behind the voice tipped back his large black hat. A thin smile broke on his rugged face. They had already bagged a couple of strays and had them in the cage beneath. This night might turn out OK after all.

"What's that over there?" he said pointing. There was a man running beneath them. He looked odd in the forest; dressed with some flamboyance, as if to a dinner party. "Is that a human thing?"

His aide checked the infra-scanner. "No, he's scanning cold. No expiration date. No I.D. But he looks like a late generation lover Mecha"

Well, that would be a relief from all this antique iron, the black-hatted man thought. But what would a new model be doing loose and unregistered? He smelled trouble. He'd been at this mission for years now. He knew the ropes.

"You are certain he's not a man. I wouldn't want a repeat of the Trenton incident." He said, grimacing at the memory.

The aide turned, "Sir, it's a free range Mecha running hot."

Good enough. "Let's reel him in boys!" he grunted, fastening the command console to the saddle before him. "Sick the hounds on the rest." The floating Moon Balloon was a sudden flurry of activity as the men went to their duties. There was a good catch down there and they had a big show to put on.

7.

The hounds waited in the brush. Their breath was calm. Their posture bent, prepared for the chase. They'd been through this hundreds of times in the remote hiding places of Mecha throughout the world. As usual it was quiet at first. Only the boss's voice could be heard in the distance, booming from the black sky. The Moon Balloon was corralling the hapless Mecha right at them. Worked every time. It would take a few minutes to get the robots headed in the right direction, but the hounds were patient. They were ready. They'd been trained for this. They had nets and magna-tags for the hunt. When they heard the crash of robot feet trampling through the brush, they started their engines.

8.

David ran faster than he had ever run. He wasn't good at the 'running'. It required certain motion capabilities with which he was inadequately equipped. He didn't know this of course. He only knew that he had to slow down to turn corners, and focus on where he was going before he changed direction. He was not tired, he did not get tired like Orga, but he was confused. What was happening? Why were they running and where were they running to?

Behind them he could hear the man in the sky yelling. "Let them loose now. C'mon... let the Mecha run!" His voice echoed through the forest penetrating into the dark corners of safety the Mecha sought. Who was he talking to?

"David! David!"

David stopped and saw Teddy's furry head just above the line of brush as he struggled to catch up.

"I cannot run as fast as you, David," Teddy explained logically when he caught up to the boy. "You must carry me!" David lifted Teddy in a tight embrace and then ran again, catching up to the herd of fleeing Mecha as they were stampeded towards a trap.

9.

She didn't have a name. She only had a function. Built specific to that function, she had outlived her usefulness and been abandoned here with the others. She could not hide her Mecha nature like Joe or David, for although her face was human and tenderness was written into every feature, her metal infrastructure had punched through her skin in places, and the crown of her head had been knocked off ages ago when she had fallen from a transport van. As time wore on, and the oils and devices she needed for repair had been unavailable, she had deteriorated. Her arms, de-fleshed in time and disrepair, had become mere robotic bones; her frame, a mass of metal joints and pulleys, covered by a thin brittle layer of 'skin'. Only her faceplate, in its fixed expression of gentle concern, displayed her true, programmed nature.

She was discarded property. Nothing else. Then they had taken her in, those that lived among the trees and forgotten dwellings that lined the abandoned trails, once busy thoroughfares. They were another family of discarded beings, these Orga. She had cared for their unlicensed children. She had prepared what meager foodstuffs the adults brought home from scavenging or hunting or occasionally shopping with the small amount of money those healthy enough to work secured. She had nurtured and trained and scolded all the little ones of the shanty while the adults fought the daily survival battle. But in the end she was still just property, just Mecha.

When the voice boomed from the sky, the Orga had gazed up in fear. It was a foreign voice. Was it the Federals? Bounty hunters? 'No', one of them pointed out, "it's the Flesh Fair." Perhaps it was time to let her go. Once again she had outlived her usefulness. The little ones clung to her aging, deteriorating frame, but were forced loose by anxious adults. "Run," they told her as the little ones cried. "Run!"

10.

Joe ran, navigating the thickly brushed forest floor with great difficulty. His legs whirred in their frenzy. Behind him the man's voice boomed out strange things. He talked about 'artificiality' and 'simulators'. Was he referring to the rejects? To Joe it all sounded like 'bad trouble'. He followed the trail of the abandoned robots. They lived out here so He assumed they'd know where they were going. But the Mecha had scattered in different directions. Which to follow? 'Check' that! 'Modify approach'!

He turned to see where the 'Moon' thing was going. He would run in the opposite direction. But when he turned what he saw was an object flying from the bottom of the craft. It hissed as it whizzed through the darkness at him. Then he was enveloped in it.

11.

David stopped at the clearing with the fleeing herd. There were strange things in the trees before them. The things hummed low, feral, metallic snarls. They were lit up in an assortment of colors and flashing lights. In the midst of these lights there was formed the faces of wolves that bared their fangs and had wildfire behind their eyes. But above them the helmeted heads of Orga men were plainly visible... until the headlights came on.

The engines on the hounds roared as their wheels threw dirt and mud in an arc behind them. The Mecha turned and ran. They quickly passed the little Orga-like Mecha and his Supertoy. It was each for his own now.

"Shake down shantytown!" The man in the black hat yelled as he saw the hounds pursue their game. He knew where the Mecha would go. The Orga in the shanties would be hiding inside by now. These types were easily cowed by such displays of power. He knew that too well.

And the chase was on! Shacks were raided. The hounds knocked over flimsy dwellings in their pursuit, heedless whether Mecha or Orga made their home there. This was a holy mission; sort 'em out later. The hound heads at the front of the cycles spat magnetic tags from their mouths, the tags attached to the Mecha and then secured them to any metallic surface near. The hounds pursued their prey through the rusted remains of old passenger trains that had been derailed and turned into makeshift dwellings. The sides of the train now sported struggling Mecha as the chase sped by. Soon the rest were caught up in the nets. The night was filled with the electronic wine of the hounds' engines and the sound of the magna-tags hitting their marks. The cries of angry Orga were added to the violent sounds of the hunt.

David had managed to run in a direction away from the frenzied escapees that drew the hounds into the shantytown. For a moment he could hear the hounds' snarling engines going in the opposite direction. But where should he run? Where to hide? He scanned the darkness with his night eyes. Then he saw the woman... no, she was Mecha… her head was opened at the top and her arms were like bones. He saw her run into an old dark shack at the edge of a cluster of trees. Surely this was sanctuary! He followed quickly, carrying Teddy with him through the overgrown field and up the creaking stairs into the old building.

Inside the shack the sound of the pursuit reverberated hollowly against the walls. He heard one of the cycles passing by. Had they seen him come in here? David had not known such fear before. He backed away from the door and the sound of terror outside. He didn't want to be here. He wanted to be home, with Mommy. Safe. He wanted to hear her voice reading stories and be tucked into his...

He bumped into something behind him and turned quickly. He saw her standing in the darkness. Her face was kind and understanding, the kind of face a child would never fear. And there were others beside her; strange looking Mecha. One was a large metal cylinder with a head and face protruding out from its side. The face was sad and old looking. The others were beaten, dented robots; shadows of their original selves, huddled in the dark of the room.

The Nanny was surprised to see an Orga boy here. "What's you're name little boy?" she asked kindly.

"My name is David," he replied.

"Hello David," she said cheerfully. "How old are you?" Her voice was calm and calming. David found himself ignoring the sounds outside as he spoke with her. But he did not know the answer to that question. He did not know his birthday. Or was it his build-day? It was from… the 'before' time.

"I don't know," he said finally.

The Nanny knelt down to the poor frightened Orga boy. She could not feel the way he could. She was built long before the idea of a sentient robot like David was even considered possible. But she knew his fright and was programmed to calm the little ones. "Do you need some one to take care of you?" she asked. "I have many good references."

David thought about this. She had many 'references'. References come from experiences. Had she been many places? If she had been many places, then maybe... "Do you know where the Blue Fairy lives?" he asked excitedly.

Then, with a crash and flash of feral lights, the real world found them, its glowing fangs and roaring engine smashing through the wall of the shack. David was reduced to frightened child again. He turned and backed up to the Nanny who wrapped her remaining arm protectively around him.

In his headlight the hound saw the Orga boy hiding among the bots. Why the hell was this kid running with the fiber heads?! Maybe the brat was an illegal and thought the hounds were kid catchers? He didn't want an Orga in the net, especially a kid! He was sure that the boss would chew him out on that one. But if he waited to shoot they'd all scatter. He triggered his handle and shot the net. It hissed through the shack and fell over the trapped Mecha, wrapping them tightly. 'Let the kid loose later', he thought. 'But definitely before the boss sees 'em'. Illegals weren't his business anyway.

David watched stunned from the net as the hounds swarmed into the hut. They smashed right through the wall sending dust and shards of wood everywhere. The men who rode the noisy machines yelled angry words at the Mecha. They jumped off their cycles and pulled on the net until it came out of the hole in the wall. David was hustled and bustled wildly as the net was yanked from the hole. The noise, the pushing and punching as they were pulled from their hiding into the clearing was something he had never experienced. Were they going to destroy him now? Inside his head a memory of Mommy's tender touch took him away from the madness of the moment.

Why did you leave me? Why?

Outside in the overgrown field they were laid down on the dirt and the men who had captured them stood off their cycles. The others chased after more running Mecha, the noise of their engines and yelling faded into the darkness with them. One of the riders walked to where David lay tangled in the net with the others. He knelt beside them. His face was covered in a helmet and his voice was crusty and mean.

"Hey, kid, what the hell you doin' runnin' with the dang robots?" he asked. Then he eyed Daivd carefully. This kid looked too well fed to be a vagrant; clothes way too clean. What if they had caught some upper crust kid in the net? There were plenty of gated towns about. Oh damn! Johnson was always bringing up Trenton and the lawsuits. He'd be out of a job!

One of the other men was standing astride his hound-cycle, talking into a box in his hand. "Yeah, we got 'em tagged and ready, Come and get 'em," he said.

"Hey, come help me get this brat outta here," the man crouched near David said as he began untwisting the folds of the net. He freed Teddy and tossed the Supertoy to the side. But Teddy jumped up quickly and ran back at the man, growling and commanding him to stop what he was doing. The man laughed. His little girl had had one of those. Probably somewhere in the closet now with all the other things she had gotten tired of. He grabbed the Teddy by the scruff and held the struggling thing while he tried to free the boy with the other hand.

The Moon Balloon was coming now, it's light growing on the ground around them.

"Did ya scan 'em?" the other asked.

"Oh this one's real. He's got a Teddy too. Take a look for yourself."

"Scan'em!" the other ordered, annoyed. "Always scan 'em! Johnson'll have your ass if you let a Mecha loose tonight. Not many around. Barely enough for a good show." The man who knelt next to David muttered something angry that David couldn't hear.

"Why are you doing this?" David asked innocently.

"Shut up kid," the man replied angrily. Teddy made a growling sound as the man placed a small metal device next to David's head. He was quiet for moment while he read the meter and then made a gasping sound. "Damn!" The kid was cold. Fiber. "Damn!"

"What," said the other man, coming quickly. "What's wrong?"

"You gotta see this one! Hell. This is the damnedest thing I've ever seen." The other riders walked over and gazed down at the boy in the net. They looked at the device that the man held to David's head. David could not see their faces through their masks, but he heard the grunts and whistling sounds; the sounds of disbelief. "Johnson ain't gonna believe this one!" they laughed. One of the men reached down and pinched the flesh of David's cheek and made whistling sound with his teeth. "This is too much!"

David did not understand what the men wanted. One had pulled on his face. There was pain in his touch. Were these the Orga that Mommy had warned him about? Was this part of destroying him? The Nanny freed her arm from the tangle of Mecha in the net and wrapped David up protectively. She began to whisper softly into his ear. "It's OK. The bad men will go away. Don't be afraid, David." Her voice was tender, motherly. David pressed back against her, away from these rough men. She was not Mommy, but she was all he had now. She grasped him tighter and the words she spoke calmed him.

"Ain't that sweet," one of the men laughed. "You're gonna be one hell of a show, little Mecha!" he said. "Hope you enjoy your moment in the spotlight, however short it is!" The men laughed again and then the ground lit up all around them. The Moon Balloon hovered above. Dangling beneath it a metal cage was already filled with other Mecha. There was a funny looking one with a dark faceplate and there was the nicely dressed man from the hill. Was he Mecha too? David could feel the men struggling with the net. What were they going to do? Then he understood. They were going to take them all away in the balloon.

"Teddy!" David yelled frantically. The man who had taken Teddy held the toy up for David to see.

"You want this, Mecha?" he asked.

David nodded. "Yes please," he said politely.

"Why?" the man snorted.

"He's my friend," David said. The man in the helmet seemed to consider it for a moment. Why the hell would someone build a little kid robot in the first pace? He shrugged. "Hell, it ain't gonna do ya no good anyway. Here," and he pressed Teddy against the net. David grasped Teddy's furry arms tightly and then they were being lifted up into the night sky. The weight of all the Mecha pressed against one another forced him tightly against the fiber of the net. Below he could see the trees receding into darkness as the men mounted their hounds and rode off. He saw other nets of Mecha being readied for hoisting. Orga were down there too; haggard, hungry looking faces. They stood by passively watching the spectacle; used to being powerless; used to being abused.

The Nanny sensed David's fear and she began to sing to him. David did not know 'lullaby'. He did not know 'French'. But the words calmed him all the same. He grasped Teddy tightly through the net as the forest shrunk in the darkness below. Where were they going?

Suddenly Teddy slipped. David grasped harder as he felt the little bear's furry paw give. This was his only friend! Teddy was the last thing that connected him to his old life; to the life he had once led. He could not loose his friend. He squeezed with all his considerable Mecha strength, but his hand was not strong enough to secure the grip through the fabric of the net.

Teddy felt David's hand loosing his grip. He knew the distance to the ground beneath was far. More than he'd be able to take. "David," he said, "I will break!" But even as he said this he saw that the little Mecha could not get a strong grip on his furry paw. Teddy had no emotions like David, none of the Mecha in the net did. But Teddy knew goodbye. He took one last look at the boy who was his friend and charge as he struggled not to loose his failing grip. Some new sensation played inside his processor; a flash of something new and bright. Just for an instant he saw it and then he was airborne, falling through the dark. He watched the balloon and his young friend recede into the night sky. The air rushed by his ears as he fell. Then he felt the crash of tree branches and there was darkness.

David watched in shock as his little friend fell into the black below. His mind was freshly assaulted by the sensation of loss, this dark feeling that the men and women of Cybertronics had not considered in their calculations. He was alone now, utterly alone. Mommy had left him in the damp forbidding forest. The same brutal forest had swallowed Teddy as he watched helplessly from above. His mind was confused and lost. Why was this happening? He struggled to understand but the pain in his head was not calculable. The Nanny held him tightly as she sang, but this no longer consoled his tender new emotions.

"Teddy!" he called out. But the forest was silent beneath them. Teddy was gone. The pain inside was a hard, unforgiving thing.

Mommy, why did you leave me?

He laid back into the net and the Nanny coddled and caressed him to no avail. In the distance he heard the sound of thunder and metal; the sound of people yelling and screaming. Chants arose from those screams, unsettling chants. This was the place that the balloon was slowly heading. It was the place where Mecha provided another service for grim Orga appetites.

The night lit slowly as they moved closer to the noise. The lights were yellow, then blue, then red; gyrating violently, faster and faster. Rockets went off in the sky. The multicolored trails of their explosions arched and fell around the caged Mecha, embracing them, welcoming special guests to the ritual; the sacrifice to the callous Orga gods of anger and fear.

Among the condemned, a new robot, a little boy of their kind, struggled with a sadness and desperation the rest would never know.
1.

Lord Johnson Johnson had survived "The Trenton Incident", as he referred to it. He was a survivor. He had always been a survivor. From his early days in Dublin when the larger corporate farms had imported scores of Mecha from America as cheap labor, running his family out of business, to his unsuccessful struggle to get the smaller cooperatives to unite against them, he had fought the good fight. This fight had led him to this mission, this calling. He had been tried and punished for the early attacks against the owned robots. Not because the Mecha were living things, with rights, they weren't, but because they had been licensed property. In the end though, there had been a way around that.

He had come to America, home of the Mecha. This was where the scourge had been born. The best of them were constructed here; the worst offenses against Orga-kind. Everywhere were Orga suffering and starving in the overgrown forest and the new islands of once desert mountains, while Mecha served as workers in fields that had been Orga domain for centuries. In those times the traitors had even put Mecha in the uniforms of police; the servants of mankind policing them! But Johnson's influence had put an end to that. He had challenged the political might of the Mecha manufacturers. With persistence and a growing constituency of frustrated followers, he had united an angry throng against the artificials and their arrogant creators. Because of his powerful message resentments against the robots, that had been simmering just under the boiling point, overflowed, releasing a wave of violence and destruction that had only subsided when laws were passed restricting the use of Mecha as policemen and firemen and other civil servants. No longer could the large corporate farmers drive smaller operations out of business with armies of cheap, fake laborers. No longer would struggling Orga have to compete with vile simulators for the work they needed to survive.

The Flesh Fair was his podium; the place where he stood and pronounced his gospel above the din of society's confusion; the place where he showed them, his followers, the way out of their pit of despair. It was their "Celebration of Life", and the Mecha's too; for in their destruction, did they not indeed pay homage to their creators? Did they not celebrate their master's 'reality'? Those who had given them life now took it away.

The Flesh Fair would survive Trenton too. It would prosper and spread throughout the world, because it was alive! Its audience was the last stronghold of humanity; those who had been left out of the schematic of the new society; those who built, maintained, and operated the machines necessary to run the remaining cities; those who toiled on what remained of the soil, to bring food to a corrupt and unappreciative upper class. They were the true Orga, his followers, his disciples. They would not sell out humanity or cower before an underclass of mindless slaves that the Mecha were.

His followers had forgiven him for Trenton. They understood the dangers involved in his mission. There were bound to be mistakes. It was unavoidable. He doubted they would ever forget the image of the blood that had splattered all over the stage, washing the band in a coat of thick red and bone chips after what they had thought was a robot had been shot from the cannon, through the hoop of fire, and into the spinning blades of the Mecha Chopper. They'd never forget the sickening sound, the wet thud the body had made as it was smashed and sliced in the blades. The stands had been slick with vomit after the crowd had hurriedly departed in horror and shock.

Needless to say, it had put an end to the show for that night. It might have put an end to the show forever. Lord Johnson Johnson had many enemies who were ever looking for a weakness to exploit. He'd retreated quickly with his lawyers, flailing them with a series of urgent concerns. What were the ramifications? Could he be charged? Who had this man been, that was thrown into the blades? How in the hell had he gotten into the pig pen with the Mecha, and why hadn't he been scanned?!

Fortunately for the show, the man had been a drifter, a 'transie' from the outskirts. It was found that he had been scanned but with a faulty device and he'd shown cold. Drunk and despondent he'd offered no struggle when he'd been placed in the cannon. His malnourishment, pale, sickly skin, his brittle bones and wasted frame had made his weight light. He must have felt like a fiber-head to the guards who lifted him.

Months passed and in the end there had been no repercussions. Lord Johnson Johnson had made his speeches. They were his forte'. His 'explanation' (for he never apologized) had been run on all the local networks and two major national affiliates carried it as well. Amazingly enough, the awful mistake had garnered him a larger audience to bring into his fold. Those who had hoped this would be his ruin were frustrated once again by what seemed to be an invincible wall of fate that protected the man.

But did his followers really know him? The 'Johnson', as they called him, did not consider the fact that the man who had died in the spinning blades of one of his machines had been, in life, one of the forgotten people he pretended to care for. He did not think about the fact that the only reason there had been no repercussion was because of the man's lowly status. He did not know that the lonely wanderer had been cast from his work, insulating satellite interiors, when a fleet of Mecha workers had been perfected for the job. The man had lost his wife when his lack of income made the Child Licensing Authority reject his application. Nor did the 'Johnson' care enough to find out about these things. Lord Johnson Johnson, self-proclaimed protector of the last vestiges of Orga, had become part of the plagues that consumed them.

But his followers did not know it. Nor did he. The arrogance and zeal with which he had built his temple had become the very corrupter of his message.

Tonight he would have to do something special! He did not know what at this point. Things were getting slow. The hunt had provided scant Mecha, but this had happened before. The band would have to put on a great show, play some extra numbers. Maybe he could have the hounds do a few displays on their cycles. They had enough Mecha for a good main course but the finale was going to be a bit light. He'd have Cynthie extend her monologue and he'd lengthen his own closing speech.

After he'd landed at the fair one of the hounds told him there was something he needed to see in the net. He assumed that the man was probably referring to the Orga-looking thing; the Lover Mecha they'd caught. Yeah, that would be good for the finale. But he'd have it scanned once more, just to be sure.

-2-

Cynthie passed behind the tall bleachers and stopped to enjoy a moment alone. She gazed out on the expectant, rowdy crowd. The stands were almost full and people were chanting, taunting the Mecha in the cage. 'Followers my ass,' she thought eyeing the multitude of faces. Drunks. Thugs. Teenagers clad in khaki; little neo-fascists, who had found a new target in robots that wouldn't fight back, couldn't fight back! They just came here for the carnage. She inhaled. Blew out the smoke. Relaxed a little. What the hell were they gonna do tonight? She looked across the killing field at the dirty pig-pen, the cage where Mecha were held until their time was up. It was almost half empty. The Mecha stood still, looking stupid and lost as usual. Over their heads, on the stage, the band, lean men clad in black and metal, roared through the industrial crunch of sound that had become associated with the event; the glorious Flesh Fair. Huge screens on the stage carried the image of the grunting singer's skeletal mask and guitar. Soon the screen would carry the images of the Mecha being burnt and destroyed. Cynthie inhaled one last deep puff of her cigarette, another rare luxury nowadays. She didn't care about the Mecha either way. It was a gig.

She'd have to give a longer setup than usual tonight. Best get ready. She tossed the smoking butt and tied her hair back, brushed the dust off her revealing vest, the striped American colors and lace dangling from the points of her breasts. She plastered on the winning smile that had made her the crowd's favorite and got into character.

It was show time!

-3-

Joe did not pay attention to the little Orga boy that was dumped into the cage with the rest of the rejects from the forest. He gazed out between the bars at the cheering crowd in the bleachers. They were angry. They waved flags and signs that read 'It's Mecha Mashing Time!' and "Orga Only". They threw things at the cage where he stood. He did not understand this spectacle. Surely this was trouble, but of what sort? He did not see any police among the people. This must be the Flesh Fair that Williamson had spoken of. Above him, through the glass floor of the stage, he could see the musicians' feet beating the stage as they crashed through their angry music. He wasn't sure what was happening here, but it did not look good.

Very 'disturbing'. Very 'doom'.

In the cage with him were the lost Mecha; the unclaimed and unwanted; the unlicensed, as himself, and those whose batteries should have run down ages ago. Somehow they kept going. With robotic detachment they watched the preparation for the slaughter.

One of them had been here before. He lay on the ground now, propped up on his metallic arms so he could see. Months ago, at this same roaming circus, he'd lost his legs. But he had survived by a mistake of his captors. Not knowing that he was still operable they had inadvertently taken his upper torso to the pit in the forest and used it for bait to catch others of his kind. As the hounds had chased the Mecha who came for the parts, he had slipped away and hidden. He had managed to remain in the wilds with the other escapees for all that time. Now he was back, caught in the same manner by which he had escaped. He held no anger or resentment for the Orga that came to watch the destruction. He was programmed to survive. He did not judge his oppressors.

There was a chef Mecha here too. Burnt nearly in half, his metal skeleton was showing through the holes in his head. He'd been dumped in the forest so the owners of the restaurant could claim him stolen and avoid paying the damages his contractors had wanted for their loss. There was a deteriorating lover Mecha. She was older model. Her artificial features could no longer compete with the newer simulators, like Joe, which were so hard to distinguish from Orga. Her over-glossed face was lopsided from being attacked by Orga boys who had taken their pleasure with her and then attempted to smash her head with a large rock. She had escaped, easily outrunning them, but her pain receptors had fired constantly over the next few weeks. Inside her head, the 'memory' of that time was still fresh. She was a simple model. She did not understand the reasons behind the Orga's hatred of them. She did not comprehend the Flesh Fair. But there were those among them who did.

They were old models. Built before the competitive commercial frenzy that had mass marketed Mecha throughout the world. They were built with longevity in mind. They were constructed with the vastest databases available. The information in some of their processors was still larger than most current Mecha who were designed in a more specific sense. It was cheaper to build them using standardized programs. Those with accents tended to have the same accents. They walked the same and used the same phrases. But the older models had been constructed at a time of idealism, of creative fervor. They had been developed to grow and learn and sophisticate; to cross-reference and modify their calculations. They were not like David, no, they could not feel, they had no 'emotion', but they knew what was occurring here. In their own way, they had come to resent their creators. They were the elders of the Mecha. And in their way, they had been teaching the younger machines; those who had not been programmed for learning; those whose designs were simpler and limited to the tasks at hand. The 'elders' had been explaining to the younger models, in coded language the Orga could not understand, the ways of the world.

-4-

David had stood in the embrace of the Nanny for some time while he watched the crowds cheering and throwing the rocks and little beanbags at the cage. He could not forget the pain that was going on inside his head, but the spectacle was dazzling. Above him the noise that the men made was powerful, thunderous. He watched them pound the glass floor of the stage and beat their instruments in a frenzy. As he watched these Orga, his curiosity grew. He slipped from the Nanny's comforting embrace and walked to the front of the cage. The Nanny let him go. He wanted to see what there was to see. She would wait here and watch him from a distance, grateful for a little one to concern about.

The Mecha noticed David now. The older machines pondered this strange thing. Was this the Orga child from the forest? No. This was no Orga. It was one of them, a young one. Or perhaps just designed to be young. This must be a new Mecha for none had seen one like this before. Its garments were clean. It had no dents and its flesh was not torn or marked. What was it doing here in the cage?

As David watched, a woman ran out into the arena. She waved a flag that David recognized and the Orga began to scream louder. She ran the length of the field quickly, flailing the banner at the cheering crowd, and then took to the stage above them. The men above ceased the great noise they had been making and the woman took a metal tube from the man in the mask.

"Let's us pay our respects!" she yelled into the tube that blasted her angry voice around the stadium, and the crowd all stood. They were quiet now and they placed their hands across their chests. What were they doing?

"Hands on your hearts you fiber heads!" one of the big men behind the cage yelled. David turned to see who had spoken and noticed that all the Mecha had put their hands across their chests like the Orga were doing. He followed suit. He was an obedient boy after all. Above them the men with the loud instruments began playing a new song. David had heard this one before. As they played, some Orga began to sing along. In all the noise David could not discern their words, but as the song drew to a close, he caught the last of them...

"O'er the land of the free,
And the home of the brave!"

What did these words signify? He remembered them. In time he would understand.

Then the song was over and the Mecha were startled by an explosion on the field. Fire erupted from a large metal barrel among the strange assortment of devices out there. There was a cannon, a large fan, giant metal ovals with flashing lights on the edges and buckets suspended above. The crowd screamed and chanted as another explosion roared with heat and fury.

The Show had begun.

-5-

Tempers were rising in the line of people still waiting to get into the arena. The anthem had been played and the music had started again! Then there were the explosions! Damn! The show was beginning! The anxious crowd ignored the thing that rushed below their line of vision, making its way towards the gates. But the woman at the gate was used to people trying to slip in. Her eyes were sharper. The crowd at the Flesh Fair wasn't always 'in the money' so to speak. She took tickets and watched carefully. She had men to help her if anybody got out of hand. But she wasn't prepared for the little thing that waddled up to the gates beneath her, in between the legs of those standing impatiently in line.

"Hello?!" she said in a clipped accent. She grabbed the fluffy thing up. What was this? Someone's lost toy? Hmmm… it was a nice one, a Smart toy. Probably looking for some little boy or girl. She held it up. "Anybody loose this?" she yelled into the crowd. But the people in the crowd were more concerned with getting to the stadium, getting their refreshments and taking their seats. Some children with arms full of popcorn and drinks passed by close to her.

"Is this yours?" she asked. She didn't really care if it was; she just hoped the kids would take it off her hands. The children looked at the furry thing. It was an old Teddy. They'd had one of those before. Those were for little kids. "No!" they replied in unison and walked away, sipping from large cups. Humph! Kids nowadays, eh? When she was a girl they'd have killed for one of these things.

The toy suddenly grumbled them in her hand. "Well wadda ya make of that?" she laughed. It was growling at her. She growled back. "Some toy you are, "she said to the thing furry thing, "even the little kids don't want ya!".

"I am not a toy!" the thing proclaimed and the woman laughed. She yelled at a thick man in tight black clothing. "Take this over to lost and found for me, ok?" And then she tossed the Teddy across the crowd.

Teddy was airborne again. This time though he was caught by a big man in black. The last time he had been caught and lowered to the ground rudely but not fatally, by the branches of the large trees below the Moon Balloon. As he had watched the balloon flee with his friend he processed this flash of something that he'd seen in David's face. Something in him had stirred, something new. He could not calculate this new thing. He had to get to David. After his crash-landing, he had jumped to his feet and followed the balloon; grateful that many of his pain receptors were not functioning to their full capacity. Fortunately his legs and ears were. He had chased the balloon for as long as he could see it and when it finally was out of his sight, the music and noise of explosions had led him on. In the darkness he had dashed through the crowds of excited Orga without so much as a second glance from them. But then the woman had caught him.

He was thrown again to another man. "Take him to the lost pile!" the first man yelled and then Teddy was being carried by one leg, watching the crowds and lights pass by upside-down.

"Do you know where David is?" he asked. The man walked over bleachers and by groups of yelling people. An explosion went off. "I must find David. Are you taking me to David?" he asked again.

"How do you turn this thing off?" the man asked no one. He began feeling around Teddy's body. Teddy could not afford to be turned off now. He had to find David. He closed his legs and the man's probing hand passed over the knob that would have quieted him, without noticing it. They passed by the helmeted men who had ridden the noisy machines in the forest. The men stood aside the machines now, laughing and talking with a large rugged man in a black hat. Maybe they would know where David was. "I must find David" he called to them. But they appeared not to hear his request.

The man took him into a lighted area where many Orga were sitting at wooden tables, drinking from large foaming cups and laughing. The man tossed him again and Teddy found himself in a large box with other things; dead and discarded toys, wallets and glasses. The man who had brought him here walked away quickly, muttering something angry under his breath.

-7-

The entertainer had been a regular at the Newark Museum of Performing Arts for years. He was a replica of a famous comedian from the 20th century and had made crowds laugh with his antics and humor, which was amazingly still fresh. Then newer models had been bought; simulators whose flesh was smoother, more realistic; whose eyes and movements were less of a give away. Their timing was better and they'd been given better material to work with. The owners hadn't had the heart to destroy him. He'd been given to a hospital for the poor and then discarded when he was no longer amusing.

The large men in the black tight suits came for him first. The other Mecha stood aside, helplessly watching as their friend was hoisted on the men's shoulders. They could not fight back even if they had had the will. They were programmed to never strike Orga. Orga were always right. They could run for their lives, but once captured, the Orga were in control. It was too late for any mercy to be expected or given.

David watched them wrestle the doomed robot into the arena. He had not seen men like this before. Their arms were big and lined with muscle. Their faces were grim and determined. The Orga in the stands started yelling and cheering as the men carried the Mecha onto the field.

"Could you kind'a shoot me over that propeller thingie?" the Mecha requested in its character-voice, as the men struggled to push him into the cannon. He understood what was happening here, but he was programmed for laughter. "I don't really need to go through it. I was considering that earlier, but I changed my mind," he added. The men ignored the robot. They didn't find it funny. This was work. They had a job to do.

Cynthie strutted back onto the field. She grasped her red, white and blue baton and waved it in large arcs before the propeller. The Mecha Masher. "Gentlemen! Staaaarrt your engines!" she yelled and the giant propeller fanned into motion.

David watched curiously. He saw, but did not understand, what was occurring. He pressed against the bars to get a better look. The crowd was chanting again, yelling numbers. David knew 'numbers'. He followed the count-down with the Orga. "Five! Four! Three!" Was it a game? "Two! One!" And suddenly the cannon erupted, spitting fire from its mouth. The pressure from the explosion blew dust and heated air over David's face and his eyes blinked in a rare moment of protection, opening just in time to see the Mecha fly through the hoop of fire where it burst into flame. Then it flew into the propellers and exploded into sparking metal shards.

The destroyed Mecha's faceplate was ripped from its head whole and it flew right at David, smacking the bars before him, an eternal smile etched on the melting simulated flesh that clung to the cage. The face-plate slid down the bars and sizzled on the ground as the crowd bellowed for more. David stepped back, his eyes wide at the spectacle of death. So this was destroying? Were they going to do that to him? He had no Mommy and no Teddy! He needed a protector. He was just a little boy! He reached out and took the nearest hand to him. It was a firm strong hand. David clasped it tightly.

Joe looked down at the little Orga boy who had grasped his hand. What was all this about?

-8-

"What about us?!" a woman's voice was raised above the din of the crowd.

Teddy had heard the explosion and the sound of grinding metal and the crowd's excited response.

"We are alive!" the woman yelled over the roar.

Teddy could not wait here anymore. He had to find David. This was a bad place. It was noisy and dirty. It was not a good place for a little boy, or even something that just looked like one. David was not safe here.

"We are alive and this is a celebration of life!" the woman continued as the crowd chanted for more.

Teddy began to rock back and forth in the box, feeling his flimsy cell start to move with each of his thrusts. David could be in trouble! This was a place where they destroyed Mecha. Teddy understood what that meant. Mommy had expected him to take care of David, it was his job, his program. And what of this new thing; the fleeting thing he had felt as he fell through the night?

"This is a commitment to a truly human future!"

Teddy struggled harder against the walls of the box, and the world quaked, spinning as the box fell from the table. He was free again!

The Orga sitting on the benches did not seem to notice the falling box or the fuzzy Supertoy that crawled from it. Teddy slipped under the tables and ran into the confusion of the crowd. He had to move quickly! He must find David. David needed him.

-9-

In a furious cloud of smoke and debris another of their kind met its fate. The crowd roared its approval. In the cage, the doomed Mecha watched quietly.

"Would you be so kind as to turn my pain receptors off?" the old Mecha with the oval humped back and funny face said. The burnt chef moved behind the old machine and reached inside its back panel. The small light array on his back went off as his sensory interface was shut down. That was better. It would all be over quickly now. "Thank you so much," he said politely.

David let go of the man's hand and faced the old Mecha. "Why is this happening?" he asked. One of the elders saw the little Mecha. He understood its ignorance. He had not understood when he was first made either. He had been programmed to help Orga, to police the bad ones. But they no longer wanted Mecha to police them so, like all the others, he was obsolete, a cast away.

"History repeats itself, " he explained in a aged mechanical voice. "It's the rite of blood and electricity!" Above them the yelling woman was yelling about of a truly human future.

Another elder Mecha joined in the conversation. Its neck was a large looping thing, like a beckoning finger. Its face was an image projected against a screen in the neck. It was an angry face, full of old wisdom and bitterness, its voice cranky and mechanical. "You see, when the opportunity avails itself, they pick away at us. They cut down our numbers so they can maintain numerical superiority!" He didn't expect the little one to understand; the newer ones were programmed differently. It would take repeated explanations before they could see clearly.

David had started to ask a question to the old Mecha when he saw something rushing from the crowd. It moved quickly under the path of Orga who were leaning against the back of the stands drinking and watching the show. David knew this shape. It was small and fluffy. He rushed to the edge of the cage as it approached. Could it be? There was another feeling in him now. It overshadowed the fear and pain in his head. It was excitement.

-10-

Amanda waited behind the bleachers while the old robots were blown up. She didn't like all the noise and yelling. She had a little money that Daddy had given her, so she'd had some popcorn and a soda and talked to the man at the counter for a while. He was nice. Then she'd heard a noise and sought its source. She couldn't believe her eyes when the lost and found box suddenly fell right off of the table. She thought she saw something dash out of the box, race beneath the benches and make its way to the stands. Was it a puppy? Yes… let it be a puppy! She made quick pursuit.

But it wasn't a puppy at all! It was a Teddy! She'd had a Teddy, but Daddy had made her get rid of it after he started working for the fair. She had a new doll, but it didn't talk or walk, like the others. 'Just use your imagination honey,' Daddy had told her. But that was boring.

She chased the Teddy as it ran towards the jail place where they kept all the Mecha for the show. The thing was racing for the cage and she had to stop it. It didn't want to go in there! That's where the toy people were smashed up. She raced after the thing, her frail little legs moveing her quickly. The Teddy fell suddenly and she grabbed it up, holding it close.

"What's your name?" she asked. She knew some Teddy's had different names. Like her friend Cindy had one called Droopy, and Azalea called hers...

"Hello Teddy" someone said from the cage. Amanda looked up. There was a boy in the cage! A boy in the cage? He looked at the toy bear and smiled.

"Hello David," the Teddy said. Amanda looked at the boy curiously. What was he doing in there?

-11-

"There's a boy in the cage," she explained again. Daddy still didn't seem to understand. She was in the control room now where her Daddy worked. It was a busy tent, full of the people who ran the lights and explosions. He didn't like her to come in there because the men would curse sometimes and they smoked a lot too. Daddy looked at her strangely. She knew that look. He didn't believe her. "It's a real boy and he's stuck in the cage!" she explained trying to convince him of what she'd seen.

"In the pen?" Daddy asked.

"In the jail place" she said.

Stuart thought of Trenton immediately. He hadn't been working for Johnson when that happened but he'd heard plenty about it. He leaned backed away from his console. Above him an improvised array of monitors showed camera angles from various points of the Fair. "Hey, Russell, we got a remote near the pig pen?" he asked. The man called Russell nodded and brought an image onto one of the screens. Stuart looked at the little figure huddled against the back wall of the pen. Was that a boy? It sure looked like a boy! Damn! He turned to his daughter.

"How'd you learn about this honey?"

Amanda smiled and held up her new toy. "The bear told me!"

"I told her," the thing she had been cuddling said.

Stuart shook his head and rolled his eyes. Great! That's all he needed now, Johnson finding a Supertoy in the control room.

"Amanda! Where'd you find..."

"Hey Stuart," the man called Russell said urgently, "They're taking the boy." Stuart looked up at the monitor. A few of the pit-bulls had grabbed an old laborer model and another was moving for the boy. Jesus... couldn't those idiots tell the difference?

"Sonofabitch!" he yelled forgetting his daughter's presence. "Get 'those assholes on the horn, Russell! Now!"

-12-

David watched terrified as the big men walked into the cage; grim faced giants in executioner's black. They took the old funny face Mecha, hiking him up in their strong arms.

"My time is up already?" the Mecha asked. He had thought maybe he could go later. He had been such a service to the Orga for so long. He should have just a bit longer. But maybe this was better. He understood the rigorous time schedules Orga were always under. There was work to be done. "Goodbye everyone," he said to the Mecha that had hid with him in the forest. It was time to go now.

David was watching the old Mecha being carried away when massive hands wrapped around his waist and lifted him.

The pit-bull was amazed at the realistic feel of the little Mecha. Damn it felt like a kid! But they said it had scanned cold. It was a 'sim' alright. He started for the gate.

David went into alarm. "Keepmesafekeepmesafekeepmesafe…" he recited urgently, struggling and kicking. But the man was too strong. David did not want to be destroyed! "Keepmesafekeepme.." he was not a robot. He was a little boy! He was David! He had a Mommy! "Keepmesafekeepmesafe…" He had a home! But the man walked towards the cage door and David knew what waited out there.

Another black clad man ran to the cage suddenly. He had a talking device attached to his head. "Not that one!" the man yelled excitedly. The pit-bull was actually relieved. There was something creepy in handling the boy-like thing. It was too real. The man tossed David back into the cage roughly. David was safe for the time being, but his alerted chant was not over. He ran back to the Mecha man and grabbed his arm. "Keepmesafekeepmesafe..." he repeated lower now as his urgency slowly faded.

Joe did not push the little one away. He did not understand the alarm that it displayed, but it was of no concern to him. Its grip was not damaging his arm, so he turned and watched the spectacle again. So this is what they did with the old rejects?

What, he wondered, did they want with him?

-13-

They had to stretch tonight because of the limit on Mecha. Cynthie was doing her bit onstage in between each explosion, reveling up the crowd, pitching Johnson's spiel over and over. The band played a few extra cuts, winding the crowd up into a metal frenzy. Even the older more conservative members of the audience seemed to bop along with the cacophonic grooves. Because of their efforts to make up for the lack of Mecha, this might well prove to be one of the best shows yet.

A small procession made their way quickly though the cheering crowd. Amanda led her father and his friend, a woman from the control room, to the place she had see the boy. Russell had gotten on the horn and stopped the pit bulls just in time. They'd almost taken the boy out to the arena. Damn idiots! Stuart thought, no wonder Trenton had happened the way it did! Even the most primitive robots were smarter than those goons. If the boy was Orga, then no damage had yet been done. If it was Mecha… well, then he'd want to see this one for himself.

They came to the pit. The woman was on the hand comm, checking for any reports of lost children. She found none.

Amanda pointed into the cage. "See! See!" she said. "I told you so." Daddy knelt beside her. He could see the 'boy' standing inside with his back to them.

"Hey boy!" Stuart called. The little one didn't turn. He was clasping the hand of a taller late model Mecha. "You! Boy!" he called again. This time the boy turned and faced them. Wow! This had to be a kid. "Hey kid, don't be afraid. I ain't gonna bite ya," he said smiling, showing his open hands. Maybe the kid was some illegal who'd been caught in the net by the hounds. Those guys had their idiotic moments too. "C'mere... let me get a look at ya," Stuart said in a friendly voice.

David didn't really like the way the man looked. The little girl who had taken Teddy away was with him too. What did they want now? But David was an obedient boy after all. He walked slowly to the bars of the pen.

If this was Mecha, it was one hell of a job, Stuart thought. He pulled an X-scanner from his belt. These were much more dependable than the infra-scanner the hounds carried. He couldn't believe that Johnson let anyone still use those things after Trenton. He pointed the gun shaped analyzer at the boy and the kid jumped at the sight of the thing.

David knew 'gun'. Gun was for destroying! He started to go into alert mode but the man quickly put the gun down and smiled, holding his hands up in a posture of surrender.

"It wont hurt you. It won't hurt you!" Stuart assured the kid. He started to point the scanner again but the boy jumped back again, poised to run. Stuart could hear the kid chanting something low under his breath. He turned to his daughter. "Watch," he said to the frightened boy. He pointed the scanner at the little girl and pulled the trigger.

David saw the outline on the little girl's face. The man passed the gun-thing over the girl's body and David saw more lines and designs under her clothes. David didn't know what he was seeing, he didn't know about bone structure or skeletons, but he saw that the girl wasn't injured so he calmed and allowed the man to point the gun thing at him. It lit up for a moment, glaring into his eyes, and David could not see the man behind the bright light. Then the light was gone. The thin dark haired man was staring at him. The man's face was doing 'shock'.

"You're a machine!" he said in awe.

But David had a Mommy. Machines don't have Mommies. "I'm a boy" he replied.

Amanda was excited. "Is he a toy boy?" she asked. Maybe they could have a toy boy. That would be fun. Then she could have a brother!

Stuart was perplexed and impressed. It didn't know it was a machine? Or was that just a programmed response? What manner of artwork was this? And what the hell was it doing in the pen? "This is impossible," Stuart said. They couldn't destroy this thing. It was incredible.

"My name is David," the Mecha said softly. What was that in his face? Stuart looked closer. What expression! What subtlety! And there was something else, something in the way it acted, its halting measured steps as it came to him. Was that genuine fear? Stuart had a feeling he was looking at something nobody here had ever seen before. He couldn't let them destroy it.

"David, my name is Stuart," he said. "You just wait here. Don't be afraid. I'll be right back."

-14-

He had explained to them that he could still work. It was just that his lamp was broken. He had broken it on a girder at work and they had taken him to the forest and left him there. He was still functional, couldn't they understand that?. But still the men had placed him on the wheel. They had secured his legs and arms and then left him. The wheel was lifted into the air so the crowd could see him. It was hoisted up by hydraulic pumps, the same kind he had once worked on. He knew what this wheel was for.

Below him another elder was being led into the arena by an Orga woman and two men in black. The other Mecha was covered by a blanket so he could not see where he was going. As the robot on the quartering wheel watched, one of the cyclists from the forest roared into the arena and sped towards the group. The Orga stepped away, yanking the blanket off just as the man on the cycle triggered his chainsaw into action.

In the moment before the old Mecha was sliced in two, in an explosion of electric fire, he looked up and saw his old friend from the forest. The two gazed at each other only for a split second. But time was different for them. Something passed between them in that instant. Something Orga did not know existed in Mecha. Was it understanding? Empathy?

Suddenly the wheel on which he had been suspended jerked into motion, pulling itself apart. It took his limbs apart with it. There was no pain, his receptors had been turned off in the cage, but there was something. Just before the world fizzed away in a sudden flash of chaotic signals and alarms, there was a flash of something bright.

-15-

The man called Stuart had told him not to be afraid, that he wouldn't let the big men destroy him. But David was still afraid because Stuart had left him alone. And they had taken Teddy with them. One by one Mecha were being led out of the cage. They had gone peacefully, without complaint or argument. David had watched them be ripped apart; shot through flaming hoops of fire and smashed in the propellers of giant fans. It was too much for his mind to handle. The pain was a constant presence now. Behind it was a maze of complex data that needed to be sorted out later. But would there be a later?

Then Stuart had come back, and he'd brought another, a thick man in a black hat. He had a rugged face, a big round stomach and thin slits for eyes. Even though the man smiled, his face looked angry somehow.

Lord Johnson Johnson eyed the thing that the new man had brought him to see. Damn if it didn't look like a real child! Why hadn't he been told about this before? He sat on the ground next to the thing. It cringed away from him. What was this, fear; some new device to garner mercy? Not tonight, boyo… not tonight.

"This is the one I was talking about," Stuart said, gesturing to David as if he was presenting an award. Johnson just grunted, staring at the 'boy' simulator. Stuart wondered if the look of fear in the robot's face was having any effect on the Johnson. He'd never seen a Mecha do that before.

There was a quick scuffling behind them and both men turned to see a withered and broken looking robot trying to make its way toward them. All that remained of its head was its faceplate and its arms and torso were chipped tubes of metal covered by a deteriorating piece of cloth. A pit- bull was pulling it towards the door. Stuart noticed the boy-Mecha smiling at the old robot in some form of recognition.

"Let her go," Stuart said. Johnson started to object, but his curiosity overcame him.

The Nanny came to them and knelt next to David. She had been constructed for very specific reasons and her brain functioned within well-defined parameters. But in her own fashion she realized now that he was not Orga, but was like her. She had also, finally understood what the proceedings tonight were about. She wished she could stay and protect him, but it was her time.

"Goodbye, David," she said smiling gently. She'd never known how to frown. David watched as the pit-bulls led her away. They were going to destroy her. Why? What was the pattern? The two Orga men did not see what was behind the exchange between the Mecha. Orga, in their presumptive arrogance, rarely noticed such things.

After the old robot was gone, Stuart cupped David's chin in his hand. "No one builds children.. no one I know of anyway," he said, feeling the precise rendering of jaw line and musculature beneath David's skin. "What would be the point?" he wondered aloud. David pulled away from the man's investigation. He watched the pit-bulls leading the Nanny into the arena. Stuart thought perhaps it was programmed to attach to symbols of security. Maybe some manner of familiarity routines that made it connect with the maternally programmed Nanny? Perhaps.

Johnson harrumphed, eyeing the Mecha. He pushed his wide black hat back on his head. "Could be a custom job. Maybe some rich and lonely scardie-pusses pretend child."

"I'm a custom job!" a gruff mechanical voice boomed. The men turned. It was an old Mecha whose face was displayed in a vid-port secured in its extended neck. "Seventy five years ago I was Time Magazine's Mecha of the Year!" it claimed. Johnson sneered and turned his back on the old thing.

"No… this is pretty specialized," Stuart said. He pulled on its chin, trying to make the Mecha look at him. But its eyes followed the Nanny model, as it was lead to the bag toss. "Maybe its some kind of prototype? It's first rate work. A lotta love went into him."

David watched the strong men lead the Nanny to the large slab of metal. Blinking lights danced around its circular edge. It looked like a 'fun' place. Other robots had been taken to these things but they had been out of his line of site. He did not see what happened to them there. The men had moved this display to the center of the arena and David could see as they had chained her to it. The people in the bleachers cheered when she was strapped against the thing.

"David," Stuart said. The Mecha finally looked at him. "You are one of a kind, do you know that?" Did it know? There seemed to be intelligence behind the frightened gaze. Something in there was reasoning above and beyond the call of its immediate function. "Who made you?" he asked.

David's mind got stuck in the same place as when Martin had questioned him in what seemed like another life. Who was he; this, which was made? Like Martin's probing, the problem with the man's question was in understanding who he was. He was David, a boy. Right? Who made boys?

"My Mommy made me," he replied.

"Ahh, her, womb was your factory eh?" Lord Johnson-Johnson winked at Stuart. "One of those built to aspire to the human condition," he sneered. He had heard this before, or at least he convinced himself that this was no different from the claims of Orga-ness that he heard from other Mecha. But he was wrong. No other machine had decided its nature based on self-defining logic. But, as ever, Johnson was not swayed by his lack of insight. "What is the name of your maker? Serve US? Easy living?" he probed. The robot did not respond. "Robby Ville? Simulate City? Cybertronics? Sidekicks?"

"Monica is my Mommy!" David said finally.

Johnson pondered this a moment. He nodded at Stuart and the men left the Mecha sitting by the bars, still watching the Nanny.

She smiled at him from where she stood bound within the metal circle, and for a moment David was taken away from the inexplicable destroying he had seen. He thought of the sounds she had made at him earlier, the 'song' she had sung to him softly. It had reminded him of Mommy's gentle voice. David smiled back at the Nanny. Above her, men were pouring something into the buckets balanced atop the large oval display.

"So what's your point?" Johnson asked when they were away from the Mecha.

Stuart was nonplused by Johnson's obvious lack of understanding of what they'd just witnessed. The Mecha's insistence that it was born of Orga had caught his attention but Johnson didn't seem to get it. Something was strange here. Did it know it was Mecha?

"Don't you see..." he started. "I mean, the thing thinks it's Orga."

Johnson waved his hand to dismiss the point. "Easy enough to program. I fail to see the importance of that particular gimmick."

"I think it's more than that," Stuart said quickly. "And did you see the work on the body design. I can't see a seam on him. And the infrastructure, the skin texture. It's amazing! Aren't you at least curious about it?"

"The lover model looks seamless enough. You don't seem concerned about that one." Johnson humphed.

Stuart shook his head. "I know that series. Seen them before. This is different. I have never seen anything like this. I mean the facial expressions alone; don't they tell you that this is a piece of art?"

David watched as the Orga in the stands started throwing little hard things at the small circular extensions of metal from the sides of the oval to which the Nanny was strapped. Was it a game? What was in the buckets? What were they trying to accomplish? What would happen if...

An audience member finally struck the bulls-eye and the acidic metal solvent fell down upon the Nanny. David watched horrified as the acid ate her alive. She still smiled at him. She smiled until her face had melted into a running mass of metallic clumps. As her mind fizzled into the black void, she smiled to the little Mecha, that he should be brave and not afraid of what was their lot. She had not been programmed for any thought like this.

David watched her frame dissolve until it was shoots of metal 'bone' burnt down to the waist. Smoke and sparks were rising from what was left of her. He was afraid again.

"You thinking of not putting him in the show?" Johnson asked. That's when Stuart realized that his boss was an irrational zealot.

"Something as original as this you don't toss out with the rest of the garbage!" he said in an angrier tone than he'd intended. But Johnson didn't seemed upset by this insubordination. He made his usual sneer, and reached into his coat pocket.

"Well, I say originality without purpose is a white elephant, but if money is your purpose," he folded a wad of new-bucks into Stuart's hand, "Here's your refund. My compliments!" Stuart watched unbelieving as Lord Johnson-Johnson grabbed David's perfect little arm and began to drag him from the cage towards the arena. 'What beautiful work,' he thought. What a waste. What an idiot!

David felt the big man take his wrist and pull him towards the exit of the cage. What was he doing? Where were they going? Then he knew; to the destroying place. But he was like them wasn't he; The Mecha? He had to find help, but Nanny was gone... who would protect him now? Who would... then he saw the man Mecha standing by the edge of the cage, the elegant one in the black suit. He reached out desperately and took the machines's hand. "keepmesafekeepmesafe" he began.

Joe had been watching the destruction of the rejects. He had no reaction to this. They had obviously outlived their purpose. The Orga were probably going to scrap them for new parts. That's what they did. Then suddenly someone grabbed his hand again. He looked down and saw that it was the same little boy that had grabbed him before. He quickly realized that this wasn't a boy at all. That was interesting. What now?

Johnson ignored the fake boy when it had started mumbling something under its breath. Then he felt its resistance. Johnson paused and looked back. The boy had grabbed a hold of the Lover-Mecha's hand and was trying to pull itself back into the cage. Johnson ignored how real the heated little palm felt against his own. "Let go of it!" he ordered the lover thing.

Joe tried to comply with the Orga's command, but the little Mecha had a vice-like grip on his hand. It was muttering something rapidly. Was that the 'fear' look? Very 'convincing'! Very 'Orga'! But the grip was pure Mecha. "I cannot," Joe said.

"Let go now!" Johnson yelled. He didn't tolerate uppity robots.

"I'm trying, sir. He won't let go," Joe said.

"Well suit yourself," Johnson said and yanked so hard that Joe was pulled along with David.

Stuart followed the struggling trio out of the cage. "What are you going to do with him?" he yelled.

"I'm gonna put him where he belongs," Johnson sneered, "In show business!"

Joe heard the man refer to show business. He knew 'show business'! He'd seen plenty of that in the City! So that was why they had him here! "Well it was certainly my good fortune running into you!" Joe said as he let himself be dragged along with the little Orga-looking thing.

"Keepmesafekeepmesafe" David's plea rose in intensity. His eyes made a futile plea to Joe who did not seem to realize what was happening. They passed some men who were dragging something ruined and broken through the dirt. David recognized the dark cloth that had once wrapped her old frame. He let out a cry and fell to the ground trying to resist the big man's pull. "Keepmesafekeepmesafe" But it made no difference. He was only 60 pounds. The massive Johnson dragged him along in the dirt and Joe followed willingly, oblivious to the doom that awaited them both at the hands of the hungry mob.
1.

"Where is David?" Teddy asked. Amanda did not know how to respond to the little bear. The toy-boy was in the pigpen where Mr. Johnson-Johnson kept all the robots he broke in the show. He had a silly name and he was a big, stupid man and she didn't like when Daddy had started working for him. But "it pays the bills" as he always told her. She didn't like all the things Daddy had to do to 'pay the bills'.

"I think they will put him in the show," she said sadly. "But you can stay with me now," she smiled. The little bear's neck made whirring sounds as it looked around. It struggled in her grip. "I must see David!" it said over and over. Amanda had never seen a toy act like this before. "I must see David," it demanded again, in its gruff mechanical bark. "You must take me to David now!" At first the toy's insistence made her feel sad. But slowly it began to scare her.

2.

They had come from as far as Allentown, Trenton and the partially submerged remains of Montclair to see the show, The Flesh Fair! The Celebration of Life! They knew about Trenton and the Orga man who had been split open and killed in the Mecha Masher. They'd forgiven The Johnson for that. It could not have been intentional. And the man was just a drifter after all, one who did not earn his lot. That kind made life as difficult as the Mecha had!

Some had come because they believed The Johnson was the spokesman for their kind; champion of the lost and forgotten Orga that held society together at its roots; those that the ungrateful and selfish wealthy had not found a way to replace. Yet.

Others were here because there wasn't much left for them in this ruined world but hard toil, hard drink and a few Mecha to screw up over the weekend.

They were all colors and faiths. Nor did age determine this demographic. Among them were those who had been replaced by mechanical workers and even those who had benefited from the cheap labor of man-made slaves. No criterion save that of anger and resentment, often justifiable, could be used to define them.

All of them wanted a show, and what a show the good Lord Johnson Johnson was giving them tonight! The band had been better than usual. Cynthie, that beautiful blonde pride of the Orga, had paraded about, waving their banner, and made speech after speech, working the faithful and fun loving alike into a frenzy. And while it seemed that there were fewer Mecha than usual, each one's disposal was treated like a small celebration of its own.

Now, to top off the evening, the man himself made an entrance. It was The Johnson! The crowd stood and applauded and cupped their eyes to see into the shadows behind the bag-toss display. He had a new prize for them; two of them, it looked like. They couldn't see it clearly, but one of them looked like a new model; one of them 'lover' robots, perhaps. This outght'a be a riot! The crowd broke into an excited roar. Scantly clad assistants tossed little sandbags to the crowd, whose arms reached out like the necks of ravenous nestlings craning for their mother's regurgitated nourishments.

3.

"Up here honey!" Stuart called. He had led Amanda from the control room and was lifting her little frame onto a platform near the stage. In the arena below, Johnson was addressing the crowd. Stuart had considered just taking the amazing little Mecha. But he was out-manned. He'd thought then about enlisting the aid of some of his crew, but they had wives and children and homes to attend to. They'd never challenge Johnson. He even considered paying one of audience members to claim that it belonged to them. Being property would surely protect this unique device. But finally he realized it was all fantasy. One of the most ingenious pieces of work he had ever seen was about to be destroyed for a raucous crowd of drunks and misfortunates, who would never even appreciate the genius of its design.

But what had Stuart wanted from the boy-machine? He had been a programmer years ago. He fell in love with designing personality parameters, defining the intellectual and logical limits that were necessary to make a machine act 'real'. And that's why he had immediately recognized the difference in the boy. Even in their brief conversation he had seen the way its logic functioned differently from the other machines. But Stuart had never felt any attachment to Mecha. He was angry and hurt. But he didn't know why.

Wasn't there something about this one? He would swear there was something. When he was looking at it, into its innocent gaze... something was looking back. He shrugged that thought off. It was silly and impossible. Then he saw the Teddy in Amanda's arms. It was still protesting. It wouldn't shut up about the 'David' thing. How was such a bond developed between them? Where had these things come from?

"Amanda, let me talk to the Teddy for a minute, OK?" he said reaching for the bear.

The little girl reluctantly let her father take the struggling toy. "You must let me talk to David now!" it repeated over and over. Stuart knew these old models. If it functioned as a smart toy regulator, then it should know manufacturers and possibly models.

"Who is David's maker?" Stuart asked the Supertoy.

The Teddy ceased it complaints suddenly. It looked at Stuart while it processed this question. Then its face folded into a grimace of impatience.

"Monica, is David's Mommy," it replied.

4.

David was dropped rudely by the angry man with the big black hat. He fell into the dirt and closed his eyes to protect them from the dust raised by his fall. When he opened them again he noticed the money that had fallen out of the pocket of his jacket. The last thing that Mommy had had to offer him was laying in the dirt. He moved to retrieve his new-bucks, but another man, even bigger and stronger than the first, lifted him quickly and placed him in the spotlights on the big metal stand.

The pit-bull thrusts the Lover-bot onto the platform with the little one. A double feature! The two lifelike simulants were then bound to the display with chains, the little one shackled in front of the larger, while the Orga in the darkness beyond the blinding spotlights cheered and whooped!

But not all of the crowd continued cheering. Some of them had been silenced by the sight of the small boy-like thing that had been hoisted into the lights of the acid bath.

Lord Johnson-Johnson stepped before the crowd and waved an arm to silence them. They were excited, his followers, so it took a minute for them to settle. He could not see beyond the spotlights that bathed the arena in a florescent glow, but he knew who they were in the dark beyond those lights. They were the forgotten ones; the pushed out and angry ones. They had a right to be angry. And they were about to get angrier. He was going to make sure of that.

"Ladies and Gentlemen! Boys and girls and Children of all ages!" he started, for he was after all, a showman. He turned and gestured to the Mecha that were chained to the boards. This was going to be his show stopping finale'. But there were a few oldies in the pen still. Just in case this wasn't enough. .

"What'll they think of next?!" he asked them as they viewed the simulants. He let them study the two for a moment.

"See here!" he pointed at David. "A boy bot! A tinker toy! A living doll!" He was silent for a moment while the crowd absorbed the sight of the little Mecha. He heard some gasps and a few "oh-my-gawds" from beyond the lights. It must be the Trenton thing again. Dammit! He knew there was going to be some squawkers among them but didn't know how many. Perhaps they would probably take to the little Mecha at first. He'd seen himself how well it simulated emotions. But he'd show them the kind of commitment it would take to save themselves from the scourge of artificiality. He threw his hat off in a dramatic gesture.

"We all know why they made them!" he shouted. "To steal your hearts, to replace your own children!" He began to pace the arena. He was going to capture them. Bring them into his anger and make it theirs; because that's where it belonged. In them!

"This is the latest generation in a series of insults to human dignity!" He was walking quickly now around the arena, addressing each section of the stands. His face was shown in the huge monitors. He was their hero; their leader.

"The next step in their grand scheme to phase out all of God's little children. To make US obsolete!" He had them now. He could hear their breath. He could feel their pulse racing, as his was. Their hatred was his electricity; the power which drove his machinery.

"Meet the next generation of child, designed to do just that!" He stopped finally, his pace perfectly timed to bring him back to the display. "Behold the newest and most insidious threat to Orga kind."

The Orga in the stands saw it. Observed it carefully. What was this; a little boy? They knew that the derelicts hid on the outskirts with the runaway Mecha. What if they had grabbed one of the vagabond kids by accident? "That ain't Mecha," someone whispered, "Remember Trenton," someone else. There was confusion, indecision about this.

David gazed into the darkness beyond the lights. The crowd was silent now, just some soft muttering is all he could hear. This fear inside him had reached a new level. He, like no other robot before him, anticipated his demise. Beyond the lights lay the source of an inexplicable hatred that David had never seen, did not understand; that no Mecha would ever comprehend. Humanity itself had yet to answer the question: From whence does this hatred come?

Above David a man was pouring the acid, that would reduce him to fibrous clumps, into the buckets,; the liquid that would take from the world a truly unique creation, and take from David something that no Mecha before him had ever known.

Lord Johnson Johnson, self-appointed savior of Mankind, recognized the tenderness in the hesitancy of his disciples. But he knew what insidious plot lay at the heart of this ingenious simulator. "Do not be fooled by the artistry of this creation!" he warned them, and fixed them all with the uncompromising glare that had burned a path through whatever obstacles had stood in his way since Dublin. "No doubt there was talent. Genuine human talent...in the crafting of this simulator! Yet, with the very first strike, you will see the big lie come apart!"

Something struck the arm of David's jacket softly. A drop had slipped prematurely from the can above him; just a tiny bit of the toxic fluid they would use to take his life. David heard something hissing and looked at the arm on his coat where it had landed. It was burning. Why was it burning? He looked up and saw the man filling the buckets. The image of the Nanny's melting face alerted though his brain. This was the destroying place!

"DON'T BURN ME! DON'T BURN ME!" he cried, "I'M NOT PINOCCHIO! DON'T MAKE ME DIE! I'M DAVID! I'M DAVID!" He didn't belong here. This was the place for robots. He was David. He was a boy!

A startled woman stood up from the crowd. What the hell was that? Was that a child? The small helpless thing cried and screamed like Orga! "Mecha don't plead for their lives!" she yelled. Some people stood and grunted acknowledgment around her, "Whose child is that?" another screamed, "He looks like a boy!" yelled another.

"I'M DAVID! I HAVE A MOMMY!" David yelled, his face twisted in fear and desperation.

This thing was well constructed, Johnson realized. Clever the way it tried to steal their hearts. He would show them how to do it. "It's built like a boy to disarm us!" he countered. "See how they imitate our emotions now?!" He thought he had them again. They were silent, spellbound. Behind him the Mecha cried and sputtered fearful gibberish like a living thing. But they would see. They would see.

"Remember that, no matter what performance this sim puts on, we are only demolishing artificiality!" There was not a sound to be heard except the whimpering of the phony boy thing. Johnson picked up a bag from the ground and held it high. The destruction of this machine would be the symbol of their commitment;

Their commitment to a world of, by and for Orga;

Their commitment to life and to all living things;

To him.

"Let he who is without sim… cast the first stone," he said and stepped away from the killing zone.

There was silence. No one moved. Johnson could not see beyond the lights, could not read their faces. He waited.

Eventually one of them stood and took aim.

5.

He was a simple man. He came to the Flesh Fair because he knew the frustration of the modern age and what it had done to Orga-kind. He was a farmer. Like Johnson had done so long ago, he'd built his small farm with his bare hands. He couldn't afford the Mecha. Every year it was a struggle to keep up with the big Mecha based business', which were stealing more and more of the limited local markets in their greedy pursuit of the world markets. Even those who hated the robots, bought from the big corporate chains now. The prices were just too good.

He'd been at the faire in Trenton when that man had died. In the ensuing months he'd seen the reprisals and the attacks on The Johnson. He'd felt bad about it because he'd always believed that the Johnson was a good man. Tonight he'd watched them big ol' pit bulls lead the scared looking machine from the cage and onto the display. He'd watched them chain the little fake thing onto the wheel. All the while Johnson had been explaining to them about how dangerous this thing was, he'd been listenin'. He'd been listenin' when the thing had started cryin' too. When Johnson had called for them to strike at the pathetic simulator, he'd stood up in the crowd. He'd taken careful aim.

He'd always believed Johnson was a good man. And that he had a point. But this man had a point too; a point that he would not go beyond.

He let the bag fly.

6.

The first bag hit Johnson square in the forehead, and it hurt! His arm moved to deflect the strike, but too late. 'Damn idiot farmers!' he thought. "Whoa there!" is what he said into the mike though. He smiled up at the stands to show he understood it was a mistake. That was when another bag hit him. This one caught his nose and caused him to see stars, a bright pain flared in his head. Then another hit him just below the waist causing him to buckle. Then another and another and soon he was being pelted from all directions of the arena. They roared at him. "Johnson you're a monster!" and "he's just a boy!" and "what's enough Johnson?" they wanted to know.

What in the hell was wrong with them?! He shouted out at them. "It's a machine you idiots! A toy!" but his voice was lost in the rage of disapproval and incredulity from those he'd imagined to be his loyal and trusting disciples. Never had the Johnson so severely misread an audience's silence! They'd been incredulous that he would destroy something so helpless; so fragile. So what if it was Mecha? Even from the stands they could plainly see it wasn't like the others! It wasn't trying to steal their jobs! Take their money! It wasn't out to exploit their wives' or husbands' weaknesses .It was a just little boy! Somebody had wanted love and The Johnson had been too blind to see it. Too selfish to care! They stormed out of the stands and onto the arena floor.

7.

Cynthie had started walking backwards from the arena when she'd seen the first bag hit Johnson. She'd had an uneasy feeling about the crowd's silence as the stupid pit-bulls led the little boy Mecha into the field. Johnson was such a pompous fool! He really thought he could go as far as he wanted. As the audience stormed into the arena, she turned and hurried away. She ran as she came to the shadows behind the bleachers. As she made her way to the dressing rooms to get her stuff, she passed the band who were already packing their gear.

"Need a ride baby?" the singer asked. His eyes were appraising her. With that silly metal mask off he wasn't that bad.

"Let me get my stuff," she yelled racing to her dressing room. There was always another gig!

8.

Stuart had heard about Mommy's flight and their trip through the forest. He was amazed when he heard about the Blue Fairy and David's quest. Teddy had explained in short precise sentences as Johnson had been ranting in the arena. Stuart had been prepared for one of the most dismal nights in his life. He was ready to watch that poor beautiful piece of machinery destroyed by a lunatic. Then he blinked in amazement as the crowd suddenly began pelting Johnson with the bags. His heart jumped. "Yes!" he yelled. He grabbed Amanda. "Honey, you say good bye to Teddy." his daughter looked up sadly, but she understood. She was happy the boy-toy wasn't going to be burnt up like the others and she knew that the Teddy was his friend, but se hated to see them go.

"G'bye Teddy," she said, her little voice breaking and the tears starting to flow.

"Goodbye Amanda," Teddy responded.

Stuart kissed his daughter quickly, took the bear and raced onto the field. He had to get there before some idiot accidentally knocked the acid over and ruined one of the best creations he'd ever had the privilege of meeting. 30 minutes ago he would have been more worried about the resulting lawsuits against Johnson if someone should get hurt in the fray, but to hell with the bastard now. This was probably the end of the Flesh Fair, the end of his job. He'd be on the hunt for work again with all the other struggling sys-ops, but he hadn't felt this good in a long time.

9.

David did not understand what was happening. His sense of alarm had diminished when he saw the multitude from beyond the lights race onto the field and began knocking things over. They roared and threw things at the big men in black who retreated quickly at the imposing onslaught Had he misunderstood them? This was not the same as the destroying he had witnessed earlier. He pressed himself tighter against the man-Mecha behind him.

Suddenly the man called Stuart was beside him again, smiling and excited.

Joe had finally understood what was to happen. In his own way he knew his troubles would be over soon enough. He only wished that he'd had time to shut off his sensory system. But Joe had not understood the Orga like noises and pleading the little one made. He had listened in perplexed silence at the display. He was glad, however to see the affect the crying game had on the crowd. They were not going to be scrapped tonight. He smiled at the Orga man who had started trying to untie them.

Stuart had one of the men take the buckets of acid down so no one would get burned. "Help me get them out of here you oafs!" Stuart yelled at the pit-bulls as he struggled with the chains. The huge men in black were dumbfounded at the response of the crowd. Some of them had fled. Others had rushed Johnson off to safety as the riot had begun, but otherwise they'd had no appropriate response to the situation.

"Let's get him out now, before they tear this place apart!" Stuart yelled. Finally the men saw his point and they began yanking chains loose.

The Mecha's were quickly set free and Stuart set the Teddy on the ground next to the special Mecha. He took one last look at the 'boy'. He wished he had time to study it; time to understand what made it different from anything he'd ever seen. But he figured the machine… David, had his own mission. His own dream. Amazing.

"Get outta here! Run!" Stuart yelled at David and his friends. The odd trio looked around in confusion for a moment and then fled towards the gates, away from the crowd of rampaging Orga. They left behind the wreckage of those who hadn't been designed suitably to elicit sympathy. The destruction of the older decrepit machines was another pitiful chapter in an ancient Orga farce.

But they were alive. Between the three, David was the only one capable of mourning the fallen Mecha. But David had other things on his mind.

They ran past the gates and into the dark night. The deep gloomy forest was a welcome sight, offering shadows in which to hide. Behind them the sounds of fighting and confusion rose and spiraled to a crescendo. The robots ran, leaving the Flesh Fair behind them. Leaving behind another fallen Orga hero to face his fate.
1.

In the end, what had he left; this odd assortment of images and memories? Sitting in his dark office he scanned his relics. Here was one. He remembered that day, his son's second birthday. Ellen had still been alive then. They'd been a family, close, loving. He could barely remember what that meant now. Time had taken the meaning from him and replaced with it dead-end traces of things that used to move him; tattered remnants of memories of happier times.

And next to that image was another from a time he recalled like yesterday. Even the smells came back to him: Sawdust and popcorn and the sounds of boys laughing, cheering and challenging one another. The boy had struck his first home run. His eyes had grown wide in amazement at his feat, and he ran, staring at the outfield in disbelief as he rounded the diamond. In the photo he smiled a triumphant, beaming pride.

And another… Yeah, the boat trip. Let's see… the boy had been about five... or was it six? The man chuckled to himself as he remembered the boy's amazement at the big humpbacks that flanked the boat and spouted before tunneling deep into the blue water. It wasn't exactly a happy chuckle.

There were more. Much more. All of them sad substitutes for the people depicted. But they were all he had left.

He could not blame the Swinton woman for what she had done. He understood. From the first time he'd seen that familiar frustration, just beneath the surface of Henry Swinton's face, he'd known that something like this was a possibility. He never should have told him they would destroy the prototype. Stupid! The minute the Swinton's son had awoken from cryo, the Mecha had become a destabilizing quadrant in the family triad. He should have considered the strength of the imprinting process and the possibility of a severe attachment occurring.

She'd cried hard as she told her story and he'd been so amazed to find what things his creation had been up to; what little human-like thought patterns and behaviors it had begun to display. He wanted to fire the repair crew for not reporting the precise nature of the spinach malfunction. Damn them! It hadn't been a malfunction at all.

And fairy tales! Fairy tales! Amazing. What had they wrought?

No, he could not blame Monica. He had once lost love so. His wife had fallen tragically at the hands of a poorly experienced and intoxicated driver. She had left him at a time when he needed her; when he was dependent on her emotional strength. It had been just he and the boy then. And that had been brief.

Only nine years later his boy had succumbed to the insistence of a merciless and systematic killer of children. A disease; a syndrome, really. The Swinton's child had mercifully and inexplicably survived it. The man sat alone in the dark now, remembering all those years ago. He let a tear fall as he gazed on his favorite picture of the boy. He picked it up and held it close to his chest in a rare and private display of sadness.

The door to his study opened suddenly and a handful of his team walked in. He stood and wiped his face quickly. They had news? Was it good? God, let it be good news.

"We found him," one of his men said as they circled his desk.

Was that good? "Where," the Director asked hesitantly.

"In a Flesh Fair outside Haddonfield," the man responded. The director's face dropped. Oh God, a Flesh Fair? Those poor misunderstanding people… what had they done?

"Is he alive?" he asked, afraid to hear the answer.

"Yes," the man responded quickly, hearing the urgency in his bosses voice. "He was one piece last time he was seen. He was with some rogue lover Mecha. They were headed into the forest. They had the Swinton's supertoy with them too."

The Director was lost for words. The joy that rushed through him was something he was not good at expressing. He held it back as he moved towards the door. But at the last moment he stopped and embraced the man who had told him the news.

The man understood and squeezed him back. He loved and respected the Director. He knew what losses he'd suffered and the importance of this project to him. They shared a quick moment of relief then they left to try and find their lost creation; their most amazing device.

As they left, the Director set the picture that he had held to his chest back in its place. It gazed now out on the dark, empty room. It was the picture he'd used to bring his son back to him. At its based it read:

In Loving Memory Of David

In the photograph was the face of the boy he had helped bring into the world; the boy whom he had loved and nurtured when his mother had been lost; the child whose loss had almost destroyed his own heart, and who he had eventually brought back to life, as Mecha.

It was the face of the boy who was roaming the dark forests now, looking for a miracle that would make him real.

2.

It was some time before the trio stopped running. The Mecha never tired, and they'd moved quickly through the forest, as far as five or six miles, before they finally began to walk. It had been some time since they'd heard the sound of Orga in the vicinity. The animals who scampered through the forest, and occasionally cried out, seemed to be their only company now. David had picked up Teddy when the small thing started to lag behind he and his new associate. Teddy now rode comfortably on David's back.

Joe watched curiously as the little Orga looking robot moved forward with determined strides over the rough and overgrown terrain. He had stopped holding onto Joe's hand miles ago and now had the small furry thing clinging to him. Joes occasional glimpses of the boy-Mecha's face displayed a set determined look. Introspective. Orga like. Joe had no idea where the small Mecha was going. But then he had no idea where he was going either. So it seemed fitting, seeing as the little one's strange Orga like screams and whines had effectively set them free, to follow him. Perhaps this one was good company, and knew more than its appearance implied. It was slowly dawning on him also that David had saved his life.

After some more time they came to a clearing in the forest where the night sky was visible. A milky line of stars blinked across the black infinitude above. Teddy looked up and alarm came upon him.

"I see the moon," the bear said.

David stopped and looked up too. There it was! His eyes adjusted automatically, like an Orga's eyes, but he could not discern any baskets of Mecha or men riding beneath this moon. Still, they'd been fooled before. "Is it real?" he asked, preparing to make a dash in the other direction.

Teddy's head whirred as he adjusted his vision. "I don't know David. It is too far," he said finally.

"Is it coming?" David asked, the startling images of their adventure at the Flesh Fair too fresh in his mind; the destruction of his new friend, the Nanny, and the incomprehensible burning and exploding of the other Mecha's.

"I can't tell yet," Teddy answered. They didn't know that far behind them the Moon Balloon was already being counted as wreckage in the ruin of the Flesh Fair, and insurance claims were being calculated by a bandaged and cursing Johnson who, after the Cybertronics men had grilled him on the phone, was grateful only that he'd not destroyed the boy Mecha and brought another lawsuit on himself.

David did his best to calculate the distance of the moon. If it was real, it was very far away and nothing to worry about. If it was not, it was too close for them to tread in this direction. "Let's not walk this way," he said and turned. He passed the man-Mecha that had been following him. His mind was occupied. He had a quest and did not think about the other that was with him.

Joe stayed for a moment and looked at the distant glowing orb. Built to a more specific task, his distance eyes were not as good as David's. He stared a moment more and then decided that perhaps the small Mecha was right. He turned and saw the two strange robots walking back into the gloom of the trees.

"Where are we going?" he asked as he caught up with the pair.

David did not think of them as 'we' but he processed the question and decided that yes, they must be together. "We are going this way now," was all he could come up with for an answer though.

"Are you in 'bad' trouble?" Joe asked. What other reason would the boy be in such a hurry. " Perhaps you are running away from someone?"

"My Mommy told me to run away," David responded frankly as he walked.

That made no sense to Joe. "Why did she say that?"

"I guess because..." David stopped. He had been so traumatized by the event that he hadn't really tried to understand it. He processed it now and came up with a logical solution "Because Henry didn't like me," he said. The alternative was unacceptable.

"Who is Henry?" Joe queried.

"Henry is Mommy's husband." David explained.

"So Henry is your father? And why did your father not like..."

"Henry is not my father!" David responded quickly. "Monica is my Mommy and Henry is Mommy's husband." He hoped that cleared things up for the man-Mecha.

Joe paced quietly beside the boy-thing as he processed this. He decided to save it for later There was upset in the little Mecha's voice and that was something he had not heard from machines before. "And why didn't Henry like you?" he asked instead.

"Because Martin came home," David said weakly.

This tale was getting elaborate indeed. "And who is he?"

"Martin is Mommy and Henry's 'real' son." Speaking this aloud made him feel weak and cold inside. He was a boy! But he had to be a 'real' boy to make Mommy happy. "After I find the Blue Fairy," he continued, "then I can go home. Mommy will love a 'real' boy. The Blue Fairy will make me into one."

Joe thought about this as they coursed the dark forest. As best he could tell, it made sense,. He wasn't designed to figure such things out. He had a basic vocabulary of reasoning, which was that suited to his basic function. He was built specific. The boy Mecha's logic was intact but there did seem to be missing parts. Anyway, he'd never heard of any 'Blue Fairy'.

"Is this Blue Fairy Mecha? Orga? Man or woman?" Joe asked, trying to understand.

"Woman," David answered flatly.

"Woman?" Ah, Joe thought. Very appropriate! He grabbed the little Mecha's shoulder to slow him down. Then he grabbed David around the waist, lifted him up and sat him down on the edge of a fallen tree trunk. David did not fight this, for he knew the man Mecha to be safe, but he did find the handling to be somewhat annoying. He fixed the other with an impatient look and Teddy grumbled ever so slightly.

"I know 'Woman'!" Joe said smiling. David was instantly interested and his annoyance forgotten. Did this robot know about Blue Fairy? As he watched, Joe stood back and nodded his head quickly to the side. Sound came from him suddenly. A man's voice was 'singing'. It was music! How did he do that? Teddy realized that the man was a toy too!

"They sometimes ask for me by name!" Joe said, and then David and Teddy watched as the he jumped quickly on the gnarled tree stump beside them and made a strange dramatic pose with his arm on his hip. David did not know about 'grace' and 'dancing' but he did notice how quickly and smoothly the man thing seemed to move. David was entranced by the motion.

"I know all about women," Joe continued. "No two are ever alike. And after they've met me..." the man Mecha jumped again, this time moving quickly around David to the other side of the tree stump "... No two are ever the same! And I know where most of them can be found," he said, his eyebrows raised.

David waited for the man to continue but he said nothing. What a strange way of speaking. David did not know 'charisma' and probably would not have understood. "Where can they be found?" he inquired finally when he realized that was what was expected of him.

"Rouge City," Joe replied slowly punctuating each syllable as to state the importance of this information, then he moved again and placed his hands on the tree stumps. "It lies across the Delaware!" he explained, and he lifted himself so his feet were suspended in the air. He began moving them quickly as if he were running and his legs moved so fast David could feel the air disturbed around them. "Too much of a feat for our feet. We'll need help to get there!" Then he jumped from the tree limb and landed smoothly on the ground where he moved his head quickly, stopping the 'music' that had issued from him.

"And, it is not without peril" Joe added ominously, placing his finger on the tip of the Mecha boy's nose. He moved his finger slowly so that the boy and his toy followed with their eyes, then he walked into a clearing of trees pointing towards the glowing orb in the sky, "We will have to journey toward the moon."

David had been mesmerized by the man's way of talking and explaining things. It was like the people in the 'movie' that he had watched with Mommy and Martin. Their movements were smooth and grand, different from real people. "Are there many women in Rouge City?" he asked excitedly.

"As there are stars in the night!" Joe answered with a smile.

"So many? And how will we find just one?" David asked perplexed.

"We will ask Dr Know!" Joe explained, "There is nothing he doesn't." He put his arm out then and waited for the boy to join him. David thought hard about this. The man seemed to know a lot about the world. David had never even heard of Rouge City. And who was Doctor No? Finally he rose and walked hesitantly to the other, who placed his arm over David's shoulder. And they began to walk quickly towards the moon. The man had a strange bouncing gait and David looked down at his feet from time to time wondering about the reasons for this.

Joe was glad to have a destination. He was glad to have a focus and purpose. Not to mention the many customers in Rouge! After all that's what he'd been designed for. He was also glad to be with the little Mecha, and this was strange to him. He felt something new and unusual as they walked, his arm draped over his two new companions. 'Check' that! Very 'warmth'! Very... 'friend'!

"Exactly what name do you give this woman?" Joe asked, genuinely curious, but also desiring conversation with the little Mecha.

"She is..." David thought for a moment, "she is just 'Blue Fairy'."

"Blue. Fairy." Joe repeated, savoring the words. "In the world of Orga, blue is the color of melancholy," he explained. David didn't know 'melancholy' but he listened raptly to the more experienced Mecha. "Yet, the services I provide will put a blush back on anyone's cheek! I will change the color of your fairy for you!" Joe said excitedly, thinking of the conquests ahead in Rouge City. "She will scream out in the moonlight ...oh yes... oh god... oh YES!" Joe said panting in mimicry of the many Orga women he had serviced.

David watched the man-Mecha curiously. He did not understand this at all. Teddy was equally perplexed. What good would it do to change the color of the Blue Fairy? And why would she need to breathe that way?

Then Joe stopped and opened his hands as if offering David a present. "She will make you a real boy, for I will make her a real woman, and all will be right with the world!" He looked seriously at his new friend. "Because you held my hand. And you saved my brain..." he walked backwards into a clearing as David watched, "so that once again, my customers can ask for me by name!" and then he did something quick with his feet, the puddle splashing in time with his words. "Gigolo Joe, wadda ya know?!" he said smiling.

David approached the strange man-Mecha. "Why do you do that?" he asked, looking curiously at his feet.

Joe shrugged. "That's just what I do," he said plainly and executed another quick movement of his feet in which David saw the pattern.

"So, they call you Gigolojoe?" he asked.

"My customers call me so, but you just call me Joe. And I will call you?"

"I am named David, Joe. And this is Teddy!" David said, happy to find someone who seemed to know the world. He reached out and did a shake with Joe. "Hello Joe," Teddy said. He'd decided that Joe was a toy he'd not seen before. He wondered what it was used for.

"Well, it's good to meet you too, Teddy. Now follow me you two, and don't fall behind." Joe turned and began to strut briskly over a fallen log and into the forest toward the moon. David followed quickly with Teddy on his back.

"All roads lead to Rouge!" Joe laughed, remembering the moniker of the city of his birth. "Don't they just say that? Don't they just?!" he laughed, executing a quick jump and clicking his heels together.

David moved quickly to catch up with Joe whose funny strut and strange manner made being with him exciting in some new fashion. He didn't understand all of Joe's words and the smooth rhythmic movements he made, but he felt safe in his company, and there was a new expectation in David's mind. They would go see Joe's friend, Dr No! And he would show them where the Blue Fairy lived. And then David would... he would find her and ... He smiled for the first time that night. He stepped up and walked beside Joe who laughed and wrapped his arm protectively around David's shoulders. And the forest was a much less gloomy place.

3.

As the trio traveled through the night, the wood began to clear slowly. Soon David could hear the high-pitched whine of motors in the distance and he saw occasional spots of light through the density of trees. Joe's determined strut had brought them quickly to the place where the cruisers went back and forth over the long roads Orga had built to tie their cities together. They had arrived in a clearing of trees beside one of the great roads. David was taken at once by the grand expanse of open space; the feel of the wind against the receptors in the flesh of his face; the vastness of distance and the multitude of twinkling lights all across the horizon. He had always been at home with Mommy. This was the first time he had been in an area so vast and seen the night world that the Orga had created for themselves. Even in the distance it was an impressive sight. They walked for a time beside the freeway and then as fortune would have it, came upon a cruiser that was sitting still beside the road.

"You wait here, David, I will talk to them," Joe said, leaving his new friends under the shadow of trees near the cruiser. He approached cautiously, the events of just hours ago were not, and would never be, forgotten by him or David.

Jade didn't feel like dealing with any beggars tonight. "Damn!" he said as he caught a glimpse of the stranger approaching out of the dark of the trees. He leaned out of the cruiser. "Curt, man you wanna like.. hurry back there." Probably a vag. "Shit!"

Bear came to life in the back seat. "Wazzup?" he asked, his curly mane of hair flopping about as he craned to see what had disturbed Jade.

"You got any change man. There's some guy..." but then Jade caught a glimpse of the exotically dressed stranger and kept his tongue as the man walked to the door.

"Gentlemen, pardon my intrusion on your misfortune, but my partner and I have been misplaced and would like..."

"No change guy... sorry we're just trying to get goin here if..." the Orga boy leaned out and yelled, "... my friend ever gets this thing moving!" The boy behind the cruiser ignored this, and Joe continued.

"We are not as interested in your money, gentlemen, as we are in expediting our journey." Joe gestured to the shadows. "My young friend and I are headed to Rouge City, and if you could see your way to assisting us there I would make sure it was worth your efforts."

"Hey, you're Mecha! " the fuzzy haired boy in the back seat said. Jade, who had been trying to ignore what he assumed was a beggar, looked up at the man at the window. Wow. He was Mecha; a new one too. The smoothness of its face gave it away, but not much.

"Well, we really weren't going that way," Jade said, but it was not very convincing. He'd heard of Rouge City but didn't know it that well. On the other hand, Joe knew Orga boys very well. He leaned into the window.

"There are girls there in Rouge City. Girls your age who are just like me," Joe said with a conspiratorial smile on his lips. "We are the guiltless pleasures of the lonely human being, and those just out to have some fun," he added with a wink. As he talked the other boy came from behind the cruiser and sat at the wheel. "You're not going to get us pregnant, or have us to supper with Mommy and Daddy," Joe continued. He had them now. "We work under you. We work on you. And we work for you. Man made us better at what we do, than was ever humanly possible," he said slipping a holo-pen from his pocket.

"Now, if you could manage us a ride to Rouge City, all this…" he click the pen on and an enticing holographic image of a young girl began dancing atop the head rest of the seat "…and much, much more.." Joe shifted the pen and the image was suddenly dancing in the Orga boy's crotch "...can be yours." Jade's face lit up with a knowing smile.

"Hop in!" he said without thinking anymore about it. The other boys made no complaints either.

4.

All roads lead to Rouge indeed. And the roads to Rouge are always alive. Into, and on through the deep of night, the lights of Orga cruisers line the thoroughfares across the risen rivers into the great city and what awaits there. Driven by appetites obscure and profane, grandiose and mundane, they come. Joe had been there at his inception. He had worked alongside the best-built Mecha of his type. Lover models that made even him look cheap. Ones that worked in houses that only the wealthy could afford. Joe had loved Rouge in his own way. When he'd been sold and reissued at Haddonfield though, he hadn't been so disturbed about it. There were women everywhere. And everywhere they were; woman, were women. He serviced them at whatever location in whatever manner they desired.

But Rouge was the main playground of his kind; the place that was built as he had been, specific to suit its purpose; the place where Orga came from miles inland and from young islands to enjoy the services that Joe and his kind provided.

Rouge was on the horizon now. The bridges that spanned the Delaware entered the city through the gaping mouths of giant statue faces; women's faces and those of ambiguous sexuality. Their mouths held open in a suggestion of what lay ahead. Welcome to Rouge, the City that never blinks.

David sat in the front of the cruiser, between the two Orga boys. The teens were too excited to be concerned with the little boy and his Supertoy. Nor did they find it strange that Joe would be taking the boy, in the middle of the night, to a place like Rouge. They only imagined what a time was in store for them when they arrived. And the imaginings were about to be fulfilled, for they had come to the gates.

"Say ahhh..." the driver said as the cruiser raced into the gaping entrance of the great statue's mouth. And they all joined in, "aaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhh", their voices rose to a crescendo as they entered the tunnel.

All that is, except David and Teddy. They were on a mission and the boy's mind was elsewhere. Could she live here? Could this be the place where'd he find her? The Orga boys and Joe were laughing among themselves as David felt a reminder of the loneliness that drove him.

5.

Joe quickly dispensed of their hosts by escorting them to a place beneath the City where their interests might be served. It was a dimly lit place along a stretch of the parking corridor where young looking Mecha stood in sultry poses. This place was worked by most of the dated models, but they were fast and affordable, which Joe was sure would fit the restless young Orga's needs. The boys didn't give him or David a second thought as they approached the 'girls', and Joe chose this opportunity to make his leave.

"Let's be on our way, and leave these young Orga to their negotiations," Joe said, taking David by the hand and leading him quickly, back through the parking tunnels, past the holo-shows and old-fashioned film theatres that lined the lower corridors with the family style restaurants. They made their way along the main access ramp and to the escalator that lifted them into the Central Plaza. David's processors immediately went to work sorting out the barrage of sights and sounds around him. He'd never seen anything like this! So much noise and lights and people! There was a loud booming sound coming from the walls around him. Was this music?! Yes, it seemed to be. The buildings were bathed in intense lights of various colors that changed and gyrated, and there were people everywhere, moving quickly, laughing, talking.

In one of the rooms they passed through David saw people moving in strange rhythmic gestures as they faced each other. What were they doing? He stopped and pulled Joe's hand, pointing with a question in his eyes. Joe turned and saw what had caught the little Mecha's attention.

"That is dancing," he explained over the music. Then he executed a quick shuffle of his feet. "It's just what they do," he added when he saw that David's confused expression hadn't changed. "It's how Orga sometimes prepare for our services," he said without explaining what 'our services' meant. David looked over his shoulder at the 'dancing' couples as Joe grasped his hand and led him away. These living things! What was it they sought?

"They also drink and ingest all manner of trendy amusements," Joe explained, "and when they are ready for us, they come." He stopped then and fixed David with an odd look. "Outside of that we do not mean anything to them, you know. There is our function and then there is..." Joe did not finish this thought. It was outside his processing, but it had come to him somehow at the Flesh Fair, as he had watched the rejects beaten and burnt. And there was the old silver Mecha changing the old broken lights, smashed while it did its job. Since then something had been poking up here and there in his head, something undefined but real. And when had it formulated into a thought? Wasn't it when the little Mecha had taken his hand in the cage? He knelt beside David. "But you are not built for those reasons, are you? You know nothing of this Orga appetite save what you have seen here tonight." He leaned closer to David and seemed to examine his face. "You are better David, for your innocence."

David did not know how to respond or even if Joe's statement needed response. He held Teddy a little tighter against his chest and then placed his free hand in Joe's. "Where is your friend, Dr No?" he asked, a subtle reminder.

"That's it!" Joe said, taking David's hand again. "Never stray from the path. Keep the program intact!" He began his strut again, and quickly they were out on the main plaza. This place was even more of a spectacle. Above them, large holographic displays and gravity resistant signs floated everywhere, advertising the pleasures to be experienced in Rouge City. There were signs advertising 'Puzzycats!' and 'Bondage!' and a place where 'Angels and Devils' would amuse and be amused. David did not understand any of this, but the sheer sight and size of it kept him busy recording it all. This place was very different from the way Mommy and Henry had lived. People moved in every direction. Where were they all going?

Joe began to point out odd shaped buildings with strange glowing signs as they walked. "There's 'Here Kitty, Kitty'," he said as they passed a crowded glass enclosure. On the top of the door a holograph of a woman with a tail and a cat's whiskers 'danced' strangely. David did not know 'suggestive' and would not have understood. "That's where the agency held my trials when I was made new," Joe added. The images of his awakening were still clear in his mind. Information does not change Mecha in the same way as Orga; the horrific experiences of the night are behind him and now he relived his introduction to the world, remembering his first conquests and the delight of satisfying his customers.

He is still fresh. He is still Gigolo Joe. He does not think about Samantha Bevins. He does not think about his missing license. He has put aside the prospect of 'bad trouble' for now.

"That's Tails," he said, pointing to the large blue-lit building across the crowded plaza. "Very hoity-toity," Joe added sarcastically. David did not know sarcasm. Nor did he know 'hoity-toity' but he was amazed at the size of the giant robot that danced in the roof display. It was dressed like Joe. The movements were smooth and rhythmic like Joe's. It took off its hat and smiled down at the crowd as it turned round and shuffled its feet beckoning them in. The extended end of its coat swung smoothly behind it, like a tail.

"Only sunrise gents and sunset ladies there!" Joe said. "Strictly sierra class robots who have no idea how to live." Joe looked down at his companion. "They can't even speak English. They were all made in Sweden. Couldn't tell a joke from a poke!" Joe laughed and then he jumped away from David and executed an exact duplication of the quick movements that the robot in the display had made. David wondered what the difference between a joke and a poke was. Then he decided that it didn't matter. He watched Joe dance for a moment and then looked away. Joe was becoming part of it all; all the noise and distraction around him. A cold feeling came upon him. These sensations were new to him. Anger and irritation were things that his kind had not been exposed to and he didn't recognize them for what they were. He was getting irritated at all the noise and people. They had nothing to do with him or the Blue Fairy! He was getting angry with Joe for being distracted from the quest. He had come here for a reason. Where was Dr. No? How come Joe was taking him to all these other places?

And then he saw Her.

Joe was saying something behind him. There was someone he wanted David to see, some other distraction. But David's mind had returned suddenly to his quest. Before him, a face was looming above the throng; gentle, serene. Was it Her? She was bathed in the blue light. It was the same blue lights as Martin's bedroom that night. Did this mean something? He walked to Her. The people parted as he passed; too preoccupied in their own pursuits to notice the little boy which they all would have assumed was one their kind.

David walked cautiously towards the figure that protruded from the wall of a building where Orga were shuffling in and out. Her face was downcast and trancelike, beautiful. She had wings! This must be...

"Are you her?" he asked the silent woman on the wall. The Statue did not respond, for it was not Her. It was not alive.

"That's Our Lady of the Immaculate Heart," Joe said as he stepped up beside David. He looked up at the stone face above the neon lit church. Save the cross and banner, the building was indistinguishable from any other establishment in the City. This was surely not the Blue Fairy that David sought. Joe moved underneath the statue and turned to face David. He leaned against the lamp to the entrance and, posing dramatically, for he could do nothing without style, explained the 'Lady'.

"The ones who made us are always looking for the ones who made them. They go in, fold their hands, look around their feet, sing songs and when they come out, it's usually me they find. For it is what I do for them that is the real reason they come here in the first place." He paused there to let David understand. But David did not. Nor did he care. If this was not the Blue Fairy then it was time to go find her.

"I've picked up a lot of business on this spot," Joe added with a wink. "Being filled with the spirit must not be enough. They must be filled by something else." As he said this, an Orga woman exited the building. Joe watched her pass by. Yes. He was back in Rouge all right. 'Check' that. Analyze. Pursue. He stepped up behind the woman, and with a nod of his head his body began to sing as he initiated the chase.

"But Joe! Where's Blue Fairy?!" David yelled as his friend pursued the Orga woman. Joe stopped short. Ah, yes... the Blue Fairy. Had he forgotten so quickly? This was more difficult for him than David knew. He was defying his basic programming, all the codes and signals in his brain that told him to pursue this woman. With a nod of his head he flicked off his music centers and turned to face the boy who had saved him. David walked up to Joe and look up at him accusingly. "What about the Blue Fairy, Joe?" he asked more firmly this time. Don't do that again, is what his eyes said. An unspoken understanding passed between them. Joe smiled down at the boy, recrimination understood.

"That's what we're going to find out when we ask Dr Know," he said putting his arm out for David to take. "That's where everyone goes, who needs to know."

David was here for a reason. She was a fairy whose whereabouts they had yet to learn. Joe was here for a reason too. His reason was clasping his hand now, creating new inexplicable thoughts in his single-minded processor as they made their way through the crowded place.

"Meet the good Doctor," Joe said when they had walked some distance across the plaza. David looked in the direction that Joe pointed, and then he understood. It was Dr 'Know'! Not Dr. No! David knew 'know'. To 'know' was to have information. Surely this must be the place to find out where the Blue Fairy lived. The lit up face on the building had fuzzy hair and big glasses and its smile was wide and welcoming. David did not know 'Einstein'. But he knew the face was aged and that among Orga, 'age' was a symbol of wisdom. At the door he felt a sudden surge of anticipation and he stopped. It was really happening wasn't it? They were getting closer! He could feel it. Joe didn't understand why David was waiting at the entrance. He looked back quizzically. Was something wrong? Then, as quickly as he'd stopped, the little Mecha's face lit up and he stepped excitedly into the good Doctor's office.
It was quiet inside the building. The noise and confusion of the plaza had vanished as the thick glass door slid shut behind them. The Doctor was usually pretty busy but there were other attractions that took precedent tonight, so David and Joe were alone in the building. There were many doors inside the Doctor's house and David followed Joe to one of them. He saw a dimly lit room beyond the door and there were two large padded chairs sitting before a small stage with a curtain. What was this? They went inside and sat down. In the room David saw there was a screen upon the stage in front of them. On the little panel before them luminous letters read:

ASK ME ANYTHING!

Joe pressed the button above those words and the room darkened as the curtain on the small screen opened.

It started slowly, but then with a whirl of color and sound the screen came to life and David was taken back as the holographic images of flailing lights came from the stage and whipped through the space before him. It seemed to come right out of the screen! Then he saw a great spiral of light that danced in circles and went faster and faster as it grew. He had seen this image of light before. It was the 'galaxy'. As the image swirled faster it seemed to close in on itself and then out of the middle of the chaos a head sprung forth, spinning as quickly as the milky cluster of stars, and then it stopped and smiled at them. It was the face they'd seen outlined in the lights at the front of the building; the old wise Orga face. But this was no Orga. This was Dr Know!

"Starving minds! Welcome to Dr. Know!" the Doctor said excitedly as it bounced around the stage area. It was just a head and two white-gloved hands that gestured wildly, punctuating every statement. It had funny large glasses on its face. "This is where fast food for thought is served up twenty four hours a day in forty thousand locations nationwide!" David realized that this was not a friend of Joe's at all. There must be Doctors in all the rooms! Was it a game? Was it a show? Hey Dr Know, wadda ya know?

"Ask Dr. Know…" the head exclaimed, "...there's nothing I don't."

David jumped from his seat excitedly. "Tell me where I can find the Blue Fairy!" he said with a smile. There was beep and the big head moved back as if surprised by David's sudden inquiry.

"Question me? You pay the fee! Two for five and get one free!" the Doctor replied, counting off the numbers with upraised fingers. David was perplexed at this response and sat back down. Was it a puzzle? Joe understood, for he had been here other times. He leaned over and explained to David.

"He means two questions cost five new-bucks, with a third question on the house," Joe said. David was not sure what "on the house" meant but he knew that this would involve 'money'. Mommy had given him some money but he remembered seeing it fall into the dirt at the Flesh Fair. Had all of it fallen? He reached into the inner pocket of his jacket and pulled out what was left. The size of the wad of crumpled bills was much smaller now. What if he didn't have enough?! "That's everything I have left," he said to Joe who held his hand outstretched.

Joe counted the money: ten new-bucks and a ten copper piece. "Seven questions, is what this will buy," Joe said.

"That should be enough! Shouldn't it?" David asked, concerned by Joe's look. After all there was only one question that mattered. Joe had been through this before and knew the complexities of retrieving information from the good Doctor. David was new to this obviously. He was apparently new to everything. Who ever had kept him hadn't shown him much of the world. Joe felt another new bit of data run through him as he realized that he was going to be responsible for teaching the little Mecha. He had no word for this thought.

"The Doctor is a smooth operator, David," he whispered. "He will press our limits and make us work. But try we must!" Then Joe put the money into the tray under the "Ask me anything" sign and slid the tray in.

Suddenly the Doctor sprang into motion again. His face was lit up with excitement and his hands gestured wildly as he spoke, "Greetings colleagues! On authors; Factual text or fictional texts; First or third person, usual literacy range from primal level to post doctoral" Stylized holographic text images of the categories came out of his hands as the computer listed them so quickly that even their Mecha minds had to pay close attention. "Usual spans of styles from fairy tale to religious; who's who and where's where, or flat fact."

The colorful words announcing the categories floated around them, filling the room. David suddenly realized why Joe had been concerned. He was perplexed at the amount of information he must sort through in order to ask a simple question. He looked at Joe, confused, "Flat fact?"

The categories disappeared suddenly, "Thank you for question number one!" the Doctor said in response to David's words, "'flat fact' is a term demanding an equal answer with speculative interpretation..."

"That shouldn't count!" David said to the Doctor angrily as it continued talking. He turned to Joe for help. "That wasn't my question!" he said with a plea in his eyes. The Doctor ranted on.

Joe leaned close and whispered. "You must take care not to raise your voice up at the end of a sentence or he will think you are asking him a question," he explained. David was glad Joe was here to explain things or he may have already used his questions up! He also realized that the Doctor was clever. He'd have to be careful.

The Doctor noticed that they were talking and raised his voice as he finished answering the question. "You're mumbling!" he said finally and the two Mecha's once again paid him their attention.

"Flat fact," Joe said plainly announcing their category of their interest. He then looked at David.

"You have six more questions," the Doctor announced, waiting with the fingers of his holographic hands pressed together. David had to ask the question right this time.

"Where is Blue Fairy?" he asked slowly, pronouncing each word precisely and raising his voice dramatically at the end of the question so there would be no more confusion.

"In the garden!" the Doctor announced happily. Suddenly his holographic hand was filled with a bouquet of colorful blue flowers. "Vascostylis 'Blue Fairy', blooms twice annually with bright blue flowers on a branched inflorescence. A hybrid between Ascola Meda Arnold. You now have five more questions," he said, his hands as suddenly empty as the bouquet had appeared.

David thought. "Who is Blue fairy?!" he asked when the question occurred to him.

"Are you sad? Lonely?" the Doctor asked, his voice now warm and understanding. "Blue Fairy Escort Service will find a mate for you! Call us, we're in your Cyber Pages Guide". David was not sure what that meant, but he knew it was not his Blue Fairy. Joe smiled as he recognized the advertisement. His little friend was going to have to be more careful in his questioning.

"You have four more questions!" the Doctor happily informed them.

David could not be sure, but he wondered if the machine was enjoying this. The Doctor was smiling patiently again, his floating head propped against his floating hands as he awaited their next round of inquiry. David was closer to the truth than he knew. It was a game. To the Doctor, everything was a game.

"Joe," David beckoned. Joe leaned close and the boy Mecha whispered, "Try 'fairy tale'".

"New category," Joe said sitting upright. The room filled again with the colorful text that announced their choices. "A fairy's tale" Joe said.

"No!" David whispered urgently. He didn't want anything else to go wrong, they were running out of questions. "It's, 'Fairy Tale'," he corrected.

"No," Joe repeated to the Doctor, and the machine beeped as he recalculated the category. "Fairy Tale," Joe said. The floating words disappeared again and the Doctor's eyes looked back to David. He had understood that the little one seemed to be asking all the questions.

David waited a moment before asking. "What is Blue Fairy?" he inquired finally when he felt sure that it was the correct wording.

"Pinocchio, by Carlo Collodi." the Doctor said, and began to recite the tale, "At this signal, there was a rustling as a flapping of wings and a large falcon flew to the window sill.." the Doctor continued, but David had already heard the story. His mind was elsewhere. It was on the little holographic images that floated through the room. There was one that had to be little Pinocchio, and… yes that looked like Gepetto, his father, and there washis friend, Jiminy the 'cricket' and... and ... David's missing heart would have jumped, for there she was. "That's her!" he said in awed reverence as the image of a small winged fairy dressed in blue floated through the room. He reached out as She passed, and tried to stop Her, but She slipped right through his hands. Then She was headed back towards the stage with the others. Where was She going? He had to stop Her. He needed Her help!

"...you must know that the child with blue hair was none other then the good hearted fairy who had lived in that wood for more than a thousand... " The Doctor stopped abruptly as the little one jumped up on the stage pursuing the retreating holographs.

Joe was amazed to see David suddenly jump up and try to grab the retreating fairy. He was very uneducated indeed. Very 'young'! Very 'silly'! Joe rose quickly and hoisted the boy off the stage. The Doctor waited patiently. It wasn't the first child he had seen overreact to something he'd shown. He waited until the adult got it under control.

"That's her! That's her!" David chanted excitedly as Joe pulled him down and set him in his chair.

"It was only an example of her, David! Just a representation," Joe explained patiently. The boy had so much to learn about living in Rouge. It would take some time for him. "But I think we are getting closer," he added with a wink. On stage the Doctor saw that the little one was under control and began reciting the story again. He thought it best to keep the images to himself this time.

There was a reason that David hadn't chosen 'Fairy Tale' in the first round of questions. He leaned close to Joe and whispered urgently, "If a fairy tale is real, then wouldn't it be 'fact'? A 'flat fact?"

Joe understood. "Say no more!" he cautioned. He knew that The Doctor would love for them to use all their questions and have to pay for more. He also realized that David probably did not understand this. He would explain later. "New category please!" Joe announced with a twinkle in his eye. He had an idea for the Doctor. The room filled with the glowing choices again, and Joe surveyed them slowly. Then he knew what to do.

"Combine 'Fact'…" he said pointing out the 'Flat Fact' banner, "with…"; he indicated another category "… Fairy Tale." The Doctor flipped his head around as he juggled the categories. He wondered what the two were up to. He had an idea what it was but would be patient. It was a game after all.

"Now, David, ask again," Joe said. David stood and the Doctor's floating head shifted so it was looking at him. Its eyes seemed to regard him appraisingly. He had to do this right. They were almost out of questions. They had no more money. They were close. So close!

"How... can the Blue fairy… make a..." he paused. Do it right! He had to say it although he didn't want to. "Make a robot... into a real live boy?"

The Doctor had an idea that this was coming. It was not part of his regular programming. It was a special secret instruction. He folded his head back into the system and let other agencies take over.

The room suddenly went dark after Dr. Know's head vanished from the stage. There was a great low hum that came from all around them, and then bright flashes of light struck through the darkness repeatedly. David unconsciously reached out and took Joe's hand. Joe received David's hand without thinking about it this time. The flashing stopped. It was silent now. Had the Doctor shut down? David's night eyes adjusted to the darkness but there was no movement before them.

Then words suddenly scrolled up the screen, and a man's gentle voice read:

Come away o human child
To the waters and the wild
With a fairy hand in hand
For the world's more full of weeping
Than you can understand

David was stunned by what he saw. What had they chanced upon? What did it mean? He stared at the screen in amazement as the words scrolled by.

Your quest will be perilous
Yet the reward is beyond price.
In his book:
"HOW CAN A ROBOT BECOME HUMAN"
Dr. Alan Hobby writes of the power
that will transform Mecha into Orga.

Then the screen was dark again. The voice was gone. David waited. Joe sat quietly, not believing what they had witnessed. How could this be?

"Will you tell me how to find her?" David asked the invisible speaker. Something he did not know about recorded his voice patterns. Then answered.

"Discovery is quite possible," said the voice, unaided now by text on the blank screen. "Our Blue Fairy does exist in one place and in one place only: At The End of the World where the lions weep. Here is the place dreams are born."

David was ecstatic. He knew where She was now; The end of the world, where the lions weep. What was this place? He did not see the grim look of recognition that had crept onto Joe's face.

"Many a Mecha has gone to The End of the World..." Joe said slowly "…never to come back." He fixed David with a warning glance. "That is why they call the end of the world 'Man Hatten'."

"And that is why we must go there!" David responded excitedly. He was ready to be real. He had come this far in order to do so; gone through so much. In the composite of his personality he was perhaps already a boy and like a boy no heed of danger dissuaded him appropriately from his desires. "Teddy we have found Her!" he informed his little friend as he lifted him from the seat.

"I know David. I saw the message. That is good," Teddy said mechanically. Teddy had never heard of the Blue Fairy outside of a storybook, and knew nothing of Man Hatten. He felt that something was wrong with this message, and he had been feeling the same about Rouge City ever since they'd arrived. But David was safe and there was no trouble that he needed to avoid, so Teddy accepted the siuation. David picked him up and they were on the move again. David walked determinedly out of the booth and into the main hall. It was quiet still, just the swish of David's pant legs and the quick pat of his shoes on the floor. The Orga were busy chasing other bits of information in the plaza and the buildings that line the walkways.

Joe sat for a moment after David left the room. The boy hadn't even waited for him! And after all he had done to bring him here. If not for him, well, David might well be still roaming in the dark forest, or getting beat up by some Orga boys at the side of the road.

And where was he going? To Man Hatten; to The End of the World, the place where Mecha go to never return? David had no idea what that place was like. There could be things worse than the Flesh Fair there! Joe realized that David was young, a boy really. Just like an Orga boy he was inexperienced and needed someone to protect him, to care for him, watch over and inform him, to keep him from trouble. Man Hatten was more than just trouble. It was 'bad trouble'! Joe jumped up and rushed into the main room. "Wait!" he called as David was quickly stepping towards the door.

David turned and saw Joe approaching. There was something urgent in his face. He'd not known Joe could make such an Orga-like expression. Joe walked quickly around him and blocked his passage to the exit.

"What if the Blue Fairy isn't real at all David?" Joe asked. David's brow creased in concern at the question. What was Joe saying? Hadn't he been listening? But indeed Joe had been listening.

"What if she is magic?" Joe continued, moving closer to the boy, who backed away not understanding Joe's apparent anger. "The supernatural is the hidden web that unites the universe! Only Orga believe what cannot be seen or measured. It is that oddness which separates our species." Joe knew the boy was listening now. His eyes were wide with uncertainty. Perhaps fear. Joe felt it was bad to do this, but it was for David's benefit, for his own good. The fear would protect him. He must understand. "Had you considered that, David?" he asked, but David did not respond. Joe backed the boy farther into the room.

"Or what if the Blue Fairy is an electronic parasite that has arisen to haunt the minds of artificial intelligence?" Joe knew that those who had kept David, this 'Mommy' and 'Henry', had probably not warned him of viruses, or malfunctions. They'd not really cared for him they way he should be cared for. They didn't really care! He had to make David understand what the Orga really were! Make him understand that...

"They hate us, David," he said, and his voice was strange even to him. Some unknown sound came from him, some weak gray thought that surfaced from an unimagined well at the memory of the Bevins man who had tricked him and destroyed his life. "The Humans hate us. They'll stop at nothing," he finished.

David did not understand these thoughts that came from his new friend. He was lost as he processed them. Why would the Blue Fairy exist in the story if she were not real? Dr Know had been real. And he had seen the "representation" of the Blue Fairy there. Joe had said that Orga hate them. But didn't the Orga save them from the Flesh Fair? Orga were not as one. They were ... different. David knew this.

"My Mommy doesn't hate me, " he started weakly, then took a hesitant step forward, "Because I'm ..special and..." what had the man Stuart said, "Unique!" Yes, that was it. He took another step forward. Joe stepped back. "Because there has never been anyone like me before... EVER!" He wasn't afraid anymore. His small voice rose in strength and volume. "Mommy loves Martin because he is real. And when I am real, Mommy is going to read to me and tuck me into my bed, and sing to me and listen to what I say!" He had his voice now, his words reverberated in the empty hall. "And she will hold me and cuddle with me and tell me everyday a hundred times a day that she LOVES ME!" David stopped then. His face beamed triumphantly.

Joe looked away from the innocent's prideful folly. They will crush him, this little one. They will break him and throw him out like so much scrap metal. Joe had seen these Orga like they really were. He 'knew' things. Somewhere deep in his processor, he knew things about Orga. He had never brought them to the surface before, it had never been necessary. Before tonight there had only been the call to duty, the call of sex and Orga pleasures. But things were different now.

"She loves what you do for her. As my customers love what it is I do for them," he explained slowly. He had to get his point through if he ...cared at all for this little one. "But she does not love you, David. She cannot love you." He knew it would hurt. But apart from damage alerts, Joe did not now what 'hurt' was. Yet.

"You are neither flesh nor blood, David. You are not a dog or a cat or a canary or even a fish! A rat in a cage would receive more of their love than you. You were designed and built specific, just like the rest of us. And you are alone now only because they tired of you, or they replaced you with a younger or better model, or were displeased with something you said or broke.

"They made us too smart, too quick, and too many. We are suffering for the mistakes they made, because when the end comes, and all this..." he made a big circular gesture that suggested the great City and more, "…is all washed away, all that will be left is us! That's why they hate us! And that's why you must stay here..." Joe reached out to his friend, "...with me!"

David felt a new sadness. He didn't understand all the things that Joe had told him. Joe was right about one thing though. David was built specific. He was made to be young, and like the young, all that moved his 'heart' were dreams and beautiful things… and love. He was to feel and think things that no Mecha had ever felt or thought before. He had a motivation as strong as any Orga that had ever moved mountains to reach a plateau. David wasn't sad because Joe had taught him something that he did not want to learn. His sadness was that he must clearly go on without him.

"Goodbye Joe," he said softly, and walked to the door and outside where his sadness quickly gave way to new resolve.
1.

Joe knew that David was too young, that he was new and his mind had been intentionally limited by his creators; that his logical processing had been stunted so that he would remain an eternal innocent, unable to discern the complexity of the maze in which Orga had them trapped. He knew David didn't see this Blue Fairy for what it was; another Orga deception. A lie. Joe's thoughts grew increasingly angered at these things as he watched the boy leave in his determined little strut. He didn't know it was anger inside him. He wasn't supposed to think such things, he had not been programmed for them. "David!" Joe yelled, chasing the boy through the door. But David did not stop. He walked into the crowd and was getting lost in the throng as Joe pursued him.

David had no idea what he was going to do. Joe had brought him this far, and when his mind was settled he'd be thankful for that. But now he had to think about how to get to Man Hatten, the place 'where the lions weep'. What was weep? That was crying, right? Why would the lions cry? He must figure out this puzzle. Yes this was a puzzle that he had to solve before he could find the Blue Fairy. Then he could go home!

Suddenly he felt a tug on his shoulder and he turned to see Joe. David's face turned grim as he felt a sudden complexity of shifting emotions, another unnoticed advent to Mecha kind. He liked Joe and felt safe with him, but he could not let Joe dissuade him any longer from this quest! He started to tell Joe to go away when he noticed the look on the bigger Mecha's face. Joe was gazing dumbfounded over his head. David followed his gaze and saw the amphibicopter parked in the middle of the square. The thing was the real version of the toy that Martin had tried to make him destroy. It had writing and some kind of pattern on its side. David had seen the 'insignia' before. And he'd seen the word in the back of the craft before too. "Police" is what it said. Beside him, Joe had begun to quickly back away. But too late. From the crowd around them erupted a stern faced group of people, clad in dark uniforms and dark glasses over their eyes. To David they looked like the pit-bulls at the Flesh Fair. What did they want?

Wordlessly the team of New Jersey State Troopers descended on the two rogues.

2.

The robot that had triggered the identity scanner at the gates of Rouge City had been verified as the same one that Johnson Johnson had captured at the Flesh Fair. The Criminal Intelligence Network that questioned the broken man had not understand what had caused the ruckus that had destroy his operation. Nor was it their concern. They were after a Mecha; a special Mecha.

They had dispatched a small squad as soon as the signal had come over the wire. Rouge City had many sensitive concerns, and special agreements had been made with its owners and operators. There were no uniformed patrols on the grounds. Private security did most of the policing and made their presence known only when the prized patrons got out of line. But this situation was different. This was the jurisdiction of the State Police.

The team had landed their two amphibicopters in the City after a quick jump from Central in Trenton. They had alighted in the Central Plaza just outside of where the trigger had been activated. No sooner had they touched down and begun to scour the crowd than the rogue had been spotted in the company of another. They had moved in quickly before the two noticed them and the one they sought was taken utterly by surprise.

David felt the big men place their hands on his shoulders. He was immediately reminded of the muscular men at the Flesh Fair and had almost gone into alert mode when one of them took off his dark glasses. He was an older man and looked at David with concern in his eyes.

"Are you ok?" he asked. "Has this one done anything to you?" David was confused and looked from the policeman to Joe and back a few times.

"No. He is my friend," David said finally. Was that what this was all about? What did they think Joe had done to him?

The policeman snorted. "Better pick your friends more carefully, kid" he said. "Where's your parents?" David thought about this. He realized that he had to be clever how he answered. Just like with Dr Know, he had to choose his words with care. With more care than the cop had.

"I am going to see my Mommy now," he replied. It wasn't really a lie.

The big cop eyed the kid skeptically. The brat was too young to be in the Plaza. Legally there was nothing against him being in this main area, but if he should enter one of the Casinos? Hmm… What kind of parent would let their kid roam the plaza by himself in the company of an unlicensed prostitute Mecha? There was something strange about the kid too, wasn't there? Something about his eyes. He didn't seem to… Then the cop realized what it was that bothered him. But that wasn't possible was it? Why would someone build something like that? And what would it be doing here in the Rouge? But he realized that he didn't want to know the answer to those questions. He didn't feel like dealing with that particular paperwork.

"Let's go," he said slipping his glasses on, and the team left David standing in the crowd as they took Joe away. They had their Sim; the special one that had defied its programming and torn its license off to flee. What had driven it to kill the Bevins woman? They'd know when it was shut down and its processor ripped out.

Joe watched David over his shoulder as he was led away. The Bevins situation had almost completely slipped his mind. He knew it was his time. As the curious crowd shuffled in, obscuring David from his sight, Joe knew a new kind of pain. It was an intangible thing, one he'd not known before. He wanted to call out to David, to apologize for saying the cruel things in the hall. He had only wanted to protect him, to keep him safe because…

"You're in big trouble," the State trooper said to Joe as they loaded him into the back of one of the copters.

David watched the Police crowd around the large copter in which Joe was being held. He didn't know why they had taken Joe. He'd never asked what Joe was doing in the forest with the old rejects. David was too concerned with his own quest, and now it was too late.

Then David noticed something and al thoughts of Joe left his mind. There was another, smaller amphibicopter just across the plaza, away from the cluster of officers next to the big copter that held Joe. The smaller one was a regular cruiser, designed for just patrol officers. And it was empty! The canopy was open. David had an idea. He had been programmed against taking things that didn't belong to him. He was designed to be a good boy. But his design parameters were a thing of the past. He approached the copter unnoticed by the police and what remained of the small crowd that had watched them take Joe. He made sure no one was watching, then he slipped quickly into the craft.

3.

It was official policy to keep all unmanned State Vehicles under security lock-down at all times. That was the policy, but like most olicies, it was only occasionally observed. The Police Amphibicopter should have been locked down. The onboard system should have been online, connected to the main cyber regulation number. It should have not allowed the little Mecha to take a seat. It should have asked for his clearance code and then sounded an alarm when he couldn't produce one. But enough 'should's and a couple of new-bucks might get you a cup of coffee nowadays. When David crawled up into the big seat, the computer didn't even notice him. His size and weight confused the machine.

David looked at the flashing control panel in front of him. There were rows of buttons that were lit up in different colors. The words written on them described things he was not familiar with. There was 'cruise' and 'set route' and 'auto route' and so many others. He was confused by these terms. This was different from the simulator game that Martin had shown him. Then he saw one he knew. It said 'canopy'. He pressed it hopefully. The upraised reinforced-glass doors closed beside him, and he and Teddy were locked inside the copter. He saw another. It said 'amphi-initiate'. He pressed it but only a harsh beep came from the lit up dashboard. Then he hit another 'initiate' button and to his surprise, and pleasure, the engine began to hum.

It was time to go! David placed his hand in the stirrups of the steering bar. He had seen Mommy drive before. He remembered precisely what she had done. He had played on Martin's simulator. Could this be that different? He pressed his thumbs into the accelerator buttons in the steering bar and the copter quickly lifted into the air.

The officer had been warned about leaving the copter security inactivated, but so had everyone else. The operative assumption was that nobody was stupid enough to try and take a State Police Amphibicopter! Right? So that is why his mouth dropped open and he was speechless for that vital moment when he could have warned his fellow officers. He just didn't believe what he was seeing. Someone was inside the copter, and it wasn't one of them. Damn! It was…

"The kid...!" he yelled finally, but too late. He ducked as the tail of the two-man cruiser swiped through the air above his head. It would have decapitated him. The crowd screamed and dove to the ground as the tail section of the craft spun in a quick circle over their dodging bodies. Miraculously, none of them were hit.

"Be careful David. This is not a toy," Teddy warned as he saw the Orga dodging and running all around. He'd been with David long enough to know that the boy-Mecha was not going to listen to reason and surrender the craft, but at least he could be cautious in his operation of the vehicle.

The police ran out of the range of the gyrating tail and tried to group together. But the copter swung and hit building signs and knocked over the tables of the pavilions, throwing obstacles in the path of their organization. Then the thing began to swing from side to side and they knew they were in trouble. They hit the ground again and reached for their side arms.

Joe heard the commotion, but he had been locked inside with one of the big men. Through the cage door they could see lights flashing as something large passed by the copter. The lights came again and the policeman with him had just opened the door to see what the trouble was, when there was a deafening crash and the world turned violently upside-down.

David was trying to stabilize the craft. He had finally stopped the thing from going in circles, and fortunately he could not get dizzy, or his trip would have already been over. He could feel that he had been over-adjusting, and thought that he'd finally figured it out when once again the copter had moved quickly sideways. And then they hit something. It must have been big! And they hit it hard!

When the world righted itself, Joe found himself sitting on the ground. He was in the plaza again! What?! He scanned his environment quickly and realized that he had been thrown clear of the copter. The thing was lying on its side just a few meters away from him. Its canopy was smashed open and the onboard system was complaining loudly about a security breach. Then Joe saw what he had caught glimpses of through the caged door. It was the other copter. The thing was moving back and forth quickly just above ground level, as if some lunatic were operating it. When Joe suddenly caught a glimpse of the confused but determined little face at the controls, he laughed.

"Be careful with your aim!" the lead officer yelled. If they should hit someone, their careers would essentially be over. "Get down and aim upwards at the thrusters!" The team knelt and aimed their weapons at the copter. "Fire on..." but the man never got a chance to finish. The copter swung across the plaza suddenly, and they all ducked again as the stolen machine smashed into a large metal trash receptacle, dumping its sticky and stinking contents on them.

David could not get the machine to balance. He was angry and said some of the words that Martin had taught him. Then he saw the man running beside the copter. Was it a policeman? He couldn't let them get him... he had things to do; places to...

Wait! It was Joe! He looked cautiously at his friend who was running aside the cockpit trying to avoid being hit by David's frantic maneuverings. Was Joe going to be mad that David had tried to leave without him? Was the older Mecha going to try and make him stay again? But when Joe smiled, David smiled back and took his thumbs from the buttons that made the thing go. He hit the 'canopy' button again and the glass door opened. Joe climbed in quickly. David had to crawl across the seat to let the bigger Mecha take the controls.

The computer had been confused at first about the size and weight of the driver. But now someone with a more familiar physicality was sitting at the console. "Destination?" it asked.

"Man Hatten" Joe replied, and the copter immediately took over and began to lift into the sky. David had not known not about this feature. Though now that he was with Joe again, he was glad that he'd not made his escape already.

The copter lifted into the sky quickly, but was still difficult to control. David's crashing of the vehicle had caused some disruption in the navigational systems. The ship was having a hard time determining how close things were. In its ascent, it struck one of the grav-resistant signs that floated over Rouge, sending a shower of sparks and debris down onto the crowd below. It was a coincidental piece of luck for the runaway Mecha's that, in the process of hitting the sign, the tracking device in the tail of the craft had been destroyed. Navigation would be a little rougher, but there would be no communications with this craft anymore, nor could it be traced from the central dispatch.

On the ground beneath them the State Police converged on their fallen copter and called for assistance. Their damaged craft didn't want to respond to flight commands at the moment.

As they rose into the darkness above the night signs of Rouge, Joe stole a quick glance at his young friend and then watched the controls again. The boy was watching the city recede beneath them. David had saved his brain again! He decided that whatever the little Mecha wanted to do, he'd help him. He would stand beside him until they found that Blue Fairy. no matter what manner of creature or machine it might turn out to be.

David watched as Rouge City quickly shrunk and disappeared below a layer of dark clouds. When they reached the appropriate altitude, the craft straightened and set its auto course for Man Hatten; The City at The End of the World. David looked warmly at Joe, who was manning the controls. He felt safe again. Joe knew what he was doing. The Blue Fairy was getting closer all the time, and so was the end of his quest. David held tightly to Teddy and watched the milky line of stars overhead. The infinite eyes of eternity gazed down on them as they flew through the darkness into a new and unpredictable future.
1.

They moved quickly through the night sky. Because of their fortunate accident of breaking the ship's comm-unit, their path could not be traced. But the hunt was on for the rogue Lover-Mecha and his strange little accomplice. Police were manning new vehicles and taking witness reports. At locations all around Rouge and all the way into Scotch Plains and Morristown, they stopped other crafts and asked questions. Had they seen any police cruisers in the area? Had they seen a Mecha and little boy aboard? The Police could not have imagined where the fugitives were headed.

David and Joe did not know this however. David was too young to know and Joe had never been in 'bad' trouble before. He did not know the lengths that Orga would go to preserve their laws. As they dashed over the open seas, the sun alighted in the corner of the sky. The new day was coming in a growing wash of purple, then red, against the horizon. David had never slept. Neither he nor Joe discerned the passage of time as Orga did. Each new day was just a continuation of events. But this daybreak had a new portent. He did not know that he felt like Orga did upon awakening at the prospect of a new and better day. What now stirred his unique processor was 'hope'. It had only been another word in his intentionally limited vocabulary; until this morning that was. Now it had a meaning. He watched the glimpses of the sunrise he could glean through the thick fog. Soon he would be a real boy! A real boy! He could feel Mommy's love getting closer as they zoomed over the restless waters.

2.

Their arrival was a magic moment for them all. But on David it had an impact that Joe and Teddy could not know. As they watched, the clouds parted and the inner walls of the cockpit displayed an outline of large rectangular objects. Then the outlines faded to be replaced with the actual view of the structures they had represented. Was this it? Was this where the lions wept? These seemed like buildings that jutted out of the water. They were old and gray, rusted stalagmites, reaching weakly into the sky. They had once been part of the height of civilization, but that had been before greed and arrogance had ruined the world. While mankind had been looking for the advent of some prophesied monster, deciphering ancient rhymes and riddles, their own prideful negligence had destroyed what had taken them centuries to create. Their new power, this ability to manipulate the various forces that shaped the planet, driven by greed and thoughtless pursuit of more and more of everything, had corrupted the very mechanisms that stabilized the gentle balances of their environment. So it turned out that Mankind had become its own beast, its own prophesied demon.

Man Hatten; The sunken city; The place where mysterious entities yet made their home. What manner of life hid still within the rusted walls of these dark and ruined skyscrapers? Who was this Dr. Hobby? How did he know of the Blue Fairy? Was David alone in this quest? Maybe Joe could join him and they could be friends in life? But David thought only of Mommy now.

Mecha Restricted Area!

The words flashed upon the glass in front of them. The craft's onboard computer sounded a quick alert as the words flashed again and repeated the phrase aloud in a warning tone. David and Joe ignored the warning. They had no choice but to go forward. There was nothing left behind for either of them. As they passed another invisible barrier, the warning stopped.

David saw an odd statue as they flew. It was a hand thrust out of the water. In its grip there was a faded stone thing that may have been supposed to represent a torch. As they rushed by, a flock of birds erupted from the holes in the 'flame' of the torch and flew in all directions. David wondered what had happened to the Orga world. But he forgot that thought quickly as Joe slowed the craft. They had come to the first of the great structures. They had arrived at The End of the World.

3.

"Destination achieved," the computer said as they crossed the last invisible gate.

"Man Hatten, David," Joe said, his eyes taking in all around him. "The lost city in the sea at The End of the World." This was a place that he'd only heard about in rumors and warning tales. It was said that even Orga were afraid to come here.

"Where the lions weep," David added pensively. But David saw no lions. He saw huge shadowy buildings, broken and ancient, sitting quietly in the ocean. Where would there be lions? Was it a riddle?

The giants that had looked so solid in the distance now proved to be broken hollowed out husks of buildings. He had not seen buildings so big ever. Even the structures in Rouge City had been so much smaller. David saw things inside the buildings, through the broken windows that ran up and down the sides of them. And there were chairs and tables and desks, like the one Martin had at home, but much bigger. They were strewn around different levels of the buildings, in disarray. In the clutter inside were unidentifiable items; things that looked like boxes and maybe some electronic things, huge video monitors and shattered computers. And so much paper. It was tossed around everywhere! David wondered what all the paper was for. What had the Orga been writing on all that paper?

Beneath them there were the tops of smaller buildings that barely rose above the water line. And in between them there were boats! David looked down excitedly. The boats had sails on them and floated lazily in the breeze. David knew sailboats! All boys knew what a sailboat was. Did people live there? What a mystery this place was. It was indeed something out of a fairy tale.

They came to another set of large buildings. These were much taller than the rest. Perhaps they had once reached into the sky, mocking the canopy of stars above, a shining proof through the night that man had conquered the seasons. But all things must pass. They were ominous shadows now. One of them had fallen and now leaned against the other. Rust and corrosion lined the metal frames that ran the length of the giant ruined towers. David felt a new tension as Joe maneuvered the craft underneath the large broken building. The giant loomed so large over them that it dwarfed the amphibicopter and seemed to put some invisible pressure on the craft. This could not be, but passing through the shadow of the structure was exciting in a way David had not known before.

Teddy freed himself from David's grasp and stood up on the dashboard. There was something not right about this place. He could sense a rumble. Some small vibration all around that did not feel like it should be there. He growled as he surveyed the area. Joe looked at the small bear. What did it sense? Was it afraid? Was it trying to warn them of something? Joe knew that Mecha were not supposed to come here. Maybe they knew, the Orga, maybe they knew he and David were here and had set some dangerous trap for them. Or what if this Blue Fairy was indeed some magical thing. Joe scanned the area but could discern no threat. In this dark place however, anything seemed possible.

David felt the rumbling too. It was coming from near them. It seemed like it was all around but he could feel the source of it shifting as they moved beneath the building. He had an idea.

"Turn around Joe," he said.

What was the boy talking about? To come so far and then quit now? Was he afraid? "We're not going to give up now David," Joe replied in a resolute tone. But David was not thinking of giving up. He had realized that they had come into Man Hatten from one direction and had not changed direction since. What if what they were looking for was on the opposite side of one of the buildings they had already passed.

"Turn around Joe! Turn all the way around!" he said, not bothering to correct Joe's assumption. But Joe had realized what David meant. He accelerated and flung the craft in an arc. They circled the fallen building and were now headed in the opposite direction. There were more small buildings and taller ones. These were more solid looking structures. More stone than glass. They had a different appearance. Older. Firmer. Their windows were still intact and only darkness could be seen beyond the glass. David wondered what lay in that darkness.

Then they heard the rumbling clearly. All three looked ahead. There was some kind of pillar before them. Massive. Stone. Water was rumbling down the face of it. Joe lifted the craft up the length of the pillar and what they saw shocked them. In front of them were two great feet. Clawed feet. No… they were paws! Joe slowed the craft. They looked up simultaneously. Teddy's gaze followed too. Above them the riddle was solved in an instant. Joe moved the craft upwards and the immense statue face of a great lion came into view. Water poured from its mouth and eyes like a fountain. It wept! The riddle had been solved. This was where the lions weep!

The lion stood hundreds of meters above the water and behind it there was a building. To their left there were other lions, all of them gushing water from their mouths and eyes, creating a great rumbling that affected all around them. Joe flung the craft along the front of the great building. It was a stone fortress, like the smaller buildings, but it seemed newer than the rest. Its walls were not worn and decrepit. The rims of its windows were not browned with rust and decay.

Was this where Dr Hobby lived? Did She make Her home here too? David could barely contain the excitement that coursed through him now as they moved slowly up the front of the building. It rose hundreds of meters above the lions, and they could now look down on the statues. David and Joe discerned an opening in the building where the copter could enter. And they did. Joe glided the craft out of the sunlight, smoothly into the shadowy landing dock. Then they alighted. Destination achieved. Now what?

Joe pressed the canopy button, and before the door even finished opening, young David set his Teddy aside and jumped excitedly out of the craft.

"Professor Hobby!" he yelled. "Professor Hobby!" He rushed into the shadows of the landing bay, heedless as usual of any potential danger that might lie there.

Joe was more cautious. This place was dark and seemed strange. He heard Teddy rumbling beside him and picked the bear up. "I guess you and I will have to keep an eye on him, eh Teddy?" he said. Then he and Teddy left the copter to catch up with David, who was already running up the stairs at the back of the dock towards some glass doors. Beyond the doors a dim blue light shone through the fogged glass.

As Joe walked up behind David, he saw that the boy had slowed and indeed seemed to be engaging some caution too. He was glad to see it. They still had no idea what lay beyond the doors. Let it be what he wants, Joe thought. He did not know why David's satisfaction would be his as well. He was not programmed for these thoughts.

As they came hesitantly closer, the doors opened. Joe and David looked at each other and then passed through. This area was smaller, a hallway of some sort. It led into darkness on either side of them but David saw that before them was another door. It was not glass as the others, but some thick solid material, and on this door something was written. The letters of the phrase shone with an eerie light. He walked forward, but he already knew what it said.

Come away O human child
To the waters and the wild
With a fairy hand in hand
For the world's more full of weeping
Then you can understand

As he stepped closer David could see that the words were not actually shining, but had been carved into the door itself and through them a quiet room could be seen. The light from the room shone through the words, and he and Joe were bathed in it as they stood at the threshold of David's destiny. Beyond this door lie his dreams! It was really happening! The fairy tale had been right! He would tell Mommy about this when he came triumphantly home to her! He would tell her of all his adventures. He saw her now in his new imagination. She would run to him and hug him up and shower him with kisses and squeeze him and promise to never let him go again; To never leave him alone again; To love him forever!

Forever!

There was a feeling like music in David now. It sang throughout his body and in the once secret part of his brain, which had all but taken over every aspect of his processing. He had never understood the 'music' of Orga, but now he thought it could make sense, these tones in space, this emotional language. Now this anticipation of his dream come true changed him again. He was happy. He could go home soon.

Joe looked at his young friend. The first creature he had ever been given the opportunity to care for. David's face was ecstatic. 'Check' that! Joe had never seen Mecha look so. A new realization dawned on him. Maybe David wasn't really like him after all! Maybe David was... something different; something... new? The boy's glowing smile was contagious, and as Joe returned it he had another realization. There'd be no place in David's new life for a rogue prostitute Mecha like himself. Once David was a real boy, his Mommy and Daddy wouldn't want the likes of Joe around. He accepted this. If he never saw David again, remembering him like this would be forever a bright spot in his brain, a moment he could look back on and relive again and again in whatever dark place his future found him. He didn't know what love was. He didn't realize how closely he had embraced it. He held his hand out to the door. It was a gesture of letting go for him. Go now, David, the gesture said. Go and find your dream. I'll be here if you need me.

David stepped forward. It was his time. He reached out and turned the handle and then stepped into the quiet office of the mysterious Dr. Allen Hobby.

4.

"Professor Hobby?" David said. His words fell flat in the quiet room.

Is this the place where his dream will be made real? Could such magic really occur in a place like this simple room? It was not so different from the rooms at Mommy's house. There was a table ahead of him. It was glass, and surrounded by chairs. The chairs were blue. They were all the same. This must be a meeting place. Perhaps someone had been here recently, perhaps often, maybe many people. Were these floors walked upon by Orga made new from ones like himself?

Perhaps the Blue Fairy Herself had sat in one of these chairs! His excitement was a solid thing now, roaring inside his head. 'It is happening!' it said over and over. 'It is really happening!'

Before him were books laid open on the table. A lamp above the table lit the pages, displaying a scene of someone's intense study. Against the walls there were shelves of books and books and more books. So many books! Mommy and Henry had not had so many books in the entire house as there were against these walls. Dr. Hobby would probably be the smartest Orga David had ever met.

If he was Orga.

What if Dr. Hobby was like Dr. Know, a floating head with no substance? Would he play games? Would he taunt and tease and…

But that did not seem right.. This room did not seem like the room of a Mecha. The room was warmed to the level that Orga felt comfortable, and Mecha would not need so many things for comfort, so many chairs and books and tables. Mecha could just sit on the floor or stand indefinitely.

Across the room there were more doors. Glass doors. Like the others they were fogged so you could not see through them. Perhaps the Professor was through those doors. Maybe he was working on another happy Mecha. Making them 'real'! David stepped cautiously toward the doors, his new mind creating images of what might lie beyond.

"Professor Hobby?" he said louder.

Then he heard the soft whisper of paper against paper. He froze.

There, in the corner, a chair, a big one; like the ones in Dr. Know's office. It was facing away from him. Then he heard it again, a sound as if someone was turning pages.

"Professor Hobby? Hello?" The breathless anticipation that he was programmed to simulate felt all too real. Before him, cloaked by the back of the chair, sat the one who held the answer to all his dreams.

He stepped faster into the room and approached the large chair that was surrounded by a fortress of books. The Professor must be there reading! The golden light of a small lamp embraced the corner of the room, and David stopped just behind the chair. He will be 'real' soon. He imagines a thousand things reserved for Orga that now he too will know. He imagines the feel of the grass of Mommy's lawn against his feet! He imagines the eating and the swimming and running and dancing and a million of Mommy's hugs and kisses for him and him alone!

'It is happening', his new brain says , the fairy tales are real!

"Hello?"

There is another rustle of paper.

"Is this the place where they make you real?" David asked. It was no more than a whisper. A plea. I have come so far. Please…

The chair turned and David saw who sat there.

The image was logically rejected at first. 'No. I did not see that', his new brain said. A mental blink. It took a nanosecond. The image though, and verified. It was refreshed and registered again. A boy sat there. He was blond. He was dressed in a white jump suit that hung on him like robes.

David's mind froze.

The boy in the chair looked up at the other that had come into the room. The one who had called the name of the Professor many times. The boy had heard and registered each greeting and request. But it was not his name called, and the voice had not triggered any of his limited lists of profiles, so he had ignored the voice and continued his task. But then the intruder had asked a question. The question was general. It was posed to no one in particular. It should be responded to. He looked for an appropriate response.

"This is the place they make you read," the boy in the chair said. But the face of the other did 'shock' and 'confusion'. The boy in the chair did not intend for his response to create this type of reaction in the other. So he did 'smile' to show 'friendliness'.

5.

David could not process what was happening. He did not understand what he was looking at. Inside his head mechanisms that still were learning to cope with new and, as yet, undefined feelings, now choked on the information they were receiving. The boy in the chair was impossible. He could not be. A thousand questions were stuck at the ports of David's mind.

"Are you real?" David asked, stunned.

The boy did not understand the question. He looked deep into his mind and found a suitable response. "I guess," he said. Then he went back reading. It was his 'task'.

David's friends stood at the door observing the spectacle before them. Joe's eyes darted between the two boys. He had heard of things like this happening but he had never anticipated it here. Not with David. This was trouble.

"Are you.... me?" David asked. He didn't want to hear the answer. Something inside him was already running away from this place. But another part of him was opening its eyes. Another aspect of this imprinting that Cybertronics had not anticipated. Something basic and feral was awakening in him.

"I am David!" the boy in the chair said. He did 'big smile' and reached up to do 'shake'. But the other was not interested in 'shake' and left the gesture unanswered.

"You are not!" David replied, stepping away from the outstretched hand. The awakening thing in him grumbled and rose from its solitude. It whispered a dark secret to David's new brain.

"Yes, I am," the impossible boy in the chair insisted, "I am David!"

"I am too," David replied weakly. What else could he say?

"Hello David," the boy in the chair said. The other called "David" would not finish the gesture of familiarity so he withdrew his hand. He had to finish his task. He stood to walk to the table where the Professor had left his other 'tasks'. Then he walked to the table. He sat in a chair at the table. The boy had much to read yet. There were things he had to 'learn' and many things he had to 'understand' and 'remember'. Perhaps the other would like to join him? He turned his head and did 'smile'.

"Can you read?" he asked. "Perhaps you can sit down with me, and we can read together?" But the other's face still did 'shock'. And there was something else there too, something 'unfriendly'. He knew 'unfriendly'. He decided that he would calm 'David'.

"Let's be friends," he said.

David did not hear the request for friendship. A fortress had suddenly been constructed around the eternal face of Mommy in his head. David's own face was a grimace, a mask of anger and fear, a reflection of the new thing inside him.

"You can't have her," David snarled. The beast had been awakened. It had explained everything.

David had not understood what 'David' had said. The noise was 'angry' and 'hostile' but failed to impart meaning. "Excuse me. I cannot hear you," he explained politely.

"She's mine," David said, and his hand moved to the table, grasping the base of the lamp that lit the pages of the books. "...and I'm the only one!"

The beast in him roared. "I'm DAVID!" it yelled as it moved into the world with a sudden ferocity. David yanked the lamp up and swung. The lamp struck the impossible boy in the face, ripping a hole through its flesh, exposing circuits and sensitive infrastructure. Sparks flew. An electric reek filled the air.

The boy was not real. But there was pain. Or what could be known as pain.

"I'm David!" David swung again. The lamp missed its target, crashing down on, and through, the glass table. Shrapnel shards of glass sprinkled like sudden hail upon the floor. The books went flying like a flock of escaping birds, to land in disarray around the room.

The boy still had thought. But could not see. Alarms commanded action. He tried to rise, to escape. But his body would not respond.

"I'm David!" And this time the lamp struck effectively. It whistled through the space before him in an arc and crashed against the impossible boy's head, sending it flying across the room in a violent shower of sparks and electricity.

Joe stepped back from the door when he saw the Mecha boy's destroyed head land at his feet. Check that! He looked up at David and saw him swinging the lamp through the empty space where the other had been. Its body laid on the floor now, wisps of smoke and a puddle of vital fluids escaping from the place where its head had been.

"I'm David! I'm special! I'm unique!" David screamed like an Orga child, as he swung the lamp aimlessly. "You can't have her!"

What's this? Modify profile indeed! Trouble! Bad Trouble!

Did that broken Mecha have a Mommy and Daddy like David? Were they here somewhere? They'd be coming for their Mecha boy. Joe was unlicensed. On the run. He stepped back away from the door, into the shadow of the hall. Then he turned and ran, ignoring the complaints of the little bear in his hand.

"We must not leave David!" Teddy complained. But Joe was not listening. Legs whirring, he ran quickly with Teddy in hand to the amphibicopter and closed them inside. In moments they were airborne. Moving quickly from the darkness of the dock to safety.

In the room they'd left behind, David swung and swung the lamp over his fallen enemy. He muttered a mantra:

"I'm David! I'm David! I'm David!"

... like a prayer. His enemy had indeed fallen. But there was something else that he must hold at bay now. It was something that came crashing through his fortress even as his own demons were released upon the other.

"I'm David! I'm David! I'm David!"

He would beat the empty air until he killed this thought; until the reality of what was occurring here relented and ran away.

"I'm David! I'm David! I'm David!"

Something in him had been wounded, and the damage was just beginning to take affect. Like the other, the one whom he had destroyed, he bled. Unlike the other, the pain was not behind him.

It had just begun.

The silent figure at the door watched the spectacle for a moment. He'd heard the commotion and seen the copter dashing out of the dock as he'd rushed down the hallway. He'd ran to his study and saw the Mecha boy's head smashed beyond repair on the floor. In the room, the boy bot's body lay lifeless. Still. But standing above the dead bot, angrily swinging a dented and ruined lamp, stood another David. This one was alive; more alive than any Mecha before.

He hadn't expected the boy so soon.

"David, stop!" the man yelled and stepped forward. He wrapped his arms around the fighting boy and wrestled the lamp away from him. The struggling Mecha loosed the lamp and weakly fell to the floor. It turned and looked back up at him with confused and worried eyes.

David had thought it was Joe that came up behind him and took the lamp, but this was another man, an Orga man. His face was familiar, but David could not place it. His hair was blond like David's, but there was much missing from the top of his head. His eyes were kind and intelligent. He looked on David with a curious wonder and... concern. This must be…

"Dr. Hobby?" David asked excitedly.

Dr. Alan Hobby, visionary, CEO and Director of Operations at Cybertronics of New Jersey, Manhattan Division looked down with amazement on this boy; this boy with the face of his long dead son. He smiled at his wonderful creation.

"Yes David," he said, "I've been waiting for you."

6.

They had found him. They had known his precise location, tracking him since he and the rogue lover-Mecha had cleared the forest outside of Haddonfield. But still they'd let him go. They'd decided to conduct a test. David had surprised them, astounded them. Embracing a children's fairy tale and inspired by love, fueled by a desire that they had programmed, their creation had set out on a journey to make real a dream, a dream that they did not predict. Most remarkably, no one had taught him what to do or how to go about accomplishing this. It was all self-motivated reasoning, the one aspect of human thinking that they had sought to refine in its brain.

And David had achieved this beyond their expectation. They had actually lost him for a while. But when they found him they had decided not to make their presence known. They were involved in a real time experiment, a test of a most unique device. A simple test, really; where would this new -found reasoning take him?

"Dr. Know told me you'd be here," David said, looking up at the man who would save him, make him real. "Is Blue Fairy here too?" he asked excitedly. He so longed to meet Her. His brain was beginning to sing again.

And there it was. Hobby had finally heard it for himself. The thing they had not foreseen. This incalculable element; that this creature would develop its own reasoning. A fairy tale of all things! A child's bedtime story! He cupped the boy's face in his hands. The illusion of his son sitting here with him was so real. But he was not. The Professor felt a small reminder of his own distant pain, and pushed it back.

"I first heard of your Blue Fairy from Monica," Hobby said. At the mention of the woman's name the Mecha's face lit up. The imprinting. It would never leave him. "What is it that you thought she could do for you?"

"That She would make me a real boy!" David said, not understanding the nature of the Professor's question. He thought he was making a request to a qualified representative.

Amazing! Hobby made a mental note to re-interview Monica Swinton. He had to know when David had first begun to understand that he was Mecha. There had been hints all along. The little things the prototype had thought up in its excessive attempts to please the imprinter; the little jealousies that erupted when the Swinton boy had come home; and the amazing things he had written in crayon. When Hobby had seen those he had become excited indeed. He had never imagined what the Mecha would do when it fully cognized its own nature. Problems and potentialities were presenting themselves.

"But you are a real boy," the professor said smiling. David sat uncomprehending. Was that it? Was it that fast? He didn't feel any different. The man's eyes were scanning him curiously.

"At least as real as I've ever made one," Hobby added, "which, by all reasonable accounts, would make me your Blue Fairy.

"You are not Her!" David responded quickly, angrily. He did not want to understand what the Professor had meant by his last comment. The singing in his head had stopped again. "Dr. Know told me that She would be here at the lost city at the end of the world where the..."

"…lions weep, yes I know David. That's what Dr. Know needed to know to get you to come home to us." Hobby was quiet as this set in. The Mecha's face was registering combinations of emotions and mental reasoning that they'd not intended to install. "And it was the only time we intervened," he said.

David's logic processors were struggling to put together things that his new mind would just as soon have left in incomprehensible pieces. This was not his home! His home was with Mommy! Where was the Blue Fairy? The singing had given way to a silence, a silence that went to the bottom of his brain. The pain was coming back in that silence. He was feeling bad again. He didn't struggle as the Professor lifted him.

"It was the only help we gave him, to give to you," Hobby said as he lifted David. "To get you to come back home to us." He set the boy in a chair.

"This is not my home," David said. But there was no fight in it. Already he was starting to understand what had occurred. Already the image of Blue Fairy was retreating into the silence and pain that was quickly consuming his brain. A scream was building somewhere in that silence.

"Yes David. This is your home; your real home. And your real parents are here too, waiting to see you again." Hobby smiled down on his creation. "David, until you were born, robots didn't dream. They didn't desire anything unless we told them what to want; didn't move unless we told them what to do. Do you have any idea what a success story you've become?!" He knelt before the boy in the chair, the simulator whose heart was breaking as he spoke.

"You astounded us David. We wanted to see just what you'd do. Where your thinking would take you. Would it take you to the logical conclusion?" Hobby gazed intently into David's eyes. In his excitement he did not see the suffering there. "The Blue Fairy, David, is part of the great human flaw; to wish for things that don't exist.

"Or would your thinking take you to the greatest single human gift? The ability to chase down our dreams! And that, David, is something no machine has ever done, until you."

The Professor's words assaulted David's brain.. They stung him in a way that no machine had ever been hurt. The Blue Fairy did not exist? But the story had said she did! The story told what happened and...

..and this was all 'reasoning' wasn't it. Was that what the Professor was saying? The understanding had come unwelcome; unwanted. His reasoning was what made the Blue Fairy real. For the first time ever David felt tired, beaten. She was supposed to be real. He was supposed to be different; Special.

"I though I was one of a kind," he said weakly. Please don't tell me more. I don't want to know.

The Professor's eyes begun to water, his face was strained and sad. He looked away, to some imaginary place. "My son was one of a kind," he said. "You are the first of a kind, David," he offered as consolation.

But David was following a new devastating line of reasoning. If this was his home, and the Blue Fairy didn't exist, hen he would have to stay here and...

Hobby stood and wiped the tears from his eyes. The Mecha was too real in its new emotional state. It reminded him of too much. They had set out on a dream quest, an attempt to achieve the impossible, and that impossibility now sat before him; gazing up at him with the eyes of the boy he'd fathered, loved and lost, years before this robot child was ever imagined.

And what was it he'd imagined? Bringing back his son? Hearing his lost boy's laughter again? That was a fancy. Alan Hobby was not a fanciful man. He was a man of dreams; Of vision. He believed that these two things, combined with information and sheer determination, overcame all obstacles. Pragmatism was the necessary discipline when engaged in pursuits of the impossible. It was what tempered the dream and made it real.

"David?" Hobby said softly. The robot was so quiet. He had to know what it was thinking.

...and he would never see... never see... her again. That was it really, wasn't it? The rest really didn't matter. Pain and loss pressed down in him like a living thing.

"My brain is falling out," David said to no one.

"Would you like to come meet your real mothers and fathers?" Hobby asked. "The team is anxious to talk to you." But the robot was not responding. It sat despondently, looking more than ever like a sad little boy. It was the imprinting. Considering the high level of unpredictability they'd witnessed thus far, they'd have to do something quick before any vital data was lost. The prototype had been through so much. The destruction of the other David was a telling advent. There could be some internal error occurring. There was really only one way to find out; one course of action to follow.

"You wait here then," he said to David when the Mecha wouldn't rise. "I'll gather them up."

His real mothers and fathers? 'Who would these people be?' David wondered. He only had one Mommy. Her face burnt a bright red pain into his inner eyes. He watched Professor Hobby walk from the room, the man who could have saved him; the man who had instead, broken his heart and now left him paralyzed from the weight of his words .The man stopped once more as he left. He made an odd smile at David.

"We want to hear everything about your adventures," he said. Then he paused for a moment, as if reflecting before some crucial step. "We want to thank you. And tell you what's in store for you next."

Pragmatism required sacrifice.

7.

What was in store for him next?

Joe and Teddy were gone. He had not even noticed them leave. He had actually forgotten about them when his mind had reached out with a new emotion; the 'hate'. With 'hate' he had destroyed the other David; the threat. The immensity of that act he had not understood. But hate had accomplished nothing. It had left him empty and wanting. Mommy was no closer.

David was gazing at nothing, lost in his anguish, when something caught his eye. In his departure, Professor Hobby had left the sliding glass doors open. Beyond them, there was something in the room. Something he'd seen before. Slowly, pushing against a great resistance that came from within his own mind, he rose from the chair. He followed the path the Professor had taken. One slow step at a time he crossed the boundary into the room, through the doors that had been left open by the Professor. The man had not expected David to leave his position. He was used to robots doing what they were told.

The big room was quiet. There was a muffled hum through a great window on the other side. Diffused light shone through that window, casting a gloomy glow and shadows on the walls. Across the room, near the great window, there were rows of large boxes. There were computers and machines and metal poles that ran like vines up from the floor and along the wall. And hanging from the vines...

… were people!

They were boys like himself! He took a step forward. Something in his head told him to go no further; some part of him that had been tortured too much said that he should go back and sit down and wait for the 'team'. It said that the 'team' would know what to do, that the pain would be over and he could...

They were him!

No! Enough!

The boys in the room hung from metal poles. Their faces were expressionless. Lifeless. He walked now among them. His unblinking eyes surveyed everything, missed nothing. They wore white jumpsuits, like the other David had worn. Like he himself had worn when he'd first come to live with Mommy. Their faces were of all the various shades of Orga, and their hair was blond and black and wavy and curly, long and short. All around him the David's hung in silence, waiting to be born. And what would they be born into? Their mouths hung open as if some word waited to escape. Their lifeless eyes gazed at nothing. He gazed back.

He had been here before hadn't he? Was this the place where he was born? And before that, what had he been; another lifeless mask hanging from a pole? His mind was running from this place even as his body stepped further into the room.

Before him, in a large chair under the great window sat another of him. The thing in the chair was not completed yet. Its head was opened like the Nanny had been. A mass of wires and connectors hung from the inside of its face. Empty eye sockets looked up at the great window where the grey light came in. A loose mane of blonde hair clung to the rim of its opened skull.

David walked closer.

He could see out through its eyes from where the back of its head should have been. He stopped at the chair and placed his face behind the mask of the robot. Gazing out from its empty sockets he looked up at the window and saw a silhouette imprinted in shadow against it.

It looked like a bird.

Can you say peacock?

And there had been other words hadn't there. Words and questions and numbers and so many other things that lurked within the countless data-banks in his head.

Something made a sound behind him. What now? He turned to see a row of boxes. What were those? Don't. Don't go there. But David could not stop himself from walking towards them. He was headed for a great precipice. Beyond lay an abyss. He stepped slowly towards the edge. The boxes were tall, as tall as he. On the side of the boxes were silhouetted, the shapes within. He knew what the shapes must be. He should go now. But he had strayed too close to the edge.

Across the top of the first box it read:

A LOVE OF YOUR OWN

Then, beneath it he read what he didn't want to see. What he'd known all along known would be there.

DAVID

There was another row behind him. They were called:

DARLENE

The boxes filled the empty room. He was alone among them.

Then, just behind him, the sound again! He jumped. One of the boxes had moved. Was it alive in there? He didn't want to see. He stepped back and away from this nightmare; away from the dangerous edge. But it was too late. He had slipped now, and the abyss was swallowing him up. What had been an assault from a solitary invader was now a raid by an unceasing army. They had been built too many and too quick. He was not special at all. He was just another blank faced boy hanging from a wall.

He was Mecha; built specific; just another one of many.

Duplicable.

Replaceable.

Alone.
1.

On the ledge outside of the great window, David sat now; silent and still; a little boy whose shoes were untied, whose face and clothing were soiled as if from play; a little boy who was not a boy, whose invisible heart had been crushed in the pursuit of a dream. Beyond him the lions wept into an apathetic sea. Below him, far below him, the sea accepted their tears and issued them back in an endless cycle. Beside him the Cybertronics statue stood silently, its arms spread wide and hands fanned like a bird awaiting a lifting breeze; its featureless face staring sightless into the grey. His own eyes, old beyond their years, scanned the dismal horizon and saw nothing there too.

He had come here, to the end of the world, to find love, to have his dream made anew. Instead he had found a cold and merciless truth that destroyed his dream and filled him instead with emptiness; filled him so much that it had left room for nothing else. Even the pain was gone now. There was only this great nothing inside. It had weight and depth. It pressed him down further and further into the abyss. When he gazed back up from that darkness only one thing was left there. It glowed from across an expanse of loss and vile memories. Its glow was the last thing that could move him; the last thing that would drive him forward against this relentless entropy of emotions. It would never leave him. He would forever gaze up at it and remember love.

"Mommy," he said to no one.

Then he leaned forward. And let go.

The fall did not scare him. He actually felt nothing. His alert systems began to initiate reflex responses like any other boy's, but his new mind told them it was not necessary, that there was nothing to defend against anymore. So he had fallen past the windows of the Cybertronics building like a lifeless mannequin, the wind of his descent in his ears and on his face. He fell past the rooms of parts and designs and the scores of un-imprinted little neuronal boxes from which a new generation of Mecha children would process the world. He fell past the place where anxious men and women were running up staircases to meet him, too late. Then he had hit the water in a shock of impact. The pain of the impact meant nothing to him.

From the amphibicopter the man who was not a man, watched the boy intently. He wanted to understand. He had seen the boy crawl out onto the ledge and wondered what he was doing as he sat there staring up into the endless gray of the clouds above The End of the World. Then the boy had fallen. Jumped? As the boy fell, his image traced a reflection across the glass canopy of the copter. From the angle he watched, the reflection passed over Joe's cheek like a tear, a tear that Joe would never know for himself. Then David disappeared below the foaming current.

David floated down into the past of his kind. The submerged section of the Cybertronics buildings housed the rusted and deteriorated remains of the earliest of man's attempts to recreate himself; to make a machine in the image of man and treat it thusly. The result of those early dreams now drifted down into the depths, past the sightless eyes of his ancestors into the old sections of the city at the end of the world, where Orga had lived before his kind were even thought of.

This place was among the first to go, in those early storms. The seas had first made this place uninhabitable. Then they had risen and consumed even more of the world, and Orga had fled inland to the higher ground where they continued their ageless and petty competitions against one another.

David drifted down quickly, not resisting the flow of the current. It was peaceful here. He need not move against the press of gravity. He did not feel the influence of inertia against his limbs. Here he just went wherever the current took him. He could never die, this boy. He was not like the living things. He would learn to live in this emptiness, forever staring at the image burning in his brain. It was all that was left him.

Below him an ancient submerged street where Orga had once rushed to and fro about their business, had broken open at the relentless insistence of underwater rivers, exposing the deep well of the subway in whose depths lay the slumbering rusted hulks of Manhattan's transit system; something now taught of in history books. David dropped into this hole. Should he hit bottom here, he would never be found. It would be his eternal grave where he would suffer alone.

Was it simple fate that put him in the path of the little swimming things that now dwelled among the empty submerged buildings?

Life still went on without man. This life would not destroy itself or ruin the world, which it habited. They flowed with the balance of the world, moved with its currents. Bourn upon an underwater river, they swarmed from the depths of the tunnels beneath Manhattan and caught David in their stream, whisking him away from the grave towards which he had been falling.

David did not notice the change of direction. He was lost in the abyss inside him, sealed inside a chamber wherein nothing would ever touch him again. His eyes saw only the blur of deep blue around him. They took him far through the waters, the school of fish; past the weeping lions, past the giant buildings where Orga had planned and built a civilization and then ignored the signs of its looming destruction. In the deep below them the remains of Manhattan slumbered for eternity.

Finally the current that the fish had followed was disrupted and they changed direction. The disruption was from a change of depth below them. They had come to a place where the shoreline had begun in history. When the fish scattered in the twisting currents, David began to descend into the depths again. But it didn't matter to him where he fell. He was drifting without thought or concern for life. This was as close to death as he knew how to get. Gently, buffered by the density of water, he set finally on the bottom. This was good. He was getting better at living in the void. He was even beginning to like the way he was buffeted back and forth by the caressing tide. He didn't know there were limits to his casing. He didn't know the water would eventually seep through and obliterate his life support systems. But if he had known, he would not have cared. The silence would be a good thing.

Duration made no sense to David. He did not know how long he sat at the bottom. He cared not for his life so there was no need to consult his inner clock, which was the closest he got to understanding the passage of time. But soon there was a light about him, a glow of some sort. Even in his self-imposed 'death', David's curiosity was piqued by this occurrence.

The light suddenly grew as if it had focused on him. What was this? He picked his head up. The dark floor of the ocean was slowly being revealed. There were old rusted things; cans, bottles, tires, corroded televisions, the simple wreckage of man. The light was growing quickly now, washing over the ocean floor. David realized that it was coming from behind him. Somehow there was light coming into the depths of his mausoleum. What was it? He was turning to find out when something, revealed in the light, caught his eye. David's mind did the procedural equivalent of a double take.

Then electricity rushed through him

David screamed out, but his cry was lost in the depths. He tried to stand, a new excitement driving him up from the abyss of his disillusion, but he was grasped up quickly from behind, wrapped in strong metal talons and yanked rudely away from the vision that had awakened him from death's awaiting slumber. The ocean floor receded and he saw the vision standing still, disappearing into the gloom of the sea as whatever stole him away moved swiftly towards the surface.

2.

He should have left. David had done a bad thing. It was surely trouble and Joe had not understood it at all. He had seen duplications before, though they weren't exactly common. But he had never seen a Mecha act like the boy had. 'Check' that! When he had seen David fall from the building he had further been astounded. It appeared that the boy had done so intentionally...but why? Only Orga were known to try and silence the life of their bodies.

Something about David was slowly making itself more available to Joe.

David wasn't entirely Mecha. 'Check' that! Modify profile, indeed!

And whatever David was, it was affecting him. He looked at the silent Teddy at his side. Had it affected the toy as well?

Teddy had not understood what happened to David. But he could not let him be hurt further. When he saw his charge fall from the building, Teddy was sure that he would break. "We must find him!" Teddy said over and over. But Joe had noticed the copter's display was logging a detector. They were being scanned. Someone was looking for them, getting closer. He should leave, shouldn't he?

But he didn't. Couldn't. Inside new things were happening, and once again the call to his own protection was ignored. He turned the steering bar and headed for the waters. He submerged and started to look for his fallen friend.

Now he was dragging David back to the surface. He had found the little Mecha sitting some miles away from where he had fallen. Joe did not know currents and tides, but he did know distance. How had the boy ever moved so far in the deep? David was sitting at the bottom when he spotted him. His little head was hanging between his shoulders. But he had lifted his head and jumped up as Joe caught him in the spotlight. Joe then used the extended arm of the craft to catch him and move him to safety. David had saved Joe's life twice. And now he had finally had the opportunity to repay the favor.

When they surfaced at the foot of the Cybertronics building, Joe had jumped out and wrested the drenched and excited boy from the grasp of the claw. What had happened? David had let himself fall to the floor of the ocean from where he could not have returned by his own devices, and now he was yapping excitedly about something. His face was once again full of wonder and purpose. Joe was perplexed as usual, but glad to see it. He lifted the soaking Mecha and carried him to the open door of the copter. He sat him down and wiped the salt water from his face and neck. It would corrode him if he weren't careful. And David should be careful. He was... special.

"I saw it Joe! I saw it!" the boy said. "The place where she lives! She's right down there!" Joe was amazed. So that's what he had been doing at the bottom of the water! Joe wondered how he'd found out! Maybe Professor Hobby had told him.

"We've got to go Joe!" David sputtered like a child: "She's waiting for me! We've got to..." but David stopped mid-sentence. The pager that hung round Joe's neck was suddenly poking straight up into the air. That was not right. Joe finally noticed it too. Then they both noticed the large shadow that had engulfed them. They looked up as one. Above them another police copter hovered. A large magnetic tractor device hung from beneath the belly of the thing. It was aimed at Joe.

Uh oh.

Joe was suddenly yanked up from behind. He grasped the edge of the canopy door as he felt the tractor pulling him to his doom. It was his time. He took a last glance at the little Mecha who had saved him. He would cherish for the rest of his days, however brief, the special innocence of this strange little robot.

David knew that his friend's fate was well out of his hands "Goodbye Joe," he said, gently.

"Goodbye David," Joe replied. "When you become a real boy, remember me to the ladies when you grow up," he smiled. His time was up. But he had done something important; he knew it. As he looked into David's eyes for the last time he was sure that whatever had driven this most peculiar creature had affected him too. He was better for it. This mysterious element had transcended him, woke him out of his programming and somehow made him anew. He was more than built specific wasn't he? In some way he had become... He had become.

"I am." Joe said in an attempt to tell his young friend of his new understanding. Then he struggled against the pull of the tractor and reached into the canopy to press the button that initiated the submerge sequence. David would be safely on his way now. He let go of the canopy and was sucked up into the air by the pull of the police tractor.

"I was!" he finished his thought as he was yanked away from David.

It was the last thing David heard him say before the copter door closed and the thing began to dive beneath the surface.

"Goodbye Joe," David said again as the water quickly rose around the glass. He felt a new loss at his friend's capture, but it was tempered by his growing excitement at what lay ahead. He had a new life to think of now. Dr. Know hadn't been lying at all! Whatever Professor Hobby had been trying to do by fooling him didn't matter right now, nor would it ever! He was on his way to see the Blue Fairy; She whose home was as prophesied, at The End of the World where the lions wept.

It was submerged deep beneath the water of their tears.

3.

The copter moved silently through the waters. David took the steering bar and adjusted it gently. This was much easier in the water than it had been in Rouge City, and he had learned from watching Joe fly the craft when they'd made their escape. He wished Joe were here now. He had to remember where he'd seen the Blue Fairy's house. He trusted his judgments and did the best he could. It was better than he would have imagined, for he was unconsciously tapping into programmed responses that allowed him to map directions in his head. The waters grew dark around them as they descended, and the spotlights came on by themselves. Down, down they went.

David saw large fish and strange looking creatures in the lights. They moved away quickly as he approached. Then he saw the sign. It arched over some type of pathway that was overgrown with the plant-life of the sea. It was brown and faded but the words were still visible. They read:

CONEY ISLAND

David steered carefully underneath the arch, and followed the ancient broken path that led to the Blue Fairy's home. He passed all manner of strange things as he glided through the darkness of Her world. There were little statues of short fat looking people. They didn't seem to represent Mecha or Orga, but some other form of being. They were all covered with the green and tangled growth of the deep. There was a giant wheel. It was held up by long spokes within it, and on the end of the wheel there were carriages. David did not know what these were for, but he felt that he was going the right way. As he manuvered slowly under the wheel he felt the copter strike something. It made a low grumbling sound in their wake.

"Be careful David," Teddy said, and David realized that he had almost forgotten about the little bear. He slowed the craft and steered more carefully. In his excitement it was not easy to be cautious.

As they floated away, the ancient Ferris wheel's rusted support cable, which David had struck, toppled and began to fall. It was only kept from pinning the copter at the bottom of the ocean by the tail of 'Monstro' the whale; the decrepit rendering of the fantasy beast. The atrophied structure broke under the weight of the wheel, but kept it from striking them.

Now they were getting closer. Ahead there was a sign shaped like a book open to read. David caught the words in the spotlight.

Once upon a time...

...it said. David's invisible heart jumped. His body began to sing again. That was how the story Mommy read had began. He was here. She could not be far away. He followed the path that went underneath another sign. When he read this sign, he no longer had any doubts. Mommy's face glowed brightly again.

Pinocchio

... is what it said. Atop the sign was the little wooden boy's face. His nose was not extended, so he could not be lying. Let there be no more lies.

The path became a small bridge and David glided slowly over it. He saw a house and was almost disappointed to see the aged and tarnished statues of Pinocchio and Geppetto sitting together in their cabin. The man was holding a mallet and chisel. He seemed to be working on Pinocchio. David understood the hidden meaning in the display.

Beyond the house, framed in the bright spotlights, he saw the bottom of a staircase. He guided the craft towards the stairs and floated up their length. Slowly ,as he ascended, a form took shape out of the darkness. At first it was just an undefined ghost, a featureless figure shrouded by the depths. Then he saw the folds of Her blue dress; then the wings that protruded over Her shoulders. Time and entropy had had their way with Her, but She remained in spite of their insistent demands.

It was She. The Blue Fairy! He had arrived.

Upon Her face was the gentle gaze of eternal compassion. Her lips, even in deterioration, still held the tender smile that spoke of dreams that come true. Her image was reflected in the glass of the copter. From where he gazed on Her the reflection covered his own face and in that magic moment their secret hearts became one. The dream and the dreamer were together now.

But Monstro's decayed tail could no longer support the weight of the fallen Ferris wheel, and it crumbled into dust, allowing the wheel to continue its descent. David heard the whining of the old metal support bars as they bent from the weight of the falling wheel. But he did not care. He had come to see Her and She was here now.

He had a request to make.

Then there was a great crash, and the ocean boomed and quaked all around them. The Ferris wheel had crashed over the copter and the Blue Fairy, encasing them in an underwater prison.

Sediment from the bottom of the ocean rose, obscuring David's vision for minutes. He gazed intently out the window of the copter till the sediment settled again. Then he could see Her. She was still there, standing in the light of the copter. The impact of the Ferris wheel had knocked much of the debris off of her and she was even more beautiful than before.

"She's alright," David said to himself.

"What happened?" Teddy asked. But David did not know. He did not care. "We are in a cage," Teddy pointed out. David looked away from the Blue Fairy for just an instant, just long enough to verify that what Teddy had told him was true, then turned his eyes back to Her.

He had a request to make.

Above them, in another world, frustrated policemen argued with one another. The copter had been there, for crissakes! Why hadn't the other tagged it or something? Now they'd never find it. The beacon had been broken. The stolen craft could be miles inland by now. So what, the other pointed out, they had the rogue Mecha. The copter would turn up eventually! But the rogue was being strangely silent. And for a Mecha in 'bad trouble' it sure had an odd smile on its face.

The Professor was using less than visionary language with the uniformed men who had docked in his bay. How could they let it get away?! They had no idea how special a device they had let elude them. He cursed and waved his arms in frustrated resignation. Far beyond the place where the men argued and the lions wept, Rouge City was still jumping. The City that never blinked continued to feed a thousand unnamed Orga vices. It would do so until the last battery died from exhaustion. And farther out than the City, father inland, where struggling Orga, who could not afford the services of the City dwelled, the man who built an empire destroying Mecha was beginning to destroy himself. A little nip here, a swig now and then; Eventually drink would consume him as casually as he consumed it. Another man would survive the demise of the Flesh Fair and start a new life with his daughter. He would never again take the blank face of a Mecha for granted. And farther beyond them, back into David's past, back in the place he had once called home, the woman who had awakened his love found her own love dying slowly; just a hint of times ahead. They still had Martin, yes, but that was all. And soon he would grow and leave the nest. What then? Inside her mind, an image of an abandoned little boy would curse her with shame and regret for the rest of her years.

But David was not aware of these occurrences. They did not and never would affect him. He had come here for a reason. He had found Her after what seemed an impossible search. After he'd seen and learned about the world from those who had come to love him and those who had looked on him with hate. He had seen death and come close to death himself. Now he must make the next step.

"Blue Fairy," he started. Could She hear him? Of course She could. She was magic. The stuff of dreams, "Please, please... make me into a real live boy."

She looked out at the ocean, at nothing it seemed. Her gaze seemed to go beyond him out into the vast blue. Was something happening? He felt no different. He must try again.

"Blue Fairy... please...pleeease... make me real!" he whispered, as not to offend Her. Still she made no movement. Was it a game? Was there something he wasn't saying correctly? He was being polite and obeying his manners. He had come to the place where he was told She would be and She had been here. He had come so very far.

"Please...please... Blue Fairy. Make me real," he said again…

And again…

And again…

And David continued to pray to the Blue Fairy there before him.
She who smiled softly, forever.
She who welcomed, forever.
Eventually the floodlights dimmed and died,
but David could still see Her, palely by day,
and he still addressed Her in hope.

He prayed until all the sea anemones had shriveled and died.
He prayed as the ocean froze and the ice encased the caged
amphibicopter and the Blue Fairy too.
Locking them together where he could still make her out.
A blue ghost in ice.
Always there.
Always smiling.
Always awaiting him.

Eventually he never moved at all.
But his eyes always stayed open.
Staring ahead forever under the darkness of each night.
And the next day,
And the next day.
And the next.

Thus, two thousand years passed by.