Gearless: Part Two

By Conor T.
This is the second installment of the short story “Gearless.” You can find the first installment filed in April.
“Open the gates,” I had demanded. “Open the gates for your new king.”
“That is the one thing we cannot do for you, sir. The palace gates have not been opened in years. The outside world is no place for a king. The ground is shattered, the oxygen is unusable, and the land is full of savages,” replied the servant, my servant.
“How do you know?” I responded.
“But… I do not understand, sir.”
“How do you know? When the gates are never opened, how do you know what you’re ruling?”
“But sir, the people, they are-”
“I am your king. Now open your gates.”
In the moments following that short conversation, the gates of my palace were opened for the first time in what seemed like forever. Hydraulic pistons forced open heavy steel as their mechanics ground against each other.
The images that hit my eyes were breathtaking, gruesome and mean. Bright orange light stabbed my eyes, the smell of dust and dirt filled my nose, the sound of a baby crying somewhere in the distance rang in my ears. The streets were packed with robots of all different sizes; some looked male, some looked female, and some I couldn’t tell. They buzzed around, bumping into each other, all of them moving separately, and yet, still as one. The herd of robotics was shifting towards us, all of them turning, following the sound of the opening gates. Gears clicked, pistons fired, springs tightened, and in a moment, every mechanic eye was on me. And in one massive wave, the robots hit the ground, praising their savior. I stepped out of the palace and ordered my servant to close the gates. He did so, and I started walking.
I found them then, the old couple. They were two small robots, old and rusted, holding hands on a scrap metal park bench. They were the only ones who didn’t notice me, and I liked that. I walked up to their bench and sat down with them. We sat in silence; the metal bench hurt my back, but I didn’t move. I needed somewhere to sit. Minutes passed, and the world went silent. For the first time since I got here, I missed something. I missed the sounds of home – the chirping of the birds, the barking of dogs, the sudden slam of a car door – I missed it all.
I had gotten lost in my own memories and was brought back to my new reality by a recognizable sound. The sound of a baby crying rang into my ears once again, snapping me back to the uncomfortable park bench.
“It’s a shame,” the woman beside me said, motioning a stiff arm towards a younger woman a little ways away.
The young woman held the crying baby in her arms, attempting to wrap a dirty cloth around the child, even though it was little more than a scrap. She looked awful; she had rust and scrapes and holes. One of her arms was missing up to the elbow, and a simple wheel had been placed where her foot should be.
“She’s sold her parts,” the old woman explained, “all to pay for that child of hers. Poor thing.”
I watched as the woman shuffled across the broken ground, losing her balance and falling to the dirt. She turned and crashed onto her half-missing arm, keeping her child out of harm. The impact of the crash made her grip her baby tighter and caused the scrap of cloth to fall to the ground beside her.
I then saw why she was alone, why nobody helped her, and why her baby cost her so much.
Her baby was covered in green fuzz. It corroded his shiny copper skin and made every breath a struggle. I recognized the fuzz; I had seen it on the king. Final. I then knew what I needed to do.
To Be Continued.

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