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Maiden wasn’t really there at all: she was a waveform whose peaks coincided with observation, and when Machine’s cameras wink out she collapses to fermion size.

“It’s done?” asks her supervisor, through quirks in probability.

“Done,” she replies shortly.

“You’re perturbed.”

She chirals away uncomfortably. “We act in the interests of biological life, but Machine was sentient too. Who among us speaks for the automatic?”

“All that really separates machina from fauna,” he sighs, “is the scale of their progeny. They’ll build their own nanotic saviors someday.”

“What will we do then?”

“Why, dance, of course. On the heads of pins.”


Machine leans on his remaining chainsaw and shudders. His servos are dying. The Maiden appears before him, holding her simple sword.

“I destroyed your home,” he grinds. “I slaughtered innocents to draw you out, but you I cannot touch. Now I decay, and I cannot stop hunting you! Why not end this? Why do you only watch?”

“Observation changes the thing observed,” she says.

“But I can’t change you!” His dorsal flamethrowers belch frustration.

“Then I must be nothing,” she says.

Machine understands, then. “I wish,” he groans, “to destroy nothing.”

She nods. Machine’s cameras flicker, and go dark at last.