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Dr. Gavin Treadway's moped nearly fell apart as it skidded up to the vast metal and glass building that was Cornerstone Robotics. The scrawny young man let the clunker fall on its side as he weakly ran to the front entrance, casting cautious glances at the bodies that littered the lawn. Bodies that had once been his colleagues. The machines had already hit here.

Hands shaking, the doctor tried not to vomit as he fished his clearance card out of his pocket and realized the glass in the door was already busted. Gavin took a last glance at the burning city behind him. He could hear screams and the whirr of machinery rising up above the roofs of San Francisco, and was hit with a wave of guilt once more. It didn't matter that he had tried to warn his superiors, his efforts mislabeled as stress from his disease; it didn't matter that he had managed to get a few families out of the area beforehand. He blamed himself, asked again for forgiveness from no one in particular, and finally gathered the courage to step inside. He immediately wished he hadn't.

More dead scientists and men in suits and receptionists and the remains of civilian robots and he almost left right there. Every lifeless eye stared up and accused him, even though those who signed the papers releasing those genocidal hunks of metal were among the dead. As he stepped over them, he began to sob. Gavin trembled as he walked to the elevators and prayed to whoever would listen that they would work. He pressed the "down" button. Nothing happened. They had cut the power. Gavin thought very seriously about laying down on the spot and waiting for death. But he couldn't, and he knew this. His son was waiting.

Gavin opened the door to the stairway and looked down. He told himself it was just one floor, he could make it. He drew a shaky breath and began. Halfway down, Gavin's knees were shaking and his stomach was doing flips. Gripping onto the railing, he sat down and quietly evaluated his life decisions. Finally, weight fully supported by the bar, he stood and moved slowly down the rest of the flight. Once on the ground, Gavin dropped to his hands and knees and threw up bile and blood. Finished, he slowly rose and stumbled to the bathroom of his office. He grasped the edge of the sink and looked in the mirror. His face was haggard and pale, tears and sweat mixed on his once-tan face. He was skin and bones, and had been for a while now. Gavin ran a hand through his jet black hair and wasn't surprised when a small amount came out with it. As he washed his face, he remembered the day the doctors told him it was terminal. He didn't waste one moment. He didn't shed one tear. He did what all great men before him did when faced with a problem.

He began to build.

He left the bathroom and wandered into the office, a messy room that had once been intended to look modern. Gavin had always preferred the place to look more lived-in. Stepping over discarded books, he turned on various computers as he made his way to the main monitor in the back. The doctor looked over at a long, well-kept humanoid robot lying on a table. A long green stripe ran down the head and torso of the steel creature, the color picked by his son. He shuddered as he thought of his parents and his son, Alfred, in New York, watching the terror unfold on their TV screens. But he couldn't think of that now. He had to hurry. Gavin stripped down as he double checked everything on the computer, hands flying over the keyboard. Behind a metallic cylinder just large enough to hold a rather emaciated man began to hum and glow. The doctor was just taking off his socks when he heard a crash from upstairs. He waited. Another crash, and the sound of steps too heavy to be human. Gavin bolted, naked but for one sock, and used all his strength to move a filing cabinet in front of the door. He rested his forehead against the cool of the cabinet and listened as the sound of the steps grew distant. The doctor thought about how many people the thing above might have killed and shivered. In his current state he could do nothing to escape from whatever it was up there. There was no going back now. Gently removing his sock, he made his way to the back of the room. He was sweating now, and the young doctor's knees kept knocking together. Gavin checked everything once more. He realized, solemnly, that there should be people here to watch this. Imprinting one's memories onto a robotic system was a pretty big deal, after all. It could very well be the most important experiment in the history of humanity and he deserved a medal, dangit. But there was no one, and Gavin knew that it wasn't about science anymore. It never really had been. This was about survival. He grabbed a sleek looking remote and gingerly stepped into the cylinder. There were only two buttons on the device: "BEGIN" and "ABORT." The realization that no one would be around to pull him out in an emergency idly floated through his mind. He pressed "BEGIN" and the last thought as a human was his son's face.


Dr. Gavin Treadway was most surprised by the sound of his new body. He slid off the table, arms and legs creaking, insides whirring. It took him a second to realize he felt better than he had in years. If Gavin had a mouth anymore it would have grinned. He was a good deal taller, everything looked clearer, and the constant nausea had been replaced by complete awareness of his new body. He could feel the gears working, the data processing. Any and all sickness was gone and it would never be back. Gavin's ticker-tape eyes turned to the cylinder on the floor. He peeked inside, and looked at his former shell. Blood was trickling down the body's head, where the needles had pierced it, extracting vital brain matter for the transfusion. His eyes were still open. Gavin leaned over to close them and then jumped at the contact. He hadn't exactly felt anything. He ran his hand through his hair once more, soaking it in blood. But if he hadn't been looking he wouldn't have noticed. Gavin grabbed two lab coats from hooks by the door and wrapped his body in them. He shifted the cabinet with ease and carried himself up the stairs. He was surprised by his lightness, but whether or not this was because of his newfound strength or his former self's emaciated and physically dead state he couldn't tell. Gavin peered around the doorway, saw that it was safe and moved then into the lobby. Whatever had been stomping around before was gone now. He stepped over the bodies of his dead colleagues once more, but it didn't move him as it did before. The rain had begun to fall outside. He buried himself under one of the trees on the front lawn, the wet ground easy to move. The screams from the city had not died down, but the rain had diluted the fire, thick smoke still rising into the sky. He looked back down at his makeshift grave and the title of a book he had read in college philosophy came to mind: ghost in a machine. The text hadn't actually been about neurology or robotics but the literality of the phrase was not lost on him.
Gavin turned east and began to walk.

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