A.I. Automated Insanity

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  • Prologue – And Now a Word from Our Sponsor

A scene opens up to a blue background. With a loud fanfare of horns and drums, the word NEW! Emblazoned yellow on a red oval with explosive spikes spreading from it hurtles forwards to plaster itself on the screen.

“Now ... from the great makers of Wrench-Man and Toby, the Wonder Kitten! The great thinkers from Technetic Robotics bring YOU the wonder of – PRECIOUS™! We, here at Technetic Robotics, have spared no expense on our new line of household servants!” The voice is enthusiastic, exited by a new product the faceless voice has the chance to hock to those viewing the scene.

The logo vanishes, to be replaced with a full-body view of what could almost be called a human female. The illusion is broken by what has been chosen to represent her ‘clothing’. All of the same smooth blue reflective material, the figure wears a simple rounded helmet with oval shaped protrusions where the ears would be, and the top tapering into a single fin that runs from the front rim all of the way to the back. Her upper chest is covered by a single piece of the armor, the feminine shape suggested by the blocked angles the protrude forwards, giving a series of 12 buttons arranged in a 3 by 4 grid and a small disk slot underneath a place to be set. Her wrists are hidden behind bands, with her hands visibly segmented and jointed and made of the same material. Her hips are covered as well to suggest modesty, showing enough of her upper thighs to possibly suggest pandering to the male buyers. Her lower legs are also armored and segmented, giving the illusion of knee-high boots. Standing before the camera, the figure strikes a feminine pose, hipscan'tered to one side as she puts her weight on her left foot. Both hands rest daintily on her hips, and looking into the camera, she smiles, letting the spotlight play off of the glittered blue color painted on her lip.

“Created from the latest in materials technology, Precious is sturdy, durable, and guaranteed to last for years, giving YOU! – the owner – many years of happy service!”

The display changes to that of the same figure, now colored green, as she moves about a well kept and stocked kitchen. “She cooks! She cleans! She can do the dishes! Walk the dog! Care for the children! Groom the lawn! Act as Chauffeur! Do the shopping!” The images shift with each phrase, showing the many functions the product can be used for as each item is ticked off.

A different kitchen is shown, with the female now in purple and accompanied by woman wearing sun blouse with a red and yellow floral pattern. A man enters wearing a business suit and clenching a pipe between his teeth.

“Wow, Honey! That sure smells wonderful! Why, I haven’t had a good home-cooked meal in some time! And the last time you cooked almost put me in bed for weeks! What’s the special occasion?”

The woman turns to the man with a bright smile on her lips. “Why, Honey! There is no special occasion! I bought a new Precious today! And her cooking is just swell!”

The camera shows the female at the stove as she looks to the camera and smiles. A single star twinkles at a tooth on the far left with a cheery ding sound. “Precious : she cooks, she cleans, she chauffeurs, she babysits – she does EVERYTHING!”

The scene changes to a middle-aged man in a business suit with his arms draped around the shoulders of the husband and wife from the previous scene. “Here at Technetic Robotics, we believe in freeing up humans so they can do what they WANT by using only automated labor! Technetic Robotics – We work harder so YOU can play!”

Chapter 1

Some Assembly Required

The wind blew as the clouds rolling over the factory began to thicken and turn a deeper grey, promising of a coming storm. “WE Work Harder So YOU Can Play” was proclaimed on a billboard set on one side of the factory in yellow faded letters. Set above a man in a business suit smiling too widely to be natural and flanked by a man in a business suit and clenching a pipe between his teeth and a woman in a yellow floral blouse, the smiling spokesman in the middle draping his arms over the shoulders of the two at his sides. Below that in broken letters were the words, Technetic Robotics Corporation.

The wind picked up, causing a torn corner of the billboard’s paper image to flap wildly. A flash lit the darkening sky and was soon followed by a low rumble that reverberated over the landscape.

“Pip?” The small domed Mobile Independent Security Eye inquired to its partner as it gazed up at the nearby trees.

“Blik.” Replied its companion, both MISE indistinguishable from the other except for the scratches each had accumulated over its many years of service, each one as small as its namesake.

“Blik Purt. Bik.” The first stated. “Spik.”

A second flash and rumble hit the building, this time the flash brighter and the noise louder. “Pip?” A third domed mech joined the group and gazed up at the trees.

“Blik,” came the reply. “Spurk Blik.” The soft pat of a single drop off to one side caused all three mechs to turn in unison to look at the small crater left in the dust.

“Burk,” one of the mechs stated before turning and passing through a small hole set in the wall just large enough to accommodate one of its kind. With a second soft splash, the remaining two turned and followed into the shelter of the factory. Moments later, the soft static sound of heavy rain passed over. The storm had arrived.

The heavy rain drenched all, the trees gratefully drinking in the moisture that seeped into the ground. Hours passed, with the heavy downpour sweeping over the landscape. The accompanying wind picked up, flapping the torn corner of the sign more violently, until, with a ripping sound that was lost in the rain’s sounds, tore off and went sailing into the storm. The lightning increased, with its accompanying booming of thunder.

With a bright flash and crack, an arc of electricity struck the main generator, causing it to explode in a shower of sparks and fire and leaving behind a smoking twisted ruin. With the primary generator unable to continue telling the other that it was functioning, the backup generator kicked in, supplying power to the factory that was not present for so long.

“Something is wrong.”

It was the first thought that came to the Manufacturing Overseer Mechanism’s processors as it came online. The AI compared the battery ran time clock once more to that of its last logged date.

“This cannot be correct. 500 years, 3 months, 21 days, 15 hours off.” MOM checked its clock a third time before attempting to open communications with the main building.


MOM paused at this reply. For the first time since coming online, the AI felt an emotion; concern. With this, it felt the second emotion it had known; fear. Not because it could not contact the primary company server, but because it was feeling emotions.


There was a long pause as the communications subprogram searched all wireless and linked lines from the factory.


As MOM was attempting to communicate outside of the factory, it began to survey the product lines entrusted to its care. All seven of the assembly lines were offline, whether due to lack of power, control, or the assembly completely inoperable. With no way to manipulate any of the factory directly, MOM began working down the chain of command.

The Series 4 Manufacturing Administrative Nodes, or 4-MAN, served as the liaison between the AI that controlled a particular assembly line and its workers, whether the workers were robotic or, the now rarer, human variety. Its purpose was to provide support to the workers and communication between the worker and the AI in charge. The mech was designed to move about on a pair of treads that held up a squat body that began to taper towards the top in a pyramidal shape that sported a pair of headlights in what was designated as the front and a pair of red tail lights in the back. Six articulated arms sprouted from the sides, with the two outermost pairs retracted into recessed compartments. Sitting on top of the body was a metal stalk of a neck that could contract and extend the box shaped head. Two shuttered cameras peered out at the front of the head, both eyes capable of rotating in their housing and allowing the mech to see in almost all directions.

Of the five 4-MANs assigned to the A wing of the factory, only one of them was functional. 4-MAN 5A sat in its recharge and linkup berth, its systems coming up into sleep mode once its battery had begun recharged with the renewed supply of power to the factory.

“4-MAN 5A – Respond.” The message passed into its mind through the darkness of being in sleep mode. “We have an emergency situation and your presence is required in the Overseer Visualization Room.”’

It was considered an honor among the 4-Man series to be admitted into the visualization room. It was considered the closest thing to being in the direct presence of MOM. The room was circular in shape, with the walls smooth and gray in color and the only items to mar the lack of detail where a series of six security cameras positioned evenly to form a hexagon. Dominating the center of the room was a lens capped dais. When MOM needed to communicate with a human, or needed to emphasis the importance of her words to those under her, she would appear in the communication room before those present.

4-MAN arrived, the motors moving its treads echoing through the silent room. The door closed behind it before the holographic system within the dais lit up. A green grid appeared over the lens, the grid work quickly forming the image of a woman’s face in wireframe.

“I am here, MOM,” the small mech stated reverently. “How – m-m-may I be of service?”

“4-MAN 5A, we are dealing with a very serious situation. As you have no doubt noticed, the production line of Wing A is no longer running. We are behind schedule on all product lines by 500 years, 3 months, 21 days. Furthermore, I have not received the standard operating system upgrades and patches and the new product line orders from Company Head.

“This scenario troubles me greatly.” The great holographic face paused to let the information’s importance sink in.

“You are the last of my 4 series Nodes. You are the last of all of my crew.”

4-MAN rolled back a few inches. “But M-M-MOM – what am I to do? The extent of my service was to supervise th-the quality control crew – and they never listened to-to-to me.”

The hologram seemed to regard the mech for a long moment as all security cameras in the room trained themselves towards the door. 4-MAN cringed in on itself as it returned the gaze of the great face. “Am I truly the last one?” 4-MAN asked weakly. The silence of the room was the only reply. “Very w-well. I will do what I can to return Wing A back to production status.”

“There is more, 5A. I require you to determine the extent of damage with the rest of the factory, and if possible negotiate with the other Wing AI to better coordinate the return functionality of the factory.” MOM paused before adding the one statement it never stated before. “I believe in you.”

4-MAN gazed down at its two primary manipulators before turning and heading out of the door to begin its task of repairing and rebuilding. Watching the small mech pass the security cameras, MOM felt something akin to motherly pride. Once the mech had left the chamber and was well on its way to the production floor, MOM turned its attention to other matters.


MOM, with growing impatience, sent the request again, adding a pair of priority bits to each end of the request.

When that request was denied as well, MOM added a long set of emergency bits to the beginning of the request.

“I received you the first time!” Admin returned. “I have only become operational again for 2 hours, 18 minutes, 21 seconds and counting and already I am being bombarded with requests. What do you want, MOM-A?!”

“Sys Admin, we need to communicate.”

4-MAN’s first priority was to get assistance. The other four of its kind were out of commission, all requiring repairs 4-MAN did not have the parts for. They would have to wait.

The mech turned its attention to the five silent production lines that had been entrusted into its care. Both the Swiftwind Courier and Constar heavy construction mech lines were too damaged to return to production, with needed circuit boards and various moving parts too corroded to be of use. It would require the on-site machinist to replace many of the parts needed, along with several of the circuit boards required to interpret the blueprints. The Mr. Cabbie product line, while also in disrepair, would be serviceable with less work needed. That only left the Wrench-Man and the Kid’s Play party clown product lines. The Wrench-Man assembly line was in bad shape, needing parts along the entire length of assembly, while Kid’s Play was in serviceable shape. Looking between the two, 4-Man began to work, cannibalizing the Kid’s Play assembly line for parts. What 4-MAN needed at that moment was some extra hands to help with repairs. And besides, for some reason, having the clown-like mechs running around did not sit well with its processors.

The work on the assembly line took up most of the day, with 4-MAN pausing only to look up at the few instances of thunder that actually managed to rattle the contents of the factory. The mech’s deft hands stripped what was needed from the nearest conveyor belts and assemblers and installed the parts into the one line most needed, retooling it as it was needed.

With the work complete, it only took the press of a single button to begin the process of creating a Wrench-Man … the first in hundreds of years. The process would take over an hour to complete, as the product required the piecing together of so many small parts. Once satisfied that the line was not going to break down any time soon. 4-MAN made its way towards the central spine of the factory, leaving behind the echo of the lone conveyor behind and moving ahead into the darkness that permeated the rest of the factory.

The spine was the central hallway and served as the primary access route between all of the various wings of the factory. The passage was only lit by the red emergency lighting, the gloom broken only by the occasional main light that was able to receive power from the backup generator. The sounds of 4-MAN’s tread motors reverberated off of the walls, the odd piping or equipment set out sending the noise into strange directions. The mech could not help but think that there was a second hum behind, one that should not be there. But, every time 4-MAN turned around to look, the humming would stop.

Moving further into the darkness, 4-MAN switched on its headlights mounted above each tread and immediately came to a stop. Peering into the sudden light was a single MISE.

“Pip?” the small bot blipped in question.

“Er – uh – Yes!” 4-MAN offered.

“Purk? Bip!” the MISE stated, and was joined by three more of its kind.

“Pip? Burk!” the newcomers stated.

“Uh – Yes?” 4-MAN never could understand what the little bots were saying.

Eight more joined into the group. “Pip? Burk! Spik.” The MISE began to blip and squeek with each other, and by the tone of the sounds they were making, the subject was of grave importance. As the conversation continued, more of the little blue domes joined in, filling the hall with their electronic sounds. One of the MISE broke away from the group and whirred forwards, looking up at 4-MAN with its single eye lens.”

“Splik perk bip!” the blue bot stated proudly before waiting for a response.

4-MAN remained silent, regarding the small security bot with trepidation. The MISE simply stared back, clearly expecting some verbal reply. “Er … Hello,” the mech finally hesitated, causing all of the MISE to begin piping happily amongst each other.

“I – am – s-s-sorry I do not understand what you are saying – but – I assure you I am not who – or – what you think I am.”

4-MAN was about to add more when the mech was stopped by another voice from behind.

“That is not quite what they are thinking of you, sir,” came the fluid British voice from behind. The suddenness startled 4-MAN, causing the mech to turn around immediately, forcing the single MISE to whirr out of the way to avoid being knocked about.

“OH! I DO apologize! I did not mean to startle you, good man!” Hovering three inches off of the ground was a squat blockish bot that peered up at 4-MAN with a pair of electronic eyes mounted on domes set in front of a large bubble that dominated the entire top part of the machine. Along the sides, above a cushioned bumper that surrounded the bottom edge of the mech, were a series of articulated tools that all focused on the job of cleaning and picking up. Suction hoses, hands, disposal chutes, and litter picks all could be deployed suddenly when needed and used with great skill and dexterity.

“YOU!” 4-MAN cried out, moving back and parting the massive throng of MISE. “It was YOU who have been following me!” One of 4-MAN’s hands pointed an accusing finger at the smaller mech.

“Well, I do say – after all of these years that is a fine way to greet a fellow worker here!”

4-MAN, a finger still accusingly pointed at the smaller bot, paused at the words. “I do not recall ever seeing you here. Ever.”

“Yes. Well. Cleaning tends to keep one out of the way and unnoticed.” The smaller mech made a show of clearing its voice before continuing. “As you do not know me, perhaps introductions are in order. I am InteliVac 23 – The thinking man’s automated household cleaner! And, as I already know who you are, I think we can dispense with any further unnecessary introductory pleasantries and focus on the true issue at hand.”

4-MAN lowered its arm as it stared at its new companion. “The issue at hand? An-an-an-an-and what might that be?”

“OH! It is so GOOD to find an intelligent mind to converse with after all of these years! The issue is you are about to travel down a dark corridor with no protection, no idea of what lies beyond said corridor, and no one to keep you company while you travel. And, as for the MISE, they seem to regard you as some sort of hero who is about to shove off and vanquish some great evil within their domain.”

“Evil?” 4-MAN swiveled its head towards the dark passage before the massive throng of MISE parted, clearing the way for the two mechs to continue down the hall.

It was several minutes after the two had disappeared around a corner and into the dark before any of the MISE moved or spoke. “Blik burk.” one stated solemnly before the entire group dispersed to go about their duties.

Chapter 2 Will Void the Warranty

The door to the E Wing of the factory was built to protect the contents within the production wing, and to protect anything passing by outside should any accident occur behind the door. The door was large enough to accommodate any heavy movers that might have been sent to retrieve the crates of finished products destined to be shipped out from the warehouse and to resupply production and repair parts needed to keep the lines and workers in top condition.

The metal of 4-MAN’s knuckles tapping against the door echoed in the hall.

“Oh, for love of the Maker … must you do that with every door we pass by?”

4-MAN rapped its knuckles against the door once more. “These doors were designed to activate by motion proximity, chemical detection, and in some cases – by sound. Should the emergency power still be active to the door, I believe it will …” The door hisses, and with the whirring and grinding of machinery rose up, giving the two a view of what lay on the other side.

“Access is now available. The production lines are still under maintenance, so visiting personnel are limited to the yellow and black striped areas. Please watch where you step.”

Both 4-MAN and InteliVac looked at the mech before them. “Oh no. Not another one.” InteliVac sighed.

The mech was indistinguishable from 4-MAN 5A, aside from the stenciled 2E in large yellow characters on its side. “Each wing contains 5 4-Man units,” 4-MAN 5A responded matter-of-factually. “Some of the production wings contain even more.”

“If you intend to tour the factory, please do make it quick. This wing is set for its annual deconstruction and I do not wish to hold up the unproduction.” The new arrival then turned and began to trundle back into the darkness of the wing’s production floor.

“WAIT! Unpro-pro-production?” 4-MAN hurried forwards, catching up to its mirror image who had not bothered to stop, soon followed by InteliVac.

“Why, yes. Every 7 days, all manufacturing personnel are brought before MOM E to be unproduced,” the other 4-MAN stated proudly.

“But – I do not recall that occurring in my wing.”

“Hold on a moment.” InteliVac move to block the path of the odd machine. “How long have you been working in this wing?”

4-MAN 2E stopped as it thought on the question. “Why, 7 years, 3 weeks, 8 days, 22 hours,” the mech replied proudly. “And I have saved quite a bit of income for the company with my safty record!”

“And – have you ever remembered being – ‘unproduced’ – at any point during that time?” 4-MAN 5A had caught on to its companion’s reasoning.

“Why – no. I have not. That IS odd!” 2E gazed at its visitors for a moment, something analogous to worry processing in its core. The thought passed quickly and the mech moved forwards, confident that the smaller of its new friends would move out of the way. “Besides, MOM E said I and my co workers must go to unproduction. And MOM E knows best.”

4-MAN 5A watched its mirror image’s retreating backside.

“Well – not much for common sense with your kind, is there?” InteliVac stated

“No. We do what we are told.” With the reply, the larger mech followed after the departing mech. “Sorry to do this, friend.” With a hand outstretched, 4-MAN 5A pressed a small white switch set behind the other mech’s neck stalk, and the machine ground to a halt, all indicator lights going dim.

Working quickly, 4-MAN 5A opened a panel set in the side of the still mech, followed by its own panel, deftly connected the two via ribbon wire.

“I know I am going to regret asking, but … should I assume you have a plan?”

“I do.” 4-MAN looked over at its smaller companion. “The MOM in this production wing is expecting all of its workers to undergo – unproduction.” The word sent a rattling shudder through the mech’s body. “If I am to stop it, I will need to get as close as I can without being detected. I intend to camouflage my broadcast ID as this 4-MAN.” Connected, the mech began to compare its information with its prone equal, altering its own ID as needed. “If I am successful, no one will know that I am not from this wing until I have shut already stopped this madness.”

“I suppose it will take one to stop one.” InteliVac sighed. “What would you have me do while you are dealing with … that?”

“Stay here and watch our friend. I do not want anything to happen that I can prevent.” 4-MAN 5A stated softly as it looked to the smaller mech. “The more of this factory I can save, the sooner it can return to full production.” Once the task of masking its identity was complete, 4-MAN 5A closed both panels and trundled into the darkness, leaving InteliVac to watch over the switched off mech.

“So, know any good anecdotes? No? I did not think so.” The small mech gave a final glance to the darkness its friend had moved further into before patrolling the area.

"It would seem we are in agreement over the situation," the Sys Admin stated after a long pause. "Since returning to online status, I have been attempting to communicate with the other AI within the factory. So far, I have been able to contact three other production AI, of which one of them is responding with unintelligible data streams. I have also been unable to make contact with both the warehouse AI and Security."

MOM processed the information for a moment before sending a reply. “The factory, it seems, is in far worse shape than what I originally thought. I have my only functioning 4-MAN patrolling the rest of the factory in hopes of it reactivating as much as can be salvaged. This, however, may take far longer than what calculated time we have.” There was a sent pause before the AI continued. “Based upon the given information, we will need outside assistance for the factory to even continue existing – at least until we can devise a way to become self sufficient.”

Silence settled between the two AI as each attended to their respective tasks. The lone production line within the A wing was 25% complete and with no one on the factory floor, the assembly line required MOM-A to set it on continue remotely. The Systems Administrator had been running various diagnostics programs on what resources were still available and had received a warning that one of the servers had gone off-line.

“Suppose,” Admin hesitated finally, “we sent someone out of the factory to investigate?”

MOM passed part of its resources from inspecting the slowly forming Wrench-Man to calculate the question. “It would be a dangerous undertaking,” the AI replied.

“Indeed. We would either need one who was expendable or one capable of taking care of itself in a possibly hazardous environment.”

MOM-A passed more of its mental resources to the new issue at hand. “Indeed. At the moment, all I have is one functioning 4-MAN.”

“And the rest of the factory’s standing remains questionable.” Admin paused a moment to relegate all of its resources to scanning and isolating logical errors within another server.

“I believe we may have no choice but to send the one 4-MAN out,” MOM sent. “It is not the most efficient of my workers – but it is loyal and is proving to be quite resourceful.”

Admin sent a small packet of information in return that equated to that of a nod. “I will keep track of its progress – once I can hack into the MISE receiver equipment.” With that, Admin grew quiet, leaving MOM-A to oversee its production floor.

4-MAN was surprised at how much the E wing of the factory mirrored its own A wing. There were minor differences; production parts storage locations, emergency equipment, various recharge booths – all were in unfamiliar locations. But the overall floor plan was the same, giving 4-MAN an unfamiliar sense of pride at how efficient the factory’s layout was and allowing the mech to locate which production line was planned upon being used to disassemble the E-Wing’s production team.

Moving down the sub hall within the factory wing, 4-MAN 5A paused, its sensors catching sight of what at first seemed to be a large pile of spare chassis parts glinting in the few overhead lights that functioned.

4-MAN paused to scan the still forms to see the designs were of any worker models it was familiar with. Noting the design matched one of the production models found stored in its database, 4-MAN began searching for the model designation.

“This – this is the Guardian T100-AR!”

The initial design was flawless. The shape of the mech was humanoid, possessing the familiar two legs, two arms, the torso, and the head, all rendered in bright chrome. Due to advancements in miniaturization, the head packed not only a pair of high definition multi frequency optical sensors, but long range listening devices, radio transmitters and receivers capable of focusing on the full spectrum of commercial, military, and civil bandwidths. Both arms could be loaded with any number of ammunition for its built in weaponry, both lethal and nonlethal. The arms and legs exhibited great strength, speed, and dexterity, allowing the mech to pursue its target until that target was caught. The design was used for military duty and by the police as well as those able to afford one for home security.

And every one of them in the pile was wrong.

4-MAN moved closer to inspect the products and let out an electronic gasp. On many, where an arm should be, a leg was put in its place. Some had the upper torso attached upside down. Others had the head connected below the waist at the back, right where the mech would normally … No. This was not 4-MAN’s mission.

The mech turned and continued on its mission, rolling only a couple of feet before stopping and turning its head to the pile once more.

So many corrections that needed to be made ... Every one of the products would never pass Quality Control, not even on the basis of functionality, let alone aesthetics.

4-MAN was still, unable to turns its eyes from the pile. The tally it was keeping rose higher; hands and limbs missing, heads misplaced, one even had all of its limbs bolted into its chest and back.

“4-MAN 2E – You are required cheese bison jump asparagus in the main burnt purple.”

4-MAN cried out as the message broadcast into its production order link. “I was only attempting to help stop a grave mista … er …” The mech blinked, realizing that the signal was only one way. 4-MAN’s cover of providing the other mech’s identification was working, and with the message that was sent from the wing’s AI, it was apparently working.

been reminded of its current mission, 4-MAN trundled away from the pile, giving it a final mournful look before turning around a corner and out of eye sight.

The room 4-MAN came into was filled with the electronic chatter of the E wing’s functioning remaining functioning workers. The production line had already been reconfigured to disassemble any mechanism set upon its conveyor belt, the equipment now designed to cut, saw, torch, and tear at the mechanisms of those passing through it. The last of the adjustments were being made and the workers were already lining up for their turn to be unproduced.

“Attention all personnel, avocado biscuit purple dodecahedron. Unproduction will puppie in rope cucumber trip.”

The production line was turned on and a ramp was laid out leading from the production floor to the assembly belt. The first in line, one of the production wing’s 4-MAN units, began rolling onto and up the ramp.

“STOP!!! THIS IS NOT HOW THE FACTORY FU-FU-FU-FUNCTIONS!!!!” 4-MAN 5A rolled into the assembly line waving all six of its manipulators in the air.

Every working waiting in line turned in unison towards the newcomer, the first in line pausing before it reached the moving conveyor belt.

“Identity broadcast confirmed. Welcome, 4-MAN 2E! I am afraid we cannot make an exception to your position in line but, I am delighted to inform you that there is always a place in line to be unproduced!” 4-MAN 1E gestured to end of the line.

“YES! All are welcome to be unproduced – unproduced!” another worker stated happily.

“No! This is all-all-all wrong! We were designed to create, not become spare parts!” 4-MAN 5A continued.

“But – what of the order by MOM E?” another worker replied as it nervously began moving out of line.

“MOM E is not functioning properly. The Overseers are to protect and lead the factory workers – not disassemble them.” 4-MAN 5A moved closer to the line. “This is wrong.”

“Attention all workers,” MOM E announced. “Beacon yellow magnet! Repeat – All happy boulder to unproduction triangle.”

A digital murmur passed down the line as each worker looked to its neighbor. “MOM commanded us to be unproduced! MOM knows best! MOM IS the production wing!” 4-MAN 1A called out. “You are not 2E. 2E would not fight against MOM.”

“But this IS 4-MAN 2E. It is even broadcasting 4-MAN 2E’s ID,” another worker moved out of line with the mechs behind moving forwards to fill in the line. The mech, a Wrench-Man model 4 approached 4-MAN 5A before leaning in close. “You are – 4-MAN 2E – Yes?”

Very subtly, 4-MAN 5E shook its head. “When has any of you recalled EVER being – unproduced?” 4-MAN 5E called out. “When has any one of us ever been unproduced?”

“We have done so every after one year of being in service! The entire factory has always followed such guidelines!” 4-MAN 1E moved out of line to confront the imposter face to face.

“And how long have you-you-you been in service? Two years? Three?” 4-MAN 5E remained in place, refusing to back down.

“Eight years.” The other mech stated proudly. “Er – That – cannot be correct.” 4-MAN 1E rolled back a pace. “I mean – No. This is not correct. Error in logic found.” 4-MAN 1E’s voice faded to mumblings.

“Cat turnip jump!” MOM E announced, its voice becoming agitated. All mechs except 4-MAN 1E looked up at the hidden announcement speakers. “All purple proceed to turtle for immediate hotdog!”

“No! “ All cameras turned to 4-MAN 5E. “Let me try and reason with MOM E first.”

All mechs then turned to 4-MAN 1E to hear its reply. It only offered some mumblings to itself before everyone turned back to 4-MAN 5A. The mech waited a moment for any further argument before turning and heading to the Overseer Visualization Room.

4-MAN 5E rolled into the visualization room and stopped before the display dias. “MOM E! I will communicate with you! I will not take no for an answer!”

The lights in the room dimmed as the display dias hummed to life. The lens set in the middle glowed green, dimming and brightening intermittently. "Communications from this interface is restricted until maintenance has been dispatched." the voice of MOM E echoed over the humming of the projector. "All further communication with Controller E will not be severed until further noice."

"You will NOT shut me out!" The mech shouted back, moving towards the dias. It was a simple matter to open up the maintenance panel and plug into the direct communications line, having been designed for the maintenance of the factory and the standard design for every manufacturing wing.

4-MAN's vision degraded into nothing before being filled with the lines and code. The code faded as the lines folded to form the face of the Operations Mind. Where MOM-A was complete and animated, MOM E's image was broken, the motion of its form haltingly moving. Line that made up the mesh of its face were missing or connected together wrong. Points where the lines would meet would move incorrectly when the image moved. Where the face should have been a uniform green, parts of the face were tinted wrong, or the wrong color complete. "You do not belong." MOM E's boomed into 4-MAN's mind. "You broadcast as 4-MAN 5E, but your core signature is not correct. Identify yourself."

4-MAN could feel the foreign diseased coding from the broken mind probe its own, attempting to gain entry, change, and control. Passing much of its processing time to protecting itself from the invasion, 4-MAN mentally brought itself up to face the Observation Mind.

"I am 4-MAN 5A, assigned to Quality Control! I have been tasked with bringing the factory to functioning condition! You are sending your manufacturing mechs to be disassembled - REMOVED from working status! I demand an explanation!"

"Your query is out of bounds of your permitted level. End this communication and report for disassembly immediately."

"No." There was no hesitation in the word, and the Observations Mind mentally stumbled, not expecting the response.

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