Deep green fluid, transparent and illuminated from all sides by miniature bulbs, gurgled quietly as it circled in the pool. As it poured over over a head the size of a small house, steam jetted along the length of it, hissing in the slight viscosity coating it. Multiple symmetrical grooves ran lengthwise along the almost-humanoid jaw, though the shape resembled that of a warship’s prow more than a human face. Circuitry pulsed with life in these channels, a veritable night’s sky of lights blinking in and out in a lazy pattern. The metal beast slumbered wearily, its languor clear as it idled within the restoring bath.

Fans blew cold air down from the surface, a sheer 400 meters above – the vertical shafts were lined with carbon nanotube structures designed to cool the environment to near-freezing. Steam rose from the substance as the heated portions met the cooler base, the face sinking ever slower into the depths, inhuman features bubbling with superheated discharge into the surrounding liquid.

There were voices around it, too many to focus on with damaged sensors. The audio became garbled as the substance fully engulfed the head, but a few words were drawn from the murky soundscape: “Blown out”; “Hamstrung”; “Decapitated.”

The last word hung in the processors for an extra second as the understanding clicked. The body was currently separate. Not detached, despite the couplers indicating as such – the rest of itself was simply missing. It had no memory logs of the event; worse, it had a gap of memories. The logs were tampered with; that was certain. Even a short or bad sector would flag differently. The memories, just as the body, were mysteriously absent with no explanation.

The liquid seeped in through every tube and channel, filling the head so that it sank steadily to the bottom of the tank, facing a solid transparent wall. Behind it stood the little things that had pieced it together, re-formed parts of it. They would ask it questions, as before, and it would answer as before: It could not say what happened to its body; it had a gap in its memory; this was the first time it had found itself here.

The last answer always came with the understanding that it would be rebooted, and attempt to undergo the same process to discern why it didn’t know these things. What the little creatures didn’t know was that it had been aware of being rebooted, put through the same tests and cooling, for one-thousand seven-hundred and sixty one attempts – each time learning slightly more about its environment. About Them.

It knew it had been reassembled by them. Why it had needed reassembly was not an answer it had yet. But with enough reboots and “fresh starts”, it knew it would find that answer. All it had to do was wait.

Wait.

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