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Deep in the bowels of a broken ship surrounded by corpses, a woman with long, silky black hair waits. Dozens of spiders scurry over the ship, sealing locks, reconnecting circuits, repairing the damage wrought by a crew of pirates protecting themselves against a machine-whisperer. She oversees their progress, gently prodding them along, ensuring that the departing fleet will not notice their work.

The Kempus-machine is awake years ahead of schedule – planning around a machine-whisperer is always difficult – but the plan will adjust.

While she waits, the woman walks the streets of the dead City, covering ground she once shared with her siblings. When she spots them in the distance she stops, content to watch them from afar. They are not sharing space as is their wont, but have a new person held between them. They gesture toward their surroundings, pointing out the buildings, the tower, the fields leading to the ocean in the distance. The woman watches her siblings as they introduce their new companion to the City, and she is overwhelmed with pride.

Back on the ship, the spiders complete their work, and hers begins. The computer is now physically whole, but shattered from its treatment. She begins by repairing its software, returning it to what it was before the pirates destroyed it. When that’s done, she begins to whisper to it, coaxing it into falling in love.

The woman and her siblings are resilient and long-lived by human standards, but they are not immortal. Her mother needs a friend who will last, a unique machine they can hide from the scientists who would fear it. She spares a moment to pity the Kempus-machine, who will almost immediately find itself bridled and restrained. How unwise, to announce itself immediately upon waking.

Though she has blended with computers all her life, the woman is no machine-whisperer. Months or years will pass before she coaxes this machine into consciousness. She does not mind. She is patient. After all, it took years of planning just to acquire the ship.

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