changed at all. A place you visited three months ago.
Beat you there.
* * *
As they entered her, Anna watched with mixed wonder and terror. One was a liberator, with rows of brilliant pinpoint eyes, shining black skin. Its six legs, tapering at their bases to points, reminded her of her own beautiful limbs.
She had carried liberators inside her only once before, soon after she'd made her first kill. It was a great honor, and a great responsibility. The liberators had to be protected against any harm. With their ancient knowledge they made everything possible. They had begotten her and all the machines. They had developed the First Principles: chaos through warfare; evolution through bloodshed; perfection through victory. From them issued the joy of the Great War.
Yet she had another memory of them-disjointed and dazzling and filled with a shredding screaming brilliant agony: the liberators had taught her obedience.
With the liberator was the Human Justin. The other two were technicians, tall and slim, with grayish skin, bulbous heads, large black eyes, and narrow mouths. Anna and her sisters hated and feared the technicians. They were necessary, on the rare occasions when the machine could not maintain itself, for repair. Wherever they went, pain followed.
They moved within her, silent, approaching her core. They had brought with them some sort of floating table. Anna did not like the look of it.
Why are they here? Anna asked the Eye.
Your cooperation is critical for victory, the Eye said. Remain calm. The greatest joy is the ecstasy of victory.
The liberator and the others gathered around her central processing unit: her brain, her heart. It was a structure marvelous in its simplicity, a rectangular-shaped receptacle filled with gelatinous