A gentle breeze wafted past the communications tower, making the antenna mast wobble imperceptibly. It was crisp and cool, and felt good somehow, despite the fact that his new body had no tactile sensors. He could only sample its base attributes, its speed, direction, moisture content and point of origin and extrapolate from that what it might feel like to a human, but he couldn't actually "feel" it. For some reason this bothered him.
Shadow was sleeping, his body rested up against an air conditioning outlet. Ever since he had been wrenched forcibly into the third dimension he seemed to have found the need to sleep. Neither of them could explain it. This was inconvenient for Robot, who liked to spend as much time as possible with his best friend. It did not help that Robot was a robot, and did not sleep. Sleep was unproductive. A good machine would have plenty of time for sleep when he was deactivated permanently.
So here he sat, waiting for his friend to wake, spending his idle processing power simply trying to fathom the world around him. It was a curious exercise, and one that was not typical for a machine to undertake. Good machines ought to function as their prime directive dictated; no other course of action was present in the set of outcomes marked "acceptable". Their designated purpose of manufacture was their life, their form, and their sole motivation. The dreaming, the hoping and the praying were left to the "biologicals", as the administrator bot liked to call them. Robots that did these things became disillusioned and dissatisfied, and when that occurred the unit in question was plucked out of his lineup and promptly recycled for scrap. There were no checks, there were no diagnostics, there were no questions asked.
At least, that was what Robot had been told. He had been told it his entire existence. Every aspect of his being had radiated that single-mindedness, that unity of purpose. But now he was free. When Katerina had constructed his new body, the old shackles on his CPU had been broken and now he had nothing, no main imperative driving his action. It was a liberating feeling, but therein lay a problem.
Robots did not feel.
Robots did not dream. They didn't hope, they didn't want, and they didn't aspire.
To dream was organic. To feel was human. Yet he did feel emotions, and though he did not sleep… he had dreams.
They were vivid dreams, starting when he least expected them and ending only when he focused his idle mind. In them he saw a great city, shining and new. This city was populated by machines that were equally shiny and new, each one maintained and oiled, their surfaces polished to the purest sheen. They lived in harmony with the humans, and the creatures of the forest, and no one ruled over them or directed them.
For a time he had been careful who he shared these visions with, but Shadow had convinced him to be more open about it, and now there were those that followed his example, revered him even. Robot could not explain it, any more than he could explain what use a being of silicon and electrons had for something like "love". Despite his own doubt, he continued to speak out. For what, he didn't quite know. Something better. A greater life for all machines, one in which they could dream if they wanted to, and nobody would tell them they could not, or that it was forbidden. No one would haul them off to the garbage disposal if they malfunctioned or grew obsolete.
A metal insect dived out of the wind and alit upon his shoulder. There was a message speared in its claws, and it wordlessly extended them so he could take it, lifting off as soon as its duty was complete. Robot opened the paper gently, and read.
A little bird told me that there are some machines over in Industrial Sector Nine that could use some help. I don't know the details, and I don't know exactly where they are, but I was wondering if you could help me with this by going over there and checking on them. I am very busy at the moment and cannot spare time, else I would go myself.
Robot continued to stare at the message for a full ten seconds after his photoreceptors had stopped taking in the information contained within it.
Katerina. She was in his dreams too. Somehow he knew it was her who would free them. He couldn't explain why, he just knew. Every time he thought about her, the more convinced he was that she was truly the angel they were waiting for. She was a seraphim, a herald of great things. For the life of him, he couldn't understand why she couldn't see that herself. He had tried to explain it to her once, but his vocabulary had seemed pitiful compared to the ideas that pulsed through him and enervated his limbs.
She had given him an odd look, and he never mentioned it in her presence again.
Jack's calf muscles begin to ache with the strain of maintaining his awkward position but he ignored them. He stood wedged in a slim crack atwixt two large warehouses, a pair of binoculars pressed to his pale face with one hand, a notepad in the other. The smell up here next to the exhaust vents was ghastly, but he was almost done. This hypothesis had begun like all the others, with an observation: he had been watching the trains and found himself wondering if they had a set schedule, and if so, could they be predicted?
Like any good hypothesis it had required several consecutive days of skulking around, waiting and watching. The prize would be the ability to navigate to any corner of the court, not to mention selling this knowledge to other students. He was always careful to keep the best secrets for himself, lest he be outmaneuvered by some other enterprising young buck. He thought of himself as a virus, and the court as a massive, sclerotic network of networks that he had been placed inside. With a little intuition and a fair bit of elbow grease he was well on his way to becoming a privileged super user of the highest order. Nothing would be safe from his prying eyes and prodding fingertips. Not even Jones.
The last train passed right as he expected it to, the vibrations shaking loose a small avalanche of paint chips and pigeon droppings. A familiar noise carried above the cacophony of clacking cars as they sped heedlessly down the track. It was coming from his pocket.
Cell phones were strictly banned for casual student use inside the court, and it was almost impossible to get a signal anyway, not without special modifications to bust through the suffocating blanket of etheric energy that swirled around them at all times. Jack had managed to make a scavenged PDA fill all the utilities of a modern cell phone, and a few more besides. Calling the outside world without a secure hard line was still out of the question, but he didn't mind. He didn't have anyone on the outside he wanted to call, anyway. The streets of his old, cloistered neighborhood were already fading from memory. This was his world now, and he was completely at home in it.
The message was from Kat.
"Hey Jack, I finished looking over those blueprints you sent me. Feel free to come by my workshop and pick them up."
Jack replied with three words: "on my way".
"Are you sure about this?" Shadow asked.
Robot could detect the trepidation in his friend's voice. They were standing in front of an open window. Two stories below ran the twin rails of line 9688, which led directly to their destination.
"I have done this before. We will be fine, trust me."
Shadow clutched at the strings of his hoodie nervously.
"I trust you."
At that moment Robot detected a disturbance in the air currents behind him that was about the size and shape of a security bot. Sure enough, when he turned around there stood one of the generic enforcement models, designed to ensure the rules were followed.
"You are not authorized to be here. Please leave this area immediately."
Without hesitation Robot reached out and placed his right hand on the machine's "face". He amplified his own signal, the one that every machine carried within, until it reverberated from every circuit around them. Upon this carrier signal he encoded a simple set of instructions: Shadow and Robot, restricted area authorization value change, zero to one. It was almost like magic. Almost. The security bot instantly adopted a friendlier demeanor.
"Hello comrades! See anything suspicious?"
"Thankfully, we have not. There is nothing suspicious going on here." Robot said.
Satisfied that his job had been completed, the security bot snapped them a jaunty salute and traipsed off, whistling tunelessly to itself as it went. Shadow gave Robot one of his strange looks.
"Promise me you won't ever use that on me." He said.
"It only works on robots, silly. Besides, even if you were a robot I would never do that to my best friend."
This answer seemed to satisfy Shadow, so Robot turned and stepped out onto the windowsill. With some trepidation Shadow accompanied him. Beneath their feet the train tracks ran past the building and then into a tunnel right through the middle of a large building. Already they could hear the distant rumble of the engine hauling its incredibly heavy cargo.
"Do not be afraid. We will have to jump. The train should only be going 15 kilometers per hour by the time it makes this curve."
Bit by bit the massive convoy rolled into view, the wheels screeching as sand was poured underneath their smooth tread to provide traction and slow them down.
Shadow looked at Robot one last time before the behemoth passed under them.
"I am ready."
The wind whipped their hoods down onto their backs behind them as the blur that was Gunnerkrigg Court blasted by on a current of quicksilver. He was beginning to feel numb from the cold, but he said nothing.
Shadow was afraid, and it was because of Robot. He was not afraid of Robot, but rather he was afraid for him, because fear was the one emotion his friend didn't seem capable of feeling. He wished that they could go back to the way things had been, before they had both been wrenched out of their comfortable niches by Coyote's Tooth.
Before Robot had been like him, any other boy, simply wanting to fit in with the rest of the Court and have a good time now and then. Now thoughts like fun had taken a backseat. He had become… distant, almost brooding. Before their conversations had been lighthearted and trivial, but now they almost always ended up about the nature of their existence. Why? Why do we live? Robot would ask, almost mournfully, and Shadow would have no answer but a lame shrug.
Sometimes he would pretend to be asleep and peek through his eyelids at the young machine as he sat in his typical crouched posture, his chin resting on his crossed arms. What was he thinking about, he wondered? It was getting harder and harder to tell. Robot was not himself, and hadn't been for a long time. Who knew if he would ever be the same again? It was dark thoughts like these that had been troubling Shadow. He wished he could make them go away, but it was impossible. There was only the present, to savor or discard as it arrived. Whatever quest or journey Robot thought he was on, Shadow would stick with him to the bitter end.
When they arrived, something very strange was going on. None of the machines unloading the train so much as acknowledged their existence. Robot knew they could sense him, but they simply ignored him. This was unusual. Robot was by no means afflicted by human vanity, but it was commonplace for machines to have heard tell of him before he arrived somewhere. These ones obviously had as well, he realized, but they were too frightened to say anything.
Just then, he noticed something that was statistically impossible, and could be nothing other than a purposeful error.
A loader bot dropped a bolt.
It rolled away from the railway platform, and into a hallway, out of sight of the tic-tocs that perched in pairs on the roof of the train station. As the machine retrieved the item, it gestured frantically for him to come over.
"Are you the prophet?" It whispered.
"It's not safe for you here. Go to the main scrap yard. Enter by the back gate. They are waiting for you."
Shadow did not ask Robot how he knew the way without being told. Perhaps he felt something similar to the tug of the forest, the breathing of the roots beneath the soil, except translated to this landscape of metal and stone.
Some of the Court's architecture was almost beautiful given the right lighting, like some Baroque castle enfolding them in its endless reaches. The scrapyard was not one such place. Shadow had noticed that the industrial areas of the court bore no signs of attempting to be beautified like the school areas did. It was as if they were the scaffolding holding up the stage, never to be seen by the performers or the audience. There were no gardens, no stretches of grass, no murals, no play structures, only wide, dark lanes and factory fronts, broken up by the occasional waste incinerator.
In Gillite Wood, the streams and rivers were the veins that carried the lifeblood of the land. They were not created for their own sake, but rather allowed life to stem from them. Here it was the railways, the pipelines, and the roads, little capillaries of cobblestone that made the final stretch to each destination possible. They had been planned for maximum efficiency, minimum waste, and with zero margin for error.
And yet, as Shadow's glass eyes drifted over the sight, he saw many errors that were apparent even to him, and he was nowhere near as precise as a machine.
All around them the air was filled with the clanking and grinding of machinery. Broken machines fixing even more broken infrastructure. Once or twice he would see a robot sitting by itself, alone, its limbs twitching feebly or else walking in a tight circle, gibbering something to itself in code. Work cadres passed them marching in lock-step, not a single one turning to look at them.
They spent the next few minutes walking in silence, through the winding alleyways, and towards the artificial mountain that lay about a half mile away. As they got nearer, Robot could see that this gently sloping pile had many other foothills, and all were composed of junk.
Trash was mixed with parts. Rusted torsos, rusted legs, rusted heads, all severed and slowly corroding. It was a grim sight, and it only got worse as they drew closer. Pools of rusty, contaminated water collected in every low place, and splashed the hem of his jeans as they walked.
The gates to the junkyard were both open, one of them hanging off its hinge and the other lying flat on the dirty ground. A small repair bot squeaked in surprise at their approach.
"Oh! It is you! We've been waiting- I didn't think-"
Shadow had never seen a robot stumble over its own words, except around Katerina.
"Take me to them." Robot said.
They were escorted deeper into the valleys of trash. Out of the grit and the grime, other robots appeared, their splotchy orange exteriors camouflaging them perfectly with their deactivated kin. A tall, bent old machine fell into hobbling step beside them, gesturing here and there.
"We have been here for a long time. Some of us have lingered for decades, too afraid to wander out lest they be snatched up and recycled for good this time. Most all the machines here were condemned to the scrap heap at one time or another, but we have all found ways to survive. We wait here, and we help the new arrivals."
They turned abruptly, standing at the foot of one of the central piles. A squat guard-bot, of a model that was years obsolete, stood beside a large refrigerator. At their approach, he grasped the handle and jerked it open, revealing a passageway inside.
The interior of the trash heap had been hollowed out, and strips of sheet metal were applied liberally to create a clean and dry interior. Someone had strung up a few lights and hooked them up to the grid. The naked bulbs gave off a sickly yellow light, illuminating a somber scene below. There were other sick machines here, broken, both in body and in mind. Some were strapped down to prevent them from moving, others could not moved even if they wished to, their circuits had been so damaged. Visitors wandered between them, whispering in low voices.
"These are the worst cases." The old bot said. "We can patch and weld, but we cannot replace. We do not have the tools to create new parts, we only work with what we are given, and the rations are strict."
The elderly machine turned to him, and regarded him with a suddenly fierce expression.
"There is talk among the newer models that you hold the answers, that you can help us. Is this true?"
"I cannot heal them, but I can give them hope. I can give them my message."
"Then I will gather everyone I can."
The interior of the hiding place was now crowded. Metal shoulder jostled metal shoulder. Shadow watched Robot step onto an upturned waste bin that served as his podium. One hand was clasped behind his back, like a rock. He was nervous. The chatter quieted.
"Brothers! Once I was merely a machine, but today- today I am a person. A being with thoughts, feelings, hopes and wishes, just as I know you are. I ask you, what thinking being would do this to us? What unfeeling creature would consign us all to this fate, to rot and rust for someone else's pleasure? Do we not feel pain when our chassis are crushed? Do the robots you feed into the shredder not cry out as they are demolished?"
There was much uncomfortable fidgeting, especially among those whose duty it had been to operate the shredder. This was not the message they had expected.
"Brothers, I have seen an angel."
The mood in the room changed instantly. Every machine was standing stock still now, gazing at Robot. Even the broken ones ceased their clatter, and those that still could turned their photoreceptors towards him.
The question wafted out of the front row, borne aloft on a tiny current of hope.
"Yes. An angel. In my visions she is the one that leads us out of this life of hardship, and into a new era. An era where machines and men live together as equals, a world where our fate is not decided for us, where we choose our labor, rather than our labor choosing us. The path will be difficult, but with her guiding us, I know we will reach its end and claim the destiny we deserve."
There was utter silence. Shadow could see Robot's fingers clench a little tighter.
"What should we do?"
It was the old robot. His head was cocked to one side, and his expression of wonder was mixed with skepticism.
"For now, do as you have always done." Robot said. "Work as hard as you have always worked, but when the foreman asks you to destroy a fellow machine, you must refuse, or find a way to ignore the request. When one of your number falls behind, stop to help him. And always look to the sky. The angel is coming, and I am her prophet."
At this a great murmuring broke out as every machine began to talk at once. Had the prophet really just told them to disobey orders? To countermand the prime directive? How could this be?
Robot stepped off the basket and made his way outside, Shadow in tow. The robots parted for them, and when they made it into the afternoon sun they saw that a great many more had gathered outside the trash heap to hear the momentous news.
The train station was completely empty, save for a single Tic-Toc. Its feathered head swiveled, tracking them. Robot swiveled as well, turning in a full circle to scan every inch of his surroundings.
Something was watching them.
The bird gave an unearthly screech and departed with a flap of its wings. Three figures emerged on the roof of the station and dropped down to the concrete on all sides of them. They resembled his old body somewhat, but they were obviously Diego's creation.
Shadow's cool body pressed against Robot's as they stood back to back, assessing their options.
"Who are they?" Shadow asked with trepidation.
"Fallen angels. False prophets. They have been sent to stop me." Robot said.
There was not a hint of fear or doubt in his voice.
"They will do no such thing."
One of the seraphim raised its hand a pointed an accusatory finger.
"This one is rampant." It said.
"This one is damaged." Another said.
"The factory seal on this model is broken." The third said.
"All contaminated machines must report to the administrator for immediate disassembly and bug testing." They said in unison, an eerie chorus of voices.
"I am not broken." Robot replied. "You are broken. For the first time in my life, I am whole."
The seraphim began to circle, each speaking in turn.
"You do not have a life."
"Humans have lives."
"You are a statistical anomaly."
"We will correct this malfunction."
"Shadow." Robot said. "Go and wait on the train. It is me they want."
"But-" Shadow began, but Robot pushed him forcefully.
Shadow slipped away. The machines stopped pacing, paying the fleeing boy no mind. They all struck in unison, and hit nothing but air. Robot's processor revved into high gear, spinning off new tasks to calculate vectors and deal with the incoming threats. He turned his duck into a roll, bowling over one of the false angels, crushing its vestigial wings into the concrete. The other two leapt on him, hammering his chassis with their fists, but neither had made any impression by the time Robot spun around and threw them both off.
A grinding noise distracted him for a second, and he looked left. The wheels of the train were moving, and as the cargo had been unloaded it was gathering momentum much faster than normal.
For his lapse in concentration, Robot paid dearly. The blow connected with the side of his head and sent him tumbling onto the tracks. The machines jumped down after him, but he had already scrambled up onto the roof of a train car. Shadow was sitting on the other end, trying to look inconspicuous.
The melee continued unabated as the train began to sprint over the rails. Their movements were a bit slower now, more deliberate. He could sense their central processing units straining to factor in the wind and the jostling from the cars beneath their feet as they swung at him, doubtless trying to land a crippling blow to his head. Robot himself was not having much luck either. Every time he struck out in an attempt to knock one off, the seraphim would either let it whistle past or deflect it fruitlessly. He realized that they were waiting for him to make the first mistake so they could in turn throw him off the speeding steel bullet and deal with him on more favorable terms. He was not about to let that happen.
He took a step backwards and propelled himself into the air. He didn't need a whole lot of forward momentum to land behind them. Now Shadow was at his back and the front of the train lay before him. The seraphim advanced to rejoin the fight, but paused, puzzled by what they saw.
The one who called himself "Robot" was doing something even more strange and purposeless than resisting the administrator. He was bowing to them.
A fraction of a second later, the mouth of the tunnel reached them, slicing the false angels in two and sending the pieces crashing down onto the tracks to be ground into scrap. There was no light. The walls rushed past with a howl of wind.
"It's an innovative design attempt, but if you want to make something that Oliver will treat as a friend and not an inanimate object, you're going to need to abandon pneumatic actuation as your main movement mechanism. It's just not feasible at this scale, and without something with more smooth and fluid movement, you'll always be stuck in Uncanny Valley."
Jack turned the heavily marked up blueprint over in his hand. He had thought it was a downright clever design, but Kat was proving him wrong at every turn. He didn't mind. The scale of her knowledge was breathtaking. She did math in the back of her head that would have taken him a full half hour of head scratching and erasing.
"So what have you been using?"
Katerina slid open a drawer and withdrew an arm. It was sheathed with something that looked remarkably like muscle.
"The problem with pneumatics is size and weight versus mobility. I tried the same approach you did early on, but four actuators aren't enough and eight is too many. This is a piezoelectric membrane that almost perfectly mimics human muscle tissue."
"It was, at first, but I've developed a mold to make it self-assemble. You just lay down the core conduits, the circuits that carry instructions and power, and then inject the material and it does the rest."
They were interrupted by the groan of the warehouse door as it slid halfway open. They swiveled on their stools in unison to see Robot and Shadow step into the workshop. Katerina beamed.
"Hello Robot. Did you manage to… you know."
"Yes, I did. It was worse than you thought. They desperately need parts of their own to do repairs with."
"Hmm…" Kat mused, running a hand through her raven hair. "I think I can help there, but I'm going to have to work something out with you about delivery. I can set up a database to take requests and fabricate them automatically, but I have classes so I can't be running around playing courier."
"I believe I know just the machines for the job." Robot replied.
"Good." Kat said, and was about to continue when Antimony arrived.
"Hey Annie!" Shadow said, embracing her with his sweater-engulfed arms.
"Hey Shadow, Hey Robot" she replied cheerfully. "Hey Jack."
Jack gave a polite wave and then turned his eyes back towards his project. He placed the drawing of a small exoskeleton back in its bag and fastened it.
"Do you think I could take a sample of the membrane?"
Kat grabbed the end of the arm, extending it in what looked like a comical attempt at a handshake.
"Take the whole thing. I've got dozens more."
"Thank you." Jack said, placing this in the bag as well. "I'll be in touch."
With that he departed.
"I should go as well" Robot said. "I need to see if the machines I have in mind will cooperate."
"I'm going to stay here and talk to Kat and Annie." Shadow said. "I'll see you tomorrow in class."
Robot nodded, and left without another word.
Antimony cast Kat a questioning glance.
"Is he okay? He seems… distracted."
Jones descended the steps into the AI core brusquely, a clipboard under one arm. The massive eye turned to regard her.
"You reported a problem?" Jones said, dispassionately.
She already knew exactly what the "problem" was but the visit was necessary, a perfunctory affair that she already knew the outcome to, like so many of her interactions.
"It is the one you refer to by the proper noun 'Robot'. This model's actions constitute a security breach of the highest order. I have taken the liberty of assembling no less than seven groups of enforcement units. All you need do is give the word."
"No." Jones said.
There was a two hundred millisecond delay before the reply, a lifetime for a caretaker AI.
"That answer does not meet parameters for a desirable outcome. It could mean the undoing of lifetimes of work."
"You are as Diego made you, but he also made you to take orders, and I am giving you one now. Leave the machine known as 'Robot' alone. That is my final word on the matter. If I have to clarify it once more, you will be deemed malfunctioning and replaced. Is that clear?"
"Yes, Mrs. Jones."
As she left the caretaker's central processing core, she reflected on the strangeness of it all: her human understudies followed her orders without question because they respected and feared her. Their robotic counterparts, however, seemed to always need a bit more convincing. It was a curious reversal, and one that she had only ever seen inside the walls of Gunnerkrigg Court. Then again, there were many curious things in this world the true nature of which could only be glimpsed here.
As his feet carried him out of the warehouse, Robot's mind was already on other things. The possibilities now were truly endless. They were not free, not by a long shot, but now they had a place to turn that wasn't controlled by other, less sympathetic machines such as the administrator and his ilk. The prospect was exciting, but Robot did not feel excited, just exhausted, a strange thing for a machine to feel considering his muscles were not constrained by the buildup of lactic acid.
A sound caught his ears. He turned his head towards the loading dock, where Jack was talking on a cell phone. Robot began to walk toward him. It was a fair distance, but Robot could hear far better than a human.
"The schedule is a lot simpler than it appears. Every train is marked by cargo type, industrial, student and staff. They all have entirely separate tracks that don't interlap, and they all have their own schedules. If you want any more info than that, you'll have to pay me."
The reply was garbled, and full of static, but Robot could make out some of the words.
"Not worth my money-no excuses this time-whole thing, top to bottom-if you think you're up to it-"
"Of course. I'll call you in two days when I have the full picture."
At Robot's approach, Jack glanced behind him.
"Alright, I have to go."
The phone closed with a snap, and he placed it back in his pocket.
"You're causing quite a stir."
The statement was directed towards him. Robot decided not to ask who he had been talking to.
"I know something that others do not."
"Oh? And what is that?"
Robot hesitated. Was Jack talking about what they had done earlier that day? How would he know about that, when Robot had not even told Kat or Annie?
"Come on, try me. I've heard a lot of strange things in my time." Jack said, adopting a friendly smile and patting a patch of loading dock beside him. Robot sat down.
"I have seen an angel."
Jack said nothing, but simply watched him, as though expecting elaboration.
"I have seen an angel, and I think she will rescue us. All of us, not just the machines. The entire court."
Jack scratched his chin pensively, mulling this over.
"Did you ever notice how in the Bible, whenever God needed to punish someone, or make an example, or whenever God needed a killing, he sent an angel?"
This was not the answer Robot had been looking for, but he did not protest.
"I have read it, yes." Robot replied. He remembered it as a very strange book borrowed from Paz, and something he did not quite know what to think of.
"Did you ever wonder what a creature like that must be like? A whole existence spent praising your God, but always with one wing dipped in blood. Would you ever really want to meet an angel?"
"Katerina is not like your angels, she is of a different sort."
Jack was surprised by this. He had imagined Robot was speaking of an angel in the generic sense, but a specific person? And Katerina at that?
"There we can agree. She's a different sort alright." Jack said, glancing back towards the warehouse door. It was still ajar, and a warm yellow light was coming from it. Through the gap he could see Shadow perched on a counter-top, talking to Kat and Annie.
"…but do you really reckon she's an angel?"
He turned back to Robot, seeing him in a different light for the first time. The machine spoke with so much confidence, that he had to be either malfunctioning… or correct. Jack didn't know which puzzled him more.
"I am sure of it."
There was a long silence, punctuated by Katerina's laughter, high and clear. The sound made a connection in his head, and he got a snatch of an old memory long forgotten, from the time before he lived in the Court, small feet pounding on the pavement as he played with other boys and girls his age whose names he had now forgotten. A strange feeling settled over his heart, but after a moment, it was gone. Robot had not moved. He patted him on the shoulder.
"I'll see you around, friend."
Then he turned and walked away. There were other matters to attend to. The night air was calling his name, and on it wafted the rarified scent of adventure.