Hall of the Phoenix Machines
The suicide machines seemed to have only one purpose: to destroy
themselves. Their grace, their complexity, the sureness and boldness
of their design made that seem absurd, but there they were, ripping
themselves to scrap. Were they alien devices with some unfathomable
purpose? scientists asked. Were they terrestrial constructions that
had gone horribly, horribly wrong?
The suicide machines were housed in a vast hall in the center of an
enormous nickel-iron asteroid, just beyond the orbit of Mars. Someone
had obviously constructed the hall for the machines. Of course,
devices as large and complex as the suicide machines, could easily
have built the place themselves. The hall was purely functional, a
planet-sized machine shop, full of smaller, simpler contraptions
obviously used to construct and repair the suicide machines. In fact,
the whole complex seemed designed to build the machines and allow
them to demolish themselves, so that the smaller machines to put the
pieces back together. Then it could all begin again.
The scientists studied the machines. Took readings. Argued. Wrote
books. Went on lecture tours. One scientist had a nervous breakdown.
Another quit and became a born-again evangelist. The suicide machines
continued destroying themselves and other machines put them back
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Richard Kadrey is a member of a small group of innovative writers, including William Gibson, Bruce Sterling, John Shirley, Pat Cadigan, Tom Maddox, and others, who changed the face of science fiction in the 1980s. He also creates art. He lives in San Francisco.