“Nomad” by Karin Lowachee
Mad just lost his human. Suicide is no option. Determined to move on into a life of solitude away from the killing, the gangs and constant wars, Mad chooses to become Nomad, unaffiliated with anyone. He would seek no vengeance for Tommy, at least not for now. Duncan, has some information that Mad needs to hear. If only Mad could calm his rage against this stranger who wants to take Tommy’s place, he would know the real reason his human was dead. Lowachee brilliantly weaves a story of love, friendship and being human through the eyes of a machine.
About the Author
Karin was born in South America, grew up in Canada, and worked in the Arctic. Her first novel WARCHILD won the Warner Aspect First Novel Contest. Both WARCHILD and her third novel CAGEBIRD were finalists for the Philip K. Dick Award. Her books have been translated into French, Hebrew, and Japanese, and her short stories have appeared in anthologies edited by Nalo Hopkinson, John Joseph Adams and Ann VanderMeer.
Mad, is a killing machine, and his human Tommy, has just been killed. Mad had known Tommy since birth. He remembered feeling him inside his armor, a biogenic alloy suit, minutes after he had been born. The bond between the armor and the baby creates a bond that synchs their thoughts. They share memories and a life. They had a connection of oneness between man and machine. They loved each other, although it was forbidden.
Mad is not interested in avenging Tommy’s death right away. His chief, Tommy’s uncle, continues to insist that Mad fuse with a new human. Duncan, whom they call Probie, is a hacker of some sort. He stole biodots that he later has has implanted into his brain, which allows him to hack into Radicals (killing machines) hardware and obtain their files. Mad is unsettled by this and won’t allow Probie to fuse with him. Instead he says his goodbyes and takes leave of his unit to become a nomad.
The setting is vague, and it doesn’t suggest that its Earth or a different planet. It suggests yellowing grass like wheat. It sounds barren and otherworldly.
Probie insists on telling Mad that he has information about who really Killed Tommy. When Mad hears this, he becomes enraged. He knew it was impossible. Everyone involved except for himself, were destroyed that night. How could Probie know what happened. Mad picks up Probie by the neck, walks one hour outside of town with Probie screaming and kicking in his grip. He continued to walk for another hour until Probie was unconscious and dazed. He finally sets him down, and Probie tells him who really killed Tommy.
“The Chief set you up.” Probie tells Mad. He hated the bond between Mad and Tommy, his own nephew. He would rather they both died than have to vie with them for power. Mad was skeptical of Probie. He didn’t really know what his motives were. All he knew was that Probie was desperate to find a Radical so that he could integrate with it. He had to test him.
In a bold move, Mad approaches the Gears, the rival gang that had killed Tommy, after the chief set them up. Mad did not care, he was angry and reckless, and he wanted answers. When the Gears chief arrived to get rid of the nuisance, Probie shoots him right in the face killing him. His Radical sheds him and then sprays bullets on Mad and Probie as he attempts to flee. Mad is able to hit him with his own artillery fire, and also manage to protect Probie with his shields.
Just when Mad thinks that the danger has passed, he sees in his periphery Radicals headed their way, and they were not happy at all. It’s Radical One, His Chief, and his rockets grenade explodes on Mad’s chest. Next thing Mad knows, he is waking up from a groggy, and learns that when he went down, he launched the rest of his epaulet artillery hitting but not killing the Chief and Radical One. He was deeply injured from Radical One’s blasts. During Mad’s powering off and powering on again, Probie had climbed into the empty space in Mad’s chest. In a sensitive moment the Lowachee describes it as flower petal at the touch of a finger.
Mad needed Probie to heal him after the loss of Tommy. Little did he know that he would be healing for Probie as well. Once they synch, Mad sees Probies memories, of losing his parents, living in a foster system much like the machine assembly line he was used to. He understood Probie and his need of a Radical. So he fuses with him.
When Mad fully wakes, he finds the chief at the brink of death. He swiftly ends his life inflicting the same loss to Radical one. He quickly dismantles Radical one as his shock sets in at the death of the chief. Mad felt that he was merciful with Radical One. He did not have to mourn as he had for Tommy. After this, Deacon was no longer a Probie. He was just Deacon. Both he and Mad had lost the taste for blood. They leave their unit. They sought out rest to heal themselves and to fix what needed fixing. They would be Nomad. Learning each other and forming new bonds.