“What was the Red Plague, mama?”

“No one is sure, best beloved. Learned sages all have their own theories about where it came from, but it was a terrible disease that stole away the senses of small children. Sight, hearing, smell, taste, touch, speech, and sight-beyond-sight…the poor dears would lose one or several forever.”

“That’s terrible.”

“Yes, it was. Many of those children were cast out of their homes, abandoned on the streets. But one of the histories I read had a theory about this.”

“What is it, mama?”

“Are you sure you wish to hear? It is a very dark theory, one borne of the darkest desires of a soul, the sort that twists the noblest intent into the misery of millions.”

“I’m not a baby anymore, mama. I can hear it.”

“They say, best beloved, that a great sage crafted the Red Plague himself and loosed it upon the world intentionally.”

“Why would someone do something like that?”

“I told you it was a dark theory, best beloved. This was during the great Machine Age, when people were first beginning to experiment with adding machines to themselves–something we now know is folly. The book I read says that the great sage believed it was the destiny of mankind to become one with machines. He made the Red Plague to bring that about more quickly.”

“But how would that work, mama?”

“The children who were cast out–and even those who were not–turned to machines to replace their lost senses, my best beloved. They had machines for seeing, for hearing, even for the sight-beyond-sight. And once they realized that the machines they had made a part of themselves allowed seeing, hearing, and sight-beyond-sight far stronger than the natural sort…why, it was only a matter of time before things went the way that old sage wanted them to.”

“The war, mama?”

“The war, my best beloved. Or many of them, to be more true to the nature of things.”

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