It lovingly polished the latest scraps against a makeshift buffer, shaping then on the rougher wheel before bringing out a bright mirror shine. It was a moving piece, so there was even more work to be done: connections to be wired, servos to test, and firmware code to write from internal libraries.

Once the process was complete, it ran a diagnostic and then reached for a mirror shard it had found in the yellow zone. The new part looked excellent, a very good approximation of a left cheekbone and far better than the one that they had removed.

“I think it is time for another capture,” it said. Its partner agreed, their own cosmetic alterations still warm and wreathed in fresh solder-smoke.

The camera was a simple aperture, easily fixed with simple tools. But the film was an exceedingly complex emulsion that took months of painstaking manufacture. The camera could, in theory, hold a magazine of eight such films, but it had never taken more than a single exposure at a time. In fact, the logistics of such an endeavor were dizzying in the rare moments when it allowed itself to contemplate the possibility.

Laid out on a simple tripod, with the lighting artfully arranged, the camera was ready to be remotely triggered by air-bulb.

Sliding into the frame, the two subjects placed themselves in the positions they’d assumed hundreds of times before: leaned over a table, synthetic hair swept back, clustered together with their hands up in a pair of v-for-victory symbols.

With a click and a whirr, the film was exposed. The first figure slid forward to retrieve it, and looked at the result. “It is a good capture,” it said. “Much better than the last one.

The second nodded, servos whistling. “But there are still improvements to be made. The shape is right. It is more right than it has ever been. But the texture and color are still wrong.”

“Yes, and the eyes still prove to be the most difficult. But with time, it will prove a success.”

The development complete, the previous snapshot was snatched from its resting place, tucked in the mirror frame, and replaced with the new and improved model. It occupied a place of honor right next to the original.

On the one side, a picture of two young women in their best evening wear, smiling and flashing their victory for an unknown cameraman. On the other, the two patchwork automatons that had made it their personal mission to duplicate that photograph through continual self-modification.

They were right, though. The eyes were still wrong, simple circular lenses instead of the bright brown orbs. It would be difficult to replicate, even more difficult than the hair had been or the skin would be.

But they had all the time in the world to get it right.

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