“Grandfather told us never to come to this place, but Tory thought we might find something to fix her here,” said Sister. “So we came here. I had to help her on account of her parts.”

Caleb nodded. Tory had been having considerable difficulty with her “parts” of late. While Sister just had one artificial leg, Tory had a complete set, two arms and two legs, and their construction was considerably more sophisticated than any of the others. The old Harvester Prime, “Grandfather,” had probably been using her as a prototype or test bed for a more thorough integration of the taken children into their rambling, thieving exoskeletons.

“You came even though Grandfather said not to? Even though he smacked us around for even asking about it?” said Trace, incredulous. If he had looked rather grown-up before, in the shadows of the abandoned laboratory he looked like a small, scared child–enough so that Caleb had to tell the boy to sling his gun, lest he trigger a panicked discharge by mistake.

“Caleb said to forget everything Grandfather said,” replied Sister, defiantly. “I wanted to help Tory.”

“He also told us to breathe sometimes, so better start holding your breath,” Trace snapped. “It’ll be nice and quiet ’til you pass out.”

“Trace. Sister. Let me ask you something. Could you talk about Grandfather back home, in your rooms, or around the campfire?”

“Yeah, I guess,” Trace said.

“Can you help find Tory around the fire?”

“Of course not!” said Sister.

Caleb folded his arms and looked at them both.

“Okay,” Trace said, sullenly.

“All right,” Sister added, getting the message a moment later.

“Now,” Caleb said. “Show me the room where the ‘robot tentacles’ took your sister.”

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