The question was not if the battloids were effective.

They were.

The machines that had once been men, brass and steel tubing welded to shaved-bare bone, were just what the War had needed to bring it to a speedy conclusion. There was a never-ending supply of corpses, and battleoids’ remaining biological pieces were well-protected: eyes behind bulletproof glass, brainpan reinforced from the inside with steel, cerebrospinal fluids drained in favor of ballistic gel. They were immune to all but a direct hit from an artillery piece, never refused orders, never tried to forment Red agitation in the ranks.

But when the guns fell silent after the last offensive, when the Alliance sued the Coalition for the harsh peace that was to follow…what then? Battleoids could think, plan, even create. That had been the idea behind their creation, after all, and why they had broken the War’s great stalemate where the landships had not.

The question was not if the battloids were effective.

The question was what to do with them when there was no more War to fight.

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Joshua nodded. He glanced out the window, eyes streaming with tears. The intense light had faded from his eyes, and now they brimmed with sunlight.

“So what do we do now?” Margie said. “They’ll be looking for us. When Wright doesn’t report, they’ll send someone out.”

“We’re stabbed the Entente in the back,” Lightoller sighed. “We’ve stabbed the Germans in the back. Everybody here is going to be wanted wherever we land.”

“We’ve got to go on,” Joshua said, finding his voice. “Henriques and Lily gave us that obligation through their sacrifice. If we sit here, if we turn ourselves in, if we give up…we’ve betrayed everything they gave up for us.”

There was silence for a moment. “So what do we do now?” Margie asked again.

“We live,” Joshua said, “and we keep on living.”