Artist: Separation Device
Title: Exoskeleton Removal Machine
Label: CRL Studios
Keywords: Electronic, Breakbeats, Breakcore, Drum’n’Bass, Experimental, IDM, Industrial
Reviewer: Alex Spalding
The year was 20XX, the day… I cannot remember. I, and a few others who’d managed to escape vicissitude by machines in the decaying pre-Tech development condos we had been squatting in have set out for NuMetro City. That was a month ago. We now lay immobile, uncertain of our fate except that we will soon perish. We didn’t have much of a choice, as I’m sure you realize. Many of us were suffering from part displacement, some from part expiration. The chip controlling motor functions in my right arm had been a bit twitchy for three months, but I could have probably made it another three before I’d have had to scrap it. Some of my traveling companions were much worse off, needing everything from hip and spine recalibration to heart bivalve replacement. We had a man exsanguinate on us in the middle of night about a week and a half ago… the nano-circuitry in his blood supply had begun to separate from the organic material just two days after he ran out of energy suppositories. NuMetro City is one of the few free-cities left on the grid, and it would have only taken us another two weeks on foot to make it there. I hoped we would all hold out until then. In the meantime, I’d been keeping myself alert by listening to music on my wireless synaptic device. It’s was a good thing Bandcamp was still up!
On the first day, before we knew what was in store for us, things were already bleak, but manageable. Then, the ‘Sentient Extractor’ came with a mechanical hiss that was unmistakeable. It crushed through the rotting plasticine structures that had become our homes in a manner suspiciously rhythmic; familiar, yet alien, and very cold. Funky, neuro-fluidic bass drones were fired out and among the confusion I ran through as much of the debris left in it’s wake as fast as I could, delirious with the thought that my life might end at any second. I could see others frantically trying to escape the clutches of the technological abomination, but many were taken up into it’s steely maw and devoured, flesh stripped of it’s cybernetic implants.
In the camp formed by the survivors of this assault we had a doctor. At least, for a little while. The ill and wounded were taken to a makeshift infirmary. ‘Trypanophobia’ and other horrors of the mind were on the rise. Those afflicted were as if tormented daily by a gritting noise. So that I may bury their screams, though often I heard them reflected in my mind despite my best efforts, I listened to heavily skewered amen breakbeats which seemed often to mimic the tremors of the patients of our temporary settlement…
… my ‘Synaptic Inputs’ soon became damaged. I might have become completely deranged were it not for the quick actions of our camp doctor. I heard low, rasping bass whispering to me in sleep, a pounding of neurons like an explosion that would wake me suddenly and cause intense anxiety. Metal voices filled my head, like the frying of the consciousness circuits, and my internal monologue became menacing, unfamiliar. Scattered, disordered pulses became commonplace. After input adjustment my condition improved, clearing up drastically over the course of two days.
I considered myself one of the lucky ones. Aside from the store of needles, a rusty ‘Caliper’ was one of the only other instruments on hand for delicate medical procedures. A woman with badly damaged artificial legs was restrained, and each broken stalk was snapped back to enable healing by the use of the large caliper. It was heated in steam from one of the malfunctioning water valves nearby and then used to cauterize the woman’s wounds. If there had been any more organic tissue around the broken area, she might not have made it or died from infection. The metal, in contrast, was easily soldered.
The initial assault had left us stranded so we set about our plans for relocation. In a day we were moving again, toward a destination. Along the way we discovered an ‘Exoskeleton Engine’ sitting amongst the rubble of a destroyed extractor. With direction from our doctor we got it running… the output of sound was like a rolling, splitting and broken wail of machine rhythms. Underneath these, a layer of electronic tones echoed out… you could have mistaken the sound of it for sorrow. Perhaps whatever ghost dwelled once in the husk of this monstrosity had learned remorse for the multitude of lives taken in it’s years sitting here, without power.
We then performed the ‘Exoskeleton Detach’ which would allow us to scrap it’s innards for useful parts. Upon removal it came open with a high-frequency drone. The insides whirred. It was critical we take care while removing what could be salvaged, to be aware of any banks of unutilized electricity that could short . Our bodies, being often upwards of 90% alloid were susceptible to static; the flesh, to electrical burn. We could, deep within the hulking shell of the extractor, hear the soul of the machine shrieking at us from within it’s tomb. Refracted blasts of percussive noises shot up. The doctor opted to perform the extraction of necessary mechanical bits, but he was electrocuted upon his attempt at the coveted heart of the extractor, a capsule of rechargeable energy capable of powering many of the important devices we had on hand. He was the last of us with any real knowledge as to the operation of delicate procedures like this… so we had to leave the corpse of the extractor behind and look instead to our arrival at NuMetro as our only hope of salvation.
Our wandering toward our objective had lead to us through the ‘Parasitic Drag’, a dangerously infested and irradiated area of the grid that had become a no-man’s land. Several of our then-large group perished from toxicity and parasitic infection. Throughout the drag, humming electrical interferences could be heard, as well as a ghoulish wind that brought a stench of death and mechanical rot with it. Throbbing beats from the many machines lay destitute in the plague fields providing a horrid soundtrack for our trek in through the region.
The ‘Venturi Mask’ is a useful piece of machinery that, when applied to the face, can filter out many of the toxins from the air allowing you to breathe in such areas as the Parasitic Drag. We had enough on hand, thankfully. On my venture through these wastelands I had once again a chance to keep myself mentally active by listening to a ruckus of tightly programmed machine breaks, rumbling gritty basslines and alien pad drones on my portable synaptic input device.
After the drag we came across the ‘Splitter’, a horrible machination developed by the proto-cybernetic corporations for military applications. It caught us by surprise in the desolation we had just endured, and chaos ensued. Panic-stricken, we scattered as it scanned us for life signals and shot a laser-speed barrage of compressed energy at us. The ground seemed to break under it’s weight, but we eventually managed to lose it in the mechanized foliage at the edge of the Drag… or so we thought…
… just when the sound of it had ceased and we’d began to feel we had given it the slip, the ‘Spinocerebellar Tract’ of each member of our group shorted out and we all froze and fell upon the ground, eyes wide open and consciousness intact. It is probable that this was the result of some unknown machine-to-machine weaponry the splitter had used. We had plenty of time to contemplate our ill luck. It was generally accepted that the splitter would find us any time then, but days passed. I could hear roars on some nights from out of the dark, the skipping beat of the others’ hearts, inhumanly irregular. Then, on the fourth day, the stamping feet of the splitter returned, slowly approaching.
‘Blunt Dissection’ was our assured fate. I watched the rest of the others being torn apart. The splitter was accompanied by a sentient extractor, to which the mechanical parts of our group were fed. Smacking metal lips, ripping steel, the echoing howls of machines… followed by a drone signaling the machines’ numb complacency.
I, on the other hand, remained a captive. I received a ‘Metal Implant’, attached via a number of sensors to my nervous system that was to gauge my responsiveness to torture. The surgery was painful itself, but what followed after was sublime. Held in a dark chamber more by a mental cage activated by neuro-sensors I was prodded with shifting amen breaks, some sharp as knives. Occasionally the machines would speak to one another in that low, bassy voice of theirs. As the torture became more intense, so did their vocalizations grow more excited. But, this was not the end.
As a silence mounted, a ‘Rib Spreader’ was brought to open my chest. As I stared, open-eyed, they spoke to me with a programmed voice they knew I would understand, telling me to be quiet. Then, they…
… suddenly exploded for no particular reason into a massive burst of controlled-chaos rhythms and progressive electronic noise. Good thing, too, so I could get away quickly and write my story! Phew… anyway, here’s a link to an audio version of what I experienced, for those of you interested in living out the nightmare yourselves: