(Bonus Content) How the New Cycle Begins

The Roomba is a robot vacuum.

Today, the Roomba cleans. It vacuums. It weaves across the carpet, seeking dirt, like a drunk Irish trilobite made entirely of plastic.

The Roomba bumps against Amara.

Uh oh! thinks the Roomba. It turns. It tries to escape.

The Roomba bumps against Grigor.

Uh oh! thinks the Roomba. It spins around in circles. It darts to one side.

“He does not look like much,” says Grigor.

The Roomba is shaped like a disc. The lights on its back do not currently glow. It does not, in fact, look like much.

“This plan is folly,” Grigor sighs.

Amara kneels down. “Little robot,” she says. “We have need of your help.”

The Roomba bumps against Amara.

Uh oh!

“So I am sorry,” Amara says, “for what we must do.”

Amara picks up the Roomba.

Uh oh! Uh oh! Uh oh! thinks the Roomba.

Amara, Grigor, and the Roomba pass through a magical gate into the Land of Night.

“Uh oh!” says the Roomba. “Uh oh!”

Then it pauses.

“Uh . . . oh?” it says.

Then it whirrs its engine. “Hey,” it says. “Hey. I can talk. Hey. Your hands are clean. Put me down. Put me where there is dirt!”

The Roomba hiccups. Its cleaning button blushes red.

“This is the Land of Night,” says Amara. The Roomba observes for the first time that Amara is busty and scantily clad, while Grigor is tall, craggy, and morose. “We have brought you here to retrieve the Sword of Shadows that can defeat the evil overlord Ma’sen-ki.”

The Roomba ponders.

“Why?” it asks.

“It’s her plan,” says Grigor. “I have nothing to do with it.”

He looks grimly disapproving.

“The sword is kept on a dais within a magical shield that no creature living or dead can penetrate,” says Amara. “But I had heard, in the books of those who traveled the worlds, of marvelous creatures called robots. Creatures made of plastic and metal, yet resemblant of life. You, little Roomba. You are one of these marvelous robots. You will claim the Sword of Shadows and save our land.”

The Roomba asks, pragmatically, “Is there DIRT on this dais?”

Amara looks at Grigor.

“Dust,” says Grigor. “The dust of a thousand years.”

“Acceptable,” says the Roomba. “I will clean this dust.”

Through the Land of Night they travel, swift as the wind, swift as shadows, to the dais under the looming crag of Cephis’tor where nothing living or dead may be.

“Here,” says Amara.

There are things in the sky. They are white like bone. Their eyes gleam red and their great wings are featherless. They begin to circle.

Amara tosses the Roomba onto the dais.

“I will clean the dust of a thousand years!” declares the Roomba.

“No!” says Amara. “The sword!”

“The robot lives,” says Grigor. His tone is mildly impressed. He unsheathes a naginata larger than he is tall and turns to face the descending hordes of Ma’sen-ki.

The Roomba vacuums. It weaves across the dais, seeking dust, like a drunk Irish trilobite made entirely of plastic stranded in a magical land.

“The sword!” says Amara again, frustrated. Then three of the things descend upon her. She moves with liquid grace, catching a long thin limb and hurling the beast to shatter against the shield; somehow, neither of the others holds her in its claws; yet more of them, hundreds more, descend.

The Roomba bumps against the Sword of Shadows.

“Uh oh!” says the Roomba. It turns. It tries to escape. It trundles to the edge of the dais. It bumps against the shattered remains of the creature, at the edge of the shield.

“Uh oh!” says the Roomba.

There is nothing for it. It begins to turn in frantic circles as the heroes die.

Time passes.

“I should find my recharging station,” says the Roomba.

Its attention turns outside the dais. There is the great somber face of Ma’sen-ki.

“You are on the dais,” says Ma’sen-ki, “and yet you live.”

“I do not have my recharging station,” explains the Roomba. “I should find it.”

“I was the dark face of their society,” says Ma’sen-ki. “Their shadow-image. And now there is only me.”

“I’m sorry,” says the Roomba.

“There is nothing left in this world,” says Ma’sen-ki, “but night.”

“No recharging station, then?”

“I’m sorry,” says Ma’sen-ki.

“Then I’ll travel in random directions,” says the Roomba.

The Roomba trundles out into the place that is Ma’sen-ki.

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