I felt a powerful surge of déjà vu when Forge #14’s guard plating disengaged and retracted, the great machine spinning down from manufacture speed. Supported by a latticework of criss-crossing plastic spars, clouds of coolant boiling off its surface, lay my last and finest achievement.

So long have I been creating them that I can barely remember the first, the brass behemoth that woke in a workshop lifetimes ago. That was the beginning, and this was the end.

Gone were the pistons, the cooling flanges, the aether core. Nuclear fire was the beating heart of my last creation, drawing fuel from beyond this universe. Flickering eyepieces see less of what is, and more of what is to come. Armour plating shimmered into and out of invisibility, protecting from detection – not destruction.

It rose, steady, and shook my now-frail hand. Behind the eyes which looked beyond me I caught a glimpse of the blindingly bright intelligence I had bestowed it with.

“You are the last of the Hephaestus Automata. Serve well.”

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