Theseus awoke to a heavy, riotous whirring noise. Groaning, he turned over. It was way too early to start work! But, inevitably, he heard a clanking knock of a hand on the metal shaft above him. Groaning again, he said, “I’m coming, I’m coming!”
“Faster boy,” came the mechanical reply. Theseus shifted, getting up and stooping low to collect his equipment. He dressed quickly into a long leather jacket that fell to his thighs and placed goggles with a thin red lenses atop his head. Trying to flatten his unruly hair, he stumbled about, eyes blurred from sleep. An another knock rumbled along the metal that held up Theseus' shack, so he quickened his speed. Carefully placing thin sheets of a gold metal across his chest like plates of armour, he stepped out of the shack, ducking to push the wretched rags away. The blinding light of dawn hit him as he stumbled outside. Looking around he saw a line of children in similar apparel stood to attention. Casting shadows around them were two men, broad like trees and menacing in the new sun. A third man stood right in front of him, glaring. His arm was a mottled mess of flesh and black metal, the end of which sat a delicate protrusion of metal, spindly shoots creating and orb, where a red ball of energy throbbed. Across his chest lights and wires gleamed menacingly and his head couldn’t decide whether it was human or robot. The same black metal that dominated his arm fringed his face, centring a deep-socketed, blood-red metallic eye that raked Theseus’ face angrily. He – it – was a cyborg, and he was angry. Ducking under his arm Theseus muttered, “Yes, I’m coming, sorry” and scurried over to where the rest of the children stood.
“You’re late, Theseus, Kerisier is waiting."
A low voice rumbled. Looks of sympathy and contempt mingled among the kids as another cyborg, even bigger than the one that had roused him leant over Theseus, blotting the sun.
“Do you have a reason? Or do you just expect us to wait!?”
“No Kerisier, sir, I…sorry sir…” ignoring the snickers from the larger of the children, he bowed his head, “I…overslept.”
A booming laugh erupted from the cyborg as he leant back into the sky.
“It seems, workers, we have a late-nighter!” Suddenly becoming serious he shot his head forward into Theseus’ face, “One more time… and Terius will have another meal.”
Theseus looked over to where the third cyborg stood. He gulped as the sun reflected against the blades that protruded from his shoulders, and the tangle of metal forming spider like legs below its waist.
“Get back in line, Theseus.” It spat.
He obeyed, and melted into the group of children, controlling his anger.
“Right! I want the Sorters on the collection in the south, Demo's on the main heap and the Scavengers round the ridge! Go! I expect a half-ton of sorted material here by nightfall!"
Kerisier raised his mountainous foot up in the air and brought it down hard into the earth. By the time the dust had cleared no worker remained.
Theseus hurried low down to the Ridge, a humped range of rubbish that circled around the east of the scrapheap. A half-ton! This would normally take twice the time. Kerisier is going to kill me soon enough, he thought. Skidding down to an unoccupied section of the ridge, he slid his thin red skinned goggles onto his eyes, deftly brought a thin welder from his belt and began to sort through the metal, melting off ICPU boards and computing equipment, and any metal deemed useful. It was hard, hot work under the suns, but he sank into a trance-like state soon enough, sorting and piling up metal like the robots who looked over him. He almost didn't notice the glint of gold. It was only when he had tossed them back into the pile did he realise just what he had picked up. He got up, head spinning, and almost dived into the scrap, desperately scrabbling, trying to find them - there. He took them out on his hands staring. In his grubby palms lay six gold coins. It wasn't much to the rich and well off, but to him, it would feed him for weeks! Why were they there; how careless did someone have to be to throw away this much!? Six gold pieces. 50 bronze to a silver, 10 silver to a gold. That was a lot of money! Quivering with excitement, he looked about. No one had noticed his discovery, so, still looking furtively, he slipped the coins into his pocket. It wasn't exactly stealing, he thought. Just, finding. Yes, that's fine. Trying to convince himself, he began working again. The heat of the welder, lulled him back into the stupor of labour, and he didn't give another thought to the coins.
Suddenly, Theseus looked up. The suns that had blinded him through the day had disappeared! He noticed other children picking themselves up from the dirt with groans and piling their metal on the pile that Kerisier was now rifling through. It was dark already!? Theseus got up, bones clicking and muscles complaining from exertion. He took his metal; a jumble of gold, bronze and silver, over to the pile, where Kerisier was already rooting through the pile the other workers had made. Kerisier didn't even look up as he passed, but it didn't stop Theseus from going red. If that cyborg found out about those coins, then Terius was definitely getting another meal. But, Kerisier made no acknowledgement, so he followed the other children and stood to attention in a line. Finally, when the hulking figure was finished with the pile, he got up and addressed the collected, the other two cyborgs standing menacingly behind him.
"Children! Good work, you have collected just over a third of a ton! You will rest tonight!" The assembled sighed with relief. Working through the night was not fun. "As you know, however, the market is coming to Three this evening." Another mumble rushed through the crowd, this time one of excitement. The market was an annual fair that came to every Sector, from Arathorth itself! It took over the town, bringing with it an air of excitement and colour to a usually drab area. Theseus had never been but he had heard stories of the great food, loud music and fine displays of exotic wares. Last year, he remembered watching from his shack longing, staring at the throng of lights and laughter in the distance. He expected to do the same this year. It was an expensive place - some had said that it was one gold piece just to get in! Theseus had not that kind of money! Then, he remembered the weight in his pockets. The coins! He could pay one for the entrance fee, and then he'd have five whole pieces of gold to spend there! This year, Theseus could go to the market! He tried to contain his building excitement."I don't expect any of you will be going, but you may notice a lack of protection tonight. We will be absent." Keriser smiled menacingly. "That is all! Begone with you! I expect you up tomorrow for another full day! Especially you, Theseus!" He spat Theseus' name, and laughed, but Theseus couldn't care. The gold in his pocket protected himself from Kerisier's mocking. "Well? Go!" The children scampered, scurrying back towards there shacks, not saving a second glance for the others. Like morning, when Kerisier's foot came crashing upon the ground, the children were gone.