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Challenge #01259-C164: Loss and Hope

1) Australia's Eurovision entry this year

2) Pick a random Eurovision song - pre-2010 -- Anon Guest

[AN: This takes the gap count down to 10. The two I used for inspiration are 1) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5ymFX91HwM0 and 2) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C5VvsLEd1TI]

1)

She didn't understand what was happening. It had been something of a whirlwind and her processors were still trying to catch up. Spots of imagery burned themselves into her thoughts as she clung to the only portrait of Maman that she'd been able to keep for nearly one hundred years.

Bitzer huddled into the corner of the room. The last time she had seen so much space, it had been full of people and a carnival atmosphere and nobody cared that she was an automaton. But that had been 1988.

This space, in 2016, was dingy and grimy. Bare and depressing. If light came here, it came as an invader. Harsh. Revealing all secrets. And the people who came into the room to look at her or yell at her were angry.

So much so that the next person to enter the room, regardless of how carefully they did so, made her whimper and flinch.

"I'm sorry," she said. "I don't-I don't know what I did, but I'm-but I'm-but I'm-but I'm sorry. As soon-as soon as I know-know-know-know-know what-what it was, I'll stop it. I promise."

"You haven't done anything wrong," said the newest invader.

"Can I go home? I want to go home. Maman could have come back and she might have missed me." The grinding noise of the crane they had used to get her out of the cellar stuck in her mind and she flinched away from it. "I need-I need-I need-I need repairs."

Two noises as some things were added to the table. One container of water. One container of mechanical oil. Bright words on one side said that the oil was PREMIUM PROTECTION.

"They don't know what to do with you," said the newcomer. She was dark like Maman, but far too tall and far too wide to be anything else like her. And her hair was short. "There's quite the legal tangle, now."

"I'm sorry," said Bitzer automatically. "I don't-I don't want trouble. I could... I could go away?"

"That wouldn't solve anything." She sat at the table and opened a folder. "Ever since your pictures went out on the news, we've had people contacting us about you. What were you doing at Expo 88?"

Stories unfolded, as they do. Bitzer's grand day out and Sarge's vanishing. The current conundrum of a man who purchased the Arist house off of the last descendant, with a mind to turning it into a business... A man who had no idea that he had also purchased a huge volume of absently-stored antiquities and one mostly-clockwork, steam-powered automaton.

Her existence did not fit with his plans.

People wanted to take her apart and extract the gold and her opal heart. People wanted to take her apart to see how she worked. People wanted to take her apart and put better parts in her, and show her around like a performing animal.

Bitzer insisted that all they had to do was find Maman. Plaesir Gloria Arist. She would sort everything out. And everything would be better.

By the time the oil was gone, the police people put Bitzer in Holding. She wasn't people, so she didn't get a cell. She was a thing, so she got a patch of space on a shelf, and someone to make sure she got oil every day.

The dark and the quiet had no fears for her. What hurt the most was that there weren't any windows. There was no daylight. There were no children outside to sing songs to in the dark.

All she had was her photograph and the silence and the hope that Maman would still be able to find her.

2)

Bitzer liked to be helpful. It wasn't long before she was allowed to roam Holding. She became familiar with the system, and the boxes and serial numbers. She often hovered over various Detectives' shoulders as they went through the things.

And sometimes, very rarely, she was helpful in solving a problem they had.

And then they brought in another automaton.

They were genderless, and very broken, and couldn't talk. They were made the size of a child, and had some funny holes that Bitzer lacked. And yet, the poor thing was still operational.

Bitzer gave the machine comfort. And made clothes to fit out of things that the Detectives said were okay. Especially underpants to cover over those strange, strange holes. And, when the Detectives said it was all right, helped repair the automaton child.

She read to them, of course, because reading to children was important. The funny and happy stories from confiscated books. Not the bad folios with the horrible pictures with lots of red paint[1].

The automaton child had never been made to have a voice, and spoke with their hands. A language Bitzer could never really get the hang of. Compromise came with an electronic tablet. Tickle - they communicated their name rather promptly - told stories of a bad owner who had done things with them that made them want to shut down forever.

Those times were over, now. Bitzer had not been ready to be a mother, but found that she was reasonably good at it. Even the Detectives filed them together on the shelves so that neither of them gave the poor night watchman the horrors by seeking the other out.

They had each other, and a surprising amount of things to read or play with. And they made their near-life in Holding so much better just by being there. It was another reason to keep going.

[1] The police didn't tell her it was blood.

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