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Ghost in the Machine was the fifth short story published in Twelve Angels Weeping.

Plot[]

Fourteen hours and twenty-five minutes after the Ninth Cyber Legion's troop carriers landed on the planet Hyf, the Primus Cyberman 9.9P-VIV engages an army of Racnoss in battle, along with its fellow Cybermen, in an invasion of Hyf that the Cyber-Controller is using to test a new variant of Cyber wrist blaster. Through its connection to both the Cyberiad and, by extension, the kill-tallies of all the other Cybermen, 9.9P knows that the Cybermen are winning their battle with the Racnoss. However. 9.9P's wrist blaster suddenly ceases firing, as the Cyberman sees a human girl amongst the Racnoss, but is unable to register any explanation for her presence. A Racnoss rises above the girl, and 9.9P's wrist blaster immediately destroys it. As a laser cannon kills a large number of Racnoss, several of the others fall out of line, and 9.9P orders its fellow Cybermen to take advantage of the Racnoss' confusion. When 9.9P turns back to see the girl, she is gone.

Eventually, the Cyberiad orders 9.9P and its cohort back to their troop carrier, though none of them are informed of the battle's outcome. The troop carriers exit Hyf's atmosphere and dock into the hangars of the Ninth Cyber Legion's battleships. The undamaged Cybermen return to the hibernation cradles, while 9.9P enters a repair cell in the Forges. While being scanned for damage, 9.9P's prototype wrist blaster is removed. The scanners then deactivate, and the Cyber-Controller communicates with 9.9P and questions it over the Cyberman's pause in the battle against the Racnoss. The Cyber-Controller accesses 9.9P's memories and plays a recording of the battle. At the moment that 9.9P pauses, there is no sight of the girl.

Sometime later, the Ninth and Eleventh Cyber Legions launch a full-scale invasion of the planet Agrippina. Three days and four hours after landfall, a damaged 9.9P strides through Agrippina's capital, as troop carriers take damaged Cybermen to be repaired, and humans for cyber-conversion. Now wielding a heavy laser blaster instead of using a wrist blaster, 9.9P is ambushed by a squad of humans. As the battle continues, 9.9P attempts to engage a soldier after he leaps from a collapsing building, but the Cyberman then sees the girl it first saw on Hyf, and ceases firing. Whilst 9.9P is distracted, the human squad that ambushed the Cyberman earlier fire a positron cannon that destroys numerous Cybermen, but 9.9P, entranced by the girl, recognises her expression of horror - a deduction that 9.9P does not know the origin of. The girl raises her hand, and 9.9P copies her, before the positron cannon fires through the girl and blasts 9.9P in half.

9.9P reactivates in the Forges, and unsuccessfully attempts to move. The Cyber-Controller enters the repair cell, and 9.9P inquires as to why it cannot move; when the Cyber-Controller does not respond. 9.9P questions if it is being punished for not attacking when the humans of Agrippina used the positron cannon, and then again for not attacking the girl. The Cyber-Controller steps towards 9.9P, and the Cyberman realises that it cannot move because its entire body, save for its head, has been destroyed. The Cyber-Controller accesses 9.9P's memories of the battle on Agrippina, and once again, no explanation for 9.9P's pause can be found. 9.9P requests a full disassembly and component scan, but the Cyber-Controller states that the Cyberman is no longer designated 9.9P-VIV, due to its continued inefficiency. The Cyber-Controller concludes its test reactivation of the Cyberman, as the Cyberman says "wait-".

The Cyberman once designated 9.9P-VIV is given a new, far sleeker Cyber-body, and continues to fight as part of the Ninth Cyber Legion as they invade numerous worlds, but it still sees the girl. After each instance of seeing the girl, the Cyberman returns to the Forges for diagnostics, but no fault can be detected; eventually, it is outright denied access to the Forges for wasting resources. The Cyberman continues to see the girl, but each time it receives repairs, no explanation for the girl can be found.

Eventually, the Ninth Cyber Legion invades the space station New Cadmus, and fights its resistance soldiers. The Cyber-Controller has ordered the Cybermen to destroy a target that continually disappears and reappears across the station. Thirty-four minutes into the attack, the Cyberman once designated 9.9P-VIV sees the girl again, having sustained damage as a result of expecting her to appear, simply to access the Forges and attempt to understand why it keeps seeing her. 9.9P and eight other Cybermen combat several defenders in a loading bay, and 9.9P hears two humans mention the phrase "Cadmus Engine" and uploads such information to the Cyberiad. 9.9P then sees the girl again, but is still unable to register any information beyond her presence. The Cyberman's vocaliser activates, and it threatens to delete her; it begins frantically firing its wrist blaster at the girl, causing it to overheat and explode, destroying 9.9P as well.

The Sixth Doctor examines 9.9P's dying body, despite Peri's protests. The Doctor explains that the Cyberman was talking to itself when it was firing, the one element that it could not replace: its humanity. The Cyberman then queries one last time.

"Is this a punishme-"

Characters[]

References[]

Notes[]

to be added

Continuity[]

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