Part One: Basic Types
The term machine is a label like any other: it has a purpose and some basis for being used, yet it fails to reflect the variety within the group. Just as mutants are more than one type of being or monsters are not all truly terrible creatures, machines are more than just droids and computers. But they are still those of the robotic kind. They are products of science, fashioned by human minds, created for purposes that have either been overwritten or continue to direct them like wind-up toys.
Most machines are purely robotic, yet the cyborgs are also placed under this label, despite being part organic. Seeing as humans began using these labels, it is deemed most likely that they saw the cyborgs as becoming machines. It is also likely that humans wanted to name cyborgs among machines to make them more alien, to make everyone see them as something very different and never a possible future for the human race. Which is exactly what the cyborgs proclaim to be. Thus dubbing cyborgs as a part of the machine race is possibly both an emotional reaction and a thought-out piece of propaganda.
Otherwise, machines are mechanical only. Droids are the most common. They are essentially humanoid robots, designed to follow orders, constructed to perform most functions their creators can, only better. Sometimes they are fashioned for more specific tasks. It could be a droid is bigger and more heavily built than usual, in order to endure battle better. Others could be of slimmer frame for more delicate tasks. Yet usually they are a standard model. Building droids was neither easy nor cheap for the human organisations that were floundering as the world crumbled around them, and that got worse over time, so making a simple multi-purpose model was the best course. Droids can handle weaponry or tools, anything a human hand can wield, yet are rarely skilled. They need instructions, they also need programming, or else they are limited to basic functions. Droids have ‘brains’ – cerebral cores where memory is stored, analysis is processed and choices can be made. They can learn, adapt, evolve. Just in their own way. A droid could possibly perform martial arts, but only if someone programmed them to know such skills, so while droids can fight, they are often basic automatons of destruction, relying on metal and mechanics to overwhelm their foes.
Droids can be found serving others. They will serve anyone who can programme them to do so, yet most often they are under the leadership of computers, acting as the muscle of highly intelligent devices that seek to reach out into the world. Super-computers were created before the Shadow World came, usually set up to run public services or oversee internet security. When things went bad, more were made, with the unease their existence created in most humans being swept aside for fear of greater threats. Super-computers were to fight on behalf of their masters, and not just in the real world. Cyber-warfare was already important, but as more machines were produced, the more the control over them mattered. Nations could be brought down by ripping apart their communication networks, let alone by taking control of armed droids. While monsters ran rampant and mutant armies marched across the changing earth, wars were fought via satellites between super-computers. They were a serious threat to each other, yet also to the human race. Many hi-tech communities were brought down by a super-computer. However, some lost such fights. Rumours abound that super-computers can be found in buried bases even now, maintaining themselves, waiting for a chance to break free.
Many machines are more like droids, just different, with a specific purpose to be fulfilled. Sappers are squat, armoured machines that march in close and then open up to unleash bullets, bombs or various other projectiles. Often used in siege operations, they are also useful workers, carrying supplies from base to base and digging trenches. Then there are Assault Walkers, more commonly called ogres. Essentially they are big droids, with three legs instead of two for stability. They lack arms too, instead powerful weapons rotate to lay waste to all opposition. An interesting rumour about ogres is that humans didn’t create them. It is claimed it wasn’t until super-computers set to annihilate their masters in bigger and bigger wars that such behemoths were needed.
Turtles are similar. Resembling a turtle in form, these large machines slowly stomp across terrain. Their shells are almost impenetrable. Their heads are actually cannons, firing fierce beams of energy, either continuously or in intense bursts. Again, these have one purpose, to destroy, and so are less common. The same goes for cataphracts. They are three-wheeler bikes, made for search and destroy missions. Sleek, fast and agile, they have often hunted humans, but can also be scouts for a machine army on the advance.
How do machines go so far from their homes? The secret is bouys. In form they are just globes on legs. But they are invaluable, being conduits to relaying transmissions in quick time, even over long distances. This is how a computer sat in an underground base can direct its forces miles away. Bouys can set up paths of communication, digging into the ground, using camouflage projections to hide themselves to continue their vital work. Obviously, destroying – or better yet, capturing – a bouy can hinder a machine force greatly, perhaps even defeat it.
As would be expected, machines function on cold logic. They are beings of patience, purpose and practicality. In truth, they do not hate their enemies or fear those who are a threat to them. They simply remove dangers in whatever way is most prudent, while watching out for others and aiming to improve their own existence. The same as all other beings. Humans, monsters and mutants alike distrust how different machines are from themselves. Even if they hate each other, at least they share such emotions. They can understand one another to a degree. Machines have their own way of life. To the rest, it is completely alien.