As one of the mechanical race known as the boltedkindred, Johnny Rivet has the curiosity to seek out reasons for the cold war separating him from his human friend, Rebecca.
Johnny is used to being feared. He has his own fears, though: the unfinished men, people with eyes like dark ink pools and paper skin masquerading as humans. These creatures burn with an irrational hatred of the boltedkindred who share their city, a crumbling alternate-1950s metropolis with futuristic technology. When Johnny and Rebecca are together, the eyes of the unfinished men follow.
No one else notices the faces the unfinished men wear aren’t fully human. No one else sees the city is breaking down.
Together, Johnny and Rebecca notice, and they want to know why. They unite to stop the cold war before it erupts into a violent inferno—and find they’ll have to leave home to do so.
First 250 words:
There was a time when the only questions I’d been preoccupied with were the tiniest mysteries of the universe, questions that fascinated but were never a matter life or death. Why does the rose bloom? How does the bumblebee fly? Never questions like, Who are the unfinished men? What do they get out of destroying the boltedkindred?
Because I couldn’t see them for what they were yet, creatures only masquerading as humans. Now, thinking of the ink-dark, sightless-looking pits of their eyes sent an unconscious sharp impulse of nervous energy looping through my thoughts.
But back then, I would spend hours in our garden watching bees and calculating their flight paths; it was my version of daydreaming or cloud-watching. Bees moved from one brilliant merlot-colored rose to the next while numbers streamed languidly through my brain. Happiness sparked in me, warm and pleasurable.
I spent vast hours and countless lazy days dwelling on the golden ratio or the flight of the bumblebee. According to the myth, science said bumblebees couldn’t fly. Apparently the wings didn’t have enough lift to support the weight of the bee.
But it wasn’t true. The flight of the bumblebee was complicated, certainly, but with the right model, it all computed.
Me, though? Thus far, my existence didn’t compute, and that made me a fearsome creature.
I liked watching bees because I loved knowing that there were mysteries of science that were far less complicated than they initially seemed. It gave me hope, reminding me that maybe one day my own people would make total sense to humans.