The Builder
rating: +20+x

The rusted door of the small chapel creaked open as Robert Bumaro stepped in. The head of the Church let out a few heavy breaths, regaining his composure after the long trek. But it was not a dark hall, barely used and covered with spider webs that greeted him. Rather, the dusts that collected over the long years had been cleaned, and the candles around the altar were alight, faintly illuminating the room.

Beneath it, a figure in dark robes knelt, seemingly praying. They were motionless, perhaps too engrossed in their silent chant. Their long hair dripped down onto their robes, which shimmered under the candle light. A low hum could be heard.

Bumaro was alarmed; there shouldn't be anyone at the chapel, for its existence was a secret shared among the few he trusted, and this person was not one he recognized. But the humming assured him that the mechanism installed here was still working. He was alone, with no follower or agent with him, but he had other means of protection here.

As he closed the door behind him, the figure straightened up. The movement came so natural, as if they weren't startled in the slightest, anticipating his arrival all along. Bumaro reassured himself again that this was his place, his territory, and that he had nothing to fear.

"Who is this?" Bumaro demanded in a voice that exerted authority, which he had learned to use through his years as a cult leader. "You don't belong here."

"Is this not a place of the God?" The person's voice carried a unearthly echo, yet it was strangely soothing.

It was indeed, for a complex machinery of brass and steel was placed upon the altar, a humble representation of the Church's deity. And as Bumaro examined it again, he found it to have been newly oiled. All the filth was wiped clean and corroded surfaces were polished anew.

A follower of the Broken God, then, Bumaro thought, and he found the thought reassuring. After the recent failure, it was good to be in the presence of one of the believers again, and he felt slightly more in control.

"Of course, but you should realize that this place is for private gatherings." He then added: "It's good to see someone remain faithful after the recent setback, but I must ask you to take your leave."

"Setback." the person repeated. They made no attempt to move. "Is this what you call it?"

Bumaro felt a sudden surge of frustration. As if it wasn't enough that his life's work had gone to waste. "Listen, I have no time for this, and I will not let you speak ill of the Church or the God. Do you even know who you're speaking to?"

"I know exactly who you are, 'father'." It was the same flat voice that answered him.

Somewhat angered by the indifference of this stranger, Bumaro took a few steps forward. But almost immediately, he was taken aback, as the candle light now illuminated the figure much better. Their hair was no hair at all, but strings of iron or steel, impossibly thin, which reflected the wavering flames of the candle. Black robes shifted to reveal burnished brass instead of skin.

Bumaro made a small gasp, and almost lost his footing. At the same time, the stranger decided to get up and face him, and as they turned, Bumaro's brain finally registered what he was looking at.

The person was no human at all. They were an automaton, a mechanical wonder. Even under the dim light, the fine details were impossible to miss. The brass that composed their skin sealed away the clockwork inside and every joint fit together perfectly. Their face was the most human-like he had ever seen; crystal eyes capable of turning and even blinking. He realized in horror that the humming sound he was hearing was not coming from the machine he put here years ago, but from the metallic being before him.

Was this once a human? Compared with this, the "augmentations" his Church offered seemed crude, graceless, even barbaric.

"Impossible." Bumaro's voice was shaking.

But the person disregarded him. "Do you realize what you have wrought?"

"No, listen." Bumaro stammered, trying to put his thoughts together. "I, I had no idea! This is a miracle, you are a miracle! With this, you and I, we can put the Church back onto its feet again. People will have faith again."

"Is this what the Broken One is for you? An instrument for the Church?" The person's voice was still monotone. Their expression was blank, but their eyes stared intently.

"It was merely a mistake, a mistake that can be corrected!" Authority had long gone from Bumaro's voice, replaced by awe and desperation. "Join me, and we can build the god again."

"No more." The person closed their eyes, as if in pain. Their hand clutched at their chest, trying to get ahold of something inside. "All you did was bring suffering and loss. Even now, I feel the anguished cries of the Broken One – more broken than ever. Can you even understand what you have done?"

"Listen, you must understand, I—" Bumaro attempted again, but another voice interrupted him.

"You can give up now, Prophet. This man is a fool, and knows not what he's meddling with." Another mechanical voice, this time much sharper, grittier.

He turned to see that two other people stepped out of the darkness of the shadow. His eyes widened as he saw another automaton, adorning a red robe, more heavy and crude in design. No attempt was made to hide the metallic skull and the clockwork underneath, making her resemble the dead more than the living. Heavy chains were mounted at the back of her head, sharp teeth were exposed with no lips to cover them, and aperture-like eyes stared right out of the eye sockets, though not at him.

The man with her was noticably lanky, and wore a clean white suit. He was still flesh and blood, yet carried an eerie aura. Perhaps it was because his face was locked in a neutral expression, his eyes unblinking. It felt as if he was less alive than the two automata of bronze and steel.

It took Bumaro a moment to realize that one of the woman's hands was a sharp blade, and yet another moment to realize that she had raised it, coming towards him. He let out a small whimper.

"We cannot afford unwanted attention." The other man said flatly towards the woman. "The basement of this structure may be suitable for this situation."

"No." The Prophet raised a hand to stop them. "He is here to face judgment, not torture."

"Judgement?! No. No!" Bumaro yelled, anger washing over fear as he regained some courage. "This is my place, my chapel! Whatever you are, however you think of yourself and the God, how dare you even imply that! I am Robert Bumaro, dispatch the intruders!"

As he shouted out the command, the machine he had imbedded here, the one he built alongside the building, let out a loud shriek. Then the ticking started and one gear moved the next. Despite the long years of inactivity and rust, it still worked. It was his proudest work and, of course, he had saved it for himself.

Walls were parted, and the predesigned traps were all up. Only he would get out alive; even bodies of steel and brass could not possibly bear this. There was a release of steam and a chorus of ticking, as if the machine was answering to him triumphantly.

But then, it stopped. Silence fell once more, except for the humming from the automata.

He noticed that the woman was staring at the parts of the machine that exposed itself. inexplicably, he understood that it was not his machine that had malfunctioned; it was her that willed it to stop. She looked back at him, and he felt only contempt from the expressionless face.

She grabbed Bumaro by the collar. The Prophet shook their head; the other man remained still and watched.

"No! You can't do this to me!" he yelled in desperation. "We are all followers of the Broken God, is that not true? I can help you, my followers can help you. Yes, my followers, they still trust me, they only trust me! You can't just take over, the Church would be in disarray. But I can help you, you don't need to do this!"

The woman let out a wave of steam from her mouth, seemingly displeased. Nevertheless, she halted her blade. Bumaro felt hopeful as the Prophet was obviously also considering it.

"May I suggest," the man in the suit spoke. "A full conversion is almost unheard of among the believers of the Church. Any physical and mental changes could be ascribed to the enlightenment of God; and that would be what we tell the followers."

Silence fell again, as Bumaro's thoughts turned, implications sinking in.

"No… no. No! You can't do that!" Bumaro's voice turned from barely a whisper to a desperate cry.

"Can it be done?" The Prophet asked.

"It should work," The woman answered. "You were in need of an identity, after all."

"Very well."

"No, no! I'm Father Robert Bumaro, leader of the Church! I built the God!" But he was no longer whom he claimed to be.

Robert Bumaro came to the altar, and knelt down once again. His long silver hair shimmered in the candle light. The other two witnessed as the leader of the Church swore his oath before the God; the now nameless man cried and begged but his voice was disregarded.

“I, Robert Bumaro,” he said in a mechanical monotone, “swore to remake the Broken Church, and built the God as she should have been.”

“May we break the Flesh,” she said.

“May the God be whole,” he said.

Bumaro nodded as both the man and the woman bowed to him.

The nameless priest was dragged down into the basement of chapel he once owned, still yelling and kicking, crying the names of God. The woman paid him no mind, and the two men watched silently. His voice shouted out prayers to the Broken One which soon turned into curses. Soon, the yelling stopped and there was no screaming.

"I will need to tend to Her pieces." The suited man said, "I must take my leave now; some could notice my absence."

"Of course, doctor."

As both sets of footsteps led out of the chapel, Bumaro was left alone once more. So he kneeled in front of the altar, closed his eyes, and began his prayers again.

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