Jora trudged through the mud toward the light of a domed city. The rain was coming down in sheets, but this was not such a concern for her. She was a Journeywoman Machinist, soon to ascend to her Mastery. If she could not manipulate the physical world in such a way as to keep the rain off her, she needed to go back with the apprentices. One booted foot became stuck in the mud, and she scowled. She briefly considered just stopping the rain altogether and drying up the road, but she contented herself with drying only that mud that held her boot. Any machinist past the first year of their apprenticeship knew how to alter simple weather patterns. It took the wisdom of the higher ranks to know they shouldn’t.
The universe was a complex machine, or so the Machinists believed. Each aspect of the universe -time, space, etc- was simply a cog in the machine. God, that vast omniscient and unknowable intelligence, was the universe’s operating system and information was its fuel. More appropriately, the exchange of information, and the complexity of that exchange, provided the universal machine with its fuel. This exchange could take the form of communication between sentient beings, instinctive autonomous warnings between animals, or even the passing of genetic information between one cell and another. From the very beginning of their training, Machinists learned to take the machine apart, to understand how all its moving parts worked, and to manipulate those parts by adding, however small, their own code to the God OS, and introducing new information to the fuel mixture.
As a Machinist learned to manipulate each aspect of the universe, a symbolic cog would be tattooed on their arm. Once an apprentice showed their understanding of God itself, and could grasp the underlying source code of the universe, a final tattoo was added - the symbol for God they saw at their moment of revelation. Jora’s God symbol was the triple-moon and pentacle of the goddess-worshippers. It had been her faith as a young girl, and many Machinists used their primary faiths to decrypt the God Code. Of course, all Machinists knew their old myths and dogmas were just that - stories and rules to enable the common folk to touch the smallest measure of Universal Truth. So, while she may have the Goddess’ symbol tattooed on her arm, Jora did not actually believe that God was a woman who lived on the moon, blessing the crops and the wombs of young women. One of her fellow Journeymen, a man named Carthas, had the crossed spikes of the Tortured Messiah as his symbol, though he did not believe that God was a magical shepherd who died under torture to redeem the sins of humankind. They were just stories and symbols. The real truth was found in the Code.
The road changed from mud to a metallic alloy made slick by the rain. She walked the rest of the way to the towering double doors built into the base of the massive dome. The dome indicated one of the scattered cities of the Robotmen, that strange race of silicon people from beyond the stars that had attempted to conquer their world many years ago. The Machinists were instrumental in resisting the invasion, as well as the tense negotiations that established a still-fragile peace between humanity and the remaining robotic colonists. This, combined with a similarity in their belief systems, created a strong rapport between the Machinists and the Robotmen that lasted to this day.
Jora paused before pressing the button that would alert those within the dome of her presence. The cities of the Robotmen were all domed, due to the fact that the atmosphere preferred by the Robotmen was toxic to humans, and vice-versa. Robotmen donned protective armor when leaving their cities, while humans simply stayed out of the domes. The Machinists were the only humans capable of surviving within the domed cities of the Robotmen, but not without certain modifications. Jora concentrated, and felt a thin silicate film cover her from head to toe, under her clothes, over her eyes, and inside her ears, nose and throat. The film would enable her to endure their environment without suffocating or having her skin and tissues dissolve. She gagged slightly as the film made its way down into her stomach and lungs. It would process the poisons of the Robotmen’s atmosphere into breathable air, and would break down any particulates she might swallow by accident. She would not be able to eat until she left the dome and removed her protective film, but she did not anticipate a lengthy visit. She would have preferred not to be here at all, but it had been many years since the Robotmen had granted an audience to any humans, and far longer still since they had sought one out. Jora was convinced they’d sent her as a final test for her Mastery, so she was determined to make a good showing of herself. Taking a deep breath, which hurt slightly through the film, she pressed the button.