The Automa are free-thinking robotic people who inhabit the world of Partners. They are a mix of genuine AI and human beings who were resurrected after death, their minds transformed into Sandboxes and plugged into frames.
Once upon a time, they were simply known as Nhiloids. After their liberation, however, they found themselves freed from Nhilus' control and able to determine their own destiny. They have largely hidden away from humanity as a policy of isolationism. Widget is a noted Automa.
Automa, being machines, are able to interface with other machines rather fluidly. Whereas a human would have to have some type of input device to interact with a computer, any Automa can interface with a computer system intuitively, given connection. If they are familiar with the operating system, they can fly past confirmation dialogs and GUI elements at a fully optimized speed; if they are unfamiliar with it, they can figure out how to use it with the ease that a human would have figuring out simple tools.
For the Automa, bodies are akin to clothing- something they can take on and off and change as they wish it. Referred to as "frames," their bodies can have any number of designs or components- holographic projectors, extra limbs, transforming vehicle forms, weapons- as long as one of those components is a socket for their Sandbox or AI Core. This also makes damage to their frames trivial, as the only important part is the core. Sandboxes and Fractal Engines use sand engram technology, making them essentially metal bricks full of sand, and as a result, nigh-indestructible outside of extreme measures.
Automa have photographic memories, and with concentrated effort can recall past moments in perfect clarity. They are as a result extremely good at learning new things and following complex instructions. However, they have limited space, and must eventually delete said memories to make room for others, or overwriting will cause "mud," which is essentially robotic dementia. Fractal Engine AI are less susceptible to this, but also tend to be at the mercy of whatever storage media they exist on, and as a result can be even less stable in personality.
They can also activate something called the Genocide Engine. This device, built into their core personalities, emits a field that creates a fear response in post-splice humans, and can, depending on severity, cause anything from concern to outright panicked hallucinations. This has no effect on Pre-Splice Humans or PSYCOs.
Automa are machines and therefore have advantages when sussing out systems and devices, but this does not make them technopaths. The part of their cores that makes them conscious and sapient must ultimately interact with their frames via an internal Adapter that translates those thoughts into universally understood digital signals. They must learn programming in order to program, mechanics in order to build, etc.
They are also able to move and think faster than humanly possible by utilizing the power of the Adapter, but this is known as "Clocking," and can have major consequences. Leaning too hard on the Adapter creates an aggression response in the personality core, driving the Automa in question into a fit of omnicidal rage. The length and severity of this berserker state is directly related to how long and how deeply they Clocked. Doing this repeatedly will damage the core mind, leaving the Automa in question with a fractured personality that will seem schizophrenic and deeply disturbed; the only known fix for this is Raking- a near total deletion of self.
Consciousness is both the most prized and most transitory aspect of Automa life. The reality of having a longer lifespan than one's own ability to support the memories collected over that lifespan have led to a culture of frequent reinvention. Automa are known to change bodies, builds, gender, personality and even names many times over their lives, keeping only a precious few safely isolated memories to cherish. It is unusual to have the same personality over a long time, and doing so requires constant selective raking of partial elements in order to preserve the overall self. Grudges are not held over multiple personalities, as this would be akin to blaming a child for their parents' deeds.
One positive aspect of life is the NeuroNet, on which entire virtual worlds are crafted and information can be pulled nigh-instantly. This is why Automa rarely exchange names out loud- they are already nametagged, so to speak.
Freed from Dr. Nhilus ' control around the time of the fall of The Hammer , they found themselves suddenly with free will and the ability to act upon it. Retreating underground, the freed Nhiloids now branded themselves the "Automa", referencing their now completely autonomous nature and set it upon themselves to live out a life of peace out of the sight of humans.
Unfortunately, this was not to last.
Assisting The Destroyer
Some time after destroying The Hammer, Jacent Danger- known colloquially between Automa as "The Destroyer" for his terrifying ability to plow through their numbers without hesitation- faced increasing public scrutiny for being what amounted to the most powerful human on Earth. After public opinion shifted negatively enough, the US government offered him a choice: Consent to being cryogenically frozen, or find himself public enemy number one. He chose the former, embittered but realistic.
One particular Automa realized this for the soft assassination it was, as cryogenic freezing at this technological juncture was always fatal. Unfortunately, if human opinion of the storied Cap'n Comet was low, Automa opinion of he who had smashed their bodies countless times was even lower. Still, a very few of them recognized that he was at least partially responsible for their freedom, and opined that he deserved better. Through careful manipulation of records, communications, shipment replacements and a little bit of impersonation of government employees, this small group managed to swap the cryogenic unit he was scheduled to inhabit with one containing one of Dr. Nhilus' inventions- a preservative fluid capable of stopping the effects of time on anything encased within it. Usually utilized for storing materials with a short half-life, instead the first unintentional human trial in time stasis was conducted. Jacent's container was 'lost' due to a mix-up with transport trucks, something which the government paid no mind, presuming him dead.
Nhilus' former slaves were more than happy to remain out of sight and mind of humans, remembering the many assaults they had been forced to lead against them. They were unmoved even by the advent of the Skin Plague ravaging the population of Earth. When a desperate human scientist searched through Nhilation Labs for a cure, they merely allowed him to make off with the Gene Forge, an invention which they had no use for. They couldn't have predicted it at the time, but this was Humanity's turning point. Use of the Gene Forge had allowed the few humans left alive- all of whom had huddled into major cities in desperation- to change the next generation's makeup enough to evade the deadly Skin Plague.
This new hope did not remain untainted, however. Competing nationalist powers plotted to indoctrinate their animalesque spawn to carry on the traditions and power structures of their forebears, complete with plans to send nuclear strikes against other nations' survivors so as to solidify this political future. The Automa received this news with great chagrin; it was apparent now that mutually assured destruction might snuff out the only hope of Humanity continuing to survive. With a great deal of debate and internal conflict across many Nhilation Labs locations, eventually it was decided: one last assault would be made against the Humans. The mission? To free them from themselves.
It is unclear what exactly transpired down to the detail. Nuclear arms were permanently destroyed. Already dying pre-splice humans trying to resist were slaughtered mercilessly- a task likely carried out by Nhilus' favorite creation. Young post-splice humans were herded out of cities, watched those cities disappear under the earth via sub-space aperture nodes, and had their memories of their past lives wiped out completely via an exploit in their engineered genetics.
It was at this point that the Automa, their deeds heavy upon them, finally submerged under the earth for what they hoped would be the last time.
The Long Peace
This would begin a time of great peace for the Automa. While Post-Splice Humanity restarted above them, trying to piece together basic technologies, their electronic minds were put to the edification of their own kind. They took names more befitting their personalities and preferences rather than the serial codes they were given. The Codex Machina, a set of laws for all Automa to abide by, was created. Grendel was at one point confined to Jailer, a gear slave whose sole purpose was to securely keep the capricious and destructive force.
It was also during this time that the Automa began to appreciate creativity- art, music, written works and other facets of culture flourished within their society. Artistry became a part of their homes, their lives, their very bodies; a race that once looked homogenous, now varied wildly and enjoyed the fruits of each other's labors for centuries. So connected were they, that a network called the NeuroNet was created, by which they could freely share ideas and information.
Most of the Automa saw the Locksmouth Incident as a strange but interesting new turn in Post-Splice Humanity's evolution and interaction with the greater universe. One group, however, saw the Inked race as a threat to the safety and continued prosperity of the very race of humans they'd once fought to preserve. Crafting bodies made for war and mirroring the features of Natalie's pack, Mixer, Winch, Crunch, Paste and Plaster began utilizing tools of their days as Nhiloids to try to beat back what they see as a quiet invasion of all-consuming alien parasites.
It was during a battle with Nat's pack that Widget surmised they, like she, were disconnected from the NeuroNet and therefore cast out by the larger body of Automa represented by Archimedes.
Mixer's insurrection continues apace now that Natalie and friends have gone missing. In light of this, Archimedes, Clip, Truss & Clutch, among many, many others, have elected to end the policy of isolationism with the help of Lorna Grayswift and others in the hope of putting down the insurgency and extending a hand of friendship out to Post-Splice Humanity and Inklings alike.