He would appear out of the fog that perpetually rose from the grill plates, and his arrival always brought joy. If he had a name it had been forgotten long ago, for we knew him only by the legends that preceded him. The Stranger. The Mechanic. The Sysadmin. The lone wanderer who could pass between the tiered levels of the arcology and slip through the Guardians' security partitions undetected. Clad in his long coat of many pockets and carrying the oversized satchel, he would always arrive when needed. He could sense when our forbidden machines had gone dark, when the trickle of information that the tribe could draw from our few rigs had dried, when the indicator lights that illuminated our meager hopes of freedom had been extinguished. The tribal elders would thank him for coming to our aid, and swiftly lead him to the hidden innermost cube of our complex. He always went in alone, for none of us dared to gaze upon the empty monitors lest we go mad. We only listened.
The zipper of the satchel would growl open. He spoke to the machines in their lost alphanumeric tongue and tapped commands onto the keypads. The ghosts of dead programs were summoned to do his bidding. We would hear him whisper prayers to the Open Source as he performed alligator-clip bypasses and ritual cleansings of the memory. With rapid keystrokes he delivered healing code to the wounded drives, excised damage left in the wake of viral hordes, and comforted the tortured registries. He scanned, tweaked, and calibrated. Slowly the whir of the fans and the sporadic beeps of the motherboards would grow, followed by the faint pop-swoooooosh of the monitors awakening.
We would offer him money, but he told us most currencies could not be exchanged between the tiers. He would, however, dine with us around the fires, and speak the old myths. These were arcane fables full of windows and apples and worms and cookies and boots. The children would fashion mad parodies of his outfit and wield stray scraps of metal like tools. He would reciprocate by christening them with domain names and bestowing upon them discs full of knowledge and games. To the elders he gave parchments full of passcodes and addresses of other tribes who stood vigil against the Guardians. He would always remind them to back up their work.
And then he was gone, up the scaffold or down a service duct, to bring hope to other tribes in other districts. The elders would quickly retreat to the inner cube to resume their work, leaving others to tend the fires, watch for Guardians, and remove any sign of the stranger's presence. From somewhere we would hear the children singing.