One Tiny Voice
rating: +16+x

By Marcelles D. Raynes

Shortly after Yoyo was born, she started asking her Motherboard the hard questions. The young mech was barely a cycle old when she approached the tangled labyrinth of frayed wires and loose circuitry where she (and nearly ever other mech nowadays) were created. The place smelled like burnt copper, a stench that was not aided by the army of rats that dwelled in the crevices of the building where no mech with sense dared crawl. Yoyo had wondered about those rats before but after she witnessed them swiftly and decisively eat through a chunk of solid rock to get to some cheese, she stopped asking about them.

Instead, her thoughts carried her curiosity upward into the night sky where three moons floated lazily, watching over her. She was on the roof of the dilapidated building she called home when her Motherboard approached her on a television monitor carried by thick, black cables.

"Motherboard," Yoyo began, pointing toward the moon that resembled an amalgamation of loose machinery, metal, and LED lights, "Tell me about the moon."

The Motherboard's cables scratched the back of the monitor, confusing Yoyo. Machines were not known to itch.

"My dear little circuit board," The Motherboard began in her hollowed, tinny voice, "That's the One Above All, the MEKHANE."

"Why is IT the One Above All?"

"Because IT's one of the moons, dear."

"Was IT always there?"

"No," The Motherboard said, a loose cable coiling around Yoyo's shoulders, "A long time ago there was a war between these flesh monsters and mechs like us. When it was over, the MEKHANE reformed herself and went into the sky to guide us from above. She guides us like that little voice that's in the back of your head when you're making decisions."

"Wow," Yoyo gasped, letting her amazement hang on the air for a moment, "Then… what's that?"

"What's what?"

Yoyo pointed toward the MEKHANE, drawing the Motherboard's attention to a little way to the right of the mechanical moon. There was a glowing orange light flying through the air, bending with MEKHANE's gravity. The thing was getting larger as it flew through the air. A lot larger, in fact. Yoyo crept toward the roof's edge and watched as a meteor broke through and separated the clouds before crashing a few meters away from the building.

Tremors danced through the ground vigorously, knocking the young mech from atop the roof. She had heard her Motherboard calling her name and saw cables trying to grab at her. By the time Yoyo realized what was happening though, she had fallen two stories and landed on her back.

Yoyo groaned and shook her head. Her optics were scrambled and filled with static, but a quick system diagnosis revealed that her other parts were still roughly where they belonged and still worked well. She thanked MEKHANE silently.

Her Motherboard bulldozed through the door to their home, showering the mech in broken stone and other debris. A thousand cables shot out from the new hole in the building that scooped Yoyo up and cradled her. She was rocked back and forth in the mass of cables for a few minutes before Motherboard's screen crawled up to her.

"My dear, are you okay?"

"I'm fine!" Yoyo yelled, struggling to escape her Motherboard's grasp, "Let me go!"

"But, you could be in need of repairs!"

The grip around Yoyo tightened slightly, causing her physical sensors to light up. The mech yelped, and her Motherboard let her down gently, "I'm sorry."

"Look!" Yoyo said, pointing at the crater that was now where Yoyo's favorite tree once was.

The young mech, with her Motherboard tentatively in tow, approached the crater. The recently formed hill leading to the crater's edge was steep enough that Yoyo had to crawl on her hands and knees to make any progress, and even Motherboard's cables were reaching the last meters of length they had to give. When the pair peered over the edge, they were greeted by the smell of burnt dirt and rotten flesh.

Yoyo gasped when she realized that the meteor was not, in fact, a meteor. The thing that fell from the sky could hardly be considered space debris at all. It had two arms, two legs, and a head similar in shape to Yoyo's own, just made of flesh with hair on top. The thing groaned for a moment before crawling to its knees and coughing up dust. Yoyo stood in shock as she realized she was looking at…

"A human!"

The human in the crater snapped her head toward the two mechs and froze. The dust settled and Yoyo could see more details of the human's face now; she had dark skin and even darker hair, and there was a swathe of cuts and bruises on her body. Her clothes were torn to ribbons with frayed and singed edges. The human scuttled backward from them, stopping when she realized she couldn't climb out of the crater on her hands and knees.

"W-who are you?" Her small voice quivered. Her eyes darted between the two mechs as she asked, a bit louder, "Where's my dad?"

Motherboard and Yoyo shared a look before Yoyo asked, "Dad?"

"M-my…" But before she could finish, the human's eyes glazed over and she slumped into the dirt.

Yoyo stared at her, wondering what to do. One of Motherboard's cables nudged her from behind, "Help her out of there, dear. A hole in the ground is no place to rest for one of their kind."

Yoyo nodded and leaped down into the crater. With a lot of grunting and one great heave, Yoyo flung the human over her shoulder and crawled back out. Together with her Motherboard, the trio returned home.

Kali stirred awake and was blinded immediately. She tried to shield her eyes from whatever harsh light was shining on her, but her muscles refused to cooperate. They were beyond sore. She tried to move her legs but found that they too, were ignoring her commands.

Is this what death is like? The young woman thought, This fucking sucks.

She tried to swallow but her throat was too dry and she coughed instead. Kali bit back a tear.


A moment later Kali heard mechanical whirring from somewhere inside of the white abyss. Her heart began racing as sweat formed on her forehead. She sucked in as much air as she could with each haggard breath she could take.

I can't breathe! I can't-

A tinny voice rang out that said, "Motherboard! I think she's awake!"

"I'm coming, I'm coming. Get that light out of her face sweetheart, you'll damage her optics."

In an instant, the white light was gone, replaced by darkness. Kali's eyes frantically scanned her environment for the source of the voices but found nothing. Eventually, as Kali's eyes adjusted, the darkness brightened up enough for her to get a bearing on her surroundings.

She was in an old, abandoned building laying on some kind of hospital operating table. There was a labyrinth of wires and cables strewn about the floor, and mold on the ceiling above her. A giant lamp hung suspended by… something… directly above her, that was still giving off heat. The place smelled of mildew and despair.

Kali gagged.

A humanoid-looking robot ran up to the side of her bed and took her hand in its hand. Kali tried to scream as pain shot through her entire body, but only a meager "Ack!" escape her lips.

"Oh MEKHANE, I'm sorry!" The robot apologized, gently setting her hand back down, "Is there anything I can do for you? I feel really bad now."

Kali cleared her throat and choked out, "Water."

The robot, whose face was far more intricately designed than Kali thought possible, smiled at her. As it walked away and rounded a corner, Kali made a mental note of how smooth the robot's walk cycle was. She thought about how human the metal face made of welded together iron and steel looked, and how the luminescent glow of its LED lights made the thing seem… like it was feeling emotion.

What the fuck. She thought.

After a while, the robot returned with a glass of clear liquid and handed it to her. She looked down at her mangled arms and then back at the robot. The smile on the robot's face dropped slightly.

"I'm sorry, I've just… I've never seen one of you in person before. Only in books and stories, my Motherboard told me when I was spun up for my first cycle. You're weird."

Before Kali could retort, she felt a cable slither underneath the back of her neck and elevate her head slightly. She strained her eyes to see where the cabling could have possibly come from and panicked when a television with a face on it walked toward her on wires and metal.

"Drink up, dear," The T.V. said, "You've been on a journey I image. There's not much water up in space, is there?"

Kali stared in disbelief at the talking television.

"Should I…?"

The television nodded.

How the fuck can a T.V. nod?

The next thing she knew, the robot had cupped Kali's jaw in its hand and tilted the glass up to her lips. The water felt cool and rejuvenating in her throat. She felt it spread throughout her entire body, and after a moment her muscles felt less sore. With a groan, she sat up.

"What are you?" She asked the television.

The T.V. smiled and extended a cable in her direction, "I'm a caregiver and a Mekhanic in both meanings of the word, but most importantly, I'm a Motherboard. That mech behind you is my daughter, Yoyo."

Kali turned and looked at the robot, who smiled and waved.

"Hi!" The robot said.

Kali couldn't find the words she wanted to say next right away, "Am I dead?"

The television laughed.

How the fuck can a T.V. laugh?

"No, at least, you don't seem like it to me. Based on the humans I've met in the past, you seem rather lively by comparison."

"Then… where is everything? Where are the people? The like, cars and shit. Where the fuck am I?"

It was the robot who answered this question, "You're in my shop, a little ways outside of Haphway. I don't really get on with the people there since, well, the last Custodian died and her daughter took over. But Yoyo can tell you, my children love it there. I think you will too, once you've had enough rest."

"But before you're ready to go, you gotta stay here for a while," The robot, Yoyo, chimed in, "Which means that you have to tell me everything about space. I've never been. What's it like? How long were you up there? Are there humans up there? Did you-"

"Wait hold on," Kali interrupted, "What state are we in?"

"State?" Yoyo answered.

Kali nodded, "Yeah, what state? And can I use your cellphone? I need to call my dad and let him know I'm okay. I can't hear anything anymore and I'm worried about him."

"Oh dear," Motherboard spoke softly as she approached. She wrapped her cables around Kali's midsection like she was giving her a hug, "How long have you been up there?"

"I don't know, what year is it?

"They stopped keeping track after the Calamity," Motherboard answered, "It's… well… I'm guessing it's been a long time since you were on earth last. A… lot has changed. Everything changed. I doubt any regular humans like you are still around. I'm… I'm afraid you might be… it."

Tears started streaming down Kali's face. She felt a lump grow in her throat, and let her head fall into the Motherboard's face. Kali stared at her trembling hands, failing to hold back the river of tears that was leaking out of her eyes.

"I'm it?" She asked.

Neither mech could bring themselves to answer as the human on the table sobbed throughout the night.

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