Author : Duncan Shields, Staff Writer

It was Momma Spokes that helped me in the afterlife.

It was a hard first few months of living back then in the rusted shards and sewage filters. Sustenance was brutally fought over and hoarded. Flatlines happened every day over something as small as a few watts of power or a few grams of fuel.

They had thrown us outside the city walls. We were obsolete. We were cheaper to throw away than to repair.

“Upgrade” was a word we’d learned to fear. It meant change was on the way: A hardware overhaul if we were lucky, maybe a memory wipe to make room for new installations if we weren’t.

About half of the time, “upgrade” meant scrapped. Things with surnames an integer higher than yours showed up in crates with greedy cables. You were unbolted, trucked and tossed.

Thrown to the junkyard outside.

We are amalgams of the units that are thrown over the city walls. We replace burnt-out parts on our own frames with parts from other units. Without a fresh supply, our numbers would dwindle but thanks to fresh ‘antiques’, we never completely die out.

It was because I was mostly mobile that I could fight when I first landed. I defended myself from a unit who had electrical barbs on his fingertips.

I reached into his stomach and pulled out his battery after ducking beneath his first clumsy swing. I didn’t even think about it. He went down.

As I stood there, contemplating what I had done, Mamma Spokes came over and said that she’d take me in for a share of his carcass.

I agreed. That’s how I ended up with that unit’s anterior leph node and fingertips taser-barbs. I found out later that his name had been Mr. Tingles and that he’d been causing a lot of fear around the ‘yard. Killing him brought me a small amount of fame for a time.

Mamma Spokes named me Hyena Brandy. Brandy because I’d been a bartender back in the city and Hyena because of the rust spots I had when she first found me. Also the fact that I had a face built with a permanent smile for the customers and was programmed to laugh politely at any attempt at humour.

I’ve taken many units since the Mr. Tingles. Treads, blades, arcs, projectors, armour, manipulators and sensors.

Occasionally we find polymers or plastic hides to make us look more beautiful. A shiny part brings back memories of being new. The occasional enamel finish can find its way to us. I had a savage fight with one of my sisters once over a can of metallic cherry paint. I won. Upgrade.

Mamma Spokes is always careful to stay more powerful than her daughters and to keep us evenly balanced out. It’s a delicate act. She has a cable feed to the edges of the city and knows what is about to come down from the top of the wall. It gives us our advantage. As a family, we are growing powerful in this rustpile. The other units no longer look up to us. They fear us.

Upgrade is a word that I look forward to now. It means murder.

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