Cora crawled up to the perch by her bedroom, where she could see the stars from her perch. A thousand glittering diamonds that fell down to be her friends. A moon hung low and large in the sky; it had just finished the lunar cycle the previous night. Now, it had waned slightly. She pulled a blanket over herself, and tried to stop her teeth from chattering. The days had passed so quickly since she had last spoken to the moon. Days filled with cleaning, cooking, and other household chores had exhausted and bored her for too long. Today was her birthday. Her mother and father had left her alone in the house at her request, only returning around 5 to eat cake.
She smiled, thinking about all that she had done. Tiny scraps of wires and metal littered her bedroom floor, and she made a mental note to deftly evade the metal scraps. Now, it did not matter. Now, all that mattered was the gorgeous moon in all its glory and the splashes of stars that accompanied it. Cora balanced a tiny robot on her leg, screwing in the last screw. It had gangly arms that dragged down, a lumpy chassis, and it would spark up erratically. Cora was careful enough to wear gloves and long pants while working with the robot, and she made sure she was always in close proximity to water.
"Moon in the sky," she whispered the lyrics to the song, "Sky in my heart." She stopped singing, blushing when she heard her voice echo around the atmosphere around her. She sounded awful, and was glad for once in her life no one knew her too well. They'd surely laugh at her for her scratchy and high pitched voice, the same way they often pointed at each other in a disparaging way and just laughed. She found it odd, but perhaps it was just tradition. She wouldn't know. Cora slid her fingers over the scratched chassis of her robot, her fingers grazing every screw.
"I think I'd call you Citlali," Cora smiled fondly at her tiny robot, "After the stars in the sky. Maybe someday I'll be talented enough to create you. Ma says 'citlali' is a word for star in an old, dead language. These days we only speak English. They forbade us from learning any other language. It's an old language, much older than even French! From Nahuatl, Ma says. I asked her how she knew, but she didn't say anything. Citlali would be a fitting name for you, my dear robot. Maybe you and I could be friends."
Cora frowned. Years of being all alone must have made her a little eccentric, she thought to herself. Every book she read, the characters that spoke to inanimate objects were a little odd. She stared down at the robot, a small red tint forming on her cheeks. Perhaps she was going insane. She sighed, looking up at the moon again. It was the only constant in her life, appearing almost every night except on dark nights. Those nights scared her the most. Cora drew her legs closer to herself, grasping the blanket tightly. The moon stared down at her, and she stared back.
"Oh, moon," she whispered, "I've been alone for 18 years. Send me a friend!" The wind did not move ominously. The stars did not twinkle endearingly. Everything was exactly the same, as if she had never wished anything at all. Then it all changed. The wind didn't howl, and the stars did not twinkle, but something was different. Cora could feel it in her bones, feel it travelling up and down her spine. It was a tingling feeling, almost like the feeling right after surviving a particularly scary fall. A sudden relief that washed over her, causing her heart to stop and then start again instantaneously.
Her hands! Once a tan color, and now all of a sudden grey! Cool, grey, metal! She could feel her blood turning to air, her skin turning to metal, her bones turning into pipes and the muscles wrapped around it turned to wires. Power coursed through her, and she found her other hand connecting to the back of Citlali's chassis. She drew her hand away before it connected completely, and gasped in shock as her hand slowly merged with the air around it. She could feel each molecule that belonged solely to her; they had already travelled many galaxies away through people and plants and other things her mind couldn't even bear to describe.
In one second, a century passed as every molecule in her dispersed to different places. And then she was back, only the faintest memories of all she had learned remaining. The quiet lull from a lullaby before the Oculus War. A few sputtering facts that seemed more false than true. She had felt other people's emotions, seen through other people's eyes, everything in just that one second. She stood staring at space, the most distinct memory in her mind. A pair of gorgeous green eyes turned into millions more. And then dark, black eyes. Not even brown anymore, but a terrible black.
Cora let out a gasp as her body returned to normal. Other green eyes. She wasn't the only one.
She crawled back into bed, her arms barely grazing her blanket. If she focused very hard, her hand sort of morphed into the same color but something about the texture was missing. Her hand still felt like skin over meat and bones, not like the silky fabric of her blanket.
She'd have to tell Ma and Pa about this. And those piercing black eyes that seemed so incredibly dark. They looked so dangerous, as if they had seen her. Known who she was. A shiver ran down her spine. No one was allowed to know who she was, not even her own grandparents or aunts and uncles. She wasn't even sure if she had aunts and uncles.
With a sigh, she rested her head on her pillow and tried to fall asleep again.
Fsst. Fsst. She carefully raised her head again, her eyebrows furrowed in apprehension. She always turned off all the cameras before she went to bed. Fsst. The electric sounds continued. Fssssst. Fsst. A spark brightened the room for a second before it was dark again. FSST. Another flash.
"Hello?" Cora called out quietly, "Ma? Pa?" No sound.
Fssst. Fssst. Beep. Beep. Fsssst.
"Hello," a voice replied, robotic and familiar. It took Cora a few moments to register that the voice was hers. But…she hadn't even opened her mouth. Who was imitating her voice.
"Hello. Hello," the voice got slightly louder and more confident.
"Shhh!" Cora hissed instinctively. There was no way she was going to get caught by the Royal Guard by some random imitation of her voice.
"Shhh!" the voice imitated. A whirring of wheels, and suddenly the tiny robot she had been working on came into sight, still hissing. Cora's eyes widened, watching as the robot spun around the room. If the robot was alive, that surely meant her programming had worked! Cora grinned mischievously, her eyes glinting.
"Download Program Droid woman from Internet," Cora ordered, watching in interest as the little robot whirred around to face her.
"Download Program Droid woman from Internet," the robot repeated, "Downloading Program Cyborg from Internet. 20 minutes remaining. 19 minutes remaining. 16 minutes remaining. 18 minutes remaining."
"Turn off sound," Cora rolled her eyes in exasperation.
"Turn off sound. Turning off sound," the robot repeated, then went silent save for the whirring of a few gears in her. Cora watched in interest as the robot spun around to take in her surroundings as the tiny clock on her face slowly counted down the minutes to download.
A green download complete flashed on the screen as soon as the download finished, and the robot's voice slowly returned, a little bit different.
"Hello, human," the robot spoke in a higher pitched voice now, "Please say my name."
"Citlali," Cora breathed, her eyes wide in anticipation.
"Please state your name."
"Cora," Cora said slowly. They couldn't possibly track her down. There were other Coras in other sections. It was a rather popular name.
"Hello, Cora. My name's Citlali. Of course you would know that, because you named me," the Droid spoke, a hint of sarcasm in her voice.
"How...how do you work?" Cora asked, her eyes wide in anticipation.
"I work well."
"That's lovely," Cora answered, raising an eyebrow.
"I know right?" Citlali giggled, clapping its tiny robot arms. Cling! Cling!
"So what can you do?" Cora asked again, studying the little robot. Her sensors changed colors as her thought processing module loaded. The robot didn't have eyes, instead it had a thin bar scanner that seemed to sense sound and general waves.
"Lots of things," Citlali answered, once again giving a vague response.
"Get me the time, please," Cora asked, staring intently at her little robot.
"It is 3 in the morning. You need to sleep. Goodnight, my dear Creator Cora," Citlali stated.
"You can just call me Cora," Cora yawned, "Goodnight, Lali."