Mech6.0 stood against the hangar’s charging wall, one of hundreds of mute sentinels watching the passengers flutter by with their hovering luggage carts and excited chatter. Before her, the massive Triton hunkered imposingly in the center of the hangar, dwarfing the crowd, as greeters scanned the ID chips of their guests and ushered them aboard. A ship’s maiden voyage was always a festive occasion, but this one seemed more vibrant than usual, as the Triton was about to set the record for largest cruiser to ever be launched. Waiters were passing glasses of champagne to the passengers as they boarded and had their belongings escorted away, women were donning their finest kimonos and hanbok and cocktail gowns, and even a live band had been hired for the entertainment.
Against the festive backdrop, the ship itself appeared menacing to Mech6.0, with its polished metal paneling and small round windows glinting beneath the hangar lights. It hadn’t seemed so big when she’d been working on it, running wires, soldering frame pieces, and screwing on protective paneling. At the time, she’d almost felt like she and her brethren were a part of this enormous metal beast. A thousand tiny moving pieces making one efficient machine. But now the result of their labors was ready to set sail, and she no longer felt attached to it at all. Only dwarfed by its magnificence.
And perhaps a little abandoned.
As the guests giggled and chattered and discussed how many space cruises they’d been on before, the beauty of the new ship, and all the comforts the ads had promised, Mech6.0 watched and listened. The thrumming of electricity warmed her insides.
“All aboard! Triton to debark in six minutes. Six-minute warning! All aboard!”
The crowd dwindled. The monotonous beep of the ID scanners trickled to an occasional, sparse rhythm. One ramp rose up to the ship, closing with a thud that vibrated through the hangar floors and up Mech6.0’s treads—then two ramps, then three.
“Wait!” A woman’s voice echoed through the hangar, followed by the hasty padding of feet. “We’re coming! We’re here,” she said, breathlessly dragging a young girl behind her.
“Just in time,” said one of the greeters, scanning the woman’s wrist. “Up you go.”
She thanked him profusely and pushed a lock of messy hair off her face. Retightening her grip on the girl’s wrist, she gave her floating hover-cart a push and jogged up the ramp.
Mech6.0’s scanner caught on something small and flat as it dislodged from the young girl’s backpack and fluttered down toward the greeter, who didn’t notice. Her programming alerted her to the incongruence, and she shuffled through proper responses.
If she found something that a human had lost, she was to return it.
But she was not to interrupt the boarding process, particularly once the captain had called for the ship to be sealed and prepared for takeoff.
As soon as the ramp began to rise off the ground, Mech6.0 knew that her opportunity to return the lost item to the girl was gone. She kept her scanner pinned to that small card until the ramp tilted up and up, and the card slipped off and came spinning and twirling through the air. Past the greeters that were already pulling back the ropes for the ticketing lines, past the statuesque forms of her brothers and sisters, past the hired musicians, until it landed against Mech6.0’s own treads and stuck there.
The roar of the ship’s engines pulled her attention back toward the Triton and her scanner lifted up and up as the hangar ceiling began to open. The gears cranked and rumbled, revealing first a teasing hint of moonlight, and then a gap filled with stars. Then, slowly, an entire galaxy opened up above the hangar.
It was beautiful. Mech6.0 loved this moment—anticipated it every time they completed a new project and prepared to send it off into the sky. That short glimpse of the galaxy was not like anything else in her world, a world that was normally filled with mechanics and tools and the dark, shadowy spaces inside a quiet, lonely spaceship.
The galaxy, she had come to understand, was vast and bright and endless.
A surge of electricity startled Mech6.0, like a spark straight to the processor that was protected beneath her torso paneling. Startled, she turned her head to peer down the line of identical androids—to her left first and then to her right.
Not only did they not seem to have felt the sudden surge, but none of them were even looking up at the sky. Stiff and un-curious, they remained staring straight ahead.
Mech6.0 returned her attention to the ship, as it rose up off the ground and hovered on the magnetic field beneath the hangar. The thrusters burned white hot for a moment, and the ship rose higher and higher, breaching the ceiling before it swooped gracefully up toward the starry night sky and disappeared.
As the cheers died out and the crowd began to disperse, the musicians began packing up their instruments. The enormous ceiling lowered in on itself and clanged, shutting them in tight again and, not long after the space had cleared, the lights shut off with three loud bangs, plunging the mech-droids into pitch blackness and silence.
Four minutes passed, in which Mech6.0 was still remembering the view of the stars, which she knew were somehow always there and yet always out of her reach, before she remembered the girl’s lost card.
Her sensor light flickered on, creating a circle of pale blue light around her. Her neighbors swiveled their heads, perhaps in curiosity, but more likely in disapproval, but she ignored them as she cast the scanner down toward her treads. Extending her arm, she pinched the card between her padded grippers and held it up.
It was thin, but stiff, like a sheet of aluminum, and one side was scrolled in fancy, shiny lettering: Celebrity Holos, Collector’s Set, 39th Edition, 124 T.E.
She turned the card over and a flickering, pale holograph rose up from it and began to rotate. She was looking at the likeness of a teenage boy with shaggy black hair and a relaxed smile. He seemed vaguely familiar.
Mech6.0 felt her fan stutter in an odd way, and wondered if there might be something wrong with her internals. If this kept up, she was going to have to alert the maintenance mechanic. But this thought was fleeting as she opened the hollow storage compartment on her abdomen and tucked the holographic card inside. Maybe she would return it one day, she considered, although her statistical calculations told her that it would probably never happen.
YOU ARE READING
The Little AndroidShort Story
The Little Android is a retelling of The Little Mermaid, set in the world of The Lunar Chronicles by New York Times-bestselling author Marissa Meyer. When android Mech6.0 saves the life of a handsome hardware engineer, her body is destroyed and her...