Bot smasher Nakato dedicated her life to taking the broken tech other people had abandoned and turning it into robots designs that the world had never seen. Only two things drew her from her home high in the Web: her best friend Rafah and commissions for customers she liked.
Those two things drew Nakato out of her comfortable rut when a commission for prosthetic arms for the orca War Tooth revealed just how much she had left to learn at the same time that Rafah fell into an abusive relationship that threatened her very life.
Mods is a thrilling cyberpunk story set in the Mouse and Snake universe that’s sure to excite.
By Meyari McFarland
Nakato stretched, her spine popping. Her nest was quiet. Better be given how much she’d paid to soundproof the spherical walls when she added on her workshop. Thick white sheets of insulation hung between radiating struts that supported the nest’s shell. Her tiny living area wasn’t half as quiet or secure, only having a fiberglass shell instead of synth and the lightest of insulation between shell and struts. Didn’t really need to be ‘perfect’ for Nakato. After all, it was just a place to sleep and keep Nakato’s meager supply of clothes, food and overflow tools.
It was her workshop that counted. She smiled as she looked around, working her shoulders and shaking her wrists to get rid of some of the ache from hours of close work. Thirty feet diameter, solidest walls possible, insulated perfectly; Nakato’s workshop was a top of the line nest suited for a family of six. It was perfect. The anchors she’d had installed to hold it in place were best on the market, too, and she’d had the place wired with the best computer system there was.
Nakato would live in here if it wouldn’t displace her tools and supplies. Shelves curved around the walls from floor to ceiling, secured between the heavy struts supporting the spherical shell. Each shelf held carefully secured boxes of parts, tools and completed sample bots she’d made for testing purposes. The only place that was open was the floor that dropped open so that Nakato could lower her bigger bots down when it was time for delivery. Wasn’t sure how that’d work when it was time to test her new orca-bot but Nakato’d figure out when it was time.
At this time of day, hours before dawn on a day that promised to be blustery early and clear later on in the afternoon, there wasn’t another person around outside. Or inside. She didn’t let many people into her workshop which might explain the persistent smell of sweat, grease and fried electronics. Every time Rafah came over her nose wrinkled as if she couldn’t stand the stink.
“Shows what she knows,” Nakato muttered as she slid backwards along the gentle curve of the nest’s floor towards the drain. It took her out of the slowly forming orca-bot’s shell. “Her place always stinks of pollen and wet soil.”
Her back cracked again as Nakato rolled to her feet. There was nothing worse than kneeling inside of a bot as she hooked up its nervous system. Always made her wish for that beautiful lab on the mainland that the big multinational corps tempted her with. Solid ground, no nest shifting in the wind, enough support structure that she could build her dream horse-bot and then enough room that she could ride it as it tested its functions out. She snorted and grinned, tasting dripped lubricating oil on her lips.
“Keep dreaming, girl,” Nakato said, amused.
It wasn’t going to happen. Maybe for Rafah, not that she’d ever leave her cozy little nest perched high in the upper levels of the Web amidst the grapevine and blackberry brambles. Rafah was small and sweet, cute in her sometimes-worn, sometimes-not, hijab. Nakato was never going to be anything other than a big bot-smashing black girl to the land-dwellers, no matter how many awards she won for her AI work.
“That’s fine,” Nakato murmured as she took her welding glasses off and shoved them into her hair without regard for whether they had oil on them or not. “Rather bash my bots out here and do people some good than be a corporate slave creating war-bots to be destroyed.”
*You always talk to yourself?*
Nakato jerked as she whirled towards the still-sealed door. No one was there. The seal around the door, the security system that Rafah’s mother had helped Nakato design, was still green all the way around. She frowned. No one could have gotten past her security system so what the hell?
No one could have snuck in. Nakato wasn’t half as oblivious as Rafah when she worked. She would have noticed someone physically entering. Even if they’d hidden on the shelves built into the walls, tucked themselves behind the carefully organized bot parts, Nakato would have seen them. She’d designed the workshop shelves to make it impossible for anyone to jump her, after all. Not going through that again.
That meant someone had hacked her system. Whoever it was, was watching her on her system feeds. Or they’d hacked her personal cybernetic mods, the eye mods that let her see to microscopic detail, the computer linkups that let her tap directly into bot programming with her mind. If they’d gotten into Nakato’s body mods then she was fucked, even with the firewalls she had around her brain implants.
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