This is a short, Pre-Cinder one shot I decided to write. It’s nothing much, super short…but I thought I’d post it anyway.
It’s called Metal Hand.
It was hot. Sweltering, all-you-want-to-do-is-sit-inside hot.
And Cinder was sitting outside, the little red warning light flickering at the corner of her vision. The inside of her booth was stuffy and smelled of grease and hot metal, and her stomach rumbled. Adri had refused to let her pack a lunch, and she didn’t have any money to buy anything.
Cinder dropped the little screwdriver she had been holding to reach for her water bottle. The water was lukewarm and tasted metallic, making Cinder wrinkle her nose. A wave of anger washed over her…Adri, Pearl, and Peony were going to see a movie, and Cinder had to sit in the boiling heat, making money so they could see the movie. At the very least she should be allowed to pack a lunch.
Something moved at the corner of her eye, and Cinder turned to see a young woman nervously step toward her booth. The women stopped a foot or so from her booth, twisting her hands together. “I-I need you to fix something.”
Cinder raised her eyebrow. The woman flushed. “Oh…well, clearly.” She took a deep breath. “Everyone else has turned me away. Refused to do it. But then my brother told me you fixed his android a week ago and told me to try you first.”
Cinder sat back, looking the young woman over. She looked to be seventeen or eighteen, with fine, pretty features and a slender, graceful build. Everything about her was trendy and hip…from the blue dyed tips of her long black hair, to the artfully swirly way she had applied her mascara, to her clothes. The one thing that seemed odd was the gloves she was wearing…leather, and not fingerless.
Cinder leaned forward, propping her elbows on the table. “What do you need fixed?”
The woman hesitated, then slowly tugged off her right glove. Cinder’s eyes widened. Her hand was metal…a cyborg hand, built to be unnoticeable under a glove. The women looked away, her cheeks coloring in shame.
Cinder did something she never expected to do in public…she pulled off her left glove. It was the woman’s turn to gape. Cinder’s hand seemed clunky in comparison to the woman’s delicate machinery, but the woman didn’t seem to notice. Her mouth open slightly, she looked from Cinder’s metal fingers to her own.
Cinder yanked her glove back on, reaching for a screwdriver. “What seems to be the problem?”
The woman shook her head as if clearing her thoughts. “Three of the fingers seem stuck.” She made a move as if to clench her fist, and only her thumb and pointer finger moved. She pulled the glove back on, smoothing out a small wrinkle in the leather. “I can pay whatever you need…it just gets hard to pretend when I can’t move some of my fingers.”
Cinder lifted the wooden counter. “Come on in…it should be a quick fix.” The woman ducked inside, and Cinder got up. She pulled out a crate and had the women sit on it. She carefully poked and prodded the hand, opening it up from the palm. As she worked the wiring, the woman watched her, and Cinder could see her bursting to ask questions.
Finally, came, “How old are you?”
Cinder closed the palm and ran her gloved hand across her forehead. “Fifteen. Sixteen in November.” She gave the woman a smile. “Just a bit of shoddy wiring. I’ve fixed it.” The woman offered her wrist to Cinder, but Cinder waved it off. “It was nothing.”
The woman hesitated, but Cinder showed her from the booth, refusing the payment. The woman gave Cinder one more smile before pulling her glove back on, and vanishing into the crowd. Cinder slumped into her chair, blinking in the sunlight as she watched the woman go.
Late that afternoon, she and Iko were sorting little lug nuts when someone cleared their throat at the front of the booth. Cinder looked up to see the woman again, holding a bag. “If you won’t let me pay you in univs, at least let me pay you in something.” She opened the bag, and a delicious smell came out, and Cinder’s stomach growled louder than ever.
Good manners battled with pride, but Iko beat her to making the choice. The little android zipped over, and lifted the wooden booth counter. The woman stepped inside, smiling at Iko. She pulled a meat pastry from the bag, wrapping it in a napkin before passing it to Cinder. Cinder inhaled the wonderful scent before taking a bite, the flaky pastry melting on her tongue. Iko, meanwhile, was staring curiously at the woman. The woman had taken out her own pastry, and was watching Iko back while she ate, perched on a crate.
“What a pretty android,” She remarked, “She appears almost vintage.”
“Thank you.” Iko preened, her sensor light brightening in an android blush. “I am very pretty for my age. Cinder keeps me well-updated.”
The woman raised her eyebrow, and Cinder said, “Iko, why don’t you go and see if that hover part I ordered was delivered?” Iko made as if to protest, but one look from Cinder and she was zipping from the shop, grumbling.
“You just don’t see personality’s like that on androids that often.” The woman’s voice was tinged with amusement, and she passed Cinder a water bottle. Cinder drank nearly half of the icy water before lowering the bottle.
“She came like that.” Cinder finished off her pastry, tugging her gloves back on. “Thank you for the food.”
“No problem.” The woman stood up, holding out her hand. “I’m Ayako.”
Cinder took her hand and shook it. “Cinder.”
Ayako smiled, “Lovely to meet you, Cinder. I expect we’ll be seeing each other around.”
And so they did. Whenever Ayako needed something repaired, which was often, she took it to Cinder. Cinder began to look forward to her visits, because it gave them a chance to talk. Ayako, she found out, was eighteen, and had only been a cyborg for six months. Her hand had been crushed in a work-place accident, and even after the surgery to try to repair her bones she was in constant pain. Eventually her older brother paid for her to have the surgery to replace her useless hand with the metal one she now had.
One day, after bringing Cinder a glitching portscreen, Ayako asked about Cinder. She was leaning against the wooden support of the booth, playing with a lug nut she had picked up off the workbench. “So, you know pretty much my entire life story,” She had said, “I want to know some of yours. How long have you been a cyborg? What caused the surgery in the first place?”
Cinder’s fingers stilled. “I was eleven. Hovercar accident. My parents were killed, but I don’t remember anything about them, anyways. I don’t remember anything before waking up after my surgery.”
“Oh.” Ayako’s voice was quiet. Her hands stilled, and she placed the lug nut back on the table. “Who do you live with now?”
Cinder snorted. “Adri.” She said the name like a curse. “Linh Adri, and my two stepsisters, Pearl and Peony. Peony’s not so bad…she’s actually pretty sweet. But Adri and Pearl seem to make it their life goal to make sure I never truly belong there.” She gave the screwdriver in her hand an unnecessarily violent twist.
“I get the feeling.” Ayako took in Cinder’s skeptical look. “No, really. I told you that my brother paid for my surgery…I just never told you he was also the only one that supported it. My parents could have paid for it a hundred times over, but my brother was the only one who offered.” She shrugged. “I paid him back…I sold my apartment and moved in with my best friend. But I lost everyone else. My boyfriend of three years broke up with me because of it. My parents nearly disowned me and my brother both. He and my friend are the only ones that can see past the metal of my hand.” She tugged her glove off and flexed her fingers, watching as the metal joints smoothly bent and straightened. “I’m saving up to get skin grafts, and maybe then they’ll be able to actually see me again.”
She gave a bitter smile. “Makes finding friends very hard. My only two friends before I met you were my brother and Méh-è. Everyone else left.” She stood up and stretched. “I’ll pick up the portscreen tomorrow…I’m meeting Méh-è and we’re going to that cute little cafe by the bookstore.”
On her way from the booth, she stopped and looked Cinder in the eye. “Wait… We are friends, right? I don’t want to make things super uncomfortable if we aren’t.”
But Cinder grinned at her. “I’d say we are friends.” She tucked the portscreen under her arm. “I’ll see you tomorrow!”
“Tomorrow.” Ayako promised, giving one more quick smile before starting off. Cinder leaned against the counter, the grin still on her face. For so long, her only two friends had been Peony and Iko…and now, there was Ayako.
She was in a happy mood the rest of the day. Little did she know that mood was soon to be squashed.
She was walking home with Iko when the portscreen alert came up in her eye. The cyborg draft. Her heart started to pound, and her hands started to sweat even more than they already were under her gloves. But when she saw the name, her blood ran cold. LIANG AYAKO.
Turning, she ran, yelling over her shoulder to Iko to head home alone. Ayako had given Cinder her brother’s address, in case Cinder was done with something before she thought she was. Cinder raced up the still-crowded streets, yanking open a door and thundering up stairs. She reached the second floor, racing down the hallway. At the end, a man of about twenty-four sat against the door, his head in his hands. Cinder stepped forward. “Are you…are you Liang Hyo?”
The man looked up, his eyes bloodshot, tear tracks streaking down his face. “They took her.” He whispered, a haunted expression on his face. “She tried to fight, but they took her.” He buried his face in his hands again, leaving Cinder standing, shell-shocked, in the hallway.
Four days later, Cinder got a com from LIENG, HYO. In it was two words. She’s gone.
Cinder fell on her bed, grief flooding her systems. Her head pounded with tears she couldn’t shed, and she squeezed her eyes shut, curling her hands into fists. Ayako was gone. Unfairly taken, tested on and injected with Letumosis.
All because of a metal hand.