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Collecting Dust (A robot girl story, F)


Blah!?

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Whew, it's good to finally write something again. I've been trying to come up with an idea I liked enough to properly work on for a long time now, and this is what I settled on not too long ago. I owe a big thanks to @RoseFever for helping me bring these characters to life. I commissioned a drawing of the main characters from this story a while ago, before I'd even fully decided on what I was going to do with them, and having it as a reference really helped me write this.

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So yeah, definitely give her a round of applause too if you enjoy this one! And without further ado...

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A lone warehouse rose above the piles of scrap in an otherwise empty junkyard. The sounds of scraping and creaking occasionally broke the silence, and they were soon joined by the continuous hum of an electric motorbike. Farrah Maxey came to a stop on the side of the road, taking a moment to stare up at the building before dismounting her vehicle. The mechanic lowered her bike’s kickstand and adjusted her large, round glasses before reaching into the pockets of her overalls in search of a set of keys.

 

After passing through the fence that surrounded the junkyard, Farrah twirled the keys around her finger as she walked toward the warehouse. She kept an eye out for anything interesting along the way, but almost everything was too rusted and decayed to be of any use. Besides, she technically wasn’t allowed to take anything from the premises anyway. The plot of land had been bought by someone who had never been within a hundred mile radius of it, and they simply hired Farrah to stop by the warehouse and shut off whatever was still drawing power.

 

Dust filled Farrah’s nose the instant she stepped into the warehouse. The mechanic waved a hand at her face as her eyelids fluttered, her nostrils flaring and relaxing in time with her hitching breaths. Unable to hold back after just a few seconds, Farrah squeezed her wide, rounded nose between her thumb and forefinger, doubling over with a firm but stifled “Hnnnt-choo!” She sniffed and coughed, continuing to wave her hand in front of her to clear the air, but she didn’t feel the need to sneeze again just yet.

 

Farrah unclipped a flashlight from her belt and began to search the warehouse. The whole junkyard had been abandoned for as long as she could remember, and she never would have guessed that anything inside was still connected to the power grid until the other day when she’d been hired to take care of it. In line with her expectations, everything inside was dilapidated. Wooden crates that had all long since been smashed and looted, and almost nothing else to speak of.

 

Nothing on the ground floor caught Farrah’s attention, but she did notice what appeared to be an office suspended from the ceiling at the back corner of the building. She climbed a rickety, rusted set of stairs and proceeded cautiously down the catwalk toward it. The metal door was heavily dented and scratched: something or someone had clearly tried to get in, but they didn’t seem to have been successful. Farrah flipped through her set of keys again, trying a few before finally finding one that fit.

 

The small office on the other side was in slightly better condition than the rest of the warehouse, but not by much. Everything was covered in a layer of dust, and a few of the windows overlooking the floor below and been broken. After giving the room a brief scan, Farrah nearly jumped when she caught sight of something against the far wall. A humanoid figure stood motionless across from her, eerily out of place in such a dirty environment. Farrah quickly recognized it as a robot of some kind, slightly familiar, but not like any she’d seen in person in a long time.

 

“Well hey there,” Farrah said under her breath as she cautiously stepped forward. As she approached, she picked up on a few details that she’d been too scared to notice at first. The robot was fully clothed, wearing a button-down shirt, slacks, and a waistcoat, all of which were unexpectedly clean given the dirty surroundings. Farrah was also fairly sure she recognized the model, an older design meant for administration and communication. Lastly, the robot’s left sleeve was rolled up to the elbow, and a cable ran from an exposed, open port into a device on the wall.

 

“I guess you’re my power drain,” Farrah continued, looking up at the robot’s face. Her gray synthetic skin made little attempt to mimic that of a human, but it had just enough texture to keep from being unnaturally smooth. Elegant, feminine features, particularly her long, straight nose gave her a striking appearance. Dark green synthetic hair in a bob with a small bun at the back, a fairly typical style for robots, and in place of ears, a long antenna-like sensor extended up and back from either side of her head.

 

Overcome with curiosity, Farrah reached a hand toward the robot’s face. Just before making contact, however, the robot’s eyes shot open. Letting out an inelegant yelp, Farrah stumbled backward and nearly fell. Meanwhile, the robot’s irises blinked a warm green before gradually illuminating. The cable disconnected from her forearm and hung limply, and then the robot stepped away from the wall and glanced down at Farrah.

 

“Hello. How may I be of assistance?”

 

Farrah blinked, her mouth hanging open. The robot’s voice had just a bit of a synthetic twang to it, possibly indicative of a damaged speaker system, or perhaps simply a sign of her age. Straightening up and brushing herself off, Farrah cleared her throat and extended a hand.

 

“Uh… Hi. I’m Farrah. What’s your name?” she asked, feeling an unsure mix of nervous and excited. The robot gently took her hand.

 

“My name is Cyd.”

 

“Nice to meet you, Cyd.” Farrah awkwardly glanced around the abandoned office. “Do you know where you are?”

 

“This is the administrative office of JenTek disposal facility 874 dash…”

 

Cyd’s voice suddenly trailed off, earning an expression of concern from Farrah. The robot’s eyelids fluttered, her long, oval-shaped nostrils flaring intermittently, and then…

 

“Ah-CH!”

 

Cyd’s head bobbed forward as she expelled a puff of dusty air from her nose. Farrah nearly yelped in shock once again. The mechanic placed a hand over her mouth and watched intently as Cyd extended her index finger and held it firmly under her nostrils, simultaneously giving an agitated sniff.

 

“You can sneeze!?” Farrah exclaimed, simultaneously concerned and fascinated. Cyd sniffed again, staring past Farrah with an almost comically forlorn expression.

 

“Apparently.”

 

Farrah smiled and gave an amused chuckle. “Well, it is awfully dusty in here. Maybe you have allergies.”

 

Cyd rubbed her finger back and forth under her nose once and lowered her hand.

 

“Unlikely. I am not programmed to simulate allergic reactions.”

 

Farrah giggled, lightly placing a hand over her mouth again.

 

“I’m just joking. Anyway, did you say you work for JenTek?”

 

“Yes.”

 

Farrah’s expression grew increasingly concerned.

 

“Cyd, JenTek went bankrupt almost fifteen years ago. How… How long have you been asleep?”

 

Cyd blinked.

 

“My last operating record is from April 5th, 2063.”

 

“Oh, sweetie…” Farrah cooed, not sure what more she could say. Cyd’s expression grew distant again, making Farrah feel more concerned than ever, but after a moment the robot suddenly gave another sharp “Ha-CH!”

 

“Gesundheit!” Farrah gasped. Some newer robots occasionally sneezed at random in order to simulate human behavior, but seeing an older model like Cyd sneeze twice in a row was an oddity. “Are you feeling okay?”

 

“Thank you,” Cyd replied, holding her finger under her nose and sniffing again. “I have no fault codes to report, but I may require maintenance.”

 

“Well… I’m a certified robotics engineer. If you want, you could come with me and I’ll take a look at you. Then we can figure out what you should do next.”

 

“Are you authorized to perform maintenance on JenTek property?” asked Cyd, sliding her finger across the underside of her nose. Farrah’s forehead knitted.

 

“Well… JenTek’s assets were acquired by Onyx Assembly two years ago, and they hired me to come here. So... I guess?”

 

Cyd remained unresponsive, prompting Farrah to raise an eyebrow.

 

“Cyd?”

 

“Ah… Ah-CH!”

 

“Whoa, gesundheit!”

 

“Thank you. And yes, I will accompany you for maintenance.”

 

After briefly checking to make sure the warehouse’s power drain had in fact ceased, Farrah led Cyd outside. The robot’s condition seemed to improve somewhat after they left the building, but she was still surprisingly sniffly. Farrah was about to offer her a tissue, but to her dismay, she discovered she’d forgotten to bring any. The mechanic locked the fence gate, and then she and Cyd mounted her motorbike and left the junkyard behind.

 

Driving toward a vast city in the distance, Farrah and Cyd eventually came upon what at first glance seemed to be another junkyard, although this one was arranged in a somewhat more artistic fashion. It lacked a warehouse, but a smaller structure stood in the middle of the plot, bearing a large, ramshackle sign that read “Farrah’s Findings and Fabulosities.” Farrah rode straight into the open garage and shut off her bike, allowing Cyd to dismount first.

 

“Welcome to my place! What do you think?” Farrah asked as she lowered the kickstand. Cyd’s ear antennae pointed straight up and slowly waved to the sides before returning to their resting position.

 

“This is not an Onyx Assembly facility, but I’ve confirmed your authorization.”

 

Farrah smiled awkwardly and patted Cyd on the back.

 

“...Thanks, buddy. Now, would you like a little tour? Or should we-”

 

“Eh-CH!”

 

“...Yeah, we should probably take a look at you first. Right this way.”

 

Farrah led Cyd through a doorway into the attached building. It was a small storefront filled with antique computers and machinery, some dating all the way back to the late 20th century. Stepping through another door at the back of the shop, Farrah directed Cyd to stand in the middle of the room while she began to dig through a series of boxes. Eventually she found an older serial cable that would likely be a match, and upon recognizing it, Cyd rolled up her left sleeve and held out her arm. An otherwise seamless panel on her forearm opened, revealing the same port that had been plugged into at the junkyard. Farrah smiled and gave a thankful nod as she connected Cyd to her computer, and then she began to search the robot’s public directories for an operating manual.

 

“Ah, here we go,” she mumbled to herself, opening a document consisting of several thousand pages. The size was of course completely unreasonable, but Farrah was used to these sorts of things. She opened the document’s search function, and just for fun, the first term she tried was ‘sneeze.’ To her amusement, this actually yielded a few results, halfway through the manual.

 

“Alright, that’s what I thought,” Farrah continued as she quickly read through a few pages. “So, your sneeze is a self-cleaning function. Your internal components are air-cooled, and you ‘breathe’ through your nose just like humans do. Does that sound about right?”

 

Farrah glanced up at Cyd to find her with her eyes clenched shut and her nostrils flaring.

 

“Ah… Ahhh… Ah-CH!”

 

“Gesundheit! I’ll take that as a yes…”

 

In the light of her office, Farrah could see a few glistening dust particles as they flew from Cyd’s nostrils, further supporting her pending diagnosis. She scanned a bit more of the manual before turning away from her computer and gathering some cleaning supplies from around the room.

 

“Basically, your nose is lined with a series of filters, and you’re supposed to sneeze as a way of cleaning those filters. I don’t know why they programmed you to get the sniffles too, but hey, it’s kinda cute.”

 

As if on cue, Cyd sniffed and rubbed a finger under her nose. Farrah chuckled lightly and approached the robot with a small pen light.

 

“May I?” she asked, extending a hand toward Cyd’s face. The robot’s ears seemed to wiggle briefly, and then she tipped her head back, allowing Farrah to peer into her nose. Farrah clicked on the pen light and leaned forward, gently pushing the tip of the robot’s nose up with her free hand. The rubbery skin of Cyd’s nose gave way just as easily as a human’s would, though it still felt rather strange by comparison. Farrah took a good long look, and she immediately frowned at what she saw.

 

“Oh, Cyd!” she sighed, shaking her head. Farrah was expecting a lot of dust, but she still didn’t expect it to be this bad. Both of Cyd’s nostrils were lined with dust from end to end. The mesh filters inside were completely saturated, and Farrah was amazed that Cyd could manage to breathe at all. Before she could examine further, Cyd’s nostrils flared before her eyes and she quickly took a step back to avoid being sneezed on.

 

“Ah… Ha-CH! Ah-Ahh… Ah-CH!”

 

The clouds of dust Cyd sneezed out were pitiful in size compared to how much of it was plugging her nose. Placing her hands on her hips, Farrah frowned in sympathy as the robot sniffed and rubbed under her nostrils, causing her soft nose to bend from side to side just above the tip. She briefly returned to her desk and finally retrieved a tissue. After giving Cyd a moment to finish rubbing her nose, Farrah lifted the tissue and gently cradled the robot’s nostrils.

 

“Here, maybe this will help. Try to blow out through your nose.”

 

Cyd gently closed her glowing green eyes, and she leaned forward into Farrah’s hand. The robot took as deep a breath as she could, and then…

 

“Kpff!”

 

Rather than blowing her nose over the course of a few seconds like a human, Cyd exhaled sharply all at once. Dust spewed from her nostrils, some of it escaping around the edges of the tissue and floating away into the air. Farrah slowly smiled and began to laugh, her amusement intensifying as Cyd gave her a confused stare over the tissue. The robot’s improvised blow seemed far more effective than her actual sneezes. Farrah’s best guess was that Cyd and her sister units had been designed to sneeze “politely” in order to conform with office behavioral standards, but this left them ill equipped to handle such a large buildup of dust.

 

“Well, that definitely did something!” Farrah chuckled, balling up the tissue and throwing it away. Cyd’s ears drooped as Farrah continued to laugh at her, and then they suddenly stood straight up as she gasped for breath and sneezed yet again.

 

“Ah-CH! CHH! Ha-CH!”

 

“Gesundheit! Feeling any better?”

 

Cyd sniffed dejectedly and rubbed a finger under her nose yet again. Farrah smiled and gave one last soft giggle.

 

“Still got a stuffy nose, huh? Alright, let me take another look at you.”

 

Clicking her pen light on again, Farrah took another peek up Cyd’s nostrils. Her first set of filters were certainly less clogged, and with the help of the light, Farrah could see through them to the second, finer set of mesh. However, those too were completely covered in dust, earning a dismayed frown from Farrah.

 

“Well, I guess this is what fifteen years in an abandoned warehouse with no maintenance will do to you. Poor thing,” she sighed, taking a step back. “Did that at least help a little bit?”

 

Cyd briefly crossed her eyes, staring down the long bridge of her nose. She sniffed twice, and then her nostrils flared as she felt yet another sneeze coming on.

 

“Ah… Aahh… Ha-CH!”

 

“Gesundheit, Cyd.”

 

“Thank you. My respiration efficiency has improved by approximately four percent.”

 

Farrah made a confused face, both pleased and disappointed.

 

“Well, I guess that’s better than nothing… Maybe there’s…”

 

Farrah gave Cyd a moment to herself as she returned to her computer and began to search through the operating manual once more. After finding what she was looking for, she connected to a network of other scavengers, mechanics and antique parts dealers. With a somewhat bittersweet smile, she spun her chair back toward Cyd.

 

“So, it looks like there is some maintenance equipment that could give you a nice deep clean. That should un-stuff your nose so you don’t keep sneezing like this. Unfortunately, the parts that are compatible with you are a bit on the older side, and if I do order them, it’ll probably take a while for them to get here.”

 

Farrah trailed off, feeling hopeful but still unsure about Cyd’s response.

 

“Would you… Would you like to stay with me, at least until then? I’ll do my best to keep you comfortable until we can get you all cleaned up, and maybe you can decide what you’d like to do after that.”

 

Farrah smiled apprehensively, and just as she expected, Cyd’s breath hitched and she gave a soft “Ah-CH!”

 

“Gesundheit,” Farrah said, smiling warmly. For the first time, Cyd smiled back.

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I'd definitely love to do more with these characters in the future, but that's all for now. As always, I hope you enjoyed, and any feedback or constructive criticism is much appreciated. Thanks for reading!

Edited by Blah!?
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You know it strikes me that enough pollen vould also clog sir filters, particularly pine pollen, ehich has karge grains. This could actually be rather funny, since contrary to popular belief pine pollen is not an allergen for humans.

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