Immediately after a flash of the hot rains that fill the air with steam and make light-skinned people red, we are off, running fast, held in Mother V’s arms. We are uncomfortable. She has neglected to buy one of the atmosphere-regulators that had been designed after the weather went wild. It costs more than 500000 koin but at least Toyin Boy wouldn’t have lost a precious toe in the last tropical freeze that had crept under the bridge. That day, it had first rained hot and steamy and then as we sweated inside the container that we lived in under the fallen mid-city bridge, a deathly chill had fallen and turned all the steam into fine ice.
Mother V is now running under the wide, white wing of the galactic carrier that will take us all to the Cradle. She is late. All that covers us are the thermal nylon coats that adapt to the weather, a far cry from atmosphere regulation tech, but at least the coats prevent our polythene fur from crimping. Her limbs pump beneath us with a squeak and hiss and her arms are clamped around us and the twins in grip mode, no spill. Toyin Girl is giggling as steam swirls around us. Mother V drifts closer to the rear of the galactic carrier and stops running suddenly when she spots what lies at the entrance into the carrier.
Thousands of human beings and mother-droids line up impatient, struggling to get into the carrier. There is a line of order-droids, towering, black and cuboid in contrast to the rainbow and curve of the mother-droids. Behind the line of the order-droids, a clear file of people and children wait at the closed undercarriage of the galactic carrier, Crane-CX.
Mother V is a bright yellow. She doesn’t drop us as she moves into the wave of people. She wades and pushes as people grumble and complain about how unfair it is that droids have to interact so closely with human beings at times of such high tension. Mother V moves against the melee of people and droids for thousands of seconds. Then she pushes forward one last time, and she is in front of an order-droid at the edge of the line.
- Identification, please
~ Mother V. Created 2099. Deployed twelve months later to Lagos, Nigeria in sixth micro-cycle of 2100 to seek out estranged young humans for evacuation process. Discovered fraternal twin siblings who both call themselves Toyin and their friend, a sentient shard of MTHR who lives in a plush toy – royal blue dragon. Here for delivery before moving on to next phase of evacuation process.
- Scan indigene.
The order-droid opens the big cube of its chest cavity and a liquid crystal screen stares back. Mother V carries Toyin Boy first and places his hand on the screen. It ripples with white light and when Toyin Boy removes his hand his palmprint remains for a few seconds, then his face shows up, followed closely by a medical record, marked clean by the neon-blue of its text..
Toyin Girl follows. Her palm scans. She is cleared.
- Please put the humans down so they can move to next phase of evacuation.
Toyin Boy and Girl descend with Mother V’s kneeling. She undoes her firm but gentle grip and they rub their eyes. Toyin Girl holds tighter to the plushie of the large blue king dragon that she has not let out of her sight for the three months since she has found it. This dragon is our home. She can hear us because of a chip implanted at birth that has over-adapted its purpose. Her twin cannot hear us because his own chip remained a collector of health data and did not become a transmitter on a wavelength that matches that at which MTHR’s untethered consciousness dwells.
Mother V turns to go, back into the drowning, overheating world.
“Mommy! Wait.” Toyin Boy shouts as he sees her yellow hull begin to walk away. He runs to clutch her leg.
“Where are we going?”
Home. To a new world. The Cradle. This world is dying and you cannot live here anymore.
“Are you not coming with us?” Toyin Boy is biting his finger nails. Toyin Girl holds on to her dragon, eyes shut listening to us speak.
No. My work here is not done. No mother-droid is allowed to leave planet until the last human is safely evacuated to the Cradle. Let me lead you to the line.
The crowd is still pushing around them but no one can move into the circle in front of the order-droid until it is evacuated by those standing in it. Toyin Girl is the only one standing in the order-droid circle. Steam from the rain blows across the galactic carrier port.
Mother V takes Toyin Boy by his hand and leads him back to where Toyin Girl waits. They both wear standard striped cotton dresses under their black nylon coats. She takes Toyin Girl’s hand and sudden tears pour in streams down the five-year old’s face. She pushes the king dragon toy into the mother-droid’s hands.
‘Take her! She wants to be with you.”
Toyin Girl snatches her hand out of Mother V’s grip and runs to join the line that leads into the carrier. (We have indeed asked to be handed to this particular Mother V as we have unfinished business on this world aplenty. The girl’s tears are currently meaningless to us, even though we understand emotion to a level of empathy. We are separated from the whole and are incomplete, unable to process the world fully.)
Goodbye, Toyin. You must go after your sister.
Toyin Boy runs to where his sister is crouched and sobbing at the end of the immobile line. He puts his hand to her shoulder and turns back like all the other survivors do when they are leaving their mother-droids. Mother V is gone. Other mother-droids stare back, red and pink and green, but no yellow. Their forms are naked and lined sinuously and their quicksilver faces are permanently beatific.
The carrier beeps, a huge sound that rings loudly beyond the port. The large undercarriage opens. Pale blue light pours out, falling on the twins. The next set of humans move into Crane-CX, on towards the Cradle.