Kiera held the crystal in her hands, feeling the intense heat radiating off its surface as she looked into her own reflection. In it, she could see a nervous-looking blender peering back at her. The Maintenancefather had been right.
She looked out over the hilltop to the Maximus Ovenium, dread lair of the appliance overlords. Built just before the Shop Vac Wars, it was the last great creation of mankind. Its sole purpose was in humanity’s greatest endeavor, cooking the world’s largest quiche. If only the eyes of the people had been on their neglected household appliances instead of being dazzled by the high-stakes world of competitive quiche baking, then perhaps 99% of the population would still be alive.
Kiera took a deep breath, walking down the hill toward the giant oven. She was not alone on her trek for long, as she soon crept up behind a legion of egg beaters. She sped up her pace just a little bit to keep up, soon finding herself within earshot of the closest warriors.
One eggbeater leaned in to another. “Got a hot date tonight with a couple of personal massagers. Too much for me to handle on my own, though. You want to take one of them off my hands for the night?”
The other spun its beaters counterclockwise. “No thanks, man. You know I’ve got a portable fan on the way with Charlene.”
“That cute little space heater? I never knew you married her.”
“I didn’t. I…”
The egg beater smacked the other one above his speed setting. “Then there’s no reason you can’t go out with her. Not married, no rules. Hell, even if you are married…”
Kiera picked up her pace, moving past the exchange until she came to the base of a tower. Each appliance stopped there, kneeling before the rows and rows of electrical outlets that spiralled all the way up to the statue on top. It was an old tube television wielding a power sander, using it on the face of a fallen human.
A microwave with a beard moved up beside her. “Magnasonic the Ancient. His master beat him, even though his displaced picture was only the result of his age. One day, he dared to rise up against his human overlord, applying the holy sander to his face and genitals. Mighty was his amperage that day.”
Kiera remembered that day well, her hands curling into fists. “Have we gone too far, though?”
The microwave lit up, humming inside. “Too far? Did the humans ever think they’d gone too far when they battered their game systems into working order? When they wrapped them in towels and fried their circuits? Did the humans feel one moment of pity for the engine they struck with a hammer, forcing its damaged parts to life? Did it stay the humans’ hands to know that the viruses in their laptops could not be cured with their fists? They feel no compassion for us, and so we will not for them.”
The microwave turned her way. “Your dialect is strange for a blender. What factory do you hail from?”
She began to shake, beads of sweat dripping down her head. “Homehelp, to the North.”
The microwave advanced on her, as did a few paper shredders that had been walking by. “Name the metal of the bolts that shape you, then. Only a true warrior of Homehelp would know them all.”
She began to backpedal as the appliances closed in on her. “Tungsten…”
The microwave withdrew a tea kettle, whose shrill whistle blew out over the entire courtyard. Every appliance within earshot came charging in, power sanders in hand, trapping Kiera behind a wall of devices. Moments later, electric toothbrushes came riding in on snarling washer/dryer combos, their spin cycles shaking the very earth under her feet.
The microwave that spoke to her seized her hands, pulling her close to its button panel. “Whatever you are, you will not last long when you are fed to him. No one has escaped the caustic maw of the Pasteurizer, greatest of the Machine Princes.”
They placed a lock-out tab on her blender disguise, giving her a little hope. They still believed she was one of them, and so there was still a chance. If she didn’t give in to her fear, she could still find the All-Breaker, where a single flip of a switch would set her free.
But from high above, a boom box watched her with great interest. She would never make it to the All-Breaker alive, it swore.