01001110010101

Toni pulled her goggles off as Dax poked his head into the workshop, frantically motioning her to come out into the front of the shop. Dax, typically, handled all things front-of-house, and left Toni to her tinkering in the back portion of the little hole-in-the-wall place they called home.

“What’s the matter?” She asked, scrubbing her hands on her apron as she crossed to him, leaving her tools by the massive turbine she was trying to refurbish.

“Do you speak techno-babble?” Dax asked in a low whisper.

“What?” Toni stared at him, tugging off her apron and gloves.

“Techno-babble,” Dax repeated, leading the way back into the main shop. “You know, the thing with the zeros and ones?”

“Why on earth would you need to know…” Toni trailed off when she saw who was standing by the counter, their unearthly bright eyes directed toward them. “Oh.”

The android tipped his head to one side, lenses in his eyes whirring softly as they dilated and focused on her face, recognition software likely running in the back of his head to place her. His lips twitched up into an almost-smile, and she knew he recognized her as the owner of the place.

“How can we help you?”

“1001110001001 01001110010101 111001000 1110010010.”

“I tried that, and that’s what he said.” Dax mumbled, glancing between the android and his boss.

“Did you try the translator?” Toni asked, moving around the counter to circle their customer, inspecting his throat. The android tipped his head back to give her a better view, watching her.

“I got nothing. I think it either broke, or just couldn’t understand him.”

“Man, it’s been a long time…” Toni sighed, standing in front of the android and folding her arms. “01001110010101?”

The android’s face lit up and he quickly nodded, spitting out numbers so fast Toni could not keep up with him.

“Whoa, slow down, sir.” She laughed. “I’m not that fast.”

He dipped his head in apology and fell silent, watching her still.

“Dax, grab me that box of Vonix parts from the storeroom, wouldja?” She asked, motioning the android to follow her. “Just need to pop a new one in, I should think. The wiring all look good, it’s just been removed, right?”

He nodded again, and Dax scurried off to the back of the shop to retrieve the necessary parts. Toni guided the android into a chair and opened his throat plate, grabbing a spare pair of work gloves and pulling them on. She pulled the wires that should have connected to the Vonix, and set them to the outside of his throat, careful not to connect any of them and shock her patient.

Dax returned with the box of parts and held them while Toni rummaged through the box. She pulled out the ones marked in blue, thankful she had thought to color-code all of them by gender.

“Male, right?” She checked with the patient, and received a tiny nod in return. “I can offer you British Middle Class, Jamaican, Standard, or Brooky… Which do you prefer?”

She held them up and he pointed at the last one, nodding when she held it out to him. She dumped the others back into the box and pulled the Vonix out of its packaging, quickly hooking it up and popping it under his throat plate, covering it up again while the software installed into his system.

There was a brief pause, and then he chuckled, the sound coming out clearly.

“Thanks, doll, that’s much better!” He sat up, humming up and down a scale to check that the Vonix was working properly. “How much do I owe ya?”

Toni grinned, taking him up to the counter to check out while Dax ran the parts back into the storeroom. When he returned, the android was gone, and Toni was chuckling to herself while she put her apron back on.

“What did you say to him, anyway?” He asked, jerking his head to the door.

“Techno-babble, baby!” Toni laughed, winking at him.

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