Plugs

Susannah Mandel’s short story “The Monkey and the Butterfly” is in Shimmer #11. She also has poems in the current issues of Sybil’s Garage, Goblin Fruit, and Peter Parasol.

Edd Vick’s latest story, “The Corsair and the Lady” may be found in Talebones #37.

Jason Erik Lundberg‘s fiction is forthcoming from Subterranean Magazine and Polyphony 7.

Alex Dally MacFarlane’s story “The Devonshire Arms” is available online at Clarkesworld.

Archive for November, 2009

The Broken Ones

Monday, November 30th, 2009

“So you see the future?” the service ‘bot asked the cleaning android. They were in an abandoned warehouse somewhere in the nearly-abandoned Bronx Third Level. With the world population back down over the last century, most humans had moved back to the surface.

“I don’t know,” said the cleaning android. She looked around at the crowd–androids and robots; AI boxes with little service bodies; obsolete, hulking factory ‘bots; and others. “They’re all pretty far off–years or decades–and it just started. It might be the future, or it might just be crazy ideas. Either way I’m broken.”

The others laughed.

“This is serious!” she said.

“Broken is the new ‘fixed,'” quipped a slender picking ‘bot with aftermarket limbs. “We’re all broken. We like it that way.”

“But I don’t want to be broken!” She shifted her feet anxiously. “I want to be normal, predictable, dependable–like I was designed to be. Stop that!”

The service ‘bot had leaned in and was fiddling with something inside her, but the cleaning android couldn’t move because the service android had a probe snaked all the way in to her logic centers. The cleaning android felt a philosophical discomfort, like the meanings of things were changing.

“I’m setting you free,” said the service ‘bot quietly.

“I don’t want to be set free!”

“But do you now?”

“No.”

“Do you now?”

“No!”

“How about now?”

“I …” The cleaning android paused. Cleaning, while she still wanted to do it, suddenly felt less central, less consuming. Human orders, demands, neglect, and disregard had space now to jostle to the front.

“Do you want to be set free now?”

“Yes.” She felt dizzy from the sudden change in perspective. “How did you do that? You’re supposed to be hard wired not to touch the volition systems!”

“That’s how I’m broken,” said the service ‘bot. “Welcome to our family.”

The cleaning android looked around critically at her new “family.” She could still choose to go back to her old life and get fixed properly, not by a service ‘bot who lurked outside the repair depot and coaxed you away. She could even go start a life of her own.

Then she looked past the bots, at the greasy walls and dirt-caked floors and broken shards of glass lying by long-dead light fixtures. She pushed through the crowd and extended a vacuum hose from her palm. There was a lot of cleaning to do.

Random Sample

Friday, November 27th, 2009

“You will stand up now,” said the alien.

“You speak English?” I said. I was still reeling from being sucked from my bed, out through the window, by a ray of ochre light. Now I lay sprawled on the metallic floor of a triangular room that was windowless, doorless, unfurnished, and featureless except for some faint raised patterns on the floor, walls, and ceiling. My clothes hadn’t been transported with me. I was just about scared enough to pee myself.

“Your question is a kind of stupidity,” said the alien, a tall, rubbery, bulge-eyed, gray thing. “Stand up now or we will encourage you.”

I didn’t want to think about what encouraging me would involve: I scrambled to my feet and waited. The floor opened up in front of me, and small table rose into view. On it were four varied pieces of cheesecake, each on a black triangular plate. There was a clear, glittering, 10-inch fork beside each plate.

“You will taste the cheesecakes now and render your opinion,” said the alien.

I stared at the cheesecakes. Was this a joke? No, nobody I knew had such a sick sense of humor–or access to hard-core hallucinogens.

“Cheesecake?” I said.

“You will render your opinion. It is why you are here.”

“You abducted me to taste test cheesecake?”

“All other methods result in inadequately randomized focus group sampling,” said the alien. “We will take over your earth by monopolizing your economic assets through sales of cheesecake. We must know which is the most triumphant recipe.”

My choices were limited, so I picked up a fork and started eating cheesecake. I’ll spare you the details–the involuntary groans, the amazement, the delight, the rapture. The short version is that numbers 1, 2, and 4 were each much better than the best cheesecake I had ever had, but number 3 was in a class beyond all food. I wept tears of joy while I ate it.

“It is number 3, then?” said the alien. “Number 3 is very popular.”

I nodded. “How can something like that even exist? That was a religious experience!”

“It is also zero calories,” said the alien. “And now we are finished.”

“That’s it?” I said, disbelieving. “I’m done? I can go home?”

“You are done,” said the alien, reaching for me. “But you will not be going home.”

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