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

Angela Slatter’s story ‘Frozen’ will appear in the December 09 issue of Doorways Magazine, and ‘The Girl with No Hands’ will appear in the next issue of Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet.

Jonathan Wood’s story “Notes on the Dissection of an Imaginary Beetle” from Electric Velocipede 15/16 is available online.

Ken Brady’s latest story, “Walkers of the Deep Blue Sea and Sky” appears in the Exquisite Corpuscle anthology, edited by Jay Lake and Frank Wu.

The Broken Ones

by Luc Reid

“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?”


“Do you now?”


“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.

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