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

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.

Trent Walters, poetry editor at A&A, has a chapbook, Learning the Ropes, from Morpo Press.

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.

Quis Custodiet?

by Rudi Dornemann

The drones came and circled, glided off. Never fewer than three in view; never more than ten. The border was a showpiece for the strategy of Mutually Assured Detection, and I did my bit to count and verify and uphold the treaty’s red tape.

Rain came with the dusk, and when my touchscreen chimed the official end of daylight, I retreated to my hut. While I waited for my self-heating supper to cool, I watched the light wash over the hut, the glass block walls and ceiling filtering a hazy glow over my bedroll, the binder of daily code settings, and my little supper.

I was just realizing that the walls had been midnight dark for at least ten minutes when a voice broke in. “Panoptico employees! In today’s realtime bidding, we have lost the north-central border region contract. Please proceed immediately to an approved exit trail. Panoptico…”

Before it finished repeating, I’d dropped my spork, grabbed my personal effects pack, and was running down the trail. One of the drones had been assigned to my trail; its spotlight would have been helpful, but apparently we’d already been cut off from the premium GPS, so the creosote bushes and rocks about fifteen feet to my left were daylight bright rather than the ones I ran through and tripped over.

When I got to the collection point, four other watchers were waiting, nursing their own bruises and cuts. I stood in the cold, tried not to think about where I’d be assigned next, and how maybe it was time to move to something more steady like drone maintenance, or leave the company completely, like my friends back home were always telling me. Not much time to fret or think, though, since one of the drones soon hovered over in speakermode: “Panoptico employees! We have completed a merger with SeeAndBeSeen LLC, and acquired all their contracts, including the NCBR. Your previous assignments are reinstated.”

I trudged back up the mountain. Halfway, though, I had a change of heart—I’d done this long enough, given Panoptico enough years of sunburn and lonely boredom. Time for a change.

Five steps down the path, my touchpad chimed. I don’t know how they got the cameras there, but there was no question of what they’d captured, or who.

I turned around and resumed my uphill climb, hoping nothing had gotten at what remained of my supper.

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