The Beast, Pt. 9 (Chapter 6a)

Hey! Did you see the edit I made to the end of the last chapter? If you didn’t, you should go back and read it before reading this one!

The process of sorting ourselves out and disentangling from each other seems to be more than we’re capable of. Fortunately, the cab drives on heedless, either confident that its sensors and processors and whatnot will keep us safe no matter what kind of a shape we’re in or else without the programming to account for passengers that are in the cab but not properly secured.

Probably the former, since the latter would require a startling oversight across all kinds of different levels of bureaucracy. Or else a sociopathic disregard for the welfare of the cab’s passengers, a grotesque level of pragmatism that calculated the lawsuits and damages paid out for accidental deaths over the estimated service life of the cabs and deemed it to be less costly than upgrading the things.

But probably the cab thought we were safe. So that’s good.

The cab bot’s head swivels around 180* and its rubber lips pull back in a grin that exposes plastic teeth set into metallic gums. “Hi, there!” the cab bot chirps, its voice as friendly and artificial as its latex smile. “My name’s Johnny, and I’m happy to serve you today! Where can I take you, fellas?”

There’d been a whole school of design back in the early days of robotics that thought that erring on the near side of the uncanny valley was the way to go when it came to humanoid androids. They reasoned that mass production of perfectly human looking robots wouldn’t be cost effective, and beyond that, people would have concerns over not knowing if the person they were talking to was a human or a machine, over walking down the street and seeing the same models multiple times, over a million little things that would make life more surreal once machines indistinguishable from women and men were walking around. Since it would be more cost effective and less threatening to produce robots that looked like robots, that was the way to go. Our cabbie, Johnny, with his rubbery skin and his LED eyes and his synthetic voice had clearly been designed with this philosophy in mind.

“Where can I take you, fellas?” it says, repeating the question.

“Get your fucking elbow out of my eye,” someone hisses. There’s a grunt in response, a cry of pain, and another cry of pain answering it. Evidently we’re all rolling around on the floor just kicking and elbowing each other now. As is so often the case, adversity had turned us, a group of grown men, into fourteen year olds.

Still, we are making progress. We push ourselves apart from each other, we climb to our feet, we grunt and we mutter. In time, we might even find our assigned seating.

“Sorry, fellas! I don’t know how to get to: ‘Get your fucking elbow out of my eye.’ Maybe you’d like to go someplace else instead? I know all the great restaurants in this part of town.”

Googe’s head perks up at this. “Really? Do you know any good sushi spots?”

“Sushi? Good choice! Let me think…” Johnny starts humming some classical tune. It sounds like the work of the 20th century master, Sir Mix-a-Lot, but my knowledge of classical music is too rusty to be certain.

Papa Chub stands, frowns. “Sushi? Come on, man. Don’t get sushi.”

“I second sushi,” Monk adds.

“Yeah!” Googe says, invigorated by the growing consensus. “Come on. Don’t you like sushi?”

“I do. But I like good sushi. We’re in outer space. As in, no water. As in, no fish. As in, no good sushi.”

“This is the Meadows. I guarantee that there’s good sushi here. Hell, I guarantee that some of the best sushi of your life is probably here.”

Erb shakes his head. “That might be true, but think of the logistics of the place. Raising fish requires water that can’t be used for other purposes. Which makes it expensive. Or else it’s got to be transported over from an orbiting farm, or a biosphere on the moon, or God forbid even Earth. Which makes it stupidly expensive.”

“I’ve found over a hundred sushi restaurants. Might I suggest you narrow your search?”

“Take us to a good sushi restaurant,” Googe says.

“Sure thing!”

Googe laughs and sticks his tongue out at Papa Chub.

“I’ve found over a hundred good sushi restaurants. Might I suggest you narrow your search?”

“Take us to a good cheap sushi restaurant,” Papa Chub barks at the machine, his eyes locked on Googe’s own.

Johnny beeps sadly. “I’ve found zero good cheap sushi restaurants. Might I suggest textured insect protein instead?”

Word Count: 7,713 (2,114 words a day to go! Yeesh. I gotta write more better good. Or stop writing for sections of the novel that my characters haven’t reached yet…)


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