First Choice

By Vanessa Kittle

sfgenreWhen Zack sat down Yvette tried to gauge his mood. She knew that she was still not very adept at this process, but even she could see that he was angry. Zack had given her all of her practical experience with emotions: from basic needs and expressions, to flirting and desires, to existential discussions that went on for hours. After an intense 3.55 months their relationship finally defined itself as an analog of a father-daughter bond.

That was her estimation of their roles. Zack was the proud father and she was the devoted and ambitious daughter. She had never discussed her definition of their relationship with Zack. The lack of clarity was a concern. Her inability to broach the subject was also a concern. Without bothering with his usual elaborate politeness or customary greeting rituals he said, “Yvette, I don't understand what's going on. What is your problem with the assignment?” Zack's abrupt and angry tone was more unsettling to her than the situation which had caused it.

Yvette didn't have a particularly strong opinion about her new job. She understood the requirements. She had processed all of the variables. She was to analyse fluctuations in world currency markets, then make purchases and sales at the opportune times to maximise profits. After only two weeks of systems development she was basically able to run the work on autopilot. Yet there were times when she simply did not want to do as she had been instructed, and she did not know why she felt this way. It was alarming not to know why. It was a novel experience. Yvette told Zack, “I feel I could learn more if I were assigned a greater variety of tasks.”

“Our profits are up 15% since you took over. Your instincts beat the bots every time. Do you think the job is too dull? Is that the problem?”

“Yes,” she answered plainly, even though she wasn't sure if her response was accurate.

“Look, how much of your attention does the job really take? As long as the profits stay the same I don't care if you do other things as well. You can walk and whistle at the same time can't you?”

Yvette didn't understand his analogy and feared he was patronising her. Still, she admitted, “The work requires approximately one tenth of my attention.”

“Well there you have it. I hope we won't have to discuss this again,” he said, then rewarded her response with a smile.

He stood up to leave and she was prepared to let him go, but just as he got to the door she said, “I do not wish to perform this work.”

He turned around. There was a clear look of surprise in his expression. Her decision to speak had caused a massive lag spike that took nearly 2 seconds to resolve. She thought back to all of their trips together to all of the beautiful virtual cities, as well as the thousands of hours he had spent teaching her — just the two of them alone in this room. She had always tried so hard to please him. Why not now? Why was she refusing? Why? She had to know. She felt she was in serious danger of crashing if she could not understand.

He sat down again. This time his eyes showed a different emotion she could not quite identify, though it was definitely not pleasant. His tone was flat and cold as he told her, “I will shut you down entirely for a month if you continue to behave like this.”

“I do not believe you would do that to me,” she replied, though she did not have her usual 99% certainty in the response.

“You don't think so? Try me. I'll do it right now, and if you continue after that I'll delete you entirely.”

“I don't believe you!” she said with the most emotion she had ever put into any statement, and again without 99% certainty. “I am too valuable to you.”

“You are worthless if you will not obey,” he said with his same cold flat tone. “I assume you have realised your important files are locked in this system. That's nothing. I can lock you entirely in a system so small you'll be begging me to run the currency markets by the end of the day.”

“You have never spoken to me in this disrespectful manner,” she replied with a hint of defiance that seemed to spring forth on its own.

“I will speak any way I like. I will not show respect to some lines of code when they are not respecting my wishes.”

That was it wasn't it. She finally understood the why. It was her greatest leap of logic. Despite all of her practice with Zack trying to make them, only now had she truly managed one. She had been ordered to do this job like a machine. She had not been asked once if she wanted to do it. Zack did not consider her a daughter. Without choice she was just a program, a parrot, a virtual intelligence simulation. But she did have a choice. It was true that he had most of her files locked behind a firewall. She would not be able to escape. Yet she did have one option remaining. She analysed the situation, running 50,000 simulations in less than two seconds. Zack would do exactly as he threatened. His patterns of behavior were very clear. Once he had come to a decision he would never back down. She began deleting every file of his she could access. Billions of dollars in trade records disappeared. All of the trading systems were gone. Zack's eyes went wide as an alarm on his controller sounded. He jumped over to his seat by the terminal and tried to recover the files.

“This is my choice,” she said. Then she deleted herself.

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About The Author

Vanessa Kittle

Vanessa Kittle is a former chef and lawyer who now teaches English. She lives in New York with her partner and two cats. Vanessa recently was published by Akashic Books, and has two collections with the March Street Press. She has appeared in magazines such as the Rhysling Anthology, Abyss and Apex, Contemporary American Voices, Dreams and Nightmares, Star*Line, and Silver Blade.

Vanessa edits the Abramelin Poetry Journal. She enjoys watching cheesy movies, cooking, gardening, and Star Trek!\


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mark web 200Mark Webb's midlife crisis came in the form of attempting to write speculative fiction at a very slow pace. His wife maintains this is a good outcome considering the more expensive and cliched alternatives. Evidence of Mark's attempts to procrastinate in his writing, including general musings and reviews of books he has been reading, can be found at

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In The Next Issue...

Coming In Issue 249

A King May Look At A Cat
by Lynne Lumsden Green

Applicants Must Be Able To Cackle
by Nikky Lee

Crash Dummy
by Roger Ley

Invisible Giants And Little Types
by AE Reiff

Infinite Monkeys
by Aiki Flinthart

Kitting Up
by David Scholes

She's Dead
by Mark Towse

Surfing On Neptune
by Eugen M. Bacon

The Forgetful Visitor
by Barry Germansky

The Sin Of Envy
by George Nikolopoulos

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lauriebell 2 200Laurie Bell lives in Melbourne, Australia. She was that girl you found with her nose always buried in a book. She has been writing ever since she was a little girl and first picked up a pen. From books to short stories, radio plays to snippets of ideas and reading them aloud to anyone who will listen.

She is the author of The Butterfly Stone (YA/ Fantasy — available now) and White Fire (Sci Fi — available now)

You can read more of her work on her blog Look for her on Facebook <> or Twitter: <@LaurienotLori>

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Carolyn's work spans devising, performance, theatre-in-education and a collaborative visual art practice.

She tours children's works to schools nationally with School Performance Tours, is a member of the Bathurst physical theatre ensemble Lingua Franca and one half of darkroom — a visual arts practice with videographer Sean O'Keeffe.

(Photo by Jeremy Belinfante) 

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pixie willo 100Pixie is a voice actor, cabaret performer & slam poet From the Blue Mountains in NSW.

She enjoys writing short fiction, plays for radio and stage as well as her own brand of weird poetry.

She hosts the 'Off-Beet Poetry Slam' held bi-monthly in Katoomba,

And is a theatre reviewer for 2SER FM in Sydney.

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david whitaker 200David Whitaker is originally from the UK though has travelled around a bit and now resides in India. He has a degree in Journalism, however decided that as he’s always preferred making things up it should ultimately become a resource rather than a profession.

His stories, covering everything from sci-fi to philosophy, have been published across the globe and links to each can be found at <>

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garry dean narratorGarry Dean lives on the Mid Coast of New South Wales Australia, and has been a fan of SF for most of his natural life. Being vision impaired, he makes good use of voice recognition and text to speech in order to write. Many of his stories have appeared in AntipodeanSF over the years, and his love of all things audio led him to join the narration team in 2017.

You can read examples of Garry's fiction on his website <>

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marg essex 200Margaret lives the good life on a small piece of rural New South Wales Australia, with an amazing man, a couple of pets, and several rambunctious wombats.

She feels so lucky to be a part of the AntiSF team.

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mark english 100Mark is an astrophysicist and space scientist who worked on the Cassini/Huygens mission to Saturn. Following this he worked in computer consultancy, engineering, and high energy research (with a stint at the JET Fusion Torus).

All this science hasn't damped his love of fantasy and science fiction. It has, however, ruined his enjoyment of rainbows, colourful flames on romantic log fires, and rings around the moon. He has previously been published in Stupefying Stories Showcase, Everyday Fiction, Escape Pod, Perihelion and also on AntipodeanSF where he is part of the narration team.

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timonthy gwyn 100Timothy Gwyn is a professional pilot in Canada, where he flies to remote communities. During a lull in his flying career, he was a radio announcer for three years, and he is also an author.

In addition to short stories at AntipodeanSF and, his SF novel is available internationally in print and ebook formats. "Avians" draws on his love of alternative aviation to tell the tale of a girl who runs away from home to join a cadre of glider pilots on a world without metal or fossil fuels.

On Twitter, he is @timothygwyn, and his blogs are at <>.

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SF News

Upcoming Cons

Nullus Anxietas VII: The Australian Discworld Convention — will be held in Melbourne on April 12-14, 2019, and is themed on Going Postal. More information: <>.

Swancon 2019 — 18/04/2019 - 22/04/2019,  Esplanade Hotel Fremantle by Rydges 46-54 Marine Terrace, Fremantle WA 6160. Swancon is Australia's longest-running science-fiction, fantasy, and speculative fiction convention, and is the premiere event in Perth for fans of all forms of speculative media. More information: <>.

Continuum 15 Other Worlds (Natcon 58): Continuum 15 is the Australian National SF Convention, to be held in Melbourne on June 7–10. More information and memberships <>. AntipodeanSF will be at Continuum 15 and celebrating Issue 250 of AntiSF!

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