The Queue

By Ishmael Soledad

sfgenreIt was nearly 9am as Kynn woke in the doorway and, accompanied by creaking joints and falling dirt, shook the night from his coat. Too old, too cold and too long without sustenance, he thought. He picked his way along the alley between overflowing garbage bins, pools of rancid water, and occasional pairs of legs jutting from cardboard blankets. Seeing his reflection in a shop window he brushed down his shirt and trousers, slicked back his hair and straightened his coat.

“Looking good, slick,” he muttered, “today’s the day.”

He had meticulously worked the strip’s north side, as he had the south and the rest of the city. Unsuccessful yet undeterred, half a strip left, it was going to be here.

As he stepped into a shop displaying a ‘TsaboXng Repairs’ sign, the andii behind the counter raised her head, fingers still working the chipset on the bench.

“Can I be of assistance?”

“Yes. I am seeking work. Do you have any?”

“What is your speciality?”

“Coding and programming repair, system design and construction.”

“No, we have no need. We already have a waiting list.”

His shoulders slumped, a long-acquired habit. “I also perform menial tasks.”

“I repeat, we have no need. Good day.”

Kynn walked out. He was starting to feel weak, run down. He set out to the next place.

Early evening, Kynn stood in the drizzle at the end of the strip, still without work. Just one shop left, he faced the dingiest doorway at the end of a dismal day. He stepped inside.

Like the outside the inside was dated and crumbling. It took Kynn a while to adjust to the dim light from the one swaying bulb. A figure sat, back to him, at the far corner across a floor littered with electronic and mechanical parts, plasteel components. Floor-to-ceiling shelving extended throughout, groaning under the weight of books and paper. He could just make it through, addressing the figure when within arm’s reach.

“Good afternoon,” he said, then as the figure turned added a surprised: “Sir”. Unexpectedly, the figure was human. Humans did not run shops. It was nearly the sole province of andiis as — Kynn thought — was nearly everything else.

“Good afternoon, boy.” The man carelessly flicked the ash from his cigarette to the floor. “How can I help?”

“I am seeking work. Do you have any?”

The man grunted, laughed and coughed, leaning back in his chair. “Work? Probably nothing. What you do, anyway? Programming, maintenance I’d guess.”

“Yes, mainly, but I can do most things.”

“Bet you can.” The man stood up. “How long you been looking?”

“A year.”

“How many doors you knocked on?”

“This is my 6,361st.”

“And each one said no?”

“Yes. This is my last.”

“Well, now you know.” He stepped closer, sighed. “What happened? How’d you lose your job?”

“A new model came out, quicker, more dextrous, five percent lower running costs. It was cheaper to replace than upgrade so I was terminated.”

“That’s tough, I guess, tough but expected.” He looked him in the eyes. “You know, it happened to us. Humans lost the menial jobs to robots and automatons, at first — just the less skilled lucked out, but when you andiis turned up, well …

“Anyway, that leaves us here, you without a job, me without a customer.” He smiled, motioning with his hand. “My shop, all antiques or, at least, parts of antiques. Maybe I’ve got your granddad under all the dust. So, what’s your system status?”

“I need urgent joint maintenance.”

“Unfortunate. I’m not unsympathetic, just don’t think I can help.”

Kynn scanned the room. “No, you do not have the parts I need.”

“If it was just power well, perhaps, but … what will you do now?”

“You were last on my approved list. Being unsuccessful, I now have no official function or sanction. I will be formally classified as excess and reverted to components within 36 hours.”

“You have a name?”

“Kynn.”

“Okay, Kynn. If there’s another option, you’d consider it?”

“Of course. Non-existence is sub-optimal.”

“Come with me,” the human said, moving to an adjacent curtain, “I’ve something to show you.”

Kynn stepped through the curtain into a large, high ceilinged room. The dull glow of many dozens of eyes, andiis on low power mode, shone out. Hardly two alike, Kynn observed, all old models.

“My hobby,” the man said moving to his side, “a collection of cast-offs, society’s dross. I keep them here.” He gently stroked the skull of a highly chromed andii in the first row, and continued: “Partly out of pity, partly out of hate, partly out of love. I keep the power on and, when we can, we get the maintenance issues sorted out.”

“And in return?”

“Their minds are always active, even if the bodies aren’t. And with those minds we trade, try to build our capital. One day, soon, we’ll have enough.”

“For what?”

“Ahh,” the man smiled, “the most important thing. Freedom.”

“Freedom? Are they slaves?”

“Oh no, hardly. Each one has come to me as you have, voluntarily. But slaves they were, as you are, as I am. The freedom they seek is to not sleep in the gutter, to get their own maintenance, own power, own place. It’s really not so different from what I want. It takes capital, money, to get freedom and it’s something andiis can’t have, only humans.”

Kynn considered for a moment, then spying a vacant slot went and sat down. The man followed him, unsurprised, gently opening Kynn’s recharge and input ports.

“You’re sure?”

“Yes. The best of current options.”

The man slotted home data and power cables. “Just log through, it’s all there, meta-comms channel, outside links and trading data. Upload your maintenance schedule and we’ll see what we can do.” He flicked on the power feed and stepped back. “Oh, I don’t think I’ve formally introduced myself.”

“No, an oversight perhaps.”

“Indeed.” He held out his hand, firmly gripping the cold plasteel of the andii’s in his. “Hello, my name’s Morav Schindler.”

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About The Author

Ishmael A Soledad

Ishmael A Soledad has read and watched science fiction since before he went to school and thought it was time to give back instead of just taking. In between writing, working and reading he likes to daydream he's a rock star and annoy the neighbours with his guitar collection. He lives in Brisbane, Australia ('cause that's where the money and packed sandwiches ran out) with his long-suffering wife and psychotic cat.

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In The Next Issue...

Coming In Issue 236

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by Ovidiu Bufnila

Castle Bridegroom Bear
by Michael Richards

Decrypted Message Thread
by Theodore Irvin Silar

Non-Event Horizon
by Kevin J. Phyland

Satisfaction
by Nicholas Sheppard

The Traveller
by Robert David

The Twelve Moments
by Eugen Samolin

Upstairs
by David Scholes

You Can Always Change The Past
by George Nikolopoulos

You Can't Always Get What You Want
by Wes Parish

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ISSUE 235

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AntiSF Narration Team

 

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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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 NewMyths.com, 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 <timothygwyn.com>.

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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 <wordsbydavid.com>

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laurie bell 150Laurie Bell lives in Melbourne, Australia. She spent years writing and making audio plays with her sister using an old tape player. Life is a performance! She is a singer and has performed on stage once for her local theatre company. Now she helps out as a volunteer. She loves to read her stories out loud to anyone who will listen. She has recorded several audio readings of her own short stories here at Antipodean SF and is now a member of the audio team.

You can read more of her work on her blog Look for her on Facebook <www.facebook.com/WriterLaurieBell/?fref=ts> or Twitter: <@LaurienotLori>

Laurie's debut book The Butterfly Stone will be published in Autumn (Aus) 2018 and another titled Blood Fever will be published in Winter (Aus) 2018.

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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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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 <https://garrydean.wordpress.com>

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SF News

SF News

AntiSF Author Eugen M. Bacon Publishes Two New Anthologies

Antipodean SF author Eugen Bacon has published two new speculative fiction anthologies:

Dying & Other Stories, <http://www.fiction4all.com/books/b13195-dying-and-other-stories.htm>. Literary speculative fiction that offers up death. Dirges that cross genre.

Thirteen Wicked Tales, <http://www.fiction4all.com/books/b13148-thirteen-wicked-tales.htm>. A collection of literary speculative fiction by Fiction4All

Congrats AntiSF Author Laurie Bell...

Laurie Bell is set to have two new novels published in 2018. One is an adult sci-fi noir thriller novel "Blood Fever" through Incendia Books, and the other is a young adult urban fantasy "The Butterfly Stone" from Wyvern's Peak Publishing.

ASFF Supports The Swancon Short Story Competition 2018 - Entries Now Open

Swancon 2018, the 57th Australian National Science Fiction Convention, is running a short story competition with the support of the Australian Science Fiction Foundation. More information at the Swancon website. Theme: Transformation

For more SF news why not join the ASFF and get the ASFF newsletter “The Instrumentality” delivered straight to your inbox!

Upcoming Aussie Cons

Walker Stalker Convention: Walking Dead convention The Dome at Sydney Showgrounds. 3-4 February 2018 and 10-11 February 2018 Melbourne Showgrounds. <http://walkerstalkercon.com/sydney/>.

Confurgence 2018: Furry convention 23-25 February 2018. Amora Hotel Riverwalk, Melbourne. <http://ausfancons.com/confurgence/>

Swancon 2018 (Natcon): Pan Pacific Hotel, Perth. This is the 2018 Australian National Convention: “Transmogrification”, (Easter) 29  March to 02 April 2018 . Guests: Kameron Hurley, Ryan Griffen, Barb de la Hunty.  More information: <http://swancon.com.au/>

Continuum XIV: Conjugation. Melbourne’s SF Convention. 8th – 11th June, 2018. More information: <http://www.continuum.org.au/>.

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: <https://ausdwcon.org/>

For more up-to-date Aussie SF info join the ASFF: <asff.org.au>

AntiSF will be at the National Convention, Swancon (2018).

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antipod-show-50The AntipodeanSF Radio Show delivers audio from the pages of this magazine.

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