The Library wasn’t technically off-limits to Anny, but she still didn’t want to be caught browsing the shelves. Strictly speaking, it wasn’t exactly a part of what was expected on the job, and there was no real good way to justify it. She slipped into the tiny room off Mr. Cassia’s office, looking over her shoulder once, twice, to make sure she wasn’t followed.
The air smelled like stale cigar smoke. S almost opened the paneled window across the room, but then she’d be caught for sure, and =the peppery atmosphere outside was no better. On either side of the window were a pair of tall, narrow bookcases, each one sparsely populated.
Anny tugged down the huge, hardback book, Basic Android Repair, which might have been a textbook from a trade school. The sticky, yellowed pages pulled apart noisily and the copyright was from the same year her parents were born. Beside it were books about logging and cultivation, their spines hanging off and pages warped. She was sure none of those would be useful.
Against the right side wall were rows of binders, each one given a date and labelled T1, T2, T3. Financial records, exactly what she was looking for! She pulled down the most recent one, footsteps sounded in the distance, the unmistakable jangle of Mr. Cassia and his belt of keys.
Anny dove under the huge wooden desk, binder pressed to her chest, hand covering her mouth to muffle unsteady breaths.
His heavy heeled boots wandered in, and after an eternity, faded away. Finally, she let herself breathe, cracking open the cover and pulling out her phone. All these numbers may make no sense to her, but a calculator like WISR may find something useful there. She sent him close to a gigabyte of pictures praying he wasn’t too busy.
The response she got was immediate:
Will take a look. “Uprising” has no leader, robots just angry @ working conditions/lack thereof
Good 2 know, thx.
Carefully, she emerged from under the desk and gently replaced the binder, although she nearly dropped it in shock when her phone again beeped.
My office – Foreman
The foreman didn’t look up from his papers, lollipop stick swinging left and right under his stubbled moustache.
“What do you have to report?” he demanded. “I want this revolt dealt with and now.”
“What if it isn’t one robot talking about it? The supposed ‘uprising’? What if they’re just- just upset?”
Mr. Cassia’s eyes narrowed.
“PAX them,” he replied, “PAX them all.”
Anny took a startled step back.
“Wh- what? Using my key costs 1,000 credits per use, to do your entire staff, let alone the time-!”
“Don’t care. You’ll have dinner with me tonight once the job is done and then you and your machine will get off my moon. This nonsense has gone on long enough.”
“O-Okay,” she stammered, pulling out her phone, “I’m gonna call WISR so he can help me get started.”
“Good girl,” he replied, biting down the lollipop in his mouth in an angry crunch.
Anny backed out of the office before tearing down the stairs and out into the swampy sunlight of Yamaya’s sunset. As she raced up the irritatingly steep hill, she frantically dialed her android partner.
“He wants me to PAX all of them!” she cried.
WISR’s voice was barely audible over the scream of electric equipment.
Breathlessly, she repeated herself, “Mr. Cassia… wants me… to PAX… all the androids! We have to do something!”
“Right! Got it!”
When he met her just outside the workhouse, she was completely out of breath, half-unbound hair plastered to her face with frantic sweat.
“Hey, easy,” WISR said, grasping her shoulders, “If you pass out, they might PAX me too.”
“Glad to know… where your priorities… are,” she gasped.
“Well, someone has to look out for me. C’mon, let’s get you into a cabin where it’s shady.”
The air inside was stifling and peppered with the burning spice that clouded the entire camp, but slightly cooler than outside.
“Is it always this warm in here?” Anny asked, fanning herself with a hand, “This isn’t safe for androids.”
“It cools down a little at night, but you’re right, most of the robots here are half-dead from the heat alone. Not to mention all the sawdust, lack of charging ports, disrepair…”
“No wonder why they want to rebel. That’s inhumane, like, illegal!”
“But what can we do? You have a job to do.”
“And I have no intention of PAXing a hundred androids today. We have to end this, here and now. Did you get a chance to look at the financial records I sent you?”
“Yes, and either our dear foreman was lying about the success of his operation to you or to the government, according to his tax reports he’s barely breaking even.”
“Then that’s it!” Anny cried, leaping up, “I know what we’re going to do!”
“We’re going to go to dinner.”
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J.D. Locke • Watercolorheart