• Jabe Stafford

Automated Drug War

A whole world on a single page!

The short story morsels of One Page Worlds are flash fiction adventures of all flavors. Every Wednesday will feature a complete story in one page, or the first page of what could be a novel or novelette.

Sharing the fun and geekery is the best part of writing! Please tweet or comment with your guesses on what genre, character, and job is central to each tale. Enjoy touring new universes each week with One Page Worlds!

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This is home, not war. She’s too young to know the real job they’ll program her to do. Zip those lips, Ruth.

Qera, a tall, wrist-less robot, stood at the couch across from me. I could feel Qera’s lens on me before she bleeped like an old pager. “Emotions were easy. Why teach me to tailor human clothes?”

Rolling up the hem of my son Corey’s pants, I shook curly hair out of my eyes and looked at the webcam lens that was filming. It was the top-most swiveling dome of my son’s Command-issued PC on the living room’s desk on my left. “Command gets better results from its robots when the program trains as an apprentice first. Sewing is not my only day job. Millions of humans do it and need it.”

Qera bluped, “Can they not change their hip size or bone structure to compensate?”

I stink-eyed her. “People aren’t create-a-characters. You play video games too much.”

“Ahhh,” she blooped. “I understand why you teach me. It is multiplicatively beneficial. It lets you help your family and teach me simultaneously. Ruth, do you see my hands anywhere? I don’t mean to be a burden, but don’t you need hands to take measurements?”

I didn’t know whether to reassure the robot or make a joke. My eyes cast around the living room at my day’s work - the rows of uniform pants draped on the backs of faux leather couches and hanging on racks. LED lamps, sewing machines, robot hands for Qera's sewing, and notices from Command cluttered the space.

I saw nothing on the desk or couches to distract me from the lie fizzing on my tongue.

I faced Qera and turned on another soul-wringing news show on the flatscreen in the wall to her left. “Do you see that shootout and those burning fields outside?”

She vaulted the couches and stuck the landing at the bay windows. Her lens swipped to the flatscreen, then out the windows. Another leap and she alighted on the rug across from me where she'd been standing before. “Indeed. Details in the shot lead me to believe that particular drug war is in Madrid, Spain. Well-dressed men are in that shot.”

While she rattled off information only a detective would notice, I watched the skyline flicker on the horizon, burning beyond the bay windows. Corey’s Command colleagues had come earlier. They told me Corey would return with them. The horizon would stop burning then. They delivered boxes of pants, showed me a photo of a European drug lord, and left. The photo was paper, and they’d turned it away from Qera’s lens.

One box had contained an upgraded robot hand with weapons concealed inside.

Out the window, ranks of men and machines marched away from the razed city.

Away from my son. Toward Qera and me.

I passed her the upgraded hand and murmured, “How hard do you think emotions would be for the people there?”

Qera’s voice didn’t beep at all. “Insurmountable.”

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