The Android’s Prehistoric Menagerie, by A. Merc Rustad

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We are fans of robots and we are fans of dinosaurs. Who isn’t, really. So how could we resist a charming post-apocalyptic tale featuring a robot and dinosaurs? We should warn you that we asked A. Merc Rustad to add extra FEELS to this story. And they did. Boy, did they ever.

The Android’s Prehistoric Menagerie

by A. Merc Rustad

The world explodes.

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Unit EX-702 comes back online when UV wavelengths activate its solar plating. Its optics are crusted with red dust; a low-powered system scan concludes that though its left arm is missing and there is excessive oxidation damage along its chassis and helmet, as well as a web spun from several arachnids (Nephila clavipes) now embedded in its servo stump, EX-702 is functional. Its operational protocols are intact.

This unit is programmed for the support of life and sapience.

Its databanks are semi-corrupted beyond basic functions and archived footage and base knowledge dumps. Attempts to access the ‘Net and reboot from a mobile hub fail with a repeated NO CONNECTION AVAILABLE alert. EX-702 lifts its remaining arm and scrapes dust away from its optics.

Operational Function 413: this unit will maintain self-preservation operations, including but not limited to the access of immediately available data to determine procedure, when it does not conflict with the preservation of homo sapiens’ survival.

EX-702 sits in the crater of what had been Newtonian Genetech Incorporated laboratories and HQ facility. Debris from the lab cakes the thick concrete and rusted iron walls. Its scanner matrix glitches with static-filled readouts and partially deteriorated unprocessed updates from microseconds before it was shut down.

Scientist voices agitated and unmodulated without appropriate safety masks. [STATIC] “—find survivors! Protect yourself!” [SHUT DOWN]

Something crackles against EX-702’s knee joints. Fibers, synthetic and organic—old HAZMAT suits shredded and woven around broken plywood and stripped copper wiring—shaped in a non-geometric design. Inside the structure sit three maroon and heather-brown eggs thirteen centimeters in length and six in diameter.

Processing…

The eggs do not match any current avian, insectoid, reptilian, mammalian, or amphibian entries in its database. EX-702 examines the nest, which has intersected its knees. A ripped arm from the hazmat suit is tucked between its clawed toes. EX-702 is a humanoid bipedal digitigrade design with backward jointed knees and toe digits designed to grip uneven surfaces and manipulate hostile terrain. Its hand is fully articulated to mimic the human opposable thumb and fingers. EX-702 is not designed to be a nest for unknown biological organisms.

One of the eggs twitches and a small chirrup escapes the cracked calcium carbonate structure.

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The Customer Is Always Right, by Anna Salonen

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Customer service, amirite? One of the worst jobs in the world, because no one enjoys doing it, and no one enjoys making use of it. But when you find someone like our little-seen protagonist in Anna Salonen’s story, who knows what they are doing and can get the job done efficiently and pleasantly, they’re worth their weight in gold.

The Customer Is Always Right

by Anna Salonen

Performance review, employee #34677, Jobe Wallis.

Transcript of “The Incident.”

(Ringing.)

“Hello, you have contacted the AIs Incorporated customer service. How may I assist you?”

“This is Private Johnson calling from Arcadia, Bree’s World. I’m having trouble with the Annihilator5000 you sent me.” (Sound of explosions, screaming, gunfire in the background.)

“We are very sorry for any inconvenience you might have experienced pertaining to our product. Customer satisfaction is very important to us, and I will do everything I can to assist you. What is the problem, sir?”

“I’m in the middle of some heavy shit here, and it isn’t doing anything!”

“Did you try turning the android off and on again, sir?”

“Well, obviously! Do you think I’m an idiot, or something?”

“Of course not, sir. I apologize. Has it been connected to a power source for forty-eight hours, as recommended?”

“Yes, yes! The display says fully charged! Look, I’m kind of on the clock here. They’re coming, and I’m the only one left. I don’t get this thing working, I’m dead!”

“Let me check your order. Do you have your customer identification code?”

“No, I don’t have a goddam code! That piece of shit is paid for by the Coalition Marine Corps!”

“Sir, I’m going to have to ask you to calm down.”
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