A young man sat on a darkened stoop with a small child in his arms. There was lamplight at the head of the street and lamplight at the end, but the stoop where the young man sat was at the middle of the block. Only a bit of the light stretched down to where he watched with the child.
The cobbled streets bloat, filled with petrol fumes, birds’ droppings, and old receipts discarded by office workers returning home. A clock chimes seven times.
“And then she invited him over for lunch! Her man’s not dead a year and she’s already at that bowls club on the prowl.” The old woman’s bonnet bounced up and down as she spoke. The rain continued to pound the pavement as she and her friend passed. Sam listened to her story, smiling a little. If they hadn’t been walking right in front of him he might have thought that they were speaking to each other from across the road, their voices were that loud. He wondered if they realised how loud they were, if they were both hard of hearing or just assumed the other was because of their age.
You can touch Shax, but only by “appointment.” First you have to establish eye contact with the old tom and at the same time make a “scratchies” gesture with your index finger. If you correctly spy permission in his imperious gold eyes, then, and only then, may you apply a “scratchie” to the surprisingly short distance between his ears. Any failure to comply with this procedure will result in a personal math system based on the number nine.
Sleep in any odd alley came piecemeal to Chris Banntry (and never luck, he would add, if anything else.) He called it bonesleep or curbsleep, or a number of other things, just as long as minutes of it were sometimes accompanied by a kind darkness. He liked the minutes where his bones could soften for the merest of moments and his mind go blank and his stomach cease its horrible arguments, and the insects, the ants and other crawling enemies, might take a night off from arduous labors. The darkness, inevitably, could bring enemies of all sorts with it, or the strangest of friends.
Enrique studied the faces around the table. The purchase committee dispensed their limited resources with utmost care. It was no surprise that the investment in another “staff” member should arouse such discussion. They didn’t object to using androids in schools, especially in the internment facilities, where the headcounts of students exceeded all conscionable limits. Within the southeast sector alone, an android already functioned efficiently as a janitor and two, female in aspect, doled out cafeteria food. The machine vetting the kids’ thin, government-issued bags at the building entrance possessed some enhanced intelligence. Three monitored the scrappy stretch of ground called a play area. But to order one with a limp, for the lower grades…