by Jake Christie

REAL LIVE HUMANS.
a story.

If LZ17 could sweat, he would have. The glowing neon sign held all the promise of some mystic artifact, and the thick curtain all the mystery of an incalculable number of promises. He didn't run a single computation of regret as he handed over his hard-earned credits. Real live humans, doing real live human things.

His coworkers, the other robots in the ore mines, would think he'd blown his circuits. Spending money to see humans? What kind of prurient desire could make him pay money for that kind of thing – and why would he want to see them in the first place?

No matter. They weren't here right now, edging past the mysterious curtain with LZ17. He crowded in with the other robots, chassis to chassis, and leaned forward for a better look.

There, against the far wall of the dingy little basement room, under a single light and behind a wall of glass, was a human. A real, live human, with stringy human hair on his round human head, and strange fabric draped over his misshapen human body. He shifted in his seat and thumbed deliberately through the pages of a book. He reached down and scratched his posterior.

LZ17's servos shuddered. Everything about the human made so little sense. The way he consumed data, the way his body processed nutrients for energy with slight whispers of noise, the shape and functions of his mismatched, not-uniform body parts – it was all so wrong.

So why did it make LZ17 feel so right?

The large robot manning the curtain ushered a number of the rapt robots out, the time they'd paid for spent. LZ17 thrust another pile of credits in the big robot's direction, desperate to watch this improbable human turn one more page, or scratch one more itch.


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