Cat Rambo has just published a terrific story over on Lightspeed magazine, called "Long Enough and Just So Long." It's a spiky, bittersweet character study of two best friends, and how their relationship is changed when they meet a recently-liberated sexbot on the Moon. Rambo's hardscrabble future, set in space colonies that are still developing, seems to emerge organically from the strange love triangle that forms between the characters. If you like stories about the brokedown posthuman future, and characters who are as memorable as the worlds they inhabit, you should check it out.
Here's how the story begins, by introducing our two main characters and the robot who will change their relationship forever:
I'd never wanted to go to Earth until the doctor told me I couldn't, that my bones were too brittle. After that, it wasn't an obsession, just an edge to my days.
Otherwise, my life's good.
I run a courier ship between Earth, Luna, the space stations, Mars, and the Inner Gate. You need as little mass as possible to run a snipship, and due to what that doctor called my defects, I'm one of the smallest, fastest. Good pay, and most of the time I'm low-g, which is easiest on me.
Freetime I slum around Luna, where my best girlfriend Pippi lives. Or she and I go prospecting out in the shadow of the Gate, like the dozens of other crazies, hoping to stumble on an alien artifact, make us all rich. Not too impossible a dream, though. It's happened before.
Long Enough and Just So Long by Cat RamboI had a permanent cradle walker left at Luna, that's how much time I spent there. Pippi worked as a sportscaster for the biggest Moon channel, MBSA. Her name's not really Pippi, but she had orange braids and long legs and freckles everywhere, so what else could everyone call her?
I'm used to my name getting distorted. My parents named me Podkayne after a girl in an old story about Mars. It becomes Poddy and Special K, usually Kayne.
In college, though, they called me the Gimp. Most of the time it was affectionate. Pippi was my roommate, there from day one. She had eight siblings, ranging from twelve years to three months. A roomie with lower limb reduction syndrome didn't faze her. I'd come in with a chip pre-loaded on my shoulder, but I relaxed after a couple of weeks.
Pippi was borderline Aspie, called it like it was, which caused her enough troubles on her own. You had to explain to her why you were angry or sad or whatever, but once she knew what was going on, she knew what sounds to make.
The Aspiness makes her an excellent sportscaster. She knows every sports score for the last half century, and a lot of pre-Net stuff too. You can't come up with a trivia question that's lunar sports-related that she can't answer. That was the only thing she really got passionate about, and in a way that charmed the camera.
We never hooked up. Both of us were wired straight. Pippi had a regular friend named Trevor who was usually away on business trips. I paid for it or went virtual every once in a while, and left things at that.
We were both enjoying sunlight at our favorite park, two blocks away from Pippi's apartment complex. Sitting beside a sculpture there I've always loved, spindly rails of color tumbling taller than me like animation lines, edges glinting pink and blue and purple. The smell of tomato and basil and sage filled the air.
Pippi had her face turned up to the light, soaking in the warmth. She had been indulging in tanners again. Her orange shirt and shorts were vibrant against the expanse of her brown skin.
I was more cautious. I don't want skin tumors later on, so I keep a gauzy over-shirt and hat about me. Silvery sleeves to deflect the light were set over my arms, strapped into the walker's maneuvering legs. Underneath the sleeves, mercurial light played over my skin.
We both saw him when he entered the park: Tourist-new, still dressed in arrival shorts and paper shirt with "Be nice, I'm a newbie" printed on the back, which guaranteed him a 10% discount at any participating business.
Pippi squinted over. "Is that…"
I followed her gaze. Dark glasses gave me the advantage. "Yep. It's an AI."
"Not just any AI, though," she said, eyes watering. "Unless I'm wrong?"
"Nope, it's a sexbot," I said.
Read the rest on Lightspeed magazine