Concept Art Writing Prompt: The Robot Barista

Illustration for article titled Concept Art Writing Prompt: The Robot Barista

This coffee jockey finds herself far from Starbucks, astride an espresso machine that doubles as transportation. What stories happen in the course of her day?

This illustration is "Coffee Robot" by Amelia Vidal, via reddit. As always, come up with your own story inspired by this piece of artwork and post it in the comments.

Illustration for article titled Concept Art Writing Prompt: The Robot Barista

Here's my story:

When Pia saw a customer approaching, she took a final drag on her cigarette and tossed it aside. She straightened up in Mate, her JavaBot, and checked the display screen to make sure the specials were correct. Her fingers twitched on the grinding lever. "What can I get you?" she asked.

The man in the coveralls held up a grease-stained finger. "One cup."

"Cup of what?" she asked, trying to sound cheerful.

His eyes narrowed. "Coffee."

She motioned to the display screen, turning up the resolution so the array of beans and lattes on offer were practically reflected in her customer's eyeballs. "I've got these amazing beans from BetaBio. They replicate this old Earth process where the raw beans are digested by a civet…"

"Coffee," he interrupted. "Hot. Brown. Keeps me awake all morning. You familiar with the concept?"

Pia sighed and pulled what she thought of as the "joe" lever. It's not that what came out of the JavaBot's chest wasn't good—Pia wouldn't serve subpar coffee. She made a mental note to reapply for a transfer to a higher deck.

As her freshly caffeinated customer walked away, Pia spotted another figure moving toward her in the distance. She hoped it was a lift operator (those guys worked long shifts and were always good for a red eye), but she quickly recognized it as another JavaBot. This one wasn't lovingly worn like her Mate, but painted a pristine, glossy white. Someone had welded a powder blue unicorn horn to the middle of its head. The operator wore a puffy pink dress decorated with candy swirls and a tiny, matching top hat.

This was a milk tea girl.

She stopped in front of Mate, and gripping the top of her own display screen, leaned out of her seat. "You're in my spot," she said.

Pia pointed a thumb back at the "Hot Coffee" sign glowing red behind her. "Do you even have coffee in that thing?"

The milk tea girl shook her head from side to side. "Enough to qualify." She audibly harrumphed before moving her JavaBot to the other side of the Hot Coffee sign.

They had another twenty minutes before the next shift change, so Pia pulled on her headphones and lit up another cigarette. Suddenly, something wet stung her cheek. She turned to see the milk tea girl holding a tiny pistol. Pia searched her seat and pulled up the projectile: a tapioca pearl.

Pia had spent five years getting her robotics degree and another three at the System Culinary Institute. She made the best cup of coffee on Deck Five, and she was not going to be unseated by a milk tea girl with a boba gun. Pia pulled up the milk tube, set the dial to scalding, and took aim.

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Hipsters with mechas?! If this is the future please point me out to the nearest suicide booth.