PodCastle 274: Far as You Can Go

by Greg van Eekhout

Read by Dave Thompson

Originally published in Flytrap. (Which has just opened up again. Yay!)

I didn’t go to school because I was allergic to the neuroboosters, but that didn’t mean I was stupid. It just meant I had a lot of time on my hands. Mostly, I hung out with Beeman, scrap-combing all over Ex-Town and trading metal and electronic bits and whatever for food and goods and services. We were good businessmen.

Beeman was a robot, only it didn’t matter so much to me because all the skin on his face was torn away so you could see his plastic cheeks and hear the whiz-whirr of his eyes when they moved. This made him okay, because he wasn’t pretending to be a person or anything else he wasn’t. He wasn’t trying to be fake.

We were going over our day’s take the afternoon that I first smelled the Far-away. The grey outlines of the downtown towers faded into the sky like sick ghosts, and over our heads, police stingers whined, invisible in the haze. Beeman and I sat with our backs against a crumbled section of concrete wall. At my feet was a can of split-pea soup, not too far out of date, a couple of nine volt batteries, a coil of O-net cable, and two stainless steel rods that were maybe chopsticks.

“Good trade,” Beeman said, his words beginning and ending with a little click that I wished would go away. The click hadn’t always been there in his speech, but I figured his voicebox was a little broken.

“Except for the soup,” I said. “I’ll bring that home to my mom.”

“Your mom is fat and eats too much.”

“Shut your grill.” I banged the soup can against his head, but not hard enough to dent either. Beeman wasn’t trying to be mean. He just had some bad lines of code.

Rated R: Contains Robots and F-Bombs