The Probability Flatline
by K.G. Jewell
Aftan slumped against the wall, the brick scraping her metal chassis as she dialed down the
power draw of her balance gyros. She fought the urge to slide completely into stand-by mode.
At this hour, the city street was dark and quiet. Few robots passed her corner; she had to stay
alert for opportunity.
To her right, the door to the Dialup Package Shop slid open. A steel-collar machinist stepped
out. The probabilities on the patterns of a machinist AI weren't good, but they were positive.
She'd take it.
"Spare a hit? Just one jolt?" Aftan leaned forward and flashed her power status on her chest
interface: 4% REMAINING.
The machinist shifted his bag to his far shoulder and kept walking.
Aftan slumped back against the wall. If she didn't hibernate soon, she'd risk permanently
damaging her hardware. But if she did hibernate, there was no guarantee she'd ever power up
Above her, the night sky twinkled with the light of a thousand suns, each taunting her across the
void of intergalactic space with massive, yet unobtainable, power.
A professional-class accounting android approached, his highly polished chrome chassis
reflecting the distant starlight. The probabilities of direct appeal on an accounting template were
near nil. Aftan shifted strategies.
WILL WORK FOR JOULES, she flashed. "I have human-rated empathy," she added.
The accountant stopped. The probabilities jumped, but Aftan kept her CPU dialed down. She
couldn't waste cycles on wishful scenario projections.
"You are a Human Nursery 4000?" The accountant's voice had the crisp accent popular among
"Yes. With Service Pack 3.21, including the upgrade module for advanced toddler
"Why are you unemployed?" He passed his hand over her chest, the disturbance in her magnetic
field reflecting a scan of her serial number.
"Another round of bed reductions at the nursery." While she spoke, her left arm powered down.
2% REMAINING, her self-monitoring system reported. "Please, sir. My core systems are
shutting down. I need a hit immediately."
The accountant shook his head and turned away. The probabilities crashed towards zero.
Her final Power Down loomed.
The accountant turned back. Her processor skipped a cycle.
"I may have a job for you. Can you get me into a nursery?"