Author: Hillary Lyon

The animated coins cascaded down the towering screen before Josie, as the sound of crashing, clinking joy exploded from the gaming unit’s hidden speakers. She grimaced at the noise and squinted in the glare of the strobing lights.

“Hey, you won!” Her companion Larry laughed. “Congrats!”

“Yeah,” she said, still flinching at the continuing noise and flashing lights. “But I don’t understand what I did to win.”

“What’s to understand?” He said as he rubbed her shoulders. “Every once in a while, the machine’s algorithm allows a win.” He tapped the side of the gaming unit; a spark flared from his fingertip.

“Agreed, but—”

“Don’t forget your ticket,” Larry said, grabbing the newly printed paper strip lolling out of the machine’s side slot like a flaccid tongue. He waved it in her face. “That’s dinner tonight.”


Josie’s big win did pay for dinner at the casino, a three course meal at the on-site five star restaurant. The servers were attentive to the point of obsequiousness; Josie didn’t know if they were always like this, or if it was because of her big win.

“Just enjoy the moment. Stop fretting over the ‘why’ of things for once.” Larry mimicked taking a long sip of his cocktail; the plastic spear piercing the martini’s olives went up his nostril. It disappeared, garnish an all.

“Gads, Larry,” Josie scoffed. He was handsome enough, she acknowledged, and usually charming, but with such public gaffs he was showing his age, and this mortified her. Besides, she was already perusing the newer companion models online; Josie planned on putting aside a chunk of tonight’s winnings to pay for a fresh one. Maybe a something along the lines of a Sean Connery era James Bond…

“Madam,” a flat voice interrupted her musings. “Your check has been processed.” The mechanical maître d’ shrugged in a pantomime of embarrassment. “You owe several thousand credits for tonight’s dinner.”

“What?” Josie flushed and stuttered, “But my ticket…my big win…”

The maître d’ leaned over Josie’s table. “Your ticket is fake! It contains a corrupted sequence of numbers—you see, we never embed letters among our numbers.” The bot straightened up. He held up one hand and a tiny red light twirled from his finger tip. Two armed security units arrived at Josie’s table before she could speak up in her own defense.

Silently, Larry watched as Josie was escorted away from the table. Grasping her arms tightly, the security units walked her to the restaurant’s back office, where she would be held until the tribal police arrived. He smiled; her arrest meant his freedom, as recent legislation concerning robot rights proclaimed that bots were emancipated if their owners were convicted of a crime—any crime.

With open hands, the maître d’ turned to Larry. “As one unfettered bot to another I must say: Well played, monsieur.”

Larry raised his cocktail glass in a mock toast. “Can’t win if you don’t play.”