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Raymund Eich

Paytron of the Arts: A Science Fiction Short Story

Ebook

Money can’t buy happiness, but it increases your chances… until his patron gives Zachary a harsh choice. Compromise his artistic vision, or lose funding.

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Available on April 29, 2024
SKU: paytron-arts Category: Tag:

Description

 

R1000 stood before the two people. “Farewell, my human friends.” The robot lifted its head, looking past them, in the direction where cattle grazed and wheat grew on the former battlefields, where the plague wards now had empty beds. “You no longer need my help. Your future is yours to choose.”

They never saw R1000 again.

Zachary stepped back from the keyboard. The ending he’d just written echoed in his head. Destinies: Man and Machine. His best sci fi novel yet.

Thank God for Paytron. Not a scramble for nickels and dimes from a thousand fans, like that other service, but real money from a real, though anonymous, patron. Money enough to pay child support without needing a real job.

Money can’t buy happiness, but it increases your chances.

Until his patron gives Zachary a harsh choice. Compromise his artistic vision, or lose funding.

Zachary refuses to give in. He knows how to unearth secret information from the Internet. His patron won’t stay anonymous for long.

What will his patron say when Zachary shows up at his door?

—Previously published in Analog, January/February 2024

Sample of “Paytron of the Arts”

R1000 stood before the two people, like a metallic statue eight feet tall. The stereovision cameras in its head regarded them. Heat shimmered the air around its barrel chest, by-product of the power plant and the intense computations churning inside its torso. The heat shimmer rippled their view of the spidery landing struts of the ship behind R1000.

Words came from the speaker grille at the lower part of its head. “Farewell, my human friends.”

Devon stood tall despite his sadness, though nowhere near as tall as the robot. Rashelle squeezed his hand and leaned against him. Voice plaintive, she said to R1000, “Do you really have to go?”

Silently, supplely, R1000 lifted its head, looking past them, in the direction where cattle grazed and wheat grew on the former battlefields, where the plague wards now had empty beds. “You no longer need my help. Your future is yours to choose.”

A hatch appeared in the ship’s hull. Out snaked a boarding ramp that touched the ground and snapped to rigidity. A deep base hum sounded, the antigrav lifters warming up for launch.

The robot turned, smoothly as a dancer, and climbed the ramp. The hatch closed in a quiet instant. Moments later, the ship whispered into the sky.

They never saw R1000 again.


Zachary stepped back from the keyboard and blinked. The June evening had crept up outside, had leached color from the book spines on his home office shelves. Through the window, the new pellet grill and the underused swings and slide set in his backyard looked insubstantial.

He shivered, partly because he’d turned down the air conditioning hours earlier, partly because the words he’d just written echoed in his head. Destinies: Man and Machine. His best sci fi novel yet.

Thank God for Paytron. Not a scramble for nickels and dimes from a thousand fans, like that other service, but real money from a real patron. Money enough to pay child support without needing a real job.

Money didn’t buy happiness, but it increased your chances.

Speaking of Paytron….

Zachary turned up the room lights, then returned to his standing desk. His fingers flew over the split ergonomic keyboard. The clicky green mechanical switches sounded like a telegraph office, louder than a Haydn symphony trickling from the speakers. A spell check on the whole manuscript, a grammar check. Only four typos of quite for quiet or vice versa.

A grin split his face as he typed THE END.

A few more keystrokes. Send as, attachment, to Paytron – First Reader (bibuj.ylggp@paytron.arts).

The email whooshed away.

He left his office and made his way through his dim and silent house. When he blinked, afterimages of his monitor showed as green rectangles on the insides of his eyelids. The curtains smeared the parallelograms of the street light falling on the beige carpet in his living room. On the dining room table, the kids’ half-built brick sets looked like a ghost town in ruins.

His usual routine when he finished a novel kicked in. He ordered a small pizza, Canadian bacon and most of the veggies, a rare carby and cheesy indulgence. Order placed by the time he reached the liquor cabinet in the media room. Only good stuff now, glass bottles, and he drank much less than he had the months after Nora left.

And not his usual daily tipple. Not tonight. Zachary reached back for the really good stuff, an $80 bottle of sipping bourbon, fiery smooth on the tongue.

To the mud room. Spritzes of mosquito repellent, then he took his glass outside. Hot, humid night. Bare feet on the deck’s sealed wood slats. White noise from the freeway half a mile away and a chorus of crickets from the drainage ditch behind the back fence.

He eased into a springy chair. Neat bourbon tingled in his mouth and slid down his throat. He relaxed in the now-full dark, looked for the handful of bright stars beckoning through the spillover glow of his neighbors’ patio lights. A creative recharge. More novels slowly accreted amid the shadows.

Not that he could start the next one tomorrow. His primary patron—the person behind the letter-salad email address—would read the attachment overnight and his comments would be in Zachary’s inbox by nine next morning. Always minor suggestions, to fix a clunky phrase here or a character’s eyes changing color there. Once in a while he proposed a new title.

Always minor suggestions, and Zachary always followed them.

Early on, he’d questioned his artistic integrity. Revising his manuscripts to the order of someone he’d never met…. a someone who allowed him buy expensive liquor and building-brick sets for his kids every other weekend. Who allowed him to do what he loved full-time instead of carving minutes out of an eight-hour workday and a long commute.

Life always required compromise. The ones bibuj.ylggp asked of him were minimal.

He sipped bourbon and looked to the stars, for inspiration for the day after tomorrow.

Additional information

Format

Ebook

Writer

Raymund Eich

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