Bottom Line by Matthew Marchitto

Wil hated his job.

He’d been on his feet for sixteen hours, plugging his doohickey into circuit boards to make sure they worked. All the while the company’s eye watched him from above. A hovering deep red drone that recorded everything.

The only breaks Wil got were to take a piss. No food. No drinks. He didn’t need them. One of the benefits of Juice. The nutrient goop kept people like Wil upright for as long as the company needed. The stuff was cheap to make too. Wil wondered if he had the last job that robots couldn’t do, or if the robots that could do it were too expensive.

Wil wanted to go home, to crawl into his five foot apartment cube and pass out with the TV blaring.

The company drone hovered near. “Please, let me go home,” Wil muttered. The drone’s eye scanned him, and then a long needle jabbed into Wil’s arm. He felt the Juice surge through him, guaranteeing five more hours of work.

Tears welled at the corner of Wil’s eyes. He wanted to scream and cry and punch the dumb drone in its dumb robot eye.

Today was the day, Wil was going to quit his job.

Uncle Dan had said the same thing. Proud, sure, earnest to fight his way up to join the Lucky Few. But he couldn’t fight his way anywhere, and apartment cubes don’t abide late payments. Companies don’t like hiring people with fire in their bellies. Four months later Wil found Dan on the street, ragged and unkempt. Dan’s eyes were pleading, sad, hopeful. Wil couldn’t afford to help Dan and he didn’t know anyone who could.

Wil had rent to pay, groceries to do, and maybe he’d have enough time to watch twenty minutes of TV before bed.

“I’ll quit tomorrow,” Wil thought.