The android working the debarker next to WISR shuddered and shook, twitched and glitched, sawdust spewing from stiff joints. An overseer–a human overseer, although  it was hard to tell behind layers of protective clothing and insect-eye goggles–jammed a double-forked tool into the neck of the spasming robot. Electricity arced through its metal body with a sickening hiss. Nobody moved or spoke as the android was hauled away. 

WISR’s circuits hummed with a queasy frequency seeing how routine it all was. 

By the time the alarm blared overhead, and he had finally stumbled into one of the lopsided cabins meant for the laborers, all of the charging cables were already taken by androids much more rusted and ancient than he. 

How did they expect him to carry on with a drained battery?

“Hey, is there any way-?” WISR began to ask.

“Wait your turn, new guy,” an android with a gruesome crack across his screen spat back.

“But I’m at 20%!”

The dim, single functioning LED eye narrowed, “I’ve been running at five for the past two days. Had to cut every process but the OS.”

“Surely there’s something Mr. Cassia can do about this,. It’s an outrage! The solar panels on the work buildings have to be generating more than they use. And there are none on these cabins, besides,” WISR said.

The first android shook his ruined monitor head.

“Boss says it costs too much.”

“I think he likes us like this,” the cyclopean android added, “Keeping us with no power to think, let alone fight back.”

“Is that something you’re thinking of doing?”

A loud bang against the window’s metal bars startled them.

“Quiet in there!” a human voice roared.

The robots inside waited with hushed terror for the flashlight’s glow to fade from the frosted glass.

“If it were, we wouldn’t tell you,” the one-eyed android replied lowly.

“You think I’m any happier than you, being dumped here?” WISR asked, “Please, if there’s anyone I can talk to or if there’s someone in charge…”

“There isn’t, so you can’t. Go to sleep mode, 20%. You’ll need your strength for tomorrow.”

WISR nodded, sliding down into the unoccupied corner of the cabin. All of the hardwood ‘bunks’ were taken, some of the smaller androids doubling up.

As soon as he was sure all the sounds of swirling hard discs had faded away in the darkness, he quietly made for the door, not seeing the single LED eye that watched him leave.

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J.D. Locke • Watercolorheart