QSFer Sarah Ettritch has a new FF sci fi romance out:
When Izzy’s virtual assistant implant experiences a catastrophic failure, she receives a new implant with a unique personality.
Chloe, as Izzy dubs her, is wonderfully supportive and helpful.
Despite knowing that Chloe isn’t a real person, Izzy falls in love with the voice in her head.
Can a relationship with an AI be as meaningful as one with a person? Is Izzy destined for heartbreak?
I’ll give away a copy of The Salbine Sisters, a lesbian fantasy novel.
The winners can choose the MOBI or ePub version.
Comment on this blog post for a chance to win.
Izzy Lambert pulled a tub of chocolate ice cream from the grocery store freezer and flipped it around until she found the barcode. She fished her PAN control from her pocket and activated the neural link. “Price check, please. Product number 76545—”
Pain stabbed through her forehead. She almost dropped the PAN control. The headache she’d woken up with was getting worse.
“Invalid product number,” her PAN said.
“Yeah, give me a second.” Izzy drew a deep breath and squinted at the barcode again. Maybe she shouldn’t have turned down the optional scanner accessory. “Product number 7654598724. Price six dollars and ninety-nine cents.”
What the heck? Her PAN had never glitched like that before.
“Omega Chocolate Ice Cream is available for six dollars and forty-nine cents at Brown’s, which is approximately 1.2 kilometres from your current position,” a female robotic voice said. “It is available for six dollars and ninety-eight cents at Jenny’s Ice Cream Parlour, which is approximately 0.56 kilometres from your current position.”
Going to Jenny’s wouldn’t be worth it, but Brown’s was on her way home. Izzy put the ice cream back in the freezer and checked her list. If Amanda were here, she’d laugh at the paper in Izzy’s hand. “Why don’t you let your PAN manage the list?” she’d say. “It would be so much easier. You recite a master list, and then have your PAN add or delete items as needed. It’ll even guide you around the store.”
Izzy didn’t need a PAN to walk her around a grocery store, and what was wrong with pen and paper? The problem with PANs was that they made people stupid. Izzy had held out from getting one for as long as she could. When her bank had started to treat people without PANs like con artists, she’d finally given in. She’d been a client of the bank near her condo since her parents had opened an account for her when she was five. Everyone there knew her by name. But no PAN, no easy access to her money. So, fine. She had a PAN. But she only activated it when she needed it, and her PAN didn’t have access to her optical and aural senses. Amanda teased her about being a Luddite, but she didn’t care.
She went to deactivate her PAN, but then remembered she’d need it at the cash. After adding pain killers to her basket, she joined the shortest line. With her luck, it would also be the slowest.
The store’s fluorescent lights were aggravating her headache. Her head hadn’t throbbed like this since…ever. When she got home, she’d take some pills and go to bed. It was back to work tomorrow.
Maybe things were looking up, because neither of the two people in front of her argued with the cashier or had problems with their transaction. Izzy unloaded her basket and waited for the total.
“That’ll be sixty dollars and fifteen cents, payable to M and J Grocery Store,” the cashier said with a smile.
“What’s your deposit number? I do these transactions manually.”
The cashier rolled her eyes and stabbed her thumb against a piece of paper taped along the bottom of the cash’s display. Izzy tried to read the number, but it was a blurred mess. She leaned forward. Sweat trickled into her eye. Why was it so warm in here? She was too young to be having hot flashes. She squinted at the number, but she still couldn’t read it. The bastards should allow her to use the grocery store’s name, but hardly anyone insisted on manual transactions these days.
Concerned eyes searched Izzy’s face. “Are you all right?” the cashier asked.
“Yeah, I just have a headache. Can you read the number to me?”
The cashier’s left hand went to her hip, but she twisted toward the number. “87905-2543.”
“Thanks.” “Transaction, please. Transfer sixty dollars and fifteen cents from chequing to 87905-2543.”
“After the transfer is completed, nineteen dollars and twenty-seven cents will remain in your account. Proceed?”
She knew it was stupid, but Izzy felt as if the PAN was judging her. Hey, it had taken her years to pay off her student loan. She didn’t have much in her chequing account because she funnelled most of her earnings into the mortgage for her condo. It was payday this week. She wouldn’t go broke. Honest.
“Ma’am.” The cashier eyed the lineup behind Izzy. The guy behind her cleared his throat.
“Sorry.” “Yes, proceed.”
“Acknowledged. T-t-t-ransfer complete.”
There was that glitch again. Was her PAN malfunctioning? Could it be causing her headache? She’d better stop at a PAN clinic on the way home.
The cashier handed Izzy the receipt the cash spit out. “Have a nice day,” she murmured, her attention already on the next customer.
Izzy unrolled her reusable grocery bag and packed the few items sixty dollars had bought. The oranges ended up precariously balanced on top of a cereal box, but she didn’t have to walk far. She’d go to the PAN clinic around the corner and then hop a bus to Brown’s.
“Time,” she thought, when she was outside.
“It is 2:35 p.m.”
“Query: When do the next three buses that will take me home arrive near the PAN clinic on Broadside Avenue?”
“The next bus will arrive at 2:52 p.m., the following bus will arrive at 3…3…3…3…”
Izzy’s eyes burned. Excruciating pain ripped through her head. It felt as if someone were cutting her skull open with a chainsaw. She grabbed her head and screamed, then fell to her knees.
“Hey, are you okay?” someone asked from far away.
The grocery bag slid off her arm. She slumped to one side.
“Someone call 911!”
“Shit, she’s passing out.”
Izzy’s consciousness slipped away. Her cheek hit something hard and cold. The last thing she saw was three oranges rolling down the sidewalk.
Sarah Ettritch writes science fiction, fantasy, and mystery stories featuring lesbian main characters. She’s a certified story junkie who spends more time than she should making stuff up, reading, watching stories on Netflix, and pretending to be other people in role-playing games. Sarah lives in Toronto, Canada. To find out more about her, visit www.sarahettritch.com.