Cheeseburger Brown CHEESEBURGER BROWN: Novelist & Story-wallah
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The Automatic Marlboro
A novelette by Cheeseburger Brown
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The Automatic Marlboro, a novelette by Cheeseburger Brown; illustration by Matthew Hemming

SECTION I. (Free Preview)


I only talk with an Earthish accent when I'm talking to my parents. The rest of the time the only things that give me away are my name, my complexion and my height. In the dark, sitting down, anonymously, and with my family nowhere in earshot, I am the very model of a modern Martian man.

Except I tend to slouch. And my facial hair is sparse. My voice isn't all that low. I dress in clothes too big for me because sometimes I can convince myself this disguises my proportions, though it isn't true.

But I can vote and drink. I can rent cars, either terrestrial or airborne. I have my very own apartment, a decent line of credit, and am responsible for the stability and fecundity of an entire race of intelligent robots.

It's true.

I majored in exterior carapace systems with a minor in robotic neurosociology, right here at the University of Huo Hsing. Which is where I still am. Seven years later. Now that my loans have been repaid I'm considering doing another degree. My parents worry.

"I'm worried about you," says my mom. "You should have a successful career and get married."

"Thanks for the tips."

"You're being sarcastic. It sounds so Martian."

I roll my eyes. "Aresian, Mom. Only Terrans say 'Mars.'"

"I'm not ashamed of my heritage, and neither should you be."

"Listen, I've got to go."

Pulse is my pal. He's the number two man at our operation. Born and bred onworld he's tall and rich-skinned and his accent melodious. He speaks six dialects of Marsgo and two kinds of Putonghua. He doesn't bathe as often as he should but he's the smartest person I've ever met.

Pulse is my best friend.

"Think fast, ugly!"

He takes me out with a foam football. I stumble back, pinwheel my arms for balance and then lurch in the general direction of the ball just in time for it to bounce back up into my face. My hands close around empty air.

"Three point seven meters per second squared, man," he says. "Get used to it."

"Stupid weak gravity," I mumble. "Throws off my timing."

"Because back on Earth you were an elite athlete, right?"

"Shut up."

We share a lab. It's a mess. Which doesn't really matter because nobody ever comes around except machines.

Go Forward

CHEESEBURGER BROWN: Novelist & Story-wallah Cheeseburger Brown
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