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My Manufactured Victory Part 1

May father always told me, "Listen here, Imba my girl - when the whole world was buying up the production bots, our family drew the short end of the stick."

Generations ago, based on the fad of talking armbands, our grandparents risked their fortune on the production bot that made such trite things.

And nobody wants them in 2732. It's so 2578 that it just screams "tacky."

Or at least, that's what the teenage girls keep saying in their online reviews of our production bot.

People don't manufacture things. Robots do that. Humans design the products, and then they make the robots build them - one production bot produces an object and has a plethora of designs to choose from.

For instance, there's a production bot that produces nothing but forks - lots of different looking forks, but all of them serve the same function of skewering your food as a means of transitioning it to your gullet. Whoever the fork family is bought that one and they are filthy rich.

Now, take that and translate it into what I just said about our production bot. Talking armband fad that everyone now thinks is "tacky"...

We are poor poor poor because nobody wants what our robot is selling.

Our family has had to outsource our design services to make ends meet, but that is a pittance compared to what a good production bot can make for you.

I hate our production bot. I've named him Yohan. Because I knew a guy named Yohan back in my early schooling days and he was a huge lazy dick that always tattled on the other kids in the playground for no reason other than because he felt like it.

That's our production bot. Screwing us over with its mere existence.

And it's not like we can get a new one - disregarding the huge cost of these damn contraptions, pretty much all of the bots have been sold. Given the sheer amount of stuff these things can churn out, there doesn't need to be a duplicate for a second object.

Each production bot is its own monopoly. Which has it's ups and downs... a lot of downs if your monopoly is on hideous annoying armware, but that's the way society has shaken out.

So we're stuck with Yohan. Hooray.

We've designed so many new armbands in an attempt to appeal to today's fashions, but nobody wants them. We had a small spike in sales a couple of years back (in which we made enough to finally get Uncle Hebert out of debtor's prison), but that had very little to do with anything on our part. There was a small subset of people who remembered those armbands growing up and had nostalgia for them.

And then sales went back to the shitter because all those people remembered why these things went out of style in the first place.

And so, penny pinching it was.

Our family had pretty much given up hope on making a respectable living until my sister, Umbra, came back one day with a new production bot.

We didn't know how she got a hold of it, but we were certainly thrilled when she came back with one.

"What's it make, what's it make?" we all crowded around her, prodding her with the same question until she finally spilled out -

"It makes Tyriksheer!"

Dead silence. "Tyriksheer?" our dad said, unable to keep the displeasure from his voice.

"Yes, yes, and I know - I know that it seems crazy to produce Tyriksheer, but hear me out," Umbra insisted, getting worked up and defensive about her newly acquired toy.

"I've been talking with Tillen for some time now, and it's bound to become a big thing some time. Or at least - at least have a really strong niche in the market. Trust me. Please, trust me." Umbra was speaking more desperately.

"Why in the Seven Colonies of Saturn would we want a production bot that makes alien fabrics?" our mother cut in, absolutely disgusted if the the creases in her face were anything to go by.

"The aliens think they can come to Earth and take all our jobs," Uncle Hebert groaned from his ratty old comfy chair. "You will take that bot and you'll blow it up in the back yard, missy, or you'll be in a world of trouble."

My family descended into scathing rabble. The point of alien life and what should be done about it was a contentious one amongst all the human population to say the least. We'd come into contact with two species in our mission to conquer the cosmos - there were the Yuppa who were slimelike and dumb, but had somehow gained interstellar capabilities (we think it's because of an AI they created centuries ago, and thus the species has devolved).

And then there were the Tyrik. It's hard to describe them other than "they are Tyrik-like," but I'll give it a shot anyway.

The Tyrik have this glow about them. And this is caused by their constant secretions. These secretions are both beautiful and revolting to the human senses, making contact somewhat difficult. They are intelligent, but they are conniving bastards. Many a human merchant has been screwed over in attempting to make business deals with the Tyrik.

However, their home colonies have also been collapsing. No one knows why; theories involve suspecting something inherently wrong with the species and others speculate some unknown outside cause. Whatever the case, Tyrik have been flooding human worlds as refugees.

Suffice to say, given the natural inclinations towards xenophobia the human race has, relations and such have been tenuous, even volatile.

Mars has entirely banned any Tyrik from their orbit; any ship that gets too close will first be repulsed by a cushion of forcewave and if they still continue their insistence, they will be vaporized.

The majority of my family falls on the side of "Keep Earth for Earthlings!" camp (which frankly doesn't make any sense because humans aka earthlings inhabit far more than just the Earth these days, but whatever). Umbra firmly believes Tyrik mean no harm and there are a couple of other family members on her side, but they're definitely in the minority.

I, on the other hand, couldn't care less about whether or not we should let aliens come to Earth. What I do care about is scrounging up the cash to go to university where I can get a degree to make me a desirable designer for hire. Most of my family resents having to resort to freelance work, but I think it's fun - it has a nice ring to it for me; Imba, Freelance Designer. What isn't fun is working on countless slightly different iterations of shitty armbands.

Which is perhaps why I was so fascinated by a production bot that could manufacture Tyriksheer - a fabric that is quite luxurious and made originally by the Tyrik. Due to the aforementioned alien racism, it hasn't taken off in the human colonies.

But it is stunning. It has a natural glow to it that radiates from within, conforms to the body, yet hangs pleasingly and is very soft. If people would just get over themselves, Tyriksheer clothing would probably be a smash hit.

It was at the peak of the family brawl shouting match that I took it upon myself to shut them up so everyone could hear my idea. I had Yohan print out a talking armband that I had designed for just such an occasion - I spoke into it, then plugged my ears as it was about to initiate playback.

"IDIOT FAMILY, I HAVE SOMETHING OF GREAT IMPORTANCE TO TELL YOU!" a deep, loud and grating voice boomed from the little strip. I designed it to sound like a blend of a voice of god mixed with an evil gremlin; the juxtaposition was great for fucking with people's heads and getting their attention.

That worked like a charm. Everybody shut up and was consoling their poor ears.

I stood up on the coffee table and spoke. "What if we don't call it Tyriksheer?" I offered.

I felt silly immediately, standing on the table and making a pithy declaration like it was the most profound statement I had ever made. I blundered forward nonetheless. "We can call it something else, like, I dunno, 'ShineSheet' - just spitballing - and I bet we can get some clothing bots to pick up the fabric and it'll sell," blank stares. "Trust me."

There wasn't as much objection as I thought there would be; our hyper patriotic Uncle Hebert and Umbra both got in a tizzy over it - for entirely different reasons. Uncle was pissed that I would even consider trying to peddle alien goods and Umbra because she thought lying to the public would be unethical, but the rest of the family seemed to be seriously considering it.

Mom broke in skeptically, "Won't people still figure out it's Tyriksheer? It's a very distinct fabric."

I responded, having already thought of that contingency; "We say that it is made from all Earthen materials, that we've figured out how to synthesize a very similar fabric. But this is important, trust me!" I gestured to the bot, "Til' now, people have always thought the Tyrik made this fabric from their secretions, but all it needs to make the fabric is atoms in our air! Nothing less alien than that. We keep the recipe and sell the fabric to keep anyone else from being able to create it without us - it'll work! Trust me." The more I said the words "trust me," the more like a fraud I felt.

But my large family pondered this in our cramped living area designed for a group half the size. If there was one thing you could count on to override human xenophobia, it was greed. And everyone knew we could make a lot of money manufacturing this beautiful fabric.

Mom, the matriarch, spoke to decide once and for all the new fate of the family. "Everyone, get designing as many bolts of fabric as you can. We're going to take over the market."

There was a cheer, soured only with indignant protests from Uncle and Umbra. I smiled. Things were looking up for us.

It was impossible to know at the time that this fateful decision would lead to the death of our dynasty. Don't blame me for that. I'm just a twenty-four year-old girl, it wasn't all my fault.

Click here for part 2

Hiding from the Burning City

Starting Over. And Over... and Over... and Over...