Flash Fiction by Viktor Kuprin
Labor Supervisor SCE-1124 knew there would be extra costs and difficulties keeping the project plans on schedule without the human contingent. Though the Earth mammals were fragile and easily damaged, they had, indeed, proven to be good workers both on the asteroids and aboard his construction ships.
He noticed a small figure standing by his office-pit and recognized it as the Human Trustee. Why was she still here? He beckoned with his main claw.
Karina Hively approached, face downward as xenoprotocol required.
“I thought you would be gone by now, Former Trustee Hively. What do you want?” He clasped his main claw to indicate impatience.
“Please, Labor Supervisor, I need help. I can’t get transportation.”
“How can that be?” SCE-1124 asked. “I’ve seen thousands of human slaves boarding the repat vessels. They seem quite ready to depart as quickly as possible. Why don’t you join them and be on your way to wherever you and your people want to go?”
She began to wring her hands, eyes wide with what SCE-1124 recognized as anxiety and fear.
“My life is in danger. I’ve been hiding ever since the Emancipation. They won’t allow me on any of the ships.”
SCE-1124 would have none of it. “Oh please. Such disagreements can surely be resolved by offering your fellow humans sizeable monetary incentives. I know for a fact that you sometimes actually received precious metals and gems in reward for your skilled management.”
“Great One, you don’t understand,” she pleaded. “They won’t take my money. I tried, but it’s no use. They want to kill me!”
Tapping his main and secondary claws, SCE-1124 considered. “Why don’t you perform that custom that makes all things good again. What do humans call it? Yes, an apology. Apologize, then you can go with them.”
Hively began to sob. “They’ll never forgive me. They remember when I ordered the cull in the nurseries, the rations-and-oxygen adjustments.”
“Ah yes, yes! You were the one who reduced our project costs for both slave nourishment and atmospheric recharges,” SCE-1124 recalled. He trembled with glee. “I must admit that I didn’t believe humans could live on such little food and oxygen. And only three out of ten died, if I recall correctly, those weak ones we didn’t need. Now that was a very effective business decision, one of your best!”
She covered her face with her hands and fell to her knees. “Please, Great One. I’ve always been loyal …”
SCE-1124 waved his main claw. “Now, now, Former Trustee, the Emancipation Treaty did terminate our business relationship. You and all humans are free to find new work on Earth, or Alpha Centauri, wherever. The transport’s been paid for. It’s out of my claws’ reach, you know. So, I wish you the very best of success in your future career endeavors, and thanks so much for your exemplary professionalism. It’s been a pleasure!
“Oh, and don’t forget that any human detected onsite after today will have to be disintegrated. Now shoo away. Shoo.”
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