Thursday, November 5, 2009

Friday Fiction for November 6, 2009

Holy cow, I almost missed that it was my turn to host Friday Fiction this week! Things have been really crazy, since the transmission in my wife’s van died last Sunday morning, and we’ve been working on things to rectify the “two jobs, one vehicle” situation all week.

We are now well into this year’s NaNoWriMo, and with everything that has been going on, I’m a bit behind schedule. Not to worry; it’s all fun, no matter what the current word count looks like. I will most likely be posting excerpts from my WriMo project, “Empty Threats” for each Friday Fiction this month. This week, I’m posting Chapter 2, which introduces one of the main characters of the story. “Empty Threats” takes place predominately on a planet in the Sigma Draconis system (also called Alsafi on some star charts), about 18.8 light years from Earth.

This story draws on concepts I first played with in the Challenge Entry, “Exiled With a Fool,” and the follow-on sketch, “The Requisition.” This will be something of a spin-off story in the Eridanus series of books, and so continues in the setting of the Terran Archipelago of colony worlds. I hope you enjoy it.

Chapter 2

Empty Administration

Anthro Resources had grown into one of the most lucrative businesses on the planet, cultivating blank-mind humans called “Empties” that could be requisitioned and programmed for almost any given purpose. Solomon, husband of the priestess G’Se, read over another requisition request from Anthro Resources. His job, despite finding the technology disturbing, was to verify that all requisitions were within the guidelines established by the Ruling Council, and give official approval before any Empty could be filled.

One of the Ruling Elite was requesting a Personal Assistant, and the purchaser’s requirements were carefully drafted to avoid certain keywords that would flag an immediate rejection. Quite often, the only difference between a “personal assistant” and a male or female concubine was how the request was framed and the overall status of the requester. Working Class citizens didn’t have personal assistants, and hence could not requisition one. Then again, the Working Class could rarely afford to requisition a legitimate Domestic, let alone an Empty for the sole purpose of periodic intimate liaisons.

Solomon reviewed the programming criteria for the Empty, which included a significant set of administrative skills that an Executive would benefit from in an assistant – Task Oriented Organization, Charisma and Personal Diplomacy, Image Consultation, Media Presence, and Job Tenacity were among those listed. Countering that were the requirements that the Empty also be young, attractive, and romantically disposed towards someone who, coincidentally, fit the requester’s description.

I couldn’t very well contradict a Ruling Elite and say this Personal Assistant is a concubine, though, could I? he thought as he attached his approval to the request. A lowly Working Class Admin’s word doesn’t outweigh that of the Elite, does it?

The next request was from a member of the Cultural Elite, needing a Domestic for the care of their expected child, and he chuckled at the requester’s stipulation that the Empty be average looking, with an attenuated sexual awareness. Approved.

He took a cold beverage from a snack remote, and sipped it while looking at the next file. On a whim, he opened the proposed programming file for the Empty, and read down through the various categories of education. It wasn’t nearly interesting enough to hold his attention for any length of time, so he returned to the requested duties. This one was needed to augment a labor shortfall in a service industry. While ostensibly an employee of the requesting Corporation, labor Empties were basically a slave programmed to be content with their wages and living conditions. They didn’t aspire to promotions, raises, or more fulfilling work.

I should have stayed home and been a proper husband for a priestess, and then I wouldn’t have these lingering pangs about what we do here. He put the electronic approval stamp on the request, condemning another Empty to a life as a slave, and moved on to the next request.

His supervisor’s face appeared in the corner of the terminal. “Solomon, I need to see you in my office.”

“Now? I just opened another request to review.”

“Now; just approve it and get in here.”

The requirements were given a quick scan to be sure there was nothing blatantly illegal, and he sent it back to Anthro Resources for processing before leaving his desk. His supervisor’s office was a short walk down the hall, and he paused at the open door to be noticed before entering.

The supervisor looked up and waited.

Solomon crossed his wrists below his chin, with palms facing out, in the proper show of respect. The supervisor was a low-level member of the Cultural Elite, but an Elite nonetheless. “You summoned me, Esteemed Sir?”

“Come in and close the door.”

“As you request, Esteemed Sir.” A priestess is of greater importance than you’ll ever be, and she would still give a reciprocal courtesy.

“How long have you been doing this job, Solomon?”

“It will be four years this coming Tria – the tenth of Tria to be exact.”

“It seems our Section Manager has been getting some complaints on how long it takes you to process the requests, and they’re starting to back up.”

“Esteemed Sir, I assure you that I’ve been working through the requests as efficiently as possible, with giving each enough scrutiny to fulfill my task.”

“I’ve been monitoring your performance since late Ena or early Thia this year, and I’ve not been impressed either.”

“You’ve been watching me, Esteemed Sir?”

“I’m your boss – it’s my job.”

“I’ll try to work faster.”

“I hope so, but you’re not going to be working on Empty approvals any longer. For now, I’m putting you over onto Empty tracking. You’re going to handle reviewing the data on the location of all the Empties currently serving on Alsafi, and occasionally pull spot-checks to verify they’re where they’re supposed to be. Can you handle that without falling too far behind?”

“I-” He bit back the retort, and reined in the surge of indignation. “I thought Empty tracking was automatic through the system.”

“It is, but it seems a member of the Ruling Council raised a question in front of the Adon about possible discrepancies in what is being reported, and the Council has requested a human audit of the automatic tracking. It’s a pointless, futile exercise, and I expect you’ll find it even more boring and thankless than your old job of reviewing requests.” He turned away with a dismissive wave. “Since ‘requests’ from the Ruling Council are not something we can refuse, it’s a good job to assign you while I figure out what your permanent status is going to be.”

“I’ve always strived to perform my job well, Esteemed Sir. I can’t imagine how I’ve failed so badly as to be in this situation.”

The supervisor spun back around in his chair with an aggravated huff. “Oh, for – Think about it, Solomon. You don’t fit this world, do you? You were raised on that technologically retarded Eridani planet, surrounded by people happily trapped in their outmoded religion. We can’t even call you by a normal surname, because you’re married to an Eridani priestess and therefore expect to be identified as her husband. If your wife shows up at any social events, you act embarrassed if we don’t show the proper deferral to her clergy status, and she doesn’t even allow your daughters to receive the standard education and socialization from our school system. Your whole family is one big sappy anachronism, and while I would expect that from a native Eridani like your wife, both your parents were Terrans from the Archipelago. You should know better.”

“So, the problem is that I’m happy accepting Qi’le culture?”

He jabbed a finger in his direction. “No, the problem is you’re working on the most modern world in the Terran Archipelago, but you still act like you’re living on the primitive world that has refused to join or catch up with even underdeveloped colony worlds. I don’t know what bureaucrat decided you should work here, but if you’re ever going to fit in and do well, you’re going to have to quit thinking Eridani and start acting Alsafish. Now, get back to work before I decide to find a really odious job for you. Your terminal has been reset for Empty tracking, and I fully expect daily, boring reports of how the Ruling Council was misinformed, and that all filled Empties are where they’re supposed to be, and doing what they’re programmed to do.”

He crossed his wrists under his chin again. “Yes, Esteemed Sir,” he said, and then walked out of the office.

The terminal display had changed since he left, and showed a map of Alsafi. The color spectrum representing the concentration of filled Empties gave the map an appearance of abstract art, showing pale green for areas with few Empties, to deep red for the areas with dense concentrations. The urban center of Eldorado showed the darkest red, and he felt slightly sick thinking of thousands of Empties enduring lives for which they’d been given no choice.

He highlighted a green area with only a few Empties, and began his audit there. Once, slaves were captured from their homes and sold at auction. Now, we just grow them in the lab. He’s right; I don’t really think Alsafish. Maybe I should see if G’Se wants to return to Qi’le, and go back to a world where we do fit in.

To be continued...

Please post a link to your Friday Fiction!


Unknown said...

This sounds like it's going to be an enjoyable read. I like your style.

Sorry I forgot to send the reminder email. I tried to remind myself. Thursdays are coming around so quickly these days.

Sharlyn Guthrie said...

Thanks so much for hosting this week. I'll be back to read later. Gotta get to school. :)

Teresa Lee Rainey . . . said...

Ohhh, I read the first few paragraphs and really hope I finish my quota for Nano today so I can come back!

Joanne Sher said...

Ooh - anxious to hear more about what happens with this guy. The cultural clash sounds fascinating. Good stuff, Rick!

Sara Harricharan said...

Superb stuff as usual. ^_^ I was wondering what had happened to ya, since I didn't see you in the threads anyway. It's lonely-lol. Great job though(and glad you didn't forget Friday Fiction)