Aphelion Issue 275, Volume 26
August 2022
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A Wonderful Life

by Bob Sanhueza

Weíre not slaves, mind you; the technical term for us is "bound workers." Thereís no such a thing as slavery in this day and age. Itís not as though we arenít allowed to leave, itís that... where could we go? Really now, where?

The seven of us are clonic identical twins. We were designed and created to live and work in a low-gravity environment by Kinkdom Inc. Owned? We didnít say that, not in print anyway, and we live and work for good old KI in the asteroid belt.

We search and mine the belt for water ice asteroids. We find íem, we go there, claim íem for good old KI, put the boosters to íem and send íem down the gravity well to Jupiter, where a different crew catches them and takes them to the upper-atmosphere floating factories to be processed.

We were designed small so we donít burn many calories or oxygen, and our morphing includes opposable thumbs in our feet, which comes -- no pun intended -- handy in low gravity.

We are also neuter, although we have a mostly male-looking appearance. This neuter design is common among isolated workers, guess it avoids lots of troubles.

All in all we live a pretty much contented life. Knowing you canít live anywhere else kinda makes you appreciate what youíve got.

We donít see many people around, either. Our ecology is pretty well designed, and whatever we might need that we canít synthesize is sent to us from KI.

All that changed when Blanche arrived. She appeared out of nowhere, never showing in any of our detection systems. She just was there in our domeís outer lock, matching air pressures with her pod.

To say we were startled is to put it very mildly. Not only had she bypassed all our probes but her pod was not intended for the distance sheíd had to cover from the nearest human habitat.

We were even more startled when we found out who she was. Blanche was, no more no less, the daughter of old man Kink, founder and owner of Kinkdom Inc.

Everybody working for KI is familiar with the story. Blanche was Kinkís only daughter and heir when he passed away leaving the child in care of Stephanie, Kinkís third and last wife.

Lots of rumors concerning Kinkís death but nothing official. Blanche was to come into possession of her heritage when she came of age at 16; meanwhile the family fortune was administered by a council directed by -- you guessed -- the stepmother.

As far as we knew in this far corner of KIís influence, Blanche was coming of age a standard week from the moment when she showed up at our door. Why and how she had managed to cover the distance from the Kink estate in low orbit over Jupiter to our habitat we were about to find out.

Right then we didnít yet know who was at our door, so we gathered around the lock door grabbing whatever weapon we could find and asked rather hesitantly through the lockís intercom. "Who... whoís there?"

"Itís Blanche, Blanche Kink. Please let me in!"

What we saw on our screens was a beautiful young woman who did indeed look a lot like who she said she was. So we complied and let her in. The first thing she said -- after she said hello -- was please not to let her family know she was with us. We complied.

Actually we couldnít have done otherwise. Obedience to the Kink family is deeply ingrained in our programming (bound workers, remember?)

"My youíre cute little guys. Who are you and what do you do here?"

"Weíre miners and we work for you."

"And do you miners have a name?"

We looked at each other in confusion. We had never needed names before.

"You could say our name is DW. DW1 through DW7"

"But thatís a serial number, not a name!"

"We donít have any other."

"DW it is then. Iíd better tell you guys why Iím here."

She didnít really have to, we would have done as she bid anyway, but it was nice of her to do it.

"You probably know, guys, my stepmother holds control of the corporation my late father founded. That is, until I turn sixteen, which is a week from now.

"I guess you also know my stepmother and I donít get along well, and she knows Iím bound to challenge her power within the corporation. She canít have me killed, as much as she would love to, because it would be too obvious a move.

"So sheís trying for a much more subtle approach. I donít know how she did it but she managed to have a virus put into my sensorial implants and the damned nano-machines are replicating like crazy within me.

"Soon sheíll have control over every action I take. She doesnít have to kill me if she can control my vote in the stockholdersí meetings.

"This where Prinz comes in. Prinz is the son of Charles Reign, head of the Reign corporation, which works in Saturn orbit.

"I met Prinz in the virtual chat rooms during my lonely days at Kink headquarters. We became friends first and, later, lovers."

Here she blushed prettily.

"That is, virtual lovers, of course since he is in Saturn orbit and I am in Jupiter orbit. We havenít met in person yet.

"Prinz has been a great comfort in this my dire hour and he gave a good piece of advice.

"He told me to hide from my stepmother and go in deep freeze hibernation to keep the virus from spreading further. Meanwhile he has all resources from Reign, which are considerable, working in a password which will nullify the virus.

"He promised to find me and wake me up, and we will face stepmother together, and maybe we can eventually merge Kink and Reign together some day."

Here she blushed again.

"And that is my story, gentle miners, will you not offer me sanctuary within your habitat to hide from my mean stepmother?

"I managed to get a deep freeze unit in my life-saving pod when I escaped from the family cruiser as we went through the belt. I know my stepmother will search for me and will eventually find me. My hope is Prinz finds me first."

She fell quiet.

Needless to say we helped her. We would have helped her even if we hadnít been bonded. She was so lovely and seemed so helpless.

We settled for a new routine. Every standard morning we went to work as usual, and every evening we jacked into Blancheís subconscious brain output and shared her dream world while she lay in her hibernation urn.

We learned about a life we never had dreamed could exist. Far from mining and low-gee.

Blanche had even been to Earth, wonderful half mythical Earth. In her dreams we were there, too.

Every now and then we could detect in our screens the search going on for her. The searchers never stopped by our humble habitat.

This went on for a long time but sweet things donít last forever.

One day Prinz showed up in our habitat.

We let him in, of course; we had promised Blanche after all.

He approached her sleeping place and knelt by her. Through the transparent cover he could see her lovely, pale face with the quiet stillness of the freeze-sleepers.

"Blanche," he said as a silent tear rolled down his face. "You are even more beautiful than I dreamed. Sleep no more, my love. Here I have the password which will stop the cursed virus and you will rise and together we shall face any evil."

As he turned to the keyboard to input the password code we came from behind and smashed his head. We are not bound to the Reign corporation, you understand.

Today we live the most wonderful life ever. We do our job, careful not to attract attention from over- or under- working; we keep our quota.

At night we jack in and live the vicarious life of dreamers.

We know it wonít last forever. Most probably Prinz, if he wasnít stupid, has a memory backup recorded somewhere, as well as tissue samples. Heís bound to come knocking at our door again, more carefully this time we suppose.

Either that or Stepmother finally figures out where her runaway stepdaughter is hiding.

But we donít care. They say itís better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all. We rather feel it is true.

While it lasts, we live a most wonderful life.


© 2007 Bob Sanhueza

Bio: Bob Sanhueza resides in Chile, but writes (and rather well at that) in English. His work has appeared online at Bewildering Stories, and Bewilderingpress will be publishing a book by Mr. S. shortly.

E-mail: Bob Sanhueza

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