It was a neat setup. You're going to get whatever you want in life anyway, or at least what's best for you. So when they wanted to find us, they set up the best life possible and waited for us to wander into it. Worked pretty well, except for those who really needed a life of hardship and privation to build their character. We all got that to some extent, but for the most part we had comfortable lives.
If we wanted to take a job, get some excitement, we could. Which was why I was where I was, on some godforsaken colony world without even an FTL linkup.
It was a little disconcerting, for a silver-spoon child like myself, to spend months in the company of frontier types who couldn't even tell the difference between an appetizer and an aperitif. Not that they'd ever experienced either.
"So how long until you think my ship can be repaired?" I asked Pirga at dinner one night, after a fruitless attempt to explain the difference to him.
He grunted. "Y'ask me, it'd be easier ta smelt the whole thing down and build it over."
However counter-intuitive it would have seemed to me even a year ago, I'd grown to like them all immensely. Their candor and frankness was refreshing, after a lifetime spent in an environment where knives were hidden in every sleeve. (Not that I'd ever run afoul of any, of course.)
I was about to explain to him about how the more sophisticated components would no doubt suffer from the treatment, when Pirga's son Lians rushed in. "Pa! Pa! There's 'nether ship down!"
Pirga swore. "Hit a'thin' important?"
"Missed the foundry by 'bout a leag."
"C'mon, Jossboy," Pirga said, standing up. "Maybe we can find summat to fix yer own craft."
"Most of it looks pretty good, though. You came down rearways and crashed yer engines 'n stuff. This guy came in nose-first and ruined cockpit 'n 'puter, but his engines 're fine."
I nodded, unsurprised. "I expect you'll be able to finish the repairs on my ship with the remains of this one," I said.
Pirga looked at me, first with startlement, and then sudden fear.
"I'd hate to be stuck wi'you out in the wild," he said finally.
I nodded. It would be time to leave, soon. Pirga was starting to realize how little my "joss" cared for the fate of anyone besides myself. It wouldn't take long for talk to spread.
Yes, we took these jobs occasionally. Just long enough to remember how alone we really were, without our own kind.
<kEvin gave me the assignment
Back to the Four-Word Stories Page...
The Den of Ubiquity/ Aaron V. Humphrey / firstname.lastname@example.org