The red heat always stiffened Rob’s joints, making outside shifts drag on longer. At least it kept the orgos away, better than having to plow them aside. He waited, near the omega pod district, for 19:00, over two hours early for the tour; The winds and asteroid impacts made crossing the red planet unpredictable at best – just last week a dust storm left him stranded, for over three hours, knee deep in pebbles and dust. More often than not, like today, he arrived early having to wait in the red heat.
Resource quota enforcement, done every few weeks, stood out as the worst maintenance job. It pressured his actuators and bolts with the long walks, yes, but worst of all he’d find organic oils and garbage inside his finger plates for weeks. It couldn’t be avoided though, not when so many doctors applied from Earth. ‘doctors’. Right. As if a doctor of philosophy garnered more use than a plumber anyway.
Anyway was right a bright side awaited though; back at ZaRahad waited oil baths and polishing, day and night. They were even free, a rare perk of being a temp maintenance worker. Rob shifted his weight, feeling his hip actuator stutter, catching on imperceptible defects, all those miles adding up.
You couldn’t escape it. The constant sand stung as wind swept over the planet. Slowly Red Moon ate away at his frame, grinding him into meaningless dust. While Rob’s maintenance shell looked worn, admin staff had the luxury of the pampered inner halls. They always looked nice, fresh, crisp.
Rob’s external erosion paled in comparison to his “Blackness” though. Paul Swayne, gods gift to orgo docs of course, wrote in his report “The Blackness underpins Rob’s performance, always present.” Of course Paul would say that, sitting back on Earth. Paul hadn’t experienced a damn thing, how easy it is to label everyone conveniently, cleanly. Give him 45 kilometers to walk under asteroids, to peer into dead little eyes. Deal with that. Paul spoke as if “Blackness” was a slimy slug in his stomach, or a arrowhead in his brain.
Rob strode toward the Omega pods. They extended into the distance like whiteheads on red skin. Fuck those massive pussy boils, delivering him the distinct pleasure of poking and prodding, dragging his shift through all manner of slime. Clark being on vacation really would put him under pressure, that guy didn’t mind the orgos, and Rob didn’t mind driving.
He entered the slum, feet clanking on a vast layer of rock. Orgo slums. Fifth generation Colonists. None of them would ever see Earth, it being 200 light years away. Rob felt that familiar feeling, something he could only call a chuckle.
Their dirty section, A7438, or Omega, came into view. Omega orgos milled about, visible from afar, probably unemployed. Half the camp skulked around useless, low aptitude and too lazy to work at anything. Somehow they had time to harass the other sub colonies, begging for extra credit or aid programs. Useless non-contributors.
Rob wheeled the trailer toward the first section of the pods, the town swirled with windswept dust. Most of the orgos found a reason to leave, whether it was a fake PDA check or feigned interest in dingy corners. Some bold adolescents stood around a speeder, coldly watching from the corner of their eyes. Orgos were half Robs height, and 40 times less heavy, even in their space suits. He hated taking their hateful sideways glances, but couldn’t keep having incidents on file.
Not after Swayne’s report.
The one in the most expensive space suit, the middle of the range Thomat model, turned his back mockingly. Rob approached, slamming his feet into the sand, deciding which orgo would help him fill quota. Just then Clark popped up, out of the alley, flashing his eyes.
Rob flashed his eyes back. “Surprised to see you here. Thought you booked the shift off.”
Clark slumped. “Yeah, well my trip is totally not happening. You know why? Get this. Marcus came out last night and we totally got smashed. Like hammered on power converters. ”
Clark craned his neck, looking around himself, as if he thought someone important might be lurking. “Anyway, we had to get up at 07:00 for the trip we planned. Remember that I bought those tickets last month? This was the day they were for.”
Clark sauntered toward Rob, nearly clipping a walking orgo absorbed in carrying a massive bag. “And, well, he’s up at 07:00 knocking on my door, telling me it’s time to go. I felt total ka ka too man. Marcus must have too. So anyway I offhand suggest 7:30 instead. He says ‘no right now!’. I say 7:30 again. Then finally I yell ‘fine 7:15 – jesus just give me a minute to get up’. Right? ”
Rob pointed forward toward the first orgo pod, the pair approached the giant white sphere. They had to visit every other family unit, odd numbers this time. The airlock door opened to the end of the first row, letting them into the oxygenated interior. As the inner airlock opened, white light filled Rob’s eyes, his vision adjusted revealing an unkempt row of family unit doors.
Clark continued “Anyway so he says to me ‘ Greg is waiting for me already’. So I just say ‘ok fine then, 15 minutes whatever’ right? Anyway, I just felt like such crap I couldn’t barely move without puking. Well we can’t puke, but you know.”
“Right” Rob nodded. They emerged into the hall approaching the first pod door. The orange paint had started flaking, and dust covered the bell; Slimy orgo skin eroded everything and permeated the halls. Rob triggered the door, it retracted into the door frame instantly.
Clark paused as Rob spoke up to an approaching shirtless man. “Good morning, Sam Berthwell is it? Right. We need your planned selection.”
Tears started edging out of Sam’s beady eyes, as he stood motionless. “Please, please, can you skip us. Please you were here two months ago, and we just lost ou-”
Rob hated the orgos, always with their frivolous delays “Listen, I know how it is. Remember, I’m an organic back home too.”
“Orgainic is it?”
“I mean person sir. Back home I’m an organic person too.”
“It’s not my home.”
”Right.” Rob struggled to contain his patience. ”The fact is, sir, you are living in section Omega. If you wanted better selection treatment you should have applied yourself in your aptitude tests. Sam, we need enough oxygen for all the organic residents, you know that. We have less this season, so we need to collect. You know what I’m saying. Maybe if you had applied yourself and volunteered in the production labs, we would meet oxygen production quotas. Take it as a lesson.”
Sam Berthwell’s wife walked into the living room, sobbing visibly, as Sam went upstairs, fat ass jiggling. The colonists just had to make a scene every freaking time. Clark flashed his eyes in annoyance, Rob flashed back.
Clark continued. “Anyway, so I fall asleep right?”
“And I get up, literally 20 minutes later.”
Just then the pot bellied orgo, Sam, led his daughter from an upstairs room. It should be, according to records, his only daughter. She was at least 14, child bearing age, but quite ugly. Her plump figure, worsened by her sagging posture, showed she didn’t even try to complete her exercises. Probably depressed or abused. Either way, completely useless to the colony.
Clark and Rob escorted her to the hall, where she grabbed an airsuit. The parents looked in the hall as the pod’s front door closed.
Clark continued. “Anyway, so yeah, so guess what I found out downstairs; I totally -”
Rob interrupted, keeping an eye on the orgo daughter suiting up. “Hold on a sec, can I say something.”
They entered into the airlock, as blue warning light lit up. They waited for the kid to seal the helmet of her airsuit.
“I just can’t freaking handle these families sometimes. I mean, you know I’m coming weeks in advance, and you know what’s going to happen. It’s not a secret.”
“I know right!”
“I mean, most of the orgos are better. They have the family member ready at the door, and they just look sad and watch them go, or whatever. But I mean, freaking out last minute? Useless. Do they think I want to be out here, carting off their sacks of flesh? Obviously I don’t want to do it anymore than it has to be done.”
They both stared at the girl as the airlock opened. Dust swirled into the airlock, as the pressure dissipated.
Rob motioned forward “Come on out of here … Sandra? … to the trailer out here.” She followed hesitantly, knowing full well where she was going.
Clark continued his story “Anyway!”
“Oh sorry, what happened, in the morning?”
“My buddy, he left without me! Get this, he takes our tickets, instead of buying his own. I had bought them for both of us.”
Rob shook his head “You’re freaking kidding me.”
“Yeah, I mean, I still could have bussed or gotten there in a cab, you know?”
“But, to be fair, you never go anywhere in a cab or on a bus.”
“True, but still I could have…”
“So that’s it, that’s why I’m at work today – I missed my show.”
Rob looked behind, Sandra approached extremely slowly, wasting time.
“Excuse me” The meek Sandra spoke “do you have to … take me … or can I. I mean I heard some people get to run, and find somewhere -”
“Young Lady, no matter where you run, you will end up breathing the oxygen supply again. I’m sorry, can’t help you. Please, just come this way.”
Sandra slowed her walking further, thinking of things to say. She peered back toward her pod’s window, at the silhouette of her family.
“Please, I really want to go home.”
Rob spoke to Clark “You see man, this is the shit I’m talking about. I hate this stuff! This job is endless orgo B.S. ”
Rob pinched the girls air hose, mashing it apart like a strip of wet toilet paper. Sandra fell, writhing in suffocation, the vacuum sucking the air from her lungs.
Clark shook his head “You should do that less, what with Swine on you about Blackness.”
“I know I know. I just don’t have the patience for being late or missing quota because of emotional orgos. She’s gunna die anyway.”
Clark nodded as he walked toward the pods. Rob picked up the jerking Sandra, looking back at the silhouette of her family. Death is Death, and they chose to be colonists, or their great grand parents did.
Rob tossed her dead carcass into the back of the trailer. Now every orgo that they picked up would have to look at her dead slumped figure. Awesome. Some would sob for sure. Rob felt his night getting longer and even longer.