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June 24, 2024


By Cherry Kelly

"Changes in the Laws"

My name is Justis and I carry a badge. Every man, woman and child on this forsaken planet carries a badge of one kind or another. Mine happens to be the Arbitrators, Badge #18 to be precise. We are the ones who uphold the laws set by the corporation that owns the planet. No one has heard from the corporation in a few generations, but we still maintain their laws.

I really shouldn't be an Arbitrator, but there was some mix-up before I was born. I was supposed to be a boy — Franklin Wright Justis, but as you can see — I'm not. Before each child is born, a pre-designated badge and educational program is implanted in the growing embryo. Once born, the child is kept in chambers until it reaches adulthood. Unfortunately someone misread the programming charts. Jesse Brook Lerner, the only male shipment programmer, also was a victim of the mix-up. We both figure it's the corporation's fault, since they were the originators of the programming units as well as the timing for each succeeding generation. We were all test tube grown, as something on this planet kept people from having children the "old Earth" way. At least that is what they told the original colonists. They were wrong.

They were wrong about a lot of other things too. Take the fact that the planet was suppose to be uninhabited. Before the second generation reached adulthood, the first timers had discovered Orfies. The only way to describe an Orfie is somewhat of a cross between the old Earth chimpanzee, an overly large mole and young hound puppy. They dig holes — not just where the miners want the holes, but everywhere and anywhere that they desire. They are somewhat intelligent, extremely curious and are always underfoot. Once an Orfie attaches itself to a colonist — you cannot get rid of them, and they usually are in groups of three! Luckily their life spans are short and they have fairly low birth rates or I should say hatching rates. They were named for the sound they make — the ONLY sound they make "orrrrfeeee."

When I say we haven't heard from the corporation, that isn't quite true. Three times a year, we send our mining shipments to the second moon, where it is loaded and shipped. Programmed robots do shipping. They drop down in their programmed ships, pick up loads, remove anything that is not a raw ore and leave empty containers. We've tried to send capsules to alert the corporation, but the capsules are dumped on the container pad. The interstellar com is out so we've had no contact with headquarters nor have we have had any corporate people visit the planet. I think that will change soon since we did not send a shipment the last two work-times.

Here I sit waiting for the corporate man to arrive. Jesse is with me, as are our six Orfies. We've been waiting for two days now — days set to the old Earth time of 24 hrs. It isn't Jesse's fault we didn't make shipments — he couldn't. It's the Orfies' fault, but how do we explain that to the corporation? They'd just figure some way to exterminate the problem. We colonists won't allow that.

"They've landed," Jesse needlessly announced as we watched the small ship set down.

I just nodded.

"What have you decided to tell them?"

"The truth." I replied, "What else can I tell them?"

"We can't let them harm the Orfies," he said softly.

I looked out over the field; the small corporation shuttle had landed. I turned to Jesse. "No, we won't let them harm the Orfies."

Together we watched the three corporate men walk down their ramp and climb into the ground vehicle. Within minutes the com buzzed to admit the three into the tower. As the door opened, I stood quietly.

The three men entered. Though their facial features were alike, it was obvious that the taller was the leader of the trio.

"You have missed two shipments," he said laying a card on the ledge. "Where is your programmer?"

"I am the programmer," Jesse answered.

He looked at Jesse. "Impossible! The programmers are women — that is . . ."

"I AM the programmer," Jesse emphasized, handing his badge to the tall man.

He looked at the badge, and then looked at Jesse again, before turning to me. "And you are the Arbitrator?"

"Yes, sir." I answered handing him my badge.

"Hmm, there are obviously some problems in the chambers." He said as he turned to the shortest of the three. "Zeke, check on it."

The shortest merely nodded. His precision turn and stride carried him out of the tower room.

It was then, that the tall man noticed the Orfies. "And what pray tell are these?"

All six Orfies, let out a disturbed orrrfeee and scrambled to hide under the desks.

"Orfies, sir." I acknowledged.

"Orfies? And where did THEY come from. You know the corporation does not allow importation of pets to the planets."

"They are not pets, Sir. They are indigenous." I offered.

"Impossible!" He stated. He turned to the other man. "This planet was found to be pest free wasn't it Bert?"

Bert opened his case. "Yes sir, Marcus, sir. Planet devoid of life."

Marcus' eyebrows creased. "There, you see as I said — Impossible!"

"No sir." I replied. "They appeared shortly after Level six was opened in Shaft fifteen."

"That long back, and no one reported?" Marcus queried. "Well, that is not why we are here? Where are the shipments?" He turned to Jesse.

"They're in the warehouse units, ready for transport." Jesse answered.

"Then why haven't they been transported?" Jesse pointed to the landing field. "You landed on the only safe spot on the field."

Marcus looked out the window, noticing for the first time the gaping holes in the landing field. "Why wasn't this reported? How did it happen?"

"Sir. . ." I started.

"Oh no!" Jesse hurried toward the open door. He was too late to stop the six new Orfies from scurrying into the room.

"What the —?" Marcus started as three Orfies dutifully took up station by his pants leg. He stretched out a hand to scare them away.

"Don't touch. . ." I started, but it was too late, he had already tried to move the largest of the three Orfies.

A small smile appeared on Marcus' face. "They are rather cute."

"They are yours." I said taking a seat. "Forever."

Marcus sat down at the table. "The holes?" He indicated the field.

"Theirs." I said. "They like to dig. They just didn't know better."

"I see." He turned to where his companion was getting acquainted with the other trio. "They dig holes." He muttered. "But now they don't?"

"Once they knew we were not happy about them digging out there, they quit." Jesse assured.

"So why didn't you repair the field?"

"No material sir." Jesse answered. "We have a lack of heavy earth moving equipment. Tunnel digging equipment is not enough to pack down a landing field."

"You could have apprised us of the problem." Bert spoke up.

"Intra-Stellar com is out." I said quietly. "Your programmed robots do not make good messengers."

The door flew open and Zeke entered, followed by two children and several Orfies. "Sir." He started.

Marcus looked from the new Orfies to the children. "Children outside of the creche chambers?"

"Our twins, Jacob and Francine." I answered.

"Impossible!" Marcus shook his head. "Or at least it was not suppose to be possible."

Jesse smiled. "As you can see, many of your laws are quite possibly not accurate." He turned to admonish our twins. "And you two are suppose to be at the learning center."

"Yes, dad." Jacob said looking at the floor. He grabbed Francine's hand and they hurried out the door followed by their Orfies.

"Sir, the embryo programming units are no longer in operation." Zeke reported while trying to shift one of the Orfies from his lap to the floor.

Marcus waved him off. "It doesn't really matter. It seems we are going to have to figure some new laws for this planet, as well as get some heavy equipment sent in for repairs."

"I'll start on that right away, sir." Bert got up to leave. "Our com units will operate from the shuttle."

Marcus nodded. He scratched the chin on the Orfie that had made its way to his lap. "Forever?"

"Forever." I assured.

"I think we are going to have to make a few more changes in the laws."

Marcus replied. "I wonder if they will like space travel?"

Article © Cherry Kelly. All rights reserved.
Published on 2006-04-24
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