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Missing “Cans”

“Commodore, may I speak with you? I have to report that we have a Missing Cans in this shipment.”

“Are you sure? How many?”

“Half a dozen.”

“Half a dozen out of two thousand?”

“Out of the twenty two hundred.”

“It might be some error in the records.”

“It is highly irregular for something like that to happen. We had had four shipments in last two years and never ever, not even a single one was missing.”

“I see. Well to tell you the truth, we will not be missing them anyway. They are more nuisance than an asset. I can’t see why would anyone around here want to hustle with them. We have them by the thousands, and by the way they are not that much useful.”

“I just wanted to file an official report.”

“Don’t bother. It could raise all kinds of questions later. No paperwork do you understand?”

“But we cannot leave it just like that.”

“I never told you to drop it, just don’t leave a written evidence. You are Zed, am I right?”

“Zed J. Commodore, first lieutenant Zed J.”

“How long have you been here with us?”

“Two and a half years.”

“You are aware of what are we doing here?”

“We are in the middle of the seventh stage of terraforming this planet.”

“So we are. And why do you think we need those damn Cans for, when even lower class robots could do the same job, cheaper, better and neater.”

“Because of regulations, sir.”

“Precisely. Because of some stupid regulation, which demands human to be involved in certain numbers throughout the whole damn process, all fifteen stages, so that our claim on this planet would be valid.”

“Yes, sir. I know all that.”

“Do you know why we ship Canned Humans in here?”

“Because it is a long journey, and Canned humans could stand it better. Expenses are smaller, because they don’t need a food and take less space. During the phase of sleep, they are getting used to the juice. Then they are capable of working on conditions such are outside.”

“Yes, and they don’t need any expensive protective suite, all the protection they need is the bloody Can. But there is another reason. Could you guess what is it?”

“People don’t want to do colony jobs, so we take criminals. It is easier to control them when they are addicted to the juice.”

“You are getting warmer, but not quite there yet. You see, if we were to employ regular citizen, they would become eligible to state a claim for a piece of land themselves. Canned humans that we ship in, sign a contract, agreeing to waive any rights.”

“They receive compensation money instead.”

“They receive a paycheck at the end of the contracted period, but I seriously doubt that there are many of them that actually came to cash out.”

“What do you mean?”

“Our corporation manufactures Cans. Some say that Cans are poorer quality as of recently.”

“Why’s that?”

“Well, there could be a lot of reasons, but I suspect the two most important are connected with money. First the quality Can is expensive to make, and if you cut a corner here and there you can reduce cost significantly. As for the second reason, what do you think would happen to the money, when no one shows to cash out the paycheck?”

“Why wouldn’t they cash out?”

“From the most obvious of all reasons. When you are dead, it is difficult to do such things.”

“Dead, sir?”

“The bloody Cans. There is a rumor saying that our experts improved them to the point when they can set up an expiry date with precision of a couple of weeks. So the poor souls working outside are doomed to die anytime before completion their contract and returning back.”

“All of them?”

“No, of course not all of them. There is always a small percentage of them, that are destined to survive, just as a showcase of how successful our operation out there is. They pick them out even before they are canned. Usually some high profile people, someone with career and name. The others I’m afraid are here just to fill the numbers.”

“How do we know that there is no high profile among the missing Cans?”

“In this shipment there were none.”

“So you are saying that it does not matter.”

“No, lieutenant Zed J. I did not say that it does not matter. It matters, and you would be the one responsible for getting to the bottom of this story. If someone is tinkering with our Cans, I have to know why. But, as I have said earlier, no paperwork, no official reports. It could draw unwanted attention to our project here. We are in a serious situation as it is, deadlines are short, we’re dealing with all kinds of problems, selling pieces of this “New Paradise” is not going as was expected. The last thing we need is some bad publicity.”

Unexpected gift

This post first appeared on Pavel Jesenski - SF, Fantasy, Alternative History, Short Stories, Book Fragments, please read the originial post: here

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Missing “Cans”


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