Thad has been on Colony since 2052, and is considered somewhat of an authority on Gettings, the local slang term for a delivery from Earth. Thad’s partner, Lydia, is a linguistics expert, and she studies the formation of such words. She says that the language has mutated slightly from that spoken on Earth. Lydia thinks that the simplification of many terms, such as ‘getting’ instead of ‘receiving’ or ‘delivery’, is a direct influence of the success of universal translators, which use Esperanto to bridge the gaps between meanings. Due to Esperanto’s low word count, the translations are often simplified, and some slight nuances are lost, such as the tendency to call dinner late meal, and there is rarely a distinction made between boy or girl, young people are simply child. Thad doesn’t particularly care about nuances of evolving language, but it is important to Lydia, so he listens when she tells him about it.
“You are ready for today’s Getting, Thad?” said Lydia, as she prepared breakfast. Thad, who rarely ate in the mornings, sipped at his cup of hot coffee.
“As ready as I will ever be. I must go now, I will be late.” Thad brings his coffee with him. Beverages are usually not permitted in the passages, but on Getting days such rules are generally flexed by those who have spent over a decade on Colony.
By the time Thad reached the main docking bay he has finished his coffee and dumps in on a passing work-bot. An older model would have said “Thank you” but such niceties had been programmed out of the newer models in an attempt to dehumanise the mechanical work force. There last information communication from Earth had told of rising discomfort within the mid range work force towards machines. Two colleagues greet Thad when he enters the bay, a young man called Roger who follows Thad’s every word with rapt attention and a woman named Susanne, who Thad has never spoken to before. Roger begins reciting a checklist of preparations which have been completed and when he is finished Thad tells him that he has done a good job and asks him what is left to do. Roger looks at Susanne and she says that there is nothing left to do but await communication from the ship. Thad thanks her and asks them if they have confirmed sighting of the delivery ship. Susanne tells him that the ship is coming around the side of the planet now, and will be visible in the next 15 mins. Susanne speaks in a heavily accented voice and Thad wonders why she doesn’t just speak in her native tongue and allow the universal translator implants to do its job, but he doesn’t ask her. Gettings only come once a year, and no one wanted a repeat of the accident of ’57. Thad hadn’t actually been involved that day, he was bed ridden with a stomach bug.
Thad, Roger and Susanne were standing in the control room of the main dock, discussing the new work-bots which would be delivered during this years Getting.
“They have newly articulated limbs, and they have given them an extra knuckle! I heard that their speech patterns can be set to resemble movie stars. What movie star would you select, Thad?” Roger said.
“Charlie Chaplin.” Said Thad. Susanne smiled at this.
“You are familiar with Mr.Chaplin?” Thad said, looking at her.
“Yes,” she said,”He was a favourite of my aunts.”
“What do you think of the new knuckle?” Thad asked her, eager to hear her honey toned accent once more.
Susanne shrugged, and looked at the control desk as it began beeping.
“That will be the ship.” Said Roger. Susanne waved her hand in the direction of the screen, she was wearing a glove and began tapping her fingers together, instructing the computer to show the ship on the screen.
The ship is immense, pale grey and carrying the insignia of the United Nations. Colony is a multinational endeavour and is funded and governed by the U.N.
Thad tells Roger to contact the ship via shortwave frequency, and once the initial security codes have been exchanged, a face-call is initiated.
Thad accepts the call and greets the captain of the ship with a smile.
“Hello! We are delighted to see you! I hope your trip has been one of ease and comfort.” Thad says to the middle aged woman on the other end of the line.
“I find comfort knowing that your death will pave the way for the Human Revolution.” replies the tanned face.
Thad recognises the term Human Revolution from the recent news feed. A group of radicals working under that title are reportedly behind the most vociferous of challenges to the continued use of robots in every day life.
“The ship is not slowing Thad, they should be slowing by now!” said Roger, his fingers brushing against the controls.
Thad put his hand on Roger’s shoulder.
“Don’t bother, Roger.” To the screen he says “Is there anyway I can get you to change your mind?”
“You can destroy your bots, you can renounce your ties to Earth and accept me as your leader. Do this and together we can build a new future together, along with my beautiful niece.”
Thad looks to Susanne who is looking only at her aunt on the screen. Roger’s mouth is open and he is breathing in sharp little bursts.
Thad smiles at the screen.
“I thought I recognised a similarity in your accents. You are from the Plastic Plateau, am I right?” Thad says.
“We are from Mother Earth, and to her we will return, through the cold of space to the warmth of her bosom.”
“Good luck with that.” said Thad, pressing a button on his own glove and ending the call.
He turned to Susanne.
“You are part of this?” he said.
She nodded but did not speak.
“You will be punished. Roger, dial for Jones and tell her our fears are confirmed and we have ten minutes until impact, await her reply and then relay it to me. Susanne, you are coming with me.
Thad led her from the control room and they entered an elevator. “Top.” Thad said, and the elevator began rising.
“We have known for weeks that the Gettings ship was comprimised. I have known that they had an operative in Colony for sometime. I thought it was Roger, the guy is just too damn friendly. I am disappointed that it is you, your qualifications are impressive.”
The elevator stopped, the doors opened and the walked out onto the observation floor of Colony. Their were binoculars and telescopes spaced about the room, and Thad led them to one and pointed it towards the horizon.
“Where is the ship Susanne?”
For the first time Susanne lifted her from the floor. Her eyes scanned the horizon, the sky but the ship was nowhere to be seen.