“We humans who were born artificially have no freedom,” said the perion-plant field worker. “We are forced to serve the Makumbans.”
“Do they pay you for your work?” I asked, studying the young man’s face.
“How often do you get to go home?” I asked again.
“Once a year, short leave.” He hurried away as a guard approached us.
“Good afternoon, Brumba!” the guard said to me. “I’m so sorry I didn’t know you are here.”
“Don’t worry,” I said. “This is an informal visit. So leave us alone.” I moved to an older worker to hear his story.
“I have two children and a wife who is a servant like the other females,” he related. “We both work but we can’t afford to buy even new shoes for our kids.”
I gave him the money I had in my pocket. “Next time you visit your children, buy something for them.”
His eyes widened. “This is a lot of money, Brumba! Thank yo so much.”
I didn’t know the value of the Makumban money. Clive had given me earlier as an allowance. But I didn’t need it. I thanked him for the chat and turned to leave. Like it or not, I had to return to my quarters.
(excerpted from THE SPACE HERMITS)