Son of Sedonia

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Authors: Ben Chaney
spike in overhead will solve my problems, you’re gravely mistaken, sir,” Finley said, theatrical as ever.
    “I understand your apprehension, Elias, but more bodies means faster production and more coverage on your lunar holdings. Now a forty percent increase may be extreme, but that’s just a rough figure. If we crunch the numbers, I’m sure we can come to a much more reasonable—”
    “Reasonable? ‘Reasonable’ the man says!” Finley turned to his advisers on his side of the table. They made sure to laugh.
    “Sato, do you have any idea what hiring just one worker on the Moon costs Virton? Standard medical plus cosmic radiation, micro-meteorite, decompression, et cetera! Safety gear, equipment inspections, and every other regulatory fulfillment your liberal friends could dream up! Vacation, sick days, holidays, psych leave...and that’s all before the bloody Specialist wages themselves! What you call reasonable, I call ruinous. I’ll grant that more bodies may be able to secure more real estate, but it would take months. Multi-national corporations have pauperized themselves in shorter times, I assure you.” Silence filled the chamber. Sato rubbed at his chin and stared at the floor. He swallowed past a lump in his throat. No alternative then .
    “Kabbard, would you go check on that thing at the gate? It’s been an awfully long time,” Sato said. The grumpy Chief of Security gladly excused himself. The man had never developed the stomach for bureaucracy. Once the double-doors closed again, Sato continued.
    “What if—what about your prisoner labor programs? No wages, no insurance, no unions, and, as far as I know, no vacations, holidays, or sick leave. Could those be beefed up to off-set gaps in a smaller paid workforce?” Sato asked.
    Finley scoffed. “Hardly. Inmates can drive forklifts and load freighters, but they’re not exactly qualified for advanced surface work. Most are untrained, unskilled, and potentially violent. If that’s the best you can come up with, then—.” Finley’s smirk drooped as Sato took a tiny glass vial out of his pocket and placed it on the coffee table. A bluish-white fluid sparkled inside. Finley shifted in his leather chair.
    “And just what is that supposed to be?” asked Finley, poorly feigning ignorance.
    “Our people in your facilities tell us every new inmate is injected with this. Pretty crude nanotech, Elias, but effective. I’m told it blocks aggression centers in the brain while leaving the host extraordinarily pliable to instruction and training. After a month, the body expels the cheap little buggers, but by that time the effects are permanently imprinted on the mind. Very, very illegal, Elias.”
    Finley’s smug veneer cracked, but didn’t break.
    “Well and good. Not that you could do anything about it. Hang me for this, and Helium-3 production not only suffers, its dead in the water! In effect, you are dead in the water!”
    “Agreed,” Sato put the vial back in his pocket, “along with the City and everyone in it who both trust and pay us to keep things running. But my friend, you mistake me. Remember, I said ‘more bodies.’ I hoped you would have agreed to employ more of our struggling citizens—and you may yet when you hear what I propose—but what would you say to tripling your illegitimate workforce? Would that gain you the real estate you need?”
    Now it was Finley’s turn to rub at his chin and stare at the floor.
    “Mmmmm...such an increase in population would need more housing, food processing plants, water treatment facilities, CO2 scrubbers...”
    “Easily assembled given the financial aid, regulatory cuts, and personnel we are prepared to provide.”
    “And how, pray tell, will you square this massive acquisition of ‘ personnel ’ with your voting public? Sympathy for the poor, impoverished Slum dwellers has been on the rise of late.”
    “We say ‘terrorists.’ The EXOs have, as it turns out, discovered isolated

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