– Sci-Fi – 1 Page –
The crying was to be expected. The girls, after all, were only six years old and, despite their enhanced intelligence and intensive training, were still emotionally immature. And identical siblings often formed unusually strong bonds. In addition to leaving the only environment they had ever known, they would also be away from each other for the first time in their lives.
Hilda, the eldest (by three minutes), looked once more through the window that formed most of one wall in the Merchant Room. Two shuttles were visible, floating in space near L-1. One was a lunar shuttle, obviously incapable of atmospheric flight. The other was a wedge shape with stubby wings, bearing the markings of the European Alliance, probably the one she would be going to Earth on.
She looked around the Merchant Room again. Some of the larger orbitals had their own offices, other vendors had kiosks and some, like the Crazy Hippies from the vegan O’Neill Colony, simply had their wares floating around them in zero gee. Olaf, the Director, didn’t like the Hippies because they were dirty, but if you wanted strawberries there was only one place to get them.
“So many things for sale,” thought Hilda. “Is that what’s happening to us?” The thought of being sold, even though she knew it wasn’t true, brought her close to crying again, so instead she grabbed the hand of the closest sister, Celeste.
“Celeste, let’s trade places. You can go to Earth and I’ll go to the asteroid mines in your place.”
“Oh, that trick never works,” Celeste replied in exasperation. “Miss Bandi always knows who we are ‘cause she can read our minds.”
Hilda could imagine the old lady’s voice; “Hilda Pickwickle, please cease your childish games and return to your studies.”
“’Sides,” continued Celeste, “I don’t wanna go to Earth. It’s all dirty and you weigh full mass all the time.”
Hilda pouted and was thinking of another argument when Miss Bandi entered the room, followed by a fat man in Earth clothes. The man moved clumsily in zero gee, using just his hands and trying to grab everything near him. Miss Bandi discretely put out a hand to stop him when they arrived.
“Ladies,” said Miss Bandi, calling them over. A shared thought passed between the girls and they arranged themselves so that none was oriented the same as another. The fat man’s discomfort increased visibly.
“Mr Fallsworth, may I present the Pickwickle sisters: Hilda, Maureen, Abigail, Celeste and Perigee. Ladies, this is Mr. Emilio Fallsworth, director of Chabot.” Miss Bandi did not need to tell them what Chabot was. The girls already knew that it was the largest mercantile conglomerate in the European Alliance. “Hilda will be going to live with Mr. Fallsworth as his daughter because he doesn’t have any children of his own.” She placed a hand on Hilda’s shoulder.
“They’re all so perfectly alike!” exclaimed Mr. Fallsworth. “How can you tell them apart?”
Hilda thought that was the dumbest question she had ever heard.
Miss Bandi smiled. “Oh, there are ways.” She continued to introduce the sisters. “Maureen will be going to live with Mr. Alard Corcoran, the president of the largest mining operation on the moon. Perigee is going to the moon also. She’s being adopted by the Vice-Director of Alpha City. Celeste will be going to Saturn. Her new father owns the Saturn Rings Orbital and controls extensive mining operations in the asteroid belt. Abigail will be staying here, in orbit, as the only daughter of Hiro Watanabe.”
Mr. Fallsworth’s eyes widened. Watanabe Enterprises had been a pioneer in orbital manufacturing and was the first corporation whose wealth had been officially declared as too great to measure.
Miss Bandi nodded. “Now you realize how fortunate you are in having a daughter such as Hilda. I hope you will treasure her.” Mr. Fallsworth nodded.
Nodded, thinking of this unexpected development, a daughter, which his wife desperately wanted, one who was genetically engineered for hyper-intelligence, who would grow up beautiful (because it never hurts to be beautiful, Mr. Fallsworth knew) and now to find that she would have four sisters in positions of equal – at least! – wealth and power … Emilio Fallsworth considered the possibilities.
And the Pickwickle sisters listened, giggling silently. Mr. Fallsworth didn’t have thoughtspeech at all, didn’t even know it existed, had no protection as Miss Bandi did.
“Your ear itches,” thought Hilda and Mr. Fallsworth reached up to scratch it.
The girls smiled – this might be more fun than they’d thought.