Author : Debbie Mac Rory

The weather had turned bad during the night; the low air pressure finally bringing on the threatened storm. All occupied buildings had been sealed to maintain environmental controls and life support systems and all transport had been grounded for the duration of the storm. The safety precautions for such events had been tested time after time, and daily life continued apace.

But for Jessica and James, it meant one more day being trapped in each other’s company, without the escape of the outdoors. Their parents had gone early that morning to the research labs to continue their work, and though they had arrived safely, it would likely be several days before they were able to travel home.

The children sat quietly as their lunch was served. Outside the double-thickness reinforced windows, the dust clouds raged silently, adding to the murk of the room. James watched his sister with a malevolent gleam in his eyes as one of the household servants moved round to place a bowl in front of her.

“Thank you” Jessica murmured, picking up her spoon to push indifferently at the fruit pieces in front of her.

James rolled his eyes, making an exaggerated noise of exasperation.

“It doesn’t know what you’re saying, it can’t understand you!”

“That doesn’t matter… but you shouldn’t call her that.”

James groaned.

“It’s a servant” he intoned, imitating his father’s voice as well as he could, “engineered to be quiet and efficient, without any unnecessary complications that might otherwise interfere with their activity.”

Jessica turned to look at the servant where she was standing unobtrusively near the door; face down and impassive, giving no sign of having heard the conversation. Her hair had been cut roughly short, and her slender figure was almost lost in the gray of her servants robes. She had blue eyes, Jessica knew, from the few brief times she had convinced the girl to raise her eyes and look at her.

“It’s only here to do what we tell it to!” James shouted, disliking that her attention had been taken away from him for so long. “See!”

With that, he pushed his bowl from the table, scattering fruit pieces over the carpeted floor. The girl shuffled over to the table and began cleaning away the mess.

James pulled his eyes away from the ownership braille on the back of the servants’ neck, exposed as she bent to soak the juice from the carpet. He raised his gaze to Jessica, the pained look in her eyes taking away the malicious pleasure he’d gotten in making the mess.

“I don’t know why you care”, he said. “It’s only a clone, she’s not even human”.

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