Author : Benjamin Fischer
â€œSo youâ€™re a butler.â€
Xero repressed the urge to roll his eyes and sigh. The woman across the aisle on the maglev had seen his replicantâ€™s sigil, a broad tattoo of the symbol for Gemini on the back of his left hand. Sheâ€™d also seen his impeccable dress and the parcel heâ€™d retrieved from the spaceport. Sheâ€™d put two and two together and now she wanted to talk.
â€œI am an executive,â€ he replied, setting down the display screen for his book.
â€œWhich is another word for butler,â€ the woman said.
Xero would have slapped her if she hadnâ€™t reeked of money, but the ostentatious garnish on her purple dress suggested it was straight off some Euro runway.
â€œYou are new to Luna, maâ€™am?â€ he asked her.
â€œWhy–yes,â€ she said. â€œYou can tell.â€
â€œI pick up on such things,â€ Xero said.
â€œLike a good butler would,â€ said the woman. â€œSo, he cloned himself to get out of doing the household chores? You Lunies amaze me.â€
â€œYes, I do the chores,â€ nodded Xero, ignoring the slight. â€œBut our relationship is much more than that of a servant and master. I manage his economic interests and his wives when he is traveling or indisposed.â€
â€œWives? In the plural?â€
â€œHmm,â€ she snorted. â€œThe casual polygamy of this place still astounds me.â€
â€œOh, they get along,â€ said Xero. â€œNever bored for company.â€
â€œYouâ€™ll bet what, maâ€™am?â€ asked Xero, even though he knew.
She leaned in.
â€œSo in the dark,â€ she said, blushing, â€œcan they tell that youâ€™re not him?â€
â€œIâ€™m his executive, maâ€™am.â€
â€œBut do you–do you, you know?â€ the woman asked.
â€œFrom time to time.â€
â€œAnd what about him?â€ she asked.
â€œNot his taste,â€ Xero said, and then seeing the continued color in the womanâ€™s face:
â€œSometimes when Iâ€™m with them,â€ he said, â€œhe will watch.â€
That shut her up for a moment and Xero almost got back to reading the latest chapter of his favorite serial when she piped up again.
â€œHow large is your household?â€ she asked.
â€œAbout average for Copernicus,â€ he replied.
â€œWhatâ€™s average?â€ she asked.
Xero set aside his bookâ€™s diamond case.
â€œTwo of us, the three wives, the pool girl, the plumber, the gardener, five different Intelligences, two sponsored children, and maybe three entertainers on contract. Thatâ€™s everyone who lives in the quarters, at least,â€ he said.
â€œThatâ€™s average?â€ asked the woman.
â€œMmm, yes, maâ€™am. About average.â€
â€œEveryone lives like that?â€
â€œNo, but the option is always there,â€ said Xero.
â€œBut that must be expensive-â€
â€œTwelve adults and Intelligences, maâ€™am. We all pull our weight.â€
The woman shook her head.
â€œAbsurd,â€ she said.
â€œMaybe,â€ Xero said, â€œbut itâ€™s damn good fun.â€
The woman snorted.
Xero glanced at his darkened book. He sighed and opened his mouth anyway.
â€œIn the Concourse Level, maâ€™am. Thereâ€™s a club called Youngâ€™s.â€
She raised an eyebrow at him, not understanding.
â€œWhen your husband starts looking,â€ he said. â€œYou might as well begin with the best.â€
â€œWhat?â€ she said.
â€œItâ€™s what youâ€™re worried about, isnâ€™t it?â€ said Xero. â€œGetting replaced.â€
â€œJim would never-â€
â€œMaâ€™am,â€ Xero said, grinning, â€œIâ€™m sure heâ€™s thinking of you as well–heâ€™s probably already getting an executive of his own.â€