Census chapter of work in progress by Iris Carden
The gate alert buzzed. The buzz was followed by an electronic voice from the gate microphone: “Zaratin official for census. Open door.”
“Open the door? You’re nowhere near the door,” Mary said.
“He means gate, Mum. English isn’t their first language,” Angela said. She reached past her mother and hit the button to open the gate. Then she went to the front door to let the creature in, and led it to the lounge room, where everyone had gathered.
“All humans present themselves,” said the electronic voice, apparently from a metal box among the items on the strap across the octopod’s body.
“We’re all here,” Angela said.
“This land produces food?” The Zaratin asked.
“Some food,” Angela said. “Some fruit and vegetables and there’s eggs from the chickens.”
“There is room to grow more?”
Adam answered, “It could grow a little more with the available resources, if the front lawn, that grassed area, were torn up and given over to vegetable gardens. The natural forest, those big trees behind the house, that covers a lot of the property would be much harder to turn into gardens, and it’s an important habitat for wildlife.”
“You will make lawn into vegetable gardens. One quarter of food produced by this land will be given to Zaratin Empire as tribute. The other three quarters may be kept by residents for own use or trade.”
“This house, has space for more residents does it not?”
“We could probably fit in one more person or a couple,” Angela said.
“No,” Edward said. “This is my house, and I will not have some random person moving in here.”
“House belongs to Zaratin Empire. Land belongs to Zaratin Empire. Humans are graciously allowed to use them,” the official said.
Edward was about to argue, but Angela put a hand on her father’s shoulder. “You can’t win this,” she whispered.
“Humans will give their names and occupations, the skills they have. Humans will be assigned work on identified skills.”
“Shall I go first?” Angela said. The others nodded. “I’m Angela James, I’m a student accountant, that’s someone who works with money, recording and tracking the movement of money through businesses. I work part time at an accountant’s office, in addition to studying.”
“You record trade and values?” the Zaratin clarified.
“Yes, you could say it that way.”
“Angela James, records trade and values.”
Martha went next, “I’m Robertson. I’m retired, that means I don’t work because of my age. When I worked I was a school teacher. I taught children.”
“You are educator?”
“Martha Robertson, educator.”
Maria went next. “I’m Maria Worthy. Currently I’m the housekeeper here. I work for Mr and Mrs James and keep their house clean, cook their meals things like that. Before the COVID pandemic, I was a nurse, but it got too much for me.”
“You clean and cook, but have skills in health care?”
“Maria Worthy, cleaner, cook, health worker.”
Adam said, “I’m Maria’s husband. I’m Adam Worthy. I am a gardener. I grow plants and maintain the grounds. I’m a qualified builder, but I prefer gardening.”
“Adam Worthy, food grower, builder. Next?”
Edward said, “You don’t really need my details. I’m a self-made man.“
“You make humans, including yourself?”
“No. I mean I’m an investor.”
“What does investor do?”
“I have money in shares, I own parts of businesses. That pays me money.”
“Where did the money come from?”
“From other investments.”
“Where did that money come from?”
“If you must know, my father gave me money to get started. but from then on, it was all my own skill and knowledge.”
“My name is Edward James.”
“Edward James, no skills. And the human who has not yet spoken?”
“I’m Mary James,” Mary said. “I’m married to Edward. I’m a housewife.”
“You are married to Edward and to a house?”
“No. A housewife is a woman who stays at home while her husband works, to look after the man and the family.”
“Mary James, no skills.”
Luci leapt from the top of a cabinet, ran to Angela and jumped up on her lap.”
The Zaratin pulled all of its tentacles in close, pulling itself up to a height where its central upright part was touching the ceiling.
“That beast! Take it away! Take it away now!” the electronic voice said loudly.”
“He’s just a little cat,” Angela said. “He won’t hurt you.”
“Remove the beast now!” the octopod said again.
Angela took Luci to her room and shut him in, before returning to the lounge.
The Zaratin resumed its previous stance. “That is all the information I require now. You will receive your work orders and instructions on providing your tribute of food from the land to the Zaratin Empire.”
Angela saw the creature out.
As soon as the door closed behind it, Edward exclaimed, “‘No skills!’ What does it mean ‘no skills’?”
Angela sighed. “It means, Dad, you don’t do anything they can assign work for. It means they’re going to assign you and Mum both to unskilled labour, which will prove very disappointing if they want the work done. More importantly, we’ve learned some things.”
“What have we learned?” Mary asked. “That our daughter would betray us and let that monstrosity into our house?”
“She didn’t have any choice,” Martha answered her. “If she didn’t let it in, it would probably have blown the gate and the door off their hinges or something like that. You didn’t see how easily the beams from their ships cut through multi-storey buildings in the city. But we have learned that they don’t see individual ownership of anything, but that everything belongs to the Empire, and people are tenants who have to give tribute. It’s like a feudal system of the landholder and tenants. They do allow some trade after the Empire gets its tribute or tax or whatever you want to call it. They have a central system of assigning work, and don’t expect us to get or maintain our own jobs.”
“They’re also afraid of cats,” Angela said “or at least that one is. I wonder where we can get ourselves an army of feline warriors.”
“Given that Edward and Mary don’t have skills valuable to the Empire, and that they will probably be assigned work they are unwilling or unable to do, perhaps they would be best escaping via that underground railway once it begins,” Martha said.
“Absolutely not!” Edward said. I’m not leaving my home and neither is my wife.”
“Exactly right,” Mary said.
“Well, be prepared for space ship polishing, or one of those jobs you’ve always seen as beneath you, like rubbish collecting or street sweeping,” Angela said. “I’m pretty sure they’re not going to let you off working just because you had money before they invaded.”
Chapters of Colony
- Chapter 1 Supply Run
- Chapter 2 Fever Dream
- Chapter 3 Time to Leave
- Chapter 4 Homecoming
- Chapter 5 Maria and Adam
- Chapter 6 Communications Systems
- Chapter 7 Jamie’s Email
- Chapter 8 Census
- Chapter 9 Bunker
- Chapter 10 Work Allocation
- Chapter 11 Starting Work
- Chapter 12 Special Delivery
- Chapter 13 Claire
- Chapter 14 Betrayed
- Chapter 15 Bang!
- Chapter 16 Cats
- Chapter 17 Withdrawal (published soon)
Please note: these chapters are the very raw first draft, what appears in the final book may be different. The working title has changed from Survival to Colony, as has the draft cover art, and they may or may not change again before I finish writing the book..