Miner Trouble

“Ma’am?” The captain coughed. Marie Antoinette the Fourth turned from the flock of sheep.

“Captain! Hello. What do you think?”

“Ma’am?”

“My dress.” She stood, arms wide. The captain stared at the mountain of folds and ruffles.

“It’s, um, very frilly, ma’am.”

“It’s a shepherdess dress.”

“Very authentic, ma’am. And if the weather turns bad, I assume that the sheep can shelter underneath.”

“Really? Is that what they do? What, all of them? Oh!” She wagged her finger at him. “You’re playing games with me now, you naughty man. It’s a good job you’re so good-looking. And tall, too. How tall are you, Captain?”

“One metre ninety-two, ma’am.”

“Hey, none of that metric nonsense.”

“I apologise, ma’am. That would be, um, about six feet three.”

“That’s a good height for a guard, Captain. I want all the guards to be that tall. Only hire tall guards from now on.”

“I shall inform Human Resources to amend the recruiting criteria, ma’am.”

“Good. So look. I’m a shepherdess, right? See what I can do. I can make them jump. Look.” She pointed her crook at the sheep. They started to jump a gate, incongruously situated in the middle of the field with no fence abutting it. “You know how they say counting sheep makes you sleepy? Well, that’s nonsense. I can do this all day and not even need a nap. I think real shepherdesses are just lazy.”

“Ma’am?” The captain coughed again. Marie Antoinette sighed.

“I suppose you’re here on company business?”

“I’m afraid so, ma’am.”

“Fine.” She hit a stud on the crook, and the electronic sheep winked out of existence. “What is it then?”

“We have some industrial unrest, ma’am. The miners are threatening to revolt.”

“Revolt? Why? Don’t they have everything they need? Clothes and food and, and, and shops and stuff?”

“Indeed, ma’am. The company provides food and accommodation, and takes the costs directly from their wages so they don’t even have to pay for it themselves. There are the company stores as well, for those little extras, like boots and other luxuries. And those services the company is not ideally suited to provide, we offer out to franchises, such as MediCorp. They ship their staff and equipment out to Phobos, charge the personnel an appropriate fee, and the company takes a commission from them. Everyone wins, ma’am.”

“So what are they so unhappy about? It sounds just ungrateful to me.”

“There are certain other services we use independent contractors for, ma’am. Services of a somewhat discrete nature.”

“Why does everyone do that?”

“Ma’am?”

“Why does everyone go all embarrassed and talk around the subject like I’m a little girl? I know what you’re talking about. You’re talking about naughties, aren’t you.”

“I am indeed, ma’am. I apologise for dressing ‘naughties’ up in euphemisms. So, Phobos being a remote moon, we require our workers to sign up for a minimum five year contract. Also, due to the nature of the work, miners tend to be almost exclusively male.”

“Why’s that? Us girls can be pretty tough, you know.”

“Quite, ma’am. Nevertheless, we get very few applications from females.”

“Maybe I could get Nancy to run me up a miner’s costume, and go out in disguise to see for myself.”

“Ma’am, remember when you dressed up as a nurse to disguise yourself and went into the hospital? Your father has promised to chop me off at the knees if I ever allow that to happen again, and that would contravene your newly instigated height requirement for security personnel. So, anyway, we have certain services supplied to meet the needs of male miners living on Phobos for five years of womenless existence.”

“Oh, I know about that.”

“You do?”

“Yes. I went to see it myself.”

“Excuse me?”

“The burlesque! Oh, don’t look so shocked, Captain. It was the most amazing fun. We saw Kate Vavavoom. Do you know her?”

“Only by reputation, ma’am.”

“Oh, you have to see her. She sings and dances, only not like at the company dance, and the costumes. Oh my God. It’s like, the more she wears, the more naked she seems. Now I know what you’re going to say, but it’s true. Kate is more naked clothed than naked girls are, naked. I got Nancy to run me up a burlesque costume, only I don’t ever wear it out here, only in my bedroom. I wouldn’t want to inflame men’s passions, you know.”

“Indeed, ma’am.”

She rocked from side to side and looked at the captain with what she thought was a playful coquettishness.

“You know, I might just wear it one day in my anteroom, just to see the look on your face. What would you do then, Captain?”

“Deep inside, ma’am, I would curse the clause in my contract of employment that states that at all times I must uphold the company reputation and maintain a professional image. Outwardly I would be stoic, but inside, rest assured, I would no doubt be inflamed. Otherwise I fear your father would cut off more than just my legs. But these independent contractors, ma’am. They’re not quite the same as Miss Vavavoom. Oh, they may appear at first glance like her, but when they seem naked, it’s very often the case that they are. And their services are a little more personal.”

“Personal?”

“Yes. On a one-to-one basis, if you get my drift.”

“Why would anyone want to watch a burlesque show on their own?”

“I – it- I’m sure I don’t know, ma’am. Nevertheless, the miners prefer it that way.”

“So what’s the problem?”

“You know those two missionaries that arrived a couple of months ago?”

“No.”

“You laughed at the one with a stammer, and the other one you insisted on calling Fatty Poo-poo.”

“Oh, them! They were horrid. Why are they here? Did my father send them?”

“No ma’am. They are here under the Federation’s Freedom of Worship legislation. Anyway, they held a number of workshops for, um, the entertainment ladies. The long and the short of it is, some of the women converted. Quite a few of them, in fact. The missionaries convinced them that, um, burlesque, at least on a one-to-one basis, as it were, is both immoral and undesirable. They have withdrawn their services, and as independent contractors we cannot bring pressure to bear to force them back to work. It is this that the miners are unhappy about.”

“Have they converted Kate?”

“I’m sure the Pope himself would not be able to convert Miss Vavavoom, ma’am.”

“Then the answer’s simple, Captain. Really, I don’t know why you bother me with these trivial matters.” She switched on the electronic sheep and waved a dismissal to the captain over her shoulder.

“If they’re that desperate, let them meet Kate.”

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About snodlander
Snodlander is the nom de plume of Bob Simms. He is an IT trainer, but it's not as glamourous as it sounds. When he's not enthralling classes with adventures through SQL Server, he writes, draws and drinks his own home-brew. Buy his novel on Amazon Kindle at The Young Demon Keeper, It's 74p, for crying out loud!

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