Robert Luke Wilkins

Robert is a writer and software engineer, with some of his other stories appearing in On Spec, Stupefying Stories, and Acidic Fiction. Hailing from the green, lightly vandalised hills of North East England, he now makes his home with his wife in California, where their cats Michiko and Mothra do all they can to disrupt the tranqility of their lives. You can learn more at his website, www.fatwriter.com, or chat with him on Twitter at @RobertLWilkins.

Robert is a writer and software engineer, with some of his other stories appearing in On Spec, Stupefying Stories, and Acidic Fiction. Hailing from the green, lightly vandalised hills of North East England, he now makes his home with his wife in California, where their cats Michiko and Mothra do all they can to disrupt the tranqility of their lives. You can learn more at his website, www.fatwriter.com, or chat with him on Twitter at @RobertLWilkins.

Delectable

“It’s certainly a pretty one-sided deal,” said Leonard as he leaned back into his chair. “But what else would you expect? They’re bugs, not attorneys.”

The reporter nodded and scribbled a note in his pad. The dining table in the harvest facility’s executive lounge seated twelve, but only three seats were occupied, by the reporter and the company’s two harvester-team leaders.

In the middle of the table was a large wooden bowl of toasted honey-bugs. Tiny ant-like creatures, their sweetness was mingled with unparalleled flavor, and their shell yielded the perfect, lightly crispy crunch. But they were also incredibly rare, found only on the hostile surface of Khepri. All efforts to raise them elsewhere had failed, and per ounce they had become one of the galaxy’s most expensive delicacies, beyond even Earth-raised caviar.

“It’s a dangerous job you guys have,” said the reporter. “The death-rate here is incredibly high.”

“It was worse before the cutbacks,” said Leonard with a shrug. “We lost a team almost every month back then. But it’s been better recently, so the figures you have down might be a little high. Still, there have always been risky jobs, haven’t there? We get paid well for our work, and nobody comes here expecting an easy ride.”

That much was true. Everybody knew the job was hard and not without risks, though the loss of Alex’s team last month ago had still come as a shock. It had been a timely reminder to them all that even experienced harvesters could pay the price if they were careless. Rumor said a replacement team was inbound, but in the meantime, the remaining teams were reaping better harvests than ever.

“So why not use machines instead?”

“They tried,” said Leonard. “But the bugs don’t like the machines, and they don’t last long in this atmosphere anyway. No, the only way is with human feet on the ground. That’s why our product is so valuable.” He took a pinch of the lightly toasted honey-bugs and popped them into his mouth. They crunched between his teeth. “I admit it wouldn’t suit everyone. But for those with the stomach, it’s a way of life. I wouldn’t trade your boring job for mine in a month of Mondays.”