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Contract Labor: Slavery on Venus

Editor's Note: The following article was written prior to the development of "cold-sleep", which has since become the favored method of transporting contract laborers to Venus. Other details are believed to still be accurate.

The newspaper advertisement usually reads something like this:

For young, able-bodied men and women willing to relocate to Venus. Title to 40 acres of land and $25,000 will be awarded immediately upon fulfillment of all terms of a legally binding contract for seven years good labor. Spaceship travel and clothing furnished. Apply in person at the Jackson Hotel, Room 22.

Each year, hundreds of people across the United States respond to ads similar to this. They arrive at the hotel room fresh-faced and hopeful for a better future. They knock on the door and are quickly ushered into a temporary office where they are interviewed and subjected to a brief medical exam. Those who pass are urged to sign a lengthy contract with bold print promising much the same rewards as the newspaper advertisement. If they were given the time to examine the small print, they would never sign.

Those who do sign receive a quick series of inoculations and then are hurriedly escorted into another room where they are instructed to wait along with other "successful" applicants. Men and women are separated, since the plantations are segregated according to gender. They are usually served light refreshments - often beer or cheap wine - to calm their nerves and given a "pep talk" reassuring them of the rightness of their decision and the glowing future that awaits them on Venus. When a sufficient number of "recruits" are present, they are taken for a bus ride to the nearest spaceport where a chartered spaceship waits to take them to their destination. They are typically assigned to an acceleration mat and may be made to wait for as long as a day until a sufficient number of recruits have boarded. When the decks are all filled the hatches are sealed and the spaceship blasts off, heading for the planet Venus with its cargo of willing, living flesh.

After a voyage lasting several months, the spaceship lands at the Venerian North Polar Cap (so-called "Free Venus"), and disembarks its weary but hopeful passengers. They are herded like cattle into large tin shower sheds lined with overhead sprinklers and ordered to remove all clothing and personal belongings. After showering with disinfectant, the new arrivals are assigned to a work crew composed of several raw recruits and a couple seasoned laborers responsible for showing the "greenies" the ropes. The crew works together in the muddy fields, eats together in the mess hall and sleeps in the same barracks. Their daily work quota is based on their joint efforts - this assures that they keep each other motivated.

Contract Laborers on Venus
Contract Laborers on Venus
Photo manipulation by Free Trader

Competition between crews is encouraged, and crews that excel in production are rewarded with extra privileges or special favors. Rewards include candy, soap, cigarettes, liquor, drugs or the ever-popular "sexual encounter" with a laborer from another plantation. Laborers may also "purchase" some privileges - at a cost of extra days added to their term of service. In this way, laborers are tricked into working longer terms or forfeiting their land and money grants. Very few contract laborers ever fulfill all the required terms of their contracts, often finding themselves "in default" for failure to meet their quotas or purchasing too many privileges and forced to work additional seasons to pay off their debts. Women are often forced to prostitute themselves to make up for quota deficiencies.

Contrary to some of the sensational motion picture depictions of plantation life, contract laborers are rarely malnourished. A healthy slave works harder than a starving one. Still, life on a Venerian plantation is not easy. A typical workday begins at sunrise and ends at dusk. The workers are essentially prisoners confined to the plantation grounds. There is little or no communication with the outside world, and escape is practically impossible considering that countless miles of steaming swamp or trackless jungle surround most plantations. Harsh punishments await those who try to break their contract by running away ("breakers"). Punishments for "breakers" include beatings, chaining, and solitary confinement.

While automation has largely replaced the need for manual labor in Earth's developed nations, contract labor remains popular on the Veneran plantations due to the relatively low cost - and ease of replacement - of human workers. Few machines last very long in the hot, moist Venerian environment, but humans manage to adapt. Some foreign governments use Venerian penal colonies as a way of dealing with criminals, malcontents and social misfits.

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