Lower than the Angels: Part 01.First published in Kiron III and Katra presents Androidz, October 1992.
Original story © 1992 Chie-Hoon Lee. Nothing is intended to infringe on any copyright held by The Ladd Company and The Bladerunner Partnership.
What is man that thou art mindful of him:
There was a spider in the bushes. She could see it weave its web right outside her window. It had a tiny body, like an orange, and legs like green twigs, and when she peered closely at it through the pane she saw a hundred black spots like eyes looking back. She watched it build its web all summer. It was there every morning when she woke up and every evening when her mother tucked her under the blankets.
One day there was a big egg in the web. She studied it closely, even running outside and looking at it from the other side. It was brown and frayed and bigger than the spider that laid it. She watched the egg every day, waiting for something to happen.
And one day the egg hatched. It was morning and she was lying in bed, letting the sunlight rouse her from sleep, when she noticed a tiny movement through the glass. She sat up, holding onto the window sill as she watched entranced as one, then two, then dozens of baby spiders crawled from the egg. The mother spider sat nearby, as if watching the birth, watching the egg disintegrate into thread and baby spiders.
One of the baby spiders found the mother and crawled up her leg. And, as if summoned, all the others - a mass of brown and green and orange - fell on the mother, enveloped her and ate her.
She watched it happen, safe behind the window. She was five years old.
When she was six she and her brother snuck into an empty building to play doctor. Her brother was twelve and he told her to go first. She refused until he slowly undid his belt and pulled down his pants. She looked, half shocked, half repulsed, but when it was her turn she ran, her brother's shouts echoing behind her.
One night, when she was eight years old, her mother and brother went out and did not come back. It was the first time she had been left alone. Her mother said, "You're ready for the responsibility now," and "We'll be back by nine." She watched the clock. When it said ten she began to cry. When it said twelve she had cried herself out. She watched the clock until it said four, then she fell asleep. The next day the police came.
They told her that she would never see her mother and brother again. It took her a long time to understand. She went to live with her uncle in a huge building in a grey and alien city. She asked him what she had not asked the police. "Why?"
He looked at her, and being watched like that she felt small and insect-like. He did not touch her. Her uncle rarely touched her she would discover. "It's how people are, Rachael. Unreliable. You have to learn that."
When she was twelve she went to bed with the son of the Minister for Colonisation. The only children she saw were the sons and daughters of her uncle's business associates or rivals, accompanying their parents as they visited her uncle (always them visiting him; her uncle never had to go to anyone). They were there to watch and learn, preparing for the day when they could take over from their parents.
They had fucked, clumsily at first, then with growing adeptness, several times during the two weeks it took for his father and her uncle to conclude their dealings. He had assured her he was taking contraceptives so it surprised her when she discovered six weeks later she was pregnant.
She had learned her lesson by now. She did not have to ask anyone "Why?" She arranged for the termination discreetly and efficiently.
When she was fourteen she spent a week in the lowest levels of the Tyrell Building, hundreds of metres below the ground. She was measured, probed, drugged, sampled and analysed by faceless attendants, as unflinchingly efficient as they were coldly polite. She endured the process without complaint and when it was over she was sent to Ontario to take over the directorship of Tyrell Corporation's Canadian subsidiary. She communicated with her uncle only rarely after that, and she never saw him again.