Monday, August 3, 2015

Short Story: Mine


It's all rock. Dark rock as far as the eye could see. This whole planet seemed to be one big overheated rock. The sun wasn't bad, no way to get a sunburn, the heat seemed to emanate from the ground itself. As if it were a giant lump of charcoal. The air was thin and barely breathable. Too much time spent thinking up analogies, too much time alone on this worthless rock.

There were some flying creatures but I've not got a good look at them. The only food source are the hard-shelled lizards, or were they crabs? I guess I would have to name those things sooner or later, Lord knows I've eaten plenty of them by now. Just not enough of them to keep me from being tired and losing muscle mass.

My parents had thrown their fortune into buying this planet, then spent years trying to get their money back and then they died. This was my pathetic inheritance. Without the ability to earn much of a living at odd-jobs that couldn't pay rent on shack I took up a position on a star freighter. Got sick on my first trip when they initiated me with a zero-gravity in a pitch dark room prank.

Never lived that down. The rest of the crew treated me like I was beneath their contempt. All my belongings were in a crate on that ship. My open-top vehicle, a veek and a backpack. On my fourth trip I inquired if I could get a look at the world I owned and they decided to just leave me here.

That was two years ago. I've been roaming the surface of this planet since then. My veek, powered by an atomic battery, will last for years more. There has to be something on this planet besides me and the lizards or crabs or whatever. Since they exist there must be some water somewhere. I can't dig through the rock with the weak laser I have on the veek, though.

I know there was an attempt to mine the planet before my parents realized there was really nothing that would recoup their investment. I want to see what is down there. Maybe they hit a vein of water or something. I've traveled a long way in two years, been to both poles and there was no ice. It was a little cooler but the heat from the ground wasn't lessened much.

I had to reserve as much energy as I could, not just because I haven't been eating enough lizards but the thin air made everything worse. The only shade I made for myself was out of my old uniform, on a frame made from parts of the crate, I connect a hammock to it and to the veek to stay off the hot ground. It was as comfortable as it got. It's not like I need the uniform except for the boots, so it's all I wear.

I would use the veek's communicator to send out distress calls but it's range was too small, a ship would have to be almost as close as orbit to pick up the signal. Not that it would cause me to give up, but I was tired a lot lately.

Then one morning I'm shocked. I see three small buildings and the opening of a mine from the top of the ridge. I race down to the veek and negotiate the boulders (the veek hovers a couple feet off the ground) and then across the flat expanse to the abandoned mining operation.

Of course I checked the buildings first. One had been used as offices, another was barracks and the last one was storage, a mostly empty storage building. But it was off the ground and lying on the ground was very comfortable in comparison. After a nap I searched what little I found in the buildngs. A bag of old chips, I munched them as I continued looking around.

A big air conditioning unit. No generator. I could plug it into the veeks atomic battery I suppose but that wasn't a priority right now. The mine. I wanted to know what was down there.

I carry two hand-held lamps to the veek and let them charge from the battery for a while. I didn't suppose it would get colder down there, probably hotter actually. Since the heat came up from the ground I would bet everything on hotter. So I wouldn't need any of the spare uniforms I found in storage.

After a couple of hours I couldn't wait any longer. I wanted the mystery solved so I took the lights and entered the mine. About fifty yards in there was no more light from outside, I turned the first of the lights on. About one hundred and fifty yards in I must be at least fifty yards underground. There was some moisture on the walls and the temperature hadn't changed much.

About four hundred yards in and more than a hundred yards under the surface, the walls were still the dark gray rock I saw up top. There were dribbles of water on the floor going downhill. Then I reached the end. There was a large puddle of water at the bottom about two feet deep from wall to wall and stretched ten meters to the end of the mine. The lizard-crabs were loving it here.

At least I would have my fill of the lizard crabs and use of the water. A hot bath just sitting there waiting for me and I'd be surrounded by my prime food source.

I shine the light on the wall, unbelieving that it really ended right here. I sit and breathe as eeply as the thinning air allowed. One big wall of solid, worthless diamond. Probably a deep layer of it all over this world. Further down was probably the molten core that was giving off all the heat. The end of my search was fruitless. A world not worth having and it was all mine.


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