Moon Mining

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Moon Mining

Post by despair_dawnlight » Sat Jan 12, 2019 12:33 pm

The Miner

Gareth held the trigger on his mining laser for a final burst. The section of Veradeum ore he had been working on broke loose from the cavern wall. The low lunar gravity allowed him to ease it down gently to his cart. Finished for the day he flipped the switch to seal the cart and returned to the surface.
After emptying the ore into the loading bay, he dropped the cart off and entered the airlock. The relief of entering the Earth-like atmosphere in the habitation, was tempered by the stale taste to the recycled air supply. Gareth took a vacuum-packed meal from the food locker, opened it and stuck it in the vapour oven. When his meal was ready, he joined his friends Bill and James in the canteen.
‘I hope we get some new meals with the shuttle tomorrow’ he said.
‘I doubt it’ Bill replied, ‘I don’t think our palates are a high priority for the corporation’.
‘Yeah, you’re probably right’ Gareth agreed.
‘That’s Olly’s 6 months term up. He’s heading back to Earth tomorrow’ said Bill.
‘Yeah, he’s been going on about it all week’ James added.
After dinner, Bill and James went for a game of pool, while Gareth went to his dorm. Lying on his bunk he couldn’t help but feel jealous about Olly going home the next day. Still, he thought, only two more weeks and I will be heading home too. Gareth replayed the last video message he received from his family with an ache in his heart. He had filmed a new video to send home on the shuttle and hoped to receive a new video from them. For the thousandth time he imagined his reunion with Mary and the kids.

The next day dragged by for Gareth. He was anticipating a new video message and so time seemed to move slowly for him. Finally, it came time to down tools and he made his way back to the surface and back to the habitation. As the airlock closed behind him, he could hear shouting coming from the communal area. Gareth rushed through to find out what was going on. Olly was pacing back and forth growling.
‘What’s going on?’ Gareth asked James.
‘The shuttle didn’t arrive and Olly’s freaking out’ said James.
Bill was trying to calm Olly when he shouted,
‘The fucking corporation will pay for this. If that shuttle’s not here tomorrow I am handing in my notice and taking those fuckers to court’.
‘I’m sure it will be here Olly. After 6 months on this rock another day isn’t going to kill you is it?’ said Bill. ‘Come on let me get you a drink and something to eat’.
Olly was still grumbling under his breath but let Bill lead him to the canteen.
In his bunk that night Gareth felt bad for Olly but couldn’t help lamenting the wait for his video message even more. Bloody shuttle better be there tomorrow.

The next day Gareth couldn’t focus on his work. The ore he mined was significantly less than his usual returns. On leaving the airlock he could tell by the silence that the shuttle hadn’t appeared. In the canteen he went to fetch his dinner and noticed Olly sitting on the floor by the wall with his head in his hands. Gareth went to join Bill and James at their usual table.
‘No shuttle again?’ he asked.
Bill shook his head in answer.
‘We are all getting a bit worried now’ said James.
‘How long will the food and water last?’ Gareth asked.
‘Most of our liquid waste is re-purified so its likely to be the food that runs out first’ said Bill. ‘Thomas recons that we have 2 weeks supply of food. 3 if we ration it’.
‘This is not supposed to happen’ said James. ‘If there is a problem with a shuttle, they have a spare ready to leave with a day’s notice.’
‘Well…’ pondered Gareth. ‘There must be an explanation why it’s been a couple of days.’
Just then Olly jumped up with a scream, grabbed one of the canteen chairs and started to smash it against the wall. Bill stood up to go over but James held his arm.
‘Leave him to vent, Bill.’
After smashing the chair into pieces Olly returned to his seat on the floor by the wall. Gareth finished his meal then the three friends went to join Olly on the floor. Bill put his arm round Olly. Olly looked up with fury in his face, but then his lips trembled and he buried his head in his hands and sobbed quietly.
Gareth looked around the canteen. All 12 workers on the moon mining mission were present and each of them had the same haunted look. Even Thomas the foreman, and Scott the mission doctor. They knew that, if a shuttle didn’t arrive within a few weeks they would all die.

The next day no one went to work. The workers wandered aimlessly around the habitation blank stares common on their faces. Gareth tried to think of something that could give them hope but not knowing the problem meant it would just be speculation. He was worried like everyone else but utterly convinced he was going to see his family again.
Around midday Olly got his suit on and went outside. He spent the afternoon staring up at the sky. Gareth was worried about Olly and went to speak to the doctor about him. Gareth outlined his fears about Olly’s mental state to Scott.
Scott agreed, ‘He’s not taking it well but who can blame him? He should be back home by now’.
‘Do you have anything you can give him to mellow him out a bit?’
‘Yeah sure. Tell him to come see me when he gets back.’
‘Thanks Scott. We all might need medication if this shuttle doesn’t arrive soon eh?’
‘Luckily I have the keys to the medicine cabinet’ joked Scott with a wink.
Gareth asked around if anyone fancied a game of pool or darts but there were no takers. The workers were not in the mood for conversation or games. Neither did they want to be alone, so they had gathered in the canteen but sat around moping. As the afternoon passed by it became clear no shuttle was going to arrive.
‘What’s he doing now?’ asked Bill.
Gareth turned to see that Olly had moved from his star gazing spot and had retrieved a mining laser from the tool locker. Olly began blasting rocks at random.
‘Should we go out to him?’ asked Bill
‘I don’t think so. In his frame of mind, he might turn the laser on us’ said Gareth.
‘Olly wouldn’t do that. Would he?’
‘Probably not but he’s not himself right now and I’m not risking a hole in my chest to find out.’
‘Hmm, I suppose!’
After about 20 minutes spent burning rocks with the mining laser Olly returned to the habitation. Gareth had a quite word with him and he agreed to go see Scott for some medication.

Each day continued the same for a full week. There was still no sign of the shuttle. The men stopped going to work. Most of them had stopped washing and shaving. Although the water was being recycled, they just couldn’t be bothered. Lethargy had set in amongst them along with a deep depression. Four of the workers were now being medicated which seemed to help a little. Olly would still spend a few hours outside, staring at the sky but there had been no further outbursts or moments of destruction. The men had started on half rations at the end of the first week that the shuttle was missing.
On the eleventh day Gareth decided he was not going to just sit around any longer. He got up and had a shave and a shower. After sharing a breakfast packet with Bill, he announced he was going back to work.
‘Why?’ Bill asked.
‘Why not?’ retorted Gareth. ‘I’m sick of moping around here. I would rather be doing something than nothing.’
‘Okay mate. Just don’t over do it. Remember you are on half rations’
‘Hahaha, I’m hardly going to be busting a gut’ laughed Gareth. ‘I haven’t gone completely mad’.
After working for a few hours Gareth stopped for a break. Staring are the seam of Veradeum he felt frustration and despair fill his soul. He had an urge to direct his laser straight into the ore. He knew if he heated it enough it would cause an explosion. Gareth fought down the urge and remembering his family back at home he managed to calm himself. That’s enough for today, he decided.
As Gareth was returning, Olly was heading out for his daily vigil. He nodded a greeting as the passed each other. As Gareth left the airlock, he noticed Bill and James playing pool. That’s a good sign, he thought. Bill signalled him to come over.
‘We need to keep a close eye on Olly, he’s stopped eating’
‘Could it be the pills have supressed his hunger?’ asked Gareth.
‘I checked with Scott and that’s not one of the side effects of the pills Olly is taking’
‘Okay, I will keep an eye on him and we can try and get him to eat something for dinner’
When Olly returned, he refused to eat claiming he was fine but with supplies short he didn’t want to eat when others were hungry. He actually smiled which was worrying.

Gareth went out to work again in the morning and James decided to join him. He managed a half shift without any further destructive urges. They finished at about midday and headed back to the surface. As they were heading back Gareth saw James waving. Looking up he saw Olly in the airlock. As he watched Olly waved back and then moved towards the outer door.
‘He’s coming out without a suit’, shouted Gareth into his intercom as he broke into a bouncing run. James began to run.
‘Don’t do it Olly’, shouted Gareth.
‘Noooo!’, Screamed James.
As they watched Olly hit the button to open the outer door. He staggered out of the airlock wearing only a t-shirt and jogging pants. As they watched, blood began to pour from his eyes, mouth and nose. The veins on Olly’s arms became enlarged and turned blue. He had managed three steps from the airlock when he collapsed. Gareth reached him seconds later and scooped him up. James held the airlock closed until Gareth got Olly back inside, then closed it. As gravity took hold Gareth felt the strain in his arms and his back.
James helped him lay Olly down inside the habitation, then went to fetch Scott. The bleeding had stopped and Gareth knew Olly’s heart had failed. Still in his suit, Gareth began chest compressions. With his suit on, he couldn’t tell how hard to press but decided that broken ribs would be the least of Olly’s worries.
Scott arrived, took over the compressions and placed a mask over Olly’s face. Seconds later Bill arrived with a defibrillator. The rest of the team were behind him. They all watched as Scott applied the defib and switched the button.
After a while, Scott looked up and shook his head.
‘His heart has exploded in his chest. There is no coming back from that. I’m sorry’ he said.
After a few minutes of silence Thomas placed a jacket over Olly’s face.
‘We will bury him tomorrow’.

That night the silence was the same but there was a deeper level of despair amongst the men.
‘Perhaps Olly is the lucky one’ said James. ‘It might be a gruesome way to go but at least it was quick. Better that than starving to death.’
‘The shuttle will arrive before that happens’ Gareth argued. As the words left his mouth, he knew he didn’t believe them.
Some of the men began talking about things the wish they could do before they died. Gareth couldn’t handle it and went to his dorm early. Starting from the first he watched all the video messages he had received during the 6 months. Tears streamed from his eyes unchecked to land on his chest.

The team buried Olly the next day. They burned out a grave using their lasers and laid Olly’s body down in the hole wrapped in some fresh linen. Thomas said some words of farewell and when no-one wanted to add anything the began to fill in the grave. Once the grave had been filled in they placed Olly’s laser on top.
‘Fly safe Olly’ Gareth whispered.
Then men began making their way back inside. Bill and Gareth were the last to leave. As Gareth moved to leave, he heard Bill on the intercom.
‘I don’t fucking believe it’
Gareth followed Bill’s gaze into the sky and there in the distance he noticed the approach of a shuttle.

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Re: Moon Mining

Post by juli_redstained1 » Tue Jan 15, 2019 7:53 pm

A good read, held my interest from start to finish.


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Re: Moon Mining

Post by despair_dawnlight » Fri Jan 18, 2019 7:09 pm

Thanks Juli.

I wrote it for a uni assignment and thought I would share for any moon miners :)

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