I settled myself into the padded seat and fastened my harness. So far everything was the same as the simulator that I had been training on for the past month. I called departure control and received clearance. Engines were started and all the lights went green. I checked all the panels, I was good to go. The action was familiar, I had got this far so many times the hand movements were automatic, as was the checking.
The door opened in front of me, space yawned ahead. This was different, it wasn't simulated space, it was real nothingness if you know what I mean. It sucked at me, willing me to fall into it.
Stover, my new boss had given me the pep talk when I arrived. Old and gnarled he had been out here for years and seemed more than a little space crazy, his eyes wild and the corner of his mouth twitching.
“Watch your bloody back kid,” he said, “cos I'm not coming to rescue you.” The others in our team; Max the hippy and Lyl in her skin-tight black leather nodded agreement, eyes rolling at Stover's act.
“I might rescue you,” said Max, his hair and beard obscuring his face, “If you had a decent load onboard.”
Lyl shook her head, the hair as dark as her leather flowed like silk, “kids!” she snorted, “take no notice of them, we would all come, after all, you would do it for us..... right?”
I just nodded. Nothing in my training had prepared me for this bunch of crazies. I had needed the job and on paper it sounded like a good idea. Good wages and a chance to travel. Well, what they didn't tell you was the short life expectancy and the travel, once you were on the mining platform you were stuck. You only found that bit out after you had signed.
“Scooper 22, this is control. You gotta problem? get out there and start working.” The voice in my ear was a kick up the backside from my new boss. I released the magnetic brakes holding me to the station and, taking a deep breath I moved off.
As I left the dock the full grandeur of the location hit me like a hammer.
The rings of Suma stretched out in front of me, a large Gas Giant it had enormous rings, filled with rocks of all sizes, spinning in orbit around the planet. From a distance the rings looked solid, close up you could see the gaps. Although they all moved in the same direction around the planet they also moved relative to each other, there were collisions and they shattered, nudging each other around like billiard balls on a moving table. It should have made me feel nauseous; it had on the simulator, the first time. But not anymore. This was the main reason for all that training.
I was a miner of precious minerals, or at least I would be once I had collected my first stone. The training was really only a course in avoiding being smashed about by the ever moving rocks while not throwing up. And we were paid on tonnage collected.
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