I’ve been periodically working on a short story over the past few months…a story which I hope will grow too big for its britches and become something much longer. I recently hit the 10,000 word mark, and in celebration, I thought I’d share part of a scene with you folks. Enjoy!
Note: In case you missed it before, Reversion, my short story about a zombie slowly coming back to life, can be read for free on Scribd. Check it out here.
Devon sat in the front room of an unassuming building, waiting for his turn to meet the Corporation interviewer. He lounged on a stuffed leather couch that was bookended by a small table, surrounded by bright lighting and sterile white walls. It had been a few days since he went to the Square Cylinder with Taelon, a meeting which he replayed over in his head. It seemed like his sibling vehemently defended the Corporation, something that he had never done before…or, at least, something Devon couldn’t remember him ever doing. That by itself wouldn’t be too strange, but it was the way his brother defended them that seemed off. In all fairness, they were both completely sloshed by then, not to mention Taelon wasn’t the only thing that was different from before the accident (the city was larger, and his sparse apartment felt positively alien).
Snapping out of his “lost in thoughts” mode, Devon examined the nearly empty room he sat in for the umpteenth time. Aside from himself, the only person present was a stereotypical secretary that sat behind the front desk. She typed furiously, her brow furrowing each time she looked up at her screen. Devon started to make small talk with her, but abruptly stopped as he remembered the ornery glance she had given him when he first walked in. It was clear the poor woman was overworked, so Devon decided not to add to her anguish. Bored, he glanced over at the table next to him, where he spotted a small, unmarked button.
“What’s this do?”
The secretary stopped typing and, without looking up, said “It plays a little video to keep you entertained, just in case your own internal thoughts are too terrifying.” Her typing continued.
“What’s it a video of?”
The secretary stopped typing again, and this time looked directly at him. “Look, sir. I’ve got a ton of work to do, and it had to be finished five eons ago. Just push the button and watch. I’m sure you’ll find it interesting.” Under her breath, she muttered “…and maybe you’ll leave me alone.” More typing.
“Sheesh”, Devon thought. “Oh well. I don’t have anything else to do.” He pressed the button, and a video appeared on the wall in front of him. Devon read quietly to himself as the title appeared: “A Guided Tour of a Mining Cylinder”.
A technician sits down in a pod, looping a safety harness over himself. He checks his instruments, pulls a lever, rotates a knob, and slams home a steel rod poking out of the panel. The pod rises out of its cradle, and begins to fly vertically down the cylinder.
“We are currently flying through the center of this particular mining unit”, the technician says loudly. “The cylinder rotates at 1/10th the pace of the drill that’s located at the bottom of the cylinder…this allows us to harvest the materials before the drilling operation is complete. In fact, drilling in this mining unit is scheduled to complete today at a depth of 200 miles.” The technician makes a noise that sounds like a laugh and a sneeze, then continues. “Seeing as this planet has a diameter of nearly 50,000 miles, we aren’t too worried about affecting its structural integrity. The top portion of the cylinder is used as a staging area for workers and machinery.” A small light on the instrument panel in the pod comes to life. “We’ve reached the five mile mark.”
The pod slows to a complete stop, allowing the camera to pan around. It zooms in on small cubby holes carved into the cylinder, which are connected to each other by long, thin slits. The technician continues. “Starting at five miles down, these holes in the cylinder are placed every 100 feet. They allow us to continually access different mining nodes in the rock as the cylinder bores deeper into the planet. The slits allow the workers to see what’s coming up before their cubby intersects with the next node. Each node takes between 10-20 passes before it’s fully extracted; this far up in the cylinder, all of the nodes should be completely cleaned out. The workers at this depth are making sure nothing was missed.”
The pod starts moving again, flying down the shaft faster than before.
“The floor just above the top of the cylinder contains the mining control center. Five floors above that is where the repair hangars are located. Twenty floors above that is the on-site medical facility. Thirty floors above that is the surface city, which contains housing, businesses, and entertainment venues for everyone assigned to a specific mining cylinder. There are 300 identical cities and sub-surface buildings scattered around the planet, and as such there are 300 mining cylinders.” The pod continues flying down the long shaft, as another light on the instrument panel illuminates. “We’ve reached the twenty-five mile mark. This is where the good stuff starts.”
“Mister Devon?” Devon broke free from the hypnosis of the video, and turned. A tall, barbarian-like man had emerged from the door between the couch and the secretary’s desk. Despite his imposing size, there was a kindness present in his posture. Even the secretary looked a little more cheerful, now that the big man had entered the room. “How yeh doin’? I’m Raster.”