I watch them as they shuffle into the station's only barroom. The places where they grew up and the cultures that they were raised in could not be more different, but they all have one thing in common. They all came here to make a living.
They have a hard look in their eyes. They're survivors, pioneers. Hardy people who wear scruffy kerchiefs around their heads, lumberjack coats that fray at the seams and jeans that have long ago molded to the form of their legs. Their faces are creased from hard work in the blaze of sunshine.
These are the lifers: the technicians of the station who take their mandated six month break every three years, and then immediately return from Earth for another three years of work here. They've made their lives here, and range in age from early twenties to late fifties. And I've been sent to Asteroid 433 Eros specifically to be their boss.
We couldn't be more different. Some of them barely finished high school but at thirty years old, I just completed my Doctor of Philosophy in Geological Sciences at the University of British Columbia. Unlike them, I don't want to be here. What I really wanted was to do was become a professor: to publish scientific articles, run a lab and field experiments, and maybe teach a few classes.
But in the past few years, there's been a sudden glut of people with advanced degrees in all fields. Gaining a professorial position, let alone tenure, has become all by impossible. My choice was clear. Either sign up for endless postdocs or take a job with Interplanetary Mining, Incorporated. Now I'm their lead Geotechnical Engineer on the second largest near-Earth object in rotation around the sun.
The site is rich in precious ores needed back on Earth. They're used in the manufacturing of everything from consumer goods to the space shuttle that brought me here. Interplanetary has already finished the first phase of mining consisting of removing the large piles of ore and stones from the asteroid's surface. Now they're ready for phase two: underground mining. And that's why they need me.
When I arrived, I was assigned a crew of mine engineers and monitoring technicians. Their job was to map the mining shafts, cataloging the types of rock and amount and type of ores found within. My job is to oversee their operations. And so I have to maintain professional distance. I can't be a part of their gossip or the ghost stories they like to tell about the asteroid.
Karen, a gruff forty-something woman who serves as my administrative assistant, comes lumbering towards me. I'm sitting at a wobbly table on my own as my subordinates file in. For them, this was a weekly ritual: bar night. It's only open once a week to curtail the alcoholism that plagued the station in its early days. At least, that's what Karen had told me. There was nothing to do on Eros 433 back then, she said, so most people would spend every one of their off-duty hours in the bar. Since then, Interplanetary added a shiny new gym, a dry lounge with pool and ping pong tables, a library and a movie screening room complete with massage chairs. But every Friday night from quitting time to five a.m., the bar is packed. It's a dimly lit, wood paneled room that shines from the grease of pub food. At the back, there's a long bar with a brass rail. The rest of the room is crowded with broken chairs and crooked tables. There's a dart board on one wall.
She sits down heavily across from me. "You heard?"
"The new arrival? Yeah, I heard."
"Sure to god we'll miss Aggie, but this one's young and from what I've heard, he's hungry."
"Guess that's good," I agree in the telegraphic speech that everyone here seems to favor.
"None too hard on the eyes I hear."
She smiles at me conspiratorially. "Finally someone for you."
I inwardly groan as she winks. But I get what she's saying. Ever since I arrived a month ago, I've been isolated. Aggie -- a Brazilian man who's real name was Agamemnon and who was the station's IT department, was the only worker on the station who was had the same level of education as me. But he was close to retirement. We didn't have much in common. Add to that the fact that he was constantly solving issues with the AI and data systems, and that I know next to nothing about the workings of computers. Most of the time we'd only exchange a friendly nod of recognition.
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Nano Bytes - A Collection of Short SciFi StoriesShort Story
This is a collection of short stories written by Wattpadders who love their Science Fiction as much as we do. It aims to celebrate the diversity of the genre both in sub-genre, length and style, so whether you like Steampunk or Hard SciFi, Space Ope...