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The day the planets ran dry


Kurock
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The day the planets ran dry

Memoir of a miner

 

 

<Recording started, datalog 2021112315311321…>

 

Ahem. This thing on? Good. I’ve been mining since… Bah. Delete the recording before this. Damn technology, anticipating needs I don’t have. Just do as I say and not...

 

<Recording ended.>

 

 

<Recording started, datalog 2021112315313512…>

 

I've been mining since the day I stepped off the Arkship. It was boring but I never got bored. That’s an old mining joke. Along with the one where we are all old enough to drink at bars. With the bad jokes out of the way I can get down and dirty.

 

Back on Earth we were lucky to have a jackhammer or a sonic destabilizer, but right off the Arkship we were giving nanoformers. Amazing bits of technology, able to detect nearby concentration of ores, vaporize the ground to get to the ore and pack the ores neatly into a container. The abuse of nano-fields and Calabi-Yau space at its finest.

 

Then came the territory scanners. Able to scan a square kilometer and give a read out of the ores in the ground. They were prospecting made easy. The big business scanner-heads went out in their tri-scanner ships and deployed arrays of tri-scanners to be able to prospect on upwards of twenty-four square kilometers at the same time. But before all that it was just me and my trusty ship with a territory scanner bolted to its side. That's all a miner really needed. 

 

Then Aphelia, the Arkships AI, made the Arkship fire its big beam deep into the planet. That can’t be good for the planet.  The Novark spat small ore rocks all over the planet's surface. Must have done it to all the planets and moons of the Helios system, because the rocks were everywhere. But no self respecting miner would waste time picking those up. The yields were simply too small, compared to the expansive nodes in the ground. And then there were the motherloads: the mega-nodes. Where one ore node held thousands of liters of ore, the mega-nodes held millions. I personally found and cleared out more mega-nodes than you can shake a stick of carbon at. Those were good times.

 

But just because a territory scanner said there was ore in the ground, it didn’t say where it was. It was still an art to find those elusive ore nodes, even the megas. My preferred method was walking the compass. Find your level, walk north or south whichever makes the blip get closer. Then east west. Once the blip gets no closer, you know the ore is right above or below you. But never dig straight up or down. How are they gonna get back up?  What if there is a giant desert scorpion or worse… ecologists.  But some did dig straight down. The well-diggers or shafters as I called them, wanted to get down to where the ore was quickly. And they didn’t waste time digging back to the surface either. Instead they would just kill themselves, trusting their resurrection nodes on the surface wouldn’t malfunction. But sometimes they did. That’s why the shafters were either desperate or psychopaths.

 

The proper way of mining was always just the miner and their trusty tool. No floating mining chairs, auto-mappers or follow-me container bots. Just you and the dark. And occasionally a miner would be treated to the midnight sun: the hallucinations of sunlight seemingly streaming through the surrounding rocks to illuminate the tunnels or caverns they were traversing. A beautiful sight but also a warning you might have been mining for too long. Maybe all miners were a little touched in the head.

 

<Evacuation order received. Ignored.>

 

If you have been paying attention, you will have noticed I kept saying “was”. Aphelia predicted it would take decades to empty the planets of a fraction of their precious ores, but it’s been a single year and they are all gone. We dug them all out. The purer ores anyway. But humanity always needs more resources. So Aphelia made mining units available, each capable of extracting the diffuse ores from the ground. She gave molecular quantum tunneling or some such nonsense as the reason. But I think it's something else: Nanites.


A high energy beam is used to inject nanites deep into the ground. They suffuse the surrounding rock and gravel through Brownian motion. Each nanite is specially calibrated to search for a specific group of molecules and, once found, they construct nanotubes to pipe their payload towards where they are densest, eventually up the beam. The demonstrations that show diminishing yields within 48 hours seems to collaborate this theory.

 

Either way, the side effect of preparing the ground is the liquification of the rocks that then fill in most of the caves and tunnels already dug. Some might think it’s like turning the rock to magma but there is no heat involved. Just a dark grey sludge that quickly settles back into natural rock again. The mining shafts will be the first to go. Followed by the engulfing of any underground structures. You would think that a solid box of iron would prevent the rock from flowing in. No. This ‘quantum’ rock that flows right through everything contained only by the gravity of the planets. And moons. The moons will be receiving the same treatment.

 

<Evacuation order received. Ignored.>

 

Us Noveans that have served for years as extraction experts have been relegated to asteroid harvesting duty. But Bert, they say to me, Bert, Mining is mining, right? No, I say. Besides micro-gravity leaching of muscle and bone, Asteroids are the turds of the Helios system, attracting pirates like the flies they are. Asteroids just don’t have the same, heh, gravitas of planets. 

What if this is how the dinosaur fossils were made: Subterranean creatures caught in a planetwide rock liquefaction event. Heh. That’s a thought.

 

<Warning. Warning. Approaching anomaly.>

 

Ah. Here comes the grey ooze...
 

<Recording ended.> 

            - Contents of databank found 6km below the surface of an icy planet.

 

 

Want more? www.spaceshipdrama.com

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