When the call came down from the overseer’s satellite, qubition miner Gavyn Grey’s blood ran colder than the vacuum of space.
“Yes, sir. On my way, sir.” He could’ve chewed through a mountain of slag with less effort than biting back the hatred in his voice as he toggled off the comm.
“They know,” Arjay said tightly.
Not so long ago, it would’ve been dangerous to say even that much aloud. They’d had to play antiquated word games right under the guards’ noses to disguise their coded conversations. But the clever engineer had been working surreptitiously to disable and redirect all the surveillance methods that QueCorp put in place to control their workers.
Gavyn had always known it was dangerous to rely on too many others, but he’d needed the engineer’s expertise if they were going to survive. So far, his closest confidants had stayed true, although he’d never put all his Q in one ore cart.
But maybe the gig was finally up.
So close. So freezing close.
“I have to go or it stops here for sure,” he said finally. “I’ll take the chance.”
Arjay drummed his fingers on the comm board. “It’s always you takes the chances.”
Gavyn nodded. “Since this is all my doing, it’s only fair.” When he pushed to his feet, the heat of the metal decking scorched through the worn soles of his boots. But even the planetoid’s internal seething couldn’t melt the stone-cold fury in his heart. “Besides, if they knew, they wouldn’t bother contacting me. They’d nuke us all from orbit.”
Arjay snorted out something that sounded suspiciously like a laugh. “And risk their precious qubition? Not likely.”
“True.” Q-bombs, powered by the wildly unstable element qubition, had been outlawed since the Oblivion Wars. Not like anyone on the Rim would waste that much power to kill someone anymore. A good old blaster plug between the eyes was just as effective, plus so much cheaper. And QueCorp was nothing if not cost-conscious.
Gavyn traveled through the older, shallower tunnels up to the surface base, nodding at the few miners he encountered along the way. With the whomper-dug shafts going ever farther and deeper into Ydro-Down’s lethal mountain ranges, it could be days before he’d see some of his crew.
After the worst excavations, some were never seen again.
He clenched his jaw as he thought of his people lost in the darkness. But when he crossed to the space elevator cable that tethered the overseer satellite to the planetoid, he schooled his expression to blankness. While Arjay had circumvented the security measures underground, they’d decided to leave the surface systems intact lest their tampering be noticed. Management never went below.
In the small elevator car, despite his intention to remain aloof, Gavyn’s skin prickled at the sight of the planetoid’s stark, contaminated surface. If the company did know about the unrest, this would be their chance to eject him into the toxic atmosphere. Or wait just until he got above the light pull of gravity. They could pop the door remotely and vent him into space. He’d have fifteen seconds or so to curse them before he ran out of air and froze to death. Maybe he should’ve taken one of the old emergency e-suits from the surface base. But the bulky coveralls hadn’t been serviced in many turns. Anyway, the real danger wasn’t hazardous surface conditions or even the unsentimental void of space.
The real threat was other people. As always.