“For Rock and Stone!”
Your voice echoes along the empty caverns.
There’s no one there for miles. Maybe even the whole planet. Even the space station you came from didn’t have anyone on it except robots. You know it. Your robot companion knows it. Even the Mining Utility Lift Engine knows it. But The M.U.L.E. won’t abandon you. Its programming won’t allow it. So, like a good miner you keep digging. In your head you sing the Steep Canyon Ranger’s “Call the Captain” and think how awesome it would be if you could get a band together. But alas, the only other living organisms are plants that can’t sing and giant cave spiders that couldn’t harmonize to save their lives. Speaking of which, a hoard of them is coming in. So, you get your mini-gun spinning and check to see that your double-barrel has shells. You take care of them and imagine what it would be like to be picked up from another miner instead of the robot assistant you were assigned. That’d be so cool. It’d be like a cheesy 80’s movie with the overly dramatic hand gripping and a witty comment about watching someone’s back. Then you would mine together collecting that sweet, sweet mineral. You’d joke on the ride home and laugh at how they almost fell off a ledge until you saved them. That’d be so cool.
But, again, it’s back to mining. You make a comment to yourself about mining because that’s all you know. You get the resources, call The M.U.L.E., deposit the precious metals, kill some spiders, get more resources, and finally ascend back to the surface. You get a drink and talk to the robot bartender. It does nothing but stare back at you and makes some beeping noises. Well, you didn’t want to talk anyway. You play a few games of barrel incineration, slap a few inflatable palm trees, tweak some of your equipment, and then go to bed. The first and last thing you see is a grey metal ceiling. No excitement. No fun.
You wake up, get a mission, and repeat the day over and over and over. It gets drab. Boring even. But you need the money for more gear to make more money to buy more gear. Months go by this way. It becomes a blur. You’re given medals and hailed as the greatest miner that this company has ever seen. Even the medals were just mailed to you.
And then one day, someone else is in the station with you. Hurray! A fellow miner! Miner strong together. You and a buddy load into the launch pod and shoot down to the planet’s caverns.
“For Rock and Stone!”
For once there are two voices in the cave, and one of them isn’t even your echo!
Daniel Wartham is a current grad student and spends his free time watching movies and taking walks to Waffle House at 2am. He can be found on Twitter at @DanielWartham.