Kent took off the protective ear plugs and heard the bobbing. The drill’s thrusting through solid rocks caused the thin bubbling of reddish liquid oozing up through the cracks and this began to concern him. Only a thermal suit came between him and the liquid.
He hated this job. His father signed him up for a five year stint the year he was born. Dad said he was lucky to get the work and by signing up his son, it meant the mining company would have a replacement if anything went wrong.
Kent walked over to the machine to manually shut off the switch in the control room. Move a little too much to the left, and he’d be crushed by the swinging drill, too much to the right and he wouldn’t reach the switch. It was supposed to be automated. Supposed to be and actually is were worlds apart. Just like he was from his mother. He recalled things, the softness of her voice, the way he could hug her forever and she wouldn’t complain. After his eighth birthday, he was sent to live on Voterra with his Dad at the mining town.
Voterra only had light from its sun every other day and for this reason wasn't considered a desirable location, but the people were there to make fast money and then get out.
There was a pledge that the company made which stated all of its employees were retired at thirty-five and would be free to settle into retirement with a pension. It was a lie. No many men or women made it to thirty.
Dad didn’t know it back when the fracking on Voterra started. He didn’t know a lot of things. The protective layer surrounding the planet was shrinking and some of the most learned men attributed it to the radioactive material that seeped up as the drill went down. But the yorkic rock vein produced a pure form of a natural Voterra gas that was sent to various planets. It was the most important discovery of a hundred years.
Two more workers approached, and with helmets. He hadn’t thought it was necessary. The signaled him to follow. His own work clothes were only a thin level of protection, and Kent’s boots had an inch of thick red slime sticking to them.
Fracking had made Voterra a boom planet among all the other planets in the Junior Galaxy Way where the colonies expanded. Rocket fuel was cheap.
His misery was to be stuck in a job his father had, and now he watched his father dying of radiation poisoning at the age of forty-four. Everyone blamed it on his old man's greed, nobody works to forty on this rig.
As Kent walked, the red goo began to drip off his boots. Kent and his coworkers walked out of the chopped up rocky pit and up a steep hill. The view beyond the mining site was spectacular. A bronze sky touched the ground covered with a jade colored plant called the rem. He loved the smell of the rem as the fragrance was sweet and faintly like the pine trees he knew from earth. A small flower-like plant grew among the rem and the site of early morning Voterra filled him with wonder.
To his left was the road leading into town, and the three workers hopped into a ship that transported them back to the company owned apartments. Working the night shift was a difficult deal for the worker as he would never enjoy a normal life, but with his dad so near the end of his life, Kent needed the extra pay in order to care for him.
Once his dad died, in a morbid sense, Kent would be free. Would he return to earth and try to find his mother? How would he support himself there? Once a miner always a miner.
Earth was so backwards. If he was born into any other planet system, then he would have been better off. No one of significance stayed back on earth. All the exciting opportunities were elsewhere and that little back woods place was rarely talked about. If Kent’s mother wasn’t a native earthling, then he would probably head out for Yewtown in the fifth galaxy where he might mine for double pay.
The company might give him permission to visit Earth after his dad died, and he would request the last known address for his mother who by all likelihood was dead.
He hopped off the ship as it slowed by his apartment complex, the approached the conveyer belt and the machine pulled him along as a chemical spray covered him. Everyone knew was a lie that the chemicals worked to stop the cancer most miners died from, but it was policy. Maybe it made those in charge sleep better at night. The red film around his boots washed down a drain.
He took the elevator up to the apartment and opened the door with his card. He saw the place was neat as a pin. He went to the drawer in the kitchen and pulled out a small laser. Kent whipped around to see two cleaning women he hadn’t authorized and had no money to pay, and they screamed as they looked at the laser.
“It's okay, Mister!” the taller one said.
“Why are you in my apartment?” Kent asked.
“Not yours anymore,” she said in a broken English as she picked up her bucket full of cleaners.
Kent lowered the laser. “What do you mean?”
The other woman handed him a computer tablet. He read that he was being evicted immediately.
“Where’s my dad?” he asked.
“They didn’t tell you?” the tall woman said. “Oh, I’m sorry. He…he’s dead. Died last night. The chip was removed and he was cremated probably an hour ago. The notice will have the address where you may pick up the remains. I’m sorry. They should have sent someone to tell you out at the fields."
Kent read the fine print and said, “Why should they care? Well, then I guess I’ll pack up my things and go.”
“I packed them already,” the woman said.
Kent looked up from the tablet. “I suppose when you’re out, you’re out.”
“I could talk to my boss--"
“No, it’s okay. I expected my father wouldn't live much longer. Maybe this is better. The notice says I’m entitled to ride the ship to any destination of my choosing as a part of my termination.”
“Where will you go?” the maid asked.
“I’m heading for Earth.”
“Earth? Well that’s a strange choice. Any particular reason?”
“Nope,” Kent lied.