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JUL/AUG Miner, Miner, Forty-niner


Tal Tel-ar
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Miner, Miner, Forty-niner

Angus sat up coughing and knocked the dust and small rocks off him. This had been the third small cave in this week and the worst by far. True only a tiny section of the roof had caved in but the rock was just seemed with cracks. Some so big he could stick his hand in them.

He needed a break so he crawled out along the long tunnel he had dug. At the entrance he pulled on his mask and breathing tank before opening the rusted safety hatch that he had rigged up over the opening to the tunnel. Outside he finally stood up and stretched the kinks out of his back. His hands and knees were sore ever though he was wearing knee pads and heavy miner’s gloves.

After a few minutes he almost felt human again. During that time he looked around. It was the same dull reddish sand and rock for as far as the eye could see, that he had been looking at for the last month.

With a grunt he walked the short distance to where his small ship was parked. It was invisible except from a few feet away thanks to the camouflage netting and liberal usage of small rocks and lots of sand. A necessary precaution since he did not have permission to be on this [...]py planet.

Once inside his ship he collapsed into the easy chair he had bolted to the floor. He was starting to feel his age. All 68 years of it. His daughter had been after him to quit and settle down on New Scotland with the rest of the family, but he had been a prospector for most of his life.

Besides he was broke. He owed the ship yard a ton of credits for the last set of repairs that they had done for his old ship Anna-bell. Looking around he just could not imagine not waking up on her and getting geared up for a day of work. They had been together ever since he managed to s[...]e up the money to buy her.

She had been old even then but she had been well maintained and while she did not have any of the bells and whistles that newer ships had she had kept him alive more times than he wanted to count.

Still he could not avoid time. Neither of them could. Anna-bell was on her last legs. It would take more credits than he had ever had to fix her up properly. All he had been able to afford the last 20 years or so was the bare minimum to keep her running.

That’s why he was here. He wanted to try one last time to strike it rich. He had searched just about every asteroid belt, planetoid and rock ball within 3 sectors of New Scotland. Everything that is except for those that fell within the Klingon Empire and the Romulan Empire.

Now that the Hobus star had exploded destroying both Romulas and Remus he had decided to take a risk and search one very promising planet just inside the neutral zone. It had all the right characteristics and developmental history that would indicate the presence of valuable minerals or crystals. In fact the Romulans had done some major mining work on the planet years ago, but had long since closed down operations.

When he had arrived he had spent 4 days scanning the planet trying to pick the best location to try his luck and had finally selected his current camp. The deciding factor had been the towering cliff beside him. At some time in the long dead past some violent planetary upheaval had shatter the planets crust and resulted in this 500 meter tall cliff. In most places tons of rock had fallen making it impossible for him to even attempt to prospect the base of the cliff.

That is all but here. He had almost 63 feet in which to work right at the base of the cliff. So far it had been promising but with no real pay off. Not even enough to repay the credits he had borrowed to pay for this trip.

He leaned back in the chair and closed his eyes. He was tired. Deep down bone tired. All he wanted to do was rest…..

**************

He awoke with a start. A glance at the time piece on the wall showed that he had been asleep for almost 9 hours. He felt better, a little less exhausted but he was going to have to face facts. He was no longer a spring chicken.

After he had eaten a bit he returned to the mine. Once inside he crawled the 630 odd feet to the end of the tunnel. As usual every time he looked up at the roof he started to sweat. This was crazy. What was he thinking. He could sell Anna-bell and pay off his debts.

No. That would be giving in and he had never been one to surrender when the going got tough. He was not about to start now.

He picked up his tools and got to work. It was slow work. He had to scan each area before he used his laser to cut out another section of rock. Each time he heard a creak or dust and pebbles started to fall from the roof he would break out in a cold sweat all over. He would wait, mouth feeling a bit dryer each time it happened, then when nothing happened he would return to work.

He was about to give up for the day when he saw a gleam in the newly created hole. With another 10 minutes of work he had managed to cut away enough rock to see it better. In the light they looked like amber coloured crystals. It took another 15 minutes to get them out. Then he called it a day and taking them with him started to crawl back to the entrance.

****************

Angus sat in his chair. The 3 crystals lay on his table with in reach of his hand. He had carefully removed all the dead rock and then cleaned them up. Now they sparkled in the light. Based on the scans and the last price he had listed on his computer they would almost pay off his debt for making this trip. Almost.

Problem was did he want to risk looking for more. The rock was getting worse. More crumbly and the frequency of the cracks had increased. It was only a matter of time before it all caved in.

Before he found these crystals he had been thinking of calling it quits and trying a different location. Now…

5days. He would work the mine for 5 more days. Not a second longer.

***************

Angus lay in the tunnel covered in dust. The last rumble had been the worst one yet. His mouth was dry and he felt like wetting himself but somehow he kept it together.

Over the last 2 days the mine had really started to pan out. He had 3 and a half small bags of crystals back on his ship. Enough to pay off all his debts. Problem was the deeper he got the worse the rock got. He could almost break the rock up with his bare hands to extract the crystals. He had never seen rock this bad in his life, but he had also never seen such a rich vein of crystals either. The deeper he went the better it got.

2 more days. Just 2 more days and he would call it quits.

***************

Unbelievable. The crystal he held in his hands was almost the size of a small child’s fist. He had never seen one that big and he had a couple others that were almost as big as well. Today had been the best so far. He could see the crystals just about every where he looked now. As soon as he dug one out, he would reveal another one.

RRRRUUUMMMBBLLEE!!!!!!!

Angus kicked out scrambling away from the face of his mine. His legs churning to propel him down the tunnel as fast as he could. When the ground heaved under him he rolled into a ball and covered his head. Every prayer he had ever heard raced through his mind in a confused jumble.

Only after the ground stopped moving did he realize that not only was he alive but still in one piece. Well most of him. He coughed and tried to breath but it was like swimming in dirt. He covered his mouth and took shallow breaths.

Enough was enough. He was quitting. He had more than enough crystals now to not only pay off his debts but live well for the rest of his days and that did not include the ones he planned to give to his kids. This was day 5 and regardless of the fact that he had intended to work for a couple more hours it was time he got out of here.

When the dust settled enough for him to find a lamp he looked around. Hopefully the bags of crystals that he had ready to go had not been buried. As he did he stopped cold. There, not that far away was the biggest crystal he had ever seen in his entire life. It was huge, bigger than his head if not bigger.

All he had to do was crawl over the slag heap of rock that had fallen from the ceiling of his tunnel. It would be a tight squeeze but he was not that big. He could probably make it with out much difficulty.

His hands fairly itched to hold it. He licked his lips and started to move closer as another rumble and more pebbles and rock dust showered down. It was so close, less than 10 feet. He could reach it. He knew he could.

*****************

RRRRUUUMMMBBLLLEEE!!!!!! CCCRRRAAASSSHHHHH!!!!!

Dust whooshed out of the open hatch at the entrance to the tunnel. Propelled like bullets from a shotgun. The ground moved and even the small ship was moved. It shook so much that some of the rocks and lots of the dust was shaken off.

Then it was quiet. The dust started to settle. A sudden low thrumming built in volume until the small craft lifted off. The rest of the dirt and rocks fell off to land on the ground. Inside Angus felt a quiet sort of calm. Let the planet keep the rest. He had more than enough to last him for the rest of his life. He was alive and as hard as the planet had tried it had failed to kill him. Even it’s last trap had failed.

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