“We don’t get many volunteers…” The Head of Works was glaring at Jaxon with steel-dark eyes.
“But I’m not the first.”
“No, I guess you’re not. You have to understand though, the other guys aren’t here because they wanted a bit of adventure. Like they got sick of playing the computer games and thought they’d have some fun out in the cold. They were forced to. They never had the luxury you’ve had. They didn’t have much choice. It was this or the fields. If they know you’re Ludos, well, let’s just say manual work ain’t for everybody. They’ll wonder if you can keep up. They won’t want to paired up with you, or have you be part of a mining team. Up here, reputation means everything. The moment they know you’re not one hundred percent in, is the moment they’ll let your tie-line go.”
It was hard for Jaxon to hear this. He kept looking past his feet, at the patchwork fields far below. They were perfectly safe in the outer shell but it was still unnerving. The highest jumpers parachuted out five thousand feet below where he was standing now. He remembered doing a jump with his team when the first air-raider game come out. They all strapped in and flew up in the shuttle, only to be shoved out connected into the game. He thought he was going to die, and given the bug reports from the beta tester, he might have. He had that same stuck-throat feeling now, like it was all about to get too real.
“Are you listening to me boy? This is their livelihood and their lives. They won’t think twice about returning you to the surface, one way or another, if you aren’t as sharp and committed as each of them. So quit with the land-longing and suit up.”
“We’ll see how long you last.”
He passed Jaxon a light woven coverall.
“Zip to the front, the heart monitor must be at the front. That’s how we know if anything’s about to go wrong. Once the hood is pulled over the nodules go into your nose. Breath in through the nose, out through the mouth. Stand straight, it will adjust to your height so make sure it’s comfy.”
What was round like mittens shifted and hugged along each finger until he had sensation as clear as if he was touching directly. He ran one hand along the dull-grey glove of the other. The suit itself felt like fish-scale, like it was very finely plated, a million tiny intersections, but he couldn’t feel that, could he?
“You will find that it gives plenty of information, just relax and let it tell you what you’re holding. That’s how we mine. The suit feels the equipment, the equipment feels the earth, and a sonar-like relay system keeps us on track to find what we need. Your first assignment is on a silicon dig. Anything that has silicon, or can be used in silicon processing, you dig it up and we’ll pay you by the atomic weight. You depart from the second quadrant base, so hop to it. Asteroid on the approach.”
“Thank you Sir!”
“And stop the Sir shit, we don’t talk like that up here.”