Rookie Reflections in the Kupier Belt
by S Shane Thomas

Dav Porter dwelled on a few recent mistakes. He had the time. About sixteen hours in fact. After that time Dav’s suit would run out of oxygen. His first regret being his poor study skills. Dav figured since his family had worked iron ore mining operations back on Earth for generations, that nothing changed in zero gravity. The cave-in a hundred feet below the surface of his asteroid had been a rude awakening. Dav’s also regretted that he ignored multiple warnings to report the location of any dig prior to boring under the surface. Since miners on the Kuiper belt got paid by piece for what they hauled in, reporting location also informed other miners where your pay load hid. Dav regretted that he would not get to cash in on the fortune in platinum ore he had discovered.

His one solace was the view. Dav’s suit, pinned to the mid chest, left head faced out toward the stars, and pointed toward the inner portion of the solar system where he could see the massive assembly operation that required all the ore. Over the past thirty years humanity had been constructing and dispatching massive colonial starships. Pulling the metals necessary for such vessels out of an atmosphere and away from Earth’s gravity proved inefficient compared to simply mining the materials from the Kuiper Belt just beyond the gas giants and constructing nearby. The ship looked like a three mile long egg with a full mile diameter at its center. The current vessel’s outer hull and interior framework stood revealed. Weld torches flitted on and off like fireflies in the inky star splotched black.

Dav struggled again to free the suit’s drill arm. He felt the motor whir and a slight vibration of the caved in rock, but nothing that would unjam the man and his bulky equipment. He flexed the scoop arm experimentally, but it still clasped on the piece of platinum ore that had caused him to rush into the project.

Dav had chosen not to pay the dues to the union and work on a team of three like a few of the other rookies had. Those guys never got rich, most barely saved any money for their lives back on Earth. Most of the miners worked like nomads, drifting around the various bases across the asteroid belt’s sixty two mile expanse. They lived nearest to where they believed the best ore could be retrieved. Dig maps were inconsistent since no one wanted to surrender their claim and the notion of private property on the belt met only ridicule.

Dav woke to a rumble near the surface of his dig. He supposed he had drifted off due to boredom. Radio static blurred in his ear and his eyes went wide. Someone would have to be close if he picked up their signal.

“You alive down there cowboy?” a female voice asked.

“Hey, I’m glad to hear a voice. I’ve only got an hour left on my tank,” Dav replied.

“You know it’s dangerous to dig alone and unreported.”

“Thanks, I’ve been thinking about that lately.”

“I’m looking to take a rookie under my wing you know. Seventy percent of your find here, then an even split going forward,” she said.

“That’s steep!” Dav said. “I’m sitting on a fortune.”

“Look kid, if you get greedy I could come back tomorrow. I’d be thirty percent richer, but corpses creep me out. What do you say?”

“You’re right partner.”

In minutes a smiling olive skinned woman a few years older than Dav had the rookie free. He smiled; first the payload, then saved with only a few breaths left, and a lovely partnership.

“Stuff the smirk Romeo. Gas up and give me a hand with the ore,” she replied.

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