Edward Owen – Author

Ray Bradbury Challenge #36- “Defiance”

 “Defiance”

Fist

The laser cut into Dmitri’s shoulder as he leaned on the shovel. He wiped the blood from the wound with the back of his sweat soaked hand. In a couple of weeks the scar would be indistinguishable from the dozens of others that criss-crossed his skin.

“You have not been authorized to cease working number seventy-five-thirty-six,” barked the drone floating above him. As the machine finished speaking, a horn sounded through the tunnel marking the end of the shift.

“Fuck you, drone. Shift’s over and this injury means I get light duty.”

He left his tools lay on the ground and ambled toward the elevator with the rest of the crew.

“I think you enjoy the abuse of the machines,” said Anton as he fell in step with Dmitri and admired the new wound.

“I enjoy not working,” Dmitri said. “They cannot replace my shovel with a machine. Every time I do not lift it the quota falls a little short and maybe a manager gets replaced. The thought of some pompous ass getting sent down here make me smile.”

“I have heard they have a new shielding that will allow the mining bots to work down here.”

Dmitri dismissed the comment with a wave of his hand.

“They have been spouting that gibberish for decades. They will send some fancy machine down here and it will work for a day or two, then it will fall to the ground and billow smoke. No, my friend, the only thing that can stand up to tantathelium energy fields is flesh and blood.”

Anton was silent as the two men plodded toward the elevator.

As the door opened he said, “But you are trapped here. A few days away from the mine and your body would shrivel and die.”

Dmitri laughed and slapped his friend on the back.

“Anton, you must see the cup as half-full. Do you have any idea how long I have worked down here?”

The man shook his head.

“You were here long before me, that is all I can say.”

“I was mining this planet long before you crawled out of your mother’s womb.”

Anton’s eye’s opened wide.

“I did not think you any more than three or four years my senior. How can that be? ”

Dmitri pushed his way into the elevator and made room for Anton. The stench of sweat was thick in the air, intensified by the close proximity of the men filling the small space.

“Did you ever meet anyone in the mine that was forced to be here? They all volunteered. Average life expectancy, barring accidents, is a hundred and sixty years thanks to a daily dose of tantathelium radiation. Housing and food all paid for. Three shifts on, four off. Here you can avoid the crowded, polluted, war torn mess of our home world.”

The elevator jerked to a stop and the men piled out onto the planet’s surface. Only the dome over their heads allowed them to move about without enviro-suits. The stars twinkled through the structure even with the twin suns shining in the sky.

“If you volunteered, why do you cause trouble? Maybe the glass is not so full as you say.”

Anton waved his hand over the palm reader followed by Dmitri.

“I did not say I volunteered to work in the mines. I signed up to develop the planet. When I landed, mining was the only job available. By the time I was eligible to return, I had been here too long. Back then, Earth was not as it is now. The company would not pay for my family to come. They are all long dead.”

The two men stepped onto the walkway and gripped the handrails as it whisked them toward the residential dome.

“You should come for dinner tonight,” said Anton. “Mikala is making stew. She bartered for real meat.”

Dmitri shook his head.

“Thank you, but I must decline. Tell your beautiful wife that the big lummox had plans other than eating her hard won meal. Besides, Marko is getting big and needs his food.”

“I will tell her. See you tomorrow my friend.”

Anton clapped Dmitri on the arm. As he stepped off the walkway, Dmitri slipped a paycard into Anton’s pocket and watched as his only friend headed home.

As soon as Anton was out of sight, Dmitri stepped off the walkway and back onto the one  headed to the mine. He arrived just as the first group from the second shift entered the elevator. He pulled his hat down over his eyes and climbed aboard.

As the crew dispersed, Dmitri headed back into the tunnel where his tools lay on the ground. He grabbed his shovel and swung it at a coolant line. A green cloud erupted from the pipe and the wail of a klaxon filled the mine. Most of the men had barely cleared the elevator and they all made it back inside in minutes.

The same shovel disabled the first drone that flew around the corner. Dmitri grabbed it, pointed the laser at the wall and pressed the manual override button. A red dot appeared on the wall as several drones shot down the tunnel. They attacked, but despite numerous wounds from their cutting beams, Dmitri held the drone’s steady on the wall. The glow increased to several meters and a grin spread over his face. The explosion ripped through the mine destroying all of the drones and the bottom of the elevator shaft.

 ******

 The investigation lasted six solar months and it was another two years before the mine reopened. Experts estimated the accident cost the Company seventy billion dollars, including wages to workers stuck on the planet. All management personnel were demoted to laborer status. Dmitri’s body was never found. The paycard Anton found in his pocket had three million credits in its account. He was able to retire and raise his son with his wife.

 

 

 

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