Waikon Base Metal Mine, Waikon Village, [Planet and System Redacted], Metropolis
The mine foreman remembered the day – not long ago, really – when the capsuleers came. It meant the possible despoilment of the planet, but theirs was a backwater place with pirate-infested skies – a hard life with no guarantees to begin with. The planetary government was at best a stopgap and at worst an outright fraud. The capsuleers came with the promise of money, good jobs, and protection from pirates and roaming bandits. The capsuleer who owned this mine had built most of his colony thousands of kilometers away near the equatorial desert, but had needed to send out a massive supply pipeline here to Waikon. The foreman had taken that as a sign of utmost confidence that the jobs would last until the last chunk of ore was mined – the pipeline must have cost a fortune to construct even in the ISK values the capsuleers used.
But it was not to be. The crews had been gathered together by the capsuleer’s Colony Manager yesterday, and told that not only their mine, but the whole manufacturing line and colony would be shut down. Their capsuleer was pulling out of the planet. There was no explanation given.
There was a way out, but not one any of the workers were excited about. This planet, despite its excessive heat, dry, barren and rocky surface even in the nicer areas, was home. The capsuleer had offered that they could relocate aboard the huge freight-hauling space barge he flew … to a gas giant in a nearby system. They would need to work all day in hazardous material suits, and would live encapsulated in the close confines of the mining and manufacturing facilities for as long as the gas giant’s enterprise was run. There was no guarantee of what would happen to them if it closed down, either.
The foreman had decided to remain on this planet, despite the near-guarantee of a return to poverty that staying meant. The planetary governor had, for once, come through, and the mine was to be reclaimed as a reservoir for some of the rare, precious water needed in their region of the barren planet. So there was work for a little while longer at least.
He came out of his reverie and saw the crew in the pit looking up at him from their position where the mining machinery had finally fallen silent. The Waikon mine was a longwall mine – meaning a long, high wall of ore had been exposed and the ore cut out of the wall’s side. This left the overburden – the worthless dirt and rock above the ore vein – suspended on massive hydraulic jacks over a huge, empty overhang where the ore had once been. The jacks needed to be sold to pay for the reclamation project.
He gave the signal, the jacks were pulled, and the detritus collapsed down into the pit in an immense cloud of dust.
Command Center Hold of the Overseer, [Planet and System Redacted], [Region Redacted]
Rhavas had known for some time, even before he broke even, that of his three colonies, the original two would eventually need to be replaced or retooled. They simply weren’t efficient enough.
His first, in the end, had simply become unsustainable. He remembered how hard he had worked to find and build that first colony on the small, hot, barren rock. For a first try, it had been laid out halfway decently, but wasn’t nearly as efficient as it could have been. And it did produce a decent amount of product. But the prices for the colony’s product, transcranial microcontrollers, had continued to fall over time, and were now simply not worth the time, cost and effort compared to other potential colonial products. Still, at some level it held a sentimental place in his heart and had left him with a slight twinge of loss as he gave the order to shut it down.
Rhavas wasn’t much for sentiment in the end, however, he was about income.
He had elected to keep the second colony, which was an efficiency nightmare – for now. At least it produced products the market wanted. But it would be first on the block if he needed a different planet for his new plan.
The third, which had up to now been the gem in his colonial crown – highly efficient with a decent product, had been more valuable than he ever realized. Despite its original solid design, he determined in the end that he had been mining, and making, the wrong thing there. The Colony Manager was on the surface of that colony now, relocating all of the massive equipment. It would be very expensive to retool and move, but not nearly what it had cost to build a new colony from scratch. The command center was halfway ’round the planet from the new operation, but Rhavas had provided some vehicles for the management staff to go back and forth.
Rhavas had actually opened his fourth colony before dismantling the first – on a lush, green world. It had beautiful beaches that reminded him of some of the nicer places on Matar, or the vacation resorts near where he had grown up on Hodrold V. He had built the command center just off the beach, and looked forward to some day visiting that colony when it was up and humming, taking in the now-unusual air of “outside” on the beach for a while. This world was to be the manufacturing hub for his ambitions, and was located in high-security Republic space, patrolled and protected at least as far as CONCORD and the Republic Fleet could.
They were now in orbit ready to launch the replacement for his original colony – a command center for a massive gas giant. The Cargo Supervisor stood silently beside Rhavas’ holographic projection, waiting to be spoken to before speaking himself.
“It’s a lot nicer setup than we had the first time, isn’t it?” the capsuleer offered.
The Cargo Supervisor chuckled. “Aye sir. The center is encapsulated in its launch airlock, ready to launch to its anchoring point on your command.” Since there was no surface on the gas giant that they could utilize, the gas command center would literally float in the planet’s corrosive but buyoant atmosphere.
Rhavas closed his eyes, activated the various controls and releases for the bay, and ejected the command center out into space. “Manage its landing, I need to play keep-away with the pirates.” The Cargo Supervisor nodded, and Rhavas deactivated his hologram to concentrate on flying.
As the Overseer accelerated away from the new planet, Rhavas perceived an incoming transmission. It was the Colony Manager on the retooled third planet. “Good news, sir. I’m holding the first bottle of new product in my hands. And it’s rolling in faster than we can process it. I’ve given orders for another processor to be built.”
Rhavas smiled. “Excellent,” he checked the progress of the volunteer report on the now-defunct barren colony, quickly formulating a plan to gather the volunteers and his Colony Manager to bring them to the newly-colonized gas giant.
“You have one day to relax. See you tomorrow.”
OOC: I did a tiny bit of research into open pit mining for this. “Planned subsidence” is an actual term for the longwall mining method the foreman is overseeing in the first half of the story to remove the ore and then let the non-ore rock collapse. I thought it was a good metaphor for his experience.