Working for a Living
Floating within the clouds always felt great.
Hoshino Satoshi loved the feeling of how the winds buffeted against the small one-man utility flyer, a Work Bee, as he went about his rounds. Getting away from the high-altitude atmospheric rig to make the inspection rounds was a rare pleasure and he took every opportunity to get assigned to it.
The Work Bee had two large fans on either side of the small flyer which was used for its main propulsion through the helium gas giant Xeres’s upper atmosphere. He had heard there were versions of it which used gravitic propulsion, but those were too expensive and tended to be used in military applications.
It was peaceful out here. No one incessantly chatted with him, just the sound of the ducted fans whirring in the background. All around Satoshi was just pure orange sky. Unfortunately, the gas giant of this system, like most planets of this size and composition, had a completely unbreathable atmosphere, but it wasn’t so destructive where you actually needed to have an environment suit on just to go work outside.
Although most on the rig would put on at least a light environment suit, Satoshi usually would wear his normal blue utilities and a breather. That way when he was working outside he could feel the cold wind hitting his skin. Thankfully, Xeres was one of the few gas giants within the “Goldie Locks” zone so it wasn’t as cold in its upper atmosphere as some other giants. Even though the air was unbreathable, it felt nice against the skin. Of course, without the breather, he would drop dead in a matter of minutes.
The breather, a nickname given to the atmospheric replacement device Satoshi wore, was a compact affair. It had a face mask connected to a rebreather and cylinder and was carried on the small of Satoshi’s back. Using nano destructors, NanoD for short, to take apart the air at the molecular level, it produced breathable air and stored it in the cylinder. Conceivably, if supplied with enough power, it could operate indefinitely. Of course, as with most technological things, there was an upper limit to how much time it could operate on a small internal battery, but for the most part the NanoD would take their main energy from the sun and from what was created during disassembly/assembly of the air instead only relying on the battery for initial startup or emergencies. In a way, it was like having a small fusion and fission reactor on his waist.
Satoshi tried not to think about it too much. Right now it didn’t matter since the Work Bee had its own atmospheric systems and Satoshi had his breather in its receptacle near by.
His solace was interrupted by an incessant chime. Satoshi reached over and pressed the terminate button, silencing it.
Before he could slide back into the blissful silence, the chime returned. Again, he pressed the terminate button. Once more, just the noise of machinery and the winds outside.
Ahhh, how nice.
His peace was interrupted by a 2D holographic window poping in front of his face, accompanied by a screaming, near shrill female voice.
“Dammit, Satoshi, stop ignoring me!”
He swerved the the Work Bee and almost lost control before regaining altitude. It was dangerous to dip too low in the gas giant. For one, there was no solid ground, and if you kept going down the gravity and pressure increased to such a point where it would crush most any vehicle except for specially designed core mining probes that were used to break through the liquid metallic hydrogen and helium “ground” and gouge out part of the diamond cores to extract the valuable gem.
Satoshi clicked his tongue inside his mouth. How did she get through? Ah, of course, the emergency interrupt channel. Damn, how did he forget about it?
Melina De Aquila’s face filled the 2D holo window. Satoshi guessed she had pushed right up against the holo imager for the similar window hovering on her end. She was a young woman, with short, mousy brown hair and eyes, with a dash of freckles splayed across her nose and other parts of her pale, tanned skin. The freckles only helped to heighten her cuteness, which also made it more difficult for others to take her seriously. She worked as the main communications officer so she was aways first to call Satoshi over the commlink.
“I know you can hear me, Satoshi!”
There was no stopping her when she got this way. Even though his side hadn’t started to transmit audio and video, she had already guessed he was watching. She was correct, after all, and knew he was in the Work Bee from her seat back at the rig so there was no hiding it. Satoshi sighed and clicked on the button.
“I’m here, Melina. What’s up?”
“Finally! Do you know how long I’ve been trying to get you?”
“I have a bit of an idea…”
“What was that? I didn’t copy what you said.”
He knew perfectly well she had heard what he had said, but Satoshi was smart enough not to get drawn into that landmine of a question.
“I said, I have no idea. So what’s going on. I’m still en-route to Remote Platform 5. Is something wrong?”
Melina backed away from the holo imager on her end, and Satoshi saw the small slip of her body come into view. She wore the typical blue company jumpsuit like he did, but it looked a little baggy on her. He knew she was a very petite woman and had trouble finding uniforms in her size, but in a lot of ways she was still very endearing to Satoshi. Over the last year or so he had been working for Consolidated Mining Corp. out on this Helium-3 mining operation and he had come to enjoy her company quite a bit. Maybe the next time they had some downtime he may ask her to get something from the commissary.
“Heeellllloooo Satoshi? Are you still there. You’d better not be pretending you’re experiencing noise!”
Unless, of course, he kills her first.
“No, I’m still here. You haven’t told me what you wanted.”
“If you were paying attention you would have heard me. Fine, once again, we’re picking up an equipment failure on Remote 10. Administrator Harris wants you to divert there and check it out yesterday.”
“Remote 10? You’ve gotta be kidding me, that’s almost on the other side of Xeres! It’ll take me ‘till the end of my shift just to get there, even if I go sub-orbital.”
“Sorry, Saotshi-kun. Boss’s orders.”
Satoshi grumbled. She never called him that unless she was trying to make him feel better. But no amount of sweet-talking was going to change that he was looking at at least another couple of hours just to get there and then whatever time was needed to fix whatever was wrong at the remote mining platform and then there was the return trip back. It was gonna be a long day.
Satoshi noticed Melina’s voice softened quite a bit and when he glanced at the holo it looked like her face was a bit red. The freckles seemed to stand out even more because of her blushing face. Wait, what was she embarrassed about?
“When you get back. To make up for the trip over to Remote 10, maybe we can get dinner at the commissary together?”
He blinked at her image. Did she just do what he thought she did? A date? Now it was his turn for his face to get red. Satoshi wasn’t an idiot when it came to women, but he could count on the palm of his hand all the girlfriends he had in his entire thirty years of life. He had always been so busy with work, first as a researcher and a scientist, and now as a technician here on the mining platforms. Not to mention, he hasn’t really spent time with any woman since his brother Takashi told him to disappear…
No, he didn’t want to think about that. Not now, after he had put it behind him so long ago.
She wasn’t Japanese, but Melina tried her best to make him feel better and Satoshi felt she was all the more cute for it. Although she now had a look of concern on her face and seemed to be fidgeting in her control chair.
Oh no! She must think he was gonna reject her!
“Ye-yes, Melina? I heard you, and yes I’d love to go out to dinner with you when I get back.”
Her face brightened and a visible sense of relief permeated her face.
“I’m glad! So, um, I’ll talk to you when you get back, ‘kay?”
So…damned…cute… He was sure that his face was tomato-like in appearance from this embarrassing exchange.
“And now that amateur romance hour is done, can we get back to work?”
The gruff voice of Administrator Harris broke into the link, audio-only, and Satoshi felt his blush deepen and saw that Melina’s face reciprocated.
They were so nervous they both blurted out their replies simultaneously.
The link terminated, but Satoshi’s mood felt lighter. He was going to have a date with Melina. Maybe he could even take it farther and they could spend the next time off planet together at the settlement near the gas giant where Mine No. 44 was located.
Satoshi punched in the co-ordinates for Remote 10 and pushed the execute button. The Work Bee’s auto guidance and pilot system complied and swung about to get to the remote mining platform.
This was turning out to be a great day after all.