written by Fyren
My eyes fly open and I shake the sleep from my bones. Yesterday’s trip took way too long and exacted a severe toll on my body. I head to the bar for a thick beer. The brew revitalizes me, and the red sugar around the rim of the mug chases what exhaustion remains from my limbs. “Time to get to work boys, load up and strap yourselves in” comes the familiar booming voice of mission control. The doors to the other sleeping pods burst open. I chuckle as the sleepy dwarves fumble over themselves, one dropping and subsequently tripping over his own pickaxe. “There are drinks on the bar, help yourselves. You clearly need it” I tell my partners in mining.
The familiar rattling of the drop pod inspires grumbling amongst the crew, the company has yet to pay for the repairs on this rickety thing. Soon though, the sounds is replaced by the shattering and cracking of ice as we land in one of the poles. The gates of the pod open and a cold wind comes rushing in chasing the heat out of the rocket with surprising swiftness. “Alright boys, this is a salvage operation. Some of your former colleagues lost their equipment and their lives in this cave. Retrieve the equipment and bring it home.” A short walk and minimal digging gets us to the cave in question, and it is a doozy. It is easy to see why this became a failed expedition.
The equipment we are meant to retrieve consists of 3 mini MULEs and a broken down drop pod. The bodies of our lost comrades are not a concerns for the company, and they are likely long since bug food anyway. I quickly find the first MULE at the bottom of the cavern, encased in ice. Several pieces have been torn off. “Split up, we need to find these parts.” I tell the crew. We run off in separate directions and meet up back at the MULE with the missing parts. Our hammers swing in succession, almost as if we had done this before, getting the MULE back on its feet in no time. This process repeats several times with little incident.
With a family of MULEs in tow, we head the broken down drop pod. The electronic lights dance on the ice refracting around the cave. I take a moment to appreciate the beauty of the sight. Stopping to take in the sights is my mistake. Unbeknownst to me, several bugs had crept up behind me. By the time I noticed it was too late. I turn around to see the glowing, pulsating, and disgusting bodies explode at my feet. The blast sends me flying backwards, landing with a hard crunch on the ice. “Leave no dwarf behind!” comes a cry from the far side of the drop pod. My crew comes to the rescue without delay.
The repair of the drop pod is pretty involved. First we establish the communication link between the pod and the space rig. The signal drives the local bug life absolutely insane. They come pouring out of the walls, the ceiling and the floor in a number I have never seen before. With rifle in one hand, pickaxe in the other and a warcry in my throat, I go to work. Insect corpses fly all around in what could only be described as a hurricane of chitin, slime, and snow. The fuel pods arrive with a thud in the snow, whipping even more of the bugs into a frenzy. “That one’s for Karl!” I hear as a massive carapace, leaking frost, flies across my vision. I look towards where it came from to find our driller breathing heavily, his face contorted in rage and bloodlust. “Nothing like fighting for your life to get the blood pumping, eh?” I reply over the din of battle.
After several minutes, that felt like hours, the drop pod is ready to go. The MULEs are stowed safely in the storage compartments and we blast off back to the space rig. All of us are still feeling the rage of battle. Eyebrows and moustaches are twitching, breathing is still quick and heaving, weapons are shifted and gripped for comfort. We don’t say a thing to each other during the ride back to the space rig. When we disembark though, we all head to the bar. “Round of Skullcrushers for everyone, we’ve been through some shit today” I tell the robotic bartender. The cost is automatically deducted from my paycheck. Along with my crew, I drink myself into a stupor and darkness overtakes me… until tomorrow.