POV: Third person
Genre: Science fiction
Subject: Stone, Metal & Parsimonious
‘Come on, Dan. What are a few more tons between friends?’
‘When I last looked we weren’t exactly friends, Murph. I can’t give you that much.’
The man standing before the desk was twitchy; he clutched a grubby cloth cap, passing it through his hands endlessly. Round and round and round. Murphy never had been a stable man, even outside of work deadlines.
‘Look man, my foreman’s literally on my back with this one; we need this project finished by Friday. There’s just no way we can do it without these materials,’ Murphy pleaded.
‘So tell the tight bastard to get off his perch and order some,’ Dan replied with a dismissive wave of his hand. ‘We’ve got a queue runnin’ here; he can get in line like everyone else.’
Murphy’s eyes bulged as if he hadn’t anticipated the trouble.
‘Don’t you get it? This is more important than queues and lists. This is a landmark moment, a project monumental in its scope and design.’
‘Yeah, yeah; spare me your preachin’ bullshit,’ Dan said wearily. ‘I don’t care if you’re buildin’ God’s own en-suite down there; without a signed requisition order you ain’t gettin’ nothin’. That’s just how things are.
‘Well that’s just great, thanks a bunch. You know I came here because I thought you were alright, I had a good feeling, thought you’d do the decent thing and help a guy out. Clearly I was wrong.’
‘We met like once or twice…’ Dan placed a hand against his forehead and was silent for a moment. ‘Look, we’re already pullin’ this rock apart as it is; there won’t be anythin’ left soon enough. This isn’t just me being stingy, it’s me being realistic. You want a planet we haven’t sucked dry? Try over on Leopold VII; they might have some stones you can carry off.’
Murphy’s eyes bulged even further. Dan was worried he might have to scoop them off the floor.
‘What? Are you mad? That’s on the other side of the quadrant,’ Murphy gasped and flapped.
‘Sounds like we both benefit,’ Dan said irritably.
‘OK, alright; you made your point. Thanks for nothing, douche. Love to the wife and kids,’ Murphy called as he stormed from the office.
‘Yeah, they send theirs too, asshole,’ Dan mouthed as he watched him pass the window outside.
For a moment the office of Signus Mining was silent, except for the constant thrum of machinery from the planet’s surface below. It had become such a fixture of the environment that it no longer felt like a sound, more like an enduring tone; a texture of the very landscape. As barren as that landscape was, it was about the only element left that gave any impression of life.
Dan poured some water, dropped a pair of Alka Seltza and watched them fiz momentarily before downing the lot. He leaned back in his chair, enjoying the silence before the intercom’s light flashed predictably before him. He pressed a switch.
‘Yeah,’ he murmured, barely trying to hide his weariness.
‘Speaking,’ he said in a sing-song voice, tired now of formalities.
‘The man that just stepped out of your office, he would like to reconsider his previous request for supplies.’
Dan leaned forward to get a look at the desk mounted telescreen. It showed no face, just a light-lined silhouette in a darkened room.
‘Oh does he now? Look guy, I’ll tell you exactly what I told Murphy…’
‘No, you won’t. You’ll soon see that I need not have made this call, but I consider myself a civilised gentleman so I’m offering you a second chance. Give the man the materials he needs to complete the project on Tamar Dey or I will have to take action.’
The voice was smooth and well spoken. Dan imagined an immaculately groomed young man sitting in an oak-panelled office with a cigar smouldering in an ash tray nearby. An antiquated notion; there was no oak left any more.
‘I can’t; everythin’ here is accounted for. Once we’ve filled these orders the whole facility’s shuttin’ down. There is literally nothin’ left.’
‘Not my concern. Give us the materials or we shut you down early and take them ourselves.’
‘Look buddy, you think I haven’t had threats before? The whole quadrant’s goin’ nuts over metal and stone these days; I get fruit loops like you every day. Just who are you anyway?’
The entire facility went dark, the machinery fell silent and Dan was plunged into a true silence that he didn’t remember existed. All that remained in the pitch of his office was the faint glow of his illuminated telescreen, the mysterious figure no less obscured.
‘Let’s just say I’m someone with a little more clout behind their threats than most.’
Dan sensed the presence of someone behind him. Impossible! He felt the cold, hard press of something against the base of his skull, the sharp click of a released safety; the gun burrowed into his skin and remained there.
‘I’ll say it one final time: send us the materials we need or we’ll shut you down, permanently.’
The voice wasn’t coming from the telescreen any more.