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Drama Science Fiction Crime

This story contains themes or mentions of physical violence, gore, or abuse.

Zen Morai nudged the right flight stick on his control unit, and the fifteen tonne asteroid chunk beneath his feet stopped rotating. A tap on the throttle, and the longitudinal thrusters pulsed, sending him and his payload towards the cargo rail – the two-hundred metre long metal tube with dozens of meteor chunks harnessed to it. They had already caught a batch of about ninety tonnes of ice, and this would be the last of their haul on this shift.

“Status check,” said Daw Artego, through the local shortwave. He was sitting safe on Gopher-7, the bullet-shaped railrunner that pulled the cargo rail, a tiny vessel less a space ship than a space boat. His voice sounded tinny in Zen’s spacesuit.

Even though Zen had done this a thousand times, sweat beaded his brow. Any extravehicular activity was dangerous, especially driving a rock. You needed a feather touch and patience. He remembered years ago, a rookie named Cassie, who had neither. Tired and bored, she thrust a rock too hard and wasn’t paying attention. It rammed another one and damaged the cargo rail. That was bad enough, but she was caught between them and turned to paste.

Add to that the fact the company cut corners to save pennies. He was still stuck using stone-aged manually operated driving pylons, for example. Every shift, Daw would park their railrunner at a spot the survey team highlighted. Then Zen would have to suit up and jet over to a good rock. Next he had to drill holes in it to insert the dozen four-metre long pylons, and then calibrate their thrusters, all by hand. Basically, his job was strapping jet engines to asteroids, and then flying those asteroids close enough to the cargo rail so that he could harness them to it. After that, he got to disassemble everything, but at least from there on the railrunner would pull their cargo.

Legally, drivers weren’t even supposed to actually ride the rocks, but it was the best way to react when something was inevitably misaligned. Endless room for error.

“Just bringing her in,” Zen said.

On top of all that, Zen was stressed because they were smuggling a platinum asteroid with the ice.

He pushed the rock gently forward, and fired reverse thrusters when it was in place. It was darker than the ice chunks, and if anyone looked up close they would easily see it was a different kind of rock. But nobody did visual inspections. The economics just didn’t work out. And so they’d gotten away with smuggling twelve of these right under their boss’s nose.

Here’s to lucky thirteen, and an early retirement.

It took Zen another two hours of work to harness the rock to the cargo rail, and another two to disassemble the driving pylons. All the while he hoped this was the last time they had to do this. He pictured his wealthy future, well away from the frozen hellscape that is icemining in the Canor Asteroid Belt, and he wondered if that future included Lia. He both did, and did not, want her there.

By the time he passed through Gopher-7’s airlock, he was trembling from fatigue. Daw floated towards him in the ship’s zero-g atmosphere and handed him a celebration margarita. It was a rubber ball with a nipple, filled with cold water, fruit-flavoured protein powder, and a dash of moonshine.

“Any word from home?” asked Zen.

“Naw,” said Daw. “They quiet. Ain’t confirmed the last three checkins either.” Checkins were every twelve hours. So the icehauler Coleridge – their ride – had been silent for nearly two days. “Probably just interference from the belt.” Daw’s voice was confident, but he glanced to the side and frowned.

***

The trip back to the Coleridge took them a day. All the while comms remained quiet, and since Zen and Daw were at the end of a two week shift stuck with each other, they were fine being quiet too. They’d been driving a long time together, had learned each other’s patterns. Knew when to step up, when to step back. Friends were scarce in the Belt.

Zen decided he’d tell Lia. It was a risk, but they were good together and he trusted her. Maybe he’d propose and make it official. He was so tired of this life, an endless cycle of brutal, dangerous work, and drugging himself stupid.

Last time on leave he went on a bender. He had vague memories of drunken partying with Issen, Lia’s brother. Memories of whoring and gambling. Comforting memories of declaring he’d leave icedriving behind for good, and these declarations made the idea real. And uncomfortable memories that he might have let slip something about the platinum. But even if he did, nothing had come of it, and this was their last run. They were safe. They would make it.

By the time they had visual contact with the Coleridge – a hemispherical head connected to a six-kilometre long tail, scores of asteroid rails protruding from it like the quills of a pine branch – they still hadn’t heard anything on comms.

“Maybe their comms are down,” Dow said. “Maybe a rock hit something.” It wasn’t unheard of. The Canor Belt was relatively safe for a hostile work environment, but it did throw the occasional gift at you and the Coleridge’s point-defense cannons weren’t always positioned to slag it.

“Maybe,” Zen said, but he felt cold spread through his guts.

The other nine Gophers were already docked with their last rails, which meant the other nine crews were already done their last shifts. Daw took them in, navigating to Gopher bay 7. Normally they’d detach their rail and hook it to the Coleridge’s tail, but since this was their last shift this run, there was no point.

To stave off boredom and unease, Zen played around with the cameras, examining the massive Coleridge and her cargo.

The field of dull space ice was worth a small fortune. Icerocks were the main way of getting water on most of the stations in this system. Not that anyone outside the investors saw a real cut of the profit.

Then Zen spotted something and frowned. “Check out camera nine.”

Daw complied. “What is that? We got guests?”

An unfamiliar ship was docked with the Coleridge. Sleek, narrow, and not broadcasting any ID. Zen swallowed.

“Maybe,” he said.

They looked at each other. “You don’t think…” Daw said. He didn’t have to finish the thought. Government auditors were their constant worry. They were rare this far out on the Canor Belt, but an inspection based on a hot tip would explain the radio silence.

“Nah, it’s nothing,” Zen said, faking confidence. Had he babbled to Issen about his platinum? Had someone overheard? Had someone tipped off the government about smugglers?

“Maybe we should dump the cargo,” Daw said.

Zen turned to him. “What? How the hell will we explain that?” They couldn’t run either. Gopher-7 depended on the Coleridge, and no doubt they’d been seen. It would be beyond suspicious if they tried to flee.

“Fine, fine,” Daw said. “We’ll figure it out, or die trying.” His response for pretty much any problem.

“Worst case,” Zen said, “we’ll cut them in.”

Daw swallowed hard and his lips drew tight, but he didn’t say anything more and resumed docking.

***

Nobody met them at the airlock, and they both let out breaths they didn’t realize they were holding. No squad of marines arresting them, no imperious auditor denouncing them for smuggling and treason and a thousand other things. Of course things never actually looked like the movies, but the imagination did things when you were stressed.

But they didn’t see any of their crewmates either.

“Nobody’s responding on local comms,” Daw said, as they floated through the zero-g corridors. “Think they got everyone rounded up? Doing individual interrogations?”

“Interrogations?” Zen said. “This isn’t some cheesy cop drama.”

“Yeah, well. Maybe we should get our story straight anyway.”

Zen hesitated. He hated how much sense that made. “Yeah, fine.”

As they floated towards the command module they began hashing out their story, each regretting they waited this long for the idea to occur to them. The unbelievable possibility that they were going to get caught was becoming more real with each heartbeat. When they came to a T-juncture in the corridor, they finally came upon some other people – three men floating towards them with purpose.

Both groups of men startled and stopped, grabbing the railings that ran alongside each corridor to enable movement in zero-g. When Zen saw the men were armed, he felt a jolt of panic. They were marines. But then he saw their faces. Two of them were vaguely familiar, people he’d seen somewhere once upon a time. The third…

“Issen?”

It was the only word he managed before the others raised their weapons and started shooting. A hail of pneumatic slivers tore into Daw, thrusting him backwards down the corridor and leaving trails of globular blood hanging in the air. He didn’t even get a scream out as a sliver punctured his throat.

Animal panic gripped Zen and he pushed off Daw, flinging himself back the way he had come.

“I got them!” Issen’s voice shouted behind him. “Corridor Nine-b! One runner!”

Not police then. Pirates.

Zen grabbed the railings and propelled himself faster and faster, attaining a skull-cracking velocity. Behind him, he saw the three men spill into his corridor and fire. Ahead of him, he saw the juncture that would take him back to Gopher-7.

When he neared the juncture he grabbed the nearest railing with the aptitude only a career spacer developed and he wrenched himself into it. He strangled a scream as something in his left shoulder tore. Not because he was hit by their fire, but because human shoulders just weren’t designed for swinging a body at such speeds. His grip faltered and he bounced down the corridor towards the airlock, rolling to avoid more injuries. Each bounce was a new bruise and a new opportunity to slow himself down and steer. He screamed out the voice command for the airlock to open.

His pursuers were slower. By the time they rounded the corner and fired again, Zen sailed into the airlock. The razor slivers sliced through his right side and thigh, his blood blossoming in the air. He slammed the door shut before the next volley came. The pneumatic weapons were ideal for tearing through clothes and flesh, but were too weak to do any structural damage to ships – the perfect weapons for safely murdering in space. Their slivers bounced off the airlock door.

Zen’s right side was on fire, and his body and face were covered in his own blood, which was clouding in the air. “C’mon c’mon!” he shouted, starting the cycling process. Something thudded behind him and he saw Issen’s face through the airlock glass. He was snarling and banging on the door. Probably saying something inane like “open the door!”

“Fat fucking chance,” Zen muttered. When the airlock cycled and the door to the Gopher-7 opened, he floated through, holding his side. He hoped he wouldn’t need stitches but he feared he did. Either way, it would have to wait. It was just a matter of time for the pirates to breach the airlock. He floated into the pilot’s seat – Daw’s seat – and shotgunned through undocking.

Something shuddered and he heard the deep wail of metal bending and breaking. He was licensed to fly, but as a backup for Daw he rarely did, and probably forgot something. The checklists didn’t cover “fleeing from pirates” anyway. Regardless, Gopher-7 didn’t report any critical errors. Good enough. He lit up the thrusters and put some distance between himself and the Coleridge.

But where would he go? He could outrun the Coleridge and he had a head start on the other Gophers. But Issen’s ship was a real star ship, not a glorified cargo truck. He decided to dive into the Canor Belt itself, banking on Issen’s pilot not being familiar with flying through rocks. Banking on being familiar enough himself.

Then an alarm trilled and his console flashed red. It was the friendly-fire warning, in case the Coleridge ever accidentally aimed its point-defense cannons at one of the Gophers. Only this time, it wasn’t accidental.

“Shit!” Zen said.

The whole ship rocked as the slugs tore through it, and he was knocked out when he hit his head.

***

Zen’s first thoughts were about making sure Daw was fine. Concussions were serious, and this wasn’t just professional diligence. Daw was his friend. It took him a while to extricate himself from his seat, and by then he remembered that Daw wasn’t there, that he saw Daw get murdered.

Zen ran his hands over his face. “Shit,” he whispered. Daw was dead.

He felt cold inside and he didn’t really know why. This line of work claimed people all the time. A ship like the Coleridge might have upwards of ten fatalities a year. But losing Daw was different. They’d been running this drive for nearly eleven years. They had a retirement plan. They’d leave this craphole of a system, find a planet to live on. And now, poof. Just like Cassie, they got careless and the whole thing got flattened.

And if the pirates were on the Coleridge and comms were down, the rest of the crew were probably dead too.

Zen wondered if he really was the only one still alive. When he checked his right side it was sticky with clotted blood. Stiff, sore, but he hadn’t bled out. Lucky day.

His hands hurt. His everything hurt. With trembling fingers he tapped Gopher-7’s cracked interface, trying to get an idea of what happened, of how much trouble he was in. He wasn’t dead yet, and if there was a chance of making it out he damn well was going to take it. Find a way to mourn the others properly. And maybe, just maybe, a spark of anger warmed his heart.

Parts of the ship reported no atmosphere, so the hull was breached. The engine was gone, shredded by the cannons. The cargo rail was missing. He figured their asteroid haul had given him enough cover to avoid getting slagged entirely. Small mercy.

He was stranded, but maybe he could do something unconventional with the maneuvering pylons, if any survived. And his radio still worked. That was good. But he was also deep in the Canor Belt, so it was unlikely anyone would be able to hear him.

Floating through the Belt and out the other side was about his only option. A couple weeks, if he was lucky and didn’t collide with a rock. Then he could signal for help, and maybe in another couple of weeks, someone would pick him up. If he stretched his supplies, he had the food to survive that long. But the cannons had also clipped Gopher-7’s water tanks, so all he had left was what was already in the pipes. Maybe a day’s worth.

Zen sat back in his chair, groaned, and stared out at the Canor Belt all around him. An ocean of frozen water, as poisonous as the seas of old Earth if not purified. Not something Gopher-7 was equipped for. Not something Zen was schooled in.

Zen chuckled. “We’ll figure it out, or die trying.”

August 23, 2022 02:03

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35 comments

11:27 Aug 24, 2022

It starts out as the Deadliest Catch of ice asteroid mining, and then rapidly shifts into an everyone out for themselves story that brings me into a scifi world a lot like The Expanse. (I watch a lot of TV.) I like how they keep talking about early retirement, that's very relatable. And nice to see you trying a new genre;)

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Michał Przywara
21:09 Aug 24, 2022

Heh, I love The Expanse. I haven't actually seen the show, but I'm nearly through the books. No doubt it influences my writing. Great world building! Thanks for reading, Scott :)

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Aeris Walker
22:17 Aug 23, 2022

You packed so much into this short story! I really liked your creative take on the prompt—I would have never thought about “water delivery guys in space” or rather “ice.” The action and suspense were very well done. There was a high risk to this job, and getting caught would ruin everything. You gave us just enough backstory and information about their “endeavors” to show how dangerous it really was. I also feel like the story unfolded in a way that makes sense because of your main character’s personality. He got drunk and ran his mouth an...

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Michał Przywara
23:41 Aug 23, 2022

Heh, when I first saw this prompt, I completely blanked :) I had no idea what kind of person would have a job delivering water to people, until it occurred to me that that literally was a job -- like people who delivered water to offices, etc. But then I thought that was too mundane, so I wondered how it might look in fantasy or sci-fi. And then, of course, we need some kind of trouble for our poor characters. I'm glad you liked it! I think you nailed it with him bringing this on himself. There's something about that persistent pressure ma...

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Zelda C. Thorne
19:09 Aug 23, 2022

Hi Michal! I enjoyed this little space romp! The worldbuilding was done well, giving us just enough. "And uncomfortable memories that he might have let slip something about the platinum" - This is great. I said 'Oh no' out loud haha "three men floating towards them with purpose." - This made me giggle. Might not have been your intention, but I enjoyed it It flowed well too. As do all your pieces. Nothing ever seems to drag. Nice final line. 👏 I was a little confused at the end when it was mentioned that he didn't know how to pilot the...

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Michał Przywara
23:32 Aug 23, 2022

Thanks! I'm very glad it flowed well, particularly since it's kind of an unusual setting and time. For the piloting, my intention was that Zen knew how to fly, but only as a backup for Daw, and so he was rusty. Alas, intentions don't write stories, and reading over it again that doesn't really come across, so I've expanded it a bit. Hopefully it will be clearer going forward. But really, I figure he's faced with certain death or almost-certain death, so he bets on the latter. I appreciate the feedback!

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H L Mc Quaid
09:03 Aug 23, 2022

Great world-building and dialling up the suspense. It's like ice-road truckers in space, but as a crime caper gone horribly awry. This story captivated me and I was locked in like an ice asteroid going to some far-flung space station. I really like the idea of blue-collar workers in space, going about their daily drudge, not getting paid enough for the danger inherent in the job. I have a few random thoughts, in case they're helpful. But I really enjoyed the story as you wrote it, so please ignore anything that doesn't fit your vision (...

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Michał Przywara
23:24 Aug 23, 2022

Thanks, H! Your random thoughts are very much appreciated. In sci-fi, I think it's easy to kind of lose focus and make assumptions about what is clear to me vs what is clear to the reader, so that kind of feedback is super useful. Certainly, I often omit too many details. I've expanded the tech descriptions a bit, at least as far as the actual job of (what I picture) icedriving to be like. Hopefully the scale of it is a little more clear, where you have tiny humans shifting massive things around with crappy equipment, and where the employe...

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H L Mc Quaid
07:48 Aug 24, 2022

glad the random thoughts were helpful! I'm with you on how much detail to provide when world-building. I try to get away with the minimum, haha. I like (?) the image of the rookie 'turning to paste' and I can picture the relative size of things much better now, which also adds to the theme of 'insignificance' nicely. :)

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Tommy Goround
04:27 Aug 23, 2022

Original. Wild ride. Any way to "assume" some of the details (junctions , space belts, etc) and shove in a little more of the Han Solo characterization? Everyone loves the charms of Han. He's stealing for retirement. It's "lucky 13" got it. But the friend dies and the response is maybe not strong enough. He invents a way to go forward. I'm hoping to see that feeling you had in Mindfulness... or that All-heart twist you had in Thrift Store Baby.

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Michał Przywara
05:33 Aug 23, 2022

Thanks for the read! Good point about Han. I wasn't picturing a loveable scoundrel so much as a stressed out drone trying to pull a fast one - and then things go to crap. But maybe there's room to expand on that. Same with the reaction. I figured it's mostly shock, but maybe you're right. They're friends. They're co-conspirators, partners. They have history. Perhaps I can flesh this out. There's not too much of a twist on this one, beyond the identity of the interlopers, true. I think mostly the prompt caught my eye. I wondered what kind ...

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Tommy Goround
06:39 Aug 23, 2022

You can do it :)

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Chris Campbell
03:44 Sep 04, 2022

Michal, This was a thoroughly enjoyable read. Loved the premise and the genre. It reminded me of an episode of The Expanse - one of my favourite shows. You may have a budding novel about Zen Morai on your hands. I'd love to read more stories with him involved.

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Michał Przywara
18:53 Sep 04, 2022

Thanks, Chris! I have some ideas on how to expand this, so perhaps there will be a longer piece one day. I'm a big fan of The Expanse myself. Lots of great ideas in it, and lovely world building. I loved the tiny details, like gold jewelry kind of being devalued because of all the gold being mined from asteroids, but the price of amber skyrocketing because, how many places in the solar system have trees? I just recently picked up the final book :)

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Chris Campbell
05:47 Sep 05, 2022

I look forward to reading more.

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23:34 Sep 02, 2022

I'm not a big fan of sci fi but this kept me hooked all the way through. It changed mid story from one tone and pace to quite another and thats a tricky thing to pull off without distracting the reader with a new voice. I love the original take on the prompt. I never would have thought of space or ice for this. Nice open ending. I hope Zen gets out alive! I quite like him.

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Michał Przywara
06:03 Sep 03, 2022

Thanks, Katharine! I'm glad the tonal shift worked out. You're right, it can be a risk. I think a sudden shift like this can be useful for purposeful violence, where whatever was just happening is interrupted, and priorities completely change. I don't know if Zen survives. Certainly, his situation doesn't look good, but there's also a chance he can pull through. I actually have some idea of where this could go next, if he does survive. I appreciate the feedback :)

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Zack Powell
17:46 Sep 01, 2022

Forgive the lateness of this comment, Michał. Been a hectic week, but I'm always glad to get to read one of your stories. (Side note: I really enjoy your Crime pieces - each one feels appropriate to the genre: well-paced and high-octane.) Really enjoyed your take on this prompt, which I personally thought was the toughest of the five. SciFi where water as a resource comes from space rocks? Sure, sign me up. Really curious as to how you managed to come up with that one. It's very creative. Structural/writerly/craft things I liked here: Love...

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Michał Przywara
22:04 Sep 01, 2022

Thanks, Zack! No such thing as a late comment. I always look forward to hearing from you, but there's never enough hours in a day, is there? I know my reading list seems to perpetually grow. First off, thanks for pointing out that cliché. I didn't even realize it was one, though now that I reflect on it, I'm pretty sure I've used it before in other stories, and may well have heard it in other people's writings. So that's one to put on my watch list. The idea for this came from wanting to write this prompt, but not in a contemporary settin...

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Marty B
19:26 Aug 31, 2022

The first paragraph dropped me into this world and set the background, which is hard to do in such a few sentences! I also felt this is in the Expanse world (mining in space). The action was done really well. Good one!

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Michał Przywara
21:47 Aug 31, 2022

Thanks, Marty! That's great to hear, if the first paragraph was able to lead to immersion. The Expanse certainly influenced this, as did any number of other sci-fi and crime things. I was picturing the corporations from Murderbot Diaries in general, for example, and maybe a bit of rough frontier flavour for everything, a la Firefly. I appreciate the feedback :)

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Zoë Page
19:37 Aug 28, 2022

Cool story! Not usually into reading sci-fi, but the few stories of that genre I've been exposed to on Reedsy have been very interesting, this being one of them. There are so many little details that made the whole thing a better story than just a good plot and some nice descriptions and I tried to make notes of them so I could attempt to give all credit, but I'm sure I definitely missed a few: I liked how you tied Cassie back in with "Just like Cassie, they got careless and the whole thing got flattened". I also found the way you describe...

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Michał Przywara
20:27 Aug 28, 2022

Thanks, Zoë! I think you got all the key points, yeah. I'm especially pleased Zen seemed gutted to you. I think he was, too. He didn't really have time to think about Daw's death before, what with fleeing to avoid getting murdered, but after he woke up, the adrenaline was down and he had an opportunity to process it and mourn. Heh, I actually blanked on this prompt myself, when I initially saw it. When I got thinking about fantasy or sci-fi, it opened the doors for me, but in retrospect I could see something mundane too. Maybe a story abou...

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Daniel Allen
19:14 Aug 28, 2022

I really enjoyed this. Great worldbuilding, you managed to create a detailed and believeable setting in such a small place. I also liked how you gave Zen a personal connection to the attackers, it made it sting that little bit more. Great job!

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Michał Przywara
20:05 Aug 28, 2022

Thanks, Daniel! That's great to hear that the setting came across well. It's always a bit of a balancing act with sci-fi, and 3k words is surprisingly little :) I appreciate the feedback!

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L.M. Lydon
18:10 Aug 26, 2022

I really enjoyed the setting of your story. I played once with an asteroid-tug in a microfic, but you brought this world to life in a deeply compelling way (even in the future, nothing works and companies cut corners). Zen is a very relatable narrator (as well as being the source of the conflict- "loose lips sink ships" after all). You rachet up the intensity level paragraph by paragraph.

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Michał Przywara
20:42 Aug 26, 2022

Thanks, L! Loose lips sink ships indeed :) I've always liked when characters bungle things up for themselves. Maybe not directly - he didn't do the actual raiding himself - but he did get the ball rolling. I'm thrilled to hear the setting worked out, and that the intensity was there. I've been fascinated by sci-fi that deals with asteroid belts and/or gravity ever since I read The Expanse. Great series. Thanks for the feedback!

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Suma Jayachandar
07:34 Aug 26, 2022

Hi Michal, Just came back from a week long road trip and this was the first story I read. Science fiction - Yeah, you are in your element here, again. The technical details of this world is meticulously done and fascinating. (For some strange reason, a couple of snatches from Metal Gear Solid ran through my mind.) You always manage to shine a light on complex human nature, be it a fantasy or sci fi and it definitely shows up here in Zen's thoughts and actions. He is careful and hopeful in the beginning, then doubtful and torn in the middle a...

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Michał Przywara
20:47 Aug 26, 2022

Thanks for reading, Suma! I hope your trip was good :) The story you read has been polished up a bit since I originally posted it, thanks to some readers pointing out issues, so I'm glad the technical points come across well now. It was fun diving into sci-fi this week, to shake things up. I appreciate the feedback :)

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Mike Panasitti
10:55 Aug 25, 2022

Disregard my last comment to you, Michal. I need an updated dictionary. I found an online definition of the word "pylon:" "A structure on the wing of an aircraft used for carrying an engine, weapon, fuel tank, or other load." In the 4th paragraph down, though, there is still a confusing sentence: "He was still stuck using stone-aged manually operated driving pylons, for example." Perhaps a better phrase could be, "He was still forced to place loads in the Gopher-7's pylons using stone-aged, manually operated equipment." But perhaps I ...

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Michał Przywara
21:08 Aug 25, 2022

Heh, I appreciate the dedication to researching this :) And no, no annoyance. I'd rather know if there's an issue with something I wrote. So that's what I was picturing, more or less, except in this case, the "aircraft" is the asteroid itself. Let me know if this makes sense (bearing in mind this is a fictional line of work, which is being done "incorrectly" on purpose to maximize profit at the expense of the workers). A railrunner flies to a broken up asteroid, which was maybe detonated by a survey team earlier. So there's smaller, more...

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Mike Panasitti
00:29 Aug 26, 2022

I'd go for it. The description was clear. The terrestrial analogy was particularly helpful. Hopefully it applies to the characters and plot in the setting you've created.

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Mike Panasitti
15:10 Aug 24, 2022

First, very original take on the prompt. Going with science fiction definitely let you hit the ball out of the park as far as plot is concerned. Second, you have quite the knack for fleshing out characters in under 3,001 words. Always conflicted, always entertaining. I agree with H. L. McQuaid's comment concerning the technologies used in this world. For me, they were difficult to visualize. Although it would have slowed down the pacing, a little further exposition might resolve this difficulty. One stylistic comment: "Add to that th...

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Michał Przywara
21:45 Aug 24, 2022

I reworded that phrase you singled out. When I wrote it, I figured it would either end up sounding new and striking, or clunky and off-putting. I bet on the former, but so it goes :) Sometimes trying to be clever gets the best of us. On that note, I figure "penny pinching" as an expression would probably long survive the death of actual pennies. It seems our own modern vocabularies are littered with outdated slang, so why not pass it forward. That's one of those things that can make sci-fi a little more relatable, and indeed, now I'm pictur...

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Mike Panasitti
23:24 Aug 24, 2022

You elegantly solved the phrasing in the sentence I indicated. I noted you made more extensive changes that describe the technical nature of the characters' occupation. I have an older dictionary whose definitions I generally find more descriptive than those found in online varieties. A "pylon," according to Webster's Third New International Dictionary is defined as "a usu. massive gateway...[and] a monumental mass placed ...to flank an entryway." It was still difficult for me to picture Zen operating "driving pylons" and how they manipu...

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