This week we follow Tabitha and Hoy as they work in the mine on Level Three. To read from the beginning, go here. I imagine Hoy would be played by a youngish Jackie Chan.
Intruders chapter 5 scene 3
As Hoy and Tabitha prepared to go down the shaft to Level Three, Hoy kept up a running commentary of advice.
‘Don’t make any sudden or extreme moves. Do everything gently, and ensure you are braced before you push or lift anything. Otherwise you’ll just push yourself backwards.’
Arwel Hughes, the miner they were with, grabbed one of the maintenance robots in one hand and stepped over the edge. The other machines were fixed to the hoist and sent down. Tabitha was grateful that Hoy opted for using the rungs as a ladder. She followed him down, praying that she wouldn't make a fool of herself on her first mission. Despite there being fans drawing the air through filters, the dust hung in the air, reducing visibility.
As they made their way down the rungs Tabitha said, ‘I feel sick.’
‘Don’t you dare,’ said Hoy. ‘Vomit can travel a long way in low gravity. Concentrate on what you’re doing and you’ll be fine.’
The trip down the shaft only took a few minutes, but Tabitha worried Hoy would be angry with her as she had to take it slowly. He did seem rather agitated, and breathed deeply through his mask. Despite the filter he still managed to draw dust in, which made him cough. With every cough from Hoy, Tabitha felt her own stomach clench, her palms sweat. She felt as if the shaft got narrower as it dropped, she feared they would get stuck any minute. This only passed when they reached the bottom and there was room to move. When they entered Level Three visibility improved and Tabitha stopped and gasped.
‘It’s beautiful! It reminds me of pictures I saw once of a cathedral.’
‘You’re not here to admire the view,’ said Hughes. ‘Come and see the problem, and keep your voice down.’
Tabitha ducked her head to hide her red face. Hughes led them down the tunnel to the cave-in.
’Level Two have reported that their floor has dropped in one great slab,’ he said, ‘so for the moment we’re not going to try to clear it. They are using it to reach the place above where the men are trapped. What’s needed is to clear the loose stuff and put in more supports so no more comes down.’
Tabitha thought she and Hoy made a strange looking pair, but with his guidance and her strength they were able to accomplish a lot. She was puzzled why Hoy kept talking all the time, while they shifted rubble and put in shoring posts, but just assumed he was being helpful to her, and was grateful.
‘You’re getting the hang of it now.’ Hoy said. ‘Gently and slowly, that’s it. How’s your sickness?’
‘Actually, sir, it’s gone. It’s strange, but being down here in such a small space makes me feel heavier. Do you know what I mean?’
Hoy took a deep breath and coughed in the dust. ‘Let’s get a move on. The sooner we finish, the sooner we can get out of here.’
As they worked, Tabitha was amazed at Hoy’s size and his elegance. He was only a little taller than her, but much less broad. Yet he was strong, quick in his movements, and graceful in the low gravity. They discovered that the end of the slab was unsupported. Tabitha suggested they use a lifter underneath to try to raise the slab a little, but Hughes wouldn’t allow it.
‘We don’t know what pressure the slab is under. Best pack rubble under it and stabilise it.’
Hoy looked at the spare roof supports.
‘Can you cut these down without weakening them? We could use a couple and crank them up to support the slab.’
Hughes nodded. He took his hand cutter from his belt and cut one to size.
‘This needs to be as far under as we can get it.’
Someone had to wriggle under the slab to put the support in position. Hughes looked at Hoy, the smallest of the three. There was a moment’s hesitation, then Hoy sighed and took the support. Once the supports were in place and cranked up, they packed the rubble around them. It didn’t take long. When Hughes was satisfied, they reported to Holland, who ordered them back to the Kestrel for a break.
[Next week we catch up with the Kestrel’s Medical Officer Dr Robinson, as he meets with the base doctor.]
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