This week the trapped miners are finally rescued and Captain Darrow makes a discovery. To read this book from the beginning, go here. My idea of Sam Ryan is a young Leonardo de Caprio.
Following Ryan’s advice,
Dai Williams called for another drill. This made conversation impossible. Ryan
now had to rely on the sensors for monitoring the miners' vital signs, the video
screen showed them only faintly through the shifting and increasing dust. As
the hole was enlarged Williams planned to try to rig up a canopy to protect them
from falling rock and crystal shards.
I dreamed of going
into space, Ryan thought ruefully, and now here I am: underground,
cramped, dirty, and deafened. Still, it looks as though they’re enlarging the
hole much faster, maybe I’ll be back on the surface quite soon. I wonder why Dr
Robinson hasn’t returned?
As the dust increased the
extractor began to labour, then clogged and began to whine. Within seconds the
crystals began to vibrate and the tone spread through the mine.
Williams shouted, ‘Shut
down!’ and made cutting motions across his throat.
They cut the power but
the sound was self-sustaining. Soon everything was shaking, as the crystals
amplified the sound and reflected it back and forth. The noise was
There was a crack and a
large slab of the floor gave way, taking a machine and Jenkins with it. The
reverberations died. The dust hung suspended in the air as everyone stared in
‘Told you I’d be first
here, didn’t I boys?’ Jenkins’ voice broke the silence.
‘Good of you to drop
in.’ came Huw’s reply.
Ryan joined in the great
cheer that went up and rushed to the edge of the hole, to see that the slab had
missed Huw and John, and also provided a bridge, the perfect means of rescue.
Williams radioed the pithead with the news.
Ryan didn’t wait for
permission, but jumped down beside Jenkins on the slab and crawled over to Huw
and John. He laid a blanket beside John and crawled on to it.
‘I’ll take John, Huw, so
they can get you out first. Mr Jenkins,’ he said, ‘help Huw up, would
As Huw got his arm out
from under John and Ryan gently took him, the silence was broken by a continuous
tone from the monitor. Ryan checked John, as though he didn’t believe it, and
Huw struggled to escape from the rescuers’ grip.
‘No John, not now! We’re
saved, can’t you see?’
‘Turn that thing off!’
Williams shouted, and they bowed their heads in the silence.
* * *
On the surface, Hoy and
Reuel arrived at the opencast workings, from opposite directions. Reuel started
after the buggy, but Darrow called him back. He could identify the man later.
When Reuel didn’t stop, Darrow remembered his comm unit was broken. He waved
his arms to attract Hoy’s attention, pointed at Reuel and his comm unit and
signalled negative. Hoy understood and called Reuel back, and they both made
their way round the edge of the workings towards the Captain. By putting their
helmets together, they could talk directly to each other, the contact of the
visors allowing the transfer of some of the sound, lip reading helping with the
‘Are you all right sir?’
Hoy said. ‘Who was that?’
‘Don’t know,’ Darrow
said. ‘He attacked me when I stepped into the workings. I can deal with him
later. Right now I want to see what he was up to.’
‘Excuse me sir,’ Reuel
said. ‘If it was in the pit, should you not say “see what he was down
Darrow and Hoy smiled.
‘I’m afraid it’s another
one of those phrases you just have to learn, Ensign,’ Darrow said. ‘Let’s find
a way down to the cave.’
They climbed down to the
cave Darrow had found. In a narrow space at the back they found some small
rocket-shaped cannisters and a large net on a collapsible frame. Reuel
identified the net.
‘We use these on Altair,
Captain. In low gravity, a capsule can be dropped from a ship and caught with
the net. It can also be used to launch a capsule into space, to be caught by a
‘Here’s what they were
sending,’ called Hoy, who had opened one of the canisters. Reuel relayed it to
Darrow. The cannister contained what at first looked like grit, but they
realised it was razor quartz micro crystals. ‘Tiny quartz crystals. A few at a
time would be easy to conceal, coming from the mine. The tiny ones are quite
valuable. They’re used in computer circuits, so they’re in high
‘So someone is smuggling
micro crystals off the base, out to a ship, and getting the empty capsules
back,’ said Reuel.
Darrow looked around.
‘This isn’t just opportunistic, it’s organised. The miners, however many are
involved, smuggle the crystals out of the mine and store them in these
canisters. At pre-arranged times the canisters are put into the capsules and
propelled into space, where they are collected by a waiting ship, and the
empties returned to the surface ready for next time. I wonder how long it’s
been going on?’
Hoy jumped. ‘Sir, a
message came in - the miners have been rescued!’ His shoulders sagged. ‘Oh, one
didn’t make it.’
‘Check if Commander
Holland needs help,’ Darrow said.
‘No, he says it’s under
‘You are not to say
anything about this,’ said Darrow. ‘I don’t want anyone to know what we’ve
found. Lieutenant-Commander, take the net and a full capsule back to the
Kestrel and leave them against the ship near the airlock. I’ll see they get to
Mr Jones, the Base Administrator. Now you two return to your posts. I’ll
follow you back after I retrieve my walking pole.’
Reuel turned back and put
his helmet to Darrow’s. ‘Sir? You have a pole that walks?’
[Next week: Darrow gets
some good news and some bad news.]
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