Copyright © 2016 by George Mikhailov
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Sweat rolled off his forehead and burst upon the concrete floor as he examined his work. “Finally, a moment of rest,” he thought to himself, and rubbed his aching shoulder. Ardol had just finished installing a drill arm on a planetary surface rover that was one of the most successful products of Torohol Heavy Industries. He pressed the metal paint stamp onto its titanium back, branding it with the large neon-yellow “THI” logo. Immediately Ardol was surrounded with the fetid smell of hot industrial paint.
For the past month, THI had been busier than ever. The bosses said they’ve had no choice but to raise quotas; everyone and their mothers were asking for drill rovers on planet Torohol, and THI was the indisputable leader in the market. Volatile sandstorms would ravage the surface outside the domed colonies, but underground, vast deposits of unclaimed minerals and resources had everyone wanting a piece of personal fortune. At least, those few who could afford to spend a fortune on the rovers in the first place.
Ardol could hardly keep up with the new workload, and took more overtime every week to complete his ever increasing quota. The finished machine that hung suspended by a metal claw in front of him was his saving grace, he thought. He was finally ahead, and could afford to rest for just a few minutes. “Hell, if I keep this overtime up, maybe I could save enough to support a family. My own family. Maybe even more than one kid, if the Colonial Magistrate approves. Still, even with this pay, it might take a while to convince them…”
As he wiped the sweat off his brows, he severed his gaze with the rover and took a look around the factory. It was as if this factory was an anomaly in the universe, a strange pocket of space where time ran faster than everywhere else. Vast arrays of machinery pressed and rolled metal with such speed that their mechanical arms seemed blurred to the naked gaze. Hybrid androids, half-flesh and half-machine, handled the partly-finished rovers with impeccable accuracy and intelligence. The piercing sound of the factory’s loudspeakers broke his peace.
“Ardol Vexos, report to the office of Ms. Esdean immediately. Ardol Vexos. The office of Ms. Esdean.”
Not a single soul in the factory paused for even a moment to hear the message, except for Ardol. He wiped his greasy hands on an overused rag, and headed towards the office.
He stared at the tag on the door before walking in: “Sheira Esdean, Director”, printed in crisp lettering. In all his time working for THI, he has never seen the director. “Should I shake hands with her? Or maybe I should just sit down? Or maybe remain standing? Does she give a shit about formality? Should I give a shit?” he thought, and opened the door.
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