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This is the first of a series of interviews conducted on the minor planet
AFZ118-28, requisite to the mission of the light jumpship "Gazellier".
Interviews are recorded and transcribed, and relayed to QEC for public record.

The mining colony on minor planet AFZ118-28, much like its host planet, was
never given a true name. Those who work and live here, rather than using the
unwieldy planetary designation, refer to their home among the stars as "Hot
Rock". This name derives from the fact that the primary resource being
extracted, hydrogen, has a nasty habit of exploding when handled improperly.
"Hot Rock incidents" punctuate the historical narrative the locals tell.
Everyone knows someone, or a friend of a someonem, who's run afoul of the safety
standards and paid the - often capital - price for it. 

AFZ118-28 has a dense and unwelcoming atmosphere. The people who live and work
here are relegated to their vast indoor compound at all times, except by the use
of a protective suit which can be worn in the outside atmosphere for no more
than a few hours. Extraction itself is done remotely with drone units, however
refining and preperation for shipping is still overseen by human hands owing to
the rather ancient nature of the equipment they are outfitted with. The Hot Rock
doesn't see a lot of visitors. Save for the occasional hauler ferrying away the
products of their efforts, the laborers and their families sit more-or-less
alone in their stellar neighborhood, relying on their own hydroponics and
livestock systems to maintain themselves in an adequate self-sufficience.

Ainlen Delorrey is a dock operator with an uncharacteristic softness about them.
Their voice and demeanor pose a striking contrast to the rather dangerous nature
of the work they do. We meet at the commissary-cum-cafe to talk over a pot of


Not bad huh? One of the folks who came up initially was a big fan of tea back
home, brought some clippings with her on the journey here. We grow it in the
community hydroponics bay. I was always more of a coffee person myself, but,
being a fair few lightyears from earth, I'm not going to complain about a nice
little treat like this. It's grown on me. I like the roasted tea we make from the 
late-season leaves the most. Sometimes I get lucky though, a hauler passing
through will have a bit of coffee they're willing to part with. Keeps me from
forgetting the taste. I do wish we had a hot garden, I could try my hand at
parenting a coffee tree. Not that I've had much of a green thumb. I was a
fueling operator before I came here, and before that a warehouse grunt. You
know, a bit of a meathead. 

(At this, they smirk and make a mocking 'flexing' motion.)

I'm not even sure why I put in the job-transfer request to come up here. I think
I just got bored. Needed a change of scenery. Apparently that change was from a
vibrant life-supporting world to a labrynth of steel-clad hallways and a minor
existential risk of an explosion at any time. You know we're sitting on top of a
massive core of frozen hydrogen? Luckily the planet's atmosphere doesn't have
any oxygen to spark an explosion, but, once it's in the refinery it becomes a
real risk. We had a small incident a few weeks ago when a piece of refining
equipment failed and caused a spark. Luckily no one was nearby, but we lost a 
few hundred tonnes of hydrogen in the subsequent leak the blast caused. All in
all pretty mundane compared to some of the other stories people around here will
tell ya. 

So, dock work, right? Not the most exciting stuff honestly, not entirely sure
why you're so interested in chatting with me about it. Those guys in refining
have way better stories. They're a solid mix of mad scientists and floor 
supervisors angry at the mad scientists. Fun folks to have a drink with. 
The sort of dock work I do is just moving stuff from storage to haulers, and 
organizing the warehouse stock when there's no ships around. I've got a pretty 
good safety record for myself, so it's been pretty dull as far as jobs go.

I have had a close call, though. Exactly one. See, on the smaller ships we can't
use our lifts, since they're designed for large ships, and instead we just have
to use muscle-suits. Real old-fashioned dockwork, picking stuff up and moving it
from point A to point B, piece by piece. Those muscle-suits are helpful but that
sort of work still puts a heck of a lot of strain on your muscles. Luckily we
don't get a whole lot of small ships in here. So, we're loading up this
short-jump hauler. It's only going to the next system over, so I guess the
buyers didn't see fit to pay for a more well-equipped ship. I'm not sure when
this thing was built, but it was missing most of the modern safety provisions
you see on basically any other ship. I'm not even sure why the ground crew
cleared them for loading. They must have been paying a big premium. 

Anyways, I'm rambling. The incident. I was carrying a load of hydrogen canisters
over to the ship, grumbling a bit in my head about how much I hate
muscle-loading. Well, I must not have been paying great attention because I hit
the edge of the box against the loading bay door. From what I can guess, that
caused a cansiter head-gasket to fail and, well, gas under pressure likes to
leak. Since this ship didn't have any sensors or failsafes in its cargo bay for
flammables, the leak went unnoticed. We finished loading the ship, and waited
for ground crew to send our customers off to their next destination. Something
must have sparked inside. Because the next thing I see is a giant piece of the
rear doors of the ship making a bee-line for my head. Either there's some kind
of god watching out for me, or my reflexes were just working overtime, but in a
fraction of a second I watched as this giant, angry piece of shrapnel sped
uncomfortably close past my ear. I still remember the weird sort of wave of
pressure I felt as it passed by. The ship was... well, at least the cockpit
safety measures were working. The crew had to spend a good week and a half in
the med quarters recuperating from their burns and explosive shock. I'm not sure
what became of them after they were picked up by their "rescue-ship", but I have
yet to see another ship land for loading that didn't have proper safety sensors.
It's anyone's guess as to wether that's because ground crew won't let 'em land,
or because the people sending them finally got some sense into their heads. 

Y'know, I remember when I was in school I read about some explosives mishaps
that happened way way back in the 1920s and 30s. I think I always figured that
was just carelessness. It's not like those little stories went into detail about
the sort of failures-of-the-system to actually take precaution with their cargo.
Didn't even consider it was really a threat, now, y'know, given we've figured
out how to travel hundreds of light years in a sort of ice-bath coma. Guess it's
an easy thing to overlook. 

(They look at their wrist, checking the time)

I'm sorry, I've gotta be on shift in a few minutes and I like to take my time
getting ready. Enjoy the tea! If you're still around later in the year, you'll
have to try some of that roast tea I was telling you about.