The landscape was littered by a multitude of scurrying workers, running and toiling across the land like a series of ants. Heavy machinery was pushed over high slopes and the ground underfoot was churned into a muddy paste through a mixture of man and machine. Cables ran overhead and carried large metallic buckets which emerged from a hole stretching deep into the ground and reached high over the heads of the workers below, filled with mud and rocks. The cables ran like a myriad of cobwebs across the landscape held firm in place by monolithic towers running over the land like a series of goliaths standing watching the worksite. On the ground workers collected modern and ancient tools in a bizarre mixture of technology and mankind’s ingenuity. Despite the time the age old techniques for mining had not changed since the old days on Earth and over time the simple pick and hammer had overweighed lasers and robotic mining drones.
Mud caked the clothing of the workers as people struggled through the mire, rails were covered in wet clumps of mud and thick patches of clay as small wheels slipped and slid on their long runners as wagons were pushed and pulled by a series of ropes and pulleys, heavy laden with the same material as the buckets overhead. Scars of mud marked the hands and faces of the workers as people moved up and down the land in a never ending stream of movement. The work was hard and the atmosphere was heavy, no-one spoke except an occasional grunt in recognition or approval as they passed each other going in and out of the mining area. The mood across the site was low as the work emphasized the effects on the human soul, but despite the sombre feelings there were also the feeling of grim determination which could be felt in an almost physical manifestation through the site...a feeling which had driven the populace to settle in the site in the first place.
Clothes were heavy laden with mud and weighed down by the excess baggage of depression. The atmosphere above the site was changing as clear skies were slowly being covered by thick darkening cloud cover. One of the miners stopped in the mud and looked up into the blackening sky, "I don't like the look of this" he said to his companion. "Storm coming..." His companion followed his eye line and nodded his agreement. Banjo Jax was in his early thirties and for as long as he could remember this had been his life, wake...work...eat and sleep, sometimes he questioned why he did this and how he had finally got stuck on a planet like this. "Go see the stars they said" he complained, "Go see the wonders of the universe they told me, so how the fucking hell did I end up here on this godforsaken rock, doing a fucking job that I fucking hate!" Banjo threw his pick axe down in the mud in disgust and looked at his dirt encrusted hands, "look at me, just look at us all stuck on this bloody planet struggling to survive...nothing more than just surviving." he looked at his companion, his eyes searching for a flicker of compliance in his friend's face. Nothing, no sign of dejection, no sign of resolution, Banjo sighed inwardly and thought, "that's what this planet did to a person. Take his hopes and dreams and bury them just like the raw material they were digging up"
"Do you think it'll rain?" his companion spoke for the first time. His voice was soft and betrayed his age. Banjo looked into the youthful eyes of his companion and attempted a reassuring smile. Despite his haggard appearance, his companion was a good ten years younger than Banjo and through the mud caked mask which covered his features he could just make out his youthful appearance. His face unmarked by the passage of time, skin tight over well-defined cheek bones and through the mud bright eyes shone.
Banjo slapped his companion on the shoulder, "Don't worry lad, if there is the Watchtower's will warn us". He nodded toward the large towering construction overseeing the mining site like a silent guardian looking over the safety of the site. Banjo bent down and grasped at his dirty tool, "we'll get enough warning" his voice trailed off and he cast a baleful eye toward the darkening sky and muttered under his breath, "I hope..."
The small metal dome structure was supported by four tall metallic legs and rose from the ground like a massive iron giant casting its doleful eye over the small colony under its protection. It stood in silence and within visible distance of three fellow Watchtowers in quiet contemplation of the surrounding area and the state of the weather conditions and atmospheric pressure of an ever changing skyline. Inside the metal cabin perched at the pinnacle of the legs sat two uniformed men, each making notes and checking instruments within the confined space. Viewports allowed air and light into the cabin at intermediate spaces around the dome and through these ports small viewing and monitoring ejected into the atmosphere. Lights danced across the instrument banks across the banks of the dome's system and the men moved from one embankment to another checking details. They wore identical brown overalls with hardened black chest plates covering their bodies, and hard brown and black helmets lay discarded close to a central hatch in the center of the dome. A handrail ran around the central hatch and protected the guards from an open chasm yawning open in the metal floor. A rusted ladder stretched from the opening and disappeared through the dense cloud covering below. One guard tore a strip of paper from a printer and carefully read the results.
"Massive atmospheric pressure coming in from the Northern sector" he stated simply to his associate. "Better launch a probe" The second guard nodded and punched at a series of controls. A small section at the pinnacle of the dome slid open and a small metal box connected to a silver balloon floated above the dome. The small probe was grabbed by the wind and flung across the sky. As it flew, the box transmitted a series of readings back to the dome as it was swallowed up by the cloud. Only a tiny flashing red light betrayed the presence of the device as it struggled against the increasing conditions.
"Readings being relayed sir"
The second guard studied the monitor bank before him and slowly and carefully began to read selective parts of the report, "change in atmospheric conditions in Northerly region, but spreading quickly through the area heading on vector two-four-zero-one. Moisture content high, and traces of convective coverage through cumulonimbus separation causing localized rain bands. Heavy precipitation expected in elevated areas."
The young guard checked the monitor bank again, "yes sir, two masses of discernable pressure causing massive upward movements of warm air pressure. High prospect of downpour in all sectors".
"Ninety-eight percentage of heavy downpour sir"
"Alright, issue downpour alerts to Watchtowers One, Three and Four. Contact central dome, issue widespread alerts..." the dome commanders fingers worked over the controls of the panel as he barked his instructions to his subordinate, "activate storm warning parameters".
"yes sir" the guard worked at his control bank of panels, furiously typing sets of instructions through his keyboard and issuing early warnings to the whole colony. "Messages sent sir" he said when his task was finished.
"Okay, seal viewing ports...", between the two guards they worked in singular unison as they closed each of the small hatches, securing the metal plate in position by a heavy thick bolt. "Close central hatch..." ordered the dome commander and with the help of the guard the heavy metal disc which had hung limply from the underneath of the dome was pulled into a closed position and bolted into place. "Open auxiliary pumps and switch to secondary systems" The guard pressed a series of internal buttons and the interior of the dome was filled by a light mechanical hum as oxygen pumps began to recycle the atmosphere within the enclosed space. A red tinge of light illuminated the cabin and threw twisted shadows across the spherical sides of the dome.
"Watchtower Two secure sir, storm impact estimated arrival in three minutes"
"Sound the storm warning"
Panic gripped the mining area in a tight vice-like grip as the siren spilled out from the over-looking Watchtower. The constant wail rose and fell in an orchestrated symphony of high pitched reverence which touched every part of the colony. Miners discarded tools and machinery as the site became a quagmire underfoot as desperation took hold of the site. Miners sped across the surface of the land as they forced their way through the mud and density of the workings. Work parties slipped and slid through the hazardous conditions as people fought their way to the cavern shelters built directly into the mountainside. Banjo stood in the opening of one such cavern, clinging to the edge of the opening watching as colleagues struggled up muddy slopes. He waved his hand desperately beckoning fellow miners into the safe confines of the cavern. "Come on...come on" he called, "hurry...". His words were lost in the wind, covered by the sound of the sirens mixed with the first echo of the approaching storm.
A female voice crackled through the intercom system mounted on the wall at the mouth of the cavern and Banjo listened to the voices whilst watching the scene outside. "Work party One?" asked the voice.
"All accounted for"
"Work party Two?"
"All accounted for" Banjo watched desperate as pair of miners struggled with the conditions below. One of the men slipped and slid down to the bottom of the slope, caked in thick mud.
"Come on..." he urged.
"Work party Three?"
"All accounted for"
"Work party Four?"
"One missing Ma’am, no visuals"
"Understood" came the cold, harsh reply, "Work party Five?"
"All accounted for" Banjo watched as the sky was lit by a sudden flash through the approaching storm. He could feel a definite shift in the atmosphere as the air around him dropped several degrees.
"Work party Six?"
"All accounted for"
"Work party Seven?"
"One casualty, non-critical"
"Work party Eight?" Banjo paused at the entrance to the cavern, clenching his fists in frustration. "Work party Eight?" Banjo could feel the force of several sets of eyes piercing his back as he leant out of the cavern, his hand outstretched toward the two struggling miners. "Work party Eight please come in" repeated the female voice, "please state your current situation"
Banjo turned from the open mouth and pressed the communication button hard and savagely, "Work party Eight Responding Ma’am"
"What is your current status". Banjo looked out over the mine site and closed his eyes. He sighed heavily and lowered his head, keeping his eyes closed he spoke into the communicator.
"Two personnel missing..."
"Visual recognition confirmed, projected safety proximity exceeded" he pressed his head against the rough rock face of the inside of the cavern.
"I'm sorry Banjo, but you know what we must do..."
"Yes Ma’am" he replied through gritted teeth. "Understood..." he turned and watched as the miners struggled to their feet and continued their slow progress up the muddy slope. "Come on..." he urged through gritted teeth as they supported each other.
"Work party Nine?"
"All accounted for"
"Work party Ten?"
"All accounted for" Banjo's heart weighed heavy in his chest as he heard the final report being issued. He crossed back to the mouth of the cavern and reached his arm out again. The two miners were close to the mouth of the cavern and safety, so close Banjo could almost touch them.
"Come on...you're nearly there!" he called through the siren and storm. Behind the miners, Banjo saw the first drops of rain striking at the soft ground below. He waved his hand desperately toward the two miners, "come on...please..."
"Attention all safe houses...this is central command, commencing storm procedure lockdown"
"No... no... please just a little longer..." begged Banjo to the unhearing voice, he returned his attention back to the miners, "come on Steve...just a bit further..."
The sound of wheels and cogs broke the desperate feeling in the cavern as the turn of the mechanical workings of unseen machinery whirled into action. Banjo reached his fingers through the open gap as a heavy metallic wheel begun its slow descent from the roof of the cavern. His fingers brushed against the miners briefly before the hatch lowered firmly into position. "No!" he screamed and hammered at the inside of the metal barrier. He lent heavily against the hatch and allowed himself to sink to the moist mud floor, burying his head into his arms in a futile attempt to block out the sounds from outside. The sound of thunder roared through the cavern from the outside as the storm struck and was soon followed by the sound of rain striking the metal door and the screams of the two miners as they desperately banged and begged at the barrier.
Banjo listened in helplessness as the screams from the men rose to a crescendo before suddenly subsiding in an eerie silence, replaced by the relentless clapping of rain against the metal surface of the hatch.