“My name is Simple John, and I’ll be honest I never thought I’d be here talking to you type today. I’m sorry I can’t do much out of a chair, but out on the belt we don’t do gravity until sleeptime, so standing on Earth is a bit rough for us.
“I was born and raised off world. My mah and pop both migrated to the belt from Mars back in 2156- ah there’s a pic of them there. Mah got a job as a Botano-AI moderator and pop eventually landed the same Morey & Flint drilling position that I have today.
“I was born and raised on those mines and I know what’s there, or at least I used to. My job is a simple one, I pilot a driller from a remote location and let it do its thing: mining space rocks for their guts. Sometimes we get lucky and find some rare metals like gold, but mostly it’s just water, ice, and iron.
“All that changed on March 13th.”
John tapped the start drilling icon on his tablet and watched the drone get to work. He was floating in his barrel about seven kilometers from M-273144 x-z and sucking ramen out of a z-g bag. He didn’t have to watch the drilling, but he liked seeing what the drone does. He enjoyed the simple pleasures he could get out of life, and since the drone did most of the work he had no reason to complain.
Bubbles floated off his lips as he slurped, and the soundless drill ground at the rocks. It pulled bits apart with its arms and drilled them, scanned for materials and repeated. Even as a kid this was John’s favorite thing to watch. He’d go out there with his pop and watch the drills. Pop always said, that’s my Simple John, loves to keep things simple.
Pop was always right about John. It was still weird to think his parents were gone, lost to time and inevitability after only 150 years. That empty plague of death tore a hole in John deeper than any he could ever drill. Nothing but empty truth. It almost made him feel sorry that he wasn’t more than a driller. His little sister had gone off in the military and explored Jupiter. Maybe mah and pop were more proud of her than Simple John. Maybe. But the dead stop caring once they’re dead- they stop doing anything once they’re dead, except being a fading memory and a few thousand pictures.
When he reached the end of the bag he squeezed it into his mouth with the soup. That was always the worst part. The best was when you had half a bag full of noodles and you could feel them fall on your tongue. Something about that was perfection. When he pulled the bag away and opened his eyes a droplet of soup slammed right into his cornea.
“Shit!” he screamed and slapped his eye.
He did a back flip with one eye burning and tightly shut as he reached for the vacuum. He held it upside down and turned it on with his free pinkie- the sting didn’t go away but he managed to get the bubble off.
Blinking the sting away, he turned back to the monitors and anchored himself with a bit of Velcro on his shoe. Once he could see again, he looked at the screens. Each flashed red. The drills were stuck on something. What the hell, he thought, could jam a boring drill?
He flicked at his glove and turned on the keyboard projector, waved away the jamming notifications, and moved the cameras about. What looked like a steel frame was lodged in the drill.
“This is Simple John to Mother Boon.”
“Mother Boon here.”
“We’ve got a situation here, something’s jammed my drill. Requesting permission for a walk.”
“Sending live feed now, ETA 15 seconds.”
“Understood. Replacement drill inbound ETA 30 minutes.”
He took off his gloves before he swerved and kicked off towards the suitbox and slid in. There, he climbed into his suit and felt it close tightly around his back. No itching any scratches now he thought as the Barrel jettisoned Simple John off into space. He pulled the jetpack control out and soared off towards M-273144 x-z. After 15 seconds, he let the auto pilot land him safely on the rock. His shoes shot spikes down to keep him tethered- he was lucky he was on an asteroid big enough for that, sometimes you fly away a bit from the force of the tethering.
He did his best to walk toward the drone. The giant spider sat there, its claws clearly stuck on its catch of the day.
“Alright Kat,” he said, “Show me what you’ve caught baby girl.”
There was no doubt for John, this thing was clearly a metal support beam. He’d seen them in pictures of buildings from Earth- long metal beams that hold things. How could that have possibly gotten here?
He tried to dislodge it from the drill, but it was in there firm, not even ordering a reverse spin would let it out. He went around Kat and checked her maintenance compartment for welding gel. He pulled out the tubes and brought it over to the beam. He spread it out, watched it bubble away, and then- nothing.
“Well that’s odd. Mother Boon, you getting this?”
“Clear as day. We’ll have to do some chemical tests, not much can stand against that gel.”
“Hey wait a sec.” He crouched down on the ground.
There lay a slab corner covered in dust. When he wiped the dust away he found-
“As you can see, they appeared to be tripedal- whatever they were- and they made a distinction between the ones with this head shape and that head shape. I’m a Simple guy and don’t know much about these things but someone told me it’s like how we used to give different toilets for the guys and gals.
“Either way, we’ve found more since then- I suppose there was a planet there once. I can’t say much else that the Beltian Biologists will tell you later. I guess this is the sort of thing that makes a Simple man move out from simple things, but if you could- turn to the experts. I’ve got an elevator to ride to get back on drilling. Thanks.”
I know, I know this was supposed to be out yesterday. But how do you feel about it? Did it have what you expect from an ABKstory? Was it lacking something important? How do you think you’d react if we found evidence of an ancient civilization in our Asteroid belt? Let me know!
I’m still working on getting back into my normal posting routine. If all goes well you’ll have a podcast later today, a story tomorrow, a book review on Thursday, the last writer’s Cafe meeting on Friday, Misunderstood Writing Advice on Saturday, ABKpsych on Sunday, and my Soul by next Monday.
Love you all. Thanks for being awesome.
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