Photo by Joel Filipe on Unsplash

Wet Metal

a very short story

On a cold asteroid, coldly named RN-40, two miners stood beside each other, their mittened hands outstretched over a glowing heater. On the asteroid belt, heaters were a luxury. The duo huddled over the warmth and tried to keep a low profile. They weren’t keen on being ordered back to work, as the temperatures had been even colder than normal as of late.

“Ya know, I do hate it up here. Blast this place, man! Blast it to the furthest reaches of the galaxy!” One of them muttered. His name was Dreep, Dreep Sneen. Sneen was a popular last name for miners. Why, even Dreep’s comrade shared his last name

The second man, Breep Sneen, tapped his nose with his fore finger.

“Ya know wha’ they say my man, the nose get’s then it wits on a hits!”

Dreep Sneen smiled, his mouth forming a perfect circle.

“Ah, ya always know how ta’ cheer me up, Breep!”

Breep grinned and tapped his nose again. It was an old mining gesture, used to signify that one had just disclosed some great wisdom. Usually the joke was to just mutter some gibberish after nose-tapping, and Breep was no exception.

“It’s a dumb joke, it really is!” Breep said. They huddled in silence for a moment. Then Breep gestured to the mining rig below them. “What do you think of this, replacing everything with one of those new brains. A Falseman 3! I heard they even experimented with puttin’ ’em in humans a’while back.”

“That’s downright evil!” Dreep Sneen said. “Downright evil… They’re messin’ about with things they ought not be messin’ with!” He said, his teeth chattering despite the heating element.

“No, not evil. A scientific breakthrough!” Breep said, grinning. Before the two could say anything more, a large watch-like computer on Breep’s wrist gave a loud beep and the screen turned red.

“Move your arse!” Breep shouted, standing to his feet and dashing off. “The outrigged tie line is loose!” He shouted over his shoulder. Dreep was after him in a moment, the two of them surprisingly agile despite their many layers of clothing.

The tie line was used to lasso rogue mining vessels when they emerged from the asteroid. They had to accelerate beyond stopping speeds, and the tie line was just about the only solution for keeping the little ships from spinning out into space for eternity.

“Aye, I see!” Breep shouted as he climbed the ladder to the outrigging deck. “It’s caught just up here, must have been when it was reeling itself in!” Breep shouted.

It was louder here, where all the automated parts of the mining platform incessantly ticked away. Smoke spat out of the holes and ports in the deck. The air purifiers were always working overtime up here, but never seemed to be quite keeping up with the polluting gases.

Dreep stepped up onto the mining platform just in time to see Breep take a blow to the face. The line snapped as Breep tightened it to release the snag that had caused the alarm. Frayed bits of wire slashed Breep’s face as it whipped by him. He stumbled, screaming as blood began to flow from a dozen places.

“Breep!” Dreep screamed, sprinting as fast as his thick space suit would allow. “Breep, Breep, no!”

Breep lay next to the frayed line, his hands jerking back and forth. His nose was gone, or most of it anyway.

“Breep, stay with me Breep, it’s okay! They’ll send medical help, your watch will tell them, right? Remember when I snapped my leg? How they sent some medicinal treatments and a certified Doc out here? They’ll do the same, we just have to sit tight. They’ll be here any moment Breep, any moment!”

The skin around the lacerations began to pull back and fall away as Dreep watched, and Breep’s metal brain peered out from underneath.

“Sir, one of the Breeps, the Platform 28C Breep, has sustained a life-threatening injury. His systems nearly shut down.”

“Well, send out another Breep. Might as well replace the Dreep too, they always get finicky when you don’t replace the two of ’em. They keep dropping like this we’re gonna need another load of ’em before long.”

Dreep sat in disbelief as the body of Breep was carried off by two grumpy faced individuals.

“Woken up, out of our sleep, just ‘cause of an idiot Breep.” One of them grumbled.

“Don’t have to tell me twice.” Snapped the other, “I’m awake now too, blasted idiot,”

Dreep just sat, and stared off into the distance. The world around him, as awful as it had seemed moments ago, grew even worse. Dreep stared at his own hands, wrapped up tight in gloves. Slowly, he peeled one off and tossed it to the side, sending it over the railing and down in one of the mine shafts.

From his tool pouch strapped to his side, he plucked an ice pick. He held it above his hand, and prodded his palm until it hurt, but he poked it again, and again, until a hole formed in his palm.

Blood Dreep thought, I must have blood.

Dreep raised the pick and brought it down as hard as his strength would allow. The pick snapped before it could go through his hand. There, where the blood, bone, and sinew should have been, was the shine of wet metal.

His palms shook, and a clear, oily liquid dripped from his gashed hand. Dreep gaped in disbelief, staring as his arm as the men returned, shaking their heads in annoyance. Dreep stepped back.

“Sorry Dreep, it’s protocol.” One of them said.

“Yeah, it won’t hurt.” Dreep looked up at them and held his hand aloft, as if to strike the men.

“Hey, turn him off. Now!” The man tapped the back of Dreep’s neck and his hand fell to his side, his eyes closing. Dreep dropped to the ground a second later.

“By Jupiter, that was close.”

thank you for reading, if you made it to the end. every read and clap is very appreciated, thank you so much.

— mark

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