Chapter 1: Bold Plans
Ronan was unhappy. Correction; Ronan was absolutely bloody miserable. It had not been his week. Admittedly few weeks ever were, but this one in particular had a great metaphysical boot out aimed directly at his groin and was kicking like it was dancing the can can.
Ronan was unemployed, despite his best efforts to not lose his job. Again.
This wasn’t all too surprising, seeing as his best efforts consisted of begging his manager to give him another chance, swearing that he wouldn’t screw up yet another sales pitch, and, when those proved fruitless, culminated with him sobbing. That technically hadn’t been part of his efforts to retain his position, it just kind of happened.
The part that he’d found worst about the whole situation, other than the inadvertent outbreak of tears, was that he hadn’t even liked the job. In fact, he’d hated it. Yet there he’d been, kneeling on the ground whimpering, his manager standing beside him much like the parent of a child having a meltdown in a supermarket.
To make the whole experience even worse, as he was being escorted from the building his manager said something that was still circling around his mind three days on. He’d said,
‘My Gods Ronan, you are a such a wimp, even by elven standards.’
Now, being called a wimp, wuss, pussy, namby-pamby, milksop, and a whole thesauruses worth of insults of that ilk was no strange occurrence for Ronan, but to be a wimp by elven standards? The bar was set so low for what other elves would consider weak that you’d struggle to limbo under it even after being the victim of a freak accident involving a conveyor belt, three trouser presses and a novelty sized rolling pin.
Was it true? Well… yes, but after that moment Ronan decided that today was the day that all changed! He was going to stand up to his manager and tell him EXACTLY what he thought of him!
‘Yeah… I guess you’re right,’ was his meek toned reply.
Great Job Ronan. You really showed him.
After being escorted out with a box of his things, (including a potted plant that someone had assumed was his. It was not. Later, one of the software engineers at the company would be devastated to find that their prized dandelion was missing) Ronan started a glum trek home. Halfway there, the misery of his dismissal had gradually transitioned into an anger. How could they treat him like that? Letting him off with only five prior warnings about his performance! He’d worked tirelessly for them, or at least, he didn’t sleep at work too often, for a whole four and a quarter months!
He snatched the potted plant from the box and feebly launched it at the ground to highlight his anger.
Instead of being a vent for his frustration, all that he achieved was to feel guilty at having committed second degree herbicide. In a remorseful fashion he tried to relocate the plant to some nearby dirt, but upon finding the ground too compacted to scoop with his hands, he instead made a little mound of soil from the former container and placed the plant on top. It stood for a short while, then toppled over in a pathetic sort of way.
Lying amongst the mess of soil and smashed terracotta, the dandelion woefully lacked the ability to quote ‘Et tu, Brutus?’ in anything other than Plantese, and as we all know, Plantese is almost as impossible to understand as Welsh.
Ronan tightened his grip on the crumpled box and started striding home at a more abrupt pace.
If nothing else, at least his girlfriend would be able to comfort him once he got back.
Nalena looked up from her tablet at the sound of the door opening.
‘Oh… you’re back early,’ she remarked, noticing the box in his hands.
‘Well, you see,’ Ronan began,
‘You got fired didn’t you?’
He stood unassumingly, drumming his fingers on the box.
‘...uhm, er, no, actually I, er, I was actually commended today on… on how good a job I did,’
‘...Really.’ Nalena was stony faced. ‘What’s in the box?’
‘Office supplies and… such,’ That much was true, ‘I have them because… they said I could work from home today. Because I did a good job. A really good job. Yeah.’ He returned her look of contempt with a blank stare and pursed lips. Nalena sighed.
‘Look Ronan, we need to talk.’
‘I mean, couldn’t we… communicate using smoke signals and hand gestures instead? I’ve actually been studying them and I’m sure it would a be a great opportunity to get some experience--’
There were certainly some hand gestures she wanted to use right now. Ones involving the finger in the middle or a hand scrunched into a fist, Nalena thought as she took a deep breath.
‘This isn’t working Ronan. You know it and yet you can’t even be honest about it. No, instead you stand there and lie right to my face like I’m stupid enough to believe it,’
‘I’m not lying!’ He whined.
‘Is that so? In that case, how about I call your office and ask them about you? I’m sure they’d be delighted to tell me all about your great work today,’
‘Well, they’re, uh, they’re quite busy today so I don’t think they’d be able to… take your call…’ he trailed off.
‘Oh alright, alright, fine, I lost my job and, and I lied because I didn’t want you to think that I couldn’t keep a job and I shouldn’t have done that and I’m really sorry and... oh, my manager was right. I really AM that much of a wimp, aren’t I?’ Ronan admitted, slumping down onto the sofa, ‘A wimp even by elven standards,’
Nalena didn’t comment. There was no need, her thoughts on that statement were written clearly on her face.
‘But it’s just a job! I mean, I can get another! We can work this out!’
She started again, but softer now, ‘Ronan, this isn’t about the job. This is about us. I just don’t think we’re a good fit for one another,’
‘How can you say for sure?’
‘Name three things we have in common.’
‘Well… we…’ Ronan faultered under the stern gaze he was receiving, Firstly… we’re both elves… secondly, we, uh, we live in the same apartment,’
‘My apartment,’ She added,
‘and thirdly… thirdly…’ He didn’t finish his sentence. It wasn’t begun with an end in mind. Plus, the feeling that the layer of flesh just beneath all his skin had become a seething mass of worms didn’t help either.
‘It’s not just that. Where do you see the relationship going? Marriage? Kids? I can’t see either of those things happening. Not because I don’t want them, but because I can’t see them happening with you as… well, you are. Especially since, and it’s harsh to say, it feels like you don’t really love me,’
‘Can you look me in the eyes and say it? And honestly, I don’t want you to pretend just so you can try to bail water from an already sunken ship. Can you tell me you love me?’
Ronan sat silently in thought.
He stayed silent.
Then, after what seemed a great deal of time, he asked,
‘What about me? What do you feel about me?’
Nalena sighed again.
‘I like you Ronan. I really do, and I care about you as well. In terms of love however? What I feel for you is not the kind that a relationship works on. I love you like one might love a puppy. It can be cute, and give good company, and be fun to take to the park, but at the end of the day, it can’t give return the kind of complex and subtle emotions that a person can… and you’re a puppy that never grows up.’
The silence returned.
‘...so what now? I’ve never really gone through the whole breakup process before,’ spoke Ronan in muted tones.
‘Normally you’d get your things packed and find somewhere to stay,’ Nalena began. Ronan’s face looked remarkably akin to a reprimanded puppy’s.
‘But, since you’re so recently out of work, I guess you can stay here until the end of the week, to give you some time to get sorted. You can use the sofa to sleep on.’
‘Okay,’ came a defeated sounding reply.
So there he was, three days on, wandering the city streets with little purpose or direction, mulling over the same phrases in his head. He’d made no progress at finding a job or abode. In fact, he hadn’t even started, and was so miserable that he wasn’t even able to delude himself into thinking he’d get it all figured out within the next two days. He’d have to move back in with his parents, a fate which he struggled to think of worse alternatives to.
Since he clearly lacked the motivation to try and prevent what felt like inevitable return to the land of disappointed remarks, Ronan tried to not think about it instead.
He failed, unsurprisingly.
As a result, he decided to acquire some help in the effort, and wandered into the nearest bar. This was a novel experience for him. The only previous time he’d consumed alcohol was in early highschool, when he’d chugged a indeterminably aged can of larger that he’d found in the woods. This was one of many futile attempts to gain some form of popularity, but all that he achieved was to cover his favourite dungarees in vomit. Ronan had then vowed to never again drink alcohol ever since that day. You’d think he could’ve been a bit less extreme and only vowed to not consume beverages discovered under mud and suspiciously stained magazines but hey ho.
In any case, he was prepared to make an exception for today.
‘Bartender, I want the strongest drink you’ve got!’
The human barman eyed him dubiously, ‘…well, we’ve got absinthe, but-’
‘Great, I’ll take a pint of whatever that is,’
The barman looked him over again, before stating in a chary fashion,
‘Alright, that’ll be $79.99,’
‘...do you haven’t something a little cheaper?’ Ronan asked, to no great surprise.
‘Certainly, I’ll set you up with something a bit more suitable,’ the barman evaluated the weedy looking elf once more, before filling a pint glass from one of the many taps and placed it on the bar, ‘That’ll be $4.99.’
Ronan still felt that was overly pricey, he could buy a lot of apple juice for that much, but he forked the amount over anyways.
Bubbles rose up through the light golden liquid. He found the concept of asking what he’d just purchased somewhat embarrassing, so he decided to just take a sip and hope for the best.
‘Whew, that, uh, that IS strong. How much alcohol has this got in?’
‘It’s 3.8%,’ the barman replied reservedly.
‘That’s a lot, isn’t it?’
‘...in this context, yes, I suppose,’ came the response after a short pause. ‘Say, you don’t seem the kind that visits a bar all that often, what brings you here today?’
‘Um,’ Ronan began, looking around. The place was sparsely populated with the occasional lone drinker or small group, the races comprising a mix of humans and dwarfs. There were no elves to be seen beyond himself.
‘Well, I, I lost my job recently because I wasn’t very good at it, and, uh, and my girlfriend just left me because I’m a wimp,’ Ronan started to lose his composure. The barman started to regret having asked, ‘and I wanted to say I wasn’t a wimp but I am a wimp, and my manager called me a wimp, but not just any wimp, he called me a wimp by elven standards, and it hurt a lot but he’s right and and I have to find somewhere to live by the end of the week but I haven’t started looking and I’ve only got a few days left before my girlfriend kicks me out because she let me stay a while because she felt sorry for me for being such a wimp and she’s right and--’ he gradually descended into teary mumbling.
Some of the other patrons looked over to the commotion and chuckled to themselves, others just watched the spectacle. The barman stood awkwardly by, not fully sure on how to approach the situation.
Before long, the tears subsided into sniffling, a tissue offered by the barman being gratefully accepted.
‘But I don’t want to be a wimp! I want to show everyone that I’m capable of being strong and brave and confident and fierce and whatever else not being wimpy consists of, but, but I don’t know how to do that,’ Ronan whimpered, taking another tentative sip of his drink, his facial expression betraying the fact that he wasn’t overly fond of the taste.
‘That’s quite the pickle you’re in…’ The barman leaned against the counter, pondering an errant thought.
‘Y’know, it’s a funny thing. I’ve met quite a few folk in a situation similar to yours, though none of ‘em are quite of your ilk. Now, I can point a dwarf toward somewhere that would be a perfect fit for a fella lookin’ to prove himself, but I don’t really know of any equivalent for elves. We don’t get many comin’ in usually.’
Ronan looked up, wiping his nose with his sleeve, ‘A perfect fit for a dwarf? Why wouldn’t it work for me?’
‘Well, y’see, that would be due to the small though notably hard to change matter that, and I hope this doesn’t come as a great shock to you, you’re not a dwarf.’
‘Why should be such an issue though?! What makes a dwarf so special that only THEY can get your magical advice of problem solving?’ The lone elf exclaimed with a distinct air of indignance, ‘Unless it’s being more likely to win a “thickest skull” or “smelliest belch” competition, I don’t see what it could be!’ His actions once again drew looks, this time of a far less amused variety. An additional glare from the barman prompted a hushed apology. The bartender continued,
‘If you’d so let me finish, the answer as to why I recommend it to dwarfs, keeping in mind that I only recommend it to the tougher looking ones that sound like they haven’t anywhere else to go, I refer them to a Dwarven outer-planetary mining company that just so happens to nearly always have positions. They’re known for two things, their highly dangerous working conditions, and their willingness to hire damn near anyone. Those two facts likely go hand in hand if you ask me.’
The weedy elf evaluated the new information, before continuing on undeterred, ‘I still don’t see why it wouldn’t have been suitable for me.’
The bartender took a few seconds to comprehend what Ronan had just said.
‘Okay, I’m going to repeat that again slower, and I want you to think about what the words mean before you answer, okay? As I said, it’s a Dwarven,’
‘I’m still following,’
‘Yes, I heard you say it the first time.
‘And to reiterate; Highly dangerous,’
‘That doesn’t answer my question though. If a dwarf can do it, why can’t I?’
The barman sighed. ‘…that is a very good question.’
He drummed his fingers on the bar, considering his response
‘...Tell you what, if you’re THAT eager to go and try your luck with them, then that’s your call to make. I say it’d likely be a waste of time, since I VERY highly doubt that you could get a place in the company, even with the amount of employees they churn through, but you’re welcome to try.’
‘They have a high turn-over rate?’
‘That’s… one way to say it, yes,’
‘Well by the sounds of it they’ll be looking for people to replace the ones who quit, and I’ve got a good bit of experience on my CV, so I think I’ve got a good chance!’
‘They are certainly on constant lookout for new blood, as a general rule any dwarf with a pulse applying is pretty much guaranteed a spot, however, I’ll state it once again, you’re an elf. As I recall, they’ve never been overly fond of elves.’
Seemingly oblivious to the many discouraging hints, Ronan retorted with a newly growing sense of confidence, ‘They can’t ONLY hire dwarves though, anti-discrimination laws are a thing you know, AND,’ he continued, feeling his wrist, ‘I have a pulse too! So you know what? I going to go find this company, I’m going to get a job there, and I’m going to prove to all of you that Ronan Falarkke is no wimp, and as a matter of fact? I’m going to do it now!’ and with that, he triumphantly strode out the door, leaving his almost full glass of Markeson’s Lightest (3.8%) behind. A few seconds later, he slowly shuffled back in and asked, ‘Uh, what was the name of the company you were talking about?’
‘The company’s called Deep Rock Galactic.’
‘Right! Now I’m off! To prove myself and all that stuff I said before and such!’ Ronan exited once more.
Shaking his head, the barman wiped the counter clean of dried teardrops and thought to himself about how that elf wouldn’t last 5 minutes at DRG, but since Deep Rock Galactic would sooner donate any amount of its profits to charity than hire an elf, there wasn’t much worry regarding his longevity. And, if by some miracle the elf did get accepted, him getting torn apart by the other dwarves or whatever was chewing through so many DRG employees would be no weight upon his conscious.
Outside, Ronan realised he’d left in such a confident haste that he’d neglected to ask for directions, and he wasn’t going to embarrass himself by re-entering a third time, after all, he was a new elf! Besides, he had the name of the company, and that was all he needed. Dwarves probably didn’t ask for directions, and he was going to prove that he was even better than them! Or at least on par with them. Maybe slightly worse than them if the circumstances demanded it. But only slightly!
He pulled out his phone. ‘Bucksly, plan a route to Deep Rock Galactic!’
‘...I’m sorry, I couldn’t find “Beep Sock Lactate” on the map,’ voiced the phone, in an accent that was trying far too hard to sound posh.
‘No! Deep. Rock. Galactic.’ Ronan repeated with as clear enunciation as he could muster. It was times like this he regretted cheaping out on his phone choice.
‘Understood, planning route to Deep Cock Chiropractic.’ With a groan, Ronan resorted to typing the name in manually like some kind of troglodyte, whilst also wondering how much back pain he’d have to be in to warrant him willing to discover the origin of that name. He reckoned it would be a great deal.
After a short period of walking and some luck regarding his phone’s temperamental mapping system, Ronan found himself standing outside the Office building for DRG. Unlike many of the surrounding companies buildings, it looked very plain. The only real indication that it was the correct one was a small sign above the door reading “Deep Rock Galactic: Together, we forge a better tomorrow!”. Another notable feature was that door did not seem overly tall.
Ducking a little as he entered, Ronan discovered that he wasn’t the sole elf in the building. Stood before the front desk was another; taller, blonder, ranting-at-the-receptionist-er. He could only make out the odd word in the flurry of indignant verses, words like ‘unethical’, ‘environment’, and ‘decaffeinated’ for some indeterminable reason.
The dwarven receptionist toted something out of Ronan’s earshot once the elven tirade had paused. Whatever it was, it caused the elf to throw up their arms and storm out the building, taking no notice of Ronan, or the fact that the entrance was shorter than most.
In the now quiet room, Ronan strolled up to the front desk. The dwarf sitting there looked up, and upon noticing Ronan’s general elfy composition, gave a small but clear sigh.
‘Hi-’ Ronan began, before quickly being cut off,
‘For all those wishing to issue a complaint to The Deep Rock Galactic Corporation about one or more various issues regarding topics such as: How the company is run, bereavement pay, pay in general, our ethics policy, whether or not we have an ethics policy, questions relating as to why we do not have an ethics policy, the quality and/or type of coffee we purchase for our workforce, or other vague and unimportant issues, please fill out the blank sections in an official DRG Complaint form, located on the service desk to the right,’ the dwarf listed out in a dull, near robotic voice,
‘Uh, well actually I’m here to-’
The dwarf continued on undeterred, ‘once completed, please deposit the form into a certified DRG compliant complaint box that is nearest or, preferably, furthest away from you. The Deep Rock Galactic Corporation wishes to assure you that the grinding sound you hear once your form has been deposited is not your form being summarily shredded, but is in fact it being processed and sent directly to the local complaint management team via a series of tubes and pulleys.
There, the local complaint management team, which will posses at least one member of staff in 73% of cases, will review your complaint for a minimum time of 7 seconds, before hand feeding it into a paper shredder,’
‘Okay that’s good to know but I’m not here to-’
‘But The Deep Rock Galactic Corporation is very well aware of how much elves and the elf-like genre including persons such as yourself care about the environment, so you will be pleased to hear that each shredded complaint form will be recycled and used to create mid-grade 2-ply toilet paper for use at our various facilities.
The Deep Rock Galactic Corporation also makes note of the point that by sending the form through this process, it is using considerably more time, energy and resources than simply having purchased a package of mid-grade 2-ply toilet paper and donating it at a DRG toilet paper donation checkpoint. The Deep Rock Galactic Corporation urges you to consider whether or not the consequent effect on whatever particular environment you deign to care about is worth it in order for you to have submitted a complaint.
If you feel that your complaint is worth the effect, that being a contribution to the steady decline of said environment(s), the Deep Rock Galactic Corporation respects your decision. The Deep Rock Galactic Corporation is not legally able to verify if doing so makes you an objectively bad person, despite wishing it could.
If you have any further queries, good for you.’
There was a long pause.
‘...Are you finished?’ Asked Ronan,
‘Would you like me to be?’ The dwarf replied in a saccharine fashion,
‘Yes, very much so.’
‘That’s a shame; The Deep Rock Galactic Corporation’s policies regarding environmental management can be grouped into three separate classifications-’
Ronan had become acutely aware of the reasoning behind the previous elf’s reaction. He slammed his hands on the desk,
‘NO! I’m not here to complain, okay?’ The sudden aggression was very uncharacteristic of him, however, the prospect of facing a potentially indefinite amount of superfluous corporate discursivity is enough spark a change in almost anyone.
(Note: I know it looks like I just rubbed a dictionary against a cheese grater in order to create the previous sentence, but there was a word for what I was trying to say and I can’t for the life of me remember it, so now you can suffer as I have.)
The meaning of what Ronan had just said gave the dwarf much greater pause than the slammed hands did.
‘...Wait, did you say you’re NOT here to complain?’
The dwarf sat in thought, before asking, ‘Then what ARE you here for?’
‘I want to apply for a job!’ Ronan replied, a tad smugly.
The dwarf paused once again.
‘Okay, so let me get this straight; you’re an elf,’
‘You’re NOT here to complain,’
‘In fact, you want to apply for a job here,’
‘...You do know what company it is you’re applying for a position in?’
‘Yes, Deep Rock Galactic,’
‘...and do you know what Deep Rock Galactic is?’
‘It’s a Dwarven Outer-planetary Mining Company.’
The receptionist seemed completely unsure of how to proceed. After a great deal of contemplation, they reached out and pressed a button on a panel in front of them.
‘Mrs Gavery, I’ve got a bit of a conundrum down at reception,’
‘Hold on, hold on, let me just do this… ah, I’ve buggered it. I don’t know why I keep trying to do crosswords. Anyways, what seems to be the problem?’ Came the reply from a speaker.
‘There’s an elf here,’
‘Oh, another one? Have you given them the spiel?’
‘Yeah, I’ve gone through all that, but they say they’re not here to complain,’
‘Really? …Then what are they here for?’
‘That’s what I was wondering. Apparently they want to apply for a job.’
‘...A job? This is an elf we’re talking about, yes?’
‘Yes, I checked before. Would you like me to check again?’
‘Why is it such a big deal that I’m an elf? Why is that so unbelievable?’ Ronan interjected.
‘Oh, I’m not in much doubt that you’re an elf, it’s more that you’re trying to apply for a job here,’ the receptionist replied
‘Is it apparent whether or not they’re insane?’ the voice from the speaker asked.
‘Eh, no more than your typical elf from the looks of it,’
‘I’m not insane and I’m not-’ Ronan recalled the few sips of alcohol he’d had, ‘probably not drunk!’ He cried indignantly, ‘Besides, why would being drunk be a barrier for applying? This is a dwarven company isn’t it?’
‘...They’ve got a point there,’ Mrs Gavery conceded.
‘Look, I’m sorry but we’re not currently looking for new employees at the moment,’ the receptionist began, before being hushed by the authorative tone from the speaker
‘Hang on for a second there Terry, I think I might be able to make this work’
The voice belonging to Mrs Gavery paused, before addressing Ronan directly.
‘So, you really want a job at DRG, do you?’ She asked.
‘...yeah? I mean, Yes si-… Ma’am!’ he quickly corrected. Dwarven gender was notoriously difficult to discern.
‘Well, there’s nothing specifically stating that we CAN’T have an elf join the workforce,’
‘And rightfully so, because that would be illegal!’
‘I’m quite aware of what’s legal and illegal elf,’ Came a swift and stern response, ‘and what may be illegal here might not be in, oh, let’s say, a distant newly discovered planetary system for example.
I’m sure you’re raring to learn that for yourself however, and seeing your bizarre determination to apply here, I suppose you can have a job. Your performance will be …interesting to witness if nothing else. I’ll just check what positions are available… oh, would you look at that, there’s an open position on Space Rig 17, in orbit at Hoxxes IV. Lucky you. Just scan your I.D. card at the front desk and that’ll confirm everything.’
‘Wait, that’s it? There’s no interview or anything?’
‘For all intents and purposes, you asking for a job WAS the interview. Clearly you’re not used to Deep Rock’s efficient hiring scheme. Here, I’ll make it a more familiar experience for you and give you an interview right now; can you swing a pickaxe?’
‘Uh, I mean I haven’t before but I think I probably could-’
‘Great, interview finished, you’re hired. Happy now? Don’t answer that, I don’t particularly care. Now, scan your card or bugger off, I’m a busy dwarf.’ The speaker then switched off with a click.
Ronan scanned his card.
‘So, uh, what position am I in? Like, what will I be doing?’ he asked the receptionist.
‘Mining. What did you think this was, a bakery?’
‘No, but there’s quite a lot of different bits to mining-’
‘Your job is to hit rocks with a pick and collect the valuable ones.You’ll be given a specific role and training once you reach the Space rig, but that role’s purpose is to allow you to better perform the task of hitting rocks with a pick and collecting the valuable ones. Got it?’ The receptionist entered something into their computer and a paper ticket printed out. They tore it off and handed it over,
‘This is for your transport. You’re already on the system, so it’s more of a receipt than anything. The next shuttle stopping off at Space Rig 17 leaves in two hours. If you’re not in it by the time it launches, don’t bother waiting for the next one as you’ll have lost your place at DRG. Hopefully those hours will be enough for you to come to your senses about your decision. If not, then best of luck to you,’ the receptionist finished grimly.
‘Two hours? Crap, I better hurry,’ Ronan said, grabbing the ticket and seemingly not hearing the part about his senses. ‘Thanks and what not,’ He rushed for the door, and, much like his predecessor, neglected to account for the door’s particular height.
Trying to conceal his pained whimpering, he carried on.
‘You better get used to that!’ The receptionist yelled after him.
Once he’d gone, the receptionist asked Mrs Gavery ‘Say, why’d you give them a position? If by some slim chance they don’t chicken out of it, they wouldn’t last twelve seconds on any of the rigs, nevermind 17. It just looks to be a waste of space on the shuttle,’
‘Yes, yes, I was well aware of that. There’s two main reasons for my decision; one, despite clearly not knowing much about employment laws and practices, if that elf really desired to they could still make a good amount of fuss about being denied a job, and whilst it wouldn’t be anything we can’t handle, it’s far easier to just give them what they want. There’s little chance of them causing too much bother up on the space rig, because as you mentioned, they wouldn’t have a particularly high life expectancy.
This is also part of the second reason; morale on 17 has been rather low as of recent. I reckon this should serve as a good boost. We’ve always told our employees that they’re better than elves. It’s about time we gave them a first hand example as to why.’
Chapter 2: Line Long Crossed
Oh, it was exciting! It was daring! To be doing something so spontaneous and reckless, why, it was nigh unthinkable for him, but here he was doing it! This really was the first step towards proving himself to be more than just a weak whimpering elf!
Ronan’s mind was awash with a barrage of uncommon sensations as he hurried back to Nalena’s apartment to pack his things. The apprehensive, cautionary voice that always sought about making itself known through every stage in Ronan’s life was shrieking shrilly about how stupid he was being, that he was going to get himself killed. There was a good chance of it being right, but for once, he ignored it.
It had always been a thorn in his side, he started to think. Always berating him whenever he’d stepped beyond his comfort zone, always snarkily asserting itself whenever doing so ended poorly. Sure, it might of saved him from some trouble here and there, but where had it really got him in the end? He had no job. He had no relationship. He had no abode. All he’d gotten from adhering to his sense of caution was a boatload of misery. No, he wasn’t going to listen to it any longer, or ever again for that matter!
Throwing all kind of caution to the wind was also a pretty stupid thing to do, but since reminding himself of that fell under the jurisdiction of his prudence as well, such a statement was also promptly ignored.
His prudence, which will now be referred to as Prudy for no particular reason, thus resorted to merely brooding in the back corners of his mind next to his weirder sexual fantasies and that memory of the time he got his head stuck in between the school yard railings, where his classmates all made bets to see how long he be there until a teacher noticed. It took a while for the teachers to notice.
Prudy was cheered up by the knowledge of just how sweet it would be to snidely quip “I told you so!” when Ronan inevitably ended up being engulfed by flames or something.
Once home, he saw to stuffing various items into a suitcase. Specifically Nalena’s. Ronan didn’t do enough activity in other countries, or outdoors at all really, to justify owning one. She’d probably understand though, and if not, he’d be on his way to a new life, where the consequences of his petty larceny were unlikely to reach him.
What would he need? He pondered, running through a list of items in his head and tossing them in as he thought of the next; a variety of clothes, not to forget some outfits for more formal events, oh, and some for general out and about activities, maybe some swimwear just in case, hygiene products, toothbrush, backup toothbrush, backup-backup toothbrush, off-brand Whiter Teeth toothpaste, deodorant, the second nicest bottle of aftershave with the fancy bottle, the cool rock he found when he was 7…
The list went on.
Finally, after cramming every single item he conceived he could possibly need for a lovely holiday at the beach, he remembered that he should have in fact been packing for life on a Space rig. As he went to remove some of the more superfluous items, he noticed the time.
He had 45 minutes to get to the spaceport. The spaceport that was roughly 40 minutes away
‘SHIT SHIT SHIT SHIT SHIT,’ he cried as he hailed a cab from an app on his phone.
After a 3 minute eternity, a sleek driverless vehicle rolled up. Ronan launched the luggage in like a shot putt and clambered in hastily.
‘Tesarre Spaceport, on the double!’ He then realised his mistake; there was desperation in his voice.
Autonomous cabs were created and pioneered by much the same people as those who design cheap printers, in that both types of machine can sense fear. Under no circumstances should you let either know you’re in a rush.
‘Would you like to upgrade to a Freedom™ Express™™ ride for only 30% more? Or, become a premium member on our app and experience speeds of up to 110 KPH** at no extra charge*****!’ Spoke the console.
‘Gah, fine, upgrade the bloody ride,’ Ronan grumbled, knowing that it usually was only 15% more.
‘I’m sorry, did I say 30%? I meant 40%. Apologies for any inconvenience,’
‘What? No! You said 30!’
‘Command not registered. Please speak clearly into the console.’
‘TAKE ME TO THE FUCKING SPACEPORT,’
‘There’s no need for such aggression, you could have just said please,’
‘That’s better.’ The cab finally began to pull away.
Ronan never understood why they made robots like that.
After arriving at the spaceport 39 minutes later and having begrudgingly paid the extortionate “Turbo” fee, Ronan thundered into the spaceport at an impressive pace, his suitcase scraping and bouncing along behind him. He located the gate for his shuttle and made a rapid, if ungraceful journey through it.
He was making good time, still having 5 minutes before the shuttle departed.
All he needed was a smooth transit through security.
Ha, good luck with that.
Ronan scanned his card at the checkpoint. Then his left pinky. Then his right index finger. Then the machine that makes the weird bubbling sound and then beeps a lot made a weird bubbling sound and beeped. A lot. He went through the uncomfortable brushy door with all its overly molesty swabbing actions. Finally, he got the stamp on the back of his hand. After a quick internal debate, he decided to go with the green pirate ship stamp over the blue smiley face.
There were no holdups whatsoever. There wasn’t even a queue.
No nail-biting suspense from being held up in security as the shuttles draws ever closer to departure?
He just goes through it without a hitch?
After he’d made his way to his seat, in economy class to no large surprise, he sank down into the cheap cushioning and let out a sigh of relief. Despite a underlying feeling of nervousness, accompanied of course by the muffled inner screaming of Prudy, he felt excited. He was finally taking his life into his own hands, forging his own path, seeking fame and fortune in his new career in… what was it again? Oh, mining, right.
Ronan had never had much interest in geology, but, he reasoned, there was a first time for everything. Besides, how hard could hitting rocks be?
After the boarding time had finished and the shuttle prepared for take off, Ronan glanced over the other passengers. Economy class was only about half full, and there seemed a larger than normal proportion of dwarves dotted about, including a scruffy looking one sitting next to him. He wondered how many were also destined for Deep Rock.
‘So where are you headed?’ He queried the dwarf beside him.
‘Me? I got myself a mining job at DRG, that is, Deep Rock Galactic, since I doubt you’ll have heard of ‘em,’ the dwarf grunted in reply, ‘you?’
‘Actually, I have heard of them. In fact, I’ve got a job there too!’
The dwarf stared at him, before breaking out into a raucous laugh.
‘Hahehehoh, oh, that’s a good one, and here I thought you lot didn’t have a sense of humour, ehheh,’ they wiped a tear from their eye, ‘so, where you REALLY going?’
‘It’s true, I’ve got a job there. Look, here’s the confirmation they gave me;’ he showed the confirmation slip he’d received to the dwarf, but all it resulted in was more laughter.
‘Hehhehaheheh, you sure have got some dedication to this bit. That really looks like the real thing! Alright alright, now tell me where you really are headed, and don’t say Deep Rock ‘cause I know it ain’t there,’
Ronan grimaced, ‘but I AM headed there, this IS the real thing!’
The conversation, which quickly devolved into an argument, continued back and forth, with the dwarf growing more and more frustrated each time Ronan repeated himself. Finally relenting, Ronan decided to just make up a destination that sounded stereotypically elvish, hoping to put an end to the fruitless quarrel.
‘Fine! I’m heading to, like, Verneda’heth’kala to see the forests of… Durthicalai or some shit,’ he sighed.
‘You coulda just said that in the first place. Great Unkarr, you lot really don’t know when a joke stops bein’ funny.’
Ronan was about to speak out against the “You lot”, but decided that it wouldn’t be worth the hassle.
‘Whatever you say.’
It was going to be a long flight.
It had been a long time since he’d been on an interplanetary trip. Notably, long enough for him to forget that the turbulence of being swung in an orbital tether was prone to making him violently sick.
Some of the passengers gave cheered as the shuttle accelerated, the experience being rather like that of a rollercoaster. Ronan’s taste for funfair thrills capped off at the teacups, so he was resigned to clenching the armrests in a desperate bid to not throw up.
A desperate, overruled bid.
Now above the planet and having utilised his complimentary economy vomit bag, he sucked in deep breaths of air in an attempt to clear at least a small amount of nausea from his addled mind.
‘Oi, leave some air for the rest of us will ya? I don’t want to be breathing recycled elf breath for the whole flight!’ The dwarf beside him grumbled. Ronan merely groaned in response.
At least there was about an hours worth of travel before the shuttle was due to warp, which gave the indisposed elf some time to recover.
Unfortunately for him, he had forgotten another aspect of interstellar flight. Warping, or more notably, the fatigue that followed.
Warp fatigue was prone to make him violently sick.
The second bout of vomiting wouldn’t have been that bad, provided Ronan hadn’t decided to purchase a selection of muffins and coffee from the refreshments trolley in an attempt to rid his mouth of the lingering taste of bile. He may have overdone it with the muffins. Thankfully, his formerly argumentative travel buddy hadn’t needed his sick bag. Ronan hadn’t asked before he reached over and grabbed it, which almost led the dwarf comment about how the elf should keep their hands off things that weren’t theirs, but they decided against it when they thought about what the likely consequence was.
Once the shuttle docked at the Interwarp Terminal, Ronan stumbled out into the station, still feeling quite ill. In fact, if it weren’t for the copious nausea he felt, he’d likely have thought to himself ‘Wait, what the hell am I doing? I’ve signed up for a mining job on another planet I’ve never heard of at a entirely dwarven company I didn’t know existed until a few hours ago with nothing but a single suitcase of luggage? This is really stupid thing to do!’ before immediately boarding the next flight back home to go and cry in the nearest shower he could get to.
Unfortunately for Ronan, he did not do that. Instead, he trawled the small shuttle terminal until he found the next ship he was to be on, then stood in line to board.
He felt a tap on his shoulder. Well, as near to his shoulder as someone half his height could reach.
‘Uh, mate? I think you’ve got the wrong flight,’ the dwarf behind him remarked.
‘Really? What gives you that impression?’ a befuddled Ronan replied. It was hard to tell if he was intentionally ignoring the fact that he was the only non-dwarf in the queue. Ronan wasn’t sure himself.
‘...Just a guess…’ the dwarf behind muttered.
‘Oi, is that elf still doing that stupid “I signed up for DRG!” bit?!’ A familiar voice further back shouted. This drew Ronan some querying looks, none of which went acknowledged by him as he shuffled forward with the line.
‘What do you mean? I was under the impression that this is the flight to the PLANT convention,’ Ronan dryly stated.
‘Look mate, if you’re not on the flight, you’re just holding up everyone behind. You’ve done your joke, you’ve had your fun, now skidaddle on to where you’re actually supposed to be,’
Piqued the dwarf behind.
Having arrived at the ticket check barrier, Ronan slowly turned and stared at the commenter.
‘But if this ISN’T the flight to the plant convention, then why does my ticket card work?’ Not breaking eye contact with the dwarf, he leisurely raised his card to the scanner. The scanner sounded an approving ding and the barrier lowered.
‘Oh, would you look at that…’ he uttered, still staring at the now visibly uncomfortable dwarf. Ronan promptly turned back and proceeding on through the gate, leaving many of the others in line to hesitantly check their tickets to the flight, feeling mild worry that they were mistakenly boarding an express trip to “Botanic Panic ‘43!”.
In and most likely due to his sickly stupor, Ronan had managed to achieve something truly elusive to his entire personality; smoothness.
Regrettably, though not all that surprising, he lacked any awareness regarding this legendary feat of his.
Once all passengers had boarded, the shuttle launched away from the spaceport. Ronan felt an eerie similarity from the various laughing, joking voices, hushed whispers aimed at his direction, frequent querying glances at him from the other passengers, the empty seats around his own despite the shuttle’s packed capacity and the distinct feeling of being very out of place. It all troublingly echoed his experiences on the bus to school field trips.
If nothing else, at least he’d started to feel a little less queasy.
‘Shuttle warping in 15 seconds. All passengers please fasten your seatbelts.’
So much for that.
It was around this time that a great metaphorical shoe began to drop from high up in orbit. Slowly, but accelerating, it began a plummet towards the surface far below.
‘The shuttle has now docked. All new employees please proceed to Bay 3 for initialisation and further instruction. Welcome to Deep Rock Galactic Miners; Rock and Stone.’
The unorganised congregation collectively exited the spacecraft and began to shuffle towards the directed location. Ronan followed suite and tried not to look too conspicuous. This proved rather hard, considering he was a good foot and a half taller than the next tallest individual in the group.
Various workers were dotted around the arrival bay, some working on rugged looking machinery, other typing away at consoles, some just mulling about in an attempt to look busy. Any who caught sight of the new arrivals turned to stare, elbowing their neighbours and pointing at a certain newcomer. Ronan followed their line of sight and looked at the wall beside him, inwardly hoping that it suddenly became very interesting and thus was the reason for all the suspicious looks.
Up ahead was a small checkpoint with an authoritative looking dwarf standing next to some sort of scanner. Ronan wondered if there hadn’t been enough scanners already.
Each new arrival scanned their card, was handed a what appeared to be a key fob and directed to a hallway at the end of the bay.
Slowly, the line was filtered through until it got to him. The dwarf supervising the checkpoint didn’t look up from his terminal screen as Ronan approached.
‘Scan your card, it’ll assign you a room in the rig, then head down the hallway on your right for role allocatio-… huh?’
Ronan’s scanning of his card must have caused some unexpected information to appear on his screen as the dwarf finally looked up and noticed him. Several times the dwarf looked as if he was going to say something, only to glance back at the terminal and pause.
‘I have a position here?…’ Ronan spoke up in what he hoped was a helpful tone.
‘Yeah, it says that here, I know, but that… doesn’t make sense… are you here to, like, visit or something?’
‘No, I’m here to work. I’m an employee.’
The dwarf glanced between him and the screen a few more times.
‘Maybe I should get a supervisor… No wait, I am the supervisor, shit.’ The supervisor muttered, drumming the thick fingers on the console. ‘...Screw it, this can be Allocation’s problem. Right, head on down that hallway. They should sort you out.’
Ronan shifted from one foot to the other, ‘Uh, shouldn’t I get a key as well?’
The dwarf raised and dropped his hands in a flustered gesture before begrudgingly handing over a fob. ‘Right, next!’
Gripping his key tightly, Ronan wandered down the aforementioned hallway. He got the impression that such a scenario was going to be annoyingly common.
He was greeted with a similar reaction from the role allocator. After a period of deliberation with the computer, including a discomforting amount of scrutiny towards the rather unflattering employee portrait of Ronan, the allocator conceded that it might not be a technical error and stated that it was someone further up the chains problem. The prospect of repeating this confrontation many times again did not overly excite the queasy, jet-lagged, increasingly frustrated elf.
‘Why does it have to be someone else's problem? The previous guy said it was your problem, why can’t it be, oh, I don’t know, no ones problem? How many times am I gonna have to say, yes, I am an elf, yes, I have a job here?’
‘I dunno. Consider not being an elf next time. Anyways, if by some miracle this isn’t merely a massive screw-up by management, I guess you’ll need a role. At least that’s easy to figure out. You’ll be good for a scout. Well, feasible for a scout. Probably.’
‘Don’t I get to choose? Everyone ahead of me got to choose.’
‘Normally? Yes, but your choices are somewhat limited on account of you, y’know,’
‘Let me guess, being an elf?’
‘Why does that mean I only get to be a scout?’
The dwarf pondered a response. ‘Hold on, I’ll give you a practical demonstration,’ Rooting about the various benches and worksurfaces behind them, the role allocator lifted a large drill like machine onto the counter that separated them from the allocate-e.
‘Try lifting that,’
Ronan did so, slipping his arm into its brace before giving a mighty heave. The contraption rocked slightly, but stayed firmly where it lay.
‘Yep, as I predicted. You feel much for lugging TWO of these around? You don’t need to respond, I can derive the answer from your hideously contorted face. ‘Course, your lack of any and all upper body strength also excludes you from operating heavy weaponry, and somehow I doubt you’ve got yourself any experience in engineering. So, what’ll it be? Scout? Or Scout?’
‘...Scout.’ mumbled Ronan in reply.
‘Great choice. Head down that way and follow the signs until your reach your room block. Your room is the same one as the number on your key, if you couldn’t figure that out. You’ll be called up when it’s time for your training.’
The shoe fell faster and faster, the heat of re-entry causing it to glow red hot. But the shoe did not disintegrate. This was no ordinary shoe. This was… a heat resistant shoe. Maybe it was made of tungsten? I don’t know. This is a pretty shit metaphor. Regardless of metaphor quality, however, the shoe continued to fall, and the ground was rapidly approaching.
After one incidence of being lost and more than one incidence of smacking his head off a low space rig extremity, Ronan finally located his room. Ducking to enter, he found his suitcase had been unceremoniously dumped in the centre.
The room seemed cramped even for a dwarf. It was just short enough that he had to crane his neck slightly when he stood upright. There was a small casket like bed capsule that was about half the length he was, two dull metal drawers in one wall, a ‘DRG INFORMATION SCREEN’ afixed in the other, a blocky computer terminal, a wardrobe that looked like it would be hard pressed to fit more than a single set of evening wear, and a single light overhead, flickering occasionally.
Ronan slumped into the rooms single seat and let out a long sigh.
The shoe landed. Not with a bang. Not even with a whimper. But with a soft yet very distinct sound like that of something delicate and expensive being crushed. A sound that fills you with dread before you can even assess the damage.
Voice cracking and directed at no one in particular, Ronan cried out,
‘What the hell have I done?!!’
Management had not been pleased. Management had not been pleased at all. Of course, displeasure from the higher-ups was certainly nothing new, but this was extreme, even for them. Inundated with seemingly ridiculous reports of an elf being hired, they had finally gotten around to investigating the matter, expecting it to be some moronic rumour from their bored, under-performing workforce. It had not been. As such, whoever had authorized this unwelcome intrusion was about to get the corporate reaming of a lifetime, and then some.
The “whoever“ in question, Mrs Gavery, was both expecting and well prepared for this. She wasn’t troubled, because as much as management hated anyone who dared to try even the smallest amount of innovation, their love of short term profits outweighed even that.
They were skeptical. After all, how would a single elf cause more profit? Not through physical labour is for sure. But as Mrs Gavery explained, they began to see that there was many a way, and the idea began to grow on them.
No true blooded dwarf would listen to the weedy complaints of an elf. There was no doubt that likely observations from this elf, before which may have been cause for muttered grumblings against the company, would now instead spark pride she reasoned.
The lack of safety equipment? Only a cowardly elf would need such silly things as protective suits!
No workers compensation? Only a shifty elf would want payment for being bad at their job!
No rescue missions for missing employees? Only a wimpy elf would need others to get them home!
The list would go on. Not only that, once the elf had resigned within the week, either from the job or their mortal coil, it would be proof of just what strong stuff DRG employees are made of!
The best part? It had cost nothing more than a seat on a shuttle. There hadn’t even been need for coercion.
Nearly every outcome was positive, and the probability of those that were not was so insignificant there was no point in considering them.
Management agreed. They were pleased. Space Rig 17 was going to have a very special announcement.
It’s okay, it’s okay, he reasoned mentally, I’ll just find the nearest secretary lookalike and explain that has all been one big mixup, and no doubt they’ll put me straight on a flight… home…
But an uncomfortable question struck him; what WAS home? His parents house? He shuddered at the thought. Compared to that, the dingy, cramped room was a cosy little cottage out in the countryside with a roaring fake wood fire and two and a half chickens in the yard.
And what of the job that came with the accommodation? Ronan couldn’t say he’d ever had any experience within the field of rock hitting, but surely it can’t be that complicated, right? Besides, he was going to get training in… whatever it was that a Scout did, and to his knowledge, at no monetary cost.
In fact, he’d told Nalena that he would have a job and somewhere to stay by the end of the week, and he did! Admittedly he had forgotten to inform her of that, but he was sure she’d piece it together that he’d done so and would not report him as missing/presumed dead.
This calmed him immensely. He’d actually followed through on something he said. Would the OLD wimpy Ronan have done that? No! That Ronan probably would have cowered and cried at the prospect of being a productive member of society! Not like this NEW Ronan, that definitely wasn’t regretting this choice! It was all coming together.
Whilst waiting to be called up for training, Ronan set about unpacking his things. Clothing in the wardrobe, special rock on the table, Gold star stickers above the bed, and suncream thrown in the trash.
Everything was as it should be.
‘Employee #4722-E, please now proceed to the equipment deck to begin your training assignment. The location is displayed on your terminal screen,’ a robotic voice blared out a short while later. After recovering from the mild shock of one who was waiting for the toaster to pop but still got startled by it, Ronan composed himself and stepped out of his room.
When he was roughly halfway to the equipment deck, another voice, one more distinctly dwarven, boomed out an address to what seemed to be the whole space rig;
“Attention all Employees of Deep Rock Galactic: We have a special new recruit aboard this rig. Please give a warm welcome to our first ELVEN employee, RO-NAN Malarkey--apologies, Falarkke,” the speaker announced his name like it was a difficult word from a foreign language, and emphasized many of the other words with an unsubtle saccharine tone, “Ro-nan has decided to judge for themselves just what makes our work so difficult, and by extension, our employees so special. As such, if Ro-nan happens to find that they’re just not cut out for work at this company, don’t give them a hard time, after all, not just anyone is suited to be a member of Deep rock Galactic. Now, return to work. Hoxxes IV won’t conquer itself!”
This address made Ronan feel an uncomfortable range of emotions.
They clearly didn’t expect or want him to last very long. No, they wanted to show the company that he was merely another pansy elf who would try and quickly fail to prove himself on par with that of the BIG STRONG BURLY DWARVES.
Realising this however, he was not discouraged. They wanted rid of him so soon? Pah! They’d find it harder than that! Ronan was now even more determined to be in for the long haul, choosing to ignore the fact that not thirty minutes prior he’d been panicking about having joined at all.
There was a target painted on his back, no doubt. They were going to try their best to get at him. He wouldn’t let them. He would not let them!
Ronan strode onwards to the equipment deck, a swagger in each step.
Having skillfully dodged almost all of the low doorways on his way, he arrived at the specified location. In fairly good time too, considering the multiple times he’d gotten lost. He paid little mind to the stares and not very hushed chatter of his new colleages as he merged with the thrum of new recruits. Once all had been deemed present, the uncoordinated gaggle were swiftly separated into smaller groups according to their assigned roles and were sent to collect their new kit.
Each received their equipment piece by piece, along with a brief explanation as to its function and how to use it. Altogether too brief, if Ronan’s level of information retention was anything to go by. It went roughly as follows;
‘Here is your standard scout outfit. The suit’s elastic, so don’t concern yourself with the size. Armour goes on AFTER the suit. One size fits all.’
‘Mine doesn’t fit,’ claimed Ronan, unsurprisingly. The rubbery blue suit top barely covered his ribs, and though the middle was about twice as wide as his torso the sleeves barely reached past his elbows, leaving his entire midriff lying exposed. The set of trousers looked more like shorts on him, with the scrunched seam beneath his belt much resembling the top of a drawstring bag. He had elected to keep his jeans and plaid shirt on underneath, lest his bellybutton fall prey to undue mockery.
The supervisor handing out the kit glared at him.
‘One size fits all,’ came the gruff reply,
And so the line shuffled along.
‘This is a standard DRG issue Shield belt. Make sure that it’s tight around the waist and, y’know, actually turned on.’
‘How do we tell if it’s on?’ One dwarf asked. The dwarf next in line to him proceeded to launch a haymaker right in to the questionee’s stomach.
‘His wasn’t,’ the assailant stated as the first dwarf crumpled to the ground.
‘That is… one method, yes. The recommended approach is to check if the light on the top of your belt is blue,’ seeing the other dwarves in line eyeing him maliciously, Ronan hurriedly checked that his was active.
‘Moving on, Deep Rock asks that you do not test the limits of the shield by punching, kicking, stabbing, shooting, bashing, or attempting to inflict other such forms of grievous bodily harm on your fellow crew mates. Now, the next piece of kit and unique to you lot is your flare gun…’
After repeating a similar process for numerous other pieces of equipment, a grappling gun, a shotgun, an assault rifle, ammunition for them, Inhibitor-field generating grenades, flares, a shoulder lamp, a handheld terrain scanner, a M.U.L.E signaller (whatever that was, Ronan had already forgotten), a laser pointer/identifier, a mineral bucket, and finally, a pickaxe, (a supposedly one handed affair that Ronan struggled to wield with two) the fully equipped yet still not greatly organised throng of new recruits stood ready in the hangar. With all his new found goods clinking against each other with each step, Ronan felt altogether too much like a pack mule. He was glad to finally be done with the numerous demonstrations. Now it was just a matter of heading back to his pod and getting a well earned nap.
‘Alright, any last questions?’ asked the supervisor, to little response.
One query suddenly appeared in the burdened elf’s mind. His hand slowly crept up.
‘Ugh, yes, you, Leaflover,’ the supervisor groaned.
‘Are guns standard mining equipment?’
This questioned seemed to strike the supervisor off guard.
‘For our operations? Uh, yes, I suppose you could call them that.’
Ronan pondered for a second.
‘...What do we shoot with them?’
His question was met with a dumbfounded stare. Many, in fact.
‘Wait, you… you don’t know? You’ve come all this way and yet you don’t even…’ The supervisor lost their composure and burst into heaves of laughter. The rest of the group started as well, though some seemed to join in more on the principle that everyone else was. The supervisor would recover somewhat, look at Ronan’s worried expression and then return to laughing.
‘Alright alright, let’s get these fools planetside,’ the supervisor finally managed to yell, wiping a tear from their eye.
‘Wait, what? We’re going now? We’ve only just gotten our equipment! We haven’t even used any of it yet! What if I can’t remember what something does?!’ Ronan cried out as the group was split up and he was herded along with two other new employees to a hulking beast of a machine with a huge drill on the bottom.
‘You’ll have a great opportunity to try it out down in the caves!’ The now distant supervisor yelled back. ‘I haven’t had that good a laugh in long while, bloody hell…’ the voice was soon drowned out by mechanical clanking as the drill started up. The front of the pod opened up to reveal four empty seats. The thickly armoured dwarf shepherding his small group beckoned him and the two others in, before entering themself. Ronan’s feet splayed out on the floor as he thumped down into the stiff material of the seat.
‘This doesn’t seem safe…’ he uttered
‘Heh, for you? It’s probably not. Harnesses down, pod drops in five.’
‘No one’s told me what we’re shooting at ye-aaAAGGHH’ Ronan’s complaint was cut short by the shuttle entrance slamming shut, accompanied by the feeling of all his organs attempting to exit through his neck simultaneously as the pod launched downwards.
Five seconds. The pod dropped in five seconds. Not minutes. Such clarification would have been appreciated earlier.
The whole pod vibrated from the dull roar of the engine as it hurtled towards the foreign planet below. Ronan could do little but groan miserably as he attempted to shift his body into a more comfortable position, if such a thing even existed.
‘Bugs,’ said the more experienced looking dwarf that had ushered him in.
‘You’ll be shooting bugs. I find it hard to believe you’ve managed to get this far without learning that, but you do seem pretty genuine about your complete and utter lack of preparation. In any case, welcome to your first mission as an employee of Deep Rock Galactic. Stick with me, do as I say, and hopefully it won’t be your last. That applies for you greenbeards here as well,’ he motioned to two other recruits, ‘Don’t think that just ‘cause you two are dwarves you’re invincible. Hoxxes does not take kindly to overconfidence. Trust me.’
‘...Thanks for being the first guy to actually answer a question of mine,’ Ronan managed to sputter out, ‘But, uh, what do you mean when you say bugs? I have a troubling feeling it’s not gonna be in the vein of picking hornworms of my grandmothers tomato plants,’
‘You’d be right there. By bugs, I mostly mean Glyphids, giant spider looking bastards, their size ranging from dinner plate to tank. There’s some other nasty buggers down there but Glyphids are gonna be your bread and butter of insect-related trauma. Hope you’re not arachnaphobic.’
‘I mean I’d say not particularly, but at the same time I’m generally not scared of fire yet I’d be rather perturbed if someone was trying to roast me with a flamethrower.’
‘Hey, I’ve get a flamethrower!’ The recruit in yellow equipment next to him added.
‘That doesn’t fill me with confidence,’ Muttered the elf.
‘Don’t worry yaself too much elf, Management may be harsh but even they’d not throw you in the deep end right from the get go. We’ll be in the lowest risk area of the planet for this first mission o’ yours. I’ve done a fair few of these introductory ones, so like I say, stick with me and you should be fine. Me name’s Otren, but you lot can call me “Sir”. Brace yourselves, looks like we’re almost planetside, expect a big shock when the altimeter reaches about zero.’
Ronan stared intensely at the rapidly dropping number. 3000 meters, 2000, meters, 1000 met-BANG! The roar of the engine was now joined by the churning of rock as the pod began to drill down into the planet’s surface.
Organs which had previously attempted to excuse themselves via his trachea were once again violently shunted, this time back down into his torso.
This combined with the feeling of having his spine compressed into his pelvis was not a pleasant one, even ignoring the subversion of his expectation as to when the shock was coming.
‘Must have hit a hill,’ Otren glanced at the compressed elf, who was too concerened with groaning to form a coherent reply.
‘I did say ABOUT zero.’
The pod kept drilling downwards for a long time, the constant roar of the engines and crushing of the stone beneath reverberating through its entirety. Ronan barely noticed, all too consumed with all the unique pains that now inhabited all the gangly bits of him, that being most of his body. The copious amount of physical pain came with a silver lining though, as it helped distract him from the far greater psychological agony he was liable to inflict on himself once he realised quite the extent of his fuck-up. The “kilometer beneath the surface of an alien planet said to be filled with numerous murderous insectoids, as the sole elven employee of a strictly dwarven company, a company that also had a very laissez-faire approach to on site health and safety,” scale of fuck up.
One more large CLUNK and the pod finally came to a stop. The doors slid open to reveal… not much. A small area of rock in front was illuminated by lamps on the pod’s exterior. Beyond those small circles of light lay a thick, oppressive darkness. The kind that has never been ousted by light in a very, very long time.
‘Alright folks, Out you get. Minerals ain’t gonna mine themselves,’ Otren stated, standing up and hauling an intimidatingly large minigun with him out of the entrance. The other dwarves followed suite whilst Ronan finally hoisted himself to his feet. He was pretty sure every single joint in his body had made some form of cracking noise. Lethargically, he stumbled out of the pod, checking that he had all of the numerous tools provided to him.
A new voice sounded through his headset, startling him.
‘Welcome to Hoxxes Greenbeards… and elf. This is Mission Control speaking. I’ll be giving directives and warning of imminent incoming threats for this and any future missions you may partake in. Work hard, stay focused, listen to your team leader, and you should pull through just fine. Hope you know what you signed up for. If not, well, you’ll find out soon enough.
Onto work; your objective for this first expedition of yours is nice and simple. Collect two hundred units of morkite and deposit them into the M.U.L.E. Morkite is a shimmering turquoise ore, you’ll know it when you see it. In addition, remember to collect any gold and nitra, the chunky red mineral, you come across. You’ll be paid for all gold collected, and if you value not running out of supplies you’ll stock up on nitra as well. Sending them isn’t cheap, and Deep Rock is not a charity. If you need further information then please refer to you team leader. Finally, don’t forget; leave no dwarf behind. Good luck Miners.’ And with that, the transmission stopped.
‘Oh, okay, uh, thanks,’ Ronan replied.
‘They can’t hear you,’ Mentioned Otren, cracking a flare and throwing it into the darkness. It clinked off the rock, illuminating a stretch of the cave in an eerie green glow.
‘Really? What if we have an emergency and need help?’
‘My advice is; try not to. We’re on our own until we’re back in the space rig.’
Before Ronan could query further, the drop pod doors slammed shut and it the engine started up once more, proceeding to retreat back up the hole it had made.
‘Wait, where’s it going?!’
‘Back to the rig. Told you, we’re on our own. They’ll send one down once we’re finished with the job. My, you really don’t what you got yourself into, huh,’
‘...So it would seem,’ Ronan muttered dejectedly. ‘Why don’t they just leave it here though? That sounds cheaper than returning it only to send it back again.’
Otren shrugged, ‘They don’t want ‘em getting chewed up by bugs. Besides, means there’s no way out ‘cept completing the job. A pretty good motivator for work as they go. Speaking of work, enough chit chat, we’ve got a task to do and I’d like to get back before dinner. Let’s start with a bit of light,’ he said expectantly. An uncertain Ronan looked to the other dwarves, who glared back at him.
‘That’s YOUR job leaflover!’ the one in red uniform yelled.
‘Uh, right, right, sorry,’ Ronan scoured the many doohickeys dangling off his belts for what he presumed they were requesting. He found his flares, light blue ones unlike Otren’s, cracked one and with a weedish toss threw it into a random dark part of the cave . He stood back, satisfied, only to notice he was being glared at with increased intensity.
‘Not those flares you idiot! We’ve all got those! Use your bloomin’, whatever-it-was, flare gun, the gun that shoots flares! Hopeless!’
‘Hey, I didn’t get all that much in the way of instruction, alright!’ He retorted, searching himself yet again for the correct utensil. Admittedly he probably could have paid more attention but he wasn’t about to mention that.
‘We had just as long as you and we’re managing fine!’
‘You haven’t done anything yet!’
‘Yeah, ‘cause you won’t get a bloody move on!’
‘Fine, here’s your damn light!’
Hoisting his newly located flare gun, he pointed it in the general direction of “up” and pulled the trigger. The sudden flash blinded him for a moment as a thin metal rod with a bright burning end launched upwards and embedded itself in the ceiling. Now, most of the cavern they resided in was illuminated by a glaring white glow. Despite this, there didn’t seem to be a whole lot to show thankfully. Ronan was half expecting the walls to be teething with all sorts of alien horrors, but the walls were barren of all but a few twinkling veins of ore.
‘Welp, there’s you work laid out for ya folks, get to it. Driller, you make a start those lower veins, and Engie, would you be so kind as to put up a few platforms for our leaf loving friend here? Once we’ve got this lot we’ll move deeper. Now chop chop!’ Otren barked.
As instructed, the engineer launched a yellow globule at the more out of reach ores. Contacting with the wall, the globule expanded and solidified to form a relatively sturdy looking platform.
Ronan watched with interest.
‘Yeah, it is. Now get up there, or do you need a few minutes of faffing about to figure out the right tool?’ The engie snarked.
‘Hey, I remember how to do this much, alright?’ Ronan said, reaching for his grappling hook.
‘Let’s see, the first trigger pull fires the hook, second reels it in, release is the button on the side. Seems easy enough,’ he mumbled to himself, trying to stir up some confidence he otherwise lacked. He aimed above the platform and fired the line out. He gave the line a few test tugs to ensure the anchor was implanted firmly in the stone. Finding it was, he then pulled the trigger again, expecting to slowly be reeled towards the hook.
Instead, he proceeded to be launched across the room at an impressive speed, slamming his midriff into the edge of the platform, leaving him winded and scrabbling to climb onto it with his free hand, all whilst making some rather sad whimpering noises. Impressively enough he’d managed to keep his grip on the grappling hook, despite it nearly pulling his arm out of it’s socket. It certainly felt like that in any case, and was no doubt going to be sore for a long while after.
With the motivation of not remembering quite how far off the ground he was, Ronan successfully hauled his aching body onto the platform and lay there panting.
Why was it that all his best efforts must end in suffering?
After only a short rest, he sat up, since the air of impatience from the others grew ever more tangible. He unhooked his pickaxe, wincing at the pain, and took an experimental swing at the bluish ore beside him. It cracked easily, and a small chunk fell out, which he promptly picked up and placed in his mineral bucket.
He’d done it! He’d mined his first mineral, and all it had required was a lot of pain and a decent portion of his sanity!
Still, it was progress of a sort, and as he hacked off more bits of morkite he found the whole process rather enjoyable. There was a certain catharsis to striking the rock with the pick, levering out the mineral and collecting the chunk. Slowly yet methodically, he worked his way along the small vein until he’d gotten all the bits he could see. Maybe this wouldn’t be so bad.
Peering over the edge of the platform revealed the drop was a bit taller than he was, but not by much. Fancying his chances of getting down uninjured by dropping off the side then attempting to utilize the grapple hook, he cautiously lowered himself down until he was dangling by his arms, then let go to drop a meter or so down to the hard stone floor. He stood up fully, dusted himself off, and let out a relieved sigh. It was only now that he noticed the large four legged metal box nearby, headlight on the front and chutes on each side.
Must be the M.U.L.E. he’d heard mentioned. Otren was waiting by it, pouring an assortment of different chunks into it from his own bucket. Ronan wandered over to do the same.
‘Congrats on your first ore mined leaf lover! I see you’ve become familiar with the particular intricacies of the DRG issue Grappling gun ey?’
‘That’s certainly one way to put it. I don’t know if there’s a muscle in my arm it DIDN’T pull,’ Ronan grumbled, tipping his comparatively looking meager amount of ore into the MULE.
‘Heh, it’s always funny watching a new scout’s first time with it,’
‘Some warning would have been appreciated…’
‘Yeah but if you knew it was coming then it wouldna been as funny. Anyhow, yours is calibrated for, y’know, a dwarf, and somethin’ tells me you don’t weigh quite as much as much as your average Deep Rock employee. Give it here, maybe I can make the experience a tad less jarring.’
Ronan did so. Otren fiddled around with the device a bit before handing it back.
‘There ya go, shouldn’t reel in with quite as much velocity. As much fun as it is to watch you dragged around like a can behind a truck, having a functional team member is of slightly higher priority. But only slightly, so try not to piss me off.’
‘...I’ll certainly try.’
‘You got some novelty value to ya, so don’t worry too much,’
‘And when that wears off?’ Ronan said, a bleak expression to match his reply.
‘Who knows,’ Otren’s optimistic side hoped that the elf would stick around for at least a short while. He was a nice change of pace, and change didn’t happen all that oft on the rig. That, and for the elf’s own sake. Otren didn’t necessarily enjoy others misfortune, even if it was funny to witness, and the elf seemed to have primed himself for plenty.
‘Anyhow, there’s some more platforms up for ya, so get to it. Once you’ve gotten them ones we’ll be moving deeper, and if I were you I’d prepare for some new company, as it ain’t always gonna be this nice and quiet.’
Aha! I did it! I posted the third chapter! And it only took me...
Over a year?
Bloody hell that's depressing.
Anyhow with this kind of schedule expect the next one anytime between next month and the heat death of the universe.
Gotta give meself a bit of leeway with the time frame y'know?