Snow and smoke filled the expanse above Barras. Frozen dirt and stone filled the expanse below; he only had to empty it. Fluffy flakes settled on the backs of his gloves as he operated his ‘shovel. His breath came in fits and starts, timed to the vibrations of the great machine he rode. One massive scoop dug into the ground, easier than he expected. “We’re almost there, boys!” he roared to the other operators.
Kelvin and Mattic, in the other two ‘shovels, roared with joy. They gazed at each other over the distance around the pit they excavated. Kelvin cracked his knuckles. Mattic took a swig from a flask. Barras pulled his wool hat more snugly onto his head.
With a tight grin, Barras struck first. He took hold of the shaking levers in the open cabin and plunged the blade of his ‘shovel down into the dirt, prying loose the great mass. He swung the contraption around with a mechanical grumble to dump the useless load as Kelvin took his turn, and then Mattic.
The gray sky far above continued dumping snow, even as Barras’s shovel kept belching forth dark smoke.
Over and again the great ‘shovel dug deeper into the pit. They took turns, moving as quickly as they could. Paydirt soon. Soon! He ignored his cracking skin and chattering teeth. Soon!
The dirt turned to mud.
The sky turned a darker shade of gray.
The snow continued to fall.
The vibrating hulks followed their human operator’s instructions: load after load of useless mud and stones.
Barras struck through. His blade sliced through one last layer of dirt into an empty place. Steam gushed at him.
Barras cheered. Kelvin and Mattic swore.
Barras plucked up the radio. “This is Barras with ‘shovel number seventy-two. We found some hot springs. Get the families over here to enjoy the heat before it dissipates. And make sure to write me up for a big bonus.” He grinned. Lindonna and the boys were going to eat well tonight with the extra cash he was bringing home!
Read more of the world of Snow and Smoke here.
Read the next story, Solace for Sareh, here.