"You big liar! I've warned you, stay far away from me!"
About a hundred people could be seen bustling about the radioactive ore mining spot. A few mechanical drillers were employed to dig deeper into the ground. At other sites a few yards away, other crews were busy laying down tracks. Overall, there were more than a thousand workers laboring in the area.
This meant that the Hope's current unemployment rate was at a satisfying zero. The previously overloaded patrol and public service units even had to let some go so that they could be siphoned into these waiting projects.
The mining spot was at a plateau not far away from the Hope. Using detection devices and manual digging, they hoped to gather enough radioactive deposits for the Hope's reactors. Due to this usage of conventional methods, the whole project needed about five thousand workers. The number was so high because there was a shift rotation to keep 24-hour functionality.
They wanted immediate results, but since the asteroid had no breathable atmosphere and only one twelfth of Earth's gravity, the normal nine to five working hours would exhaust most men. Therefore, the original three shifts per day were expanded to five shifts per day, and that meant a vibrant workforce was required.
The wide scope of the project meant that there were people from all walks of life, nationalities, and language backgrounds. This made multi-lingual translators a necessity, and one was attached to every few units.
Of course, a respectable amount of military was required to ensure the protection of the people. They were also tasked with guarding the supply lines that were responsible for transporting the mined ores as well as the space-handy compact oxygen canisters which were invented in the year 2023.
Therefore, it was to Xiao Chen's annoyance that the unit she was attached to had her nemesis… the liar, Jay Wales!
Speaking of which, the devilish trickster sidled up to her and grinned mischievously. "But it's my job to stick to you. You're an important asset to us, after all, O great translator. Now, don't be shy; I've read through your resume. You've mastered eight different languages at your young age and are still learning a few more. Now how could I ever let my eyes off important personnel like yourself…."
Suddenly, Xiao Chen shrilled, "You… you've read my resume?!"
Confused, Jay replied, "Of course…. You're the leading translator of the units I'm attached to. It's only natural for me to go through your…"
Losing her temper, Xiao Chen leaped to give Jay a flying kick. However, she forgot that the asteroid's gravity was much lower than Earth's, so instead of hitting Jay in his chest, with a scream, she flew over his head instead.
Sighing, Jay grabbed hold of Xiao Chen's calf. Carried by her forward momentum, both of them flew several feet in the air before landing in a heap on the ground.
"Are you crazy? Did you not read the safety protocol? We don't need someone like you to endanger this mission! Either go and memorize the protocols or hand in your resignation!" Jay roared angrily as he righted himself.
To his surprise and concern, Xiao Chen started crying uncontrollably. After pushing away Jay, who went to help her up, she yelled, "Who the hell do you think you are to lecture me like that?! You're a liar! You have no right to lecture me! Or to read my resume, for that matter! That's a gross violation of my privacy! Get away from me! Go find your blonde girlfriend and leave me alone!"
"Listen to me, you crazy woman…"
The surrounding people smiled as they watched the scene unfold before them. It was oddly grounding to witness something as common as a couple's quarrel in the middle of space. It was a much needed levity in the midst of everything.
At the same time, Jay's friend, Zhang Heng, could be found wolfing down his lunch of bacon fried rice in The Barracks' Restaurant. In between mouthfuls, he reached for the steamed lobster and stir-fried vegetables that were set before him. A red apple was also present to serve as dessert. It was a luxurious meal, one that the normal working people could only afford twice per month.
Sitting opposite Zhang Heng were Ning Xue and Mao Miao. They smiled inwardly as they sat watching Zhang Heng wolf down his food. After a while, Zhang Heng lifted his head and as if noticing the two girls sitting there for the first time, blushed, and said, "Forgive my rudeness; I'm just starving after a long day of work."
Both girls shook their heads smilingly, and Ning Xue asked, "If your job is so demanding, why don't you look for something more relaxed?"
Barely containing his pride, Zhang Heng replied, "How is that possible? Among the Homo Evolutis, there are two more confirmed diviners, but their instincts aren't as good as mine; their prediction works only half the time. They need me down there in the cave. It's dug by plants after all, so who knows whether it'll cave in or not. My power is indispensable. Only I can tell accurately whether there is a danger of cave-ins. I barely have time to do anything else!"
There was a hint of bravado and confidence behind his voice as Zhang Heng lamented his busy schedule.
Both girls picked up on that, and it hit them right there that the mewling boy they had once nursed in their laps had blossomed into a full grown man. A mix of attraction and regret suffused their racing hearts.
Suddenly embarrassed by his sanctimonious speech, Zhang Heng abashedly scratched his head. "Okay, that's enough about me. How about you two? How's school?"
"It's the same as usual, but at least we have an interesting new professor this semester. He has been griping about how the Hope's government has forgotten about the Department of Education, and how that will be the humanity's downfall. Hearing him speak, you would think he should have gone to the Major with his demands already…" pouted the two girls.
After that, the party of three segued into other topics. With a similar familial background and age, the topics between them were practically endless.
At the other end of the restaurant, a few middle-aged men and seven or eight youngsters made up a strange table of friends. A sense of joy was shared as they ate their meals and sipped their beers.
A Caucasian, middle-aged, firmly-built man burped after he downed his beer. "Now this is the life! To have your family waiting with a warm meal and cold beer after a satisfying long day of work. The picture would be complete if there was a free movie or television show."
This unlikely mix of friends was workers that had just been released from their work shift. They had just returned from the asteroid to the Hope. To celebrate the increase in their allowance and new friendships, they unanimously agreed to splurge for a night out at the Hope's best eatery. Enjoying both beers and cigarettes that most had not touched in a long time, blissful satisfaction was written plainly on their faces.
"500 H-coins per month and provision of luxury items like alcohol and cigarettes during breaks, now this is indeed the life," sighed a young man satisfactorily.
After taking another long drag of his cigarette, the Caucasian man continued, "Now, I'm going to let you guys in on a secret that only we technicians know. Based on the data we've collected so far, the Hope has hit the motherload this time! Did you know that the scans showed that the meteorite cluster and this solar system in general contain more mineral deposits than our own star system? Before long, the Hope will have to expand into more projects and job scopes! I'm not ashamed to admit that prior to this, I would wake up scared s**tless in the middle of the night…
"We were too helpless, too lonely, too isolated in the vast cosmos. I didn't believe we had what it takes to survive in space. But after locating this system, my view has changed. The Hope itself has changed as well. Things are so much better now, people are better taken care of, and benefits are better, even the food's better…" The man pointed jokingly at the empty plate before him before continuing after another drag of smoke. "I have a six-year-old son. I was so afraid for him, afraid that he will not have the chance to even begin his life before tragedy hits this ship. But now that fear has dispersed like smoke. I pray to God that the Hope will keep up this busy schedule…
"This proves that we humans can not only survive but also flourish in space…
"That is my firmest belief!"