January by the numbers continues (now three days off, meeps~)!
From kelkyag‘s prompt “Ancient aardvarks are always achey;” a ficlet.
They called them aardvarks, because they worked on the unknown continents, because they worked at night, and because they burrowed.
They called them aardvarks, and they were the ones who told the rest of them everything they needed to know about their new lands. Explorers, scientists, miners: the aardvarks were all of those, and more.
They worked at night because the suns of the new planets were dangerous, because the screens that would make the world safe for human habitation had not yet been installed. They burrowed, because all the secrets of the world lay under its soil — its mineral balances and its mineable wealth, its loam and its sand and its clay. And every place they went was a new and secret place, an unknown planet that might, at one point, be colonized by convicts and run-aways, drop-outs and adventurers, wild people and quiet people.
It was hard work, and it was rootless work, as deep in the ground as these aardvarks dug. Eventually, they would end up moving on to another planet, another continent, another dig. And another one, and another one. The aardvarks who did their job the best had the fewest roots, for they spent the least time in any given hole.
There was an honor amongst them, these deep-underground adventurers, that no other could touch, not the companies, not their families, not the colonists who came later. And there was a pride, the dig patches worn on one’s coveralls like passport stamps. Some digs were harsher than others, the way these things always were, and so there were a few patches one wore with a special kind of pride and sadness: Gedder-Fess, where only three had walked away. Kor’pek, where it was said that anywhere from two to twenty had lived (depending on the tale-teller), but half of them had gone absolutely stark raving mad. Loliarinaethellie, where the patch almost guaranteed you were missing fingers, toes, maybe an arm or a leg.
They worked until they’d left more pieces in the digs than they could stand to lose, or until they found a mustering-out point at some dig slated to run long, where they could Advise and Account, talk to the people and talk to the companies, and no longer handle the shovels and the picks and the fussy little brushes and slides. And they were always achy, always tired, and always willing to tell the tale of every dig they’d been at.
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