fodschwazzle: (Sandy hole)

Snow filled Viola's life. The world was white when she awoke in the morning, white when she walked to set up the core drill, and white when the wind whipped a flurry all around her.


In honesty, she loved every minute of it. She felt the warmth of her Thermacore suit as it vacuumed loose snow from her foot treads, melted it, and pumped it through several thick layers of sun absorbing fabric, artificial arteries of hot water running close to her skin. Few other people in the human race could walk through snow without feeling the cold. Few could admire a snowflake without the wind's shiver-stirring embrace. Unlike her two co-workers, Dave and Blair, she felt no chilling premonition in the drifts. "Why do they always complain about the cold?" she wondered, speaking to no one but the void.


It could be that. Beyond the sounds of her suit sucking snow, it was very quiet. Like walking into a pillow fortress. The thought of the entire world being a sea of fluffy pillows made Viola giggle in an unprofessional way. Maybe the men just had Seasonal Affective Disorder, and it was always on due to it always being snowy. Dave, who had just finished his two day shift in the ice, had worn a grim facial expression that morning that made it uncomfortable to wake up at the same hour as him. No one wants to eat freeze-dried cereal with someone who looks like a corpse.


"He signed up to work an ice planet. It's a good job!" Viola retorted to no one at all, breath quickly fogging her vision from her helmet.


When she marched across the field with only a GPS device to guide her, a sense of ease and gratification took over. It was a simple job with great benefits. Take the core driller kit to the site, let the wagon configure a holding rack for acquired cores by absorbing snow and printing it into an easily fractured series of icy holsters, hold the drill over the appointed patch of white and give it a slight twist, give it another slight twist the other way while pulling out, and drop the core into the marked slot. Only the suit, pumping  roughly forty pounds of water at any given moment, weighed very much at all. The wagon was a simple foldable carton with a touchpad and an engine, and the drill was mostly hollow inside. Once the wagon had sixteen cores, Viola could roll it back to the shelter and recharge her batteries.


Viola seldom ever had to venture farther than two kilometers from the shelter. "In fact," Viola thought out loud, "Today might be the farthest I've ever come."  Three kilometers would be good exercise.


All of this for a good cause, she thought as she reached her first destination, laying the wagon on the ground, unfolding it, and crouching to push buttons to commence the operation. The Postearth Government had established protocols to mitigate the risk of global heat events due to human interference--wouldn't want that happening again, even though there were still people, to this day, that would rather blame classic conspiracy-theory targets for the wild weather or the flooding or the onslaught of new, climate-bred bacteria that claimed so many lives. Energy companies were the first ones to hop at the opportunity to work on a new world, but as long as there was ice, Viola could find work monitoring the climate changes. She found it funny that these world wrecking companies had to hire her in the hope that she wouldn't find anything.


Maybe they found it funny to make her eat freeze-dried cereal, even though it was a high gravity planet. Maybe they hoped her corer would pull up something new. "It's all ice, though," Viola smirked. Tanrakis was relatively warm compared to other ice planets, having a sun in near proximity. The subtle atmosphere gave the horizon a remarkable glow at sundown.


As Viola unbuckled the harness, unslung the drill from her shoulders, powered it on, and pressed it to the ground, she had a hard time not whistling. Technically, core drillers aren't even supposed to speak with the suit on, as the excess breathing could cause a temperature difference which might damage the helmet: a bad thing to have happen when it is impossible to breathe with the helmet off. Viola promised herself that she would whistle as she turned in the cart.


In the drill went, with a jolt. Two seconds later, Viola twisted and wrenched it upwards, pulling out the entire drill before lifting it over the first slot and dropping the finished core into the newly formed ice holster. A flash of something different startled Viola. She knelt down to examine the core and reeled backwards in shock. A quarter of a meter of ice was normal and clear. The rest, accented by a bulging, inhuman, red eye in the middle of the core, was a network of purplish frozen tissue and veins.  "What in the hell is this?" Viola gasped.


Hello.


"Ha-ha-hi?" Viola stammered, looking around.


I believe you may have just drilled out my eye.


"Pardon?"


I would greatly appreciate it if you could return my eye to my body.


Viola took a deep breath and waited a moment to compose herself before asking, "Can I ask what you are?"


I am a carnivorous, monocular, avian species, if I understand your language properly.


"What do you eat, usually?" Viola asked.


In a rumbling voice, the ice-thing replied: I perceive that you would likely be delicious, were it not for your extensive physical training and gamey musculature.


"Well, Mr. Ice Creature, I would like to return your eye to you, but I have a problem."


What is your problem?


"I am guessing that you are fairly comfortable in your ice, and I wouldn't want to interfere. However, we're running core drilling on this planet to prepare for an energy company to pull resources here. They will certainly melt all of your ice unless I show them proof that you're here. What do you think?" Viola enquired.


You are very calm for dealing with something that might eat you one day. Very well. Take my eye to your employer. It's not like it'll reattach smoothly as it is. Can you promise to be quick about returning it to me?


"I'll do the best I can, but I'm just a contractor."


That will do.


*****


Unsurprisingly, the energy company was very intrigued by the acquisition of such a creature, having brought larger equipment to excavate the beast more completely. Returning his eye was his only stipulation before they put him on a contract as well.


They were furthermore satisfied when the creature was thawed out and turned out to be a magnificent success playing the latest pop music at company functions through an appendage in the middle of his head, which produced a sound not unlike a saxophone. Viola, of course, simply kept walking through the snow.

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