Author : Duncan Shields, Staff Writer

Ringmining attracted a certain kind of personality.

Not exactly hermits but beings okay with long terms of isolation. Pairs or groups of people rarely worked the rings.

Lena should have known better.

Each ringminer scoopship was like a baleen whale. They had wide mouths to collect all the crystals and sift through them for valuable minerals. It was tedious work but the rewards were there. It tended to turn the rings grey after a century of mining but didn’t damage them other than that. The ecolegal fights had been fought and ringminers were a profession for now.

The rings themselves played hell with transmissions when a ship was in them so when a ringminer was mining, they were on their own. The particles bounced radio waves around, sometimes for years. It wasn’t uncommon to hear garbled SOS beacons from years ago. The rings were creepy. It was best to keep the coms off entirely.

Lena piloted the ship Harling’s Spur, named for Lena’s grandfather. It had been her grandfather’s ship and was her inheritance when her own father passed. So many parts had been replaced on it that she doubted it could even be called the same ship. She was a third-generation ringminer.

She’d met Jordy on a supply run to K-78, the largest general store asteroid near these parts. It had been a stop to bury her father. She’d been blinded by grief, perhaps. Jordy was handsome, long-haired and strong jawed, but she’d forgotten that appearances can be deceiving. After three nights of passion, she’d signed him on with visions of bouts of lovemaking in between bouts of mining.

The dreams of a teenager.

Jordy was new to the business and Lena was starting to think he wasn’t cut out for it.

He started complaining about boredom almost as soon as they hit the rings. “Nothing to do, nothing to do, nothing to do” had become his mantra. His constant sighs and huffs were contributing to the rising tension. Lena had tried to teach meditation, exposed him to the ship’s library and games system, even tried to teach him tantra but it didn’t work.

He was a social animal. Perhaps he’d been blinded by lust as well.

Either way, this wasn’t going to work out and the hold wasn’t nearly full enough to justify a return trip. Lena knew that Jordy, soon enough, would demand to be returned home no matter what the expense. He wouldn’t wait six months and he was stronger than her. Things would get ugly.

She decided to nip it in the bud.

Another reason she’d picked Jordy was that he was a drifter of no importance. He didn’t have rich parents or a large family that would miss him. She thought that marked him out as the right kind of loner for the job. She was wrong about that but the upside was that making the problem go away wouldn’t raise too many eyebrows.

While he was sleeping, Lena brought the largest hammer they had down on Jordy’s head enough times to make sure he’d never wake up.

She jettisoned his body into the rings. The surplus of supplies with his absence meant that she’d be able to stay here for a year. Operating the ship by herself would be no problem. There’d be a big payday when she docked again and a year of peace and quiet to figure out a plausible story before that.

She sat smiling in the darkness, listening to the rasp of the ringdust against the hull.

Ringmining attracted a certain kind of personality.

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