Top of the Verse magazine, Spring 2950 edition
Featured Image: A scene from an electric golf-cart race across the plains of Magda, projected onto a rock at the base of a Hurston Golden Statue.

Image: Two citizens in an electric cart careen over pebbled desert, pursued by other racers.  A Rescue ship floats above while in the background the cargo ship used as a starting line sits idle on a mountainside.
A Greycat electric-cart race plays out across the plains of Magda as a Cutlass Red RESCUE ship looks on. Photo credit: Exile-Minza and Exile-JadeStarwatchr

“They're like ducklings!”

Imagine twenty electric golfcarts meticulously parked side-by-side in a massive cargo ship, four per bay, two each side, drivers anxiously awaiting the opening of the bay doors. A countdown echoes through the halls over ship comms, and suddenly, all bays open simultaneously — the chase is on!
BTRC isn't constrained to only lunar purusits; the racing club executed a largely successful loop of Lorville for its second turnout. Over twenty club-provided Cyclone RC's raced from GATE01 in Lorville's northeast corner, bombing past each successive gate in turn. Drivers familiar with the outskirts of Lorville and the gate system had a decided edge, with the first leg of the race taking place in the pre-dawn darkness making navigation difficult.

“This isn't a shortcut!”


“That's awesome!”


Image: An orange MOLE Mining ship's pilot canopy and main laser are seen from the front.
The M.O.L.E. in ARGO-Orange is an iconic sight throughout the verse. Photo Credit: ReconOne

I never thought I'd be an artist, joked Lena Spielersdottir in a clipped Nordoscandi accent as she sat across from me in the M&T bar in Lorville. ...but I really took to the laser. I think I can really feel the stone like a canvas. I don't care about flying, I don't care about anything. I just focus on the glow at the end of the laser and... it's my whole world.
Lena let her last words hang in the mid-day gloom that pervades the M&T. I waited for her to come back from wherever her mind had drifted.
Oh, sorry. Maybe I love it too much, she laughed.
Lena is one of a crew of four from EXTRAKTAKORPS [ticker UEESE:EK], Stanton's highest-grossing mining organization. Highly organized and with a preoccupation for efficiencies, she and her crew from the ‘WALKÜRE’ are always in high demand. Somehow she accepted my inquiry and brought me aboard for a ride-along.
Image: The looming building-like facade of engines on the rear of the MOLE blend into the dark of space.
The hulk of purpose-built metal squatted, waiting. I felt a little intimidated.
My first introduction to the M.O.L.E., or Multi-Operator Laser Extractor came courtesy of Pad 03 at Everus station, high above Lorville, just before local dawn. In stark contrast to the curvature of the planet Hurston loomed the square visage of the most industrial machine this writer has ever had the luck to witness.
The EK WALKÜRE, a special-edition 'Carbon' variant of the M.O.L.E., is finished in black instead of the customary ARGO orange. This feature makes the outlines that much harder to ascertain against the inky black of space. Walking under the engines to access the crew lift feels like driving through a tunnel built into a skyscraper. The belly dips low enough to bump your head on the detachable ore-bags lined up like teats on an Ost.
After riding the lift up, I'm treated to a three-second tour of the crew beds and shower, wherein Lena waved her arm dismissively at the bunks. That's where we can sleep, but we rarely are out long enough to need to. Towering, loud, and precise in her language, she seems tailor-made for the imposing, technological MOLE. On either side of the crew quarters are the inset doors to the side lasers — which are on gimballed sleds that extend outside of the ship. Using these lasers requires an undersuit, and exposes the operator to both the vacuum of space and to debris from the mining process. It isn't for the faint of heart.
Image: An orange table with orange benches against an orange wall, with a compact coffee/food station in the background.  A Warning-like sticker on the wall admonishes: 'PLEASE KEEP CLEAN'
The crewspace in the mole is spartan, but leaves much room for activities.
Climbing a ladder to the main deck of the MOLE, we enter an austere galley, tucked into one side of a surprisingly large room. Pilot, copilot, and main laser operator stations are accessed fore of the galley, separated by a long hallway dedicated to two massive capacitor banks. Lena indicates a space scratched out on the floor meant for piling the boxes of hand-mined gems they obtain on occasion. I could feel the jolt of the ship lifitng from the artificial gravity of the pad at Everus Harbor and we took our seats.

Today we are going to show you how we get the big bucks.

As we slipped into the atmosphere above Crusader's moon Daymar, I took a seat at the copilot's station. Lena stood, looking over my shoulder and explaining the various displays. The pilot, a massive bear of a man named Chas. Kilroth, didn't say a word beyond Here's the scanner. Don't touch anything else. It seemed to me that during normal operation a copilot wasn't strictly necessary, and I asked Lena about it.
Image: The bright disc of the star Stanton and a MOLE mining ship float above the desert horizon of Daymar.
The Angular, severe styling of the ARGO mining ship is a welcome contrast to the stylized, fluid designs of many other manufacturers.
We don't normally need a co-pilot, unless we're coordinating with other miners or ships, or in dangerous space. Most of the time we fly 1+3.
One being the bridge crew, plus three laser operators, I assume.
We don't need to go 2-plus very often. But I like to sit up here and keep Chas. company while we're in transit.
Fifteen minutes after our descent burn, we were well underway surveying for mineable rocks. The process begins with long-distance sensor pings, returns of which prompt an investigatory nosing with the MOLE. Specialized scanner modules report the likely composition of the various deposits we come across, ranging from a few minute percentage points of common minerals to solid cores of rare Agricium.
You can't take just anything, Lena says. You really want to be selective. Time is our most precious resource, and we don't waste it on low yields. You see those two numbers on the scanner there? The left one represents how much of that mineral is present in the rock; the right one represents how much of the total mineral content of the rock is this mineral. Balancing those numbers with the mass of the rock and the current market price can give you an intuitive feel for how valuable any given deposit is. We could calculate it all out but after a while you just know a good desposit when you see it.
By focusing only on the highest purity rocks, EXTRAKTAKORPS ensures that waste material is kept to a minimum. Because the MOLE lacks refinery facilities onboard, high mineral-to-inert ratios are important.
Image: A view from the cockpit of the MOLE as three lasers converge on a rock some distance below.  A portion of the User Interface is highlighted, reading 'AGRICIUM 100.0 100.0'
The Argo M.O.L.E. features three independent mining lasers, each with a customizable head. Note the UI readout: Agricium 100.0 100.0
A soon-to-be-standard feature that addresses limited onboard storage are the inflatable, droppable bags kept under the ship. While EK does not use this feature in their day-to-day operations yet, it will eventually be possible to engage logistical support to bring the bags to a refinery, or even sell them directly in the field to passing cargo traders.
Infographic: The major types of Mining-Laser Heads available to MOLE Captains and some of their stats.
The major types of Mining Heads can be augmented with various consumable materials.
Mining is an artform
One of the advantages of having multiple lasers aboard is the ability to specialize between the stations. By using mining-laser heads with differing properties, the operation is better able to balance various forces that effect the mining process.
Mining is an artform... Lena says, because of the vast array of probabilistic contents any single rock might contain, transferring the right amount of energy in just the right way is extremely important. But we don't have computers onboard to min/max the perfect splitting solution — doing so would be prohibitive in terms of cost, energy usage, and space. A computer blade could do it with more precision, but we deal in SCUs, not thousandths of a microgram.
Image: An industrial mining space-ship floats on blue-flamed thrusters in the night sky above a pine-forested mountain.
The EK WALKÜRE hovers over the conifers of planet Microtech at night.
Rock-splitting is easy to pick up, but hard to master.

Image: A heavily abstracted painting of a deep-crimson obelisk.

Chapter: Jumptown

✧ ⫹⫺ ✧
“Corp, wake up.” Sarnt was nudging him awake roughly with his boot.
“What's going on, Sarnt?”
“They just brought in a VIP we can't pass up.”
Corprull rolled over in-place in his fighting position and raised his rifle. Three ships sat in convoy in front of the Habs; two Hoplite dropships flanking a large egg-shaped space-yacht; an Origin 600i.
“Who's that, Sarnt?”
“That, Corp, is trouble. Pee-Ef must have known something we don't, because that there, is a Hurston.”
The name immediately conjured images of the giant golden statues, black marble and luxurious opulence of Lorville's Central Business district in Corprull's head. Hurston Dynamics owned the planet of Hurston, and its capital, Lorville. Hurston Dynamics was their current employer, and Gavin E. Hurston, the CEO, personally signed their checks.
“Is that the boss, there?” Corprull sounded confused.
“I don't 'spect it is, Corp. Gavin wouldn't find himself dead out here in the icy sticks. Much less in a 600i. Too low-brow for his tastes.” Sarnt spat in his helmet in disgust and immediately regretted it. “No, that there is someone tryin' t'look important in a place where that's *not* a good idea. Hand me that laser-microphone.”
Corprull popped open a compartment on his leg armor and handed over the listening device. With a twist, Sarnt deployed a tiny tripod from the side and pointed the lens at the distant 600i's chassis. Their helmet comms squelched with the new input as Sarnt fiddled with the settings on the tube and fine-tuned the invisible laser's position.
“...been waiting ten minutes! WHERE IS HE?”
“He's finishing up in the back, he'll be down in a jiff.”
“We have work to do in the lab, if he wants his stuff he should gorram-well not waste our time!”
“Have some patience, it's a big order, it's going to be worth it, trust me.”
Sarnt and Corprull watched and listened as the deal below them played out between lackeys of whoever the 600i belonged to and the lab workers. The deal concluded with a promise of payment via credit transfer, and the 600i powered its engines.
“Waiiit for it...” intoned Sarnt.
“Wait for wh-” Corp was cut off by the sound of automatic gunfire being fed into his helmet comms via the laser-mic.
“I knew it. Hurston took the drugs, and they're icin' the lab. This ain't normal, Corp. Ah don't know what we're watchin' here but it's not someone scorin' a fix.”
The gunfire ceased, and they could only watch soundlessly as two teams of PriSec cleared the lab and returned to their Hoplites. They could hear the peal of the hab's self-destruct timer through the laser-mic.
The Hoplites and Yacht lift off the deck into the night; quiet and darkness return to the frozen plain. The timer counting down in their earpieces, the only sound.
“We'll give it time t' blow and see what's left, Corp. We don' know how long it's set for, an' ah'm not walkin' into a bomb.”
Corprull nodded and lowered his rifle and raised his mobiGlas.
“Shit...” Corprull pulled the wrist-mounted computer down from his eyeline. “We got company. Looks like a little cargo ship, approaching 5k out; the Cutlass is picking it up on passives. Stand by for registration...”
Working for PriSec had its priviledges, including being able to access Hurston Dynamic's security database.
Corprull continued, “It's registered to a farm on Aberdeen. Looks like it's full of Agricultural supplies. Must be something they need for the manufacture in the Lab...”
“Bad timing for him, then” Sarnt opined. “that lab's goin' t'go up any second.”
“Should we warn him?”
“If'n y'can raise him on comms, do it.”
Corprull clicked his mic over to general comms and tried to hail the Avenger.
AVENGER 90-230HF, This is CONCERNED CITIZEN — you are in danger, how copy?
The little ship ignored the hail, closing the distance quickly. It landed in the spot the 600i had vacated moments earlier. Corprull and Sarnt could only watch as the ramp at the back opened.
Their dug-in position was over half a kilometer from the Lab, on an airless moon. The pilot had ignored their hails, and wouldn't hear calls nor warning shots. Anything they could do to get his attention would only drive him into the lab for cover.
“Ain't noting we can do.” Sarnt noted gravely.
Corprull winced at the scream of feedback from the laser-mic as the lab, the little farm Avenger, and half the valley exploded into clouds of smoke and steam.
✧ ⫹⫺ ✧
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